Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Annual Review Time

My husband and I recently got through “annual review season” at our respective places of work. He is fortunate to be managing a great group of people, and I’m fortunate to be working with great people. I have always disliked annual reviews, but they’re a good time to receive feedback, guidance and set goals for the upcoming year. (We both received good reviews, in case you were wondering J).

It's funny how a good review can spark some soul-searching. With an expanding role at work, and after a couple of unexpected days at home in the past week with S-man, I found myself pondering my parental performance and goals.

Yes, I realize that each New Year is marked with resolutions - goals like losing weight, saving money, and eating out less. But when we make resolutions we usually focus on only ourselves as seen through our own lens. I’m talking about getting feedback on how we’re actually doing – how well are we functioning in our role in our own family?

Am I modeling the type of person I want my children to grow up to be? Am I spending enough time with them? Am I making the most of the time I do spend with them? Am I giving them enough room to explore life on their own and find their own interests? Yes, this list could go on and on…so, finally – am I over thinking it?
And what about my long-term goals? Some day our children will both be involved in more activities after school, and our free time will be come less "free." Is it reasonable to continue growing my career (alongside my husband's) if I want to be as present and involved as I want to be?

This struck me again last night, as I tucked W, our 6 year-old into bed. He asked if we could spend more time together. “Absolutely!” I replied. We decided that it was time for the two of us to have a “date”. While I realize that this request was likely prompted by the fact that his little brother got two whole days of mommy’s undivided attention, it did make me take notice and wonder: what would he put on my annual review? Furthermore, what would my husband put on my review?
I suppose the only way to find out is to ask.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Behind every great kid...

So many moms parents find it so easy to be hard on themselves. I am one of them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taking the Plunge (or not)

Do you know what a polar bear plunge is? Basically it’s a bunch of crazy people who plunge into near-freezing water in the winter, usually for fun, for purported health benefits, or as a fund-raiser. (CNN actually  published an article in January of this year, asking “Are polar bear plunges good for you?”. The jury’s still out).

I am most familiar with the fund-raising variety. This past weekend, my family and I traveled to my home state to support one of these events, which was co-chaired by my brother’s amazing wife. She has been inspired to bring a “Polar Plunge for Special Olympics” event to my hometown for the past four years by their equally amazing son, Hudson, who has Down Syndrome.

There are few words to describe just how cold polar plunging is. It’s COLD. This year, the water temp measured 32 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yes, that’s equivalent to 0 degrees Celsius. Literally, freezing. (Have I made my point?)

Prepping to plunge - after removing ice that had formed on the open water
I have plunged twice in the past. Once in 2011 (I'm the dork on the left in the weird get-up and plugging her nose):

And once in 2012 (again, the dork on the left, plugging her nose):
A mild winter meant standing in lake water prior to the jump - BRRR!

This year, I was on the fence. Last year I decided that I would alternate my fundraising efforts each year between Special Olympics and Crohn’s disease awareness through CCFA. I didn’t want to be asking my supporters for money multiple times in a year, nor do I want to short either organization.

Despite this decision, I knew I would at a minimum attend the event, but still wanted to plunge. Yes, I still wanted to plunge into 32 degree water. I'm freaking nuts.

I checked with my gastroenterologist, and he did not know of any “GI contraindications” for jumping into icy water. Dr. Google didn’t turn up anything, either. Ultimately, my stomach decided for me. Things had been flaring up and after a week of a bland/soft diet, I was finally getting my Crohn’s symptoms back under control. I decided it would be best not to plunge (thanks for helping me decide, Amy!).

Alas, this is just one more thing that Crohn’s got in the way of. BUT – as with other disappointments, I made the decision to look at the bright side: I still got to attend. I took some photos for my sister-in-law; I cheered on my husband (see him and my brother below - btw, that's a wig, not a real mullet) and the other teams as they braved the jump. I got to be there and hug my sweet nephew and support a wonderful organization. THAT is what the event was about.

Dude, they have much better ups than I do
I’m extremely proud of my sister-in-law (my brother, too!). She’s a fabulous parent and person in so many ways, and the fundraising that these four plunges have brought to the athletes in their area have changed the way they compete. It’s phenomenal.

All in all, there were 210 plungers and over $65,000 raised in this small town of 20,000 people. I didn’t plunge, but I am very proud to have been a (minor) participant - Crohn's flare or not.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Left My Heart at Home Today

Our 6 year-old son, W, woke up this morning with a nasty virus after being up in the night coughing. Fortunately, he didn't have a fever, but was sick enough to stay home from school. We certainly didn't want to send him with the horrible sounding croupy cough.

After consulting our respective work calendars, my husband and I determined that he would be the one to stay home with our son. It was a logical decision, based on our schedules. Not to mention that W is old enough for us to be able to get some work done from home, and if taking time off is required, my husband also has a much healthier PTO balance than I do.

But I still hated leaving him this morning. It's situations like this that make me feel so conflicted about work/life balance. I knew that W was fine at home with his dad. I also knew that he wasn't terribly sick and just needed some extra rest and TLC. But I still wanted for it to be me at home with him. I wanted for someone not just to be at home with him, but to be with him.

Memories aren't just made at the "big" moments in life. "Being there" doesn't mean only being there for the ball games, plays, events, and parent-teacher conferences. Memories and being there also happen in the little, everyday things - like making hot cereal or soup and snuggling my son when he doesn't feel good. If my schedule and PTO balance would have allowed, I would have taken the time - that bonus day rarely gifted to us by all things a virus - and spent it with him.

Will it get easier? I doubt it, but I can hope so.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Mommy, why were you in the hospital?"

Today, as I sat at the kitchen table with our 6 year-old working on his valentines, he suddenly recalled a memory from nearly two years ago. "Mommy," he said, "once I gave you a valentine like this one. I brought it to you in the hospital."

I was a little surprised at him recalling this. I have been thinking a lot lately about the last time I was hospitalized, in February 2011. I had fallen sick very suddenly, and W had just turned 4 at the time. I assumed he had forgotten about it, as he hasn't brought it up in quite some time.

"Why were you in the hospital?" he asked.

"Well, remember we talked about how mommy's tummy doesn't always work right? Sometimes it makes me sick enough that I have to go to the hospital to get better." I was preparing to go further in depth with my answer if he needed me to, but my answer seemed to suffice. For now, anyway.

The past two years since that hospitalization has brought with it a lot of healing and soul-searching. I guess that's part of what has brought me here, to the world of blogging. I find it therapeutic; I would like to share my story; and perhaps by writing, I can help my story - as a mother and as a Crohn's warrior - evolve. I can't wait to see what happens!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Thing About Resolutions


Well, sort of. At least it's still January, right? At least it's we're only 1/12 into the year, right? (Can you tell I started this post a few weeks ago?)

Last fall was a long one. I spent a lot of time battling Crohn's symptoms, seemed to be continually sick with a virus and was dealing with the side effects of steroids. The kids fought their own bugs, and our nights were interrupted by sleep issues (the steroids didn't help). Throw in some work travel for both my husband and me, and I was utterly exhausted. Getting through the week felt like running in water - it was exhausting, and I felt helpless to do anything about it; shore seemed so far away.

I looked forward to that peaceful lull between Christmas and New Year's (yes, it can happen if you plan it right) with the same fervor that our children anticipated Santa's visit. Thankfully, I was not disappointed - it was everything I hoped it would be! Our children had a blast, we had fun, we visited family and some family visited us. We ate well, slept well, reconnected, and made some wonderful memories. It was truly fulfilling and refreshing.

As the new year started, armed with energy, I decided to come up with some New Year's Resolutions. I wanted to focus on my health, marriage, and parenthood. This was SUCH a great idea at a time - you know, when I was rested, full of energy, and not juggling work and home. And then...life happened.

Alas, we're one month into the year and I feel thwarted. You see, I'm one of those Type-A, goal-setting, list-making people who likes to check things off in the time frame expected (life has given me several slap-in-the-face lessons about letting go of this, but to some degree, I'm fighting nature, here).

I may feel thwarted, but I've decided that I don't feel like a failure. You see, the thing about resolutions is that we don't make them in a vacuum, and we don't accomplish (or fail) them in a vacuum. There's this thing called life - and as they say, "life is what happens when you're making other plans resolutions."

You can pretty much plan on the unexpected happening. There will most certainly be an illness, a child who won't stay in bed or has nightmares, an unexpected work trip, a late night at work to make a deadline. 2013 has proven no different.

But I'm not going to let that stop me; it doesn't mean I've failed. It means I should keep going. Because regardless, I'm trying to be a better person, mother, and wife. So what if I'm not checking everything off my list according to the timeline I set out? Maybe I should shift my focus to one resolution. To be less hard on myself? To let things go, and celebrate when I am able to achieve my goals?

My resolution for February on forward is to be more realistic. I'll continue to make lists and set goals, but I will need to stagger them. First up, we are working through some parenting decisions that will get us more sleep. With more rest, I'll have more resolve to tackle the next thing(s). Realistically, I will also need to ask for more help along the way (something I am not good at), or just let things happen when they can. But no matter what, I'll get there.