Friday, September 9, 2016

THIS is my awareness

It's September again.... and also pediatric cancer awareness month. I thought maybe this year I'd let this September go by without posting anything...without writing .... but... I just can't. 

I can't sit back and let this month go by without calling attention to pediatric cancer.

Below is a speech that I gave at a fundraiser this past June -

THIS is my awareness.

My name is Kristen.
Some of you know me and my family, some of you don’t. 
I grew up in the town next door.

We were a regular family… 2 parents, 3 kids, a cat…everyone was happy, for the most part and healthy.
We lived a regular life… just like everyone else.

In 2007, my twenty-two year old brother, Charles, began complaining of shoulder pain.  At first it was minor…assumed to be a pulled muscle, possibly a weight lifting injury….but as time passed, the pain continued to get worse.

After many doctor visits, tests, x-rays and finally an MRI – A large tumor was found on Charles’ shoulder that we were told was consistent with a lymphoma or a sarcoma.
 
After more testing… Charles was diagnosed with a rare, pediatric cancer called Ewing Sarcoma.

Only about 300 kids and young adults are diagnosed with this specific cancer every year.  
Charles’ diagnosis came on November 7, 2007 – also his twenty third birthday.
Not exactly the birthday present he had hoped for.

When I was first told that my brother had cancer,  I thought,
“Well, he’ll do some chemo and he’ll be fine.”
I mean, that’s what people with cancer do, right?  Some chemo… and the cancer goes away and everyone lives happily ever after.

Obviously, I had zero experience with cancer – never mind a pediatric cancer called Ewing Sarcoma.
So I did what anyone else would’ve done… I googled it.

Google is everyone’s best friend until you hit on Web MD.
I learned that Charles had a 70% chance of beating his cancer.  

70%

Well, that’s better than 50%, right? But if you give a 70% a letter grade,  that’s a C-
And in school a C- is below average. 
But still… 70% seemed good to me.   
Then I read further.

If the cancer had already metastasized, the chance of survival decreased from 70% to 30%. 
In Charles’ case… by the time he was diagnosed, the cancer had already traveled from his shoulder to one teeny tiny spot in his lung. 

Still, having zero experience with anything like this… a 30% chance meant there was still hope… SOMEONE had to be in that 30% survival group, right?

That someone was going to be my brother.
Charles went in fighting to be in that 30%. 

He endured months and months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, lengthy hospital stays and a radical surgery to remove the tumor and most of his shoulder and scapula that left him with very little range of motion in his arm.  

Even after almost a year of treatment, Charles was only cancer free for about 9 months.  

The cancer returned in his lungs. He was told that any treatment moving forward would not be a cure, but would only give him time.   

Imagine that… at age 24 he was told,
“We cannot cure you now… but we can give you a little bit of time”

Desperate for more time, he continued with more treatment for about another year hoping that in that year a miraculous breakthrough in cancer research would happen.

It didn’t.

Charles remained cancer free while he was being treated.
Cancer free but at a cost. 

The cost was… living. 
He wasn’t really living. 

The treatment that was keeping him alive was also making him feel so sick that he could barely get off the couch most days.
    
So he stopped.  

In April 2010 - He stopped all treatment –3 months later, the cancer was back in his lungs.

He was able to enjoy a full, fun summer with his friends and family –but by September he was hospitalized for the last time and he lost his battle on October 22, 2010 -Just two weeks shy of his 26th birthday.  

He was NOT in that 30%.  

Not only was HE not in that 30%, but neither were the three other young men, roughly the same age, all being treated at the same hospital for the same type of cancer.  
All four of them are gone now.

My brother was one of a kind. He had a smile that could light up a room – and a laugh that was just contagious.
Charles had a way about him that put everyone at ease …and his heart, he had the biggest heart.   
We feel his loss EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

There are moments which mark your life… moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before and after.

Losing my brother is one of those moments.

When you lose a sibling, you don’t just lose that sibling… you lose the family you once knew –

I didn’t just lose Charles, I lost my parents and my older brother too. 

They are forever changed. We are ALL forever changed.

The summer before Charles died we went on a family vacation to the beach…all of us.  On our last day there we took family photos.   We all smiled and laughed… but deep down we all knew that this would be the last… the last family photo we’d take with my brother.  And it was.

It has been almost six years since he died and we haven’t taken a family photo since.  It’s not something we talk about… it’s just doesn’t feel right without him.

Every year on November 7th, Facebook reminds me that it’s my brother’s birthday – as if I could ever forget. 

On that day, every year, my newsfeed is filled with photos of my brother shared by friends and family in his memory. 
The photos never change - and they won’t.  We won’t get new photos of him.  
He is forever 25 years old.

Social media also reminds us that all of Charles’ friends have moved on.
While he is forever 25… his friends are now in their 30’s… married with careers and children.  
We see wedding photos, baby photos, new house photos.  
My brother never had that opportunity. We never got to see what he would have become.  
And that hurts.

10 years ago, if you told me that I’d be up here talking about pediatric cancer, I wouldn’t have believed you.  

Before my brother got sick, I had no idea that pediatric cancer was even a thing.  

Not one second of my time was spent thinking about children and cancer. 

Not only did it never occur to me that my little brother would be diagnosed with a pediatric cancer, but it never EVER crossed my mind that he would DIE from a pediatric cancer.   

I had no idea that these things were even happening all around me.   
Now? I couldn’t ignore them if I tried.  

Obviously I’m aware now.  But at what cost? It took my own brother’s death to make me fully aware of the pediatric cancer crisis around us.  

We talk about being aware…spreading awareness.
In September we participate in pediatric cancer awareness month… and most of us think that by changing our Facebook profile picture or posting a meaningful quote about pediatric cancer, that we’re doing our part.  

But really, is that enough?
No.  
Not when only 4% of government funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

Every day – 43 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. 
12% of the children diagnosed with cancer DO NOT SURVIVE.  

If you have children, if you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, friends – so basically all of us -this statistic should frighten you. 

It frightens me … it keeps me awake at night sometimes.  

The average age of death for a child with cancer is 8…causing a child to lose 69 years of expected life. These children could be our future leaders, teachers, musicians, scientists… And we’re losing them.

About 60% of funding for drug development in adult cancers comes from pharmaceutical companies. For pediatric cancer? Almost none.
Why? Because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable.  

Researchers have to rely on private funding in order to create new drugs and run clinical trials for pediatric cancer.  The private funding comes from us. 

As an individual it does seem overwhelming - How can one person possibly make any difference?   

What can YOU do?  

Take action!

Maybe instead of that cup of coffee that you stop for every day before work – you put that money toward pediatric cancer research.
Or those Christmas cards you send every year… that everyone eventually ends up throwing away? Maybe you put that money toward this cause.   

Or participate in a ride, or a walk or a run that will benefit pediatric cancer research in some way. 

You may not think it is much, but if we all do a little something – together we’ll achieve something really big. 

Let's make September pediatric cancer ACTION month.
Our kids deserve more than 4%. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

The summer of my kids

I never thought I'd ever hear myself say these words out loud..... like ever...
but for the love of God... I need the summer to end. 

I said it. 

I may be the only mother that's never said it.  But I'm saying it now. 

I'm throwing in the towel. 

I cannot do it. 

I cannot summer any longer. 

This morning I was literally hiding in the bathroom while my children were screaming outside the door.
And when I say screaming... I mean SCREAMING.
I'm fairly certain the neighbors heard them. 

I just couldn't bring myself to referee one more fight. I couldn't bring myself to intercede. 
There was screaming and things being thrown and doors being slammed... while I just huddled in the corner... silently weeping....waving my tiny white flag. 

We have had too much of each other. 
All of us.
I'm sick of them...they're sick of me... we're ALLLLLLLLL sick of each other up in here. 

Patience is long gone. 
Responses like, "Ok, no problem" and "Sure!" have been replaced with, 
"I AM!!!!!" and "UGH!!!!" 

Phrases like, "WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN?" and "YOU. ARE. SO. ANNOYING." are used multiple times daily here. 

My tune-it-out capability is shot. 
So I hear all the whining, all the time. 
"Pleeeeeeease.... Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyy.... whhhhhhhyyyyyyyy" 

Holy mackerel. I might lose my marbles. 

I've cleaned up the kitchen approximately 9,489,321 times... because my children are constantly eating. 

The snacking....it is their full time job, I'm sure of it. Snacks...ALLLLLL the snacks... ALLLLL the time. Snacks, snacks, snacks

I'm sure they are getting paid, under the table, to snack. I'm sure of it. 
Paid endorsements for eating granola bars, Teddy Grahams and Ritz crackers.  

We don't eat meals this summer. We just eat snacks. 

No joke - My son will wake up in the morning and request a snack. Nevermind breakfast... just a snack. 

And I've given up - I've totally just given up!
You want a snack for breakfast? 

It's "No." the first 10 times he asks... and then the 11th time... I'm so worn down that I just yell, 

"FINE!!!!! HAVE A SNACK FOR BREAKFAST!" 

They've broken me. I'm broken. 

I don't even know who I am anymore. 

Organization and order have gone out the window this summer - 
My house has turned into a frat house... only.... a lot less fun
This isn't fun.  

I don't even know how to describe it... it's just constant ...constant. 
And I  can't keep up with the constant CONSTANT. 

It's water bottles and towels and bathing suits... and it's loud crashes coming from far corners of the house...and it's crafts and crayons... and the dog stealing someone's underwear and chewing it in the corner and it's someone half yelling/half whining, "STOOOOOOOP!!!!!" and it's toothpaste spackled all over the bathroom... and someone peeing on the wall by accident. 

HOW IN GOD'S NAME DO YOU PEE ON THE WALL BY ACCIDENT???? 

I just don't know. 

And I can't tell you how many hours this summer have been spent in my car.  
My poor car. 
My husband insists it is time for a new car. And really, it probably is. 
We bought this van 3 weeks before the twins were born... and they're 9 now. 
And this car is TRASHED. 
Like, "it looks like someone might live in there at night while we're sleeping", trashed. 
Like, "Don't know where the garbage is? Just throw it on the floor of mom's car", trashed

The third row is like the mystery row. Like that mystery flavor dum-dum lollipop. You never know what you'll get. 
I don't go back there. EVER. And with good reason. 
The cup holders are filled with(and not limited to) the following: Rocks, shells, gum wrappers, lollipop sticks (with that little bit of leftover lollipop that sticks to everything), banana peels, half empty water bottles(but I'll be optimistic...so they're half FULL), broken crayons, scraps of paper, other kid's homework, book marks, erasers, stickers from the doctor's office, goldfish, etc. etc. etc. 

My car constantly needs to be vacuumed and needs a good washing. The windows are smeared with hand prints and it has a funky... sweaty... food-y... beachy. smell to it.  

Sounds awesome? Oh, it is. 

And I've somehow managed to spend most of my summer in that luxury vehicle driving to and from camps, the library, the pool, the shore, friend's houses, dr. appointments, the grocery store.... 

Kids in the car... kids out of the car.... packing the car, unpacking the car... water bottles, swim suits, backpacks, dog crate... in and out...and in again... 

I don't know what planet I was on back in June when I was dreaming of what my...excuse me... OUR summer would be like. 

Leisurely days spent at the beach.... swimming with friends at the pool... picnic lunches...collecting shells... early dinners followed by ice cream cones...day trips to visit friends...exploring new places... Sleeping in... 

NO. There has been none of that. 
This has not been OUR summer at all. It's been THEIR summer. This summer has been for my kids. Every last ever loving second of it has been for them. 

Tie Dying shirts? Sure. No problem.
Finding Dory? Yep. Let's go! 
Field Hockey Camp for a week? Yup. 
Tennis? Absolutely. 
Fro Yo?  mmmmhhhhmmmm....
Surf Lessons? You got it. 

Heaven forbid we have a day with no plans...they all sort of hover looking at me like, "Well? What do you have for us to do now?"

Um. Excuse me?

I'm pretty sure when I was a kid, my mom drove me to the pool, dropped me off with a cooler and a towel and said, 'See ya at 5'
That was it.
I was on my own with my older brother for the day.
Here were our options - none.  We weren't given a choice of things to do. We were told, "You're going to the pool." And we did.

We went to the pool pretty much every day.  And there we had "pool friends". They were friends we didn't see really at any other time of the year, but the summer.  We didn't complain that our "regular" friends weren't there. We went and hung with our pool friends, all. summer. long.

There we played shuffleboard, knock hockey, board games, card games...and endless games of concentration. We made friends with the high school life guards.  We swam until our eyes burned from chlorine. We made forts with towels and pool chairs. We played swimming games with a golf tee and we had cannon ball competitions.

And that was our summer.
We didn't go to 12 different camps. Our mom didn't drive us all over creation fulfilling our every whim. 

And sometimes I sit back and think... "What in the hell am I doing wrong?"
Am I doing something wrong?
I must be.
I feel like all the other moms are doing the same damn thing I'm doing..  are they? I think so.

And I can't help but feel like we are doing our kids and ourselves a MAJOR disservice
After this summer... I'm pretty sure we are.

After this summer my kids have this idea that the world revolves around them.
That their every whim and request should be fulfilled and that the world... or maybe not the world...but I owe them something.

And frankly - I'm over it.
It's been nonstop.. .them them them since June 21st.

And as summer now comes to a close -- I'm taking it back.
I'm taking it all back - This fall will be MINE.

I will put my foot down.
I will say no.
I will refuse extra practices and add on items.
If it doesn't work for me, I'm not doing it.
Because I'm done.
It's been 2 straight months of full throttle YES to everything for my kids and it's time to say yes to everything for me.

STARTING NOW.

But first I have to clean up the pee on the wall in the bathroom.


PEACE, LOVE & RIGHT NOW










Thursday, September 3, 2015

GOING GOLD.

It's September.
Time to wrap up the summer and get things started for a bright and shiny new school year.

New backpacks, new lunchboxes, new shoes, new haircuts, new friends, new teachers... new, new, new.

For years, to me, September represented a fresh start.

Summer was done.
Gone were those hot, sluggish, dog days and ahead were those cooler days of September that smelled like new books and freshly sharpened pencils.

September brought new beginnings.
September was filled with anticipation.
It always felt like anything was possible in September.

September ALSO meant that my most favorite month was right around the corner.

OCTOBER.

I can almost smell the word October.
It's crisp, it's pumpkin-y, it's gold and burnt orange and deep red, it's Halloween, it's jean wearin' weather... and it's what I look forward to ALL. YEAR. LONG.

Or, I used to.

That is, until my brother died.

While September used to feel like a new beginning to me... it now feels like the beginning of the end.

As soon as we get that first fall-ish night at the end of August... where the temperature drops and you can sleep comfortably with your bedroom windows open...some switch flips in my brain.
Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the smell, ... but 5 years ago suddenly feels like just yesterday.

You would think that after 5 years I would maybe feel a little bit... LESS.

Or maybe feel a little bit more... detached.

But the senses are funny that way, aren't they?

Take music, for instance.
Certain songs trigger specific memories...and you can see them so vividly in your head.
20 years feels like a split second ago, right?

The end of summer is like that for me.

It's melancholy.

It's the feeling of wanting to hold on a little bit longer... savor the final moments....

because your mind knows they won't last forever, and your heart, your poor heart is BEGGING these moments to just -- STAY.

I don't remember when it happened, but sometime after my brother died, September became Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.  In the past few years, every September we've been urged to, "GO GOLD" and "Spread awareness".... encouraged to share the facts and statistics about pediatric cancer.

September.
Pediatric Cancer.
Go Gold.
Be Aware.

I'm aware...and here is how.

My brother's cancer took a turn at the end of August, 2010.
We knew it was coming, but we couldn't quite bring ourselves to admit it.
His cough had gotten bad.  He couldn't catch his breath a lot. Going up a flight of stairs was work.
We knew...but we didn't want to know.

We took a family photo in August - that was the last family photo taken.
Since then, it's really just unbearable and kind of unthinkable to take one of all of us without him.
We aren't us, without him.  Besides, it hurts too much.

September came and my brother was admitted to the hospital for the last time.
September 23rd.
He never came home.

I remember the night that I saw him alive for the last time.
Tuesday, October 19th.
I took the train from CT to Grand Central Station.  I met my older brother and a best friend from college at a bar just outside the train station.
We had a drink because.... I needed it.
My friend brought me an umbrella that he had stolen from a closet in his office.
It didn't look like rain but,
"You never know. I'm Jewish.", he said. "We do these things."

My brother and I walked to the hospital together.  We tried to talk, but what's to say when your little brother is dying?

I remember the morning that he died.
October 22nd.
My mother called me.
I was standing in my laundry room.
Before I answered the phone I knew.
I just knew.
Our babysitter was at our house and I went upstairs and choked out the news.
And my five year old daughter kept saying over and over again...
"Big Charles died?  Big Charles died!"
Over and over and over and over again.

It was like she didn't know what it meant.

OF COURSE she didn't know what it meant.

I didn't even know what it meant.

I remember driving to the funeral home with my parents and brother.
My cell phone rang and it was an old friend from grade school.
He was crying and so distraught about the news.
I remember thinking how strange it was that I was on the way to make arrangements for my brother's funeral and I was consoling someone on my cell phone.

I remember the wake... and standing next to my father as people came through the line to give their condolences.
The endless line.
My father did this weird thing that day...straightening people's collars while he spoke to them.
It was like he didn't know what to do with his hands.

I remember the funeral...and holding onto my mother as we walked down the aisle of the church, behind my brother's casket that was surrounded by his best friends, his pall bearers.

There are things that happen in your life and you have an imprint of them on your brain that you'll never forget.

These are the things I think about in September.

We talk about being aware... spreading awareness.

And most of us think that by changing our profile picture on Facebook or posting a meaningful quote about pediatric cancer that we're doing our part.
But really... is that enough?

No, not when only 4% of government funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

They say that pediatric cancer is rare.  RARE.

How rare is it really when my brother had the same cancer as three other young men...all in their early 20's... all at the same hospital?
All four of them are gone now.
Gone.

This is unacceptable.

Every day - 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
12% of the children diagnosed with cancer DO NOT SURVIVE.

If you have children, if you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, friends(so basically ALL of us) ... THIS STATISTIC SHOULD FRIGHTEN YOU.

It frightens me. It keeps me awake at night sometimes.

Every year I try to do something in my brother's honor and memory.
I've run a few marathons, a half marathon, a Tough Mudder... .all in the name of raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

This year, I'm trying something a little bit new.
I've created a virtual fundraiser - through Alex's Lemonade Stand. (the link is at the bottom of this post)
Alex's Lemonade Stand is changing childhood cancer, one research grant at a time.
They have already donated millions of dollars to support life saving childhood cancer research.
If you want to be inspired - read Alex's story.  I couldn't get through it without crying.

So no, I won't be running, or getting muddy. You won't be getting lemonade or a cool shirt for donating.

HOWEVER -

I'm giving you all an opportunity to DO something you can feel good about.

September should be Pediatric Cancer ACTION month.
It's not enough to just be aware... We need to be DOING something.

Think about this -
Americans spend 20 times more on potato chips than on pediatric cancer research.

Um. What?
That can't be real.

Really, America?
We love our chips more than our kids?
Come on. We're better than that.

Maybe this month instead of that bag of chips - you put that money toward pediatric cancer research?
Or instead of stopping at Dunkin Donuts on your way to work - you put that $3 toward this cause.

Or maybe... $1 a day for the month of September... $30 in total.

SOMETHING.

I am hoping this post will motivate even just one person to help me make a difference -  because I can't let September pass me by without doing something.
And this may not be much, but I believe if we all do a little something - we'll achieve something really big.

We have to try.

I have to try.

For September.

For my brother.

Thank you for reading.


If you'd like to make a donation - please use the below link.  EVERY dollar counts.

www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1181370


PEACE LOVE & RIGHT NOW


























Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The end of the year CRAP

Yes, I know I posted about this previously...but this subject has me so up in arms and in a tizzy that it definitely requires another rant.

Here goes.

END OF THE FREAKING YEAR.

Now that we've reached the end of the school year, my head is spinning once again.

Places to be, end of the year events to attend, money to donate for gifts....teacher gifts...coaches gifts, piano teacher gifts, choir teacher gifts....the endless list of gifts is unreal.

Money is flying out the window - $5 here... $10 there... no big deal... I'm made of money.

I have a tree outside in back that just grows it.

You want a gift? You got one. End of the year? Here's your gift.

It's like Oprah.  YOU get a gift! YOU get a gift and YOU get a gift!

EVERYBODY GETS A GIFT!!!

I don't remember getting gifts for coaches at the end of every season of a sport. Did we DO that?

Did our parents do it behind our backs and that's why I don't remember? I don't know.
I don't think so.

But then I don't remember getting a trophy just for participating either - we didn't, right?

You got a trophy if you won the final championship game...and you held that trophy up for the team photo and you were DAMN proud.

Now everyone gets a trophy... and it's like.... "oh... yea... cool... let me add it to my collection of trophies on my shelf... with the ten other trophies I've already gotten..." ....at the ripe old age of six.

RIDICULOUS.

Anyway... I digress.

Back to the end of the year chaos.

Is anyone else wondering why the teachers wait until the end of the year to send home papers from September?

My kids roll in after school and empty their overflowing backpacks on the living room rug and I'm in full blown panic mode.

Suddenly I'm seeing stuff that they made in the fall... pictures they've drawn, old homework that is just now being sent home...and it's EVERYWHERE.

THAT CRAP IS EVERYWHERE.

And seriously?
There are certain things that just need to be thrown out. AT SCHOOL!!!

I don't need paper flashcards being sent home in a small envelope or a drawing from the second day of school.
Honestly.
Because it only turns into a huge ordeal here with my kids...It becomes Let's Make a Deal.

"If you throw out the paper clock you made when you were learning how to tell time(I'm still not sure they know how to tell time, btw), I will let you keep this fantastic drawing you made of Pokemon"

And really? I don't want the damn drawing of Pokemon either! Because we already have TWENTY drawings of Pokemon here.  I see Pokemon EVERYWHERE.

WHAT IS POKEMON!!?!?!?!?
I just don't know.
But I don't like it. And I certainly don't want it.

Teachers - please - I BEG you.

THROW STUFF OUT AT SCHOOL.  DON'T SEND IT HOME. 

And please... I know you're cleaning out your classroom and getting rid of pencils, erasers, old rulers, and books from 1982... but for the love of GOD, please don't send them home with my children.

I don't need books from 1982 in my house. I don't.

And if I my kids come home with another pencil, unsharpened, sharpened, mechanical, or otherwise,

I'm going to FLIP. MY. LID.

NO MORE EFFING PENCILS.

I have three... yes THREE... pencil boxes filled with pencils and yet, when it's time to do homework... guess what? MY KIDS CAN'T FIND A PENCIL!!!

Lord have mercy.

And then there are allllllll the very very very many activities and events that are planned for the end of the school year that the parents are invited to and encouraged to attend.

Super!  Let me fill in my calendar... Oh look! I'm at the school every day this week.

My mom was never at the school when I was a kid - EVER.

In fact, I was in class one day in elementary school and saw my mom walking up the sidewalk to the school.  It was SUCH an anomaly to see her there, that I shot up from my seat, ran to the open window and shouted, "HEY! MOM!!!" and waved to her!

I also had to stay after class and get a lecture about why it is inappropriate to yell out the window of the school to your mom.  

But the point is... she was never there.

I, on the other hand, am ALWAYS there. And I'm not bragging about this. At all.
I don't want to be there.
There is time for home. And there is time for school.
I should be home. And my kids should be at school. That's it.

I DO like going to the school occasionally... a concert here... a book reading there... an ice cream social....

But when an "author's share" is scheduled for 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, after I've already been on a field trip earlier in the week and I know I have to be at the school on Friday as well...

Well, frankly, I'm pissed.

# 1. 2:30 is close to the end of the school day... but it is NOT the end of the work day.
So in order for all of those parents that work in an office to attend, they have to take a half day of work.
A HALF DAY!!! They have to use part of their vacation or personal time to attend an author's reading of something their child wrote and brought home three rough drafts of for you to read - so it's not like it's anything new they are sharing with you.

 Are you kidding me?

Why can't we have these events at 9:00 AM ... half hour... boom, done, leave for work. Get to work a little late...work through lunch...whatever.
Nope. 2:30 it is!

#2. I have twins. Inevitably their school events are scheduled for the exact same time. Convenient.
So unless both my husband and I are able to attend(which, in most cases, at 2:30 in the afternoon...he's staying at work) ... I'm there... splitting my time between two classrooms...running back and forth like a lunatic making sure I'm sharing myself equally.  Usually in a full sweat-- hearing nothing but white noise in my head.

#3. I have another child who is NOT in school.  And yes, he still naps. So 2:30 in the afternoon is not only inconvenient, but it's the Holy Grail of time for me. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's when I get the majority of my work done...and now I have to wake the little dude up and drag him to the school?!?
This one is majorly not OK.

So what's the other option? Don't go? I don't HAVE to go.
But I'm home. I work from home. How do I NOT go?

How do I disappoint my kids who see alllllll the other parents there...

and by the way...how on earth do alllll of the other parents attend every. last. event?!?!?

DO THEY NOT WORK??? I really don't get it.

Why can't some of these things be planned for ... I don't know... the evening???

I remember when I was a kid... we had concerts... chorus, band, & orchestra concerts...and we got all dressed up in our finest healthtex wear...and we went to the school at night.

The school looked different at night. It SMELLED different at night.

And the gym was decked out with risers and it was dark...with stage lighting and the cafeteria was filled with kids waiting for their turn to go on stage - playing UNO "quietly" with a group of friends.

And it was all really magical.

And everyone went to Friendly's for an ice cream cone afterwards to celebrate.
And it was awesome. Seriously.
AWESOME.

Ahhh... memory lane and the smell of Salt Brook School cafeteria.

ANYWAY - BACK TO NOW -

Now everything is scheduled for during the day - AT THE END OF THE YEAR-- and parents at the school all have that same look on their faces like, "Oh hey... isn't this great?"(No.) and

"Didn't I just see you??" (Yes. Because we were both here for Field Day YESTERDAY.)

STOP. THE. INSANITY.

And don't even get me started on the last two days of school being half days...

It feels like I'm being cheated out of my last meal in prison.
Please.
Just let me have two full days.
I have my kids for the whole summer... and I've attended your picnics, and concerts, and field trips and shares,... I've been the recipient of papers and pencils and old books from 1982... the LEAST you can do is give me TWO FULL DAYS on the last days of school.  You owe me this much.

**SIGH**


My daughter just came to me with three binders of school things asking...
"What should I do with this?"

THROW IT OUT!!!!!


Peace,  Love and RIGHT NOW











Friday, November 14, 2014

Two really IS terrible

I love my son.
I adore my son.
I really, really, really, really, really, REALLY do.... love AND adore my son.

But lately,

I'm OVER him. And frankly, some days... I just. can't. stand. him.

He's two.

That should be enough explanation right there. Shouldn't it?

Ever hear that quote, "BE THE KIND OF WOMAN WHO, WHEN YOUR FEET HIT THE FLOOR IN THE MORNING, THE DEVIL SAYS, 'OH NO, SHE'S UP!" ? 

That's how I feel about him these days. I hear him in his bed in the morning and I groan.
Because... maybe he SOUNDS happy... but I know that'll quickly change.

I can go in and get him with a smile on my face and a sing-song voice...,
"Good morning, sweet boy!" 

Annnnnnnd he's not happy to see me because he wanted DADDY to get him and NOT Mommy.
Really?
I just LOVE starting my mornings like that.
Conflict from the get-go.  

Then there's breakfast.
He refuses to eat cereal, eggs, sausage, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt.... ALL of the things he used to eat every single day before he turned two.
NOW?
Nothing.
He eats nothing.
I used to think I was so fortunate that I had a baby that would literally eat anything I put in front of him.
NOW? I'm lucky if I get two or three bites of Cheerios in him before he's up from the table and claiming he's, "All done!?!?!" And running away.

He refuses to sit in a high chair. And trying to get him INTO a high chair is like trying to give a cat a bath. So we gave up.

So meal time is like musical chairs... he's up, he's down, he's up again, he's under the table, he's down the hall, he's back and sitting in a different seat.
Short of holding him down at the table and sitting ON him.  What can we do?

Anyway...

So after he's "all done" with his "breakfast" ... fifteen or twenty minutes later he's back and asking for something else.
And usually it's Cheez-its or Pirate Booty.
At 8 AM? I don't think so.
Although some days I'm already so worn down by 8 that it seems like,
"Whats the harm? Pirate booty for breakfast? At least it's something!"
(Note: I don't actually allow pirate booty at 8 AM, I don't allow that until at LEAST 8:30.)

There is always, ALWAYS a meltdown when I say no to the snacky food and offer a banana or apple instead.
As sure as the sky is blue... there is a meltdown.
I can almost set a clock to it.
And it's always about the same time of morning that I'm silently cursing out my husband for working in an office.  I imagine him with a warm cup of coffee in his hand... standing at the desk of a co-worker, chuckling over some office humor... while I'm standing my ground over a GOD DAMN CUP OF TEDDY GRAHAMS.

Living with my two year old is like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
He is as sweet as can be... and at any given moment he can turn on you and you have no idea why.

He talks about his babysitter all day long... talks about her car, is she home?, is she coming tomorrow? in a couple minutes?
When she actually arrives in the morning... he flips out.  He clings to my legs, wants to be held, wants ZERO part of the sitter.  The transition is a nightmare... every. single. day. As if he's meeting her for the first time every single day. It's like the movie, 50 first dates... I have to remind him daily how fun she is and how much he actually does like her.   I don't get it.

He's irrational.
He'll ask me for random things that I can't give him.

"Go to Nanny's house today? Go swimming in pool?"
Umm.... dude, we live in Connecticut... Nanny lives in New Jersey... not to mention that it's NOVEMBER and effing freezing out.
I try to explain all of these things...and you can imagine how well that goes over...

"GO SWIMMING!!!!!!!! NANNY'S POOL!!!!!!" *tears* *screaming* *door slamming*

Oh. My. God.

And he'll follow me around the house. Clinging to my leg... demanding to go swim at my mother's pool ... in New Jersey on a random Wednesday morning... in the month of November.

This is not an exaggeration.

And I swear he didn't do this at age 23 months.  It was two.
It all happened at the stroke of midnight when he turned two.
Cinderella's coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight.
My son turned into an irrational lunatic.

I used to think that living with three girls born within two years of each other was exhausting. The drama that they bring to the table can drive anyone to drink.  Well... my two year old has all three of them beat.

He's bossy.
He's emotional.
He's stubborn.
He's whiny.
He cries at the drop of a hat.
He refuses to hear the word no.
He's two. And it's TERRIBLE.

But he's sweet. He really is. (Ugh. I'm struggling even typing that today)

Getting him dressed is like attending a rodeo. I've been kicked in the face more times than I can count.  Getting him dressed is a workout. Like, a HARD workout.  Like, a sweat inducing, heavy breathing... WORKOUT. I'm not putting him into a tuxedo or three piece suit.   It shouldn't be this difficult, am I right?

Baths? He loves baths. Except for when he HATES baths.
And I never know when that will be.
He doesn't want to take a bath.  
I get him, struggling and fighting, into the tub.
He doesn't want to take a bath.
I wash his hair while he cries.
He doesn't want to take a bath.
I scrub him up while he screams.  
I go to get him out... Annnnnnnd HE DOESN'T WANT TO GET OUT!
It's mind boggling.

How about car rides? Simple enough.
Ohhhhhh not so.

I'll drive 10 or 15 minutes OUT OF MY WAY to find a drive-thru in order to avoid taking him out of the car and putting him back in.

Getting him out of the car...
He wants to get out the other side of the car. NOT the side that I'm on.
Obviously. Because that's convenient.
And he wants to open and close the door himself, "MY TURN! I DO IT!!"
Fine. (insert deep breath and sigh here)

Getting him out of the car can take a good ten minutes. And believe it or not... it's easier to get him out than it is to get him back in.

This is not an exaggeration.

If we go into a store... he refuses to get into a cart. He wants to walk. And because I actually want to get something accomplished at the store(silly me)... I want him in the cart.
I literally have to strong arm him into the seat and there's tears(his and mine) and I'm sweating.
And strangers are staring...because strong arming him into a cart looks an awful lot like physical abuse.

"If you would just bend your legs and put your feet through the openings... we could get on our way and get out of here... " And he's screaming, "NO MOM!!! NO CART!! WALK!!!!"

And then there's the screaming through the store,  "ALL DONE!!! ALL DONE!! HOME!!!"
(I'm having a panic attack just typing this, by the way)

And I think to myself, "I used to be able to get through a store with a three year old and two one year old's easier than this!!!"

Now there's getting him back in the car.  He gets in the actual car, but he wants to close the door himself.  OK.
But then he tries to close both back doors himself which prevents me from being able to get him buckled into his seat.  That is, if he actually GOT INTO THE DAMN SEAT.

He stands in the aisle of the car... almost taunting me... with a little grin on his face.
I ask him nicely, "Please get into your seat... we have to get going."
He ignores me.
I TELL him, "Get into your seat.  I'm going to drive the car."
He ignores me again.
He's really, really good at ignoring me.

At this point, one of two things happens...

1. I grab him by his arm and wrestle him into his seat. He arches his back, kicks his legs, swings his arms and screams... making it nearly impossible to get him strapped into his seat because I'm using one arm to hold him down into the seat... and I need two hands to actually buckle the belt.

2. I give up.  I close the door. I get into the driver seat. I turn on the car. I back out of the parking spot... making sure to tap the brake hard enough to make him stumble in the back of the car and get nervous enough to climb into his seat and beg to buckled in. 

If you're reading this you're either applauding me or you're ready to call child protective services.

Either way, I'm just trying to survive over here.

There are days when I'd like to throw in the towel...give in to his every whim, bribe him with lollipops, and allow pirate booty for breakfast... and, of course, there are days when I sometimes DO. Because honestly, sometimes I just want a tantrum free trip to the grocery store.
Is that REALLY too much to ask for?

But for the most part... I wake up every day and brace myself for a ton of tears and whining and tantrums, armed with what I hope to be a never ending fountain of patience and love.
And by the end of the day, I'm exhausted and that never ending fountain of patience? It's tapped dry.
 
There is NO doubt that my little guy has been the greatest joy for our entire family...and there is no doubt that he is so, SO loved.
But there are those days when he's making me want to beat my head against the wall over and over and over again that I really DO have to remind myself that I love him.

I mean, this too shall pass, right?
He can't be a little jerk forever....can he? (Please say no. Please say no.)

*sigh*

Well, here's to his two-ness not lasting forever... and with that, the hope that age three isn't somehow worse.
Oh God.


Peace, Love & RIGHT NOW








 





Friday, June 6, 2014

Officially Done...

So this happens to me every year at this time.

School? I'm done.

Activities? I'm throwing in the towel.

I'm officially done with the schedule, the routine, the waking up and rushing the kids out the door for the bus, and rushing them off the bus and grabbing snacks and rushing out the door to this, that, or the other activity.

I'm ready to hang up my chauffeur hat and give my over scheduled brain a break.

I'm done with policing the homework and the reading and the math facts.
I'm really done with trying to figure out math homework. I went through both the third grade and the first grade years ago and homework wasn't this hard. I promise, it really wasn't.

I'm done with school concerts and picnics and teas and exhibits and recitals and field days and field trips that all seem to be scheduled for the same week.

Can't they schedule some of this end of the year crap in February when we're just sitting around doing... "nothing"?
Instead it's all crammed into like five days. 
A school picnic? Eat lunch with your kid?
Sure, but I was just at the school yesterday and will be there tomorrow... Plus, I eat breakfast and dinner with my kids every day, so now lunch too?
Add that to the schedule. No problem-o.

I can no longer be held responsible for remembering sun screen, a towel, a hat, a share, chocolate syrup for the ice cream social, bug spray, a soccer game, wearing a red shirt or a gray shirt, sneakers only, a library book that was never returned(I swear that librarian is lying.  THAT BOOK IS NOT HERE) etc. etc. etc.

My brain is too full.
It's "end of the year" full.
It's filled with knowledge I want to get rid of and dates that are floating around...
just floating... with nothing attached to them.

June 13th... June 18th.... floating... floating...

Someone will say, "Can you do this on such and such a date?" And I panic because I know the date sounds familiar, but there's nothing on my calendar. WHAT AM I MISSING??? SOMETHING!

Sure, we are free that day. But are we REALLY? Or did I not write something down and we have some place to be with something to do with an item we're responsible for???
Panic.

Clearly, I've reached my breaking point.

I am longing for schedule free days where my kids don't have to rush out the door or be anywhere... where they can watch an hour (probably two hours if I'm being honest... ok... maybe three) of TV without my yelling, "I'M NOT GOING TO SAY IT AGAIN!! PUT YOUR SHOES ON!!! THE BUS IS COMING!!!"

And we can leisurely eat breakfast and not pack lunches...
Oh, I didn't mention the lunches.

I'M OVER THE DAMN LUNCHES.

It's not so much the lunches... its the containers.

When I went to school we were sent with a brown bag with our name on it... a sandwich in a plastic bag... a bag of chips and maybe a fruit roll up. You got twenty cents to buy milk. All of the 'containers' were THROWN AWAY afterwards. I did not come home with containers and lunch boxes to be washed or emptied.

Washing containers sucks my will to live.

YES, I send my kids with lunch in a lunch box. Sandwiches in a sandwich box. Water in a reusable water bottle. Snacks in a small tupperware container.
YES, I'm helping save the planet by reusing all of these containers.
YES, this for the greater good for future generations.
YES, I'm slowly losing my mind.

LOSING. MY. MIND.


BUTTTT...
(Of course there's a but and not just a small but... a semi big one)

On one hand, I'm SO done with school, but on the other hand...
I just watched a school year whiz by. LITERALLY.

It went by so fast, I almost didn't see it. It was a blur.
All of it. It was JUST September.

I was JUST sending my three tanned(Yes, I used sunscreen and they STILL got tan) beauties off to first and third grades...and now... it's over!

I was just making a tooth fairy, angel and fairy costume for Halloween.

What happened to Thanksgiving? And Christmas? And Easter? I have no idea!
And what happened to everything in between?

Where is that time?
It's gone! GONE!  And there is no getting it back!!! What the heck????

So while I'm loving the fact that school is over and the schedule is done....

I DO wish I could freeze time for a little while and have things stay the way they are right now.
I'd whisper into my kid's ears, "Stay small my little people.... stay small."
 
Come home and share with me the fifty states in alphabetical order song...and sing it over and over and over again until I too know the fifty states in order.

Turn cartwheels in the living room until you kick your brother in the head and knock him over and then you get sent to your room.

Carry your bunny blanket around and suck your thumb while you sit on the couch and watch TV.

Show me your loose tooth that isn't really that loose and wiggle it and wiggle it until it comes out the next day at school and the nurse gives you one of those tooth necklaces to wear proudly around your neck.

Stay small. And innocent. And precious. And perfect. In every single way.
Stay just like this...at least for a little while longer.

We spend so much time wishing for the next... ready to move out of one stage and into the next that we forget to enjoy the stage we're in.

These moments are fleeting. All of them.
Every day contains thousands of moments to be cherished.
Every. single. Day.
The schedules, the activities, the teas, the games, the sunscreen, the bug spray and even the containers... all of them moments.
Breathe those moments in. Slow down and cherish. All of it.

Because before we know it, those moments will be gone and we'll be on to the next.
*sigh*


IN the meantime...

What the hell am I going to do with my kids for an entire summer???

Pray for us.

Peace, Love, and RIGHT NOW

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

and five months later... we have a post

Yeah, so I haven't posted anything since September.

I'll blame it on the start of school, or the holidays, or after school activities... or my job.... or my kids... or my husband...or the laundry.....the never ending piles of, "oh look, I was caught up ten minutes ago and now there is a ANOTHER EVER LOVING PILE OF LAUNDRY sitting in front of my washer."

Right. Blame it on that.

So recently, I read an article on Facebook  from a working dad about his wife, a stay at home mom and how her job is ridiculously hard. 
Yep, we know. 
Just a little bit funny how it takes a man to write an article about a stay at home mom for anyone to acknowledge the fact that it's the HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD. 
I'm pretty sure moms have been saying it for centuries and it's only just now being shared, and shared again on Facebook with people liking it a thousand times over. Social media, gotta love it. 

And then I read another article or blog post from a working mum to a stay at home mum. And yes, it said 'mum'.  And I'm pretty sure the article wasn't referring to a flower, but a mother.  And of course, after reading the word 'mum', I ended up reading the rest of the article in an English accent in my head.  And not a good English accent.  I don't excel at accents, except my own which was once a New Jersey accent and is now a weird mesh of New Jersey and Connecticut where I don't know if I should say the name Shannon, like Shaaaaaanon or the way people in Connecticut say it... which is way more cute-sy and less Tony Soprano and...well, I can't even phonetically type out what it sounds like. 

Anyway, I digress.   
The working mum was acknowledging how hard the stay at home mum's job was and vice versa.    
Both jobs are equally difficult.  ABSOLUTELY.

I have yet to read an article about the "working from home full time mom".  I'm pretty sure I know why. 
I'M one of those working from home full time moms...and I'm pretty sure there are no blog posts or articles about those women because those women don't have the damn time to brush their teeth, never mind write an article about their job(s). 

So here I am...taking a few moments out of my day(and yes, my teeth are brushed)...to describe the trials and tribulations of the "working from home full time mom". 

I wake up at the butt-crack of dawn. I'm not even sure I would call it dawn, I'm pretty sure it's still the middle of the night.  The rest of my house is still sleeping, although, I often hear my youngest stirring at that time... and that's when I hightail it out of the house to hit the gym...because I'd rather be working out at 5:30 AM than dealing with my still tired, hungry and demanding to be held and fed, 16 month old.  
Mother of the year here.  
 But I workout at 5:30 mostly because that's the only time of the day I can fit it in. 

SO
Work out at 5:30 am, home by 7:00 to 3 children trying to get dressed, pack backpacks, eat breakfast and get out to the bus on time, or as I like to call it - hell on earth.

Let me preface this by saying, I do everything possible the night before to have our stuff together for the morning. I do everything short of insisting that my children sleep in their school clothes and shoes..in order to be ready for the morning.    But, without fail, we end up behind the 8 ball... EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  

This morning... everyone was ready. Ready EARLY and then I remembered it was Tuesday.  One of the twins' share day.  Today she had to bring in something to represent the 100th day of school. She had to bring one hundred somethings to represent the 100th day of school.  Awesome. 
100 pennies.
Down to the wire, 100 pennies counted and in a plastic bag and running out the door to catch the bus.  

Three kids out the door, turn back to see what's left of my kitchen... dishes next to the sink, dishes in the sink, milk and juice out on the counter, coffee cups, and cereal boxes - oh, and there's my toddler, with all of his sisters' toothbrushes in his mouth.... oh, and I still haven't showered.  
I have exactly forty-five minutes to get showered and dressed and try to clean up the kitchen in order to log onto my computer for 9 am. 

Now, normally, I'd have a sitter to help with my toddler, but my sitter went and found a new, REAL job and I'm left holding the bag.  So because I'm the work from home mom, that falls under one of my job responsibilities...to find a new sitter AND care for the kid until we find the new sitter, while working from home.  Excellent. 

9 am, log into work... kitchen is now semi-clean... also managed to throw in a load of wash, I mean, I'm home.. might as well at least WASH the clothes(folding is another story)... Sit down to work...and fire off a few emails while fending off little hands that are reaching for my keyboard and my phone. 
Second cup of coffee, thanks. 

There are things that fall under my responsibility because I'm the work from home mom, they are including, but not limited to the following: Sick kids, doctors appointments, kids being sent home from school with some sort of illness(real or not), answering the door and being available for any sort of repair man, starting dinner, snow days when all the kids are home, after school activities, teachers conferences, school concerts, presentations, teas and other school events that school administrators think are a good idea to schedule for the middle of the day, because, you know... no parents work or anything.   And these things are my responsibility not because my husband is some tyrant and refuses to share the workload, but because logistically, it makes sense. I'm here. And he's in an office 45 minutes away. 

NOW...I can hear some of you saying, "You don't HAVE to work from home. You could put your baby in daycare, your kids in before school care, and head to an office all day."  
And yes, that is true. 100% true. 

I was laid off this past summer and I refused to take a new job in an office. I only wanted to work from home. Why? Because I get to be the one to get my kids on the bus, off the bus, pick them up from school when they're sick and attend their school concerts and teas.   Call me crazy, but I like having it all. 
I like making money and working, but I also like, you know, actually SEEING my kids. 

But with that comes the insane juggling act of doing it all. AT THE SAME TIME.
Conference calls on snow days include wildly flailing limbs and muting my phone to yell at my kids to be quiet and watch the movie I put on...and to also keep their brother from eating the rainbow loom rubber bands. 
My days seem endless.  
They start before dawn and end way past what a bedtime should be for someone who gets up before dawn.  
What work I don't get done during the day, I do at night. 

Most days I feel like I survive by the skin of my teeth... especially now without a sitter... (please God, let me find a good sitter)  And every day, 4 pm rolls around(Bus drop off time) and my anxiety level kicks in. Because now it's a circus act until bedtime.... after school activities, homework, snacks, baths, dinner, refereeing arguments... all while still being accountable for work. Oh yeah, WORK! 

When I tell people I work from home... their response is usually, 
"Wow... that's really awesome. You're so lucky!"
And I know I am. I am SO fortunate to be able to BE HERE(and the working in sweats isn't a bad gig either). 
HOWEVER, being here also has another side to it. It has the making the dinner, loading the dishwasher, throwing in the wash, side to it... BECAUSE I'm here.  There's that "doing it all' side that you can't shut off. 

And yes, there are days I'd like to actually leave my house and see other adults and maybe, ya know, LOOK nice?  Most days I look and feel frazzled and tired. I'm really tired. 

And there's this ever present feeling I have of not being able to do anything at 100%.  Like I'm not excelling at any one thing.  Because I'm not 100% a stay at home mom...and I'm not 100% (although full time) a work from home employee... My dinners aren't exceptionally delicious, my house isn't spectacularly clean, my attention is never 100% focused on any one thing...because there are always a zillion things going on in my house...and in my head.  So while I'm having my cake and eating it too(I'm not sure this is the right analogy describing this)... I'm not doing any of it well or really enjoying any of it - mostly because I'm just trying to survive. (Much like the first year after my twins were born). 

So what's my point? 

My point is...

ALL mothers make sacrifices. ALL mothers are struggling on some level. 
No ONE has the perfect situation all the time. 

And the grass is ALWAYS greener in your neighbor's yard(especially if they're retired and have ALL THE TIME in the world to tend to their yard and flowers and trees) 

ALL mothers -working from home, working in an office, or stay at home moms- want to know that the sacrifices they're making and the juggling, circus acts are worth it. 
That every struggle won't last forever, and every struggle will make us(and our children)stronger and better people. I mean, they will, right?(Please say I'm right)

And I know with absolute certainty that ALL mothers want to feel appreciated, encouraged and to feel like they're doing a good job - especially when they're sure they aren't! 

So for all the mothers out there... whoever you are, wherever you work..... Keep it up.  
Keep on keeping on. 
You're doing a great job! 
And it's ALL worth it. 

Peace, Love and RIGHT NOW