Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sick in body, sick in soul

I feel like every time I get sick, all I want to do is write about it. I didn't bother to go back through this blog (or my old one, which I don't think even exists anymore) to see how many times I wrote about the trials of being a sick Mommy. I'll even admit my tongue-in-cheek letter to "HR" the other day wasn't the first time I've written that, or at least a version of it. But I still think it's funny.

In any case, there's something about being sick that makes you so keenly aware of every sensation in your body. On a normal day, I go about my business not worrying too much about how my lungs are feeling or how my throat is so nice and, well you know, not hurting. I don't notice the lack of achiness in my back or limbs or the fact that my head feels, well, normal.

See, that's the thing - normal doesn't feel like much. It escapes our notice. It is the abnormal that draws our attention to our physical presence. My aching head, back and legs, they hurt. They scream sensation incessantly to my brain, as if sending the unending message of, "Pay attention to me!" through my nervous system. Breathing is noticeable because of the heavy, strained feeling of my airways, calling attention to the air as it flows into my body. Ordinarily, I don't experience the feeling of having lungs unless I think about it to take a deep, cleansing breath. Today I feel my lungs as oppressive and painful, sending a message of illness to my brain each time I draw in air.

It occurred to me today that there must be a spiritual connection to our experience of pain and illness. Not just that Christ suffered and therefore we can join our suffering to Him (although that is a pretty weighty concept). There's something to this awareness that illness affords. I am aware of sensations, bombarded by stimuli, bathed in a pool of messages from my body as it fights this infection.

It is a reminder to be aware - not just aware of my body, but aware of my soul. My soul is just as ill as my body is, only in a few days my body will feel better, but my soul will still be steeped in illness. And like a mother who gently strokes the forehead of her feverish child, God reaches out to me to stroke my forehead and help me find the strength to heal. But it isn't my body that worries him nearly as much as my soul - fever or no. The pain in my body is but a mirror to that of my soul and the illness I feel is only a fraction of that which haunts the spirit that is me, the whole of who I am.

I have a natural tendency to try to find God in bad things because I'm convinced it can be done, and because it makes me feel better. In trying to find God in being hit with the flu while caring for three young children, I realized He is there not only holding my hand and stroking my feverish forehead as I have done for my own children, but asking me to look deep inside and see the pain that wracks my soul. And He asks me to work on fixing it.

Or I don't know, maybe I'm just too feverish to be making any sense.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Human Resources,

Dear Human Resources,

I am writing in earnest, as I seem to have missed the memo describing the procedure for calling in sick. Perhaps my assumption of sick days is faulty, but in my previous occupations, at least a small amount of sick time was expected, and given. In my current occupation, of which I have been employed for nearly 7 1/2 years, I have failed to discover the means to actually taking advantage of said sick time, regardless of how ill I have become.

My duties do not seem to lessen in the least during an illness; in fact, they seem to increase exponentially as my underlings appear to be susceptible to similar outbreaks, usually at the most inconvenient of times, and expect me to take care of not only my own needs, but theirs as well.

I implore you - when I am sick, I have great difficulty completing the most basic of tasks. Case in point:

  • Homeschool expectations have dropped by a staggering 80% with reading being completed only 50% of the time and math a mere 25%.
  • Laundry has gone from a stage 1 to at least a stage 7 in the last 24 hours.
  • Dinner this evening consisted of nutritionally suspect items peddled by a creepy clown with a red nose.
  • TV watching has increased dramatically, as my ability to cope with my charges has been reduced by at least 75%.
  • Dramatic Mommy outbursts have increased by a factor of four, including the need to apologize to underlings for unreasonable voice-raising and multiple assurances that said bad mood is not the fault of the underlings. (At some point it may be prudent to make allowances for therapy in adulthood, in lieu of educational funding.)

I assure you that performance of my job duties will rebound far faster if I am allowed just a small amount of sick time. If someone could reply and inform me of how to apply for such time, it would be greatly appreciated. I can guarantee that my job performance will improve in the following ways, if given adequate sick leave to recover from my illness:

  • Homeschool will once again proceed as planned and fun learning experiences will commence.
  • Charges will be well fed nutritious food throughout the day.
  • While I make no guarantee that laundry will revert to a stage 0 (as in, complete) well, ever - I can assure that the current discrepancy in clean clothes vs. dirty will be rectified to at least am 85/15 ratio.
  • TV watching will go back to a far more reasonable amount and expectation of book reading and independent play will increase by 90%.
  • Perhaps most importantly, for it underlies the accomplishment of above objectives, Mommy Mood will improve from a -10 to a minimum of a 7, with spikes of 9 and above (especially on sunny days or with added chocolate).

I'd like to take this moment to emphasize that I adore my job and have no desire to give up my title of "Mommy" to these delightful little creatures. Thank you very much for your time.


aka. Mommy

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sitting at my computer, waiting for my Mom of the year award

Here I sit, lazily poking around Facebook, Pinterest, various blogs and message boards. It is about 5:00 pm. We recently got home from spending the day at Grandma's house. Upon returning home, I got my kids a snack, told them to pick 2 pieces of Easter candy, and promptly hauled my butt upstairs, sat down at my computer and have been more or less ignoring them for the last 30 minutes.

Mom of the year, my friends.

Actually, I'm only half kidding. To be completely honest, I'm feeling a little bit awesome right about now. After downing some strawberries and cheese, my kids wandered outside into the backyard (I can see them from where I'm sitting) and are digging in the rocks. They didn't beg me to turn on the TV, they didn't ask for computer time, they didn't assume they could play XBOX games. They found something to do and they are more than happy to entertain themselves for a while.

Things weren't always like that around here.

A while back, my husband and I decided to institute a no electronics before dinner rule. I wasn't happy with how much TV I was letting them watch, and they were starting to ask for the TV to be on CONSTANTLY. I mean good grief, every time we transition to a new activity or the day comes to a natural lull, we don't need to sit down and watch cartoons. It was totally my fault for letting it get to that point, and I was having a hard time being consistent with screen time. Some days I'd let them watch after lunch, some days not. Some days they could watch while I cooked dinner, some days not. With no consistent boundaries, they kept pushing, asking for TV more often. And my tendency towards being lazy often took over and I'd think, "Well, I don't really want them watching TV all day, but man it sure would be nice because they'd be quiet and leave me alone for a little bit..." So I'd give in. Too often.

Despite my son's exclamation that our new electronics rule was the "worst idea we'd ever had," the transition was rather smooth. After the first day, they quit pouting about it and just figured out other stuff to do. Amazing how that works - take away the mindless entertainment and they have to fend for themselves - and they do.

See, that's the thing - they do. I'm no supermom and I don't have magical, perfect children. But I also don't have kids that complain of boredom very often. Almost never, really. That wasn't always the case. I think their level of boredom complaining is directly related to their amount of TV watching - the more TV, the more they complain about being bored when the TV is not on.

I think it also helps that I have an expectation that they'll go off and play by themselves sometimes. I don't even attempt to keep them busy all day. The afternoons are often open, free, playtime. I don't orchestrate too much, I don't schedule too much. In fact, I kick them outside whenever possible, or at least kick them upstairs if outside isn't an option. "Go play!" And they do.

So as I sit here, relishing in a few uninterrupted moments of time before I cook dinner (granted, this doesn't always happen quite so nicely - they aren't even fighting and that isn't always the case!), I am feeling like I did something right. They should be able to go off on their own and find things to do some of the time. And even if I'm not exactly using this time in the most productive way possible (although I would also argue that a bit of downtime is necessary and good for anyone), I'm a little proud of the fact that my kids are more than capable of that unstructured free play that some kids seem to find so elusive.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Needing a break

My kids are with me all the time. I'm a stay at home mom who now homeschools. Grocery store? Gotta take 'em with me. Costco run? Let's all go. Car needs an oil change? We'll all sit in that stinky waiting room that smells like a mixture of oil, exhaust and cheap coffee. They're my little side kicks. For the most part, this is a good thing. I'm not a perfect mom and I don't have perfect kids, so I won't try to make it sound as if life is always peachy. But overall, I do like things this way.

And sometimes I need a break.

Lately, I'm feeling the strain of having my kids with me all the time. My husband commutes a long way several days a week, so he's gone for at least 12 hours those days. Between that and homeschooling, things have been different this school year and I'm still working out the details of how to make that work (which, like I said, overall I love) without going completely crazy.

I'm feeling a bit batty these days and I think I figured out why. I need to work out. I don't just need to work out, I need to work out in a place and at a time when my kids aren't trying to play with hot wheels cars on the running treadmill or climbing on my back while I attempt a push up (no sir, I am not that strong), or asking me 800 billion questions during the first song on my workout playlist.

My old routine was to workout in the morning, after school drop off. I'd drop off whoever had school that day, take whoever was left with me to the gym, plop them in the nursery and take a class, hit the free weights, whatever. Sixty minutes of bliss. But that routine doesn't work anymore. Mornings are when we do school at home, and I don't think changing that would be a good idea.

Since we started homeschooling, I've tried a few things to get my workouts in - none very successfully. My first solution was to get up at 6am and go to the gym before everyone got up. That had less than stellar results. I am not a morning person. I don't even know what that would be like - to wake up chipper, ready to jump out of bed and get moving. I have to set at least two alarms because the first one never gets me up. I'd have every intention of getting up and going to the gym, but when the alarm went off, I'd find all kinds of reasons why sleeping was a better idea. Then I found myself feeling guilty at night because I'd stay up later than I should, so I'd go to bed feeling kind of anxious, knowing that horrible alarm would be going off long before I was ready for it. And I'd spend my days feeling guilty for not having gotten up and working out, promising myself I would do better, go to bed earlier and get up the next morning - only to stay up a little too late, go to bed feeling anxious, rinse repeat. It wasn't exactly a healthy scenario.

I scrapped the gym, tried working out at home, which meant I could sleep a little later. That didn't work much better.

Then I got a little smarter, and decided to quit doing the same thing over and over. I figured since I wasn't going to the gym anyway, why not just work out in the afternoon, at home. I could get in a quick workout while my daughter was napping. The boys are used to having some downtime during her nap anyway, so all I'd have to do is pry myself away from the Internet, throw on some workout clothes and get to it.

That kind of works. The problem is, my kids are there. In my face. Constantly. They ask questions, want to show me things, want to workout with me, try to play with things on the treadmill and generally make me crazy. Yes, I can get the physical part of the workout done. But the mental release I need? Not so much. I need more than just the workout - I need some space.

The other problem is that I do a lot better with someone telling me what to do. If I know I have a class to get to, I'll go. I'll be on time, I'll workout really hard and I'll love it. Working out on my own is a lot harder. I know how, I have done it plenty in the past, and I can make it work if I have to. But I miss the class setting, particuarly with someone else telling me what to do.

Bottom line, I need to get back into the mentality of scheduling things around my workout time. I used to approach my day that way. If things interfered with my workout time, they had to go. I didn't join my church's mom's group because it met at 10:00 on Mondays. Workout time. We didn't go to morning storytime at the library very often because it was at 9:30. Workout time. Now, I schedule everything based on our homeschool and my workout time has gone by the wayside. For my physical and mental health, I need to find a way to get that time back in a way that is productive, not only for my body, but for my sanity.

Like I told a friend, I need to get back to going to the gym and having someone kick my ass for an hour. It makes me a better mom.