Monday Blues

Driving slowly through the fog on 405 I notice the almost-bare trees. It’s mid-October and already fall has settled into Seattle’s bones. And Mondays seem to come so fast these days. When it’s still dark and my brain is half in dream-land and half in reality I find myself feeling melancholy and musing about why I can’t seem to muster the energy to be excited anymore. Are the pills not working? Is the happy light not working? Am I not getting enough sleep? (well, the answer is clear on the last one, surely).

As both a kid, and teenager, I hated waking up. It’s not that I wasn’t rested, it’s that I preferred dreaming to being awake. I sometimes wonder if my soul picked a difficult body to live in, and whether my obsession with dreaming is an obsession, a longing, for the other world of souls, where flying and walking through walls really does exist. Now that I’ve been at work for a few minutes I feel the real world settling back into my skin and I know that I’ll have an action packed day, week even, and that I’ll forget all about the hazy Monday morning transition until it comes around again.

And I know I write cliches, because Monday mornings are bitched about across the world. I think it’s hard going from time off to being chained back to work-week reality. It’s even hard for Potamus, who cried a little at daycare drop off. He was moving slow. Seemed hesitant. Just wanted to stay snuggled up on daddy’s chest watching morning cartoons. It’s dark and I try to keep a soft smile on my face so that he won’t realize how hard I’m struggling to convince him that I want him in daycare and that I want to go to school. Because really I just want to be snuggled up in bed with him, sleeping, like we did yesterday, and the day before that. Dreaming, with his warm little body next to me.

On Mondays I have to look ahead only hour by hour, because the week in it’s entirety begins to be daunting. Therapy. Yoga. Houseguests. Yoga. Husband gone working. Work. Teaching. Grocery shopping? Cleaning. Making endless dinners. Traffic. It all swirls around in my mind and these mornings my emotions feel raw and unable to handle any surprises or changes. I write this to remember, because, in an hour, I will be fully in the swing at work and will forget that every week I have this difficulty…

The Peculiar Allure of Blog Search Terms

Freshly pressed featured this lovely little piece called: The Peculiar Allure of Blog Search Terms, which is a topic that I’ve been interested in for awhile now. I know that I’m not the first parent to have the “oh shit” moment when looking in our search terms and realizing that people might stumble upon our innocent parenting blogs and find pictures of our children to use for their own sick, twisted pleasure. That thought scares me to death, but then I post pictures anyway, and feel quite torn about it all. I’ve tried to cut back, but…

Because, just this month the search terms that have led people to stumble upon my blog are:

naked toddler 3
halloween turtleneck 2
adoption fog triggers 1
calvin from calvin and hobbes expressions 1
nude image photo swinger father mother teaching how child sex fucking harder 1
boof infection 1
college guy feet 1
pinterest keeping toddlers busy 1
sucking boof 1
joni mitchell both sides now 1
halloween turtleneck for adults 1
weight training that reduces bmi 1
girl who loves to wear rubber 1
gay huge muscular guys fucking scrawny kids 1
thanksgiving birthday invitations 1
montessori floor bed 1
funny christmas cards made by monks 1

Yikes. Too many porn searches for my taste. But what to do about this? I tried to reverse search for my blog using some of these search terms and didn’t ever come across my blog, so I’m confused by how search engine terms work exactly, but I am absolutely terrified that people are searching for NAKED TODDLERS and coming across my innocent child. Will it be enough to eradicate all of the photos of Potamus on this blog? Probably not, but despite my anonymity, I might do a little scrubby dub dub for awhile to keep my anxiety at bay.

So tell me, what’s the craziest search terms that you’ve found on your blog? How do you keep yourself or your family safe from online creepers?

Name calling

waiting up for grammy and grampy

waiting up for grammy and grampy

One thing I hate about being a parent, is when I feel more grown up than my own parents. Since Potamus was born I have found myself in many situations where I have had to be assertive, not just for my own sake, but for the well-being of my son. Like last night…Potamus had stayed up to see grammy and grampy come over. We were listening to music on our TV and the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” song came on. My son was looking at the TV and my dad said “Potamus, isn’t she stupid looking?”

My immediate reaction was to say, “dad, I don’t think we want him exposed to that kind of name-calling.”

Because, by calling Miley Cyrus ‘stupid-looking,’ sets an example for him to look at people and judge based on their appearance. Not to mention, simply saying “stupid looking” doesn’t really get to the heart of what my dad was actually trying to say. Because I know him, I know that he was meaning, ‘hey Potamus, don’t follow her example in dress or dance,” but the bigger social commentary about drugs, fashion, ‘secular music,’ and sexuality is lost on a 22 month old…so it was reduced to a ‘looks stupid’ line. But ‘looks stupid’ is something that Potamus might repeat…and might repeat in daycare or school about someone his own age. He might think that it’s okay to call people stupid or that if he dresses a certain way he will look stupid himself. That’s not okay.

Grandparents setting poor example is hard for me to deal with. I know that this is only the beginning, but it’s frustrating to enjoy my time with them, without having to micromanage their interactions. And I know that my parents were really careful when we were kids, so I’m wondering what on Earth has changed?!

How do you deal with family members saying/doing things around your kids that you don’t approve of?

Anxiety

In the first three days of the week I had the sum total of 14 hours of sleep. That’s about 10 hours less than normalish, and way less than the ideal. It wasn’t because Potamus has been sleeping poorly, he’s doing good despite his teething pain, it’s that I’ve felt the rise of anxiety once again. I haven’t yet figured out why I get these moments of utter stuckness in the anxiety loop. I know I begin ruminating, literally obsessing, over whatever the anxiety-trigger is, and the spiral goes on until I fall asleep from utter exhaustion.

I know what I could do and it’s not working. I’m on meds. I do relaxation exercises. I get up and walk around. I tell Boof I’m anxious. I practice yoga regularly. And the anxiety is still there. It hangs around despite the sunshine. It lingers in back alleys of my mind, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and wearing a faded leather jacket he probably picked up at the Goodwill. And then, just as soon as it comes, it goes. I get good sleep a few more nights, and it comes back. I just can’t figure it out and I know that in trying to figure it out I’m trying to control it…to say if XYZ happens then I will do ABC and the anxiety will go away. But I haven’t figured out the magic formula, and so I wonder….

What would it be like if I just accepted that the anxiety will be there, and I don’t know when it will come or go, but my life won’t be free from it. Would that help? Or is trying to use  mindfulness once again trying to control the anxious spinning thoughts? And, if I am to just accept the anxiety, how do I go about doing it?

How do YOU handle anxious or worried thoughts?

Spiders like Hot Yoga

I was doing my best to not stare too much at the woman in long sleeves and long pants in the yoga hot room. Her hair was in a bound ponytail, held together by a cream ribbon wound all the way and knotted at the bottom. Her eyes held the perfect ‘soft gaze’ which appeared as if she was almost sleeping in some of the standing poses, but her alertness was also noticeable. While just as flexible and calm looking as Mellow, there was a less-than-pretentious air about her that made me stand in awe, rather than in jealousy. She even caught my eye at one point and made the “this is hard and I’m tired face” and I winked at her. It was like this strange guru experience that left me feeling empowered rather than downtrodden the rest of the class.

So while I was busy thinking about this middle aged fairy yoga nymph in front of me, trying to focus on really relaxing into Savasana (in hopes of getting my body to remember that feeling when I went home to sleep), I felt this little tickle on my arm. And it’s not terribly unusual, since I’m in a room heated to 105 degrees and sweat dribbles down my skin constantly. But the tickle tickled some more, and so I broke from the resting corpse pose to wipe away the sweat and then I realized it wasn’t sweat it was a spider.

Yeah.

In the middle of the quietest time of the yoga series, I had a spider crawling on my arm.

How I managed to not freak out, must be attributed to the fact that I was in a yoga studio, because if a spider would crawl on me at any other time, I wold have probably screamed. And killed it. But I’m in a place that values ahimsa (non-harm) so I didn’t feel great about squashing a living creature who was probably trying to become more mindful and flexible himself. So I batted the spider away and he started to crawl across the floor. For the next several floor postures I kept a way eye on this little guy, which strangely helped take my focus off the difficulty of locust and bow pose. I’m sure there’s some metaphorical or spiritual lesson there, but I haven’t yet uncovered it yet. Because, a spider was crawling on me.

I’m sad to report that I think the spider was inadvertently squashed/drowned by the man in the front row during one of the situps. Either that or he made a huge break for it and I lost track of him. Because the spider was smaller than my pinky nail. But still…spider…in yoga class…on my arm…

Roles & Boundaries in Higher Education

As an educator, I have to remember that I am not a counselor, even though much of my class is built around soft-skills and information that I would explore and work on in a counseling relationship. But, I am an instructor, and it is imporant for me to know the difference, as well as to create and stick with an educational boundary that isn’t quite like the boundary I’d set with a group therapy session.

Of course I knew that my counseling informed my instruction, but it wasn’t until I was processing a student-student conflict that happened last week in class (of which I had felt I handled it badly and was in triage mode the rest of the class period, as well as ruminating all weekend) that as an educator I actually handled myself very well. But, as a counselor, I was holding myself to this supremely high expectation that is not reasonable given my circumstances.

And, in my role of adviser, I am noticing my boundaries loosening quite substantially in the year that I’ve been there. I’m beginning to feel ‘invested’ in these student’s lives, so when one is crying in my office because of crippling anxiety, or proudly sharing their name change to their biological family heritage, I’m finding myself caring, which isn’t to say that I didn’t care before, but I had built a strong mental boundary to eliminate lying in bed at 3am wondering how they are doing or what might help them be more successful. I know the student relationships are what feeds me, but there is the phrase ‘death by chocolate’ for a reason. And the crippling sadness and despair found in many of my student’s is having an effect.

So how do I find the balance? Less counseling in the classroom, in terms of what I expect of myself emotionally, and more counseling in the advising office, in terms of how I deal with boundary issues. But I’m not entirely sure how to do that…

Thoughts? How do you navigate boundaries and self-care and the various roles you have in your life?

Church & The Working Mother

Most Christian women I know are stay-at-home mothers, or, at most, work-from-home mothers with lots of support from nearby family or in-home nanny/babysitters. I have seen them write posts on Facebook and talk about how lovely going to church is on Sunday as a family, and all the support they’ve felt from their congregation in being mothers. And, that’s where I get a little jealous, or at best, have mixed emotions.

Because that hasn’t been my experience, at all. Getting to church on Sunday is hard, and has happened a handful of times since Potamus was born almost 2 years ago. It was easy when he was a super-new infant, and I could nurse in the pew when he got fussy, or sway in the pews to the “contemporary” (aka 90’s maranatha songs) worship music. But since he’s been mobile, we haven’t been back more than 3 times.

I was talking to a friend about it this week, and she said “church is hard for working mothers. My kid is in daycare 5 days a week, I want to be with him, not pass him off to someone else.” And that, in a nutshell, summed up everything I had been saying in private to Boof, and feeling, since the beginning. Because it is hard for my kid to adjust to his daycare, which he now goes 4 days a week. For him to adjust to a new nursery provider, for 1.5 hours on Sunday seems a bit much. How many weeks would he cry in this new place before he got used to it? And would it be worth it?

And while I only work 4 days a week, those precious family moments in the morning, are some of my favorite. We’ve tried church recently and found that either one or both of us would have to leave with Potamus about half way through the service. Not only do I struggle with feeling whether or not church is relevant to my life anyway, I wonder, is it really relevant to my life as a mother? Because the church we attend doesn’t have many children, so to dump Potamus off with the 17 year old nursery assistant seems less-than-ideal. It makes me wonder, are churches using an outdated model of childcare as a relief for mothers who are with their children all week?

It feels like we’re doing it wrong. Like this division of children and adults is outdated and doesn’t serve parents who don’t see their children all week. I don’t have answers, but watching football, in our jammies, in the sunshine-filled comfort of our own home, with our child playing at our feet, feels much more ‘spiritual’ than singing songs and worrying if Potamus is doing okay in the church version of daycare. Ya know?

In Mathew 19:4, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  I just don’t feel like Jesus meant let children come to church and then hide away in a back room chewing on legos and doing flannel board. Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be what this verse is saying…

Thoughts? Do you go to church or another religious service? Are children welcome in the service or in their own separate place?

Will the sun come out tomorrow?

I have no idea. But the sun is out today and my mood is that contentedly happy sun-napping-cat feeling. You know the one. And just like I know that my nervous-breakdown crazy feelings are complicated by the time of year/horribly raining weather/darkness/crazy schedule, it’s moments like today where I realize all the little things that make me super happy.

Like the fact that Potamus slept through the night last night. Why yes, the first time in almost 22 months, and I couldn’t be more proud. The fact that he did it IN HIS OWN BED, even better! I’m also ignoring that sleeping through the night meant waking up at 5 (because we were then able to get him to snuggle in bed with us until…wait for it….NINE A.M.!). Yeah, that’s right, adding it up (taking into account his 5-5:45 am crying in our bed jag), I got 11 hours of sleep. Sleep feels amazing. In that book I mentioned yesterday, she said that research shows that parents are about 5 months behind in sleep by year 2 of their child’s life. That’s about how it feels. So getting 8 uninterrupted hours PLUS 3 snuggled up…feels freaking awesome.

Family time. I’ve seen Boof so little the last few weeks that it’s nice to just get to do stuff together. Boring family stuff, like daycare open house, and dog-training. And eating Chipotle. That was yummy too. And stealing kisses in the kitchen while Potamus is eating his blueberries. It’s just being around my husband that calms me, makes me feel like I’m not alone in the world of insanity. We don’t even have to have any deep conversations, just existing in the same breathing space.

And the weather. Hot dang I love fall. I mean, the leaves are turning, if you stand really still the sun warms you (but you still need a sweater), and it feels crisp and new and exciting. Normally fall is like this until November, but then it’s Thanksgiving and looking forward to Christmas so that I can get through the dreary rainy season. So the record rainfall has seriously cramped my style lately. It feels good to sit in my big comfy chair with the sunshine beaming through the window.

 

Maxed Out…this American mom is on the brink…

“We were all living the lives we’d chosen. We had what we thought we wanted- wonderful children and a level of financial independence that our mothers never knew. And yet, most days, it felt as if our lives were being held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue. None of us could make sense of the wretched state we found ourselves in. What were we doing wrong?”

After forwarding a powerful  article  on burned out mothers to a friend, we decided to buy the book mentioned in the article (Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), and have been sending rapid fire texts and quotes to each other ever since. Because this book has spoken to us. It speaks to my greatest fear, and how I’ve actually been feeling for a few weeks now. That everything is held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue.

Katrina goes on to explain, “The last few months had been a carnival ride of constant motion that left me dizzy and sick to my stomach. I wanted off. I wanted someone to pull the brake. I wanted to make it stop, but I didn’t know how to make it stop. I  ddn’t even know what stopping meant.”

Um, who can relate? Whoa.

Her book is so honest and real in chronicling the trials and tribulations of working motherhood. It left me feeling validated, but most of the time I read it and vacillated between being completely freaked out about the future with a potential 2nd child and feeling like ‘I got this,’ because part of what she talked about what the magical aspect of working part-time. She called them “Magic Fridays” when she had a 4 day work week, which is a phrase I think I’m going to borrow. But…there was one piece that I’m still chewing on.

Because, when I take a step back, which is like a layman’s term for almost depersonalizing, I realize that there is actually nothing in my life right now that should be making me feel this crazy-carnival way. My husband and I have been in a really good place. Potamus is teething, but sleeping much more, and we’re down to one time nursing. My class is going pretty well and my advising schedule isn’t too crammed. Flexible job. Yoga class. Therapy. From the outside of my own mind, looking at my life, I’m actually in a really calm content place. And yet…..and yet…I’m not.

I know that everyone has different thresholds, but I’m actually not okay. I feel like I might start crying at any moment over any little thing. So I’m back on my meds. I got the prescription filled yesterday, and hopefully they’ll kick in next week. I felt like I was heading toward this cliff and I didn’t want to go there again. Because even my coworkers and students have noticed a change in my mood this last week especially. My irritation with things being out of place in the classroom is an all time high.

And part of me worries that if I am like this with one kid, what will happen if I have another? I know that’s a long way off from needing to think about, that I get to just enjoy the next several months and don’t even have to talk about it, and trying to project how I’m going to feel into the future isn’t really that great anyway, because it’s rarely true. Though, if I’m totally honest, thinking about it too much might send me into a panic attack.

Where is the line between intuition and anxiety? Because, in my mind’s eye, I can see us having another child. Feeling that completion feeling that I really do want. And I can also see myself having a nervous breakdown in the same picture. That just the stress of two kids, even a part-time job, and doing all the parenting things that are never ending, will kill me. That’s how it feels. I know the reality is one step at a time, but I do get terrified. Because:

“The line between ‘Everything’s okay’ and ‘I’m on the verge of total collapse’ is so thin.”

So true. And yet, when I finished the book, I felt really hopeful. Because, while I might feel on the edge a lot, I’m not alone. And I have supportive friends, partner, and am taking all the really good steps to beat back the anxiety and depression. And I’m learning more about myself, like going back on meds when I see the train-wreck coming, or choose to NOT go to yoga because I had been gone every night of the week and just wanted to relax (which feels different than just not going because I’m anxious/depressed), and taking sweet advantage of my Magic Friday today to rest while Potamus was resting.

Moms, I recommend this book. Working moms, I definitely recommend this book. Mom with anxiety, read this book. It’s so good.

What have you read lately that’s spoken to you? Inspired you? Made you feel less alone?

 

Winter Pills

I have the prescription. It’s sitting in my car, and is good for 5 months of refills. It will get me through the winter, with only needing to see my doctor again once as spring approaches. And truthfully, while it sounds like crazyville, I have some leftover pills from my previous prescription that haven’t expired and so I could get started even before I get this prescription filled. But I’m holding off. Holding off at the request of my new therapist, who is a psychologist, and one that I’m clearly trying to impress with my perfect-counseling-client skills.

Yes, I recognize the crazy.

Because she she said it could be SAD and that a ‘happy light’ might be really beneficial. And it’s advice that my massage therapist had recommended a long time ago, and something I’ve just known from my own counseling practice. Happy lights give a special wavelength to the brain to increase energy. To simulate, at a really low level, the sun which is absent from the Seattle-gray skies. And while I’ve been using it for a week, and can maybe tell a tiny little difference in energy, that could also be attributed to yoga, and getting more sleep.

But it hasn’t taken away the feeling that everything is falling apart. And I know that not everything is falling apart, because I haven’t gone over the cliff yet. There is still this rationale brain happening that looks around and sees that we are in a very calm place right now. My marriage is being strengthened by many really good conversations and carving out time for each other, my mommy guilt over doing things for myself in the evenings (yoga/therapy/girls night) is next to nil, and my work is feeling pretty smooth. And yet I feel one blink away from sobbing. Not tearing up at some misty-eyed news, but full on ugly cry, with mascara dripping down my nose. Holding it together feels entirely too exhausting, but what other choice do I have? A nervous breakdown is not something that will really fit into my schedule.

So maybe I’ll get the prescription. Or maybe I’ll keep on hanging on by a thread for a little while longer, because this happy light and herbs can make my brain better, right?