bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

cry when you get home

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).

One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html

In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.

When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.

For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.

I was wrong.

The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.

Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.

I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.

mom’s trip

Traveling is good for the soul; this is absolutely a fundamental belief of mine. I love to go places and experience new things; without hesitation, quality time is my love language and what better way to spend quality time with people than to head off on an adventure.

If you’re looking for ‘proof in the pudding’ … I do not have an engagement ring or a wedding band. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam in lieu of an engagement ring and spent two glorious weeks trekking through that beautiful country. Chicago was a little trip that took place of the wedding bands. While my husband is my favorite travel companion, I was able to travel to meet my dear friend this past week.

She and her family moved to Florida over the summer and the prospect of heading someplace other than Kansas was great. We decided to ‘meet in the middle’ and spent a few days in Charleston, SC. Holy moly — what a beautiful, quaint town. When I returned home, my son asked what we did the whole time and I told him that I talked so much, I lost my voice.

It’s true — we walked 20+ miles in 3.5 days, talked, took a tour of the Aiken-Rhett House, moseyed around The Battery, walked through outdoor markets, and met up for rooftop drinks with my first DC roommate. It was a great way to celebrate 16 years of friendship and the much needed friend time I so badly desired.

Charleston was a breath of fresh air: It was in the upper 70s and was super sunny each day; had some issues with our hotel but they compensated us with prosecco and cake; and we were picked up Friday night by my old roomie in his golf cart and then got to meet his girlfriend and her son.

Everything that went right could have and I returned home to hugs and a visit from my parents (they got to our house about 30 minutes after I did). Friendships are something that I cherish and I try to stay in touch with people the best I can, so this trip where I got to spend a few days with my DC bestie and then get to meet up with another old friend was great.

We all knew each other before significant others — there’s nothing like the people you navigated the waters of your early 20s with. We’d all moved to DC at the same time; I met my bf at the Steelers’ bar my first weekend there and as the only two girls in the bar, we became fast friends. Then, I found a place in Georgetown but needed a roommate: Enter, Roommate — he was the first out of 16 people I’d met who I didn’t think would murder me in my sleep (or when I was awake for that matter). We spent our earliest twenties bar hopping and making not the greatest choices at times. It’s great to reconnect with those we know at different parts of our lives and was fun to reminisce about what life was like before kids and a dog.

I always feel like I’m the best wife and mom I can be when I have time to be ME instead of always H’s wife or 4’s mom and what a better way to be true to yourself than spend a few days with the people who knew you before any of the big life changes did. In a couple weeks, I am taking 4 to DC to get together with friends of mine — these are people in his village who love him and support him from afar. They are also people who knew single me and love me just the same.

Being a stay at home mom certainly can have its challenges. For me, those challenges have nothing to do with my child but rather the difficulties around maintaining my own personal identity and it really is great to have that time which always allows me to come home feeling like I can take on the world … or at least my household.

a week in review

Wow! This past week has been a whirlwind!

3 turned 4 on Monday — with Monday being a school holiday, my husband used his last free PTO day so that we could take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge. I took 3 there in the spring (thanks, Groupon, for mid-week specials) and I’ve wanted to take 11 & 13 (I took them to Water Country over the summer and we enjoyed the slides for a solid nine hours — so, I knew they’d love it). We prepared all kinds of food to take with us: chicken tacos and raw vegetables for the kids and prosciutto-wrapped chicken salads for us for dinner; boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast; and lots of snacks.

We took the 75 minute journey after church on Sunday and were greeted with wolf ears and a chance to hop right in the water. We spent six hours on the slides and at the pool on Sunday; needless to say, all three kiddos ate like savages and were out cold by 8PM. My husband took the kids back to the park Monday morning and I stayed in the room to get some reading done for one of my grad classes; after that, we packed up and headed home. We’d planned to stop for pizza and cookies along the way but 4 passed out, so we adjusted our plans. It was such a fun weekend and I think a much needed break for everyone.

Once we were home, it was back to the grind: 13 had a service meeting after school to prepare for the field trip which was on Thursday, 11 continues to learn more songs on the trumpet (I think he’s up to 15 now!), and 4 had t-ball and his Gotcha-day anniversary. Throw in my husband’s busy work schedule (huge presentation and meetings with his boss while he was in town from CA) and my workload and it made for quite the time.

We got through it and 13 loved her field trip on Thursday, despite the crummy weather with high winds. They went into Boston and had a lunch/dance party on a boat, did a scavenger hunt in the city, and had dinner in Faneuil Hall — highlights included the taco, brownie bites, and seeing celebrities shooting a film. I was so relieved to hear she had a blast — as the wind blew on Thursday, I worried that the trip would be unpleasant. This was another highlight of the week!

Friday rolled in and we put an end to the week with shrimp quesadillas and an early bedtime. Of course, for me, it means I was wide awake at 3AM, so I’ve been in the basement family room, online browsing, and watching Temptation Island. Having a day of separation from the week’s busy allows me to realize all we accomplished last week and how happy everyone was to get in some extra family time and then share personal achievements/excitements.

Our goal for this year (not calendar year, so much — because I operate on a school calendar year) was to be more deliberate about planning a family date each month. In September, the family date day was a camping trip in Salem, MA. I didn’t stay the night (stayed with the dog) but was there each day and this month’s was the Great Wolf Lodge. Next month, our family date date is going to be holiday shopping and dinner out — not as grande a gesture but still should be a fun chance for us to bond outside of the house.

We have a busy few weeks coming up, so it’s nice to look forward to the days where we can stop the busy and enjoy each other. I’m looking forward to next week; I’m traveling solo to visit with a friend — I’ve been trying to get ahead of my school work so that I can enjoy this trip without stress or work to do. I have three library books to read for pleasure and I’m so excited to get this girl time. My parents are coming to visit the following weekend; they try to schedule their visits when 13 & 11 are here so they can visit with them and so the kids never feel slighted for missing a visit.

We are in a season of busy — kids are busy — we are busy — but we are trying to enjoy the down time we have with nightly family dinners, walks, little trips, homemade weekend brunches, and basic conversation. I so very much look forward to these coming days but am happy I took the time to reflect upon this last week. It was truly, very special.

sept reflections, oct goals

Wow! September has flown by! Four-fifths of my household is back in school, myself included and my husband is the glue holding us all together. Lucky him! Personally, I am enjoying half of my classes so far; the other is okay. I am a little disappointed, to be honest: There’s a lot of theorist review, so it’s not particularly exciting but the worst part is that there is very little class engagement. It is a stark contrast to my other class where we are encouraged to try new things and the discussion boards are very active; even in the online platform, I can feel my classmates’ passion and interest in their collective work.

The whole program I am in is online, which is a really big adjustment to me. I’ve been going on campus to the library two nights a week and am treating both classes like an in-person class, so that I have those hours allotted during the week for work. I also try to get things done during 3’s “naps” and when I can take an hour or two to slip upstairs away from the chaos. I think that because I am so excited to be learning new things, it keeps me going and I don’t feel so bogged down with the work. I just hope when all is said and done, that this translates to employment in a library — sounds like such fun work!

13 is enjoying eighth grade and currently has straight As; she is anxiously (and not even the least bit patiently) waiting for the music teacher to announce this year’s musical. 11’s transition to middle school is going as expected; he’s having a more positive experience with peers but is greatly disorganized. We are watching from the sidelines to see how he handles things, which is easier said than done much of the time. 3 is also enjoying school; he’s going super part-time and he just loves his teacher. There are a lot of adjustments for him (big boy bed, front-facing car seat, school for everyone) and he’s having a hard time but I know that he will settle eventually.

My goals around school are to maintain my focus and schedule and in regards to the kids, to maintain my patience. 3 has some rough days and I try to remain calm as best I can. I give myself frequent breaks when needed and have been walking our boy, Bruttie, every chance I can so that I’m getting fresh air and some exercise. I also bought a Groupon for a new yoga studio; my in-laws got me a gift card for my birthday and I finally got around to using it. I am excited to give the next month a go at the new studio; hopefully, I can set down some roots at this studio and get back on my yoga grind. I am going to continue to try box jumps and tire flips. I’ve also been using the Expresso bikes at the gym and really like the workouts pre-programmed. I want to continue with that and also get back to challenging myself by doing a 5K a month — I liked doing the 5K a week in the spring and summer but I kind of doing what feels right each day and I want to continue with that trend.

Otherwise, my health goals are to just continue doing what I’m doing. I have been walking with our Bruttie Boy a lot. It’s good for us both. I have been drinking a lot of water and trying to eat foods that agree with my body and keep the ones that don’t to a minimum. I am just trusting my mind and body more; this is what I always used to do and then I’m not really sure what happened but I want to get back to a place where I can do that.

I also want to continue grocery shopping without a list. It’s easy enough to figure out what we can make based on what I buy and hit the store for a few more items that are needed, if even anything is needed. I am going to try to highlight a meal or two each week that we’ve made and maybe include recipes/pictures so that I can write posts specifically about the meals we enjoy.

Lastly, my final set of goals for October is to bring back Self-care Sunday (or Saturday) where I paint my nails and/or use a face mask. I work out and try to keep a clear mind, so when I think about self-care at home, I think of pampering.  Other things I’m looking forward to in October:
– Apple Picking
– Fall walks
– 3 turning 4
– Bruttie turning 10
– Family date day
– A fresh haircut
– Boots & booties and other fall-related fashion
– Hot toddy consumption: apple cider, lemon, cinnamon, and 1T of bourbon

 

 

weekend memories

I moved to DC when I was 21 — fresh out of college with a BS in Professional Writing and Information Systems. What a combo! I had a job just across the street from the White House with a boss who believed in me and my writing. Because of him, I was published by 22. I moved on from that position and entered the marketing world, editing online content for financial advisors and eventually settling in as the marketing department of a start-up.

Things at this time were exciting — I was young, full of energy, and was living in the thick of Georgetown’s social scene. I had a serious boyfriend whose friends rubbed elbows with the likes of the Bush sisters; many a night I spent with them at Smithpoint after whispering the code of the night. As a small town girl from western Pennsylvania, this social scene never registered on my radar as a possibility. Every weekend was filled with excitement (and probably too much alcohol) and fun; followed up with brunch dates with my best friend and a trip the Pour House on Capitol Hill to watch the Steelers play on Sundays.

I eventually moved on from marketing and my boyfriend. I went to graduate school and started teaching in DC; I also moved to northern VA. At this point, I was in another serious relationship. This time, with someone who had a brother in-law in the music industry and a sister who was a creative genius. I had the world at my finger tips and a newly purchased home. I spent my weekend nights with my friends and boyfriend; scream-singing Journey and A-ha with a cocktail or two and a slice of jumbo slice to follow.

Fast forward to nine years ago: I sold my share of the house, moved to Boston with my dog, and eventually met my husband. Friday and Saturday nights were quickly changed from cocktails after work to ordering pizza with the kids; my weekend boozy brunches with friends became at-home brunches with the ‘egg-man’ and Beatles’ songs.

Last night, I’d say I hit the pinnacle of excitement that could take place in my adult life. No longer am I out until 4AM, partying in Georgetown; instead, I was asleep BY 8PM and wide-awake by 2:51AM… Oh, yes. The good life of exhaustion and homemade brunches and in-town festivals and walks for ice cream. This is the Saturday dream (less the exhaustion).

guilt free foods

Let’s talk about “guilt free foods” for a moment. I felt inspired to discuss this when I opened an email from FindMeGlutenFree about “Guilt Free Brownie Bites” — huh?

Now, I don’t know about you, but food doesn’t make me feel guilty. I love desserts, I’m the first to admit. There is plenty of guilt to go around, especially as a mom, but we all need to draw a line somewhere and for me, this is where.

I spend a lot of time thinking about food and planning our meals. One of my goals for this year is to be more mindful of finding balance in my life, diet included. I’d like to slim down a little and lose some weight (health reasons, not merely vanity) and I’m working hard to figure out what works best for my body. I spend a good bit of time reading and researching various recipes. I’ve talked with my doctor numerous times and have met with a nutritionist. Finally, I feel I’m making progress.

Over the summer, I tried WW. I think that it’s too restrictive overall for my liking, in that I’m only allotted ~1200 calories a day. Sure, that number increases with the “zero point food” but I don’t think I’m eating 400+ calories of chicken breast and plain Greek yogurt. I will say, though, that I definitely saw a trend by tracking. I am really good about eating something for breakfast and sugary breakfast foods are not my friend because they just make me hungry. My big issue is that I often skip lunch or have “snack lunch” which never bodes well for me. This is something I’ve become mindful of needing to change. I will miss lunch because I’m busy and then 3PM rolls around and I basically eat nonstop until after dinner.

Whole30 is part of what has helped — while the foods didn’t necessarily work for me, I learned that fat is not evil and I probably need more of it in my diet. What I do not need, however, is a ton of meat — high protein/fat does not work for my body. I love fruits and vegetables and it’s easy to take in a lot of produce, and focusing on that not only works well for my body but also puts me in a good headspace.

After Whole30 a few years ago, I learned that I’m allergic to yeast and as a result, gluten and refined sugars are never going to work well with my body. I had been gluten free completely for years but then there were things that came up (a few trips coupled with a couple deaths in the family and I went completely off the rails with gluten). I got back to being mostly GF and then our kitchen collapsed and I spent the better part of last fall eating takeout and fast food. Since the kitchen was remodeled, we’ve been back to cooking wholesome meals that are more in agreement with my body. I have a few cookbooks I really like and am really looking forward to The Defined Dish’s cookbook that is set to come out.

Despite my eating preferences, I do not feel guilty if I eat something whether it be purposefully or on accident that doesn’t align with my body’s needs. I usually feel sick, but I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and I try to pick things up and move forward. I like pizza; I like nachos; I like mac & cheese; I like cake; and as childish and gross as it may be, I like Bagel Bites (not even the organic ones but the chemical ones) — but I don’t need any guilt associated with these foods, and neither does anyone else.

Ultimately, this rambling is really about understanding the importance of disparaging titles attached to foods. There really shouldn’t be — we should all just be concerned with what makes our bodies work and what we can afford and what works for us. It really bothers to me that my kids grow up seeing that they should feel guilty for indulging in a treat or should be shamed for eating something that’s not terribly healthy. At some point, I think it’s vital to change the way we look and talk about food — and also how it’s marketed.

/endrant

(On a side note, I go back and forth and back and forth about getting a fitness watch of some sort — I think they’re neat and I’d love a more accurate read of how many calories I burn doing exercises; however, I know myself and I know that I become obsessed with numerical goals like this. Every time I say I’m considering getting one, I weigh my options and always come back to doing what is best for my mental health — steering clear. I do not need guilt from food, nor do I from fitness…)

(Second side note: I wrote this before my trip to PA and set it to publish at a later date. When I was in PA, my mother talked incessantly about calories – so much so, that three started to ask about how many calories are in an item; then, I returned to MA to my MIL who also obsessively talked about ‘bad’ foods and needing to ‘be good’ with eating. She’s doing WW now and everything is about how many points it has… it was all too much for me. I try to dabble in structure but it just doesn’t seem to work because I don’t want to model the concept of demonizing food for the kids. With 3, I worry because he’s never gaining enough weight for his doctors to be pleased; despite the fact that all he does when he’s not moving is eat, bathe, or sleep…)