Category Archives: Anxiety

Oops.

A post a day in May, did you say?
I did. I did say that. And then last night, I fell asleep promptly at 7:30 pm with the girls, and did not rise again until midnight (thank you, Rowan, for sleeping so long without wanting to nurse). It was the kind of night where teeth did NOT get brushed, contacts got ripped out and thrown on the floor (I should be embarrassed to admit this, but strangely, am not), and daytime clothes were slept in for far too long than was comfortable. I hadn’t anticipated falling asleep. And I fell asleep HARD.

Needless to say, I was not waking up from THAT kind of sleep to write a blog post. So, oops.

                  ————

This evening I’ve been filling out paperwork to register a certain little five-year-old for kindergarten. How can this be?! I can’t believe I have a school-age child. And, I’ve been just AGONIZING about where to send her.

In our town we have several magnet schools. So families have to apply and get accepted through a lottery. We’ve been accepted to one school and Liam wants us to consider the parochial school he went to as a kid.

I’m sure my parents never thought twice about school choice—not that it was even an option for us then. But I’m also sure they didn’t worry too much about us being successful or fitting in. Or being challenged appropriately vs. feeling bored. 

Mothers of my generation tend to worry about this stuff too much. And, well—I worry about fifteen times as much as the most worrisome mothers of my generation. So yeah, it’s been a struggle.

Anyway. I’m sure Nora will do fine wherever she goes. And if not, we’ve got options. And options are always good, right?

I told Liam earlier that I just want to homeschool. He gently reminded me that I only like the idea of homeschooling and not the reality. There’s a reason I married this man.

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Lent is for fasting from gluten, writing, doing the laundry, and parenting at the top of my game, which—let’s face it—was never really tops to begin with.

It’s been A MONTH since I last posted. What?! How can this be?

I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been killing it at this parenting thing. You know—forgoing all else but the kids and putting their needs first.

But no. Sadly, this has not been the case. Take for example, the following scene from the living room last week, and you will have some sense of where my head has been lately:

The girls and I were sitting on the couch happily enjoying some screen time. Rowan was crawling about on the floor, playing with some toys. I was utterly absorbed by the content I was consuming on my iPhone, when Nora—disturbed by some movement in her peripheral vision—interrupted the melodious chorus of one of Daniel Tiger’s well meaning life lessons, and announced rather suddenly, “Mama! Look at Rowan! He moved the fireplace screen and he’s playing in the ashes!”

And here’s how I’m POSITIVE I haven’t been killing it as a mom. My first reaction was to say, “Nora! Go get him!” Followed soon after by the thought: Nora, how could you let this happen? (She’s been doing some minor minding of the baby occasionally).

As if my very mature and responsible almost five-year-old was to blame for my lack of watchful patenting. Ashamed at my reactions, I quickly got up, cleaned up my son, and shelved the phone for a long, long time thereafter. Like, at least thirty minutes.

Besides my parenting skills, writing has also taken a back seat, apparently. As well as laundry, cleaning, organizing, and laundry. Wait, did I already mention laundry? It’s piling up in mounds—both clean and unclean—around the house. The kids haven’t worn laundered or matching socks in days and days.

So if I am failing at all of this, to what have I been giving attention?

Me!

About time, right?

Part of the reason I’ve been away for so long has to do with some minor health issues I started having soon after we moved to Connecticut. In early December, after we’d been living in our new place for a little over a month, I started feeling nauseous off and on every few days. Of course, like you, I suspected I might have become ill with child. Thankfully, that was not the case.

Dizziness followed as well as frequent migraines. Then came some minor indigestion. What was going on? All of a sudden, relatively healthy me seemed to be in some kind of distress.

I went to the doctor and had some blood work done. The results came back normal. A return visit to the same doctor ended with him concluding I had IBS caused by the stress of the move and being home with three kids. He gave me two medicines he claimed were safe for breastfeeding. He seemed to discount my symptoms of nausea and migraines, while completely inventing others (One of the meds was for reflux, which I told him really wasn’t bothering me, after which he asked, “Is it worse at night?” Hello?? Did you not just hear me say that it really isn’t an issue?).

And so, I left feeling very discouraged. I figured I might try at least one of the meds because I was tired of not feeling well. I had already planned on NOT taking the med for reflux, you know, since I really didn’t have it. I googled the other drug just to make sure it was safe for breastfeeding, and of course, it wasn’t. I can’t say that I was really that surprised given that lame excuse for a doctor’s visit.

In near despair, I started scouring the Internet for resources to help myself while also trying to find alternative doctors.

I ended up putting myself on an elimination diet because I really felt like I had suddenly developed some food intolerances as a result of whatever was happening inside my body, and I wanted to see if I could pinpoint what was causing my distress.

I also found a superdoctor. She is an M.D. with a Ph.D. in Natural Medicine and a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. What?! She’s perfect for me. And, I love her. I can’t believe it’s taken me almost thirty-eight years to fine her, but now I have. I will never leave her.

We’ve only met twice, for an hour each time. But she listened to me. With really good ears. She told me to continue my elimination diet and be aware of symptoms when reintroducing foods. Also, she put me on a pretty beefy vitamin and supplement regimen. 

Her conclusion, which I happen to value so much more than the guy with just the one M.D., was that stress, combined with an uptake in caffeine consumption along with lots of processed, sugary foods (hey, it was the holidays!), combined with lack of sleep (tandem nursing two at night), combined with malnutrition (not only was I eating crap food, I wasn’t taking any vitamins), led to adrenal fatigue and overall havoc on my systems.

Sadly, I’ve had to cut coffee out of the daily routine. It’s the thing I miss most. I’m also gluten-free, sugar-free, and mostly dairy-free at the moment. 

And…I feel great. I have tons of energy and almost all of my bothersome symptoms are gone. No more headaches, nausea, dizziness. Nada. And I’ve lost about ten pounds. Not that I needed to or was trying to. But still. With summer almost around the corner…

Want to know the side effect I didn’t expect? My stress and anxiety levels are SO. MUCH. LOWER. Crazy how food can be both culprit and cure.

So when evening rolls around these days and I wonder about whether I should write on the blog, I’m like, “Eh. I’d so much rather read a book. Or take a bath. Or just go to bed.” 

So, I’ve been taking care of me. And reading lots of recipe sites for nutritious and yummy food I can eat (which is why I missed the whole seeing the kid in the fireplace thing). 

My bottom line here: if you are someone who is struggling with any kind of chronic anything, get thee to a naturopath! Immediately. You won’t regret it.

Coming soon: How to get your kids to stop tattling. (I’m not going to tell you. Rather, I’ll be solicitating advice. So thanks in advance.)

Kids and their dreams.

A few weeks ago Nora expressed some concern about going to sleep. She told me that she doesn’t like going to bed because she just lies in bed thinking bad thoughts before she is able to fall asleep. She also admitted to having bad dreams.

Saddened, I asked her why she hadn’t said anything to me before that point about the trouble she’d been having. I told her that she needed to talk to her dad or to me when she was worried about things like this. I also told her to think about good, happy thoughts before she fell asleep.

“I can’t, mommy,” she said. “My body just won’t let me.” (insert sad face here)

This from a kid who has twirled her hair, gently picked at her lips, and/or rubbed her eyebrows anxiously as she’s fallen asleep, since she was a toddler. This from a kid who appears to be both contemplating the world’s problems as well as coming up with ways to solve them, all before 8:00 p.m. each night. Our ever-thinking, always-wondering child. A product of her mother, for sure.

I asked Nora to talk a little bit about some of the bad thoughts and dreams that she had been having. This is what she told me:

“I have two bad dreams, mommy. The first one is…well…I can’t really explain it. Something eats me. It’s like a deer or something, and it just eats me. And the second one is, I get runned over by a car. And I just lay there in the road and there’s no one to help me.”

It was extremely hard for me to not bust out laughing after her first admission. Eaten by a deer? She’s kidding, right? But I felt so sad for her after she revealed the scary contents of her second dream. I wondered: Where does this come from? From talking to my niece and nephew? (They are sometimes a concerning source of content much-too-mature for my four-year-old). I mean, I do talk from time to time about why we need to have green and red lights on the road as well as wear seat belts, so that we can be safe, but don’t get into much more detail than that.

Hmmm….There was a day earlier this summer a colleague/friend came to the house to pick up some cloth diapers we can’t use anymore. She had a cast on her arm so we explained truthfully that the friend had been hit by a car, but that she was going to be OK. Maybe that’s where?

I did a little reading online about bad dreams and nightmares. It seems very normal and age-appropriate for Nora to be dealing with this now. Apparently, once little ones realize that there are real world dangers out there—eaten by a deer, maybe, not so much—they start to dream about potential hazards. Life changes can also trigger these imagined fears (me going back to work, Nora starting school again—all things we’d been recently talking about).

We spent a good deal of time talking about how dreams aren’t real although they can seem to be, and can be very scary. I told her that we were going to start saying prayers again at night, something we used to do, but had forgotten to do for some time. I’ve found that this is also a really good way to get Nora to be reflective about the day as well as teach empathy.

We run through all the “God bless” everybodies. Lately, it’s gone from mentions of specific, individual names to “God Bless every human on the earth.” Girlfriend already figured out the benefit of shortcuts.

Then we say special prayers. Things like, “God help Grandma’s knee feel better, and Titi’s burns to heal, and Grandpa’s sickness to go away.”

Next, we mention all the things for which we are grateful.

Then, mommy likes to add a plug for good behavior. “God help Nora and Frances to be kind to one another, and to be helpful, and to make good choices.” Lord knows, we need all the help we can get!

Finally, we ask for sweet and silly and funny dreams. “And, if we should happen to have bad dreams, may they pass quickly, and may we be reminded that they’re not real, and we only need to cuddle up with mommy or daddy to make them go away.”

We’ve been going on a couple of weeks now with no bad dreams. The power of prayer! Or positive suggestion. Or good energy. Or a combination of all three. Whatever it is, it’s nice to be participating in a nightly ritual once again where we are able to think outside of ourselves and our own needs.

Then, this weekend, there was this:

“Mom! I had a funny dream last night. Want to hear it?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Well, you and daddy were in it. And your friends. And we were all outside. You and daddy were on the back patio. And your friends were on their back patio, across the yard.”

Then she glanced toward the window, beyond which our back patio stood. Then she looked across to where our older, white-haired neighbors live—Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty—and a confused look came across her face as she was trying to recall the exact details of the dream.

“Wait a minute. Was that your friends in the dream, or Mr. Larry? No, not Mr. Larry. It was friends. There was a mom and a dad friend. And the mom had hair like…it was short and blond. She looked like Tella’s Aunt Amy. Wait, was that Aunt Amy? I mean, Baby Lila’s mommy?”

I jumped in then to confirm, “Baby Lila’s mom is Aunt Amy.”

“Oh. Yeah. Aunt Amy then. Yeah, your friends, the mom one, looked just like her.” 

“That’s it?” I said, after a long pause and expectant look from Nora. “That was the end of the dream?”

“Yep.”

Just like that, bad dreams be gone (at least for now). And weird-ass nonsensical ones take their place. Sounds about right to me!

Anxiety Episode #13: While watching an up-close and intimate fireworks display, one of us becomes injured by a wayward spark.

All of of my anxiety posts to date have concerned events about which I’m fearful, but haven’t actually ever happened. The one I’m about to write about did. Last night. And it was terrifying.

For years and years my dad has been in charge of putting on a fireworks show for scuba divers and their families on the 4th of July. The show locale is on top of some limestone cliffs overlooking the Susquehanna River adjacent to the diving quarry where my dad has worked part-time off and on since the late 1980s.

The quarry and the land surrounding it was recently sold, so the owners of the dive shop there held one last picnic last night to celebrate. And, there was one last fireworks show to send things off with a literal bang.

My dad had always purchased the fireworks down in South Carolina, over the border from where his parents used to live. Each summer we took a vacation not only to visit the grandparents, but to pick up a stash of fireworks for the yearly tradition. We all had fun visiting the megastore and watching TV videos that displayed the look and sound of each firework sold. We also relished browsing the names of the fireworks, many of which were very redneck and/or super patriotic. Off the top of my head I recall: Blonde Joke, Here Come Da Judge, Uncle Sam’s Revenge, and Red, White and Boom.

Anyway, every year, as we hiked up to the cliffs with our lawn chairs and blankets, we discussed the possibility of one of the fireworks making its way into the crowd of onlookers instead of the sky, where it’s meant to explode. Although the risk and threat was always very real, we kind of laughed it off as an impossibility. The shows had always been very safe. Well, I think there may have been a year where there was a near miss, but everyone came out unscathed.

Last night, however, two of my family members suffered serious injuries as a result of a firework that had in its mind to fire directly into the crowd instead of up in the sky. Let me say they are both OK. It could have been much worse.

My oldest gal was laying on a blanket with my sister and her kids. The firework in question came up in between my sister and Nora. At the time I couldn’t tell what had happened. Instinctively, I turned away from the flash. I was standing behind everyone holding the baby in a carrier. Liam—who was holding our middle girl—later told me he jumped out of the chair he was sitting in, and ran down the hill shielding both him and her.

The next thing I remember, after the popping and flashing subsided, was hearing Nora screaming hysterically and seeing five or six people rush up to her, all the while yelling, “Take off her clothes! Take off her clothes!” Like I said, terrifying.

I was on the outside of the circle of people trying to care for her during the chaos and confusion, and—frustratingly—I couldn’t get to her. I remember feeling so relieved, though, when someone finally pulled her shirt over her head and I could see her perfect, uninjured little face through her tears. Liam finally picked her up, got her pants off, and, with the help of cell phone flash lights and head lamps, found the source of her pain—three burn marks on her outer thigh, one of which seemed pretty bad.

Someone decided we should call an ambulance and did. He or she later called to cancel it. Gratefully, a medic was part of the crowd of spectators and ran back to his car to get his burn kit. A few strangers let us use their nearby RV so Nora could be treated in a more comfortable, well lit area. It was there that I found out my sister had gotten burned too. Slightly worse than Nora. According to her, she jumped on top of Nora when the flash came and the firework went off in between them. The medic was able to treat her too, saving us all from a late-night trip to the ER.

Nora calmed down after the initial scare and was exceedingly brave. She sat naked on Liam’s lap in that RV eating chips and drinking juice that was offered to her, all the while cracking jokes with Mike the medic. She was amazing. She is amazing.

On the drive home, I was a mother hen chock full of adrenaline and cortisol, driving significantly below the speed limit in an attempt to keep my little chicks safe from further threat of danger.

Later, when we all got home and into bed, I kept agonizingly reliving the mini-explosion over and over again in my head. I kept seeing the bright flashes, hearing the pops and the screams, watching frantic hands undress my baby and then seeing her face, her injuries.

My heart broke all over again this morning when I found Nora’s clothing in the car. Her pants and shirt had burn holes in them and smelled of sulphur and fire. Ugh. Into the trash.

For now, though, Nora seems little bothered by her injuries (except for when it’s time to change the bandages). The adults close to her—my dad and brother especially, the show igniters 😉—were much more affected.

I’m busy trying not to dwell on the what-could-have-beens, and feeling grateful that Nora and my sister are OK. I’m trying to follow Nora’s brave lead and act as though what happened was no worse than a scrape on the knee from falling off a bike. I think she will have a bad scar, but hoping she won’t have much more of a memory of this time than that.

Unlike her mother, she seems pretty unfazed. Other than the fact she has vowed to never, ever, EVER, EVER again go see a fireworks show. Ever again. Ever. Like, ever, mama.

Like I said, amazing.

On the eve of returning to work after four-and-a-half months.

Ugh. I have to set my alarm clock tonight for the first time since March 29th. I have been busy making preparations for the big day back to work tomorrow. Made lunches through Tuesday and have been readying bags of supplies for the kids and me for over an hour. Again, ugh. Bottles, milk, pump and pump parts, computer, blankets, diapers, wipes, swim suits, extra change of clothes, etc. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I have mixed emotions about leaving the kids tomorrow. I’m teary, weary, both looking forward to a break from them and hating to leave them at the same time. The baby still won’t take a bottle, so I’m anxious about that too. The good news is the kiddos will be with family all this week and I’m able to take my lunch time to go visit if need be. Next week the students start back and I won’t have the time or flexibility to do the same.

I wish I could write more, but I’m too emotional and exhausted. As much as I’ve wished for some ‘me’ time away from the kids, our summer together has been so intense—due largely to the fact we’ve been on our own for much of it—I know I’m really going to feel their absence tomorrow. My little clinger-on-ers.

Here’s to hoping we wake up on time and transition peacefully to where we all need to go.

Double ugh.

Anxiety episode # 12: One or more of the kids fall off a jungle gym, get kicked by an aggressive child on a swing, or slide incorrectly down the slide, thus requiring urgent medical care.

It’s summertime—or nearly, at least. And that means it’s time for parks and playgrounds and all kinds of outdoor fun, and accidents waiting to happen. At least, that’s my fear.

My husband and I took the kids to one of the local parks a few weeks ago to burn off some energy after dinner. At first, both girls stayed on the ‘toddler’ side of the playground—the side where I am able to play the role of relaxed mom—climbing up stairs and sliding down gradual, slow-moving slides. They crawled safely through tunnels and crossed a short bouncy bridge, all of which they handled nicely, considering there were no big kids running around and jostling them all about.

The big kids were all on the ‘big kid’ side of the playground (where my role shifts quickly to that of extremely uptight mom)—the side that the girls wanted to move to, of course, just moments after I had settled into an easy rhythm of bouncing the baby in the sling and joyfully watching the two of them play.

Now, I should say, that I am all about letting the girls take risks and be brave and build confidence when it comes to using and refining their gross motor skills while playing on playground equipment. It’s just that I can’t stand to actually watch them do it. It’s terrifying. I prefer to close my eyes, or simply look away, when things become too intense for me. Like, when my kid’s climbing the big rock structure, makes it all the way to the top, and then bounces around slightly with pride at her accomplishment. I, of course, just see her, in my mind, falling from the top and landing unconscious, or at the least needing stitches or even suffering from a concussion. 

Gratefully, I don’t say or even yell things at the kids, like that which I’m really thinking: “Oh sweet Jesus, get down from there this instant before you give your mother a heart attack or crack your skull on the pavement!” So, I think the kids are able to take risks and feel confident because I’m fairly good at hiding my fear. They do get quite a few Be carefuls! though. I’m working on this. I really am.

Still, when I see the girls tackling steep stairs or ladder rungs with lots of big kid bodily commotion around them, I am not able to look on fondly, watching them hold their ground; instead, I must hold my breath and count to ten and pray they don’t get pushed around and fall ass over teakettle off the jungle gym. Incidentally, why do playground designers deem it a good idea to build jungle gyms without side rails, especially on the way-up-top parts?

Another playground hazard is the running, or crossing in front of, high-swinging swingers. My kids love to do this. They either run from the swings without looking, or run toward the swings without looking, narrowly missing getting kicked in the face and knocked to the dirt every time. Although, I suppose if this were to happen, they’d likely be more careful about the placement of their wild bodies the next time they chose to dart to and fro across the mulch.

Once, about a year ago, I was at a different local park when the girls were even younger and less capable than they are now. We went to a playground where two other women were sitting on a bench while their two girls played. The girls looked to me to be about four years and eighteen months, not very much unlike the ages of my girls. The two women chatted busily away while the four-year-old and the toddler were on the jungle gym. The four-year-old spent much of the time carrying and lugging the toddler about, lifting her over obstacles and helping—well, forcing—her down the slide.

I looked on both in horror and amazement. I was horrified because at any moment the toddler could have fallen to her death and the mother—whichever one she was—seemed not to notice or care. And, I was amazed because at any moment the toddler could have fallen to her death and the mother seemed not to notice or care.

I wish—truly—that I could’ve been as trusting and unbothered by playground shenanigans as that mother was. Instead, I stayed near my toddler, helping her about when necessary, and not trusting her slightly older sister to do that for her. 

I think, if I do nothing else in my life, but can manage to relax even half as much as that mother that day in the park, I will have won at life. 

How is it that one mother can be so free from anxiety when her preschool daughter hefts her barely walking other daughter about many feet above the ground, precariously perching her on the edge many, many times, while another mother, faced with the same scenario, freaks out and only sees disaster at the end of the tunnel?

It’s a mystery to me, but I wish I could solve it, so I could apply some of its magic to rid me of my fears.

Most times I need only to remind myself of my own childhood experiences for reassurance. Like all the times I swung upside down on playground bars and then did a sort of flip-like dismount. Or the climbing of rickety old pine trees that took place behind my grandmother’s house with my cousins—which I’m sure no adults ever knew about. Or all the round off back handsprings, the diving board back flips, and the fierce games of playground dodgeball. Surely, if I didn’t break my neck from falling back then, I don’t really have all that much to worry about with my own kids, right? Right? 

That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, like some kind of mantra, to prevent me from being a hovering helicopter parent, and to reassure myself that the kids will be all right. 

The kids will be all right. The kids will be all right. The kids will be all right!

   
 

Anxiety episode #11: I’m driving to the store, or preschool, or library story hour, or any place really, when I turn around to glance at the baby in the rear view mirror and see he’s not there. Why? Because I’ve left him at home, all alone.

Recently, Liam shared with me a fear he has when he’s driving someplace, and thinks he’s left the baby at home. I confessed to having the same fear, on repeat, many times a week.

In addition to being irritable and cranky these days, my brain is also very forgetful, cluttered, and generally in a state of constant, frenzied activity.

Since I’ve been on leave from work, I’ve been unable to recall what day of the week it is, never mind the actual date. Early May, right? To me, every day feels like a Saturday. But not necessarily the kind of Saturday you long for and look forward to. Instead, it’s more like a Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day kind of Saturday that’s on repeat, over and over again, where I wake up wondering, OK, how in the hell are we going to make it through today? kind of Saturday.

I can’t ever find anything I’m looking for when I want or need it. The brown baby carrier? One of the purple hairbrushes? (We have three; it should be easy enough to fine one!). Matches for missing socks? Frances’s brown shoe? This stuff has been missing for days. It will turn up soon, I know, as it is likely covered under mounds of laundry.

Speaking of laundry, does it ever end? We’ve only added a baby to the family, not an entire soccer team. So, I’m not really sure why or how laundry has increased twentyfold. I’m starting to feel like we could really use a nanny around here to do ‘light housework’ in addition to cooking and taking care of the kids. This mom needs a break!

OK. Back on topic. Let’s talk about leaving the house for an errand or a trip to the park. A plan is made, preparation begins, and then, forty-five minutes later, we are ready to go. Seriously. That’s how long it takes us to get ready to leave the house. Forty. Five. Minutes.

There’s the packing of diapers and covers for two kids. The packing of snacks and drinks. And blankets and baby carriers. A purse. Maybe a stroller. There’s the nursing of the baby, because of course, he always wants to do that right before its time to go. And then so does his sister, just because. What else? I don’t even know. But there’s always more. 

Now, back to the leaving of the baby. His car seat travels with him at this age, both in and out of the house. And, he’s usually the last thing from the house to get loaded into the car (I make about a hundred trips back and forth, give or take a few). You can see how it would be easy to forget him, right? To leave him behind in the heat of the moment, sleeping peacefully in his seat on the couch?

It’s really a wonder we haven’t done it yet. These minivan engineers should make some kind of sensor that new parents can employ to beep repeatedly when backing out of the driveway as a reminder to look in the back and make sure the baby is, in fact, where he should bebuckled safely into his car seat, and not, as I’ve feared, left carelessly behind, sitting alone on the couch.

Maybe I’ll suggest that the next time I get an online survey from Toyota requesting my feedback.