How Mayim Bialik Made Me Cry

While I was upstairs getting dressed, I took a moment to myself to mindlessly scroll Facebook. Liam was downstairs playing and I thought I had a few minutes. Mayim Bialik’s site, Grok Nation, featured a video of her explaining her expectation versus reality regarding how many children she would have.  When she was younger, she imagined giving birth to enough children to create her own football team. Once she had two sons, she realized that was what she could handle. As Mayim spoke, she was on the verge of tears as she explained that, even though she knew it was the right choice for her, she needed to mourn the future she originally planned for herself.

     

Her honesty and her confession made me think of my own plan for having children. When I was younger, I always imagined having two children. It just seemed like the thing to do. I have a sister and (usually) enjoyed having someone to play with and to understand when different things were happening in our lives. She helped me through various times when my mother was sick. When it came to planning my future, I never thought about anything other than having two children.

Fast forward to adulthood. I met Mike, who was adamant that he only wanted one child. We agreed to discuss it again after becoming parents. The months after Liam was born were some of the most difficult of our lives. At four weeks old, we flew Liam to Florida to meet and say goodbye to my mother, who held on long enough to meet her grandson. Two weeks later, we drove to Maine to say goodbye to Mike’s grandmother. We came home to two feet of water in our basement. Our friends all but abandoned us after Liam was born. Liam suffered from terrible colic, eventually taking baby Pepcid to relieve the symptoms. The first few months after Liam was born were some of the most rewarding yet difficult months of my life.

     

When Liam was almost a year old, we revisited the topic of more children. When he was a year old, we decided we were happy as a family of three.

There are many reasons for this. Some are quite responsible and others are strictly personal:

I was thirty-three when I had Liam. Having more children at a later age increases the chance of complications for both myself and future babies,

Mike’s job relies on contracts; long-term work is not guaranteed. We do not want to have more children than we can comfortably afford.

Having one child allows me to better balance what I call the “triangle of sanity,” or the management of career, marriage, and motherhood.

Having one child makes it easier for both Mike and I to pursue our interests, partly by having the money to pursue hobbies but also because, when I go for a run or yoga, I am only leaving Mike with one child. When I go for a run after school, I am only paying for one child to attend after-school care. Did I choose to have one child so I can run and practice yoga? No. But having the time and energy to follow those pursuits centers me, making me a better mother, wife, and teacher.

Having one child gives Mike and I more time for each other. More important than the weeks at the beach house, toys, or adventures, Mike and I give Liam two calm parents who have time available for him each day.

Having one child allows me to train for a half marathon, attend yoga twice a week, and enter thirty-seven books into my Goodreads account this year.

This is not an insult or disrespect against anyone with more than one child.  I applaud your time and money management skills. I watch you balance sports practices, birthday parties, and overall needs of multiple children with admiration and respect.

I watched Mayim explain that, while she was content in her decision to stop having more children, she also needed to mourn her original plan.  That line summed up how I feel.  There are times I wholeheartedly wish we had more than one child, simply because that was the original plan.  However, I know that I am meant to be the mama of one child. As I watched, I began to tear up, relieved that someone else understands how I feel.  Before the video finished, I heard my bedroom door open. My first impulse was to sigh, slightly frustrated that I cannot get five minutes alone to get dressed.

“What’s up, Bug?” I asked.

“I just needed to know where my mama is. I love you.”

Something Amazing

Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)

After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.

When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.

I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.

Week Seven: List the Greatest Compliments and Encouragement You Have Ever Been Given

I am a firm believer in compliments. I compliment my students, my family, and my friends as often as possible. I think about compliments that have truly affected me and encouraged me to continue working towards my goals.

              

You’re a good mom. A significant portion of parenting involves worrying.

“Am I too hard on Liam? Are my expectations too high?”

“Am I being too soft? Am I letting him get away with too much?”

“Am I reading to him enough?

“Am I playing enough games with him?”

“Is it okay that he is the only kid he knows without a video game system? Should I just suck it up and buy him one?”

With all of these daily worries, it was a huge confidence booster when my mother-in-law randomly told me I am a good mom.

My “running bully” congratulating me for beating my goal time at our first half!

You are stronger than you think you are. My “running bully” gets the credit for this one. I lovingly refer to my friend Kerri as my “running bully” because she pushes me when I question myself, causing me to PR at the ever-difficult Gaspee 5K and beat my goal time by fifteen minutes at our first half-marathon. I love my running group because we focus on getting out there and getting stronger over being the fastest. That being said, having someone out there pushing you out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing!

I’m so glad you’re my mama. Liam and I have a really good ability to bounce off of each other. We can make up games on the fly, without stopping to decide rules or goals. Mike and I each have activities that are “our things” with Liam. Liam and I go for bike rides, read books, sing Hamilton, and tell each other silly jokes. Every so often, Liam wraps his arms around me and tells me, “I’m so glad you’re my mama.”  It melts my heart.

Week Six: Things that Block You from Happiness

This one hits close to home. This past month has provided countless opportunities for reflection and perspective. Being asked to reflect upon what stands in your way is especially fitting this week.

Self-doubt and Worry I have it. I continuously question my abilities. Am I a good parent? Am I a good teacher? Am I a good wife? Am I good enough friend? Do I have any business writing about running? Am I spending enough time playing with Liam? Am I hovering? Do I check in my friends often enough? While doing all of these things, how do I keep my own head above water? Running and weight-lifting have taught me that I am stronger than I think, but I am always doubting myself.

Not Asking for Help Mike is a saint when it comes to this. Somehow, it has come into my mind that being a good wife means taking care of as much as I possibly can. I get home before he does and get laundry, dishes, lunches, cleaning, and dinner taken care of before he gets home. By the time he gets home, I’m exhausted. Mike tells me to leave stuff for him to do, yet every day, I feel the need to take care of it myself. I take care of holidays, birthdays, and events without asking for help, then get overtired and grumpy. It’s a vicious cycle, one in which Mike does a fantastic job of tolerating from me. I fight the same overwhelming meltdown several times a year, and Mike gets me through each time.

Social Anxiety Maybe I hide this. Maybe I don’t. I fear silence in small talk and talk too much then I worry that I dominated said conversation. I try to make a point of asking more questions while talking. Then I get together with a group and, for fear of dominating the conversation, don’t say much. On those rides home, I worry that people thought I was disinterested and won’t invite me in the future. I avoid certain social situations in which I know there will be a lot of small talk for fear I will talk too much or too little. I replay conversations in my mind, searching for spots where I may have messed up.

Usually, I ask Liam the same questions in the weekly prompt. It makes for interesting conversation while walking Banjo. This week’s topic is not one I want to ask Liam to reflect upon. We sometimes say he is his own worst enemy. He gets worked up about problems and spends more time worrying about them than it would take to fix them. He will spend a half an hour arguing that he doesn’t want to do math homework or clean his room, only to admit defeat and get the task done in less than ten minutes.  This is part of being a kid. Overall, Liam is a thoughtful, intuitive kid. He’s is going to get himself right where he needs to be.

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Get Stronger

This is a common encouraging phrase heard in the workout circuit.  Yes, it is true when it comes to working out. I can now do things I never thought I’d be able to do like run fast(ish) miles and complete half-marathons. But it also applies the regular life.

    

This week marked the eighth anniversary of my mom’s passing. I never really know what to do on that day. The first year, we took the day off and went to the area where her ashes are spread. We went to get ice cream at her favorite ice cream parlor. Now, I am not allowed to take personal days during the last two weeks of school and her favorite ice cream parlor is closed. I wanted to take Liam, Mike, and Banjo up the street to our local place, enjoy the company of my favorite boys, and have a sweet treat. The universe had other plans.

My friend’s dad passed away this week. The wake was scheduled on the anniversary of my mom’s passing. I selfishly wanted to get there at the beginning, pay my respects, and take care of my own mourning. Liam had other plans. He did not want to go with me, having attended my cousin’s services last week. I was not going to push it. He was fantastic last week and two wakes in two weeks is a lot for anyone, nevermind an eight-year-old.

I tried not to cry while I waited in the receiving line. This is not about you, I told myself, be strong for your friend.

The line provided time to think about what to say. I am terrible during difficult times; everything that comes out of my mouth is cliche. I hugged her. “I am so sorry this is happening,” I began. I asked how her mom and her kids were doing. I asked how she was doing. She admitted she was being strong for everyone. “Take care of yourself. I didn’t cry until five days after my mom died. It’s going to hit you at the weirdest, silliest times, and that is okay. I’m going to check in on you and help you any way I can.”

And that was it, a whole conversation while embraced in a hug. I managed to hold my own tears. I managed to not think about the conversations I wish I could have, the things I wish my mother could have taught me. I thought of what I wished someone had said to me when my pain was fresh and I was adjusting to my new normal.

Every year, I look for signs from my mom. Sometimes, she shows up in a dream. My son starts singing one of her favorites songs, that he has no business knowing, such as the words to Lionel Richie’s classic “All Night Long.” I see a rainbow. My mom always took care of others. This year, she took the focus off of my own self-pity and provided the opportunity to take care of someone else. Maybe I am making the events fit into the idea I need, but I’ll take it.

Week Five: The Best Choices I’ve Made

This has been the week of weeks!

Mike had his gallbladder out.

Liam wasn’t feeling well; he tested positive for thyroid antibodies, most likely caused by Hashimoto. We have a referral to an endocrinologist. I am relieved to know what is the cause of his symptoms. As someone who also suffers from thyroid issues, I am confident in my ability to help him manage the condition.

I pulled a calf muscle, leaving me unable to run for two weeks.

Our bank accounts were hacked twice. We knew we would get our money back, but it is time consuming to get everything back in order.

I had oral surgery and, according to doctor’s orders, should only be eating soft foods (scrambled eggs, pasta, etc.) This lasted less than a week before I went to eating softish foods on the other side of my mouth.

If nothing else, this week served as a reminder about the importance of perspective. It was a reminder of how well Mike and I work together. We could have buckled under the stress, but it brought us closer. We made time to chat. We laughed and giggled. We finished the week reminded that we chose the best possible partners for this life of ours.

So this brings us to this week’s topic: What are the best choices you’ve made?

Marrying Mike is at the top of that list. I am thankful I met him when I did; my previous self would have played gamed and ruined the relationship. He supports me, argues fairly, and is an amazing dad! I am beyond lucky that Mike walked into my life when he did.

 

Going back to school. Now that I have been teaching for fifteen years, other jobs feel like they were in another lifetime. After a few years of working odd jobs after high school, I started college when I was twenty-one. It took me five and a half years to earn my Bachelor’s degree, but I did it! I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Going back to school and fulfilling that dream was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Being picky about friends. My friends are amazing! I’m glad I chose not to settle!

Stepping out of my comfort zone. Running, traveling to California, starting a blog (then sharing it with people). Some of my greatest joys in the past few years stem from doing things that scare me.

 

Liam is a little young to be in a position to analyze life decisions. I asked him about some good choices he’s made.

Making good friends. He’s at an age in which he is realizing that, while most people are friends, not everyone fits that description. It’s not that he has enemies, he’s eight. But he has learned that it’s easier not to try to be best friends with everyone.

Loving to read. Liam loves to read! He is struggling with math, but the boy loves to read. He will read whatever he can find: magazines, chapter books, graphic novels, resource books. I love that he loves to read and I’m willing to do what I can to nurture that love.

What I’ve Learned from Banjo

It’s hard to believe that we have only had Banjo in our lives for four months. He settled in and life has never been the same. He is the happiest dog I’ve ever met, complete with enough personality for many dogs! I know that he struggled for a while before being rescued from a road in Lousiana. He was twenty pounds lighter, a third of his current body weight. We often wonder what his life was like or even what his name used to be. I’ve learned a lot from this little pup.

Focus on the positive. We often wonder what happened to this happy-go-lucky pup, what made someone dump a dog they had obviously put a lot of work into. We had hoped that he just ran off or got lost, but an interaction with an acquaintance with a specific look made it clear that Banjo had some interactions with humans that were less than positive. In spite of that, Banjo has more love to offer than any dog I’ve ever met.

Demand love. During our walks with Outtie, he would try to catch attention at the bus stop of high school students we pass each morning. None of them seemed interested in giving Outtie pats. Banjo demands it, walking to each teenager and stopping until they acknowledge him. He doesn’t jump or step into personal space; he just simply stands next to each person for a moment, giving them an opportunity to give him love. After several months, each student now smiles, says hi to him, and gives him a few pats while he wags his tail and smiles back. Life is too short not to find places to give and take love.

 

 

Show people you love them. Banjo is a love bug. He nuzzles, stays next to you, and smiles all the time. It is evident he is overjoyed to be surrounded by people who love him and is always more than willing to show his affection and appreciation.

Be active. We have learned that it is pretty much impossible to tire this dog. He will chase the ball every time you throw it, even if it means making himself sore the next day. We learned that we have to be the ones to stop playing because he will play as much as we let him. He loves running with me and going to walks. Banjo is a dog who needs daily activity.

Don’t let your past dictate your future. It is clear that Banjo went through some difficult times. You’de never know it. He is the gentlest, silliest, kindest dog you’ll ever meet.  He doesn’t let bad past experiences ruin his future hopes of happiness.  Since we just took Liam to see The Lion King on Broadway last month, I’m reminded of Timon’s advice, “You’ve got to put your past behind you.”

 

You’re never too busy to give love. Banjo will be in the middle playing or relaxing. If he sees someone walk into the room or yard, he stops what he’s doing, walks over, and offers love. It’s a nice reminder that we, too, are never to busy to be nice.

Week Four: Getting Out of Your Head

This one hits home this week as we have been helping Liam find strategies for managing stress and Mike and I have been dealing with a lot of stress. (I try to focus on the positive so I will keep that to myself. Nobody wants to read about our woes.) I have struggled with anxiety since childhood. It’s been a long journey, but I finally feel I have a good hold on it. Here are my ways I get out of my head:

  1. I have a ritual for worry. I allow myself a certain amount of time to worry, then I make myself file it away. I used to spend sleepless nights worrying about things that were frivolous or beyond my control. Getting an honest grasp on what is worth my worry have been huge.                                       
  2. Running and yoga. What started as activities for my physical health became huge components of my mental health. Since I am still nursing a strained calf muscle and haven’t been able to run in ten days, I am feeling the need in my head as much as in my body.
  3. Spending time with Mike and Liam. Yes, it sounds cheesy and I am not apologizing. They always manage to make me laugh and forget about things that are worrying me.
  4. Reruns. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime yet, whenever I need to shut my brain off, I find myself watching Friends, Big Bang Theory, or How I Met Your Mother reruns. I know them all by heart but refuse to venture into new shows. I stick with what helps me feel better. Maybe they work to shut my mind off because I can half watch them and still follow along with the plot.

I asked Liam how he quiets his mind when feeling stressed. He struggled to find answers. We talked about a few things he does when he is worried.

  1. Play with Banjo                                                                                         
  2. Watch funny TV shows. Liam and I just started watching Fuller House. It is totally cheesy and he loves it. Having traveled to San Francisco to work twice, I earn major coolness points when I able to point out landmarks and pull up pictures on my phone. I’ve even been to Alamo Park and saw the Fuller House house. He asks if we can visit when he gets a bit older. I loved visiting this area and can’t wait to take him in a few years.
  3. Go to the playground. When Liam is getting miserable, we know that we need to get him out of the house. Walking to the nearest playground is a great, free way to burn off energy. He is trying to teach me to cross the monkey bars. I love watching his patience and interest in trying to teach him something that comes so easily to him.
How lucky are we to have this beach a mile from our house?

Week Three: Things I Am Good At

This one is difficult! I think about the things that make up the most significant portion of my life, and I struggle to find things I am good at without following with “but” or “even though.”   I am good at making bread even though I am terrible at baking. I struggled to create this list, but I managed to build it.

  1. Being organized. I am ridiculously organized. I can elaborate, but that would make for boring writing. Trust me, I am fabulous at organizing.
  2. Planning and time management. I am a self-proclaimed “pre-crastinator.” I get things done, and I get them done as soon as possible. My entire school year is planned before well before the first day of school, sometimes before the last day of the previous school year. My clothes are planned for the week. Knowing where things are going is one of the easiest ways for me to control my anxiety.

    New Planner Day is one of my favorites!
  3. Setting goals. I often tell Liam that he is not allowed to merely complain. If he doesn’t like something, he needs to either do something about it or accept it. At this point, he finishes complaints by saying he will practice. “I’m not as good at drawing circles as my other friends… I know, I know, I need to practice.” If there is something I want to be able to do, I try to create a plan to make it happen.
  4. Teaching. Teaching is the career I chose at the age of twelve when Mr. Eccelston cemented my love of reading and writing. It was then I decided I wanted to do exactly what he does. I consider myself fortunate that I knew at a young age what I wanted to do with my life. While the road to teaching was a long and winding one, I am thankful life took me down the path it did. After fourteen years, teaching is still something I enjoy. I feel I truly make a difference.                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Liam was younger, he had all the self-confidence in the world. As he gets older, he is beginning to doubt himself, which is sad to watch. I asked him what he thinks he is good at and he, too, struggled to think of real, noteworthy items to put on his list.

  1. Hanging and pull-ups. He just learned to do pull-ups and is very proud of himself, doing them from the swingset and the pull-up bar in our house as often as possible.
  2. Reading. Liam loves to read! He will read just about anything he can get his hands on: magazines, fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels. Right now, he’s devouring the Dog Man and Minecraft series. I love that he loves to read and I love his confidence regarding his ability to do so.
  3.      
  4. Playing outside instead of sitting in front of the TV. I was surprised to head Liam state this one because, like most kids, the struggle to balance screen time is real. Once he said it, I noticed that I can’t remember the last time he even turned on his tablet. He’s been reading his books. He and I had a Saturday morning date. After our classes at Laid-Back Fitness, we went to a new coffee shop then headed to the used bookstore. Liam loves roaming the isles and looking at all of the books. Because we came home with a shopping bag full of books, he has been focused on those over Minecraft and other games on his tablet. The weather has been so beautiful this week that we have been spending a lot of time outside. I’m thankful that he is conscious of his good decisions.

List 2: Routines

Week two asks to list routines in personal life and work. This is totally my jam! Most of my life revolves around routine and organization. It is comforting and helps maintain order in all of our lives.  In random order, here is a list of some of my routines:

Meal planning on Sundays, even if only for lunches. Knowing we do not need to scramble each afternoon or evening makes weekdays less hectic. I simply refill Liam’s lunch box when he gets home from school and put it back in the fridge until the following morning. This week, we made chicken breasts, rice, salad, and whole wheat pasta to mix and match into different meals this week. I made buffalo chicken pasta salad to eat each during lunch.

Setting out mine and Liam’s clothes the night before. Again, knowing that Liam’s clothes are clean and ready to go and I have all the parts of an outfit together makes the mornings easier. Since Liam wears uniforms, his outfit planning is pretty easy. I look at the weather report on Sunday and decide which days to wear skirts versus pants and which days I can run after school.

Ordering Liam’s lunches a month at a time and noting his hot lunch days on the calendar. This makes life so much easier!  I am thankful that Liam’s school allows this service.

Mornings with Banjo. Even Banjo has this down to a science! He knows who takes him out when and whether he is out there for “business” or play. He knows that if he goes out to the backyard, we are going to play with him. If we take him out front, he is to make a deposit and go back in the house.

Mornings in general. I keep a mental list of what time I should be at each step of in my morning. I won’t bore you with the breakdown, but trust me, it’s good.

After school. Come home, play with Banjo, homework, chores, dinner, play.

 

 

 

 

When I asked Liam about his routines, he was too excited to explain his morning routine:

Wake up

Get dressed

Eat breakfast

Clean my plate

Walk Banjo

Play outside with Banjo

Bush our teeth

Give Banjo love

Go to school

I asked him to describe some of his routines a few days ago and let it simmer. This morning, while sitting a the swingset playing with Banjo, he randomly told me, “I have a lot of routines at school, too. Do you want me to tell them to you?” He proceeded to explain his entire day. Liam has always thrived on routine. Even a good surprise, if it changes what he expects is going to happen, makes him uncomfortable. I am beyond thankful for Liam’s teacher, who creates many routines and is very much cultivating the organization skills that will make him successful throughout his academic career.