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.”

He Gets It!

This summer, Liam has been joining me on my workouts with the Beginner’s Running Group and November Project. He quickly fell in love with the social aspect of both groups. He’s the first to dish out encouraging words and high-fives. Of course, he loves receiving encouragement as well.

Last week, we headed to Lippitt Park for BRG after spending the weekend on the Cape. Liam played hard all weekend, tubing, swimming, and catching turtles. He was already tired, but I reminded him we committed to attending BRG. It was also ridiculously hot. After a quick warm up, we hit the Boulevard for intervals. I made sure our pace was barely above a jog and took Nuun with us. He found his mantra an repeated it, “There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead.”

A few minutes into our run, our friends Kerri and Kristin caught up with us. After explaining they had already gone for a run, they admitted they were walking to their cars but, upon seeing Liam, knew they couldn’t leave him. We made it through the run, even when Liam wanted to give up. Kristin challenged Liam to a race to the finish line, which he gladly accepted.

That night, Liam was getting ready for his shower.

“You know, quitting is a lot harder when your friends are there. If our friends didn’t show up, this kid would have been out of there.”

At that moment, I knew Liam got what this is all about. It’s not about leading the pack. It’s about trying your best and not giving up. It’s about doing things you didn’t think you could accomplish. Most of all, running with a group is about supporting each other. There have been times that I was not at all feeling my run. I ran anyway because my friends were waiting for me. There are times I pushed myself to run farther and faster than I thought I had in me at the time because my friends were by my side. I’d like to think there might have been times when my friends weren’t completely ready or into their run but were able to get through it because I was by their side. Running and working out are about so much more than the actual activity.

Pinterest Princess or Bust?

This sums up my life:

I hate to bake. I hate crafts. Basically, I hate any activity that involves closely following directions. When Mike and I first moved in together, he was amazed at my inability to put together IKEA furniture.

Fast forward thirteen years. We have an incredible eight-year-old boy, one we intentionally tried to have in February to time my maternity leave, allowing me to stay home for seven months.  Each February since, we curse ourselves as we try to plan his birthday party. We usually have his party at various indoor facilities throughout the state. Last year his party was at McCoy Stadium. While his parties have always been fun, Liam wanted an outdoor party so we didn’t have to worry about time or how many kids he could invite. We decided to celebrate his eight and a half birthday over the summer. When he asked if he could have a Harry Potter themes party, I jumped at the chance to let him have a party in a theme I really liked (as opposed to last year’s love of Minecraft). Liam and I have been reading the illustrated books together. I love that he loves them. (I’ve stated earlier that I sometimes feel guilty for not sharing his enthusiasm for things he loves, such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and Pokemon.)

I told him that this would only work if he helped me, which he happily obliged. We set off on Pinterest. He started off having much more faith in our abilities that I even had, wanting to make Hogwarts letters to send out to friends.

“We can put wax on them and send them to everyone.”

“I already sent out a Facebook invitation.”

Liam really wanted to give his friends wands. We had recently visited Wynotts Wands in Salem, where Liam chose his wand. He understood that we could not afford to buy each kid a wand. The bulk ones online were either too cheap or too expensive.  Pinterest shared a tutorial for making wands that actually seemed reasonable. We ordered chopsticks, hot glue gunned the ends, then painted them. Liam was happy to help, and the finished products were pretty cool!

We also made golden snitches and chocolate frogs. Liam began asking me to make the chocolate frogs on Monday. Knowing I could not be trusted with that much chocolate in the house, we needed to wait until Friday.

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We made a Quidditch court. Mike was happy to act as our Quidditch coach. The kids had a ball playing.

    

I set up a table for “potion class” containing small cauldrons of baking soda and vinegar. They were about to mix the ingredients in their cauldrons and watch the reaction. Liam used to love doing this trick, but I feared that they would think it was silly or childish. Potion class was a hit!

After potion class was wand class, in which the students needed to keep their balloons in the air.

   

My only real goof-up involved the cake. I assumed I could order a cake from Stop and Shop a week before the party. I was wrong; they no longer carry the cake kit. Walmart does not have Harry Potter cakes, either. After Googling “easy Harry Potter cakes” for a while, I decided to order cupcakes from Stop and Shop and cake decorations from Amazon. It worked out just fine.

After a week of making golden snitches, wands, and Quidditch courts, Mike began calling me his “Pinterest Princess.” While I don’t see myself doing this again, the process wasn’t terrible. I love Liam’s ownership in the planning. I didn’t mind doing the projects with him. I’m also painfully aware that the number of years remaining of planning birthday parties and Liam wanting to spend all of his time with Mike and I are dwindling. I need to make the most of it while I can.

Summer Running Buddy

By the end of the school year, I created a pretty good routine to make sure I was ready for my first half marathon.  I would come home, change, and take Banjo with me on a short run, picking Liam up from school and walking home together. Now that we are both out of school, I pondered how to get in my runs as I begin training for my second half. When a friend asked if Liam and I would be interested in training for a 5K in the fall, it seemed like a perfect reason to introduce Liam to running. He is excited to run with his friend.

Proof that Liam is my kid: he insisted on packing a snack for the run. 

When we decided that we would begin running with the dog in the morning, Liam had many of the same fears I did when I began running. He questioned his ability, could he run far and fast enough? We set out with a goal of running one mile. I asked what a good time would be to run. His reply: “3:28 in the morning.” We agreed that a fourteen-minute mile seems a reasonable first goal. We set a few norms to keep either of us from getting frustrated or discouraged:

Liam decided the course.

We run no more than a mile.

Walk when you need to walk.

Liam explaining our route.

 

We set out, walking a block before beginning to run. Liam took off, which I knew wouldn’t last but let him play it through. After a few minutes, he was tired. I set the one-minute interval on my app that I usually use for speed training. He did fine with this, then decided to use landmarks as goals. “We can run to the main road, then walk to the next street, and run again.” It was a perfect setup!  When we were close to the one-mile mark, I noticed our pace was 13:35; I decided to push a little further so we could finish at 13:30.

We walked the rest of the way home. Liam was great about celebrating what he accomplished. When he started putting himself down, I reminded him that it took months before I could run a mile. “Now you can run thirteen.”

“Yup, I can. And it took me over a year of running to be able to do that.”

I am beyond thankful that Liam is interested in running. I hope it becomes something we can enjoy together. Much like our daily walks with Banjo, I appreciate the opportunity to connect with Liam and talk about life. I only have a few summers left in which he will want to spend most of his time with me; I need to enjoy them while they’re here!

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.

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.
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  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.