Surviving the last 24 hours of solo parenting

Do you believe in karma? I suppose I do because I have been known to say it a time or two. In early January, I was traveling for work and Bryan ended up only working one day out of an entire week. I can’t remember who got sick first, but at one point they were both home. We had a pretty complicated schedule that Friday as he was leaving town before I was getting back. It would have normally been no big deal – school and daycare. Except they were both home so a grandpa came in to cover for us.

Fast forward a couple of months.

I’m ending a two-week solo gig. Our first week was SUPER.BUSY. We were only home two nights out of six. By the end of the week everyone was worn down and tired. That made for some fun mornings. As we entered week two, our schedule looked good. We were going to be home every night and I had my lunch hours planned to get all my errands done. {Because no one wants to run errands after work with two kids in tow.}

Then Tuesday happened.

One whining child was so tired he couldn’t get his pajamas off to go to the bathroom. {Hashtag: the struggle is real.} The other complaining of his tummy and leg hurting. Off to the kitchen he went to eat his cereal. Pro tip: if your slowest eater is dressed, take advantage and try to get that food in him quicker. Also, he eats about three breakfasts a day but loses his mind if he has to skip the one at home. Back to “help” a 5-year-old figure out how to get off the hallway floor when he’s soooooo.tired. Crying from the kitchen. Sprint through the house because I’m thinking the worst just happened and it was probably throw-up. Nope. Hurt leg really hurts and cereal looks untouched. I pick him up and don’t like the sounds in this throat. Luckily, I have years of experience at this stuff. No thinking required, just action. I stand with my back to the sink as I’m holding him against my chest. Arch my back so his face is over the sink. Or at least I hope it is because I can’t see back there. Shush him as he throws up over my shoulder and calmly talk to Maximus as he buttons his pants and tells Quinten it’s ok. {Yay! He’s able to get dressed again!} When I’m sure he’s done, I look to see that he didn’t have anything in his stomach so it was just a lot of saliva. However, dress goes into the laundry and yoga pants and t-shirt on.

So karma does come back around. The throw up was an isolated incident and in came a small fever. Little did I know, there would be no work and daycare on Wednesday. Maximus woke up around 11:30 that night and was pretty hot. He stayed up until almost 2:30! I eventually let him come into my bed. Quinten stormed into my room around 2:15 terrified of a loud sound and pretty hot as well. It was most definitely a monster or a siren or a mouse or a loud boom or a beeping sound in his room or thunder. He’s just sure of it. I did what any solo parent does at 2am – got everyone’s pillows and blankets and favorite stuff animal and turned on random bathroom and closet lights so everyone could see. And told them to stop talking and use quiet voices and JUST PLEASE GO TO SLEEP. Then I slept on the smallest sliver of my bed, crowded out by Quinten and Wrigley.

Luckily, I had shared a bottle of wine with a friend that evening so whatever I can deal. Because otherwise a person would go crazy after that kind of night. {Yes, I bought the same wine today when we were at the store. Because, yes.}

Wednesday got us two kids staying home! Slight fevers and emotional messes because no one got enough sleep due to our middle-of-the-night party. I was bored out of my mind and tired of watching Curious George, but we survived. And at the end of the day, I drove all around town getting them fast food because it was that kind of day. I high-fived myself when I got them both to sleep in their own beds even though it was raining, windy, and thundering.

AND THEN 2 AM HIT AGAIN!

I sat up in bed as I watched them both come into my room talking away. “Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy, I want to sleep in your bed because I’m scared. Mommy, my tummy hurts so I want to sleep in here.” AHHHH! Fifteen minutes later I had all the necessities again and we were settled in. Somehow they slept until close to 8:30, but ruined my early morning workout plans again.

It’s 30 outside, windy, and gloomy. We’re fever-free, it’s spring break, and we’re bored. I took them to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and the grocery store so I could get a Starbucks. {Let’s talk about how I calmly waited out a stubborn 3-year-old who wanted to push his own little cart. GET IN THE OBNOXIOUS FIRE TRUCK. PLEASE AND THANK YOU! I won.} I made them a super awesome lunch of pigs in a blanket and promptly put them all in the fridge because no.one.ate.them.

One more day until Bryan comes home…and a bottle of wine that’s calling my name. When can I open it???

My battle with migraines

“The cabin doors are closing, lets update our Facebook status one last time and send that text and tweet so we can get going.” – I do love a social savvy flight attendant! Something about humor that connects with my soul before signing off for the flight.  

As I left my house in the bitter cold early one Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past week. Heck, the past month. It’s been hard. Like, physically hard. I’ve had only a few instances like this in my life. Breaking my foot, getting E.Coli after a work trip, and the worst ever recovery from the stomach flu that left me not eating for a month. I’ve battled migraines since my teens. I began to worry that I was changing my status from random migraines to chronic suffering.

After my second 2-day migraine in under a week and 8th total in a month, I got myself in to see a doctor. She deemed me the proud owner of a sinus infection and put me on antibiotics for 14 days. I really liked her. She wanted to attack whatever was wrecking havoc in my face first and at the same time work on my sinuses and get the migraines taken care of. After learning that I should be able to pop my own ears, she decided I had some things not working to relieve the pressures of my sinuses. At that point, a guess of why I get migraines is like winning the lottery, even if it ends up being wrong. With some exercises to do and specific nasal spray to use, she sent me on my way with instructions that I should taste the spray when I use it. It’s not the most ideal and honestly, I try not to taste it when I take it. I’ve been taking it for a year straight because I thought it was helping my migraines but in no way have I been taking it so well that I’ve been tasting it. So 1/2 a point for me for taking the right thing, just really poor execution. That’s what I get for trying to self-fix. But if any of you suffer from migraines, you know how difficult it is to control or diagnosis. So you do what you can to continue on with a semi-normal life.

I was in an absolutely awful form of hell. No joke. Worse than when I was on bed rest for 6 weeks with a broken foot. But maybe not worse than The Stomach Pains of 2015. Those where pretty excruciating and left me not able to find the right fetal position to make them stop. I was like a caged animal. But the past month has left me unable to function 8 to 9 times. Some days I had to push through some activity or work to get to a place where I could crawl into bed with a heating pad and cold meds. I learned with the first one in December that cold & flu meds plus a heating pad had me almost good in just a couple of hours. That trick soon stopped working {much like any other self-medication I’ve found for migraines over the years, it always stops working eventually} and I was trying a combination of sinus related cocktails. Decongestants, cold & flu, nasal spray, allergy meds, and ibuprofen, water, and lattes for the caffeine. Sometimes {ok, every migraine day} going through all of them. On the other days I was popping cold & flu and decongestants to dull the headache. The strange thing is that I never had cold symptoms. I guess my sinuses are just cool like that.

As I was sitting on the plane last weekend, my ears basically popped for the first 40 minutes. I was incredibly grateful they were popping. I was kind of concerned, but never have a problem with my ears popping on a plane so I figured I’d be fine. I had a number of people concerned the plane would make it worse. I figured I had already experienced some really shitty days, so I’d just be dealing with it in a public place. Nothing I hadn’t done before. Hopefully the forced pressure changes helped me in the long run.

The physical hardships I’ve gone through have been enough to shake me up. I pick myself back up pretty quickly, I always do, but it’s been pretty hard mentally as well. When I get random migraines I experience a lot of mommy and wife guilt. Nine times out of ten, I get myself through the work day and pick up a kid. I get home and because it’s a little bit quieter {for short bursts of time}, my brain has space to realize how much my head hurts. And I give in. Rarely do I retreat to my dark bedroom, even though almost always do I want to. I usually set up on the couch, sometimes even closing my eyes for a bit and falling asleep for a few minutes at a time. Migraines don’t work around my schedule, they show up unannounced and always unwanted. I feel less guilt when my husband has plans for the evening. I crash on the couch until he leaves and then make it through to bedtime. Sometimes the boys watch way too many cartoons and other times I haul myself into the bathroom so they can take a bath before extended cartoons. It’s a crappy feeling to sit on the couch while chaos ensues around you and you do nothing.

Only a mommy guilt brain can make you feel worse when your spouse is home with you. I should feel better that he’s home and can pick up the slack while I try to take care of me. Instead, I feel worse that he HAS to pick up the slack and feel like everything he does is full of disdain and annoyance towards me. Every timeout he has to initiate, every meal he has to put together, every dish he puts away and counter he cleans, and the bedtime routine that all of a sudden becomes a solo act. Nevermind that most nights he handles the kitchen cleanup. Something about having a migraine makes me feel guilty for him doing something he does most nights.

I hate that my kids have spent countless breathes asking me if my head hurts. Or that after returning from a week-long trip, Quinten tells me after my head stops hurting we’ll do something. I’m at the end of my 14-day meds and it’s been a number of days since my last headache, but the last thing he remembers is me spending an entire evening and not going to work because I was in so much pain. I wish my kids didn’t know a life of chronic pain.

For all of you who suffer from some form of chronic pain, mental or physical, try to give yourself a break. Don’t put added pressure on yourself. It really is ok to just take care of you and make you better. Do what I say, not what I do! But I can tell you that sometimes when you have a migraine on a work trip and you’re stuck on Bourbon Street, you can take enough ibuprofen that it will eventually go away while you go from bar to bar with live music. You’ll eventually walk out onto the street and realize it’s gone! Making you feel like you’ve unlocked a special level in the world of migraines.

Getting back into the swing of life

The night before the first work day in the new year is typically full of anxiety and angst. I stayed up well past my bedtime as did the kids. Quinten’s naptime was pushed backed 30-60 minutes daily. Lunches pushed back an hour. Consequently, our wake ups were L-A-ZY. I only got up before 8 am twice in 17 days. Whoa. I was on vacation for 17 days. That includes weekends {I don’t work weekends}, but that’s a lot of days. Whoa. No wonder the days just kind of blended together. 

We didn’t have a lot of commitments outside of the holidays. It was a glorious way to spend a break. It was just enough productivity and lazy for me. Plus, I drank a lot of lattes. 🙂 {I know the rest of the adult world has been drinking coffee forever, hang with me on this new obsession.} I kind of wish I had worked out more and had less migraines, but no regrets. 

If I had to pinpoint what made this year easier to go back I’d say it was how our Sunday looked. I spent the morning organizing all.the.toys in the house. I did this before Christmas and purged a bunch, but the organization was in need of more help. I’m always fighting a battle of keeping some toys out of the living room. After I did some closet magic, I was able to better utilize spaces in each of their rooms. 

  
We’ve had a constant back-and-forth about using closets for clothes. Each boy has just enough dresser space to have everything in a dresser but that is basically only if I’m the only one to ever use the drawers. {STOP UNFOLDING ALL THE CLOTHES!} That’s not realistic so it was time to rearrange. Long-sleeves and sweatshirts now reside in closets. And board games are off of Maximus’ bookshelf. Meaning, Quinten can’t pull them out and lose all the pieces or break the boards. 

  Quinten’s closet isn’t as useful. Boxes of clothes that are too small and a box of next-in-line clothes are always in there. Baby swing and bouncer that was recently returned to us is taking up valuable space because our basement is in a remodel state. I still made some changes that helped though and it’s better than it was. 

A hot and sweaty hour on the volleyball court reenergized me and I was ready to tackle the night. Bryan took the boys out in the snow while I made dinner. {After a week of snow, it was time they finally made it out there! Whoops.} One-pot chicken showed up on our Facebook timelines after we ate and I’ll tell you it’s pretty delicious! And super easy. 

  
After supper we rocked out to some Polar Express music while we surprised the boys with hot chocolates. I grocery shopped alone {AMEN!} this weekend so no one knew we had any. And of course Bryan blew their minds by playing music from the movie. It was AWESOME! But most of all, it was great to have some happy family moments. After two weeks of constant togetherness, we all needed some fun. 

Meal prepping for the week helped me feel even better about my healthy choices and general feeling of life. It feels good to start the new work week and month on the right foot. My house won’t always be picked up and organized and my fridge won’t always be full of prepared heathy foods, but I’m going to try to hold on to this feeling as a motivator. 

Saying goodbye to naptimes

Life is always changing, especially with small children in the house. I still remember the realization {and sadness} that one of my children was dropping his nap. It was a rough transition for me. That was MY time and then he was invading it, loudly. In an effort to make sure the little one slept, we let Maximus stay in the living room. {One too many ruined naps because he couldn’t be quiet.} 

MY time used to be anything I wanted it to be…naps, catching up on shows, eating junk food…ok those were about the only things I used to do. But it was glorious! Now that time looks a lot different. We recently implemented iPad WITH HEADPHONES. It’s a lifesaver for me. Maximus can watch Axel and Family Fun as much as he wants and I can have quiet time. It’s a big improvement over annoying cartoons. 

By the time naptime comes around I am ready for a break. My heels usually hurt from spending the morning going and standing in my kitchen. {I know, poor weak office worker. It’s really a thing.}  

BRB. Quinten just woke up. A two-hour nap is pretty amazing lately. He is a SIGHT. Blonde hair going EVERY direction. And now the iPad volume is back. But I didn’t even have to remind him to let his brother watch, which is a miracle in itself. We’re struggling with sharing and including our brother in things. Huh. Peppa Pig Santa. Ok then. 

While we seem to have figured out Maximus’ naptime, I haven’t quite figured it out for me. I could clean, workout, do laundry, read, write, or go grocery shopping. I’m not good at getting up early on weekends so I almost always need to get my workout in. Almost everything feels like a job or responsibility and when naptime comes around I just don’t wanna. Grocery shopping is the least ideal one because then I get zero rest all day. {Whoops, sounding like I can’t function without resting.} And cleaning sounds like the most adulting thing to do. Honestly, I usually am already doing laundry. I sit down on the couch to let it finish, the couch swallows me up, and I listen in annoyance as the dryer continuously fluffs as if it’s taunting me to get the clothes before they wrinkle. 

I make a lot of poor choices during naptime, but sometimes I have enough energy left to do a Body Pump workout. Mostly, I social media for an hour or so. {It’s 2016, it’s a verb now.} When I decide to close my eyes, an alarm must sound in Quinten’s room because he comes stumbling out shortly after. And then I’m annoyed again and feeling all sorts of helpless and poor me-like. 

What are you doing during quiet or nap time? 

While on Christmas break, naptimes have been between 1-3 hours. Once we get back into a routine, I expect him to drop down to an hour. It’s like these kids like to constantly make me adjust and change with them! Why can’t they realize that naps are awesome and that we should all do them for 2-4 hours every day?! So now I really need to use my time wisely. I think I’ll focus on writing and reading. Things I can do while being lazy and drinking lattes on the couch. I think that will be my creative focus for 2016. More reading and writing. Less adulting? Just kidding, more efficient adulting so I can enjoy my quiet time without being a lazy couch monster. 

  

Making it

It’s pretty easy to crop out the mess or edit the words to spin the story into a fairytale, especially on social media. When you don’t have time for people to come over, the chances are low that anyone will know what it’s really like inside your house, or even your life. My life is so busy right now that I’d guess very few people actually know what’s going on. Almost every day I’m battling a new “fire” at work and I usually haven’t fully fixed the last one yet. It’s emotionally and physically draining. One day a few weeks ago, I sat outside in the quiet and just watched the sky. The fighting and crying inside was shut out and I wasn’t responsible for anything for those blissful 10 minutes. After putting in 30 something hours in three days, I was done and the week was only half over. The days are long and the years are short. I get that. When you feel like you’re in an awful version of Groundhog’s Day, it’s not very reassuring. It’s super hard without an end in sight.

It’s hard to say the same things to your children day-after-day when you don’t feel like they get it. Constantly teaching them not to fight, to share things, to not yell, and to use words when they get mad. It’s exhausting. I’m sure it’s exhausting to be inside a 2-year-old body also, but it doesn’t look like he’s exhausted. It looks like he has endless energy. It looks like he’s a runner when we’re in public places, has endless lung capacity, only has one volume {LOUD!}, and does everything we don’t want him to do. I look at my newly turned 5-year-old and see that it does go fast, but then I wonder how the years will go the second time around. Because this time we’re dealing with all kinds of things that we didn’t have to “handle” the first time. And for the sake of sleep, please stop waking up so early! Not only does he need more sleep, but so do the rest of us.

If you ask me how it’s going and my response is anything but “good,” know that I’m surviving by taking it one day at a time. They may not be glorious days, but I’m making it through the best way I can. Some days that means trying to yell over them so they will listen and other days that means running away to the deck for some quiet. Oh yeah, and some days it means coffee.

Creating a Will and Power of Attorney

For some unknown reason {life being crazy}, I wrote this post in the beginning of 2014 and never posted it. I suppose it’s fitting since we talking about doing it for two years and it took me a year to post it…

After two years of talking about it, we finally signed our Will and Power of Attorney. We went to our lawyer to do our Will and Power of Attorney documents. We decided to go to him even though there are plenty of forms online. It’s an uncomfortable conversation and thing to do, so we decided to work with a professional to ensure we did everything the right way and we thought everything through.

Steps in getting your Will done:
First, we had a face-to-face meeting to have our lawyer go over the standard Will and Power of Attorney. We answered his questions and made decisions so he could draft up the documents.

    • Who will have custody of the children? Who has financial responsibility (if it’s not the same person)? What happens to the money – does it go into a trust? At what age do children get their share of money? How do you split up shares of money between children?
  1. Before he drafted the documents, we each had conversations with individuals who we wanted to be on the Will or Power of Attorney. (We each have our own Power of Attorney that falls back onto our respective parents if the spouse is not able to act as Power of Attorney.)
  2. Review the documents for questions or changes.
  3. Go into the office and sign them in front of a witness.
  4. Purchase a safety deposit box.
  5. Put the Will in the safety deposit box.
  6. Put the Power of Attorney documents in our Legacy notebook. (Step 6b. Create a Legacy notebook.)*

We’re still working on items five and six. We may need to set a goal for ourselves given our history between steps three and four. 🙂

*What’s a Legacy notebook? It’s a central location for all the important stuff. For example, we have legacy folders for each of our children. This includes doctor phone numbers, medical records, etc. What we haven’t done yet is create a legacy folder for our family. Essentially, this is all the information that someone will need if something were to happen to the spouse who handles all of the finances and mortgage, etc., or if something happens to both of us. These folders should help others run our house and family. Something we didn’t know before, the Power of Attorney document goes in our home, where someone can access it quickly and easily. In a critical situation, you don’t want someone to wait for bank hours to get into a safety deposit box.

What’s next?

After we put all of our documents in their designated safe places, we need to update our electronic records. We need to update our human resource files to reflect the secondary beneficiary. We will update it to be the trust name. So, the primary is our spouse and secondary is our trust. Because we have the trust set up, it will ensure that money is handled in the manner we decided. We also need to update our life insurance policy for a secondary beneficiary and also our IRA profiles. Essentially, we need to update everything to reflect the trust as a secondary beneficiary so everything points to the Will as the dictating piece. Instead of each system reflecting something different. I assume this information can be found online, but this has proven to be one of the biggest reasons why choosing a professional was the right thing for us. We’re in unknown waters now and don’t know how everything works for (or against) each other.

It was hard reading that first draft of our Will and Power of Attorney. No one wants to think about the unexpected turns life can take, but I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that there’s a plan. If the unexpected does happen, I can live every day until then knowing what will happen with my children and family. It’s not a fun thing to consider, but it is so very important.

My final note: I am in no way an expert (and obviously not a professional!) on this matter. This is my experience as I understand it based on our situation. If anything, hopefully it brings up some questions about how or what you need to consider. And gives you enough information to seek out a professional. I know it’s easy to do things with the Internet, but it’s not always the best way to handle legal matters. Pay a professional to know their job and to take care of you!

Setting yourself up to succeed at work and home

Some days it’s really hard to leave work behind at the end of the day. I’ve put together some of my tricks to walking away without feeling guilty about it. Because let’s be honest, some days you leave work and feel guilty about not getting something specific done or just more done in general. You leave wondering what you even accomplished that day. And some days you’re blessed with the gift of productivity and it’s really easy to leave the office. So here are the things that I’m trying to do to make it easier to leave at the end of the day.

WHAT I DO DURING THE DAY

  • Plan your day. As often as my schedule allows, I start the morning by looking at the things I have to get done and map out my day to make it a reality.
  • Be realistic about what you can get done in a day. I’ve failed a lot. It’s usually when I map out my day minute-by-minute. At one time I thought the definition of productive was having every minute assigned. I added in break times to run to the bathroom or get a snack. However, I quickly learned that a phone call, email, or drop-in can get you off track real fast. And then I felt like I had failed in my tasks for the day. Allow those unknowns to “disrupt” your day.
  • Take a break. Sometimes you need to refocus your brain on something non-work related to get back on track. Go talk to a friend. Walk around your office. Step outside for a few minutes.
  • Leave the office for lunch. On my really stressful days, I leave for lunch. When it’s nice out, I eat my lunch outside and soak up some vitamin D.
  • Give yourself a cutoff time. If you’re like me, the end of the workday is a guide and can easily be ignored. Follow your cutoff rules and you’ll start your night feeling successful about doing one thing. You may feel guilty about not getting something done, but it’s better about not getting it done and not following your cutoff time.

WHAT I DO AT NIGHT

  • Be realistic about what you can or can’t do that evening. I learned that bringing work home when I don’t have time to do it, only makes me feel more guilty and ruins my start to the next day.
  • Set limits to working at night or on the weekend. Sometimes you can’t help it, but don’t get into the routine of working every night. It’s hard to break. It also changes your attitude during the workday. Instead of “get it done now” you think, “I can always do it tonight.”
  • Be present at home. Play with your family or get your home life things done. It makes you feel better and helps you take a breath of something outside of work. In the end, making it easier to get back into work the next day.
  • Be active. I’ve found that a walk with my family can make me forget about all my stress or worries from the day.
  • Eat a healthy meal. The act of cooking or eating something healthy helps me reset my mind. {Because sometimes my husband makes the meals.}
  • Know yourself. Some nights, after the kids go to bed, I need to just be on the couch cruising social media. It’s a waste of a “productive” night, but I don’t let my brain get worked up about it. Sometimes I need the simple act of nothing to recharge.
  • Get more sleep. After a particularly stressful day or week, I go to bed 30 minutes earlier.
  • Get your work done! If you have to work at night, be quick and efficient. I’ve had a number of night working that has kept me up until midnight and then make me unmotivated the next day. Get in and out, no procrastinating!

Relaxing mother-son time

It’s hard to get the right work-life balance. Set yourself up for success so you can leave work with a guilt-free conscious.