Now I’m a Homeschool Mom?

A few weeks ago, I broke up with our preschool.

I don’t know if I had ever mentioned it on here before, but last year Bowie was expelled within 6 weeks of starting at a Montessori elementary school, as a result of “violence” from him. And I never felt the strength to fight them on it, I rolled over and took it. He’s very happy at the local elementary school so, emotionally, we all got over it. But, this time I took a chance and voiced my thoughts, and left the school.

The preschool/Kindergarten and elementary schools are in separate locations, so I was never sure if the preschool had been up to speed on what happened with Ferris’ older brother. But, Ferris had a very good year there last year, and we were feeling like it was right for him.

Ferris started acting out physically toward his peers, and I just started getting the phone calls, and the threats of suspension, and all the stuff that happened with Bowie last year, and I was not going to take it.

Elementary school was free, so whatever. But preschool costs us $800 a month, and Ferris was learning very little there, he really should have gone to Kindergarten this year but didn’t meet the September 1 birthday cut off. We had planned to put him in Bowie’s school next year anyway, and had debated skipping this year of “preschool”, but went for it anyway. It’s nice to have time away from your kids, and to have them socializing, and hopefully being educated. My kids were not getting educated at this school, they were being made to feel separate from the group, and shamed for behavior that was likely instigated by another student.

I make NO excuses for my sons’ physical outbursts, but I know from my background at the co-op in San Francisco that my kids are not instigators, they are reactors. And they need emotional support surrounding any incident, whether they were the attacker or the victim. And this school does not provide it.

When I went to pick Ferris up from school on Friday, he was in a corner alone, for having dumped toys on the ground in a fit of rage, and he was bawling. Not just mad and crying, sobbing. And I had had enough. As had my husband. Who is away at the time for work, but even remotely, he knew the whole situation was wrong.

We come from a background of being taught day after day, and through several parent education classes (required at the co-op) of Hand-in-Hand Parenting, emotional understanding, Gordon Neufeld approaches to parenting. And the Montessori style is so opposite of this, I couldn’t believe it. I figured that if he was going to be there for six-plus hours a day, and be treated as he was being treated, we were basically paying these people $800 a month to emotionally neglect our child. Instead of seeking the cause of the outburst, the merely isolate the child for the outburst and move on with their day. This is not effective discipline, nor is it the right way to treat a child.

As far as learning was going, he can write his name. Barely. He knows some numbers, and can count to 12. At the same age, Bowie was much further along. Going to preschool a mere 3 hours a day. So, obviously not a ton of practical learning was happening for Ferris.

And when they call you and say, “He pushed another child today. If anything else happens today, you’ll have to come pick him up.”, it takes a great deal of patience and cheek biting not to shout, “YOU ARE THE TEACHERS. THIS IS YOUR SCHOOL. IT IS YOUR JOB, NOT MINE, TO MAKE SURE HE FOLLOWS SCHOOL RULES.”

Ahem.

So, long story slightly less longer than it could be, we quit. We left. We broke up with them.

There are other preschools in Tucson that we could afford that could do a slightly better job. But, I can take him out and do learning activities, and do academic workbooks with him at home, for free. 

In 10 months, they will finally deem him age appropriate for Kindergarten, and he will go to Bowie’s school, and that will be that.

I have been asked by all the people I emotionally unloaded upon if I thought I’d be ok having him at home all the time. I’m not known for a past with extremely great experiences in this department. I know that. But, the prospect does not scare me. I have learned a lot in my 9.25 years as a parent, and I can figure this out. And it’s only for a while, less than a year. He will be home with me and we will just get to hang out and be together, he will not be shamed for having typical 5-year-old emotional outbursts, and we will be saving a good chunk of money. Win-win-win.

That said, I’m now a homeschool mom, I guess? On a technicality? And I’m looking for ideas on resources. Good places to go and do educational things. Good workbooks or companies with good learning materials. I’m not going to go all out here, I just want to teach him his letters and numbers, and some basic concepts. So, if you homeschool, or have homeschooled, or are just up on the subject, please pass along any applicable info. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and obviously here. Lay it on me.

Five

On Sunday, my dear sweet Ferris, my now middle child, turned five. Aside from being super mad that he can’t go to Kindergarten now, and didn’t magically overnight learn how to read and write, he’s pretty excited.

He’s as hilarious as he is cute, and he’s pretty darn cute. And he’s so unique, and not afraid to let his personality show. And a unique boy needs a unique celebration. The day started off with some birthday pancakes at Denny’s. Then, we took him on a shopping spree at Toys R Us, mainly because we forgot to get presents until the last minute, but if he asks, we thought it would just be more fun!

birthday pancakes

Then it was off to Golf N Stuff with friends. It’s a place here in Tucson with mini-golf, bumper boats, go karts and an arcade. It’s basically the best place to spend a kid’s birthday. After that, we headed to Dairy Queen for ice cream, and then at bedtime he got to play with his new toys in his for a while before going to bed. All in all, a good day had by everyone.

putt putt

 

birthday ice cream

He’s becoming his own little person in so many ways. Of course, anything his big brother loves, he loves too. But he’s always putting his own little spin on all of it.

He mispronounces like, a million words. I don’t have the heart to correct him, it’s just way too sweet. Some examples: kitty glitter (kitty litter), sprinkle water (sparkling water), Pandaspress (Panda Express, his favorite restaurant), flip flaps (flip flops), roaster coaster (roller coaster), Golfing Stuff (Golf N Stuff) and scream time (screen time). He also likes to tell us how he’s feeling using the infinitive. “I feel like to poop.” “I feel like to sleep.” “I feel like to have cereal.”

Favorite things: Scream time (see above), Minecraft, Legos, cats, dogs, dinosaurs, robots, knock knock jokes, salami, dirt, horsepower (when we are driving and the engine revs), Jeep adventures, arts and crafts, root beer, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, McDonald’s Playplaces, and making poop and fart jokes.

Least favorite things: not getting a turn during Scream Time, having his picture taken, the fact that his car door is still child locked, bedtime, leaving school, chocolate (weirdo), and apparently, riding in someone else’s car (we tried a carpool thing with friends and it did NOT go over well).

It’s amazing to watch him grown and become his own little man. So much of him reminds me of when my younger brother was a kid, which is very heartwarming. I’m just thankful he hasn’t needed stitches yet, very much UNLIKE my younger brother.

Happy fifth birthday to my dearest Ferris, I’m sorry you’re the middle child now, but being sandwiched between siblings has got to have some benefit to it, right? I vow to make sure I remember to douse you with as much mom love as I can. I hope you have a great year, even though you don’t get to go to Bowie’s school quite yet. Here’s to 5 and all the exciting stuff to come.

36 Weeks: Nesting and Realizations

I was officially 36 weeks on Monday. We’re in the last month here, folks. I can see, feel, taste, practically touch the end of this pregnancy.

Sunday was VERY exciting and also quite stressful. I woke up in the morning with lower back pain similar to my normal menstrual cramps. And I managed to get that pain to go away with a heating pad. But then I was having Braxton Hicks off and on. They’d only last for about 10 seconds or so, but they were consistent and pretty powerful, and I’d have a half hour on, an hour off, another half hour on, for quite a while. I laid down and drank a bunch of water and just tried to relax. (HAHAHAHA me, relax? Sure. But I tried.)

I napped a little, watched some Netflix, and then HELLOOOO I had a few real, actual contractions. The kind that hurt. The kind that last for a minute. Now, don’t fret, Internet. I only had three of them over the course of about five hours, not grounds for calling the doctor. But I did start to flip out. I was like, little girl, we are not officially 36 weeks until tomorrow, and I know the goal is to keep you in there for at least another week, can you not start trouble with me right now?

And the next day I felt fine. I had probably spent too much time in the heat, walking around. We went down to Tombstone for their “Freedom Days” Fourth of July celebration, and also because it was the weekend, we were bored, and it’s a nice little one-day getaway. But mama probably should have sat longer. I drank a ton of water, but it was still crazy hot. Thankfully the temps have settled down a bit, and our monsoon season should start anytime now.

I had an OB appointment that next morning, and she checked my cervix, just to be sure, given what happened with my early labor with Ferris, and I am only at 1cm, which is practically nothing for a third baby. Panic session over. For now.

But it did throw me into mega nesting mode. I had Brien get the bed all set up, I have the changing station all set up, I’m washing all the sheets, blankets, clothes, everything her teeny tiny body will be touching.

And after telling about a million people that she’s due at the end of this month, it has really dawned on me that she’s due at the end of this month. As in, anytime now. Like whenever. I could just be going about my day, and then TA-DA! Lights, camera, action!

OMG you guys, I’m going to have three kids.

34 Weeks, 113 Degrees

It got to 113 degrees today. And I stayed in air-conditioning for most of it, but holy hell. It’s hot. Even now, as I prepare to publish this, it’s 7pm and still 110.

And I’m GIGANTIC.

I am 34 weeks pregnant today. I am measuring 36 weeks, according to the OBGYN. I am huge, and I’ve gained a lot of weight. I’m sweaty. All the time. I guess the technical term for it is “glowing,” but I’m sweaty, y’all. I’ve got serious brain fog from heat, and hormones, and the stress of keeping my other two spawn busy while they are not in school.

We’ve almost got everything that we need, thanks to our wonderful, generous friends and family. I forget sometimes how far our village reaches, but have been reminded. I didn’t have to buy a stitch of clothing for her (well, I did, obvs. but I didn’t have to), and what we didn’t receive in a care package of hand-me-downs delivered right to our door, we received from our Amazon wish list, almost to completion.

All we need to buy is a carseat. Ha! That’s like the ONLY thing you need to take a baby home with you. You don’t even need diapers or clothes if you can’t swing it, but a carseat you need. And that’s the one thing we don’t have! I have begun to set up a few things. We got a new dresser and I set up a diapering station on it. And I gave baby girl the top drawer all to herself. So, I’m emerging from total denial. See, here’s how an unplanned pregnancy goes. Well, for me at least, and I’m betting a whole lot of other mamas who got surprised.

Month 1: nope.

Month 2: nope.

Month 3: I can start telling people, but it’s not really happening. Nope.

Month 4: nope.

Month 5: nope.

Month 6: Ok, maybe there’s something in there.

Month 7: There may or may not be a baby coming. I can’t say for sure.

Month 8: Well, crap.

So, it’s been weird preparing for her, all the while sort of denying that any of this was actually happening. It felt theoretical. Hypothetical. But nope, she’s real. She’s real and she kicks the crap out of my ribs, and punches my bladder, and gets the hiccups in the middle of the night, and she’s coming, and everyone in her life is thrilled. Yes, even mama, finally.

Yes, once I re-learn how to breastfeed, and diaper her, and make sure she’s the right temperature all the time (because, see, this information was removed to make room for 3rd grade math and preschool snack days and the main roads in Tucson) I’m sure it will be a joy, just like it was when her big brothers came into my life.

Anxiety-wise, this has been one of the most difficult times in my life. Just when I start seeing a psychiatrist here in Tucson, just when I begin to make progress with CBT, and continue to be successfully sober, I get this giant bomb dropped on my whole life. It set me back, WAAAAAAAY back. But somehow I think I’ve come out the other end, mostly intact. Yes, I realize the hardest days are in front of me, but I’ve got a good set of safe coping mechanisms and the love of my friends and family to see me through.

I’m hoping she comes early. I’m getting an early vibe. I’ve been having contractions like crazy (I mean, the fake kind, and not in any regular pattern, but contractions nonetheless). And if my trend of having babies continues, my 36 or 37 week appointment, whenever they do an internal exam, will put me into labor. And she’ll be out in like, an hour. But, we’ll see. All babies are different. She’ll come when she’s ready.

(Which better be early.)

Thanks for seeing this thing through with me.

34 weeks

Two Years. And a week.

I’m a little late with this post. Honestly, I’ve just been so tired and busy and sick and busy and tired and hungry and tired to find time to sit in front of the keyboard. When mama suffers, the blog suffers. Many apologies.

Anyhow, as most regular readers know, April 22, 2015 is my sober date. So, I just earned my two-year chip. And I’m very grateful and happy, but cautious (as usual).

I remember when I earned one year sober, how excited I was. It felt like graduation day. Like a real accomplishment. And then a few weeks later I thought, now what? The idea that I had to do that, over and over again, every year, for the rest of my life, was a bit daunting. And then I went on to have one of the most challenging years on record. It was no 2013, but it came close.

It was touch-and-go when we first moved to Tucson. I was determined to make a fresh start, and leave all that AA stuff behind in San Francisco. But, I got very depressed about the move and started having thoughts. Those thoughts. So, I bounced here and there around Tucson, trying to find a good meeting, and luckily I did. Those people saved me. I needed them, and as any AA will tell you, they needed me too.

I wanted to give a gift to everyone at that meeting. For all the support they offered up, without me even having to ask. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed and wanted, in the way only AA can make an addict feel. And I owed so much of my second year to them, and their help.

And on the evening of my 2nd sober birthday, I was confronted with visions of my former self. Very up close and personal. It was like a message from my higher power (which hasn’t taken a real form in my mind yet, but I have ideas). “This is what it was like for others to watch you. Never forget that.” Lately I had been harboring resentment (a big AA no-no) toward people in my life who seemed, to me, to ignore the emotional pain I was in back then, and chose instead to focus on the alcohol problem. How could they not see? How could they not care? But, I suddenly realized that evening that they just didn’t know what else to do. It was the most obvious and fixable of my many issues, and a good place to start. I see that now.

The next year of my life will be full of challenges, as every year is. But, this year I will have an infant. My third child. That alone is going to toss up challenge after challenge. I just have to remember all the things I’ve survived, and remember that this will be joyful. Stressful, but joyfully stressful.

Thanks for your support, everyone. Onward and upward!

2years

22 weeks and counting

I am 22 weeks with my baby girl. I have been so bad about posting updates and keeping everyone in the loop. But, time is slipping by oh so fast, with the other two kids to keep up with, and life just refusing to slow down.

While I am excited about her arrival (though cautiously excited because my anxiety never lets myself get too excited about anything), I have been plagued with some pretty serious negative emotions, and it’s made this whole thing very difficult. I’m panicking for two now.

My anxiety has been a constant in my life, going back as far as I can remember. But I feel like it is escalating as I get older. Partly because motherhood is, well, motherhood. And also partly because I found my way through an extremely difficult couple of years by always having a bottle of alcohol by my side, and sometimes I am afraid I will lose control again, and let myself sink to that point again. It is a constant terror of mine: that I will relapse again. My psychiatrist tells me to think positively about my awareness. That being on guard all the time will work in my favor. And he’s right. But it’s exhausting.

I am on a lower dose of my antidepressant than I was before I got pregnant. Just to keep things safe. But I can definitely tell the difference. It mostly keeps the depression at bay, but I have some pretty terrible days. Whereas before, it was a lot of fairly good days, almost no terrible days. It just feels like something isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what, but something is off. I am allowed to take my anti-anxiety medication in moderation, but even that doesn’t seem to help much. I can barely go five minutes without letting my intrusive thoughts evolve to the point that I and/or the baby and/or my whole family are dead. I can’t get it out of my mind. It hasn’t been this bad for a very long time. I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl again right now, which is working. But gosh I want to be “normal.”

The “logic” behind worrying about anything and everything is that you can prepare yourself for the worst. And if you worry about the worst, it probably won’t happen. If you go along in life all happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, that’s when the bad stuff sneaks up behind you and side swipes you on a random weekday morning. Just when you thought everything was ok. So, worry! Worry it up. Of course, I know logically that this is absurd, life will happen as it happens whether I worry or not, so I may as well spare myself the anxiety. It’s just not quite that easy.

I find myself doubting whether or not I can handle the early days with a newborn without feeling swallowed up by the whole thing, unable to breathe, unable to move. Those early days are so hard. You’re all hopped up on hormones and lack of sleep. And not to mention the physical healing you have to go through. And with the demands of life scratching at the door like a dog that needs to be let out, you can feel very guilty and ashamed for focusing on your baby so much.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke once about having a fifth child. “It’s like you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” Which is pretty funny, I laughed very hard at that. But, I think it can also apply to a mom with serious mood disorders trying to be just a mom, just a regular mom who can do it all and be it all (even though we all know in the back of our minds that those expectations are just too high). It’s like you’re drowning in your illness, and then someone hands you your baby. Good luck, hon!

But, hey. There’s also her gorgeous ultrasound pictures. And the reassurance that she’s growing and developing wonderfully. And I can look forward to looking into her eyes for the first time. And smelling her big, bald head. And watching her sleep in my arms. And watching her brothers bond with and love her. There are positives here. I was avoiding buying anything because I was afraid I’d jinx something. But I bought a few tiny, adorable pieces of clothing. And no matter how many babies you have, it’s still mind blowing to imagine that a person tiny enough to fit into that stuff will soon come out of you. Just mind blowing.

The first thing I ever said to Bowie was, “I’m so glad you’re out of me.” And when they handed Ferris to me, I said in a hormonal daze, “I forgot how small these things are.” I’m hoping I can come up with something a little more brilliant to say to her. To my daughter. To my little fork in the road. I will be nervous, I will battle my illnesses, but I will be able to see the beauty in all of it, I just know it.

Just a little more than halfway done, and holding on. Thank you everyone who has offered kindness and support. This mama needs it.

The Story of my Relapse

It was two years ago this very day that I relapsed after coming home from rehab. It’s a story I have alluded to on here whenever I talk about my recovery, but I’ve never told the story in full. To anyone really.

I remember so vividly that it was this day for two reasons. Nobody would shut up about how it was Pi Day, and my husband had a very massive surfing accident that earned him extensive surgery and an overnight hospital stay.

The day started off like any other, really. It was a Saturday, the boys and I were having a lazy morning at home. Brien went off early to surf, as he often did.

As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the doorbell ring. At that time, we had a gate on our house and you had to unlock it with a key, or get buzzed in. Brien did not bring his keys with him when he surfed, so I was pretty sure it was him. I told Bowie to let daddy in. Instead of pushing the button upstairs, he decided to go downstairs and greet daddy.

As I was getting dressed, I heard Brien yelling my name. And saying, “Bowie, go back upstairs, it’s too scary.”

I went down there and Brien was covered in blood, and his nose was…not where it should be. “I think I broke my nose,” he said, cool as a cucumber. “I need to go to the emergency room.”

So, off we went. And the boys and I waited in the waiting room for a while after Brien got checked in, eating breakfast from the vending machines. I got texts from him every once in a while with an update, but he didn’t know much. Eventually he told me we might as well go home, it was probably going to be a while.

And then I didn’t hear from him for hours. When he did text he said he needed surgery, he’d text when he was able to again.

In my mind I’m like SURGERY. Dammit. Is my husband ok? How much will we have to pay for this? I was going into what I can now recognize as Panic Mode. A state that, once I am in it, I have a hard time regulating my thoughts and emotions, and I have a hard time coming back down to earth.

Hours and hours later, I still hadn’t heard anything. I took the boys to the park to get my mind off of things. And, I talked myself into having a drink. I figured that rehab had “fixed” me. That it was ok to have a little wine to take the edge off. I went directly to the grocery store and bought a bottle. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Afterward, I regretted it, of course. But I didn’t crave more, so I still thought I was ok. But, I did crave more in the days that followed. Every couple of days I’d have more. Until eventually, I was right back where I started.

My dad and younger sister came to San Francisco for a visit a few weeks later. I drank my way through their visit, using it to “calm my nerves” or whatever nonsense alcoholic thing I was telling myself. Meanwhile I made a fool of myself and ruined their whole visit. I regret it deeply.

My husband and my rehab counselor urged me heavily to return to the rehab house for a short stay, get my feet back on the ground, try some new strategies. I refused. I insisted that I was fine. Everything was fine. Just a slip up from the stress. I was ok.

Except I was not ok. One afternoon, I picked Bowie up from his OT appointment and as I pulled away from the curb and realized I had a flat tire. A totally flat tire, not the kind of flat tire I could have limped home with. So, I pulled over and called Brien to come help me.

I can change a flat tire. I know how and everything. It’s just that…I was in no shape to be changing a flat tire that afternoon. He knew it, I knew it. Bowie’s OT knew it, everyone at Ferris’ preschool knew it, it was one of the lowest and most humiliating moments of my life.

I went back to rehab for 10 days. I was terrified. If rehab couldn’t work on me, then what hope was there? Would I ever be able to get over this? Would anyone ever want to speak to me again? After a few days of drying out, I was able to see very clearly how and why I wanted to stay sober.

Seeing life as it could be, with me feeling happy and strong, and then returning to that dark and awful place, showed me that it was the happiness I wanted. Everything they were teaching me at rehab suddenly made sense. And I finally, finally took the advice of three doctors, two rehab counselors and dozens of friends and accepted medication for my depression and anxiety.

When I returned home, things were very tense between me and Brien for a while. I didn’t know how to interact with my kids. I didn’t know who knew my secrets, who was mad and judging me and who still wanted to be my friend.

But, I got a part time job, and I went to AA regularly, and I soldiered on. Turns out the majority of people didn’t know, and the ones who did know didn’t judge me. The ones who did judge, they were few, and I knew my life would go on without them. I had help, I had support. I made it to a year without a hitch. That day, as many of you know, is April 22.

I would not recommend a relapse to anyone in recovery. The fall is so much harder than the first time around, and the pit is so much harder to climb out of. It is a very, very dark place. You will regret it.

But what I will say is that for me, personally, it was one of the best things that could ever have happened to me. I finally fully hit rock bottom. Before that, I had been hovering just above. I had my eyes opened to the damage my addiction was really making. I was aware of the control that alcohol had over me, and I was determined to regain that control. I finally admitted that maybe my mood disorders were too much for me to handle on my own. And by taking medication and seeking therapy, I was among so many other people doing the same thing.

I hate Pi Day, for what it represents for me and my family. It was a dark, scary day and I have a lot of bad memories of all of it. And worst of all, I caved to my addiction, which I still feel pretty ashamed of, even though they all tell me not to be.

I learned a lot from the whole situation. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t discount the benefits it created, ironically. They say that relapse is the rule, not the exception. Not to condone relapsing, but to remind those of us who have relapsed that we are still ok, we can still beat our addiction, we are still worthy of recovery and still worthy of love.

I’m lucky to have been surrounded by an extremely supportive community, and to have a team of people working with me. Some are not so fortunate, but you can be an advocate for someone who is suffering. You can’t force anyone to recover, they have to be ready to do it on their own, or it won’t work, it just won’t. But, you can let them know you’re there for them. Millions of other addicts have gotten better. There is help out there.

Unpredictable

Life can be so weird sometimes. And often, when we get to a place of comfort and normalcy, something drops in our laps. Something we never saw coming. Something we never even imagined might happen.

Thanksgiving week, I found myself fainting while I did yard work. And peeing constantly. And the official nail in the coffin: not getting my period.

I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I took another test: another faint positive. I started wondering if any of my medications might cause a false positive, but Dr. Google seriously let me down. As you can imagine, there was very conflicting information, and nothing regarding my specific medications. So anyway, the next day I took 4 more tests (just to be sure) and got 4 positives. Four.

And I commenced to freak the hell out. And then I had the unbridled pleasure of making my husband freak the hell out right along with me.

I was on the birth control pill. No one saw this coming. Not me, not him, not my gynecologist. We had two boys. We were done. This was it. This was our family, this was our future.

I mean, we had certainly discussed the possibility of adding one more little one to the mix. But, with all the struggles I had been through, and then with the move to a new city and purchase of a new home, we just decided that it wasn’t a good time, and that by the time it was a “good” time, it would probably be on the later side to be contemplating such a thing. So, no more kiddos.

And suddenly: baby.

I’m going to be a mother again. I’m going to go through 9 months of pregnancy. Again. I’m going to have to go through labor and delivery. Again. I’m going to be changing diapers. Again. And when I’m 40! Unless this is a super genius baby who will by potty trained by then. Finger crossed.

I wasn’t thrilled when I found out, but I also wasn’t disappointed in any way. It was a shock, and shock takes some time to wear off. I went through all the stages of grief (grief for my no-diaper, big-kid mom life) and ended up here, at 15 weeks, feeling…ok. Just ok. Which in turn makes me feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be over the moon about this? Babies are a blessing, and all of that? What’s wrong with me?

And the fretting, oh my word the fretting. I was a basket case when I was pregnant with Ferris, because he was my post-miscarriage baby. My rainbow baby. I was a nervous wreck with him. But this time, it’s so much worse. I am going to be 38 in a few weeks. That’s oooollllldddd according to the OBGYN. And everything that can normally go wrong, can really go wrong. There’s Down’s syndrome and zika and heart defects and my lord, a million other things I can’t even think of. We didn’t plan for this baby, and the prospect of something being wrong is too much to bear. I’ve been plenty reassured that the odds are in our favor. And our chromosomal testing came back totally and completely normal. But, that still doesn’t calm an anxious mind.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that we don’t have any stuff. We have NO. STUFF. No crib, no changing table, no carseat, no stroller, no high chair, no swings, no carriers, no bibs, no blankets, no clothes, nada. We were done. We gave it all away. Which I had heard is a surefire way to get yourself a surprise baby, but I just chuckled at it. Let me be a PSA for you here, don’t get rid of the baby stuff until you go through menopause. Just to be sure. Thankfully, what we do have are plenty of friends and family with small children who have lots of goodies to pass along to us. I’m so grateful for the kindness of our “village” right now.

And the real kicker: it’s a girl. A GIRL. No more Boy Mom Dot Com here. I mean, a girl is wonderful. So exciting. I’m happy about it. But, with boys, I knew what I was doing. I have no idea how to raise a girl. Especially in these crazy times we live in. Thank goodness for the big, wide Internet parenting community.

But anyway, it’s happening. I have definitely felt pregnant. Mega morning sickness, the worst of all my pregnancies. I was showing by 8 weeks, so fun when you’re not ready to tell people yet. You just look like you’ve been hitting the chocolate Hostess Donettes too hard. Which I had. So, fair enough. I have also been so tired, I nearly nod off at red lights. And gassy. GOOD. LORD. I have made a lifestyle out of crop dusting entire aisles at Target.

Cravings have been coming and going. Previously when I’ve been pregnant, I’ve avoided lunchmeats and fish totally grossed me out. This time? Give me all the sliced turkey and fish you’ve got. I know, I know. But I’ve been craving protein like mad. And turkey sandwiches were all I could stomach for several weeks. Cravings for sweets come and go. With Bowie and Ferris, I couldn’t stop with the sweets. It was all I wanted. This time, meh. Food turn offs include anything lemon flavored (but oddly not lemons themselves) and French fries (I KNOW!).

So, I’m 15 weeks and doing fine. Except for the occasional freak out about doing this all over again. And having more kids than parents in our house. Stick around, because it’s about to get very exciting over here!

 

 

 

Us vs. Them

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite sayings was, “Stand for something, or step aside.” It gave me a powerful image of what it meant to be alive on this earth right now. The problem was, most of the time, the ideas and opinions I had, the things I wanted to stand for, were in direct opposition to most of the people around me, and so I kept them hidden. I was not standing for anything at all, I was stepping aside. No, even worse, I was standing there while they walked right over me.

I’ve always known I was different from my family, and from a lot of the people I grew up with. From a very young age. Before I knew why, before I could articulate any of it, before I knew it was ok to forge my own road. I just knew, on some level, that I didn’t quite fit in.

It started becoming more apparent sometime in my teens. When things that people said in church didn’t make sense. When the things we did in church didn’t make sense. And no one had a real answer for me. I started to feel I didn’t fit in the way that they expected me to.

And around this time, I started to have close friends come out to me. And I had a group of people over there telling me I needed to turn my back on those friends. And me not understanding, and not wanting to. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to fit in the way they expected me to.

When I started to mature and move into adulthood, and I found myself wondering why expectations were so much lower for women. Why women seemed to get the raw deal on a lot of things. And the people I knew and trusted told me that was just the way the world worked. Men were stronger, smarter, more trustworthy. They belonged in the positions of power. This was a message that was actually conveyed to me as a young woman. And it was not the 1950s. I knew on a gut level that it wasn’t right.

And after I moved out on my own, and started to see the real world with my very own eyes, without this sheltered cover of everyone else’s opinions over everything, I felt like I was finally seeing clearly, and I could finally form my own opinions, and feel and think however I wanted to. I started getting answers to my questions. Answers I hadn’t expected. Answers I knew I couldn’t go and tell those people from my past, it would only make them turn away from me more.

Of course, the Christian guilt lasts for a long time. A very long time. It never goes away, truthfully. So, I still have a pretty difficult time, even now, actually voicing those opinions, making them clear to anyone. I feel that the burden is on me to keep the peace, not hurt anyone’s feelings, not start any trouble. I know I have every right to my opinions, but I’m never made to feel that way, by the people who are supposed to love me. I’m sitting in a mini panic attack right this very minute at the thought of publishing this piece. The backlash that will follow.

And while this election is not the first time I’m feeling completely shunned from just about everyone I knew and loved growing up, it is certainly becoming the worst example and the most hurtful situation.

Everyone has taken to social media in the new year like a dog foaming at the mouth, and posting all kinds of hateful, divisive (and often inaccurate and false) statements, messages and pictures. I have purposely avoided posting this sort of thing myself because a) there’s no actual point to it, and b) it only serves to hurt, divide, enflame, incite. I don’t believe in doing any of those things. Ever. It makes me realize I’m not getting the same respect and dignity I so often give to everyone else. I don’t treat your political opinions like a pile of poo left by a puppy, and rub your nose in it until you feel awful for just…being. But, I do feel like that’s what keeps happening to me.

I was browsing Facebook the other day, and unfollowing people who posted these sorts of things. And I found myself unfollowing people I didn’t want to. And lots of people. And I didn’t want to unfollow family, or have my feed turn into one big echo chamber of all the people saying only the things I wanted to hear. I want diversity of opinion in my feed. I want good, healthy discussion. But…where has it gone? Where has civil discourse run off to? Are the days gone where we could just state an opinion and it wouldn’t get much more attention and response than a couple of thumbs up?

I urge you to stop and think before you say something or repost something. Who is on the other end of this? Who will see this? Do I have friends or family members that might be hurt by this? I’m not talking about “offended” here. Being offended is typical of most of the people who will disagree with you. Being offended is a fleeting feeling, and can be solved by answering back with your own opinions. Being offended is fixable, and often it passes on its own.

No, I’m talking about real, actual emotional hurt. Knowing that a member of your own family, who knows you and knows what you’re about, would go ahead and post something anyway, something that insults you personally. It’s about people like you, and whether they intended to or not, it was aimed at you.

I urge you to watch yourself more carefully. Watch what you say, watch what you post, think about what you are saying actually means, in a big picture sense. I don’t just mean people who think differently than I do, I’m talking about everyone, even those who agree with me. This goes both ways. There are ways to have opinions, express those opinions, and still be tactful, civil, and kind.

It’s easy to have an opinion. It’s even easier to state it in a way that’s completely insensitive and insulting. And it’s even easier still to shut down someone who might try to discuss it with you. We have to try harder. This is how we’ve gotten where we are today as a country: completely divided, almost exactly in half. No one can side with anyone else on any issue, no real problems will actually get solved, if we can’t learn how to discuss things, and find a middle ground.

I have felt the hurt a little more each day since inauguration. I have had to go entire days without using Facebook at all (which isn’t a difficult sacrifice, but I did used to enjoy keeping in touch with family and friends) because my anxiety was spiking, I literally couldn’t take it.

I hope it gets better soon, and social media can be fun again. But, the way things have progressed, I don’t see it happening. Unless we consider our actions before acting out, ponder our words before saying them. Unless we choose to do something, it will only get worse.

Happy New Year

So. 2016. What can I say? It was long, it was complicated, and it more or less sucked.

“But you bought a house!”

Yes, we did. Which is pretty cool. But I’m full of all kinds of feelings about that one. We have a mortgage now, which is indeed better than paying rent, and our monthly payment is far less than our rent was. But having a mortgage feels heavy. Important. So adult.

And in order to buy this house, we had to leave my beloved San Francisco. Tucson is perfectly lovely, but it’s very different. I’m still getting used to it. And I don’t think I’ll ever feel so fulfilled in any other city ever. San Francisco was just so me, so wonderful. I fit in, and it was home.

Alas.

Like I said, Tucson is perfectly lovely. We have met some great people. And the cost of living just can’t be beat. There’s so much to do and see in the desert. And coyotes! In our front yard! The wildlife here is amazing, and it’s at your front door, sometimes literally. It’s good here. And someday, when I see a nice sunset or look down on a lovely cactus-dotted valley and smile, maybe my brain will stop saying, “But it’s not San Francisco.”

And you know what else? This house started falling apart on us almost immediately after we moved in. The plumbing needed a complete redo. There are leaks in the roof, there’s tons of water damage in the walls of the master bathroom. The fridge is probably 20 years old and it leaks. The weeds in the yard are out of control in the summer. Some itty bitty piece on the heating system broke on the coldest weekend of the whole year. Home ownership has its pluses, but damn it’s hard too.

“You celebrated a full year sober in 2016!”

Yes, yes I did. In April I celebrated one year sober. But again, mixed feelings. Sobriety is hard. Not super hard, and not hard all the time. There are peaks and valleys. But after going through all the difficult stuff I did this year, it has become painfully obvious to me that it’s a wet piece of paper towel between sobriety and falling off the wagon. It’s so tough. In a way that I won’t ever expect a non-addict to understand. I’m confident in my sobriety, and so happy to be sober, but, as a woman once said at an AA meeting, “Some days I feel 51% like not drinking and 49% like drinking.” And I think that sums it up perfectly. It’s a tightrope we walk as sober addicts. It’s a difficult existence. I’m not still riding on that one-year glee train, because I’m too focused on making it to two years and beyond. And “living life on life’s terms,” a common AA phrase. It just means confronting all of your problems, coupled with anxiety and depression and any other baggage you may carry, and just facing it head on. Taking a big bite out of it. Kicking its ass. It’s difficult all of the time, damn near impossible most of the time, and painful. So painful.

Ok. I’m bumming you out. I don’t mean to do that, ugh, sorry. So, 2016 wasn’t all bad, right?

Good stuff that happened in 2016:

  1. We got a kitten. And he’s adorable. He’s a handful, but he’s adorable.
  2. I grew stuff in my garden. I’m still figuring out the climate here, but I had some peppers, tomatoes, herbs, a cantaloupe and an acorn squash.
  3. The Cubs won the World Series! THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!
  4. My brother-in-law got married. And it was a wonderful celebration. And his new wife is just the best.
  5. We have made some new friends in Tucson, friends I think we will have for a long time.
  6. We participated in some fun neighborhood events. The 4th of July parade and picnic was really fun. Halloween is a very big deal in our neighborhood. And I made about $100 at the craft fair!
  7. Both boys love their schools and are doing very well. I was very worried about how they would transition, what the schools here would be like, and how Ferris would feel about mom and dad not working at school. But, things have been even better than my most optimistic thoughts.
  8. I’ve had a bunch of nothing-to-report dermatologist appointments. In March, I will be 4 years post-op, making it just one more year until the magical 5 year mark, when you can finally declare yourself “cancer-free.”
  9. No one in my family died this year. I know there are a whole bunch of folks out there, some I know personally, who can’t say the same thing. I need to remind myself more often that this is an amazing gift to be given: more days with people I love, more time to make sure they know I care about them. This cannot be taken for granted. The older I get, the more I’m realizing this.
  10. We had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had family visiting for both, and celebrated with friends too. We hosted a big meal for both holidays, and it helped make this house feel just a smidge more like a home for me. As one of those weirdos who generally doesn’t enjoy that time of the year, I enjoyed this year’s festivities more than usual. Quite a bit.

Let’s make 2017 the best year yet. Hug your loved ones. Spend more time doing what you love. We’ll go through it together. Come what may, we have each other.