Always something

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember: a bit of a stresscase.

I tend to carry around a little list in my head of all the things that are currently uncomfortable or overwhelming. All the to-do’s that need to get checked off before I can relax. All the things I want to accomplish but can’t quite ever get to.

Today, I caught myself feeling that way. There have been so many big and small challenges and changes and check-off lists that my brain and heart feel like they’ve been tossed headlong into the deep end.

And boy have I been paddling hard.

— Our family MRSA adventure swallowed our January in a fog of worry and Lysol and antibiotics and doctor visits. I think we’re still about a month from everyone being back to normal.

— Our sweet nanny gave us a heads up that she was looking for full time work.

— The same pelvic joint pain that plagued me for a year after Fey’s birth came raging back 2 weeks ago and I’m limping and wincing my way around the house.

— A’s almost out of speech visits at the therapy center and his therapist feels he’s at about 85% and ready to work with us at home now anyway. I’m glad he’s made such good progress but I don’t feel ready.

— We have a baby on the way in May and I’m trying to work ahead on all my work projects to give myself an actual maternity leave.

— God in heaven, we’re trying to potty train our strong-willed two-year-old. Trying and kind of failing, I fear.

— We have a baby on the way in May. There will be THREE OF THEM.

— Our sweet nanny told us last night that she’s found full time work. I tried not to cry and instead went and ate my feelings for a little while.

— I’m wondering if I’ve been eating my feelings too much: I did a blood glucose test (for gestational diabetes) that I never remotely considered would come back weird, and it came back 2 points too high, and tomorrow I’ll spend most of my precious office hours at the lab getting poked 4 times.

I feel it creeping up in my head, “Ugh. Always SOMEthing.”

I start flailing. Stressing out. Making everything a little worse, frankly.

***

When J and I got married, our friend Dan urged us to try to sort things into two categories: problems or challenges between us (as in, how we’re communicating or how we’re taking care of each other), and stuff coming at us from outside our little unit (financial challenges, in-laws, health crises, career frustrations, bumps in friendships). We were encouraged to deal with the stuff that causes disharmony between us, but to also try to recognize that all the external stuff isn’t evidence of how well our marriage is doing. That stuff will always be there. Each challenge is just another chance to be in each other’s corner.

Team Lawlis vs. the world: it’s a motto that’s served us well.

Eight years in, I’d be straight up lying through my teeth to say that we’ve never had those between-us issues. We have.

But for whatever reason, that internal-external perspective has really helped us. By and large, I tend to feel like I struck it GOLD in terms of the man I married.

Most of the tough stuff feels like external stuff. Nothing’s wrong, we’re just not in control.

***

I’ve been much better at applying this perspective to my marriage than to how I feel about my day-to-day life. If I’m rose-colored-glasses about my partner (um, I SO am), I’m admittedly a little pessimistic about the frustrations of daily life. I’m sensitive, so if I’m not watching myself, every little thing feels like “always something.”

It’s a sentiment that betrays my underlying belief that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. That if I were managing my life better, it would all look calmer somehow. This chaotic feeling? It’s a failure on my part.

Today I remembered something my therapist said to me last year, and the moment it entered my little brain I felt my shoulders drop from right around my ears to a more normal position.

This isn’t a sign that I need to fix things. Nothing is broken.

This is life. It’s always been full of hassles and mishaps and never-ending piles of laundry and undone house projects and minor health freakouts.

Nothing is broken.

I’m just not in control.

I never was.

And all this crazy is a sign that we’re lucky.

We have full lives. We have demanding, gorgeous, hilarious children. We have minor health stuff right now — that hasn’t always been the case and it won’t always be.

We have each other, and that’s no small thing.

I was looking for some clever and sarcastic “always something” image to pair with these rambly thoughts, and I kid you not, this is what popped up:

A1_ThereIsAwalys

The message was not lost on me. I’m working on changing the gist of that “always something.” I bought a little notebook in early January with the sole purpose of writing down three things each day that I’m thankful for. It’s probably time I dust it off and get to listing them off.

Not so I can pretend that everything’s fine or that the hard things aren’t hard. Not so I can start burying my feelings and faking it.

I just want to remind myself how much good stuff is right there in the midst of all that crazy.

If you’ve been feeling like it’s just one thing after another (and to be fair, maybe it has been) — maybe grab yourself a little gratitude journal and join me?

2013

I said several times this year that I would have no problem saying goodbye to 2013. It was, by all accounts, a bit of a crap year.

I worried myself sick this year. My mom fell and broke her ankle in 3 places and had surgery twice. The boys had their usual bevy of orthotics appointments, therapy appointments, and the like. But 2013 was also the year of multiple health scares, weird lab tests, genetic tests, and a less-than-pleasant screening that possibly saved my life. (There’s nothing sexy about having a colonoscopy, but there it is. If it makes one other person likely to go in, fine, I’ll say it: I had one. The prep drink is horrifically awful. The drugs are very nice.)

Back in May, I went to what I thought was a very typical post-screening appointment, only to have a very wide-eyed nurse assure me over and over that I was one lucky woman. My screening — checking out some post-pregnancy stuff, just to be on the safe side — caught 3 symptomless polyps which had a very high likelihood of becoming cancerous by the time I was 40.

Screenings don’t typically begin til 50 (I’m 33).

I got lucky. And though I don’t think about it often because I’m morbid enough as it is, I can’t help but shake my head and be incredibly grateful that the strangeness and stress of that season yielded something very good. (Even if I do have to repeat the test in 3 years).

This clear lack of control over my life this year accomplished much more, however: it brought me to the end of myself. To quote Anne Lamott, I finally acknowledged that I had run out of bullets. I probably needed to seek out support years ago when A was first born and I was struggling under the weight of so much love and terror and worry and tiredness, but my pride and stubbornness kept me from it.

This year I was stripped of that option. There was simply too much going on to maintain my illusions of “just hang on a little longer.” I wanted to take care of myself — for my own sake, and because I knew that if I wasn’t strong, I couldn’t BE strong for my kids.

So. I went and talked with a really nice lady once a week who helped me straighten some stuff right out.

I let go of some heavy burdens. I figured out how to talk myself down. I reluctantly accepted my highly-sensitive nature a little more. I said some overdue I’m sorry’s. And I let go — mostly — of the compulsion to try to run around and manage how everyone else is feeling. I started to let people own their stuff, even if it meant they had to work through being unhappy with something I unknowingly did or said.

This leaves me with a lot more energy for the things that really matter. And on that side of things, this year was glorious.

I grew in my career. I’m closer to the work I really want to be doing than ever. We have great child care (finally).

I heard a beautiful, perfect, clear “mommy” for the first time. A learned his ABCs and numbers and how to spell and say his own name. He started saying, “Aye-uh-oo,” which, of course, means “I love you.” My F started walking and then running. He just started asking to cuddle at nighttime and keeps signing for “more” whenever I finish singing a song.

And oh, that man I married. I learned over and over this year what a funny, tender, patient, steady man he is. I trudged through plenty of days where I was so anxious I didn’t know quite what to do with myself. And he just stuck by. Listened. Said what I needed to hear (even if it was just a truly horrible, deeply inappropriate joke). He took things off my plate. Loved our boys. Let me sleep in on the weekends.

We’re not quite to the easier part yet. Not even close. But I think we’ll get there and I’m less scared of the not-yet than I used to be.

Tonight the kids ran around our living room mostly naked while Justin roared and scared them to shrieks of delight. The baby ran up and laid a big open-mouth kiss on me while his lanky brother tackled me sideways. The boys half-hugged/half-wrestled each other toward the stairs as they said goodnight.

In that moment, it was hard to feel like anyone has it better than us.

I hope you feel the some of the same tonight. Happy New Years.

well, now I can’t say I never win anything

And for a particularly nice reason. My friend, former WWU classmate, and all-around-cool-mommy-blogger Autumn did a drawing for our favorite item from Marley Jane’s Etsy shop (check it out if you dare . . . her stuff is just darling!).

I chose this:

And I won!I won I won I won I won! And I know I’ll be stalking my mailbox til this little beauty of a necklace arrives!

It’s also kind of cool because Autumn used random.org and came up with number 13 (I was the 13th commenter). Oddly enough 13 has long been my lucky number. Coincidence? I think not!

Things are looking up for old Liz Lemon Stacey!

9 weeks: grateful for “almost”

Ash has finally decided to like — nay, LOVE — his swing, which means A) we didn’t waste our Target gift cards, and B) he is happily snoozing away, which gives me a little time to write/eat/relax. Ah. My kind of multitasking.

***

People are fond of saying the first 6 weeks with a new baby are the hardest. I think when I talk to new parents, I’ll say to them that the first 2 months with a new baby are the hardest. Give or take a few weeks.

And then I’ll say that no matter how long things are kind of nutso, it all gets markedly better when your baby starts smiling at you. Which, thank God, is pretty early on in the process.


(A smiles with his eyes. He gets this from his dad).

Our first 2 months weren’t hard the way some people’s are. I look at my chunkster of a son who is growing too fast for his clothes to keep up with him, and I’m thankful everyday that we aren’t dealing with the kinds of burdens other people are asked to bear.

That said, we still had some difficulties that we are just now getting ahead of. I have no problem admitting: things sucked there for a while. They stretched me in ways that were searingly painful and made me feel crazy sometimes. There have been moments I’ve grieved the loss of what I’d always thought this season would be. I loved my son instantly — it’s just that his first days here were frustrating and stressful.

But I think we’re finally on the right track. (And Justin appears to still want to be married to me despite a few months of me crying more than any grown-up should).

Below are the details of what’s going on. It’s kind of a daunting read, so feel free to skip to the general gist at the bottom. I especially wanted to include this for other people who might find themselves dealing with the same thing. After this, and an obligatory post about breastfeeding somewhere in there, I’d like to get back to talking about all the fun stuff. And there is plenty!

***

After a few visits with the lactation consultants weren’t getting us very far (I could hardly feed him, his latch was so bad . . . felt like razor blades), one of the ladies there recommended I see a doctor in Seattle who specializes in caring for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Dr. Mary Ann O’Hara was wonderful, and after correctly noting that Ash seemed to have some major mechanical issues with feeding (even on the bottle), she sent us to Seattle Children’s to see one of their Occupational Therapists. In the meantime, she advised me to take him off the breast as soon as he stopped really drinking and began to pacify, and switch him to the bottle. Best advice ever — my pain levels went down immediately and I stopped dreading every feeding. At this visit, we also clipped under his tongue to give him more mobility (so hard to watch, but he’s cried longer over being put in his car seat) which seems to have helped.

I packed up A and headed to Children’s — which, by the way, is totally awesome. Everything, from the free valet parking at the entrance, to their simple-but-secure check-in process, seems to be designed around families. I immediately felt good about being there.

I was supposed to bring A to his appointment slightly hungry. Sounds reasonable, except that my kid has no halfway point between “not hungry” and “ohmigod-you’ve-never-ever-fed-me-before-this-moment-no-not-once-and-I-will-scream-and-holler-until-you-feed-me!” He experienced the latter sensation in the waiting room, and by the time our OT came out to get us, both mama and baby were in tears.

Another high point. I thought I was done crying in public, but apparently I was wrong.

Robin, our OT, was kind and gracious and above all — knowledgeable. We put A on the bottle right away and immediately she got to work. I left the appointment somewhat overwhelmed, but much less in the dark as far as what’s going on.

A few weeks prior, I’d mentioned to Justin that it seems like A is always working really hard during feedings, even on the bottle — he always seemed out of breath. Well, according to Robin, A was out of breath — and to him it was a sensation similar to drowning.

I’ve already written about my son’s laryngomalacia (henceforth known as LM because I’m tired of typing it). We didn’t know there are a few other issues coming into play.

A also has mild dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), which for him means that he has difficulty coordinating between sucking, breathing and swallowing. He was doing a whole lot of sucking (ineffectively) and some swallowing and very little breathing. As he grew out of breath, he’d gasp, which put more pressure on his already narrow airway (because of his LM). The pressure of the more forceful breathing only narrowed his airway further. He also had milk going down the wrong pipe occasionally. Add reflux to the mix, where stomach acid was irritating his airway and causing tissues to further swell . . . not good.

Justin and I got to work.

• We began doing facial exercises with Ash everyday to help correct the muscle imbalances (likely developed while being slightly scrunched in utero) that are causing him to have so much trouble sucking & swallowing. He loves the exercises and smiles the whole time.

• We began “pacing” A during his feedings. Because he’s a little barracuda who doesn’t like to stop to breathe, we help him remember to breathe by allowing him three swallows, then angling the bottle down until he takes two breaths. Gulp-gulp-gulp breathe-breathe. Repeat.

• We also began adding thickener to his formula called Simply Thick that helps with swallowing (I didn’t know this, but thicker liquids are easier to swallow for people with dysphagia).

The thickener was a good idea, but for us it was a nightmare. Ash’s system did not take well to the thickener — he became gassy and fussy and constipated and didn’t nap or want to be put down for about 3 days. It was as if we had a totally different kid on our hands. I was so exhausted that one day I pretty much demanded that Justin come home from work early. (Another high point).

After a night spent agonizing over what to do (and while waiting to hear from Robin, whom I’d emailed), we decided to take A off of the thickener and see if we could achieve similar results through pacing. I felt badly — I didn’t want to wimp out if this was truly what was best for A, but he was just. So. Miserable. I thought at the very least we could take a break while we waited to hear back from Robin.

I wanted to believe that following my gut was the right thing to do, but I worried — hard — about if I was wrong. During this time, I told Justin that I’m pretty sure my last really good night of sleep was the night before I found out I was pregnant — and it has nothing to do with 2 am feedings.

Right after that “normal” feeding, he napped for 3 hours, was awake for an hour, napped another 3 hours, and then slept 8 hours overnight. Poor kid must have been exhausted.

Turns out Robin suggested trying it with just pacing anyway, so our gut was directing us well.

Following our 2nd OT appointment, we have A sleeping on a Tucker sling and wedge to elevate him while sleeping and we’re also giving him Zantac to help with the reflux. I hate putting him on medication so young, but knowing how all these issues can play on each other, I feel it’s worth it. The pacing and facial exercises seem to be helping a great deal.

We also have a $50 month’s supply of Simply Thick to figure out what to do with . . . Craigslist???

***

Laryngomalacia, dysphagia, and reflux are all words I wasn’t so familiar with before now — and frankly I would have been fine not knowing about them. Seeing the other kids at Children’s comes with a built-in perspective shifter, however: my kid will grow out of his stuff and be just fine by the time he’s a toddler. Though I’m gaining more grey hairs by the moment, A won’t remember any of this. A lot of families there aren’t so fortunate — they’re facing life-threatening illness I pray I’ll never have to watch one of my family members face.

All in all, things seem to be looking up. I’m grateful for the gift of “almost completely healthy” and be thankful for my sweet, cuddly, 13-pound chunk of a two-month-old (who, it should be mentioned, is sleeping 7 hour stretches on a regular basis at night. WIN!).

81-year-old sweethearts reunited

So, a lot of folks know our story… how we found love over emails and phone calls from across the state and how we were already an item when Justin flew out to see me for our first date. It was the first time we had seen each other in 6 years.  By the end of that first weekend, we’d be trying to figure out a good time to get married.

This is the story of Jack and Betty, high school sweethearts who haven’t seen each other in 62 years.  I watched it and was a teary mess, as you’d expect a hopeless romantic like me to be.

It’s a sweet story.  But I remain oh-so-thankful it took 6 years — rather than 62 — for us to meet at Baggage Claim 10.

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