First Grade So Far

first grade

We have a first grader in our house now. A FIRST GRADER. We have now completed week one back at school, in the new first grade routine. A rocky start, but not as rocky as the start of the school year last year. And last year’s start was better than the year before. Progress.

I recently acquired a ton of new readers, so I will take a brief moment to explain our kiddo’s situation a bit. When he was in preschool, we were having major issues with his behavior. He was being very aggressive toward the other kids, and also toward us, for no apparent reason. After some meetings with the preschool director, lots of reading and research, and some visits to an occupational therapist, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a good place to read up on this is here).

When asked why he was pushing or hitting other children, he’d respond with, “I thought they were going to bump into me.” Or, “I was afraid they would step on me.” He was so sensitive about his body-in-space issues and his personal space bubble that he was trying to avoid being hurt or touched by taking matters into his own hands, the only way a 3 year old could figure out how to fix his environment to suit him.

So, we saw some therapists, tried some intensive therapies, changed some things at home, and he’s made amazing strides. He regressed a bit when his younger brother was born, but we’ve made progress since then too. He’s still very sensitive to his environment, and has trouble regulating his emotions.

Calling names, swearing and screaming have replaced the hitting and pushing. The verbal has replaced the physical. For example, now if someone comes “too close” at school or on the sidewalk, he says, “They’re dumb.” Or something to that effect. Even though he doesn’t know them, and they haven’t done anything.

At first, I was just glad he wasn’t hurting other kids. But now, I’m not sure it’s any better. With the physical stuff, at least we could point out that not a lot of other people go around hitting and pushing everyone around them. But with the language? People call each other names all the time, even just as a joke. I’ve had to make him stop watching even certain G-rated movies because characters are going around calling each other idiots and morons. And swearing? I can curb my language to the absolute best of my ability, but how do I keep him from hearing it in public? People walking by our house on the street are yelling swear words. So, the language is proving much more difficult to correct.

I think he’s doing remarkably well in first grade, considering what an adjustment I’m sure that it was for him. We always said we were going to make him do workbooks and reading exercises all summer, and we were going to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation getting him back on his school year schedule, with an earlier bedtime and earlier rise time, etc.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Between the move taking over our entire month of July, and his complete and ugly unwillingness to do any of the above, we didn’t do much of that. But August 18 eventually showed up at our doorstep anyway. And he had to wake up at 6 am, and he had to eat breakfast instead of zoning out in front of the TV. And he had to get dressed and then walk to school, instead of, you know, zoning out in front of the TV. He doesn’t respond well to transitions. Which is a total understatement. I mean, the kid basically shuts down when we ask him to change into his pajamas at night. And this was a pretty big change. So, I feared the worst.

The first day went well, though he was a bit grumpy and exhausted afterward. The second day was ROUGH. He said “shit” a few times and ended up in a time out (which I’m not wild about, but it’s her classroom, so *shrug*). I took away some privileges for the afternoon because of the swearing, so it was a fitful, screaming, name-calling evening. The third day was better, but he told me later that his shoes kept coming untied and he had lost his lunch box so it was “such a horrible day!” Day four was good. Normal. Got his work done, didn’t get in trouble. Day five was better but still rough, I think he was just tuckered out. We went for ice cream after school to celebrate the end of the first week. He got called a name by another kid as we walked to get ice cream, and was incredibly emotional about it. I sympathized, but also reminded him that he does that to other people. Which he didn’t really respond well to. But, he was very well-behaved that afternoon. Perhaps because of the promise of the weekend ahead of him.

ice cream

I hope this week and the weeks to follow go just as smoothly. I hope he doesn’t get too comfortable and start acting up. But as far as I can tell, the wrinkles in his personality caused by the SPD are starting to smooth themselves out. And he’s maturing into a great student. His teacher and I just take things one day at a time.

Now, his behavior at home…that’s another story for another time. But hey, one step at a time.

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Picky Eaters Anonymous

Mention online somewhere that your kid or kids are picky eaters, and you’ll get a whole lotta “feedback” from other moms whose kids “eat all their vegetables!”, “love peas!” and “I can’t keep enough salad around for her!” They’ll also throw in helpful tidbits about how “you’re not trying hard enough.” or “your’e not doing it right.”

I am not that mom.

I feel your pain. I understand. Let’s start a support group.

My boys both started out as amazing eaters when they were babies. AMAZING. Ate everything I offered. Even stuff I won’t touch. Green beans? Check. Peas? Check. Broccoli? You bet. But then, when they hit about two years of age, they suddenly started turning up their noses at everything. I thought for a while that Ferris was “less picky”, but I’m slowly discovering that just because he eats foods that Bowie won’t doesn’t mean there’s not a long list of foods he won’t touch too.

I was advised by our preschool director that it is our job to put the healthy foods on their plates, and whether they eat it or not is up to them. And also if you put the tiniest little portion, like teaspoon sized portion, of whatever “healthy” food it is you want to serve, but think they won’t eat, they’re a lot more likely to try it, because the portion size is so much less intimidating. And we have instituted this advice, with some success. They both definitely tried foods they wouldn’t normally have gone for, and even enjoyed some of them, broadening their eating repertoire.

But, there are still those lunches and dinners where they refuse to eat a single bite, and it’s a big argument, and then they go hungry, which I hate. But, we all learn from it and the next mealtime is often infinitely easier.

I’ve got a list for you of foods that are nutritious, or at least mildly so, and that my boys will eat, for whatever reason. For those times when you don’t want to have the argument, and you don’t want them to be hungry. You want them to eat a healthy meal, and you want them to get a full belly. I’m going to skip the obvious choices, like fresh fruit, cheese, brown rice, ketchup, you guys know all about that. These are ideas to get you (and your kids) out of your rut. So, here it is:

Beth’s Top Ten Favorite Healthy Foods for Picky Kiddos

1. Avocados. I don’t know if it’s the creaminess, the mild flavor, the fun color, what. But they gobble them up. And they are packed with fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin C, amongst other things. If your little one turns their nose up at slices or chunks, try mashing it. Weelicious has great recipes here and here. Think non-spicy, non-chunky guac. Serve with some whole wheat pitas or low salt tortilla chips.

2. Eggs. I know you have probably been on the egg train for a while. This one is kind of a no-brainer. But, I’m including it to remind you how versatile eggs are. Look beyond the scramble. Embrace the hard boiled, either whole or mashed up for egg salad (which you can mix with flax, veggie purees, chia seeds, whatever your go-to sneaky additive). Consider over-hard fried for breakfast (just the whites too, if you want to go that route). They can eat it on toast like a sandwich or chopped on top of rice or quinoa.  You can serve them baked, I have a great recipe that is just eggs, leeks and cream, baked in ramekins. So yummy even Mommy and Daddy will enjoy. I serve them for dinner! Or try a frittata, or a quiche, load them up with veggie purees. Eggs are cheap, versatile, and they’re loaded with protein. I’m telling you, eggs are your friend.

3. Since I just mentioned it, we’ll move on to quinoa. I love quinoa. It’s so easy to cook, you can replace your rice with it in almost any recipe (I love making quinoa fried “rice”, fabu) and it’s got a nice nutty flavor and great texture. My guys really like it with a bit of oil and vinegar. I cook it in chicken stock for added flavor and nutrition, and I add in little bits of veggies that they may or may not pick out, but they’re in there. Quinoa is a whole grain, a great source of iron and fiber, and a protein powerhouse.

4. Edamame. Otherwise known as soybeans. You can find them in the frozen section, in pods or out, or sometimes in the fresh produce, pre-cooked and seasoned and packaged up. They have a nice, mild, non-intimidating flavor. Some people don’t or can’t do soy, so this obviously isn’t for you. But edamame has a long list of vitamins and lots of fiber and protein, is fast and easy to cook, and is easily snackable for the park or a day at the zoo.

5. Fish. Not your average store-bought fish sticks, just fish. Real fish. Sometimes I doll it up and put a crunchy batter on it myself, but usually I can just serve it as-is with a tasty sauce, and they’re totally on board. I serve salmon with a yogurt-dill sauce or with a tasty miso sauce. I serve white fish like tilapia or cod with a yummy cumin lime butter or another yogurt sauce with herbs like mint or cilantro. Or just fish tacos with sour cream. If it’s got a nice mild flavor and you can pair it with a topping they already like, they are highly likely to eat it. Fish, especially salmon, is a great source of protein, as well as the all-important omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Trail Mix. This works because it’s full of nuts and dried fruit (if you have a nut allergy in your house, obvs. this one’s not for you), but the kids just see the M&Ms and think they’ve won. We pour a small amount for each one, maybe 1/4 cup, and the rule is they have to eat all of that before they can have more. This prevents them from picking out the chocolate and leaving the rest. Nuts and dried fruits are great sources of nutrition, and trail mix is often low-salt or no-salt (check the sodium level). We like to get the giant bags from Costco, or to just make our own.

7. Hummus. Ok, confession: Bowie won’t eat hummus. But, Ferris LOVES it. Can’t get enough. And I’ve seen plenty of my friends’ picky eaters gobble it up too. Put a big gob on the end of one of those thick pretzel sticks or on a big cracker, and watch them (maybe, hopefully) devour. Hummus consists mostly of chickpeas, which are overall just really great for you. And hummus comes in a wide variety of flavors so you can find one your kids will like. Ferris likes roasted red pepper flavor.

8. Quesadillas. I’m not talking your standard burrito-place 1/2 inch thick gob of cheese between two white flour tortillas here. I’m talking take that idea, and turn it up a notch. I like to make them with whole wheat tortillas. I spread them with a very thick layer of refried beans, beans are crazy full of fiber, and I sprinkle ground flax over the top of that. Then I sprinkle on a modest amount of shredded cheddar cheese. I serve it with a dab of sour cream (I don’t know why, but kids LOVE dipping their food into stuff), sometimes I add a little flax to the cream too. Or cumin, which has a nice authentic yet mild flavor, and is actually really nutritious itself, offering fiber, iron and even calcium. I am also a MAJOR fan of the Breakfast Quesadilla from Weelicious. Her recipe just calls for egg and cheese, but during step 3, I also add chopped spinach or kale, like really finely chopped, and just a dusting. They’ll hardly even notice it.

9. Spinach tortellini or ravioli. It’s got pasta, which they love, and inside, along with some yummy cheese, is spinach. That’s right, SPINACH. My boys tuck the tiny dumplings into their mouths like popcorn. Either they don’t notice the green stuff, or they don’t care. Either way, they’re each getting a serving of spinach in their belly. I buy spinach tortellini virtually by the case from Trader Joe’s, where a 10 ounce package of the fresh stuff (which I freeze) is only $1.99. I cook it, put a little olive oil, salt and pepper on it, and sprinkle with parmesan. It’s a lunch box staple for Bowie. It only takes me 3 minutes to cook it in the morning.

10. Sushi. Ok, hold on, don’t run away. Hear me out. I know some of you are thinking, “yeah right, I’m going to take my kid out for raw fish.” But, sushi comes in many forms. And sushi restaurants have a plethora of regular menu items that kids worship. It’s probably Bowie’s favorite meal. He likes the miso soup. Miso good for them, and he also likes the protein-filled tofu. And the onions and seaweed just go down the hatch with the broth. And of course there is edamame (see #4), which is a cheap menu item, sometimes even free. Both guys also like avocado rolls (see #1) and our local place has a tempura roll that has tempura-battered shrimp in it. So they get the nori (the seaweed on the outside) and avocado and shrimp. And I always order the tempura veggies. Yes, they’re fried, but the batter is very thin and holds less oil. Ferris will eat huge florets of broccoli and slices of zucchini and eggplant. Bowie likes the carrots and sweet potatoes. They are also different from other deep fried vegetables in that the pieces of vegetables themselves are gigantic. Most of the nutritional value is kept intact, and not cancelled out totally by the oil. And if you can get your kid to eat fish, of the cooked variety (see #5), most Japanese menus have a wide variety of fish to choose from, and lots of sauces. My boys are both sort-of fans of teriyaki salmon.

10 1/2. I don’t know why, but both of my guys like frozen peas and frozen corn. Not cooked. Just straight from freezer to plate. They don’t care for either one in cooked form, but frozen? A treat, somehow. Maybe give it a try?

This is ONLY what worked for MY kids. And if I know picky eaters (and I DO), then your picky eater’s personal list of That Which Shall Not Be Touched is probably totally different than it is with my guys. I’m also kind of a fan of the hiding-healthy-bits-in-the-yummy-stuff, but I know others don’t really like this approach, so just do what feels right, of course. I just hope this gave you at least one idea. Or half an idea. Just hope it helped.

Please let others know in the comments what your ideas are. What are your go-to healthy kiddo foods? Meal ideas, snack ideas? What’s your favorite way to add nutrition to their favorite foods?

ferris eating

 

 

Posted in Eat All the Things, It Gets My Approval, My Boys, This Crazy Ride Called Parenthood | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When to Start?

Hey gang! My old sharing post that I wrote for Circle of Moms/Pop Sugar a few years back has recently been shared again, and also shared on other sites, so all of a sudden I got this big boost of traffic and new followers. Welcome one and all, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I want to talk about today is if and when you sent your little ones off to preschool. I was recently criticized for the fact that Ferris will start preschool literally the day he turns 2. According to this person, there’s no need to send a 2 year old to preschool, and he’s “just too young. You shouldn’t do that.”

We didn’t start Bowie right away at age two, but he was only 2 1/2. His birthday is in May, so when the new school year began in August, he was 2 and 2 months old. We didn’t get a spot at that time, we got one in December, when he was fully 2 1/2. Honestly, it felt like he was developmentally light years away from where Ferris is right now, and will be in September (when he gets to start). But, Ferris has one of those early fall birthdays, we have a spot waiting for him, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Maybe it comes across as me just wanting to get rid of him for a few hours a day. Which, I’m not going to lie to you, is a part of it. But, this kid is really, really ready for preschool.

From what I’ve gathered from all the people I’ve talked to over the years who did not or will not send their children to preschool at all, people have two main visions of preschool.

Some people think it is school, as in where you sit at a desk and a teacher teaches and gives projects and maybe you’ll get a little playtime.

Others think it is more like a daycare. They go off to be taken care of by other people for the whole day, 6 to 8 hours, and there’s little to no emphasis on learning or development.

Our preschool isn’t like that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of them out there. Ours is play-based, and there’s a bit of learning. That’s mostly for the older children (about to head to Kindergarten), but everyone has a dedicated music time, and stories are always read at snack time. The toys and games and activities chosen for the kids are also chosen to help them with specific types of learning and development for their age. Plus, they’re only there for 3 hours a day.

That’s why I’m ok with sending him there on his second birthday. He will love all the things there are to do there, and he will love the social aspect. But even after I explained all of this, that’s when I was told it’s just not necessary.

Of course it’s not necessary. I didn’t go to preschool. A lot of people my age didn’t go to preschool. But just because you don’t have to send your kids doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from it. And it doesn’t mean you’re slacking on your parenting. It just means you’ve chosen to send them to a place that has way more toys and games and activities than you could possibly ever have at your own house, and you’re allowing professionals to spend a few hours a day giving them some guidance.

All kids are different too. Maybe her kids (who are older now) weren’t ready when they were 2. And that’s ok! There have been kids at our preschool that just weren’t ready either. They will drop out of the program and wait a while, or maybe just decide preschool wasn’t for them and never come back. That’s just something we as parents need to evaluate. For our OWN children, not someone else’s.

What say you, readers? Did you send your child(ren) to preschool? How old were they? Did it work out? Would you choose to do it the same way again if you had it to do over again? Have you ever been criticized for sending your child “too soon”?

By the way, we go to a co-op preschool, where I have to work one day of the week. Until baby siblings are one year of age, they can tag along (in a baby carrier while you work). Here’s a picture of Ferris at school when he was about 10 months old. He’s going to LOVE it.

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Onward

 

I still remember the moment we pulled up in front of this house.

We had a lease in an expensive neighborhood that was about to run out, and if we renewed, the landlord would raise the rent. Again. We were desperate to move to our current neighborhood, where we’d have more space, lower rent, and be super close to a kick ass preschool that some of our friends’ kids went to.

Everything we’d looked at or found on Craigslist was too small, too pricy, totally dilapidated, in the wrong neighborhood, or, in one instance, above a liquor store. I remembered seeing a picture of this particular one on Craigslist, but it had blended in with the hundreds of other pictures I viewed of total duds, and those we couldn’t afford.

When we pulled up to it, it was like we were breathing fresh air again for the first time in a long time. And then we met the super sweet, very inviting landlord. And then we went inside, and really fell in love.

I always knew in the back of my mind that we were only renting and would have to leave someday, but that didn’t stop me, or all of us, from letting it start to really feel like home. Our home.

This year we made some big plans to buy our own house. Which is no small feat in San Francisco. So, we made some big budget plans too, and a savings plan that will hopefully take only a year, and then we’d be ready to move onward and upward. One more year here, we thought, and off we go.

So, when the landlord told us they wouldn’t be renewing our lease this year, that instead they themselves would be moving back in, it knocked us on our butts and we didn’t even know what hit us.

We were faced with grim prospects when it came to new places. We had lived in our old house for 4 years, and in that time they raised our rent by $100. In the meantime, rent for similar places had gone up $1500. Which we could probably afford, but then all that saving up for our own place that we were going to do would have gone out the window. So, we had to try to stay close to the same price, but find something livable.

The first apartment I looked at made me want to cry. It was tiny, dark, dingy, falling apart, had ancient appliances and had a fire escape out the window of what would have been the boys’ room. And for that kind of rent, I could never see myself raising my family there. I looked at a few more in that range.

We completely lucked out, really, finding the house that we did. It’s a similar style house, it is actually a house and not an apartment, we can use the garage and backyard, it has laundry, it has nice-sized bedrooms, it was a really good fit for us. And best of all, rent was about $100 less. 

We made a huge effort to impress the landlord. Luckily we have good credit scores, and a good relationship with our past landlords, and the new landlord really seemed to like us, and the place was ours.

After we moved most of our stuff in, we had some odds and ends at the old place and a ton of cleaning to do. As I chipped away at it, and the old place got emptier and emptier, it really clicked that we were leaving that house behind. And I realized how sad that made me.

Typically I don’t get too attached to houses. We moved around a LOT when I was a kid, and when I was in college I moved every year. Moving was just what you did at the beginning of every summer. When we moved to California, we had an apartment for two years in the Silicon Valley. Then we moved to the city, and lived in that flat for three years. It was hard to leave that one, because that’s where we had Bowie, where we became a family. But, leaving there was our choice. We had reasons. We wanted a different house.

Leaving this one was not our choice. We loved living there. We had even joked about asking them if they’d sell it to us, once we were ready to buy.

Like I said, we knew it wasn’t our house. That someday we’d have to leave, for one reason or another. But that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be surprised when we were asked to leave, and supremely bummed out to have to go.

So, out of sadness, anger, frustration and just plain old disappointment, I’ve started noticing all the things I’m not fond of in the new house. The house that seemed like it had fallen from the sky directly into our laps, a gift from some higher power at just the moment we needed it.

A list of things I don’t like about our new house:

1. It’s not our old house.

2. It’s further from Bowie’s school. So mornings mean a long walk to school, or driving him there.

3. To do the laundry or go into the back yard, we have to go outside to the street level and in through the front of the garage. Mildly annoying.

4. Also annoying about the cars driving by: we are right on the corner, and unlike most of the other intersections in our neighborhood, it is not a 4-way stop, but only a 2-way stop with oncoming traffic that does not stop. So, at least once a day, often more, I hear someone skidding to a stop and honking their horn incessantly because another driver wasn’t paying attention.

5. There’s no dishwasher.

6. There’s no garbage disposal.

7. There’s a street light right outside our bedroom window.

But, it’s absurd, really. We went from functioning house to functioning house, roof over our heads to roof over our heads. Being picky about the house is certainly a First World Problem. And I really need to remember that.

Besides, there’s a good number of things I do like:

1. We’re 3 blocks from the ocean.

2. The next door neighbors are a really sweet older couple that have already stopped by to introduce themselves, given the boys a small gift, repaired a little hole in the sidewalk near our driveway, given us protips about the street parking here and pulled our garbage bins back to our house on garbage day.

3. I have a lot more space for gardening than I had before. So much more! Barring gopher issues, I should really have a lot of success back there. The yard also comes complete with a peach tree and two pear trees! Gotta love that.

4. The kitchen is bigger and more open. I can see and hear what the boys are doing either from the living room or from their bedroom while I cook and clean.

5. The whole house is brighter. There are so many more windows in a corner house, and the way the house faces, we have sun almost all day.

6. The house is SO MUCH LESS DRAFTY. That was one of the things I highly disliked about the old place. You could feel the wind blow through the glass in the living room. So, nice, new, non-drafty windows are a plus.

7. We have much better cell phone reception than we had before. I used to have to go outside to make a phone call, or at the very least go all the way to the back of the house and stand next to a window. But here, I can make calls all around the house! In the living room! In the KITCHEN!

We are likely only going to be here for one year. Bowie’s first grade year. Ferris’ first year of preschool. It should zip right by. And maybe after my feelings of loss start to ease up I can let myself settle in and really enjoy it here. We’re still in the city that we love, and we’re still in the neighborhood that we love, and we still have a place to call home. I’m grateful for all of that.

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Farewell Kindergarten

My Dearest Kindergarten Graduate,

The day I sent you off into your classroom for your first day of Kindergarten, I stood in the hallway that smelled like old books and fresh pencils with the other Kindergarten parents. We smiled and hugged you guys and said, “It’s going to be so great! You’re going to make so many new friends!” What you don’t know is that after you were inside, and we were instructed to move along now, we all went out for coffee and cried our eyes out.

I cried for a lot of reasons. I didn’t think my precious baby was ready for the full days away from me, having been a pretty constant companion of mine for the first five years of your life. And I wasn’t sure you were up for the challenge yet of sitting in your desk, listening to your teacher, and doing school work. Keeping you at the dinner table until you’re finished eating is plenty difficult. Mostly I cried because I knew you could do it, because you were such a BIG KID all of a sudden. You were not my baby anymore. Sending you off to school was one of those moments where I feel like I’m watching you grow right before my eyes.

I went to pick you up that afternoon, and you had on a paper bracelet that announced “Kindergarten is fun!” And you were jazzed to go back the next day. You had made a bunch of new friends already, and you had done some really fun things that you proceeded to tell me about for the remainder of the day.

You’ve had a few hiccups along the way, but overall you have done so well. You soared academically, and made amazing strides socially, strides that a year ago when you were graduating preschool, I’d never have guessed you could have made. You’re not a real fan of homework, but who among us is, really.

So, we bid adieu to Kindergarten. It was a fun, exciting, challenging year full of new adventures and new horizons. Congratulations on completing the first of your 13 years of schooling. May first grade and all the grades to come be as magical and empowering and fulfilling as Kindergarten was for you.

I love you so much, and I am so proud of you!

Mama

 

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In the Blink of an Eye. And the Yank of a Tooth.

Bowie lost his first tooth!

His class has a tooth chart of some sort, I don’t know a thing about it, he just comes home from school every day with a new tooth chart report of who lost a tooth and who was about to lose a tooth. A few of his classmates have lost 4 or 5 over the course of the school year, and he was beginning to fear he would leave Kindergarten and not have left his mark on the tooth chart.

So, a month or so ago when his two front bottom teeth started feeling a little “wiggly”, the kid was so jazzed, I thought his head was going to explode.

The one that fell out kept getting looser and looser and looser (not as fast as he wanted) until he was able to push it all the way horizontal with his tongue.

It was pretty obvious to us that night that it would fall out VERY soon, and we didn’t want it to fall out in bed, or him to swallow it in his sleep or something. So, we coached him along, and eventually it just popped out. He was very relieved that it didn’t hurt, and he thought it was pretty cool how much it bled.

Now he’s got a big gap, and the tooth next door is also very wiggly, so that gap could probably get bigger. And cuter.

The little dude is about to turn 6. That’s S. I. X. I was in mega denial, but this milestone kinda seals the deal: he’s a bona fide big kid now.

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Spring is in the Air

Holy crap. I haven’t blogged in two months? TWO MONTHS?! That’s the longest I’ve ever gone since I started blogging to begin with. And the longer I’m away, the harder it is to pick up again.

I’ve been in a funk. I mean, a FUNK.

If I didn’t have children depending on me, I may not actually have gotten out of bed for a long time. I was going about my days, muddling through like a zombie. I have not been taking care of myself very well, and I have been letting things slide. Like the blog.

I’m making changes though. Big ones. Getting back on track with my health, with my life, with my writing and other creative outlets. It’s going to be a long, hard road. But, I can do it.

Like I said in my last entry, I’m in therapy now. And it’s been great. I’ve been holding a ton of anxiety about cancer and my future and all of that, but also anxiety about things I haven’t thought about in years. It’s a bit cliche to say so I suppose, but my therapist knows exactly the things to ask me to get me to open up the past and figure out how it’s affecting my present and how it might affect my future, and that’s helping me feel more in control. She’s fantastic. If you live in the city and are looking for someone, I can pass on her number.

Two months ago, I was hopeful for the future. And I knew the work that had to be put in. But I wasn’t quite ready to do it yet. I’ve had a lot of very eye-opening, you-gotta-figure-this-out-lady moments lately, and I’m ready.

Thanks for your patience.

Some stuff you guys missed while I was away pouting:

1. Ferris turned 18 months officially. He’s getting to be quite the little dude. He’s adventurous and tough, but very sweet and kind. He LOVES animals. And his new favorite thing in the universe is Thomas the Tank Engine, both playing with brother’s forgotten train set and also watching Thomas on the TV. Other current likes: climbing, snuggly blankets, milk, climbing, opening doors, slides, trucks, climbing, puzzles, walking around the neighborhood, climbing, and trying anything that anyone else is eating or drinking. Dislikes: when daddy leaves for work, falling down, having his teeth brushed, getting pushed too high in the swing, having toys taken away from him, split pea soup.

2. I went and turned 35. Which is a big part of some of this “rebirth” I’m feeling right now. Not only is it one of those milestone birthdays, but my therapist was telling me that our bodies and lives tend to move in these 7 year patterns. And 35 is a multiple of 7. I’m ending one 7 year cycle and beginning another. She asked what I’d like to do in the next cycle, and I surprised myself with all the answers I had. It’s going to be a good one I think.

3. The one year anniversary of my kitty’s death came and went and I handled it so much better than I envisioned I would. I think I’m finally moving into Acceptance territory with my grieving. Which is good for his memory and good for me. It’s opening up some space in my brain for other things. Exciting changes.

4. Bowie spent his entire Spring Break two hours away at his grandparents’ house. He had a ton of fun, and we got a little break from each other. A much needed break from each other. It gave me a chance to focus on Ferris for a while and focus on the house a bit. And when he came back, it was such a great feeling to welcome him home. Even though he had a blast, he still missed us all a lot.

So yeah, time marches on, and all of that. Thanks for sticking with me.

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My New Year Starts Today

One year ago today, I went in to see my dermatologist, and with Ferris wailing in the background, she cut off the small, suspicious looking mole on the outside of my right thigh, and sent it off to the lab for the diagnosis that would upend my entire life.

From surgery and resulting issues with breastfeeding Ferris, to the financial upheaval of all of it, to the mental impact of getting a cancer diagnosis at age 34, it was a bumpy ride. But, I’m happy to tell you that today, one year after it all began, that I am finally starting to figure it out.

It took me a long time to realize that the bad things that happen to you in your life are not the hardest things you have to do. After all, you are still here, you have survived the bad things. The hardest part is taking the new person you are after they are over, and figuring out how the rest of your life will be for that new person. People (myself included) are always waiting to “get over” the bad things that happen. But I finally figured out that you never get over anything, you simply move on. You are changed, maybe even damaged, but you have the rest of your life to live. It’s really, really hard, but you have to forge a new road for yourself, the old one is gone.

We recently paid off the significant medical debt we had accumulated, both for my melanoma (surgery, office visits, tests, lab work and biopsies, oh my!) and also for my time in the hospital having Ferris, which had happened just 5 months prior. Looking back at the year, I don’t have a clue how we managed, but we did. And it is like taking a huge breath of fresh air every time I remember we don’t have medical bills saddling us down anymore.

I also followed through with one of my plans for the new year and found myself a therapist. I’ve always been a pretty anxious person and a worrier, and so, as I mentioned recently, the whole experience shook me to my core. I’m having trouble dealing with all of that in itself, but also in conjunction with the whirlwind of other major events that happened around the same time (registering Bowie for Kindergarten, having my 19 year old cat put down, appearing on Good Morning America) that I think kind of distracted me from mentally handling the cancer, and I thought it might be a good idea to talk to someone about that. I’ve been to see her three times now, and it’s been really good. Right now I leave there feeling wiped out. Just drained. Maybe that’s how therapy goes, I don’t really know, I’m new at this. Or maybe over time it will be easier. I can feel things lifting, getting lighter and lighter, little by little. I think it’s working out.

A year ago, I didn’t even know that thing on my leg was cancer. All I knew was it didn’t look right, and a doctor should probably look at it. I am SO GLAD I made the appointment. Or I might not even be here today!

Today it feels like the actual start of my new year. I’ve been in kind of a holding pattern since 2014 started. Glad that 2013 was finally over, but not quite sure what comes next. Today feels significant. Today is what comes next. Today and the rest of the days. I’m changed, but I’m still me. And I can do this.

 

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Year in Review 2013

2013 was a big one. Full of twists and turns, ups and downs, surprises and losses. I’d use the old cliche about emotional roller coasters, but truth be told, I stayed pretty much at the same sad, anxious, emotional level all year. I held things together by using my family and my bloggy community as duct tape. It was really hard to write this Year in Review, which is why it’s being posted so late. Lots of inward observation and reflection. Which gets a little exhausting. I’m hopeful for a happy, healthy, well-adjusted 2014.

1. What did you this year that you’d never done before?

Had to have a pet put down. Had melanoma. Had a lymph node removed. Sent a kid off to elementary school. Appeared on national television.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’m sure I resolved to lose weight, as I always do. I didn’t lose any, I actually gained a small amount, but the gain has leveled off. I’m also sure I resolved to save money. We’re trying. *cough* MEDICAL BILLS CAN BITE ME *cough cough*. More realistically, I’d like just overall stop and smell the roses when it comes to my boys. And I’ll resolve to save money *this* year, because the aforementioned medical bills were recently PAID IN FULL (woooot!). Barring any injury or illness this year, we should do all right.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

My sweet, sweet kitty, Nashua Bean. I’ve had a hard time grieving for him because he was, after all, just a cat. But, also a good, sweet friend for nearly 20 years. He brought so much joy to my life, with nothing expected in return but love, food and scooped poo. He had such a kind soul, and I know he’s somewhere, watching over me.

I also lost a dear friend and favorite high school teacher to breast cancer. She was something really special, and she will be missed by many.

4. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Money. A therapist. More time to myself. My new Etsy shop up and running. More blog posts. A lot less in the cancer department.

5. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My melanoma diagnosis. The day Nashua died. The day Bowie started Kindergarten. Ferris’ first birthday. My brother’s wedding.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally getting to the dermatologist and getting the cancer before it got me.

7. What was your biggest failure?

Not properly processing my cancer emotionally, and not allowing myself to fully grieve for my cat, and thusly letting myself fall apart emotionally.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Surgery. It was a beast. And I had some nerve damage, so my leg still hurts a bit.

I somehow managed to avoid the norovirus (knock on wood) which Bowie had three times, two of those times within a week of each other.

9. What was the best thing you bought?

My surgery.

10. Where did most of your money go?

Bills still from having Ferris. Cancer bills. Pants for the boys. (They grew SO FAST.) Milk. Rent.

11. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Being cancer free! After spending a week thinking the cancer had spread, it was the hugest feeling of relief I’ve ever experienced.

12. What song will always remind you of 2013?

The song “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie for some strange reason always did, and always will, remind me of Nashua. I think from now on it will make me remember when he died.

13. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?

c) richer or poorer?

a) Sadder, I think. But, it was a hard year, so I’ll cut myself some slack.

b) About the same.

c) Poorer. Still. We’ll get there someday.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Traveling, spending time with family, hugging my boys, exercising, crafting, reading. Writing.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Yelling at Bowie. Leaving Ferris to play by himself. Worrying.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day a few hours away at my in-laws’ house. All of my husband’s brothers were there from their many scattered locations, and it was the first time in a long time we’d all gotten together, so it was a lot of fun.

It was also the first year Bowie really got into the Santa thing, and we all had a ton of fun with that.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

Mad Men. Parenthood. Orange is the New Black. Downton Abbey.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you?

I turned 34. I honestly can’t remember what we did. It was right after the cancer thing. Right before Nashua died. Sandwiched in between two major events. I think we might have gone out for dinner? Anyway, most days I can’t even remember if I’m 33 or 34, so I’m sure my birthday was as insignificant as my age.

Happy 2014 to everyone, and may it treat us all a little better than 2013 did.

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The One Where I Kinda Bum You Out

I suppose if I’m going to hog this domain name, that I could actually blog once in a while. Thing is, along with all the hubbub and running around and preparations we make for the holidays, I’ve also got this looming dark cloud over me lately.

I am really out of sorts right now because recently, one of my favorite teachers from high school passed away at age 52 from breast cancer. I was a student of hers for many years, and she was a warm, wonderful woman and a great mentor. I had always meant to pop into the school and visit her, but never did. Something beat me to it: CANCER.

I think her death reopened something inside of me about my own cancer that I had locked up and buried deep, deep below layers and layers of myself. All of a sudden it hit me like a brick to the forehead: I have had cancer.

Living in the online world, cancer touches you from far and wide. I was reading that a blogger that I follow who was treated for stage 3 melanoma only to find out she had stage 4 ovarian cancer, has had her ovarian cancer return for the third time. And her story now has me really worried about the BRCA gene mutations. These mutations are commonly known as increasing a person’s likelihood to develop breast cancer, but can also mean increased likelihood of other cancers, including malignant melanoma. I don’t know if I’ve been tested for this mutation or not, I plan to ask my dermatologist if this was part of the blood work I had done in March. But, I would make it my (uneducated hypochondriac) guess that if you get cancer under the age of 35 then you might have the mutation.

So cancer has been on my mind lately. REALLY been on my mind. Not just because of these things, but also because I’m looking back at the last 10 years of my life and thinking of all the abuse I put my body through. I didn’t really take care of myself at all. Junk food, diet soda, alcohol, no regular exercise, heavy anxiety, all of this takes its toll. And only NOW am I realizing this.

I’m afraid I’ve done things to my body that I can’t take back, and can’t fix. Because my lymph node came back clear last spring, they ended up not giving me a full body scan. I did have a chest X-ray, so I know my lungs are clear. Which is a good thing. I also had a physical with my gynecologist over the summer, who said everything looked and felt fine to her. But I have the nagging, nagging, NAGGING feeling that they’ve missed something, overlooked something. Because I’m so young, they’re not looking hard enough, not taking things seriously. Of course, I’m way too chicken to go in and ask for the scan. Not only can we not afford it, with $3,000 left from our $15,000 owed out of pocket from the past 2 years, but also I’m afraid they will find something. Which, yes, of course, it’s better to be informed. But being informed means not living in ignorant bliss. Though I would not call my current state of being “bliss” either.

I think when they told me I had cancer, even though they had caught it in time, and it hadn’t spread, I’ve been treating that diagnosis as the beginning of the end. I am now headed to the end of my life. Rather than treating it as the new beginning that it should be. I know that kind of thinking isn’t normal, but I can’t really help it. I need to figure out how to change how I view life and death.

After the cancer diagnosis, there was the actual surgery, which was pretty much the beginning of the end of me breastfeeding Ferris (which if you’ll recall, I had to stop doing when he was 8 months, because he was confusing me with the bottle and biting me until I bled). And there was the false alarm, where the surgeon told me the melanoma had spread to the lymph node, only to call me a week later to say, “No, whoops, sorry about that. You’re good.” That was very difficult. And I’m still wondering, “Are you sure? ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE?!”

I’m trying to focus on 2014. A new year brings new hope, new promise, new life. But, for a person with anxiety issues, a new year also brings new challenges, new problems, new struggles. I barely made it through this year. What if next year is worse?!

I have some changes in mind for 2014, things I can do to better myself and my life, and hopefully help the year not be worse than this one was. I’m trying to be optimistic, and I’m trying to dig myself out of the dumps, if only to not be such a bummer. I want to get the anxiety under control, I want to change the diet a LOT, I want to get past this depression, or whatever funk I’m in, so I can enjoy every day. Every hour. Every minute.

I knew a blogger that found out she had melanoma, and died just months later. I’ve been given a longer time than she was given. Knowing that I need to do more with my time is obvious, but actually following through without feeling so down and so sorry for myself is another game. A game I plan to OWN.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks.

 

 

 

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