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Finding beauty in the less-than-beautiful (because it’s all around)

glitter Easter eggsApril is almost here.

And at least one member of our little family — sometimes two at a time — has been sick with a stomach virus (and “cousins” of the virus, according to our pediatrician) nearly every single day in March.

So as this month winds down, I have some choices:

I could keep wallowing (out loud).

I could hug the wet blanket of depression even tighter around my shoulders.

I could polish off five boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Oh wait.

Or, I could open my eyes and be grateful.

My children are well. At last. My husband and I are well. When it comes down to it, the worst month of illness on record for our family is really no big deal, especially considering (which I do, often) how much worse our situation could be.

And, at the ripe old age of 40, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last 30 days. Such as: being averse to change does me no good.

I can’t tell you how defeating it was to plan each week and then watch it fall apart. I’d panic, re-plan, then panic all over again as those plans crumbled. So I finally (truly) accepted the unpredictability of our situation and quit trying to control it. Taking one day at a time felt so nice, on the occasion that I could really relax into that frame of mind.

Of course I haven’t magically transitioned from Type-A into someone who easily rolls with the punches, but I’ve seen the other side and I have to say it’s actually quite nice.

Also, our house has never been cleaner.

Same goes for the girls’ hands. We have a new obsession with washing hands properly, now that everybody fully understands how important it is. No more squirt-soap-rinse-and-dash for these two.

Another bit of silver lining? The snuggles.

To just be still and hold my girls was such a gift. I feel more connected to them than ever, in a new, stronger way. More worried, of course. But also more in tune with them and their little bodies.

And I can recite lines from the movie “Barbie: Spy Squad.” Which, to my girls, counts as a major win from this experience.

We might get sick again after I hit “publish” on this post. We might not (please let it be so). But it’s important to me to try to find the positive.

And to feel hope as a new month — a new season — is finally upon us.

Recovering from Sophie’s hospitalization, mom-guilt and a whole new level of worry

It’s been a week since Sophie’s hospitalization, and I still feel jittery. Especially at night.

Every sound she makes (from across the hall behind a closed door) wakes me up. And last night, when she cried out in her sleep from a bad dream or something equally benign, I flung myself out of bed and sprinted to her room at a pace that surely would qualify me for the Olympics.

The thing is, Sophie is better. She’s more than better, actually. She’s back to her old self.

But I can’t stop thinking about our experience, especially the kids on her hall at the children’s hospital who are still there. Who might have been there for a while before we arrived and have no chance of going home anytime soon. Being in that setting for 24 hours freaked me out and flooded me with gratitude at the exact same time.

Here’s how we got there:

Sophie started vomiting out of nowhere on a Saturday afternoon. It continued through Sunday afternoon, then she got a reprieve. Gatorade stayed down. Graham cracker bites stayed down. She got off the couch and started acting goofy, which is always a good sign. I figured we’d hit the 24-hour mark and the tide was turning.

So when she threw up a few bites of banana later that night, we figured it was just too heavy, no big deal. Off to bed she went, and we settled in to watch the Oscars and enjoy the peace.

At around midnight, though, little Soph woke with a scream and threw up again. It continued ALL NIGHT. We’ve been through our fair share of stomach bugs, but I’ve never experienced one so awful. Sophie would doze off for just a few minutes, then start heaving again. We were glued to each other all night, and by the time the early morning light mercifully peeked around the edges of her curtains, she looked like a ghost of herself.

Pale, lethargic, her belly caving in instead of pooching out. And the vomit — what little bit came up — started to look scary, like dirt. I took her to the doctor as soon as they opened, and after a hop on the scale and a quick once-over, he sent us to the hospital. Sophie had lost 10 percent of her body weight and was severely dehydrated. He explained to me that with children, once they get to this point of constant vomiting, their little bodies are unable to stop it without help.

I should have known. I should have acted sooner. These thoughts — the mom-guilt — plagued me all the way to the hospital as I fought back tears and kept one eye on the rear-view mirror aimed at my daughter who could barely hold up her head.

She vomited again right by the emergency room doors, and when we got inside, we discovered a room filled with kids holding barf bags. She took a Zofran tablet in triage, which stopped her heaving. We finally got a bed two hours later.

I want to stop here to say how wonderful everyone at Wake Med Children’s Hospital was — the nurses, doctors, patient advocate, techs — everyone. Also amazing that day? My sweet husband. He brought Sophie’s favorite lovey and a sandwich for me, snuggled her in the ER bed, talked to the doctor, handled all of the Lily-logistics and generally kept me calm (which was no small feat).

Soon after Sophie’s IV went in (which was AWFUL), she fell into a deep sleep. We moved to her overnight room in a wheelchair together, and as the sun began to set, I curled up with her, so teeny-tiny in that hospital bed, and tried to close my eyes. It was pointless. So I just stared at her. Listened to her breathe. Held her hand. And cried.

The IV was magical. Sophie woke up later that night a new little person. She ate (and kept down) dry Cheerios and Jell-O before falling back asleep, and she even gobbled down a piece of bacon (!!!) at breakfast the following morning. It’s taken her the better part of the last week to fully regain her appetite (and to poop), but now she is well. Thank God.

I know how easy — how small — our hospital experience was compared to those of really sick kids. And I am more aware than ever of how lucky we are to have healthy children. But I can’t relax in that knowledge. I want more than anything to stop worrying, to stop imagining what could happen to my girls, to just live without constantly looking over my shoulder.

This is classic Suzanne. Worry, imagine the worst, worry some more. I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember, and it really grew legs after I became a mother. The silver lining? I’m aware. I’m getting help for my anxiety. And I’m trying to take care of myself (more sleep, less sugar).

But I haven’t been able to shake this jolt (yet). And now I feel more raw than ever.

Sophie hospitalization

 

10 reasons why I call March my “hopeful month”

daffodils

>>> image source <<<

  1. Daylight Saving Time begins. More daylight = happier Suzanne.
  2. The first day of spring. I am never sad to see winter go.
  3. Daffodils. And tulips. And all of the other beautiful things pushing their way through the brown-ness.
  4. Girl Scout cookies.
  5. March Madness. I am a huge college basketball fan, and I love my Tarheels.
  6. Spring break for Lily. Even though I still go to work, it rests my mind when she has time off and our schedule loosens up a bit.
  7. Easter and egg hunts and happy children running around outside.
  8. This is the month, 16 years ago, that Marc first called to ask me out on a date. Despite all our other significant memories, this one sticks.
  9. St. Patrick’s Day. I love any excuse to watch a parade and drink beer.
  10. Cracking open the windows, letting the house take a nice deep breath of fresh air.

on being less ‘nice’

I just discovered this deftly written New York Times article, and it made me squirm. Especially this line:

She is a beautiful kid, but she is also sure and determined in a way that is not exactly pretty. Which is fine, because God help me if that girl ends up smiling through her entire life as if she is waitressing or pole-dancing or apologizing for some vague but enormous infraction, like the very fact of her own existence.

This is me.

Not the “sure and determined” one. But the other one who wants to be liked by every single person I encounter.

I struggle with this often, especially since becoming a mother.

This evening, for example, when the drive-through attendant scowled at me as I handed over cash for the girls’ ice cream, I smiled and thanked her. Then I thanked her again when she gave me my change. And again — bigger smile, please like me, I’m really a nice customer — when she finally handed me the ice cream.

Even when people say or do things that make me uncomfortable, I continue to find myself smiling, agreeing, ingratiating myself to complete strangers in front of my daughters. I mostly want the encounters to end quickly, but instead of walking away, I engage.

I’m not sure why I continue to make that choice. To avoid causing an awkward situation? To save a stranger’s feelings?

It’s ridiculous, really. But I can’t seem to quit.

We’ll be at the grocery store when someone stops me to say how beautiful Sophie is, or in line at Target when someone comments on Lily’s outfit of the day. The girls don’t usually make eye contact with strangers (good) or acknowledge their remarks (even better), but I can’t not do it.

“Oh thank you. She has her own mind when it comes to fashion,” I say with a wink. Then I look down at Lily with a warped expectation that she follow my lead. When really, most of these exchanges could be short and sweet and — preferably — go unnoticed by my girls.

A cursory nod or quick smile would do the trick. Or maybe (gasp) no acknowledgement at all.

I don’t have to respond.

But I keep doing it. Then scolding myself.

And repeat.

So I raced through the article hoping the author would share a strategy, a solution. How do we resist the impulse to be a people-pleaser in these situations? Better yet, how do we shut it down for good?

Being kind is important to me. But indulging others — especially strangers — in unnecessary ways is a lesson I don’t want to pass on to my girls.

Awareness is a good first step, right? And I’m lucky that my girls are still little enough not to be very attuned to social cues (and usually too distracted to pay attention to these encounters when we’re out in public). So I haven’t entirely blown it.

But what better reason to make a positive change than for the benefit of my children?

This is what drives me to keep trying. To be more confident and protective of my kids and myself.

To be less ‘nice.’

Sophie lately

silly SophieOn putting on her gymnastics leotard:
“Look at me! And I have my panties on so no one can’t see my butt!”

Cooking dinner with Marc:
“What is that beautiful smell in my nose?”

Telling jokes:
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Miss Puh-tatuh
Miss Puh-tatuh who?
Booty!

Being a weirdo:
“When I started eating green beans my tummy got really full and then I started eating breakfast and my breakfast turned into eyeballs.”

On the varying degrees of flatulence:
“Mama! Did you hear that? It was a whispery toot!”

Being a weirdo again:
“I like to smell all my friends’ breath!”

On gratitude:
“I’m so glad we live near the dentist and the doctor and old McDonald’s.”

On her new skills:
“Look Mommy! I can draw a person without nobody helping me!”

On best horticultural practices:
“Flowers need seeds and water and sun and love.”

From the backseat of the car (after getting fussed at for sticking stuff out the window):
“When you and Daddy get small me and Lily are going to get big and I’m going to be the mommy and Lily’s going to be the daddy and I’m going to lock your window!”

forty

I’m not ready.

I graduated from college, got married, had kids. And turned 40 last week. Those things make me a bona fide grown-up, right?

But I’M NOT READY.

The universe isn’t really listening. Laughing is more like it.

Everyone from my husband to a well-meaning aunt tells me that age is just a number and you can’t do anything about it so just keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on. Easier said than done. I don’t know what it is about this new decade. I just don’t feel old enough in my head to be FORTY.

I mean, I vividly remember how the first day of school felt. The thrill of holding my first Cabbage Patch Kid. The rush of driving a car for the first time. The anticipation of my prom date coming to pick me up. More than that, I remember my mom’s 40th birthday. Dad threw her a surprise party, and it was awesome. Surely that was just yesterday, right?

Aren’t I just playing grown-up? There’s no way I’m qualified to be 40. Doesn’t everyone know I have no idea what I’m doing? Am I really the mother of a second-grader? Was that a gray hair in my eyebrow?

These are the thoughts swirling around in my head. Because apparently I don’t deal well with the passage of time.

Time changed the moment I gave birth to Lily. My life propelled from a meandering stroll to a full-on sprint. The days pass entirely too quickly. Lily is going to be EIGHT this year. And don’t even get me started on Sophie, a walking, talking little force of nature.

As agonizing as those baby days were, I long for them in a way that makes my chest hurt.

I packed up baby clothes last month, sobbing in a heap on my bedroom floor. The woman at the donation center had to pry the gigantic plastic tub from my hands. Children are a constant reminder of how cruel time can be.

So many days and hours and minutes are flying by.

Another decade.

I know I’ll get used to it.

I’m so deeply grateful for my life that fretting over a number seems so silly. I’m blessed beyond measure and trying to be aware every single day of how wonderful life really is. Little moments and big ones. The good stuff abounds.

And I can only imagine (and hope for) how much more of that good stuff lies ahead.

Okay, 40. You give me no choice.

Let’s do this.

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