This pregnancy has been exhausting. Baby Lucy and I each have a couple of medical problems, and they take a toll on my energy (mental and physical.) Yesterday I canceled my plans to get things done around the house, but still wasn’t able to get everything done on my to-do list. I spent a good chunk of the day sick, and had to take it easy.
Anna woke up at the crack of dawn this morning. Before I even opened my eyes, I realized that my throat was on fire. The acid from yesterday’s morning (but really all day-) sickness had burned my throat. My body felt heavy, and getting out of bed seemed impossible. My mind started forming a list of everything I needed to get done today, including my rollover tasks from yesterday. It seemed like I had a marathon of errands accumulating. A marathon that I would have to complete with sandbags of anxiety, depression and physical exhaustion slowing me down. The weight of the world was on my shoulders.. And also in my womb, on my swollen feet, in my head and in my heart. Things felt dark and gloomy.
As I got Anna set up with breakfast, I spied a new Amazon Prime package on my counter. I got a little flutter of excitement and intrigue. I couldn’t remember what I had ordered, so it was going to be like Christmas morning.
There was a pair of maternity pants inside and a note that said, “ A gift for you: These were the ONLY pants I was comfortable in! I hope these bring you some comfort while you grow that beautiful baby! We love you Auntie!”
Happy tears stung my eyes. My sister. My beautiful soul of a sister, had taken time out of her day for me. She was thinking of me. She was empathetic to my problems. She took time to think of a solution that might help. She spent her hard earned money. She put together the sweetest note. I was on her mind, and she made me feel loved.
Her package was more than just an item. It was validation that my problems were real. Someone had experienced the same discomfort, and tried to ease that pain for me. It was the sentiment of being loved, being thought of, and being worthy. Reading her note made me happier than I’ve been in quite a while, and I’m so glad she is in my life. I wish everyone had a person like her. The world would be a better place.
You could be that person today. You could be like my sister. Maybe there’s a compliment you could pay to someone who’s down. Maybe pop a note in the mail to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it’s just a phone call to tell someone you love them. Maybe it’s just a thoughtful text. Be like my sister today. Make the world better. You can do it!
I woke up with anxiety. Things got loud. I had a million thoughts going through my mind, and a very long to-do list forming. Old Kate would have gotten out of bed with her head and wheels spinning, wasting a whole lot of energy without actually getting much done. I’m not that girl anymore.
I bit the bullet and immediately canceled my plans for the day. I needed time and peace to take care of things at home. My sister immediately texted back with an “lol you beat me to the cancellation punch” kind of text. I instantly felt the weight on my shoulders lift, and things seemed a lot more manageable.
The noise in my brain settled a bit. All of a sudden I was amused by listening to Mike and the three dogs snoring. Their breathing came together in a kind of harmony, almost like a song. I laughed a little on the inside. Instead of getting out of bed and ferociously tackling my list, I laid in bed. I read for a while, then started writing this post. All the while silently smiling at the four snorers. What was this that I was feeling? Oh yes, peace.
There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to “secure your own oxygen before assisting others.” You have to be alive and breathing before you can take care of everyone else. That’s self care. That’s preparing yourself to be the best helper you can be. In the long run self care benefits not only you, but everyone around you. It’s a ripple effect of peace.
Canceling my plans today was my oxygen. I’m now ready to get the house put together and finish painting the nursery. I’m ready to tackle laundry (we may or may not be out of clean towels at the moment) and I feel better prepared to handle whatever tantrums my terrible two year old throws at me.
I’ve set myself up for success today by prioritizing the important tasks. I found relief in minimizing, and peace in a slower day. What can you do this morning to give yourself the best day possible? What stressors can you drop to make your day less crazy? Secure your oxygen. Breathe. Make today a good day.
Jacen and Arielle have recently sparked an interest in Anime. They watch an English-dubbed show called ‘My Hero Academia.’ I really, really try to be as interested as they are- but it just isn’t for me. There’s a really cool phenomenon with anime, where it becomes more than just a show- it’s a culture.
Part of nurturing their interest in anime meant welcoming that culture into our home. They’ve learned a TON about Japan and have asked to try new foods and traditions from the show. They’re getting an educational experience without realizing it. They’ve also gained an obsession with drawing an animation. I never thought I’d see the day, but they’ve even VOLUNTARILY left their tablets at home and brought the sketch books instead. Mom-mind blown.
Jacen and Arielle asked to go to Comic-Con as their “one big outing” of summer vacation. (Just as a side note, Comic-con was WAYYYY cheaper than King Richard’s Faire- their pick from last year. That place costs more than Disney!) I was happy to take them.
Our bonding started weeks before the day of the convention. I asked the kids to introduce me to their favorite characters. I followed r/BokuNoHeroAcademia on Reddit to connect with other fans of the show. I used pinterest for costume inspiration, and asked the kids a million questions. They loved it. Their faces would light up at a chance to bring me into their world. Even when they lost me in the explanation, it was never a wasted question. Sometimes you get your answer in the way they respond, and not the words they use.
We crafted the costumes together. Arielle was in awe of my new cricut machine, and Jacen had the time of his life dying his hair crazy colors. We had so many laughs, and talked about so many things. They were such precious hours.
When they day of Comic-con arrived, the kids had trouble containing their excitement. Even Anna, who had no idea what was going on, fed off the older kids’ energy. She giggled and squealed all the way into Boston, trying to be heard over Jacen and Arielle’s increasingly loud banter.
I don’t know if I will ever see Arielle so excited to get dressed ever again. Honestly, it may have topped prom AND her wedding. She treated each part with such delicate fingers, respecting and appreciating every component. She was still adjusting the last few pieces when a car slowed down next to us. A boy leaned out the window and said, “Great Cosplay, Tsu!” She beamed ear to ear, “They recognized me! They know who I am supposed to be!” I’m pretty sure her soul momentarily left her body, did a joyous back flip, then returned with a surge of positivity.” She was absolutely elated.
Both Jacen and Arielle walked around the convention with confidence and swagger. They were recognized time after time, and had several photos taken. Everyone was incredibly kind to them. My kids found “their people.” They were glowing. Everything was exciting and interesting. I didn’t want the night to end.
Even as we held on to our time at Con as long as we could, eventually the crowd started to die down. Vendors closed up, Anna got cranky, and my pregnant feet were swelling beyond the confines of my sneakers. Sadly, it was time to go.
Jacen and Arielle treated the walk out like a farewell on the red carpet. They beamed the biggest smiles and held their heads high. A teenage girl walked up to us and asked Arielle where she got her costume, as it was one of the better quality Froppy cosplay she had seen. That soul of hers did a second little backflip again as she grabbed my hand and said, “my mom made it for me!”
My soul started with the backflips. Several, huge backflips.. And maybe a tear or two in my eye.
Sometimes Arielle gets confused. She almost always calls me Kate, but when the world is spinning “mom” just slips out. This was not one of those times. This was intentional and meaningful.
Anime, for me, is not super interesting. Some parts of the process were confusing, and maybe even boring for a moment or two. Tickets were a little pricey, the convention was crowded and hectic. Still, I would not change anything. She called me Mom, and she meant it.
My ten year old has a lot going on these days. She lives between two homes, (mom’s house and our house) she goes to school, participates in activities and has (finally) made some good friends! Her world is bigger than it used to be, and she’s got the mental exhaustion to prove it.
This past week was even wilder than usual. My husband took a vacation from work, and we decided to end our summer break with a bang! We took a few little day trips and spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge. There were a ton of moving parts, things to remember, and stress. At some point we all had to just let go of the reigns and go with the flow- especially Arielle.
When Arielle has a lot on her mind it doesn’t come out as, “I’m stressed out.” She can’t always describe or communicate her feelings. Sometimes she’s even so overwhelmed that she can’t say anything at all. In our younger parenting days we would have gotten angry at these moments- wondered why she couldn’t just behave and enjoy our expensive week. We would match her frustration, angry that she wasn’t appreciating our hard work and planning. It only made things worse.
You see, parents can not control the way their child behaves. They can only control their OWN behavior in response to their child’s actions. We try to teach them, we try to shape them into model citizens. What we really need to do is HELP them.
Our kids have responded very well with the coping mechanisms and mental health awareness I have shared with them lately. When I noticed Arielle was being mentally spread thin, I decided to introduce mindfulness. She needed to gather herself, to do one thing well instead of a million things at low power.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. Don’t worry about the past, don’t stress about the future. Focus on the moment you are in, and let the rest go.
We were at the indoor water park when Arielle had a moment of anxiety. She couldn’t remember if she had brought her phone charger from her mom’s house. This problem was completely irrelevant to the moment- there was no one she needed to call at that time, and water is the last thing her phone needed. She was still stuck on it. “I know it doesn’t matter, I just can’t remember and it’s driving me crazy.” I tried to calm her fears by telling her that we had many micro USB chargers, and even if she did forget it she would be able to use an alternate. She nodded in understanding but I could see in her lack of eye contact that she was still racking her brain for the answer.
This is where I reached my parenting ‘fork in the road.” Path A was to get annoyed. We had spent a TON of money to come to Great Wolf. It had been a ton of energy to pack and haul all three kids around. It would have been easy to get mad and call her ungrateful. Path B was to help her. Yes, I mean help her relax and maybe even help her focus, but most of all, I wanted to help her enjoy herself.
I asked her if she knew what mindfulness was and she just kind of nodded. In a dazed voice she said, “kind of, they told us what it was in health class once.” I could tell she was still thinking about the charger. I sat down to bring us closer to eye-to-eye level. Just the change in position seemed to snap her back to the present. All of a sudden I had her full attention.
I told her that this was a great moment to be mindful. We didn’t have to think about what was going on at her mom’s house, or even ours. We didn’t have to think about tomorrow or what we were going to do after lunch. In this exact moment, all we had to worry about was choosing our favorite waterslide. She laughed, and I knew she was back “in the now.” We moved on to fun activities, and didn’t give that charger another thought.
Later that night Arielle came to find me. We were getting settled into our hotel room and changed into comfy pajamas. “Hey Kate, I found my phone charger. I had it that whole time.” I smiled and told her how awesome that was. After a little moment of quiet she asked, “So, how did that mindfulness thing work? I was so worried about my charger and you made me completely forget about it. How did you do that?” I was excited she wanted to know.
Sticking with the water theme, I told her our brains were like a water hose. When we are thinking about the past, it pokes a hole for water to escape. Another hole for the future, and another for what was going on at Mom’s house. The more we thought about, the more holes in our hose. The problem with that is we want the water to come out of the end, into the present. If there are holes everywhere, all of the water will escape before reaching the end. We have barely any “water” or energy to use in this moment. If we plug up all the holes, water pressure returns. We have the full strength or water to use right now. We have all of the enjoyment.
I’m not saying mindfulness is foolproof, especially for a ten-year old. I’m not even saying its easy, for anyone. It’s a tool, and it’s work- but they payoff is huge. What holes can you plug this evening? Stop losing water from yesterday, tomorrow, or work problems. Use all of your water pressure for tonight. Tuck your kids in, tell them you love them. Bond with your spouse. Focus, enjoy, be mindful.
Yesterday was a really tough day. Anna has started her terrible two’s early, and she was mid tantrum at the register in Target when a familiar voice called my name. I was already falling apart when this poor woman unknowingly hit a nerve by asking about my blog. I struggled to keep my chin up, and told her we were just busy with other things. That statement was definitely a half-truth. We are always busy, but I used to find time to blog. There’s a big reason I wasn’t, and time had nothing to do with it.
The things I write about are extremely personal. Sharing the details about my mental health leaves me quite vulnerable. Unfortunately someone has recently taken advantage of that vulnerability to hurt my family. I was faced with two options; to fearlessly continue to write, or to go radio silent and stop feeding them ammunition. I looked at my kids, and realized there was nothing more important to me than them.. not even my blog.
We’ve spent the summer rebuilding what was broken, and getting stronger as a family. The time we’ve had together has been so valuable. We are better than ever, even with ALL of the hurdles life has thrown at us. We are a unit. We are a team. Not even the most vicious of attacks could break us apart.
On the way home from Target, Arielle broke the silence and asked, “so, why DID you stop the blog?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. I had never intended on a full stop, more of a hiatus. I told her that when I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that ‘your enemy’s best weapons are what you give them.’ In this case, when people wanted to hurt me they were using the ugly parts of my mental health journey. Things I had willingly shared with them. Things I had given them. I had stopped writing in hopes the battle would fizzle out on its own. Arielle listen quietly as I tried to explain. After a brief moment of thought she said, “I just don’t think we should stop. It’s something I loved about us, and if mean people are being mean that’s their fault. Not ours.”
So, here we are. I’d be lying if I said I wrote this without hesitation. Maybe I am a little scared to bare our faults again, but at the same time I’m excited to continue healing- not just our household family, but our blog family too. We have a TON of awesome stuff we’ve been waiting to share with you, and we just can’t wait to move forward together. Our family, your family, blog family.