Walk for Wishes

On Sunday my family and I will be participating in the Walk for Wishes. We’ll get to the Baltimore zoo around 8 or so and after the walk we’ll check out the animals. Evie especially wants to see the penguins. The older kids are excited to miss church, but sometimes church isn’t in church, you know? Sometimes church is about serving others and that’s what the Make-A-Wish foundation is all about: granting wishes for kids who have a life-threatening illness or condition.

Our story is personal. Evelyn was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 2 1/2 years old.  After the initial “emergency” status of the situation descended to “high alert”, the social worker at the hospital helped us fill out the paperwork for a wish. The Wish ambassadors came to our house to meet Evelyn and the family. When asked, Evelyn went with the age appropriate response and said she wanted to meet the Disney princesses. The Wish people were ready to get us packed, but my husband and I were too tired to think about going anywhere. There was the logistics of traveling with a family of 6, Evie was right in the middle of treatment and had a complicated chemo and surgery schedule. She had to have regular surgery to inject chemo directly into the spinal fluid. And, there was the ever present danger of her compromised immune system. She could spike a fever and we’d be too far from our hospital where everyone knew what size needle to access her port-a-cath and how to take care of a pediatric oncology patient. How to take care of our precious daughter.

The Wish people told us firmly that we needed to use the Wish. That we needed a break. That everything was set — we would spent Evelyn’s fourth birthday in Disney. The Wish people didn’t forget Evie’s twin sister either. Evelyn was always the special guest, but Sylvia was taken care of too. We all were. And, the Wish people were right. That week away as a family showed us how run down we’d gotten, how grim and plodding. We returned to Maryland refreshed, full of energy, and ready to fight again. We also had a ton of pictures and an invaluable family experience with all six of us.

We went from this:

Evie after port replacement (due to infection)

Evie after port replacement (due to infection)

To this:

DSC03026And this: DSC03157And this:DSC02926

 

I hate fundraising — asking friends and neighbors and strangers for money — but this is important. Make-A-Wish isn’t about going on an imaginably fun trip, it’s about being taken care of by a network of volunteers who understand that each moment counts. We were fortunate enough to be taken care of and we’d like to pass that along to other families, the ones coming behind us who are just now finding out about their own health crisis, about their own beloved child.

Please consider donating $5 or $10. The walk is this Saturday. If you care to donate, here’s the link:

Woosley

Love,

Sherri

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Too much stimulation

Today is the first day of spring break and I’m already going nuts.

Despite the fact that every school day I’m dragging kids out of bed, threatening everything that can be threatened if they miss the bus, today they are up. One child has gotten into the cookies and is eating them as she reads in bed. (a no-no in our house. CRUMBS, PEOPLE). The radio is blaring from a bedroom with no one in it. The twins are on my bed, jumping on me because they want their iPads. One twin is okay with waiting until later in the day, but the other has a meltdown complete with kicking legs and screaming and I look at the clock and just wonder why. The puppy wags his tail. He’s ready for his morning walk.

The computer is on downstairs and I yell, “No technology until after breakfast, please.” The answer: “We’re reading on the computer.”

Breakfast. Somehow I started the tradition of every snow day and first day of any break we have blueberry pancakes, and eggs or sausage or something else that requires actual cooking. So, I could bust these out by myself pretty quickly, but no. Supposed to be a teachable moment so I let her do the measuring and the stirring and I bite my lip when there is mix all over the counter and floor and she over-stirred the blueberries so that the mix is purple and little deflated blueberry balloon skins are all that’s left.

The oldest girl comes down and flops on the couch, turning on tv. And, now I’m annoyed because I can’t leave the kitchen, but I can’t seem to win against technology. And, I want my kids to go outside and like build a tree fort or something, but without my needing to supervise and without them using their father’s tools and messing anything up. Can’t they learn a foreign language or how to type? But, that would require my finding the program on the computer. And so I don’t say anything except to call the youngest when it’s time to flip the pancakes.

The laundry is going today too because, despite being spring break, there are buckets of dirty clothes. And I ask, is everything REALLY dirty? Even this shirt that I see is still folded? Did you really wear it? Yes, Mom. Three cherubic smiles. (The boy is still in bed. I don’t ask if his clothes are dirty. They are.)

And I start the dishwasher too, but have to stack the breakfast dishes in the sink, syrupy and sticky because there is too much. Too much of everything.

I dump the egg shells in the flower pots outside, tiny bit of composting, and later I see the puppy eating them. Mental note: Take the dog for another walk because who knows what that will do to his tummy.

My agent has sent me notes about the synopsis I need to get done. The kids want to know if they can watch a movie. I suggest they ride bikes. They want to know if they can play DS. I tell them they need to take the puppy for another walk. He’s going nuts because he normally has daily playdates with our neighbor’s dogs. They are all besties. The three of them run and jump over each other and do ridiculous acrobatics and then puppy comes back in and sleeps. But, the humans are on vacation and I texted the dogsitter to find out when the dogs would come outside, but don’t have a time yet.

This is him watching for his friends.

Gabe looking for Gracie

And then the doorbell rings and I realize I’m still in my pjs and my older daughter brings in a package from Fed ex or whatever. I go upstairs to get dressed. And I’m trying to decide if I can make it to critique group tonight. I haven’t been in so long, but I haven’t worked on the story I wanted to work on and I have something else, but it’s handwritten and I’d have to type it up. On the other hand, the babysitter is arranged and I don’t want to cancel on her and my husband won’t be home until late anyway and the coach is picking up the boy for lacrosse practice…and I’m thinking all these things when I hear a man’s voice. In my house.

And one of my kids wanders into my bathroom where I’m half-dressed and I say, “Is there someone here?” Which is stupid, BECAUSE I CAN HEAR THAT SOMEONE IS HERE. And the kid says, “Yeah. The bug guy is spraying.”

Which I kind of hate anyway because I don’t like chemicals all around, and I hate strangers showing up at my door. Especially when I’m not dressed. I throw on the rest of my clothes and hurry outside, but the bug guy is gone. So, the one place we need sprayed is the door in the basement because we get these huge black spiders that lurk in doorways and the bug guy didn’t spray the one spot we needed. And I’m pissed and rushed and the kids tell me that they are done playing Polly Pockets and want to know if it’s time for lunch.

And I tell them no and run to the internet to type these words so I can get my head on straight and figure out what is going on. Not just with the day because nothing really terrible has happened, but I’m frazzled and feel karate chopped.

And, here it is. Too much stimulation. I’m an introvert. I like calm and even silence. I like to drift in my thoughts thinking of story lines or images. And now I feel defensive, attacked. Crazy to make all these demands STOP.

And, I’m tired of feeling guilty. Like every break or holiday from school is supposed to be an opportunity for Pinterest. Why do I have to defend my need and my desire to work on my dream (the synopsis for my novel and a story for tonight’s meeting)? But, I do. My kids work me constantly. The boy literally spent thirty minutes last night quizzing me on his favorite things to show that I don’t spend enough time with him.

Example:

Him: You don’t even know my favorite color.

Me: Orange.

Him: MY OTHER FAVORITE COLOR.

Me: Dark Blue.

Him: (huffy breath) Well, you don’t even know my favorite….

The girls are manipulative.

Me: Go play something real with your Monster High girls or your shopkins. Make up a story and act it out with the characters.

Them: Why DON’T you WANT to play WITH us?

Me: I do. But I have to work.

Them: So you don’t love us. We understand. (Slumped shoulders and eyes that slide away)

Me: We just made breakfast together.

Twin 1: No, you just did that with Twin 2.

Me: Okay, you can help me make lunch.

Twin 1: You always want me to work!

 

And now it’s lunch time. Hope you’re enjoying your spring break!

Sherri

Running Out of Gas

When I was 16 years old I had to share a “lemon” with my older sister. My kids didn’t know what a “lemon” was when I mentioned this the other day and I tried to explain how horrible an olive green station wagon with faux wood panels was…especially to a new driver in the throes of teenagedom where one doesn’t want to stand out. My parents thought it quite a joke. They bought a key ring with a picture of a lemon. In case we didn’t get it, my sister and I, the word “Lemon” was written underneath the picture. Thanks.

(BTW, my middle-aged sister worked her butt off at McDonald’s and bought herself this teeny-tiny adorable car that she jetted around in, driving with concentration, her visor at the correct angle to account for her curled and hairsprayed bangs)

I digress. The point is, I hated this car. And, I didn’t have a lot of money. So, I’d put whatever money I had into the gas tank, drive it around, and then turn it over to my older sister. She did the same to me until one day I was driving and pushing the gas pedal and yet, somehow, slowing down. The cars passed by on my left. I assume the drivers gave me a quizzical look as I grabbed the wheel more tightly and began rocking my body, trying to get that car to move forward.

It went slower. I pulled over to the side. The gas needle was very clearly on E. I got out, left the keys in the car (who would steal it?), and walked to my friend’s house. From there I walked home. My older sister wanted the car, demanded to know where it was. I told her. “Over on Route 22. You can’t miss it.”

What I remember is that sensation of pushing the pedal, but slowing down. The actual action of running out of gas. My character Rachel experiences this. She’s given everything she has in trying to save her son. She’s asked to give more and she does until she physically collapses, the voices around her sound muffled, her vision is blurry, and she collapses.

Has this ever happened to you in real life? It’s happened to me twice in the past month. Yes, I know, that doesn’t speak well to my learning my lesson. I was always stubborn. But, I also struggle with being a people-pleaser. I WANT people to like me even though I rationally know that my desire is INSANE. I say “yes” to too many things.

Teaching an adult Sunday School from Lent to Easter.

Parent helper for the Elementary Science Club for five weeks.

Teaching seven fitness classes a week.

Running a household with six people: laundry, lunch packing, dinner making, homework checking, projects, grocery shopping, shoe shopping, gathering too small clothes for AmVets, buying little gifts from the “Valentine Dove” (yeah…that’s a different story).

Classroom mom.

Supporting my son’s basketball obsession — playing both rec and travel and against the walls of my house — and driving my twins to gymnastics, and keeping track of my daughter’s horseback riding lessons.

Walking the puppy in the freezing cold and rain because he is potty trained and we AREN’T going to regress.

AND I WAS REVISING MY NOVEL WITH A DEADLINE. You know, my personal dream that I’ve been chasing for years.

I was running out of gas, pushing as hard as I could, cutting out anything that wasn’t directly related to work. There was no time for friends (oh, and I gave up Facebook for lent so I didn’t even have that pleasure), no time for reading, no time to enjoy my kids, no time for myself. No time!

And then I was done. I smacked into depression and I no longer had a choice. I had to cut back. That is, I could only do the bare minimum to function. My husband noticed. “You’re such a drag,” he said. My son noticed, “Where’s your sense of humor?” My twins noticed, “Mommy needs a massage!”

But no one stopped me from running out of gas. I was mad — everyone was willing to take from me, but no one was ready to take care of me. I was mad at other parents. Why doesn’t someone else step up and do something about starting middle and high schools later? Why aren’t there more volunteers at church so I don’t always feel like I have to “step up”? Why can’t the kids make themselves an after school snack without completely destroying the kitchen?

Here’s the thing. We’re all responsible for ourselves. Yes, it’s nice when we have a partner or parent or friend who is tuned in enough to advise “slow down” or who will make a nice dinner or give a gift to “fill the tank.” But, we have to take responsibility and not get so low in the first place.

I started doing little things. My husband watched the other kids so I could take my oldest daughter to the nail salon. She got a mani, I got a pedi. It sounds silly and frivolous, but it made a difference. I was doing something because it was fun.

Here’s a list I’m making for the next time I get out of balance, start giving faster than I’m filling. I will take care of myself with:

  1. Real food. When I’m stressed and running from task to task, my eating habits drop. Solution: Turn to veggies and hummus, crock pot recipes, and fresh fruit.
  2. Exercise. My job is to exercise right now. But, in hindsight I should have called in a sub for help and let myself rest.
  3. Sleep. I don’t think I’m the only one to try to get more done in a day by staying awake for longer, but it will catch up to you. Lack of sleep makes you feel hungrier, less able to focus, and more emotional.
  4. Less caffeine. Again, I don’t think I’m alone in drinking coffee to make myself move faster. Same thing. I need rest, not more fake energy that leaves me feeling unable to focus, dissatisfied and impatient.
  5. Physical. I just rescheduled my dentist appointment from December.
  6. Mental. It sounds crazy, but even when you are revising, read a book. I fell in love with books and piling up “to be read” when I finished my “work” was actually harming me. I wasn’t getting the stimulation to my brain and imagination.
  7. Social. Yeah. I had coffee with my across-the-street neighbor this week. First time we’ve done more than wave since December. Yes, she’s a busy mom and artist (photographer) and I’m a busy mom and artist (writer), but we have to make time. Relationships are important.
  8. Family. Spending time with your family that isn’t the “business” of life. My niece came by. She’s on her spring break. It made me so happy to talk to her and then watch her with my kids. Cousins rock.
  9. Look at pictures of adorable animals.  St. Pattys Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
  10. Fun. This is probably the hardest for me. My husband too. We both work hard and push aside activities that are “only” fun.

Do you have any ideas for ways to fill your tank so that you don’t “run out of gas?” Would love to read about them in the comments below.