Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Big Brother Z is Six!

Well, another year has passed, and you, my sweet eldest boy, are growing up to be such a wonderful young man.

You have begun kindergarten.  Beginning school is something I have been thinking about for you since before you were born.  I wanted to be in a good district, so you could grow and learn in an environment that supported you and loved you the way we do at home, and I have certainly found it.

You have grown so much emotionally in the short time you have been in grade school.  Your teacher is kind and gentle, yet tough and has high expectations of you and how you behave while in school.  It has been a growing experience for me as well, as you move out of preschool and into the "real world" of grade school, where you will spend the next 5 years developing as a young man.

You fill my heart with such joy, my sweet BBZ.  You are kind and generous, and use your mind to think of things in such a special way.  Your brain is constantly thinking.  Constantly trying to figure things out.  And while we love to encourage you, you press one with or without our direction, as your curiosity guides your exploration.

You did't care much for soccer a few years ago, but your friendship with S in class has spiked your interest again.  We often play in the backyard, which has been so fun!  You also are a very strong swimmer.  We signed you up for swim lessons, and the teachers thinks you are ready for a swim team!  There's one at the community center, or one through your school district.  We've backed off of extra activities as you adjusted to your new school, but are excited to get those things going for you again soon.

Night time with you is our special time together.  You still like for me to stay with you until you fall asleep, and it is during this time that you confide in me about your hopes, your fears, and when we talk about what went well in the day and what we could do better.  This time is so precious to me.  I hope you always find a time in your day for this kind of connection for us.  It really means so much to me, my little love.

So happy birthday, my sweet big brother Z.  The past six years as your mama have been some of the best in my life, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for you.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My sweet LBZ, you are 3.

It's so hard to believe that you, my sweet littlest boy, are now the same age your big brother was when you were born. I cannot picture you as a big brother, which I suppose is a sure sign that we are, in fact, complete with our family of 2 boys.

Not that I don't think you would be a fabulous big brother, I'm sure you'd rise to the occasion, but you are a typical youngest bro, and fit into the role quite well. 

You are such a sweet and beautiful soul, Lu-bug.  I describe you as a big ball of blonde sunshine.  You are forever happy just to be alive.  You sing when you wake up, and talk to your stuffed guys as you fall asleep.  You have your moments of sadness, but you are full of positivity and light, and are an absolute joy to be around.

You say some of the best things.  Such as:

"I'm juss kidding"
"Well, that didn't work"
"You said the wrong word"
"Are you kiddin' me?"

Someone recently said that you talk as though you've been here before.  And that sure seems true.  You are an old soul, and will entertain yourself for hours playing with your toys.  You particularly love minifigures of any kind.  You like Dora and Diego, Handy Manny and all things boy.  Although you do love the color pink, which I think is wonderful.

You are a boy's boy and love roughhousing with your brother and your daddy.  You like wrestlers like Brock Lesner and John Sena, and really love music.  You love "Airplane" by Widespread Panic, just like your mommy.

Being your mama brings such joy to me, my sweet littlest boy.  You are my little sunshine, and I can't help but smile when I am with you.  Even when you are challenging, you are full of love for life and a zest I haven't seen much in this world, and I hope you hold onto that for your whole life.

I love you buddy.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Until we meet again.

I went to a funeral today.

She and I were inseparable when we were in middle school. The typical BFFs. We had sleepovers, talked on the phone for hours on end, and were each other's world. A long time ago. 

She was a drug addict. 

I remember when we began to drift apart. We all enjoyed alcohol, even as young as we were (sorry m&d), but that wasn't enough and soon she was snorting powders, and I began to move away from her and her drug use. 

I never judged her. I almost always felt sorry for her, and wished things would be different, but judge her I never did. I never saw her as different than me. Sure she made different choices, but her opportunities were limited in many ways, and she was choosing to live her life differently than me.

I randomly stopped by her house a few times and found her still using, as in snorting meth while getting ready was a typical part of her morning routine. 

She would call me when she was doing well. I remember a call once when she had a great job. She bought a nice car and her own condo. She was so proud of herself, and I was really happy for her. Looking back now I think she was trying to prove she was going to be ok. I honestly thought that somehow she would be.

Our last conversation was through text about 18 months ago.  I only know that because her daughter was 6 months at the time, and she is now almost two.  My friend wondered if my number was the same, and it was.  We talked about parenthood and how she was feeling.  I wanted to meet up with her, but I hesitated.  Admittedly, I was afraid of inviting her into my world.  I can't really pinpoint what I was afraid of, but I have wondered since I found out she died if there is something I could have done in that moment.

When we were 12 years old, another friend and I snuck out of my house and some boys she knew drove us to her house. It was after midnight and her mom knew we were there. We didn't cause too much trouble and eventually the boys took me and my other friend home. 

I had a pager back then, and it started blowing up with my home phone number. I knew my parents found us missing and were frantically looking for us. Being a parent now, it must have been terrifying. I remember once we got home and my parents said what they needed to say to make me see the wrong I had done, my father wrapped his arms around me in a way I'll never forget. Again, being a parent now I understand. I'm guessing that he imagined the worst possible outcome to us missing, and in the midst of his anger at and disappointment in me - was love. Absolutely irrefutable love for me.

My parents loved me so much, they locked me in. I was grounded for the rest of the summer, which was at least two months. 

I had my fair share of trouble making after that, but that summer was a turning point for me. As much as I didn't want to admit it then, I really did learn something, and I truly believe that it changed the course of my life.  My friend, however, did not have the same experience.

My friend's mom was an alcoholic. When we were kids, the kitchen cabinet that held the liquor had written in red nail polish "we hate you when you drink". And yet, drink she did. Her mom was a bar tender, and I remember her coming home after work and getting us up out of bed during a sleepover. She'd be talking strangely and apologizing for the death of her baby brother, who died when she was 6 or 7 from a heart condition he had since birth. Her mother blamed herself for his death. 

When I heard about my friend's death, I wasn't really surprised, and I wasn't even sad. I was sort of...numb. The sadness has come since then, as the reality sets in that I will never see her again. That I will never have a random Sunday lunch where we will catch up and share stories of parenting. She will never see her daughter grow. She will forever be known as a drug addict, and people will say what a sad thing it was that happened to her. 

I will not miss her everyday, as it had been years since I last saw her. I will not miss her as a best friend, which we once were, but it was many years ago.  I will miss what could have been, if things could have been different for her, and for us. And hope that they will be different for so many others out there like her. 

I'm sad that she is dead. I wish she could have done something different. I wish there was something I could have done, or could do now. I explained to my boys tonight that my friend died from taking drugs. They are almost 6 and almost 3 and wondered why I was sad. As always, I was honest with them about my pain.

I gave LBZ a bath tonight, and I began to cry.  Concerned, he asked what was wrong.  I told him that I was very sad.  That I missed my friend very much, that I would never see her again, and that made me sad.  He said "well me and daddy and BBZ are here".  What comfort they give me today, and always.

I posted this on my Facebook page today:

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ~William Martin

Substance abuse is an escape.  A dissatisfaction with the way things are, to the point of altering reality in a way many of us can never truly understand.  If there is anything I hope to teach my boys, and myself for that matter, is to accept life the way it is, and to find peace and happiness in the here and now.  To stay present, and to rejoice in the simplicity of the ordinary.

Life is full of sadness.  It is full of uncertainty, darkness and pain.  The local news is difficult to watch and digest, and escaping it can be so incredibly hard.  I visited her dark world today.  I got a very small glimpse into what life may have been like for her.  It felt like a dark place of mistrust, substance abuse, child endangerment, family courts, alcoholism and just...darkness.  Yet, at the end of the funeral, I emerged, and reentered my life of success, positivity and light.  But my friend, she never had that out.  She was buried in darkness.  It is all she ever knew in her adult life.

Finally, old friend, you are at peace.  Rest there, dear friend.

Until we meet again.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I wish the world was different, but it's just not.

What a sad, but necessary truth for an almost 6-year-old to learn.  BBZ has been struggling lately in the world.  In May, he moved from his predictable, 3 teacher staffed preschool to a day camp run mostly by college students and attended by kids going into kindergarten through age 14 or so.  He went from the typical daycare setting to a laid back, less structured play time.  I suppose I should have known this would cause some struggles, but I guess I didn't really know, since this is my first experience outside of daycare for my boys.

He immediately found out about Pok_mon cards.  This was pretty exciting for us because he seemed to have made some really great friendships because of these cards.  He used some of his money to buy some, so he could trade them at camp.

It didn't happen immediately, but we began to notice through his story telling that kids were swindling him.  They would trick him into trading a card that was worth more, or they would do other unfair trades.  One day, he came home so excited about a card he got in a trade that he could barely contain his excitement.  When I asked him if I could see the card, he explained that the kid didn't have it that day, but that he would bring it the following day.  When I asked him if he gave the kid his card yet, he said yes (of course he had, my sweet and honest boy had not yet learned that people can be cruel and untrustworthy).

So I explained to him that he would probably not get the card.  He had such a hard time understanding this.  I explained that sometimes people will do things that don’t make sense, to end up getting what they want.  I gave him the words to use the next day if the kid didn't bring the card.  I suggested he tell the kid that he wanted his card back unless he had the card that day.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure what he would do.  When he came home the next day and I asked what happened, he said that the kid did not bring his card to school.  When BBZ told the kid that he wanted his card back until he brings the one for him, the kid and the others boys said there was no trade-backs.  I then said to him that I guess this boy is a person he won’t be able to trade with again.  If he has shown that he cannot be trustworthy, then maybe he shouldn't play cards with him anymore.

What a sad lesson to have to learn.

Next, BBZ was having a hard time during the aftercare program.  He was crying a lot, and having trouble having fun.  I can see why, really.  It’s just a big room with some games and teachers, but very little structure.  I think it is probably a typical aftercare program, as I understand them.  One day, he was barely able to tell me why he was so sad.

It turned out that his favorite camp counselor wasn't there, and the sub refused to have the kids put sunscreen on before heading out in the afternoon.  We apply sunscreen at home, and then the teachers do a second application in the afternoon.  BBZ heard the regular teacher say to the sub “hey, we need to put sunscreen on the kids” and the sub apparently said something like, oh its fine.  This really bothered BBZ.  At first I was kind of surprised by how much it bothered him, but it didn't take long for me to understand.
N and I are both rule followers.  It bothers us like crazy when people don’t follow the rules.  It makes sense that this would bother BBZ too.  So I explained that people won’t always follow the rules.  We cannot control what others do, we can only learn how to cope with a world that can feel very disappointing sometimes.  He was confused, and it broke my heart.

A few days later, his aftercare teacher said that he was very sad during his time with her.  He had told me that the teacher instructed the kids to leave their P cards at home, so of course we did, because we follow the rules.  Well, apparently the other kids didn't, so he was feeling sad and left out. (that doesn't seem like his problem as much as theirs for not enforcing the rule across the board, but whatever)  So again, I had to explain that some people follow the rules and others don’t.

I then began to really struggle with how to support him.  He was sad every time I picked him up from aftercare.  He talked about how much he didn't like it.  I even thought about not working anymore so he wouldn't have to deal with this.  But then it hit me.

This is the world we live in.

My sweet, innocent, naive little boy is growing up, and will soon be in a world where people are not kind.  Where they take advantage of others.  Where they want their way, no matter who is in their way.  While this was a sad revelation for me, it was also one that showed me how important my role as teacher is for my young boy.  He needs to learn how to cope in this world.  He needs to be able to stand up for himself, and to know that he can choose how he wants to live his life, even if he sees others breaking the rules.

Oh how I wish I could protect him from this place.  When we were making the decision to start a family, this is what I didn't want.  I was so unsure about bringing a child into this broken and dysfunctional world.  But as a baby and young toddler, I could shelter him and show him only what I wanted him to see.  He’s past that now.  I could change things to continue to shelter him, but I don’t think I want to do that.  As hard as it is to see him learn the truth in the world, what I tried so hard to keep him from so far in his life, he needs to learn and understand how to get by and cope with the way the world is.

It’s such a sad realization to know that I can no longer protect my child from the big bad world.  If he doesn't go toward it with tools and coping mechanisms, it will find him, and he will not be prepared.
I still get frustrated with this world.  I have to make a conscious effort to see the things I want to see, and leave the rest behind.  Hopefully, my boys and I will travel this path together, and see some great things along the way, too.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Just because you're struggling, doesn't mean you're failing."

I have been feeling a little regretful lately, which is an emotion I don't often feel.  I began a new job a few months ago, which while I love, is not free from it's challenges.

I expected to be challenged, that is one reason I decided to leave the job I had for nearly 8 years, was to break out of the norm and try something new.  I haven't felt very successful since I left, which ironically is one reason I left my previous job.  I was incredibly overwhelmed, and wanted desperately to do a good job, but each day I went home feeling like I just couldn't do the things I wanted to do, thus feeling unsuccessful and exhausted.

I craved the feeling of doing something really, really well.  Or at least feeling like I was.

So as one might expect, it takes time to learn a new job.  It's been about 3.5 months, and I understand it can take up to a year to really become acclimated.  I need to be patient with myself.

I noticed myself displaying familiar behaviors recently.  Feeling overwhelmed.  Procrastinating because I didn't know where to start.  I began to wonder not only if I never should have left, but if I would ever really find what I want to do with my life.  It's felt a bit like what a mid-life crisis might feel like.

So earlier this week, I picked up a book that I started to read months ago and put down (a notorious thing that I do when it comes to books) and as I sat at my kitchen table ready to read the rest of this book.  At the same time I peered over the pages and watched my little LBZ play in the great room.  I read words I needed to hear, and watched as this little boy simply played.  He had no direction.  No one to tell him how to do it.  Yet he created what he wanted, and enjoyed it.  Then, I read this:

"We may wish that we were three inches taller, or had an extra $4500 in our pocket.  Or maybe we would have preferred that our sister didn't die of cancer, or that our marriage could have worked out.  But in the end, when we are willing to be alone, we have to admit that
"This is it...the waiting is over."
When we have the courage to acknowledge and embrace the simple fact that there is nowhere else to go and no one else to become, we discover how to be friendly toward ourselves and toward the present moment.  Traditionally, such an attitude is called Paklang- which in Tibetan means "childlike carefreeness"- utterly loose and liberated.
~Michael Carroll, from his book Fearless at Work (pages 163-164)

I read this and watched and admired my sweet 2.5 year old playing with such a gentle and natural approach.  A carefree demeanor that I longed for...and then I got it.  It clicked with me.  So that is how I am choosing to feel, and it is, in fact, quite liberating.  I have a new sense of peace with where I am.  I am reminded that I followed this path because I was curious where it might lead.  I was reminded that I can choose to be happy in my present situation.  I will continue to have struggles, but that is to be expected. 

Then I was pointed toward yet another thing I needed to hear. "Just because you're struggling, doesn't mean you're failing." Read the whole thing here. That about sums it up. I felt like I was failing at this job. I was, and continue to, struggle to learn all of the pieces of the puzzle, but I am not failing. I have a lot more to learn.  What my manager wants.  How to work with my team.  How I want to run my department.  But struggling to do these things? That is not failure. It is part of the path. I get it now.

Peace in the present moment, my friends.  It's the only one we can be sure we have :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"When we are not trying to capture anything we become like a child of illusion." ~Pema Chodron

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a reader, but I have been drawn to writings of mindfulness lately, especially as it relates to work, and the below excerpt seems to capture why I haven't blogged in a long while.
"Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea. I started doing this in airports. Instead of reading, I sit there and look at everything, and appreciate it. Even if you don’t feel appreciation, just look. Feel what you feel; take an interest and be curious. Write less; don’t try to capture it all on paper. Sometimes writing, instead of being a fresh take, is like trying to catch something and nail it down. This capturing blinds us, and there’s no fresh outlook, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity. When we are not trying to capture anything we become like a child of illusion."
 ~ Pema Chodron
I do have so much to write, but I began to feel like I was taking away from simply living by trying to capture it. I suppose even Pema found time, and importance, in writing some of the time. So perhaps there is a balance.
So much had happened. I've changed jobs. BBZ is registered for kindergarten. I've fallen in love with running. LBZ is growing so fast. Nate and I are simply loving each other and trying to raise our boys well.
I think I'll be back again soon. I really did miss this little blogging place of mine.