Friday, March 30, 2012

Unwelcome Memories

It's been a while since a memory has snuck up and smacked me across the face.

It use to happen all the time.  I think it was my brain's way of processing something that it never imagined having to process.

What on earth are you talking about Amanda?

When my mom got very sick I rushed home to be at her side.  We didn't know how long she had.  Hours? Days?  No one really knew but we knew it was BAD.  Very very bad.  I spent the next 2 weeks at her side in the hospital.  There were some good days.  Days with progress.  Days where she was with us and laughing.  Good moments.  Moments where hope broke through.  But there were so many more bad moments.  Moments I would replay over and over and over and over again in my head.

I could smell the hospital for months.  I would wake in my bed having spent most the night thinking I was sleeping in a chair next to my mom.  My brain wouldn't let it go.  My brain tormented me with images and words and sounds and smells I never wanted to think about again.

But eventually it did give me a break.  It did let go.  And those memories flooded my senses less and less and less.

Now, it is rare that my mind goes back to the hospital unless I have willed it to.  It's rare that it catches me off guard.  Very rare.  But when it does it can knock me off my feet.

This morning I was in the bathroom straightening my hair.  Something I do every morning.  Nothing was unusual.  Nothing was special or unique about today.  It's not an anniversary of anything.  Just and ordinary Friday morning getting ready for work.

Then bam - I'm sitting in the hospital lounge surrounded by my family while the oncologist helped explain why it was time to move my mom to hospice.  We had already made the decision but I had asked the oncologist to come make the case to my family.  I knew I wasn't strong enough to answer why we made the choice.  To look my family in the eye and tell them it was time.  I needed someone else to do that heavy lift.  I needed someone else to convince them it was the right decision.

And I was stuck there.  I was stuck looking around the room at the people I loved as we had this awful conversation.  I was stuck looking at the hospital cart with the coffee and cookies the nurses provided for us -- for this awful conversation.  I was stuck looking at that ugly hospital furniture that was somewhere between sky blue and mint green and just UGLY.  I was stuck curled up on one of those chairs hugging my knees to my chest and crying.

Matt came upstairs and the sound of his footsteps broke through and I was free.  Blotchy faced, teary eyed but free.  I've found myself going back there today.  To that moment and wanting to know why?  Why did that moment surface?  Why did my brain go there this morning?

And so I wrote it down.  Because over the last couple of months I have discovered that if something is bouncing around inside my head, writing can help set it free.  Writing can help put it to rest. 

Maybe one day I'll understand why my brain does this to me.  Maybe one day I'll have a better way of coping with it.  But for today I'll just write.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strong Like Bull

I'm working on a fun post with lots of past pics of the boys, but damned if I can get it lined up right.  I'll be soliciting Matt's technical expertise to find a way to make a pretty post with pictures.

So instead of sharing my boys in pictures today I am going to share something else with you.

If you knew my mom well, you knew she had this saying that she would use when she was facing something tough.  She'd use the same saying when I was struggling with something.  She would say "Amanda, you can do this (or I can do this) because you and I, we are strong like Bull."

It's one of the first things that comes to mind when someone asks me to describe my mom.

Strong. Like. Bull.

So when I came across Jen's blog a couple of days ago I was immediately moved to share that mantra with her.

She is brave.  She is strong.  She is a beautiful and honest writer.  She is inspiring.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to share her blog here because I worry about being all "wah wah wah Debbie Downer" but I've read her posts every day and I don't walk away crying from sadness but instead, I end up crying because what she says is so beautiful and truthful so full of grace and hope and everything I want to be.

So please take a few minutes and head on over to the Anderson Family Zoo.  Share a little love with Jen.  If you're feeling really generous offer some assistance.

I think you'll agree with me, Jen is, most definitely, strong like bull!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Times they are a Changing

When Will was still a little bit of a thing Matt started playing soft ball once a week.  I came to DREAD Tuesday nights.  The chaos of juggling a newborn and a young toddler was enough to drive me to bottles of wine and Advil. 

There was no good way to get them both to bed.  Will needed to be rocked until he was O. U. T. but I couldn't leave Sam alone while I tried to lull the cranky baby into sleep land.  I couldn't put Sam to bed first because if I left Will's sight he would shriek at the top of his lungs making it impossible to settle the toddler who was learning to assert his independence by fighting bed time. 

It was a juggling act that usually ended in tears from all parties. 

So when Matt announced last week that soft ball was starting up I wanted to curl into a ball, put my hands over my ears and pretend it wasn't so.  I think I even grumbled about it to him.  The memories of those horrible nights a year ago came flooding back.  Can you have PTSD from the terror imparted by your children? 


Could this kid be any cooler?
It was fine.  Last night Matt headed to his soft ball game and the boys and I settled into our nightly routine.  Dinner, then play time, then bed.  I changed up Will's routine a little to minimize the amount of time that Sam would be left alone to his own devices and Will rolled with the flow.  Not a peep when I layed him down in his crib after some family snuggles on the couch.  And Sam sat quietly watching Sprout's Good Night show for the couple of minutes I left him alone. 

I was free to spend a few quality minutes loving on my big boy and then focus on getting him to bed.  Both boys were quiet and asleep within 20 minutes of each other.  I was amazed.   I even vacuumed the family room! 

Does someone have a cape I can borrow?  Because ya'll I felt like Super Mom! 

My babies are growing up and while I have twinges of grief for their early days we are settling into this stage of life quite well and I'm really enjoying it. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Accountability - Week 3

I took advantage of the longer nights and beautiful weather this week and had a couple of evening walks with the boys.  Unfortunately Saturday was a rainy bust!

Accountability - Week3
Weeks until Walk -29
Funds Raised to Date - $3483.14 

My Walking Buddies

Monday - 2.65 miles with boys in the stroller - a beautiful after work evening walk joined by Maura and Nate
Tuesday - Rest Day
Wednesday - Lazy Day
Thursday - 4 miles with the boys in the stroller
Friday - Decided to hit down town Silver Spring for dinner and yogurt with the boys (No training)
Saturday - Rain rain go away
Sunday - 3 miles with Matt and the boys.

One more month until training officially starts.  I'm glad that I'm getting a head start on it!

Looks like this week brings more good weather.  The early Spring sure has made walking enjoyable!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Target, Parent's are People Too!

 I'm not usually a mommy rant kind of person.  I am well aware that in return for the blessings my children bestow on me there would be things we'd be giving up.  I know better than to take my kids into high end shops.  And Matt and I always choose a place that is loud and accommodating to kids when we take them out to eat.  Sure, I'm trying to teach my kids how to behave in public but the bottom line is they are 1 and 2.  I'm realistic, I know their limitations and boundaries and I don't force them into situations that are bad for them and would be disruptive to others. 

All this is a big set up to today's events.

It's a rainy, icky day today so after Little Gym I met Matt at Target.  I've been needing to pick up some walking gear  (I'm still wearing my maternity yoga pants and they just aren't cutting it anymore).  A couple of friends told me the Champion line at Target was pretty solid gear. 

Matt and I split up -- he took Sam to look for some things for his car and I took Will into the active wear.  I spent a while going through the racks and picking out a cart full or shirts and pants and other necessities to try on.  Will was on his best behavior (a rare and very welcome occurrence).

When I went to try them on the woman at the counter told me I could not take my cart with me.  I looked from Will to her and back to Will.  I asked her how people with small Children could try on clothes.  She rolled her eyes at me and said "Fine, but you can only take in 6 things and you must leave the rest out here."

OK, great.  Thanks - I could do that.  Just give me a minute to sort my cart load of clothes into piles of 6.  Once I had my piles sorted and the first 6 ready to go I turned back to her and asked her if there was somewhere I could put the rest of the clothes while I tried on the 6 I was allowed.

Another eye roll (my temperature started to rise).  She told me if I left them out there someone could take them and put them away.  This lady was definitely not interested in trying to make this easy for me which I pointed out to her.  She went on to tell me that she "was just telling me where I couldn't leave them."  I countered that I had not asked where I couldn't leave them but had asked where I COULD leave them.  She repeated that if I left them out someone could put them away. 

This was going nowhere fast and admittedly I was growing angry. 

It ended with me leaving my five neat piles of six articles a piece on her counter and letting her know that her customer service left much to be desired.

On may way out I raised it to the manager who assured me that the actions did not represent Target's philosophy.  Nice to know but it didn't make me feel much better.  It was a complete waste of an hour.  I had a tired and hungry baby but nothing to show for it.

Listen, I know everyone's time is stretched to the max, I'm not the first or the last person who is juggling work and kids and home and life.  I don't expect special accommodations.  I'll follow the rules.  But I'm a mom.  I'm rarely not attached to at least one of my kids and I still need to get things done efficiently.  And the fact that this woman today made me feel like such a burden on her really got me hot.  I was in TARGET for the love of all things.  I would venture to say that a hefty portion of their profits come from parent's of kids - they have one of the largest baby sections outside of Babies R Us.

So I left Target with an empty cart -- no walking gear and Target lost my business.  I'm one mom - so I know I don't mean much in the grand scheme of things to Target but it left a sour taste in my mouth and will have me looking to other options before going back there again. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Faith, and God, and the Meaning of Life - Where do I Start?

One of the things I've really wanted to work on lately is my faith.

I read this post today.  She talks about always feeling carried by a higher being but not knowing how to help someone get there.  And I get that.

In my life, I had always felt carried, protected, loved, understood by something higher.  For me that something higher was understood through a Roman Catholic context but for right here, right now I'm just going to call it something higher.  Something external from myself and from this earthly world.  And this higher power carried me through a fair share of hardships, things that challenged me emotionally.  It was a rock I held onto when the rest of the World didn't make sense.

But then 2009 happened and that feeling of being carried disappeared.  I felt betrayed.  Hm, maybe worse.  I felt like maybe there was never anything there to begin with.  That maybe this feeling that I was carried, loved, protected and understood by a higher power was not grounded in any truth.  Because if there was something there and it really did understand me, how could it possibly take away my mom -- so young -- so quick.  How could it do that to me?  How could a higher power that truly knows me and understands me and wants to protect me and carry me hurt me so badly.

And so for the last few years I have been struggling.  Well maybe that's not exactly true because for a while I just gave up.  I didn't care.  How can you struggle when you don't believe?  But this is something I want to put back on the table.  I have babies and I feel like I owe it to them to figure out where my faith is.  One day soon they will be asking questions and I'll tell them I don't have all the answers, but I owe it to them to seek those answers because that is what I will tell them to do.

Still, I don't know how to go back.  Where do I begin to rebuild this  relationship?  How do I start?  It's like a really bad breakup and what was said and done is just too bad, too hard, to forget.  It lingers and the hurt lingers and it's like poison.  I feel like I'm on really shaky ground and I don't know how to get a foot hold.

Monday, March 19, 2012

To the Parents who Taught me About Love

Today is my parent's wedding anniversary.  The day that joined the two people who shaped me into the person I am today.  I tend to worry about my dad on ceremonial days like today.  But the one thing that the last few years have shown me is that my dad is stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible.  So today, instead of worrying I am going to take a few moments and honor the union of two of the people I love the very most in this World. 

I wouldn't say my parent's marriage was always easy but it was always honest and it was always grounded in love.  It set the example for me of what a relationship, a partnership, a family should be.

There was compromise and compassion, teamwork and communication.  They complimented each other - my mom's fiery and outgoing personality with my dad's more understated dry wit and charm. 

When they would get dressed up and leave us with a babysitter for a night out I swore they were the most glamorous people in the world.  My mom with her high heels clicking on the tile floors, lipstick freshly applied, perfume in the air.  My dad in a freshly pressed shirt, hair perfectly combed and the cologne that always made him smell freshly showered.  The picture of a perfect young couple. 

As the years passed and I grew up some of that shine faded away and I got glimpses into the every day or their relationship and the glamor was replaced by something even more amazing -- unconditional love.  Love in the face of struggles.  Love in spite of adversity.  Love for each others best attributes and the others ability to see beyond the worst. 
I am grateful that these are my parents.  I am grateful that they believed in each other.  I am thankful that they constantly choose love, no matter how hard it could get.  And I am grateful that they let me see their marriage at its best and hardest moments.  They taught me that two is better than one, that love is worth the work, that even when things are hard the climb back to the top can be the most rewarding.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Accountability - Week 2

I told you I was going to do a weekly wrap up.  Look at me and all my follow through!

This week the weather was absolute perfection.  The week started off great but then I got hit with an awful stomach bug that took me out!  It was a bad scene up in this house.  But I'm feeling better and ended the week on a high note.  

Accountability - Week 2
Weeks until Walk - 30
Funds Raised to Date - $3483.14 ($530 in one week!)

Monday - 2.5 miles with boys in the stroller - a beautiful after work evening walk joined by Maura and Nate
Tuesday - Hello Stomach Flu
Wednesday - Somebody put me out of my misery
Thursday - Still down for the count
Friday - Feeling better but not pushing my luck
Saturday - 5.25 miles pushing the boys.  It was a great walk into town where Sam got to meet a real live fire man, see a real live fire truck and Will got his first taste of FroYo
Sunday - 3 miles pushing the boys

I also bought a new pair of kicks on Saturday.  I've walked about five miles in them so far.  I think they will do just fine. 

I am noticing that the bottom of my feet rub a lot and I'm starting to get some hot spots.  I'm going to have to figure this out before blisters strike. 

This week I want a do over.  My goal is to take advantage of the longer nights and walk a couple of nights after work.

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hitting my Stride

Today after nap time, I took advantage of the unreal weather and hit the road with the boys.  I'd been sick for the better part of the week and was a little worried that I might still be a little weak, but we headed off towards town.

We were about a mile into our walk when I realized I was actually enjoying it.  It felt GOOD.  I was having fun listening to Sam's running commentary of everything he saw and the stroller I was pushing didn't feel like a burden. 

It's the first walk I have been out on where I wasn't looking forward to the end of it.  I might actually survive this 3-Day! 

I think I'm starting to get in my groove.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Scary Side of Being a Parent

Last week I heard that an eighth grader in my town, someone's little boy, took his life.  As a mom, the mere thought of this tares me into pieces.  It makes my heart ache for that child, for that child's parents, that child's family.  It scares me to pieces that something can make a child feel things are helpless, hopeless. 

Then today I read this.  And Oh. My. Gosh.  Being a parent is so frightening.  I looked at my little monsters tonight, whose lives' are entrusted to me, and realized that right now this is the easy stuff.  I've stumbled through the last 2+ years in various states of exhaustion covered in spit up and snot and who knows what other bodily fluids.  I've rocked and burped and nursed and fed and bathed and clothed and rocked and cuddled and rocked these babies into the wee hours of the night (morning).   I've worried about fevers and coughs and sniffles and bumps and ultrasounds and blood tests.  And they have returned this outpouring of love with giggles and babbles and snuggles and coos and I love yous.  All of this has been the easy stuff. 

What lies ahead, that's the hard stuff.  How do I teach them that hope exists even in the darkest moments?  How do I instill in them self confidence and resiliency?  How do I teach them kindness towards others, empathy and compassion?  How do I make sure they know that no matter what - NO MATTER WHAT - their mom and dad are there for them, love them and can help them through anything they face? 

There's no guide book for this and despite my best efforts I tremble thinking that I might get it wrong.  Or worse, that I'll get it right but it won't matter. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Accountability - Week 1

So, as we established earlier today I have a problem staying motivated and being honest about my training.  Tonight is my first weekly wrap up.  These may not be all that interesting but it's just another tool to keep me honest and motivated as I train to walk the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in October.

Accountability - Week 1
Weeks until Walk - 31
While we are talking the walk I'll throw in current fundraising total - $2953.14
Official training doesn't start for another 7 weeks but I'm working to get myself up to a baseline so training doesn't overwhelm me.

Monday - Nada
Tuesday - Nothing
Wednesday - Nope
Thursday - 1.5 miles on treadmill
Friday - no
Saturday - I had the best intentions but then my child pooped on our subwoffer and I needed wine!
Sunday - 3.3 miles trail/road pushing both kids in the stroller

This week I started a new job which is super exciting and motivating and left me mentally exhausted.  Not an excuse, just my reality.

My goal for next week is to take advantage of the beautiful weather forecast and hit the pavement with the boys after work a couple of nights.  I'm going to pack my clothes and change before I leave work so I just have to toss the kids in the stroller and go. 

I Have an Accountability Problem

I have accountability issues.  I like shortcuts -- ones that no one but me need to know about.  No one but me needs to know that I ate that one (two, three -- OK 4!) cookies.  If I put this one purchase on my check card Matt never needs to know about it.  Eh, who will know that I took the short route instead of the long route on my walk. 

I'm pretty sure this is why the only workout regiments that have ever worked for me have been in structured settings.  Swim team, dance class.  I'm an incredibly proud and competitive person.  If there are other people there, gosh darn it I'm going to do it all and do it all well.  But put me on a regiment where I'm the only person who is keeping track of my progress and all resolve goes out the window.  Hello shortcuts! 

I realized this today.  (Yeah- I'm quick -- only took me 33 years)

My team mates had other plans today so I packed the boys up in their stroller, filled up my water bottle, grabbed my iphone, and turned on the MapmyWalk app.  Off we went.  I knew the general route I wanted to take but didn't know the distance but I set off for a planned 3 mile walk. 

As I was entering my neighborhood I took a look at my phone and saw I had only walked 2.2 miles.  The internal debate began. 

I should just head to home.  It would be close to 2.5 miles.  That was good enough.  No one would know.  It's almost three miles.

But I caught myself.  NO!  No, Amanda!  You are training and if you are ever going to be able to complete the 3 day you need to be honest with yourself.  Yup, if you keep going there is going to be another hill -- just take it slow.  If you keep going you may get a blister from that spot that is rubbing weird in your sneaker but that's OK -- you need some blisters now to help prepare your feet for the 3-day.  If you keep going . . . what?  You keep going!


The kids are content.  The sun is shining.  You aren't on a schedule.


And you know what, I did.  I headed back out into the neighborhood, straight for the big hill.   And when I pulled the stroller into the drive way I had clocked 3.3 miles. 

So yes, I have an accountability issue and I need the help of everyone to keep me honest.  So as my training kicks into gear I am going to start posting a weekly wrap up of my training. It'll be an opportunity for me to track my progress and journal any challenges or successes I've encountered. 

Here's to accountability!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time for a little Evaluation

Every so often I go through a phase of assessing where I am in life and things I'd like to do to make me a better me. 

I'm going through one of those phases.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm about to start a new job and the idea of a fresh start professionally has me examining the rest of my life.  Maybe it's the fact that Will is now a toddler and I can start thinking more coherently again.  Whatever the reason my brain is swirling with things I want to do - things I need to do. 

Become a healthier me - Yup, that tops my list.  I should be ramping up my exercise as training for the walk really kicks into gear.  I need to make this a priority in my every day!  I've also been sort of kind of doing weight watchers for the last few months.  No more of this kind of sort of.  Time to be serious and all in.  If I bite it, I will write it.  There's so many other things that fit into this category I could dedicate a whole blog post (or series of posts) about the things I want to implement to help me become a healthier me.

Learn to take better pictures - This is something I have wanted to focus on since Sam was born.  I want to capture our life.  Document the beauty (and chaos) of our every day and our special days.  I've been reading up on blogs and learning how to actually change the settings on Matt's DSLR.  Check out a recent pic I took in manual mode (a huge personal accomplishment).  I want to keep playing in manual and learn how to spot meter and learn how to digitally process.  I've been really enjoying ClickinMoms as a resource.  I have a steep learning curve. 

Take Time for Personal Reflection - I've been struggling with my faith and beliefs since loosing my mom.  It's something I am very aware of but have continued to push out of the way.  I just haven't had the energy and frankly for a very long time I was too mad, too raw to even try to work through what is in my head, heart and soul. I have been spending a lot of time reading a certain blog by a mom who talks a lot about faith and divinity and grace.  She doesn't do it in a preachy way but she weaves her thoughts on these big issues through her posts about her every day.  I find them beautiful and inspiring and they make me want to start the long process of rebuilding a relationship with faith.  I need to make time for this.  My faith use to be a huge anchor in my life.  I miss it.  And I think I need it, but I've been too hurt to just blindly return.  I need to work on this relationship and see where it goes. 

Focus on My Marriage - Matt is my best friend.  My rock.  My true love.  But in the swirl of the every day and the chaos of our kids I feel like I forget to recognize him.  I forget to honor our relationship.  I want to be more mindful of this.  Be more present in our marriage.  He deserves it.  We deserve it.

In a World where there is never enough time, I think it is important every once in a while to take a step back.  Evaluate. Prioritize.  Adjust. 

What things do you need to make room for in your life?