Act Like Nothing’s Wrong

My kids have a Problem. The technical term for their Problem is constipation. It causes encopresis and enuresis. Those are fancy names for shitting and peeing in your pants. It sucks. Prettier, more tactful words would insult our experience. Normal for us is like being perpetually stuck in the potty training phase for half a dozen years with no end in sight, and with the addition of inescapable shame. Out in public we worry. We whisper secrets, cover wet spots, and avoid friends’ houses. Sometimes we just live with it and forget that others don’t carry this burden. We carry changes, schedule sits, and never ever expect the laundry to be finished or the underwear to last all day. As with any other chronic problem it is possible to get used to this baseline. We plan accordingly, and usually manage to live a pretty happy life despite the extra hurdles. We try to act like nothing’s wrong.

A cynical theme song exists for those who live by our mantra.

Right now we are trying to make the Problem go away, and this attempt to control colons consumes us.  Trying to solve the Problem is a million times worse than the Problem not only because it shines a spotlight on something that is difficult to face and to share, but also because it is not working. We have reached out seeking wisdom, and compiled a chaotic collection of conflicting advice that we turn over and over in our heads. We are failing despite the fact that we now have a gastroenterologist, a pediatric urology specialist, and a behavioral psychologist on our team. We are failing despite custom charts and tracking forms that I carry in my purse.  We are failing despite testing so invasive that it happens in a hospital with a child life specialist present. We are failing despite magnesium citrate clean outs, kitchen timers, increased fluid intake, automated reminders from a fancy watch, suppositories, enemas, miralax, exlax, fiber supplements, fancy new water bottles, elimination diets, corn tests, and probiotics. We are failing.

There is talk of surgery. There is second guessing. There are decisions to be made. The return to public school looms. We fear dignity will be compromised. We take solace in denial. We nestle into this safe space and act like nothing’s wrong. We hope that it will make us strong.

I can now never reveal my identity on this blog. I’ll have to be “Beyond” forever, but I am hoping some other struggling family feels a little less alone and a little more okay because I shared. I am also hoping that I’ll one day have the pleasure of linking to another post in which I report a marked increase in the quality of life around here. 

Bravery & Trust

2013 has been a full year.  I think the first step in reviving my blog is dusting off what I already started…The following post about a relationship that began a decade ago has been buried in my drafts folder since River and L’s long lost friendship was cemented last January.

T and I were neighbors in a neighborhood where folks lived unconnected lives in very close proximity. A nasty note on the car windshield about a parking location that inconvenienced another was a far more likely welcome to the street than a plate of cookies.  Yet our bellies both bulged in the same year so we took a leap and said hello to each other. It could have stopped there, but by spring of the boys’ first year I was back at work and the babysitter’s paycheck ate up the bulk of mine. The idea of a nanny share seemed to be the solution. I had only talked to T that once, but geography was a factor in sharing childcare, so in addition to posting online I braved whatever gulf existed between me and the stranger two doors down, walked the 20 yards from my door to hers and knocked. We took a bigger leap and got to know one another. T was older, wiser, and wilder than me. She had more degrees and experiences. She had a more developed sense of identity. She was hip and put together and therefore somewhat scary to me. (In her defense most folks are hipper and more put together than me, and most new folks are somewhat scary. And also, she still is all those wonderful things she was back then.) Anyway, we were different, yet also the same. Our babies were less than two months apart, and neither of us felt we fit into the typical mom mold for the area. We were struggling to make idealistic nonprofit jobs work for us post baby. We both valued our extended family. We were enough the same that we decided to choose to trust each other and to share a nanny.

It was good, but I was greedy. I wanted more of my paycheck. I wanted something even more special for my son. I wanted a childcare co-op. I invited T to take another leap. We recruited families, braved differences, found common ground, built trust, hired sitters, waded through the hard parts, and created something special. River and L’s community grew. Our childcare co-op was awesome, imperfect and challenging. It deserves its own story. (Another post to write someday…)

Eventually we left not just the neighborhood, but the city and the state and the part of the country. Co-op ended. Lives diverged. Was the temporary joining of our lives worth the effort? Absolutely. Did our kids remember any of it? Of course not. How did it affect their development? We may never know. What I do know is that the sense of trust we developed all those years ago allowed my friend to leave her son L with me for a few days earlier this year. I did not hesitate to say yes. Maybe the boys’ shared early childhood (or least the stories we have told them and pictures we shared) left an imprint on their hearts. They live such different lives yet their paths converged without a hitch into a few days of joyful wrestling, bug collecting, building, and romping in the woods. Differences in race, neurological tendencies, and life experience were not the hurdles one might have expected. Watching these two boys forge a friendship in their 10th year so long after they grew together as babies and toddlers was the kind of experience a life well lived should be all about. It reminded me that new people are worth knowing, and leaps are worth taking.

Mine to Share?

I am struggling with how much of my kids’ world is mine to share. I don’t post pictures of their faces. I don’t use their real names. I want to share my struggles and successes as a mother in order to reflect and connect with others. However as my children embrace literacy, enter the world of the internet, and share my computer I question whether the details our daily adventures are mine to discuss. I wonder how much of their world I would encourage them to share online. I think, and I pause before I post. This pause leads to an examination of identity – how much of me is separate from them now that I have thrown myself into homeschooling (yes, River joined us at home shortly after my last post on the subject!)? I am still pondering. I may have to resort to fictional writing prompts while I figure it out.

Warm Up

I logged in just to say, “Hello, out there! And Happy New Year to all!” Real post coming soon(ish). I hope.

Remember when?

Remember when I was going to post daily? That never quite happened. I have obviously had a little trouble implementing my plan to become a writer into the chaos that is my life. Does it mean I am slacking off? Does it mean I am not a writer? I’d like to think it just means I am at a time in my life when I have become OK with having fluid priorities. Their fluidity allows me to adjust expectations of myself in order to stay even keeled and meet my needs and those of the folks around me. At some point this will not be OK. For now, I think it is. Therefore, I no longer intend to post daily. I still intend to become a writer someday and continue practicing on occasion while I am busy living life and collecting experiences.

Remember when I said I was going to home school my kids? River rejected my offer of home school and has embraced public school. This was a major curve ball, but the bright side is that I feel more comfortable pushing him to succeed there now that I have offered him an out. Creek has kinda sorted started homeschooling. It feels like it has been a long time since we pulled her out of school, but we were busy with visiting grandparents and holiday weekends until today. The few days I had set aside for planning  were spent fighting strep throat so we’re winging it. It’s not working well yet. I am calling it an experiential learning process for both of us. The fluidity comes in handy here too.

Just when I am starting to wonder whether I am as fluid as a lazy river and will never get anywhere fast…

Remember what I always said I wanted to do, but never did? Of course you don’t since most of you had not met me yet. Half a life time ago I bought used guitar at a garage sale. I really, really wanted to learn how to play. I still do. I feel kind of silly starting in my mid thirties, but ready or not… Creek and I are starting guitar lessons tomorrow :) I hope the teacher likes the garage sale guitar I have been saving for the last 18 years. Also, I hope to be typing my next post with calloused finger tips.

Compromise Soup

A trip to the Target Clinic lead to a little accidental shopping on Black Friday Buy Nothing Day. “Would you like a buzzer so you can shop while you wait to see our nurse practitioner?” lead to some moderate grocery shopping for the items on my list, plus a few other practical additions that will work well with what is in my fridge. I felt pretty OK with that.  But, “Your prescription will be ready in about thirty minutes. Maybe you have some shopping to do? ” lead me further astray. I was kid free in a place with dressing rooms so I was pretty much obligated to try on clothes. It was easy to justify looking for pants since I was  wearing my best pair of jeans, and they already have holes. By checking out two minutes before noon I got a $10 gift card free with purchase which I was able to apply to the cost of my Rx. It was a slippery, slippery strep throat induced slope.

Now I am home, waiting for my compromise soup to cool down. My ad hoc recipe follows:
1 can of totally processed all-American Campbell’s chicken noodle soup
8 oz of shredded squash (frozen when we got sick of the garden and farm’s bounty and gave up on keeping up with the crunchy Joneses)
2 carrot juice ice cubes (frozen when I realized my kids were not going to warm up to it as beverage before it spoiled in our fridge)

ETA – Compromise soup tastes weird. Do not copy this recipe. Better yet, don’t compromise. Leave that to me :)

Recycling Stinkbugs

20121003-084532.jpgBack when I started this bug blog I was all about vacuuming clementines. Now I find myself “recycling stinkbugs”. It is another phrase that sticks in my mind and embodies contradictions I have yet to name.

Stink bugs really are such harmless (to us) cute little critters that just want to co-exist. Unfortunately for them they do not just keep to themselves on our windowsills and hitch rides to the landfill in our recycling bins. They too often cross the line and decide to coexist a little more intimately than our family would prefer… on my pillowcase, in the hood of Rock’s rainjacket, on the toiletpaper roll, inside our printer, and even in my pockets. At first I was a little uncomfortable with the invasion. Now I enjoy watching them, and I have discovered the unexpected meditative peace that comes from sucking them up with our amazing Bugzooka. It is an evening routine that quiets my mind. I think others find a similar restorative calm in activities like knitting or yoga or maybe even visits to the shooting range.

In other news… I have let the dream job pass me by. I am going to start homeschooling my kids at the end of the school quarter. In addition to looking forward to slowing the pace of our family life and embracing a year of retreat in the woods together I could really use their help sucking up all those stink bugs and they could use a piece of that meditative peace.
P.S. If you know me irl please keep the homeschooling thing quiet for now. I don’t want anyone to tell my kids before I do! And I don’t want them to be in school knowing they are leaving for too long.

More Than Just a Morning Hike

When I zip out for a quick hike on the Appalachian Trail in between the the cyclical daily routines of family life I often exchange pleasantries with solitary people carrying loads on their backs. The treads on my boots step where the treads on their boots stepped. Some of those boots have been walking for hundreds of miles, and the brief crossing of our paths deepens my connection to the trail and to places beyond where I am.

In Which Society’s Expectations Chase Me Into the Woods and I Offer it a Beverage

We are settled in a place so lovely we embrace our ginormous commuting carbon foot prints and the associated compromise and hypocrisy. When not commuting we commune with nature in a kind of lopsided put it in a cage or jar and identify it via the internet before we let it go sort of way. And also in a trap it and remove it from our living area if we cannot coexist with it sort of way. We unpack, organize, say hi to strangers some of whom will slowly become our familiar everyday people of tomorrow or next week or month or year. Then we hop into the car and retreat to the familiar – the strangers of before who have become the people we left and return to. We drive back and forth, back and forth, back and forth on endless repeated roads.  The kids are ready to give up the car and start teleporting. Me too.

Meanwhile, I expect myself to run out and get a job and make money and find professional fulfillment. I think it is what Society expects now that Creek has grown up and gone off to first grade.  And what Rock planned on. And what I always assumed comes next. However, I could not have imagined ever being so content managing our lives and volunteering at school and church and kids’ activities. It was never what I wanted. I am supposed to go out and achieve greatness somewhere, someday, but some days I don’t feel I have the spare time to live up to such a lofty goal . It is an old story that many struggle with. My solution is to take Society out for a cup of coffee here, a pint of beer there, and if we sit around and discuss it an answer (or two or three) just might emerge. The more “we” talk the more excited I become about professional possibilities. Simultaneously,  the more I savor the present respite in which I have time to separate googly eyes from stickers, to reach out to care for extended family, and to figure out just what comes next and more importantly, why it comes next. You all are welcome to come out to the woods and join “us” in the conversations, but I refuse to hop in the car and drive to you until River grows up and invents a practical way to teleport.

For now there are boxes left to shuffle, appointments to make, the usual endless streams of laundry and dishes and mundane paperwork, breaks to snuggle with a sweet old dog who loves the retirement home we have chosen for her final years,  and posts to write about stink bugs, snakes, scouts and other complications life throws our way. Stay tuned. Beyond is back!

Unmoored

Did you ever google the word unmoored? Turns out it is the name of a Swedish Death Metal Band

We are in the process of shedding that underwater anchor we’ve been tied to and casting off into the great big wonderful world. I feel like an animal who has been caged and is finally on the verge of freedom – unexpectedly incapable of moving forward, scared to death of what could be beyond the place that at some point changed from a prison to something more akin to the safe, familiar crate our dog used to hide in when confronted by fireworks or crowds.

Each day I find myself pondering the perennials and the other things we cannot bring along. We have mastered this home, conquered every corner, and used every available space. We wrestled with it and we won.  We made it a happy home despite the angst and the hurdles it threw at us. We became a part of this place, and it became a part of us. We improved it, and we improved ourselves. It is almost time to venture out to the scary open space and let life toss us around a little. There will be stress until we set our course. Even once we think we know where we are headed, we will have to relinquish some control to the universe which could very well disrupt our plans. And after we have accepted a little distortion we will need to embrace the chaos of getting to our destination, and the long process of making it a home.

In the meantime, we are savoring the pause before we cut loose and realizing that there is much to celebrate even as we let go and move on.

I listened to a few of those death metal songs. They may be an apt soundtrack for the the near future, but for now I am going to cling to a folk music medley.

 

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