Saturday, June 28, 2008

Worry Wart

This summer has been a time of change and growing in many respects for our family. I've given the kids a more active role in keeping the house clean by doing a magnetic chore list that hangs on the side of the frig and we rotate the chores weekly. For the most part, they've really done well with that. It's funny to see the joy on the face of the person assigned to water the flowers when it rains three days in a row. And, I've been desperately trying to keep up with never ending the cycle of sorting, washing, drying, and putting away the endless amounts of laundry. But, the biggest changes and growing have to do with my oldest.

He's 11 now and will be in junior high in the fall. While he used to be content to just hang out with the family all summer, I can see that he's starting to sprout small wings and wants to do things with his friends. Since he still seems to like us and does still enjoy family time, it makes me happy to see him develop close friendships--all a part of growing up! However, through these friendships we've realized that while J likes to have fun with his friends, he's really a homebody. He likes his routine; he likes his bed; he likes what is familiar. This causes a tremendous problem when someone asks him to spend the night.

He's been like this in the past, but he was younger. There was a time period about 3 years ago where a couple of his friends really wanted him to spend the night and he just couldn't. He knew his friends' families well, but he was terrified to spend the night away from home. I chalked it up to him being young and figured that within a couple of years we'd be begging HIM to stay home with us. But that hasn't been the case and it's starting to concern me.

This summer he's been asked to spend the night with people several times. A few times it wouldn't work out due to our schedule, a few times he begged me to make an excuse so he wouldn't have to go, and a couple of times he's actually done it. He survived, but not without incident. He either convinces himself that he's injured in some bizarre way, or that his "stomach hurts". Each time this has happened, we've received a call from him and we've told him to gut up and just stay.

Last weekend, he went to a sleep over and didn't call!! Mike and I looked at each other at 11:30 that night and said, "Do we dare even think that he's actually going to do it without a phone call?" And, he did it. I thought he was cured and then last night he did it again and I totally lost my cool.

He was supposed to spend the night with his friend who lives about 2 minutes away from our house if you're driving. This friend had been with Mike and J at a baseball game, the boys were having fun and when Mike went to drop him off, he had developed this mysterious stomach ache. Mike said he was doubled over and in tears, so his friend was very understanding and told him to not worry about it. Mike said J actually looked like he was going to throw up, so this friend was probably worried J was going to throw up on him.

So, when he came home and told me why he wasn't at his friend's house, I just wanted to shake him. I listed all kinds of reasons why this fear of his is totally ridiculous. Next summer he very well might have to go away for 3 days to a basketball camp. How in the world will he handle that? I was disgusted with him and after I told him to go to bed in a tone that really wasn't very loving, I lay in bed trying to figure out why I was so angry. Did it really matter if he didn't spend the night with his friend? It didn't. I realized that my anger was based out of fear. I don't want him to be afraid of life because if he is, he's going to miss out on so much.

I lived most of my childhood in fear and worry. I was worried something would happen to my mom, I was terrified of my first step-father, I put way too much thought into what people at school felt about me because I wanted so much to be liked. Although my mom always meant well, she put so much fear on me because she was afraid something terrible would happen to me. I was a paranoid mess and as a result, I don't think I enjoyed things enough. I think I grew up too fast. Not in the respect that I was chasing boys or drinking at 9 years old, but I could not just sit back and take things for face value. My life was always over analyzing, deep thinking, and anxiety. Even in the midst of something as fun, there was always a part of me that held back.

I don't want this for any of my children and I feel like out of the four of them, J has inherited this awful trait from me. He went to bed last night feeling like he had disappointed me and I went to bed feeling like a jerk. Later when I couldn't sleep, I crept into his room and he was still awake and I told him what I was feeling. He listened intently and replied quietly, "Ok."

I hugged him and said in an aside sort of way, "Besides, if you keep this worrying up, you'll give yourself an ulcer."

"What's an ulcer?" he asked.

So, I spent the next 10 minutes explaining what an ulcer was before I left his room. A few minutes later I heard him say softly, "Can you come here? Do you think I have an ulcer? Has the worrying I've been doing made me have one? Will my stomach get a hole in it? Will I have to go to the doctor?"

"STOP!" I nearly shouted. Now I realize that I should've never introduced Mr. Worry to the wonderful world of ulcers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Birthday Reflections

Well, it's official. I'm now one year closer to 40.

It was a great birthday. My kids were wonderful. Have I ever said that I have the greatest kids in the entire world?

Mike was gone for most of the day because he had to coach his soccer team in a tournament, so I decided to mow the lawn in the morning. Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like thrilling birthday material, but I actually like mowing the lawn. I have time to think or pray or sing to myself and I find great satisfaction watching the lawn go from shaggy to trimmed.

While I was playing gardener, the kids were all making me cards. I love, love, love homemade cards. I hope they will all still make me homemade cards when they're adults.

In the evening, it was off for dinner with friends. We ate at my favorite restaurant. After that, we went to our friends' house for dessert and a rousing game of Mafia.

The day was perfect. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect conversation. I hope my 35th year is as perfect.

My friend, Kelli, got me a bracelet that says, "Live, Laugh, Love" on it. I've seen that before written on stones, jewelry, needle pointed pillows, etc., but now that I can wear it around my wrist it reminds me that that's what life is about. We need to live and enjoy life, remember to laugh, and don't forget to show love to the people in your lives.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The following conversation took place yesterday evening before I took the kids to Bible School.

K: Mommy, when you leave me at Bible School, I'm going to cry and cry.

Me: Why would you do that? You're excited for Bible School.

K: I don't care. I'm going to cry very hard. I will be sad.

Me: Don't you want to go? It's going to be lots of fun.

K: Yes, but I will be very sad for awhile.

But, she didn't cry. She sat on my lap for a couple of minutes while she watched the other kids. Then she hopped off, told me goodbye, and without so much as a kiss or a small hug, she was off.

And she wasn't very sad. At all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Looking forward

I'm going to be 35 on Saturday and I don't really know how I feel about that.

I am thankful that I'm healthy and strong and that I don't have a terrible disease. I feel like I hear more and more about so many women my age getting breast cancer. I am very thankful I'm healthy.

I'm not taking my life for granted, but I guess I feel sort of blah.

It isn't the actual age--really it isn't. It's the feeling of looking ahead that freaks me out. That's typical me. Instead of basking in the moment, I'm worrying about the future.

But here are the thoughts that have gone through my head the past few weeks...

1. Many of my friends have been working steadily since we got out of college. That gives them 12 years of retirement stowed away. I only worked 7 years full time and then started staying home. I've been staying home since L and O were 2. I don't have any plans to go back to teaching full time until K is in Kindergarten. So, by doing these calculations, I'll be several years behind people my age. When they're all retiring to Florida, I'll still be grading papers and teaching kids what adjectives are.

2. Although I have no plans for this, if I were to get pregnant today, I would be considered a high risk pregnancy. I was graced with this label when I was pregnant with L and O, but now it would be because of my age. I'm a geriatric in the ob/gyn world.

3. This one seems to be bothering me the most. My mom started having horrible period issues in her late 30's. I remember this vividly because while she was coming to the end of her periods, I was starting mine. The problems she had resulted in first having her uterus removed, then a few years later one ovary, then a few years after that, her other ovary. I watched as she struggled and still struggles with menopause. Yuck. I would rather have a period until I'm 90 than not have any natural hormones in my body.

So, it's not about growing older, really. It's about what is happening to my body. It's really about anticipating the changes.

I don't know what I'm going to do to celebrate my 35th year, but I do know that I'm very grateful for my family, I'm grateful for my health, and I need to just stop looking forward with hesitation otherwise I'm going to miss out on something great.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rabid guests not welcome

As some of you know, my backyard tends to be virtual wild kingdom--and I'm not talking about crazy kids running around. I'm talking about critters of the four legged variety.

Usually, they keep their activities to the nighttime hours, but we had an unexpected surprise this past Tuesday.

I was cleaning up after lunch and I heard the girls yell in a kind of sing-songy voice, "Mommy, there's a raccoon on the deck." Followed by several rounds of giggling.

I naturally thought they were kidding. Kind of like when they say that a squirrel winked at them or something. I was wrong.

As I approached the deck, I could see the massive, furry animal sitting with his hind legs on the railing and his front legs on the deck table. He was drinking rain water off the table. Upon seeing me, he looked up all bleary-eyed and then I started to scream.

I don't know why I screamed except I all of the sudden it hit me that if a raccoon was out in the day time, it probably had rabies or something and the reality of a rabid animal this close to my children (even though they were safely inside the house looking at it through glass) made me panic.

My scream did nothing to deter him from his refreshing beverage and he continued to lap up the water. Then I started banging on the window and this startled him, he tried to walk on the railing, but was obviously so ill that he swayed back and forth and then KERPLUNK, fell into the bushes.

I watched as he lay there in a weird kind of stunned, rabid stupor. He tried to get up, but couldn't. I called our wonderful town's (this is to be said dripping with sarcasm) animal control office and was told that, "The animal control guy really only deals in certain domesticated animal situations."

"Great," I tell them, "maybe he can come over and get rid of the Eddie the peeing machine who lives across the street from me and uses my bushes as his litter box."

The lady, not appreciating my tone, told me to call the police.

The police!! Yes, let's pull our officers away from pressing matters to come deal with my raccoon issue.

But, I tell you what, they were on the ball. Maybe it's because we live in a small town and they're bored. Or, maybe they really do take potential rabid animals very seriously. Whatever the reason, within 10 minutes two officers were at my door. Both had guns and were ready to shoot at first sight.

And then we couldn't find the stupid raccoon. Somehow the rabid little idiot managed to pull his stupid self out of the bushes and wander away. I hope he didn't wander under my deck to die, cause a stink and attract maggots.

Probably the worst part of this is that I'm afraid to let the kids play outside. It's summer and that's where they want to be, but we have to worry about wild animals. We live in town for pete's sake. Something just isn't right about this picture.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I always tell the kids to be nice to everyone. They know they're supposed to try and include everyone, but I understand that there are times when they are around kids they just don't care to hang around. Maybe the kid isn't nice, maybe they don't have anything in common, or in the case of my oldest, maybe the kid is getting involved in stuff he shouldn't be and thankfully my child is smart enough to stay away.

However, I don't know how to handle a problem we have with annoying friends. These are kids who aren't bad kids necessarily, but they're irritating in a variety of ways.

When they're little, it's easy to avoid because at that point, parents are still arranging play dates. As they get older it becomes a little more challenging. For example, J has a friend who I used to think was o.k. He's polite and funny and J seemed to have a good time with him.

I commented on this to J and he said, "Yeah, well, he knows when to turn on the niceness and manners around parents."

Oh boy.

It didn't take me long to realize that his politeness was a front, his funny personality was funny to a point--until he started being obnoxious, and J isn't finding him so entertaining anymore.

He was invited to J's birthday party back in February and as we were coming back into town, this kid, I'll call him C, proceeded to roll down the van window, stick out his head and yell at people walking. I had to lock the van windows to keep him restrained. Then he pops out his stupid cell phone and says, "Yeah...I gotta call my girlfriend."

Girlfriend? You are 10. How can you have a girlfriend?

This is just a small sample of what life with C is like.

Now that summer is here, we have a new problem. He always wants to come over. He calls incessantly and it doesn't matter what excuse J gives him, he doesn't get the hint. J even said one day, "My entire family is actually home together and I'd rather hang out with them," but this didn't discourage him enough to not call the next day--several times.

While this kid annoys the heck out of me, I do feel sorry for him. He gets very little attention at home. He has a great step-father, but the relationship between step-dad and C's mom isn't wonderful, so there is a lot of fighting. It's obvious that C craves an adult male's attention because he loves to come over and play baseball with Mike and J.

I feel like maybe our family could really help him, but at what expense? Do I tolerate him or do I tell him to take a hike? J is feeling the same way.

We just don't know what to do. Advice welcome...