Archive | kids RSS feed for this section

Playground confessions

5 Sep

4036587818_808fece881_bBrandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

I don’t know what it is about me that makes me want to tell people my life story when I first meet them. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so open, why I wear my emotions on my sleeve, why I have such a strong sense of trust in people I may have just met.

Why do I think my life is so important that everyone I meet needs to know about it?

Take yesterday afternoon for example. Vivian woke up from her nap a complete disaster, so upset that I dared come in her room to get her before she had fully woken up. After fifteen minutes of a terrible-two’s-almost-three tantrum, I was finally able to calm her down and convince both kids to let me push them in the double stroller to the playground.

Let’s talk about who got the better deal here for a moment. They got to enjoy a tasty snack of a cherry-vanilla cereal bar and a generous handful of sweet red grapes, along with a beverage of chilled water fresh from the fridge in their water bottles filled to the brim by yours truly, while I had the luxury of pushing them for thirty minutes in 85-degree, muggy heat to the playground.

I was happy to do it though. I’ve made a commitment to myself to be more active in September (and beyond, but I’m taking it one month at a time). My new therapist says I need to schedule self-care into my day or else I will end up neglecting myself and I know this is true. I’ve felt it lately. I can definitely tell a difference in my mood, my parenting, and my overall enjoyment in life when I take time to do things for myself each day.

So pushing the kids to the playground and back home is my way of having some time for myself (great exercise and fresh air) while also allowing them to burn off some energy.

The bonus was meeting a really cool mom and her two kids who were the only other people there when we arrived.

I didn’t expect to strike up a conversation with her. When we got there she was talking on her phone. But as our kids began to interact she wrapped up her call and a few minutes later I found myself asking her the customary playground ice-breaker among moms:

“How old are your kids?”

Her son, a year older than mine, jumped right into my son’s imaginary fire-fighter rescue scene, while we pushed our daughters (also close in age) on the baby swings as we chatted. I asked her if her son had started Kindergarten this week and she admitted he was actually repeating it since he had some issues focusing last year. I told her how my husband and I had decided to hold Owen back a year since he was so close to the cut-off for enrollment. “He just needs another year to mature a little bit more,” I said and she nodded sympathetically.

Then she revealed that she and her husband suspect that their son may have ADHD and they had consulted a child psychiatrist this summer and he had recommended trying meds, but she wants to see how he does this year. Maybe it’s a maturity thing. But she also mentioned his lack of awareness of personal space which he demonstrated a few minutes earlier when he playfully tugged at Owen’s arm to get him to follow him over to the slides.

Owen didn’t seem bothered by it, although the mom said sometimes her son can be aggressive with other kids. It was at that moment I had to bite my tongue.

Just listen, I told myself. And so I did. And I’m glad I made that choice.

But at the same time I felt a connection to this wonderful stranger I had just met and I wanted to tell her that there is nothing wrong with mental illness, and if he does have ADHD it does not define him and there are treatments that can and will help. I wanted to tell her that it’s going to be okay and that she will get through this.

I can’t help it. The advocate in me always wants to speak up.

But I didn’t this time because I sensed from the way she was telling me all this about her son that she got it. She’s on my side. And in that moment it was such a joy to simply watch our kids play pretend together on the playground.

Her husband called and I noticed it was already five-thirty and I still had a half-hour walk home. We had been talking for forty-five minutes like good friends and I hated to have to say goodbye.

My kids reluctantly made their way down the slides one last time before walking over to hop into the stroller. As I walked over to buckle Vivi, my new friend’s son ran up beside me and took my hand. Looking up at me he asked in the sweetest voice, “But why does he have to go?”

It melted my heart.

His mom and I looked at each other and smiled. We both said how it was getting close to dinner time but maybe they’d see each other at the playground again sometime.

A part of me wishes I would have asked for her email address and maybe we could have set up another playdate. But for some reason I didn’t and now I’ll just hope we’ll run into that lovely family again in the future at one of our local playgrounds.

Because I’d love the chance to tell her my story. I’d love the chance to tell her why I’m passionate about mental health advocacy and most of all because I’d love to just watch our kids have fun pretending to be fire-fighters again.

Juggling Change

14 Aug

I’m experiencing one of those seasons of my life where everything seems to be going right. I told a friend last night that it all seems a little too good to be true lately and that I’m just waiting for a ball {or a few, but hopefully not all} to drop. I can’t help it, it’s the pessimist in me.

The kids and I are squeezing the last drops out of summer with evenings at the pool, Tuesdays at the farm, and playdates with friends before school starts up again next month. We had a blast at the beach last weekend, the kids brought home sand in every.single.thing, but it was so worth the smiles on their faces I caught on camera while they dug, made pizzas and strawberry pies and rolled in it for hours.

Juggling-Change

I started my part-time job yesterday, and so far, so good. I am confident it is going to work out. But it’ll likely be November before we really know if it’ll be the right fit for the long-term. I hope so.

We have one last trip before we can settle in for the real end of summer and the start of fall. One of my husband’s cousins is getting married, so we’ll be heading out to Wisconsin for the festivities and I’m so excited to get to spend time with the family. Saying prayers to the travel gods for safe, tantrum-free travel with our little people.

These years of our kids being little, this season of our life is right now. I’m trying to teach myself every day to stay present and enjoy this time because I know when I look back I’ll feel it flew by too fast. It already seems like the past five years have buzzed by.

I used to dread change, would feel the anxiety and fearful anticipation crawl under my skin, but I can sense my attitude shifting. I’m beginning to love the transformations of the seasons of my life. I never realized when I was in the throes of a career which I loved and which loved me back, that within a few years I’d want to have a family and things would have to change.

My illness emerged before I’d have a chance to come face-to-face with the issue of opt-in or opt-out. I had to opt-out for a very different reason and I’ll never know how life would have played out in the career arena for me, had I not been dealt the mental illness card.

The thing is, I’m okay with not having a traditional career. I’m content with being able to use all of my skills to their greatest capabilities because I’m dividing my time efficiently and effectively. I’m a wife, a mom, working part-time, writing part-time, and I’m also producing a show over these next nine months. Sure, there are plenty of times when I feel like I’m spread too thin. But ask any mom if she ever feels she has the perfect amount of time for everything and everyone in her life and of course she’s going to say No. No way, Jose.

This life which my husband and I have built is not perfect. But its perfectly ours. And each time a new change arises, I’m the first to lean in for extra hugs because they help. He’s always there, with a smile, to wrap his arms around me and say a simple, “It’s okay.”

He’s right. If a ball drops, it’ll be okay. I’ll just pick it back up and start juggling again.

Juggling-Change2

That First Cup {Just Write}

7 Aug

that-first-cup-just-write

Mornings like this are rare. My alarm began softly buzzing at 7am as it normally does, but the kids hadn’t begun to stir yet. Muted light was apparent from behind the blinds in our room as I started to stretch before finally swinging my legs over the bed to drag myself out of it.

Tip-toeing down the stairs, I watched their images flash on the monitor. Still heavy with sleep, neither seemed to notice that I had risen. Good, I thought. Maybe I could have a cup of coffee in peace this morning.

In the kitchen, I put the monitor down on the center island counter so I could wash out the glass carafe of our Mr. Coffee and make a fresh pot. I would have preferred a cafe latte from the Verismo, but we’re out of pods. I heard the shower turn on upstairs as I dumped out the leftover coffee filter from yesterday into the trash and started sudsing up the sponge with dish soap to scrub out the pot.

My mind wanders as I prep the coffee. Tomorrow we’ll be waking up at the beach. I’m anticipating broken sleep as everyone adjusts to borrowed beds and shared rooms for the kids. Despite the forecast of more than fifty percent chance of rain each day we’re there, I’m still looking forward to it. The shore is the shore, rain or sunshine, we’ll still have fun spending time with our friends making memories.

The coffee pot starts to buzz to life, black liquid dripping into the clear carafe, sputtering and collecting in a puddle at the bottom. I open my email while sitting at the island and simultaneously watching the coffee brew. Light spills into the kitchen from the window over the double sink, but no sun is visible today. Just gauzy clouds covering the sky which makes for a drab start to the day.

I’m only able to enjoy ten minutes of writing and three sips of my coffee before my little miss is calling for her mama. I can see her brother begin to shake off sleep as I stand up to go retrieve my baby girl from her crib. That was all the quiet time I’d get for today.

The Best Summer Camp Counselor. Ever.

15 Jul

TheBestCampCounselorEverThe best summer camp counselor. Ever.

“Tomorrow I’m sending my kids to a three-night, four-day all-inclusive summer camp for FREE. It’s called “Sleep-away camp at Grandma and Grandpa’s house” and they are super excited. (The kids, that is. My parents are excited too, but are also just a teeny bit nervous that they’ll survive this little experiment.) I, however, have faith that everyone will have an exceptional time.

Including my husband and I who will be home enjoying the peace and quiet.

Sometimes parents just need to take a break from their offspring.”   ….please click over to WhatToExpect.com’s Word of Mom blog to read the rest of my article which I wrote last week. It was just posted today.

Thanks so much for reading my work!

Memories Captured

10 Jun

MemoriesCapturedcollage

I often have to pinch myself.

I sometimes can’t believe that I got my wish.

One boy, one girl. My sweet little munchkins who I often catch playing together in the corner of the family room. Building forts, having picnics on our maroon couch blanket all spread out on the beige carpet, or just running around the house chasing each other in their superhero capes.

He leads her in the mischief they get into when I’m not looking. Such a loving, doting big brother. The way he puts his arm around her protectively, leaning in to kiss her forehead which comes up to right where his lips are as he turns his head, eyes still on me. I love how he loves her, how she looks up to him and follows his every move.

The fun they’ve been having lately playing dress-up is just so silly and adorable. I’ve found her tangled up in his jammie shirt, while he’s running down the stairs with his underpants on his head exclaiming how he is “The Underpants Man!”

When I think back to the year we spent planning our wedding, and the months when I was trying to pick out our first dance song, I smile and my heart swells with wonder. There were two songs we had narrowed it down to: True Companion and One Boy, One Girl….

We ended up going with True Companion and there couldn’t be a better description of my love. He is my perfect compliment, my true companion.

But whenever I hear the song we didn’t choose, my eyes tear up and I think of how incredibly lucky I am that my dreams came true.

My 10 Favorite Children’s Books

28 May

Books_BML

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ― Madeleine L’Engle

 

School’s out for summer! I know we’ll be taking lots of long walks to the library and the pool this summer. Which got me thinking about writing a post on my favorite children’s books.

Someday, I will share my story with my kids. When the time is right. For now, we spend the time after bath before we shut the light for the night, snuggling up, lost within the pages of these magical stories.

Many of these have been gifts to our children, but a few were saved from their parents’ own collections. There is no greater hand-me-down than a favorite book. I’m thankful to my mother-in-law and my mom for saving our childhood reading materials to pass on to our own kids.

Here are my ten favorite children’s books (as of this moment), in no particular order. I’m including my favorite line from each.

  • Pete the Cat – I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin ~ “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song…”

Pete

  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman ~ “Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.”
  • The Two Cars by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire ~ “Their motors liked the cool night air and purred like kittens.”
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson ~ “There was nothing but pie. But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best.”

Harold

  • My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry ~ “I am Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist who ever was!”
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein ~ favorite poem: “The Land of Happy”
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein ~ “Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”
  • Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld ~ “Tomorrow is another day, another chance to work and play.”

Construction

  • The Empty Pot by Demi ~ “By and by the whole year passed.”
  • That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressioa Cowell & Neal Layton ~ “I don’t care WHO she is,” said Emily Brown. “This rabbit belongs to ME. And his name isn’t Bunnywunny. It’s STANLEY.”

Emily

Is yours on the list? If not, please share in the comments! We’re always looking for our new favorite.

This Is How Big My Brave Is

6 May

Something incredible happened to me on Friday. I linked up with one of my favorite writers online, Lisa-Jo Baker, and her Five Minute Friday writing flash mob. The stars must have aligned for me the night before. Because her prompt last week couldn’t have been more perfect for what I was hoping to write about that morning: how my friend Natalie survived a suicide attempt a year ago and so bravely chose to live her life and tell her story to help others.

It was through Lisa-Jo’s post that I was introduced to the brilliant new single by Sara Bareilles, Brave:

I chatted with Natalie via Facetime on Friday morning and told her how awesome the song was, how excited I was that I got to write on the word Brave for my post, and how perfectly fitting it was to use as a dovetail into her own blog posts this weekend describing what she’s gone through over this past year.  We couldn’t have asked for a better anthem for Nat’s Alive Day Anniversary weekend.

She went skydiving on Saturday. Talk about brave!! So proud of you, Natalie. Keep it up, girl. You’re inspiring more people than you’ll ever know.

I downloaded Brave to my ipad mini and had it on repeat basically all weekend. Besides making me wish I had been a part of the music video, it also made me want to take action. The lyrics will do that to you. Trust me.

So I spoke up.

It was a shortlink to my post about deciding to come out and write openly about the fact that I’m living with bipolar disorder.

And then this happened:

Screenshot 2013-05-05

You may be squinting right now since my screenshot is so small. So I’ll just tell you.

Sara Bareilles re-tweeted my tweet to her 2,749,330 followers.

I may have let out a little “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” loud enough for our entire neighborhood to hear.

I was so flattered that she cared enough to share my tweet. She believed in my brave. Enough to share it with all. of. her. 2.7+ million fans.

And I thought that was pretty cool.

My household now has this song memorized, and I love that the kids have fun watching the video with me. We play it loud and sing along while dancing around the kitchen. I thought it was an appropriate time to share this post I wrote to them last year, which I edited a bit to use as my Listen To Your Mother audition piece in February.

~~~~~

Dear Mister Man and Sweet Pea,

I’ve been thinking about writing a letter like this to you two for a while now. These past four years with the two of you in our life, have been the best (and most challenging) years your Daddy and I have ever experienced. They have not passed without some terrifying ups and downs. When I say “ups,” I really mean mania. My year-long battle with depression was won before you both were born.

You see, your mommy has Bipolar Disorder.

It’s something I probably won’t explain to you until you are much older. You don’t see me take my medication every night, but you have been with me to see my psychiatrist. You both love the special toy box she brings out to keep you occupied while we talk, and now when I tell you “Mommy has to go see her doctor,” you always ask if you’ll get to play with her superheros. Last time I had to go “to the doctor” it was my gynecologist and she only had a plastic uterus to play with. Wasn’t as fun, was it?

Right now my illness is hidden from you, but there are times it creeps out. I may yell a little too loud, or in a nasty way with a scowl on my face. Maybe it’s just part of being a little worn out from the whole Stay-At-Home-Mom thing, juggling the demands of running a busy household, but I also believe that my occasional outbursts have something to do with my condition. My patience is so thin you could poke a hole through it with a feather. Not all the times, but sometimes.

Your Daddy and I have worked so hard together to manage this thing though. We’re beating it, he and I. We’re doing it together. He tolerates my moods and hugs and holds me when I need the extra love. And I know that the only way I stay balanced is by taking my meds, seeing my doctor and therapist, eating right, exercising regularly and most importantly, getting enough sleep. The occasional bubble bath doesn’t hurt either.

Whenever I do have one of my moments, I immediately feel full of regret. I wish I could go back to re-do what happened so that I could handle the situation differently, more lovingly. But I guess that’s kind of what parenting is all about; learning from our mistakes and doing things better next time. I’m always trying to do better, my loves.

It’s true, sometimes I fear that one (or both) of you could inherit my condition. If either of you end up fighting my fight, your Daddy and I know we’ll survive. In fact, we’ll do better than survive. In the years since I’ve been diagnosed I have built up a library of my personal notes and records of my treatments: things that worked and didn’t work for me. We’ll beat it because we have so many tools and resources to turn to in order to get you back to healthy. So my loves I tell you this: don’t worry your little hearts. Having a mental illness is not the end of the world. In fact, it just means you see the world differently than other people do. In some ways that isn’t always a bad thing. Some great artists have Bipolar Disorder. It brings out your creative side.

Regardless of what your future holds, please know that you both have made our family so much richer, even in the midst of learning to cope with something as complicated and intense and draining as a mental illness. I am so incredibly thankful that your Daddy and I took the leap we did to start our family. Looking at your precious smiles today, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

Someday, when the time is right, we’ll have the talk. It’s hard for me to imagine that point in the future. I worry about how my revelation of my illness may affect you. Will it make you sad? Will you feel hurt that I waited to tell you? Will you be upset that I kept a blog about living with a mental illness in which I wrote about you? I guess I won’t know until we get there, but my hope is that someday when you’re old enough and we do talk about it, you’ll listen with open hearts.

I hope you’ll tell me that you’re proud of me. That you’re proud of me for not being ashamed of having Bipolar Disorder. That you’re proud of me for telling my story to help other people. That you’re proud of me for trying my hardest at being the best mom I could be.

Because I finally am brave enough to say: I have Bipolar and I am not perfect, but I am perfectly your mom. I hope someday when I tell you this, I see you both smiling back at me with pride.

I love you both to the moon and back.

xoxoxo

Mommy

~~~~~

“Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is”

~Sara Bareilles

I have a feeling that this song will become a huge catalyst for not only the fight against teenage bullying, but also the battle to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Please share. Everyone deserves their own chance to be brave.

Been busy living life

25 Apr

Playground_life

It’s been a busy week of playdates with neighbor friends, school and a wonderfully positive parent-teacher conference which made me so happy, bubble baths in Mommy’s big tub before bed, visits from Grandma and Aunt Hillary, and basically, just LIFE. The weather is getting warmer and we’re looking forward to enjoying the end of spring and beginning of summer. I’m working on a long piece for a submission to an online anthology, so that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time once the kiddos are asleep. I just didn’t want this week to go by without a post.

Life is good.

%d bloggers like this: