Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Highs and Lows and a Cessation of Sorts

So, it's been a while. I got back from Colorado to a life of near-chaos and absolutely no tiny babies to snuggle. At least I had Maggie. Always willing to lend a cheerful wrinkly face to my personal world view.


On Wednesday, the day after my return, my nanny called in sick, James was coaching until 7, I had a ton of work, and all three of my kids needed to be somewhere different at precisely 5:30 p.m. So that was something.


Even better- that night, after relying on friends and my middle child's willingness to bring a book to gymnastics 30 minutes early and get in some "quality reading time" so we could all get everywhere we needed to be- James came home from coaching looking pale and terrible. And so began possibly the longest 36 hours of our marriage.


James was terribly horribly sick. After going through all the sheets, towels, laundry soap, and bleach we owned, I got maybe 90 minutes of cobbled together sleep and of course Landon had to be at school by 7:30 a.m. for Math Bee practice. I stumbled out to make lunches and somehow got everyone off on time. I then attempted to get dressed for work, laid down in our bed, currently stripped to the mattress while James slept on the couch on our last clean towel, and, still wearing the very-much-indoor slippers I'd worn to drop-off, I slept/fell unconscious for 3 hours.

I woke up, hoping James was still among the living, and upon discovering he was, barely, wondered at what point you go to the emergency room for a stomach virus. He'd lost nearly 20 lbs. and looked near death. We spoke with a GI nurse who said if he couldn't keep down a tablespoon of pedialyte an hour he would need IV fluids to protect his kidneys within 6 hours. He managed just barely that.

I stayed home from work for the next day because James asked me not to leave him alone and I didn't.

So it was a pretty rough return to reality, though I only thought so because I hadn't experience this past week yet (foreshadowing!). On the upside, I invited friends over for poolside wine and swimming for any kids crazy enough to jump in our freezing pool on Friday evening. I badly needed to be around humans who retained their bodily fluids.


The mamas didn't even pretend that swimming was on the table, but we had fun watching our kids dare each other to do so.


James had dragged himself to lessons (he didn't have any other certified life guards - besides himself - for that day, so it was that or cancel everything; he sat in a chair in the far corner) and when he called on his way home he said, "where are you? it sounds like there's a lot of background noise." He loves when the answer is, "our backyard." He went immediately from the car to the couch and I went in to bring him a new pedialyte with a festive straw so he could feel like part of the party.


On Saturday, James was feeling a little stronger, so in an effort to regain some joy in my life, I signed up for yoga teacher training! James had gifted it to me for Christmas and the summer schedule was doable (I mean barely, but what 200-hour training would be?) and I just wanted it so bad. I love learning, I love yoga, and Cora would still be at her daycare all summer, making this our last one without THREE crazy camp schedules. I felt like I either needed to do it now or wait until they're all in college. So I signed up. Squealed a bit. And then immediately bought the required books and school supplies. (To be clear, the school supplies are only required in my own head/heart/soul; any new adventure should have them, but the books, I really did need.)


I remain absolutely and utterly ecstatic at the idea of being back in school. Training begins in the middle of June and runs through mid-August on Tues, Wed, and Thurs nights from 7:15-10:15 (and sometimes 11:15). James is on board and we can do this. I've already begun journaling my classes and each entry brings me enormous joy.

Homework! I'm doing it.


On Saturday night we attended our latest children's play at the fabulous Casa Manana. This year the children's series included something a little different from the usual five musicals and we got to see Jason Bishop, the Illusionist! And he was GREAT! The kids were utterly enthralled and James and I had a few wide-eyed glances at each other as well. Landon declared it the greatest play ever and we remain proud and satisfied season ticket holders of Casa.


I have no distinct memories of Sunday, but I know I taught barre and I think James finally got to add rice to his chicken broth and that was very exciting for everyone.


And then last week began. On Monday I found out the 18-year-old daughter of a fellow teacher at Urban Yoga had passed away from the breast cancer she should have been too young to get and had fought fiercely for a year. It is heartbreaking and I will not try to put words to the pain her mother and family must feel. I know the pall it put over my day and the heaviness it placed on my own heart. I have never posted such a link before, but Teresita is a single mother and yoga teacher and is left with the additionally painful reality of her sweet daughter's medical bills. If you are so moved, you can read their story and help here.

I had a dermatology appointment in the afternoon for a spot I'd found near my left ear. My doctor didn't think it was cancer- not yet anyway, but in an abundance of caution opted for a chemotherapy cream to treat any precancerous cells that may be fomenting. She promised a different cream than the one that ate my chest a few years ago, so I tried to be hopeful that my skin wouldn't freak out and start eating itself again. Then, as her hand was on the door to leave, I remembered a tiny skin tag on my neck that had never bothered me before but was now right on the seam of my favorite exercise tank and would get rubbed and irritated and I'd meant to ask her about removing it. But with her hand on the door I did my usual internal debate about "being a bother" and then - yay therapy - took a breath and said I had one more thing and told her about the tag. "Oh, no problem, we can remove that right now," she said, as she closed the door and walked back over to the table. She snipped it off and then started to walk away. Then walked back. Then cocked her head. Paused. And said, "well, I don't like that." And I ended up with a biopsy for a mole I didn't know I had, hiding underneath a skin tag I almost didn't bother about. "Don't worry about this one," she said as I got dressed, "your skin looks great and you're doing all the right things." I bought more of my favorite sunscreen on my way out and tried to follow her directions.

On Tuesday night we found out James's dad is in hospice. A few hours later, Claire came down with whatever James had the week before and the poor thing was up every hour and we had to make up the trundle bed on her floor because she couldn't get up and down her bunk bed stairs to the bathroom fast enough. There was very little sleeping and she ended up missing school, and being up all night, every night, for the rest of the week.


On Wednesday I had my work review. I left from there to take Claire to the doctor and then Maggie to the vet because her allergies were still terrible, her eyes were gloopy, and she'd had what seemed like a small seizure on Sunday that had freaked me out while not bothering her at all. $250 at the vet later and we had 4 different medicines to give out 2x daily and the information that bulldogs are prone to epilepsy but there's no reason to treat unless/until the seizures bother her and interfere with her life, but if she had more than one a month, we should reach back out. I worked at home from 6-9 p.m. and Maggie stood in as paralegal.


On Thursday I was back at work bright and early, still not sleeping thanks to the stomach virus destroying the digestive system of my middle child, and ready for an evidence review in one of my cases. A few hours later I got the call from my dermatologist's office that my skin biopsy had come back positive and I needed to schedule the out-patient surgery asap to remove the cancer. I'd have a few stitches, but should feel fine later in the day. I scheduled it for next Tuesday the 23rd and then made a quick stop at Lululemon on my way to teach barre to spend my feelings. They were expensive, but also 25% off thanks to my instructor discount.


And then that night, after teaching my bare class, my cancer and I decided we weren't cooking dinner so I out we all went. I had a margarita and some pupusas and life was almost good. Until I somehow dropped one of my wedding bands down the seam between the passenger seat and console in James's suburban. And after googling, shining lights, employing chopsticks and tweezers and every position as far up and back the mechanical chair could go, we couldn't find it or get it out. And apparently undoing the bolts and removing the seat will set off the airbag. So I still don't have my ring. I'm not sure whether it's the one I got the day we got married in 2005 or the one I got for our 10th anniversary in 2015, but I miss it. And THEN, just to top off the shitshow (literally! #StomachVirusOfDoom) of the last week and ensure I was now failing in EVERY area of my life, I got in a stupid terrible fight with James that ended with me grounding myself to the TV room couch and sleeping apart from him in the same house by choice for the first and only time in our 18.5 years together.

On Friday morning we attended Landon's Math Bee. The morning rush had been busy, I had not slept, and James and I still hadn't spoken when we both showed up separately at our kids' school. We proceeded to act like amicably divorced parents, sitting with a broken chair between us and talking with friends in rows directly in front of and behind us but never to each other, while we nervously, but separately sent mental-math-vibes to our eldest child.


And then, after 14 rounds, Landon won the Math Bee! It was great! We were so proud! Separately!


Math Bee and Spelling Bee Champ- he's a double threat.


James ducked out before the reception, so we didn't have to make awkward small talk over cookies. I wanted to bang my head repeatedly on the table while muttering this is not my life and ignoring how uneven my engagement ring looked with only one band flanking its side, but instead I passed out cookies and took a picture with our mental math champ. Then I went home and Maggie had another small seizure. Much like the "don't worry about this biopsy," having a second one six days after her first really killed the "don't worry, we'll only be concerned if it's more than once a month" advice I was leaning on.


But my day ended at the patio of our local taco place at 5 p.m. with my dog in a dress from her new spring collection and several of my bestie mama friends surrounding me in love and light and frozen tequila. Our kids were also there, at another table, eating the queso and chips we had all lovingly provided for dinner.


Another friend joined our party and Maggie adopted herself out to various tables throughout the evening.


My spirits were lifted and then I got this amazing/hilarious message on my Facebook wall from a mom I only knew through my 12,000+ member Law Mom facebook group and my spirits lifted even more.


I love that Maggie brings the community together.


Things got better of course, I apologized to James and we made up and are back on our solid, easy foundation; Claire was finally able to keep down food and return to the living; my friends lifted my heart and made me laugh. The kids are wonderful. Maggie is my canine soul mate.


Though, just for more background, after three days of delicate use my chemo cream made my tiny "spot of concern" turn into a red itchy spot of cancerous fire by Friday, so it turns out there was some cancer there after all. Yay.


Maggie in her SPF sun dress, not needing chemo cream

But still, much is good.


So very much, really.


The day to day, the usual ease and flow of our busy, happy lives.


Lives that only rarely feel as busy as they are.


And I've missed you guys. I have stories! Funny stories about the kids, the dog, and life generally. My parents have moved (again!) and we're visiting them at their new house this weekend. My sister and her family will be there and my kids will get to meet their newest tiny baby cousin. My yoga reading, and writing, and training are a new well of joy. My friends are a source of support and laughter.

So much is good. And yet, I'm taking a little break.


I've been wanting to give an update on this post. I almost have, so many times, but, with a bit of selfishness and pride, I always wanted to wait until I had a real milestone- a victory of sorts- something to show the happy ending/epilogue of the story I started last year.

But depression and anxiety don't really work like that, and therapy doesn't either. It's powerful strides forward and confusing falls back; painful steps up again, and then surprising slides backward; and a lot of time with work and thought and talk and absolutely no movement at all. I'm used to action, to to-do lists and work and accomplishments and getting things done. It has been an experience in personal growth to learn that sometimes progress IS in the going backwards. The realizing that much of how you've lived/existed/processed thoughts wasn't great for you and you have to re-work that and it's hard. Hard and painful and sometimes so seemingly counterproductive you want to scream. Who knew I'd been doing so much wrong? Who knew that six months into therapy I still wouldn't be able to do things right, but instead I would be VERY aware of what I was doing wrong. It's painful and it's hard and inconvenient and I had excuses lined up in my brain 24 hours before every appointment, excuses I'd mutter as I left work/home, drove over, parked, and would still be muttering as I walked in the door.

I thought I had reached my victory- my finish line and mountain-top moment after Christmas. One year before we'd driven home from Colorado in silence while tears ran down my cheeks and I finally told James I knew something was wrong and I needed help. I think it was all he could do not to yell "YES/I KNOW/THANK GOD" while I googled therapists. I anxiously awaited my first appointment. Things got better. After three other attempts, we found an anti-depressant that worked. Therapy worked. Time, effort, work worked. My appointments got further apart. I was better and stronger and freer than I had been in a long time. My thoughts didn't cyclone as I tried to fall asleep. I didn't ruminate on hurts in the past I couldn't change or ever feel better about. I understood I spit out anxiety as anger to the one person with whom I felt safest and I could now take a breath to slow that shit down. We drove back from another Colorado Christmas chatting about our trip and sharing thoughts on the year ahead. I was buoyant. I was excited to post the same.

Then the furlough hit. And stayed. And for 35 days my extroverted, bread-winning self withered, and every behavior I thought I'd conquered came barreling back, and far from "victory," I made the move to go back to biweekly therapy instead. I had no doubts or regrets, but a part of me felt like I was going backwards and I hated it. The start of the year was just really hard in a way I didn't anticipate and frankly, thought I was beyond.

It's better. I'm better. At my last appointment in March my therapist told me it really sounded like I was doing well and that I could schedule my next appointment for anytime I wanted- one month or even three months from now. And so we're on quarterly check-ins. I feel really good. Oh I'm still on Prozac, but last week aside - or really, last week included because that's the whole damn point - I feel good. Stronger, lighter.

My kids are getting older and more complicated, as is my marriage, and I'm such a better me to walk beside each of these four most important people in my life.

This isn't goodbye, and who knows- finally sitting down and writing again from 9-11 p.m. may have reminded me of why I love and need to put thoughts to words so much. But just in case this is a bit of a pause, I wanted to leave you with this picture of my butterfly bulldog. Because this remains one of my most favorite posts I've ever written and then re-read over the years. And I know I'll be back to record more of what brings me joy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

PJ's, Fine Wine, and Baby Snuggles

I'm back from spending the BEST 4 days in Colorado hanging out with my sister, brother-in-law, toddler-niece, and brand-new-tiny-baby-niece, Rio Linnae!


I flew in on Saturday, a luxurious solo flight with a quick stopover in Lubbock because my original direct flight was canceled. Without kids, I just had my rolling suitcase, purse, and an extra hand to hold my non-fat, extra hot, no-water chai tea latte, which was a treat. I watched 3 episodes of Workin' Moms that I downloaded from Netflix (wry, dark, dirty, hilarious, and sometimes so accurate it made me want to cry), landed in Denver, got picked up at the airport by my brother-in-law, and walked in the door of their lovely new home and demanded to hold their not-yet-3-week-old baby.


I was in heaven.


I love having big kids- they're fun and funny and so much their own little selves. I love our adventures and getting to know the people they're becoming.


But oh my goodness, it was a delight to dip back into the black and white world of a newborn.


"Excuse me madam, I'm highly complex

"In fact. I'm thinking of becoming mildly irritated. Hold me."


"I'm starving. Here is an adorable little baby sheep bleating sound to show my fury."


"I'm fed and dry and all my needs are met so I'm back to being ADORABLE."


"You are so warm and cozy. I will sleep on you for three hours while you watch Project Runway."


It was amazing and there wasn't a hormone-induced emotional flameout in sight.


Lolz, someday.

It was a simply lovely four days- baby holding, chatting, cooking all the meals, drinking much of the wine, and hanging out and reading books with my first niece who is almost 3.


Most special, besides all the new baby love (OBVIOUSLY), was getting to spend so much time with a sister I barely liked when I left home for college when I was 18 and she was 15 and now so enjoyed getting to know even better as a mother and kick-ass professional working woman. It was the most time we'd spent together since we would have wanted to spend time together and it was so great. I loved that I could go up there so easily (thank you to James and my out of office message at work) and just give me- my time, recipes, advice, experience, solidarity, arms, and knowledge of how to find the Netflix app on their upstairs TV.


I missed my own babies of course, but FaceTime (or "facebook" as Cora called it) helped bring them to me- and bring their two cousins to them. And most importantly, bring Maggie to us all.


We left the house a single time - for a quick trip to TJ Maxx and out to a delicious lunch in the quaint downtown near their house. We forgot to get a picture, but did get one once we returned. We'd put on pants and makeup- it should be documented.


The next day we never changed out of pj's and that was just as wonderful.


Before I left I'd emailed my sister a few ideas of recipes for me to make, she gratefully approved them, and I made her a shopping list she sent to be delivered so all the supplies would be waiting for me when I arrived. It was perfect! I loved being able to cook- it's such a tangible helpful thing, and without coming home from being at work all day or three kids running around, doing so was positively luxurious.


For those interested, I made Superhero Muffins because breakfast is always overlooked and it's so hard to eat when you're feeding a baby and getting a toddler off to school and these are so filling and hearty and healthy (they were LOVED); Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa Salad because lunch is similarly overlooked and it's so nice to have something waiting for you in the fridge (and this recipe is DELICIOUS and different and can be eaten with a spoon in front of an open fridge door); this tasty Greek Turkey Skillet with cut up veggies, tzatziki, and naan on the side; these crockpot Meatballs with roasted carrots tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder, and oven fries; and finally this Crock Pot Easy Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili that I could throw together and turn on Low before I headed to the airport to fly home. Val and Billy loved everything and were so appreciative and it was such an easy and enjoyable thing for me to do, though I'll admit, the night I got home I totally had James pick up pizza.


I got home yesterday afternoon. My plane landed at 3 (I'd finished Workin' Moms and moved on to I'm Sorry, which I'm also loving. Apparently I need dark, wry comedy in my life right now), I was home by 4:30 and got to greet the dog and human children with great joy.


I changed into workout clothes to go teach barre at 5:30 (I wasn't able to get a sub and since I'd barely moved in 4 days, a forced workout didn't seem like the worst idea (except also, it did)) while the kids got ready to go to swim practice with the nanny. We were all reunited by 6:30 and James ran out to pick up my favorite pizza. Later, once the kids were in bed, we did what any couple would do after three long lonely nights apart-- we sat down on the couch and did our taxes for four hours.


Unpaid Accounting Assistant

Sadly, that is not a euphemism, but it was still nice to be home.


And even nicer to have the memories of those hazy, cozy days snuggling my new niece and spending time with my sister and her little family. I'm so very thankful to have been able to make them.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

California Spring Break Days 6-8: Seals, Sand, and Sunsets

I'm at the airport waiting to fly to Colorado. This might be the earliest I've ever been at the boarding area for a flight- as it turns out, getting one person out the door is way faster than getting five. I'm headed to Denver to meet my newest baby niece, see my sister and brother-in-law and cook them lots of food, and play with my newly crowned big sister niece. Southwest unceremoniously canceled my original direct flight 5 days ago but were able to book me on another. I just have to layover in Lubbock. I didn't even realize Lubbock had an airport, but I'll be there about 20 minutes after we take off from Dallas. But before I bounce around in Texas and land in the mile high city, let's go back to California.


We woke up on Day 6 of our vacation to the sound of waves and absolutely nowhere to be. The house we rented is one of the only single family residences left on South Mission Beach. The current owner, now in his mid-60's, grew up in it, something my children were very jealous of when they heard him say so. Now he and his brother rent it out and we are so glad! It was wonderful to have our own house- no shared walls, no shared patios, just our own space to spread out and make our own for three days.


So back to Day 6 - everyone slept in and woke up to a lazy breakfast on the beach-side patio. We discovered a giant sand pile directly in front of us (extra sand from smoothing the volleyball courts, I'd guess?) and the kids (James included) immediately jumped on it and started digging. I drank tea in my pj's and a sweatshirt under the shade of our patio umbrella and watched the volleyball players volley and my family members dig... whatever they were digging


Since the sand was still pretty cool (it was in the 50's in the morning and upper 60's/low 70's in the afternoon), we decided to go on a morning adventure, eat lunch out, and then come back for an afternoon of sand and sea. A few blog commenters had mentioned the seals and cliffs at La Jolla and we thought that sounded fun. I typed in "Seal Rock" to google maps and off we went, about 5 miles and 20 minutes away to the stunningly beautiful La Jolla Children's Beach/Seal Rock.


And it is CRAZY beautiful. The kids were delighted to find cliffs right up by the water. I mean, is it even a Lag Liv family vacation if we aren't climbing on something?


It is NOT. We felt right at home.


The water was SO beautiful and it was absolutely surreal to be so close to the seals and see them swimming, sunning, and nursing their pups.


After running around on the sand, admiring the seals, and just hanging out, I googled a lunch place and decided on The Taco Stand. It had a couple thousand reviews and a line out the door when we arrived.


We ordered many things. I went with the California Burrito which involves steak, french fries (oh yes), sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, queso, and maybe other things? I don't remember the specifics through the haze of deep, true love I tumbled into upon my first bite. This is my platonic ideal of a burrito. I savored every bite, even all the ones I took past the point I was full to burst.


We added the carne asada fries (fries! with steak and queso and all the other delicious California things!) at the end for dessert and I regret nothing.


We drove back to our "new house," stopping at the store again quickly for a third shovel (the house had many beach toys, but only two large shovels and I decided we could invest $2.99 in my children's joy and my own sanity), more strawberries (we'd inhaled the two giant cartons I'd bought the day before), and something for dinner. Once home, James decided we needed to rent a motorized scooter to putz up and down along the little walkway in front of our house.


I got a ride too- and love that I was in a sweatshirt and jeans while Cora was in a sleeveless sundress. We were both very comfortable.


Later we moved on to sand castling.


While I sat in the sand, still in my jeans and sweatshirt, reading under my beach umbrella we found at the house. It was perfection.


A couple hours and a lot of sand later, we ate dinner on the deck, and then made use of the now-empty volleyball courts for a little ball before bed. It felt like the Mission Beach thing to do.


James and I watched a movie, the kids slept soundly in their rooms at the back of the house... this is my favorite kind of vacation.

On Day 7, our last full day, we allowed ourselves the luxury of doing exactly what we wanted to do and nothing we thought we should. We contemplated going somewhere new - there is so much to see and in/around Mission Beach and San Diego, but what we wanted to do was stay in pj's for 2 hours and watch a movie with all the windows open and then go back and visit our seals. So that is exactly what we did.

And the seals rewarded us by hanging out even closer on the sand when we arrived!


We had the beach to ourselves and this time the kids (and James) wore swim suits because they are crazy. The water was FREEZING. I got my toes wet one time and was glad for my jeans and jacket. But man, was it beautiful.


Watching Cora at the beach is nearly as much fun as watching Cora on a roller coaster. She bursts with joy, that one.


Landon found cliffs to climb, of course.


And then everyone decided to go in the water because 59 degrees sounded refreshing.


James said it was colder than Lake Superior, but he got to watch the seals swim under water and declared it totally worth it.


As I was walking back up the path to our car, a woman stopped me and showed a picture she took of me and the kids sitting out on the point earlier in our adventure. In halting English she said she thought we looked "so beautiful" and wondered if I'd like it. And I did!!! I'm the photographer, I so rarely end up in the candid pictures. It was the most thoughtful special thing and I ADORE the picture.


We stopped at the Taco Stand yet again because it was delicious and all I wanted in my life was another 15 bites of California Burrito. It's true love and I will not apologize for it. And even though we knew we probably should stop somewhere new, nobody had any objections.

We spent the rest of the day on the sand. Volleyball, digging, running in the surf, reading (me!), snacking, playing volleyball, frisbee, football, and whatever else they could come up with. It was so lovely and relaxing. I love the beach. I love having kids old enough to just go play while we occasionally perform a headcount. A new family came in to the rental house next to ours and they had 3 kids, including a son (10) named Landon James, which was crazy and confusing and fun, and a daughter Claire's age, which was so great. Landon was throwing the frisbee with the other Landon until the last ray of sun left the land and then up again at 6:30 to do it again until the last minute we had to leave.


On our last day we checked out of our house, drove back up the coast, stopping in Dana Point for brunch (Cap'n Crunch french toast, you are my second love), Crystal Cove for a goodbye to the beach, and then LAX to drop off our car and fly home. Our flight was delayed so we had a high-priced mediocre dinner at an airport restaurant (the reason we are almost always able to avoid those), but our plane was a jumbo jet that had just flown in from Beijing and the kids were delighted with the 9-seats across, the in-flight entertainment, and the double snacks.


We pulled up to our "old house" just before midnight, another fabulous vacation in the books and a to-do list that included laundry, grocery shopping, and calling the insurance company in the morning.