Gamer Kid.

Owen really, really, REALLY likes video games. He went through a massive Minecraft phase a while ago, which I justified was okay because it was actually teaching him life skills and he was creating things, and, in survival mode, was eliminating ghosts and zombies, which aren’t real.

But now his activity of choice is Roblox on the computer, which is essentially a site with a bunch of crowdsource-developed games. Some of these games are pretty neat. But really, he spends most of his time playing Murder Mystery or Assassin or some tycoon game where he has to amass the most wealth in a short period of time.

I can’t overstate how ambivalent I am about it all.

On one hand, who am I to dictate what my kid does with his free time? And he loves it – enough that he tells me stories about what he’s doing and how he’s made another level and how much he loves that he got a radio in one of his games. I love that he’s found something that challenges him and sparks his imagination and excitement.

But he gets sucked in, to the point where, left to his own devices, he’ll play for HOURS without a break, and we have to force him to do actual human things like use the bathroom or eat or OMG JUST GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY BEFORE YOU TURN INTO THE ZOMBIE OF COMPUTER DOOM.

Then I remember when I was a kid, and I spent my summers in my room with books, getting sucked into them and not wanting to stop, my parents coming in my room and telling me I needed to eat lunch or go to bed or to just take a break, because geez, Karen, it’s summer! GO OUT AND PLAY.

So clearly I had similar focus, except with books.

Still, though, I worry about the other people in this game. Roblox isn’t great with the parental controls – you can designate him as being under 13 and turn off the overall chat function and make people friend request him in order to chat. But in every game, there’s a chat function where you can talk with the other people playing the game, even if you’re not friends. And that can’t be turned off.

We have told him that he needs to tell us if he wants to accept a friend request of someone he doesn’t know, so we can show him how to verify it’s a real person, at least, instead of a marketing bot, and if someone starts chatting with him that feels like a tricky person, not to respond, and NEVER, EVER, EVER tell someone on the computer you don’t know your address.

But then I look at my own life, and I feel like a total hypocrite. I met two of my very closest friends through the computer. I have received and sent dozens of things to people I only know through the computer over the past decade. I have met up with people I only know through the computer on vacation.

Not every person on the internet is a stalker or pedophile. I know this.

But you guys, this is my KID we’re talking about.

And then there’s the fact that he’s playing games which require him to kill or be killed, or focus on amassing a lot of money any way he can (if that means stealing, so be it). It goes against our family rule: we don’t hurt things or people. And I don’t have the words to tell you the depth of my worry that the act of killing people in a game when he’s 9 will somehow escalate over the years.

This fear keeps me up at night.
But mom, it’s a GAME. It’s not REAL! I’m not hurting anyone. It’s pretend.

Which is true. For him, the games represent imaginary play, which is so important. And outside of the computer, he’s well-liked and kind and loves our dog and kittens and still cries whenever I yell and loves baseball and soccer and is super loyal to his best friend and takes care of younger kids and really likes to swim. 

He’s a good, intelligent, kind, fairly-well adjusted, curious kid.

Playing a game of Assassin on the computer won’t turn him into a monster. I hope anyway.

Still though.

It would be so much easier if he loved books.

 

 

 

 

Posted in #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, My Cute Kid, Out of My Head, Parenting | 1 Comment

It’s Not Crazy. It’s Amazing.

I started doing triathlons two years ago this summer. And I find it really interesting to note the reactions of people whenever it comes up in conversation.

Usually I hear, Wow, that’s crazy. I could never do one of those!

I hear it from runner friends, too – people who have run marathons! – so it’s not just the idea of doing exercise for a number of hours at a time.

I think it’s the swim – the idea that you have to swim with a lot of people in a place where you can’t stand up… and if you have to stop and rest, you might actually drown.

Or maybe it’s the bike; riding a bike that fast for so long, along cars with drivers who are texting or maybe just angry they have to share the road with cyclists, and if you get hit by a car, you might die.

Or maybe the idea of running after risking your life on the swim and bike is just too much.

I don’t know exactly what makes it – and me, by extension – crazy, but I can tell you this.

To me, it’s not crazy. It’s amazing and completely soul-filling.

I don’t love swimming with that many people at the start of a triathlon, but always, after a minute or two, I find my own space to swim. And then it’s just me and my breath and the (usually, anyway) cool water, and every time I roll to the side to breathe, I see trees and sky and space around me. Fish underneath me. The sun. It’s like walking a gorgeous trail, except you are buoyant and lightweight and cool.

And then, I’m out of the water and onto the bike.

When I was young, I spent most of my summer days in our backyard pool. Sometimes we’d get bored with swimming and decide to get out and ride our bikes, and I have vivid memories of jumping onto my bike, still dripping from the pool, the sun warm on my back and a cooling breeze helping dry me off – even on the hottest days.

So those first minutes on my bike are absolute joy. And then it’s the racing part; settling in and finding my cadence, bombing down the hills (hills on a triathlon bike? THE MOST FUN!), feeling the sun on my back and the wind in my face, my legs strong and powerful.

Then it’s over, and I’m off on the run.

Interestingly – since I started doing triathlon after being a runner – running is not my favorite part of the triathlon. But after a mile or so, it’s relatively easy to find a comfortable pace, and because USAT rules prohibit headphones and/or music devices, you get to chat with other runners, which passes the time. Often I end up running the same pace with someone, and we chat about upcoming races and plans and whatever else we can think of to distract ourselves from the fatigue which is inevitably there at that point.

And I am counting down the miles to the finish. 5k away, 2 miles left, one mile, let’s go. And in every triathlon, there’s a finish chute, where people are waiting and cheering, and I get a huge boost from them, and finish, and it’s over and I find my family and friends and holy shit THAT WAS THE BEST RACE EVER!!!!

Racing a triathlon is not crazy. It’s awesome and amazing and empowering and joyful and hard and so much fun.

The hardest part of triathlon, for me, is fitting in the training in my days playing Life Tetris. It’s biking on a trainer and swimming in gross pools in the winter and dealing with cold days and water in the early spring, when it’s raining and damp and muddy and PLEASE LET THE SUN COME OUT ALREADY. It’s the knowledge that the season is over in September and knowing I have 6-8 months of training inside ahead of me.

But totally worth it.

And if that makes me crazy, so be it.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Races, Training Plans, Triathlon, Writing. | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMonday: Making Use of Solo Time.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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This weekend Jeff kicked off what is going to amount to about three straight weeks of travel for work – with a couple solo weekend trips planned in between.

His travel both complicates and simplifies life. The complications are fairly obvious – I’m responsible for all the home chores and errand running and schedule-keeping, and fitting in my own few needs – really just workouts and work – is harder. Plus, I miss him. My days end up being a lot of actual chores, and I don’t spend a lot of time unwinding.

But it’s also more streamlined. I don’t really need to make dinner, for example – cheese and crackers for me and pasta for Owen works just fine. The early mornings are freer, because I need to be home until we got to camp – so I can catch up on sleep or hang out with the kittens or fold laundry or unload the dishes.

Or write.

I haven’t been writing. I had this great idea for a project, then got caught up in training and work and general Life Tetris… and I keep putting off writing until I have some more time.

I don’t know if I will ever have some more time.

And my personal writing process is just BETTER when I am writing daily; it’s cleaner and flows more easily.

And since my days will be filled with a lot of chores, I need to make sure I take time for myself.

So as of today, Monday, July 10, I hereby commit to a daily practice of writing;  comprised of daily blog posts during the week and notebook/project writing on weekends.

I hope you’ll join me.

 

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, Challenges, Goals, Writing. | 3 Comments

Kittens Adjusting.

Okay, okay, I admit it: I’m a cat person.

Having kittens in the house brings me real, actual, laugh out loud joy.

I spent the first day they got home snuggling with them and taking pictures of them and playing and thinking, wow, this cannot be any more perfect.

We had to color code them, because it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. Luna has a pink polka dot collar, while Lily has a plain pink collar. And that first day, they were total lovebugs and adorable and snuggly with me and Jeff.

Finley was out with the dog walker, who kept him nice and late so we could allow the kittens to get used to our house and the family. Super nice, right?

Except the kittens had a full day to roam the kitchen floor with no big tongue chasing them around.

So when he showed up at 9pm, all of a sudden I had two tiny grey hissing furballs on my hands.

Apparently they did not like our dog.

And because he’s Finley, and he has an anxious, nearly obsessive need to be loved by everybody, we had to separate him from them.

Cue sad-faced dog, whining incessantly Pleaaaaaaaaasssssse can I just PLAY WITH THOSE TINY THINGS because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!

Not Perfect.

Slowly, though, we are getting used to each other.

Luna is our loudmouth, meowing whenever she’s hungry or confused or wants attention. She’s also completely unflappable and an intrepid explorer, striking out to find new things to look at. She prefers for you to pet her nice and slowly on the top of her head and head butts you AND rubs her face on yours when she’s giving love. She was the first to be like, Okay, fine, you weird smelly big golden thing, go ahead and sniff my butt with Finley.

Lily, on the other hand, is much more skittish; hiding from loud noises and too much movement and whenever the dog comes downstairs in the morning. Ironically, though, she’s the one who instigates wrestling matches with her sister and will lash out at the dog with hissing and spread claws whenever he blunders into her way, like Tiny Wolverine. She will purr and snuggle with pretty much anyone. Except Finley, of course.

That said, this morning, we had a moment, where she actually LET FINLEY SNIFF HER.

It’s a big deal.

They sleep together every night and during naps, all snuggled together. They run around like insane things together. They fight and groom each other and they are just so damn cute I can’t even deal.

After years of telling myself it was okay that I didn’t have a cat, it’s so amazing to have TWO of them. I love it.

Some pictures:

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Mindless Posts, Zen | Leave a comment

23.

It’s been that number of years since one of the worst days of my life.

It was the day I found out that my cousin Amy was gone.

Every time I mark this day, I wonder if I’ll stop counting the years she’s been gone.

Not today.

She would have been 40.

And it’s been 23 years.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMonday: Checking In.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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I know, I know, it’s been forever since I wrote anything in this space. I don’t really even have a good excuse; I’m busy, but no more busy than I’ve been before now. Life is hard, and I’ve had to let a few things go while I juggle parenting and work and training and Owen’s sports stuff and catching up on the sleep I lost from insomnia – because thank goodness, I’m SLEEPING again.

The funny thing about not writing here for a while is that the things I WANT to talk about seem less and less important the further I am away from the space. I’m not sure why that is, but every time I have an idea for a blog post, I have an immediate reaction like, Really, do people CARE about that?

But I miss writing, and I need the regularity of it to kickstart a new project I’m really excited about. And plus, I do have a few new things to talk about.

First of all, we hired a girl to help out three days a week after school, and OMG she has made our lives so much easier. She’s amazing, really: bubbly and happy and positive and really sweet and I am so thankful I didn’t run away from the care website I was using when the first woman didn’t work out.

Also, I FINALLY got a tattoo I’ve been thinking about since Owen was born more than nine years ago. Since his birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted something with a shamrock in it, but I could never find the right design. I wanted to see it every day, so I wanted it on my wrist. Initially I wanted a phoenix, but the designs I loved had too much detail for my wrist.

And then, literally the DAY I was supposed to get the tattoo, I found an elephant design I loved.

Elephants symbolize good luck.

And we are really, really lucky to have our son.

So I got this:

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I love it. I love that I can see it all the time, and I love that it makes me feel badass. (Even though it’s TOTALLY not a badass tattoo!)

And finally, we made a decision a couple weeks ago to adopt a kitten. I’ve REALLY missed having a cat in the house, and I’ve been considering it for ages, so for Mother’s Day, we went out and picked out this lovely, gorgeous little girl, who we have decided to name Luna.

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Except, when we left, we couldn’t stop talking about bringing home her sister, too, who was the last one from the litter left – and the one who seemed to really like Jeff the most. After much discussion, we made the decision to bring her home as well. Owen helped name her Lily.

In the next week or so, we’re going to bring home a pair of girl kittens named Luna and Lily, because, as Owen says, Sisters need names that go together.

Eek.

What have you been up to? Do you like my tattoo? Are we totally going to regret bringing home a pair of kittens? (Probably!)

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, #MicroblogMonday, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I Stand for Women’s Health.

(Fair warning: This post is about women’s health issues. Accordingly, it talks about female reproductive health. If you’re squeamish about this kind of stuff, feel free to click away.)

I’ve been struggling, emotionally, the past few months.

Even with regular exercise, having quit caffeine, daily meditation and journaling, consistent therapy sessions, cultivating healthy diet and sleep habits, and even quitting alcohol for a bit, I’ve had trouble sleeping, waking up sweaty in the middle of the night, then having an awful time getting back to sleep. I’ve been moody and irritated and angry a lot.

And then I had a week where I felt an utter and abject hopelessness. I felt numb, and deeply sad. It felt like joy was something other people felt, that I’d never find it myself. It was terrifying and awful and I had no idea what to do. I waited it out, hoping that it was something that would wane.

Thankfully, it DID wane. The day I got my period, I slept a full 8 hours without waking once, and that day, my mood lifted and I felt a billion times better.

I started putting two and two together: night sweats, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression… correlated with my cycles.

These were symptoms of menopause. It couldn’t be a coincidence.

So I made an appointment with a new gynecologist whose special interest was menopause symptoms, who told me that it was actually normal to have menopause symptoms in your early 40s. She confirmed for me that yes, it seemed like I was experiencing them. I had multiple options to ease my symptoms, which included both medication and/or hormones. We talked through them all, the pros and cons, and I left the office with a prescription for medication, which, as of today, seems to be helping.

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All’s well that ends well, right?

For me, yes.

I live in Massachusetts, one of the states that actually cares about making sure that its constituents have access to health care; Mitt Romney’s 2006 health care reform bill was the basis for the national law to allow access to affordable healthcare for all.

And I am watching what our new administration is doing to try and resurrect the dead ACA repeal (also known as the AHCA) bill with anger at what they are trying to do.

Because yes, I live in a state where I will likely always have access to healthcare. (I mean, seriously – the governor of Massachusetts even pledged state funding to Planned Parenthood had the AHCA passed.)

One of my best friends who lives in Kentucky, though, has a different story.

As does my sister in North Carolina.

And my mom in Texas.

And my girlfriends who live in in Georgia. Or Alabama. Or Nebraska. Or Michigan. Or Pennsylvania.

You get the picture, right?

Women will suffer under the new administration’s version of the AHCA.

Prior to Obamacare, only 12% of insurance plans covered maternity care.

Prior to Obamacare, less than half of the states in the US had mandates requiring coverage of mental health treatment.

The new AHCA strips out the mandate to provide preventative health care for women: mammograms and pap smears. And also mental health services, which, based on my recent personal experience, actually kind of go hand in hand with physical health.

The new AHCA will not allow for organizations like Planned Parenthood to be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid for birth control and preventative care for women. And since Planned Parenthood operates its centers in mostly low income and rural areas, it means that women in low income and rural areas will lose access to women’s reproductive care.

I feel like, ever since November, I’ve been sitting here, watching what’s going on in politics and shaking my head, saying, This is NOT OKAY.

This is not SO not okay.

So this week, I called Seth Moulton – my US Rep* – and told him that I stand for women’s health**.

We need to make our voices heard. Still. Now. Until we ALL have access to the kind of healthcare that we all need.

*Need to know who your rep is? Click here and enter your zip code.

**Don’t know what to say? Click here for a sample script.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, Milestones, Wellness | 4 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: Insomniac.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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For a couple years now, I’ve had periods of insomnia here and there. Worst was during the summer a couple years ago, where I spent two months not sleeping. That was awful.

So I was super excited when giving up caffeine seemed to help my sleep issues.

It was GREAT for the first couple weeks.

But for the last month, I have had stubborn insomnia which I cannot seem to overcome.

I FALL asleep just fine, no trouble there – I’m usually asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

But between 1:30 and 3:00 each night, it’s like I have this little alarm in my head that goes off. My eyes pop open and I’m wide awake, as if it were the middle of the day. I shuffle to the bathroom, get a drink of water, then get back in bed and start my evening fall-asleep process all over again.

And then my brain goes, Oh HAI! I’m not sleepy at ALL! Come on, let’s play!

If I were thinking back over long-gone embarrassments, or worries about the future, I think I’d be able to handle the insomnia better. THAT I can handle, I can take deep breaths and tell myself to work with what I have right now, that I’m the moment and there’s nothing I can do about the past or future.

But no. That’s not what my brain wants to talk about.

No, it wants to work out every plot line of EVERY MOVIE I HAVE EVER WATCHED.

Which, ironically, are few and far between. I’m not what you would call a “movie person.” I was a bookworm when I was younger and never got into the habit of watching movies, always preferring the library or a bookstore. I haven’t seen Back to the Future or Goonies or any of the Rat Pack kid movies like Breakfast Club. A friend of mine actually somewhat forcibly held me in his apartment until I watched all three Star Wars movies during winter break in college, horrified that I had never seen them. And I can’t tell you how many times Jeff has asked me, Have you seen… with the name of some movie I probably SHOULD have seen in the 80s. My answer is always, Nope!

Yet that’s what my brain wants to do right now in the middle of the night: go over all the movies I have seen and try and figure out the things I can’t remember.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a riveting hour at 3am thinking about the plot line between Natalie and the Prime Minister in Love Actually.

So he fired her because of her thing with the US President, right? Or did she quit? And then she sent him a Christmas card and he HAS to go find her because she was apologizing for her part in the whole thing? Wait, is that even true? He’s kind of a dick to fire her (wait, Karen, DID he fire her? Or did he just let her quit?) for THAT. Billy Bob Thornton made a good creepy American president there.

So wait, did she quit, or did he fire her?

And the whole time I’m laying there, I was trying to tell my chattering brain, Yo. We don’t need to figure this out now! Can we PLEASE just go to sleep?

If it would STOP OBSESSING FOR ONE MOMENT to answer, it would have said, Yes, yes, of course! In a tone that is agreeable and eager. It’s just that I NEED to figure this out first!

A few nights ago it was Sleepless in Seattle. I have NO idea why that movie popped into my head; I saw it once, a long time after it came out, and I didn’t really understand the appeal. But there I was, trying to figure it all out. Why did they meet at the Empire State Building? Wait DID they meet there, or did they cross paths and meet elsewhere? Shit, how did that go again?

I legitimately sit awake most every night, obsessing over movie plot lines. I’m aware of it while I’m doing it, but I literally CANNOT STOP THINKING. And so I’m awake for 2-3 hours a night while my brain turns over every tiny detail I can possibly remember about a movie, until finally, it tires itself out, and I fitfully sleep until my alarm rings at 5am.

It reminds me of what Anne Lamott says about her brain in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:

“Still, my mind chattered on, as if the spider monkey had taken acid. My mind is my main problem almost all of the time. I wish I could leave it in the fridge when I go out, but it likes to come with me.”

At 3 in the morning I wish I could take my insomniac movie-obsessed spider monkey on acid mind and give it a bunch of pot, some valium and maybe a glass of wine or two and then stuff it under my pillow, holding it tightly until it passes out and leaves me alone for a few hours.

I need an unbroken night of sleep.

Soon.

Have you ever struggled with insomnia?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Attachment.

Our oven, which is built into a wall in our kitchen, stopped working a few weeks ago; it would run and run and never get hot.

I called a GE repair person, who came today. It’s fixable, but it will require two people, because they have to take the oven – which is 10 years old – out of the wall. With parts and labor, it’ll cost $700.

A new oven is $1400. We’ve already replaced the control panel for this particular model, so if we spend the money on fixing it, we’re nearly at the cost of a new oven.

I asked him straight out what his opinion was. If we fix this part, would the oven continue to work just fine, did he think?

He stopped and considered. Well, maybe. But this oven is 10 years old, which is the standard life on appliances nowadays.

I don’t want to buy a new oven.

I want this one to work.

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that my favorite long sleeved pullover is looking a little stretched. The fabric is thin on the elbows, and the shirt is stretchy in odd ways. No holes yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

I’m wearing it anyway, because usually I just layer it over a t shirt and under my zipped hooded sweatshirt.  Plus, it’s my daily uniform.

And yes, I’ve been looking for new shirts to replace this one, but this one is so perfect – fitted, but not too tight, and not too loose. I can’t seem to find anything will work in its place.

I don’t want a new shirt.

I want this one to stay as comfortable as it’s been.

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Owen has been getting up for the past few weeks, getting dressed, going downstairs, making himself breakfast on his own, and then cleaning up after himself. This is mostly because he knows he’s allowed his iPad/computer time before bus only if he’s taken care of business first. But also, well, he’ll be 9 next month (next MONTH!), so I feel like a little responsibility is a good thing.

It’s actually quite nice; I’m able to get my bike workout in some mornings and not have to worry that he won’t be ready for school. But, too, it’s bittersweet, because wasn’t it just yesterday that he was my baby and I had to allow him to wake him up slowly, by taking him out of his crib and rocking with him and Bear in the glider in his room?

As he grows, it gets harder and harder to mother him. That’s how it works: your child is always leaving you, every moment of every day, growing into their own person with their own lives and hopes and dreams. It’s right that it happens that way.

I will not be that mom that won’t let her son grow up.

I just wish it wasn’t so hard to let go.

Posted in #BrainDump, Wellness | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: Snow Days.

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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Old Man Winter decided to show up last week, in the form of what feels like nonstop snow since last Tuesday. And three snowdays and two two-hour delays later, I am sitting at home in my pajamas, writing this, longing for a regular, normal, usual day.

Not going to happen – today at least. Snow Day.

Owen loves it, of course. Third grade has been a bit of an adjustment for him; he’s been telling me lately that he doesn’t like school and he hates homework, and he’s even asked if he could be homeschooled. He’s come home from the after school program a few days this month with headaches so bad they’ve made him throw up.

My theory is that he’s reacting to the structure and maybe his teacher and then the chaos inside at the afterschool program, but I was also his age when school went south for me as well. So I worry. His teacher hasn’t reached out to me, though, and when I’ve asked Owen straight out if he wants me to talk with her, he’s said no, so I’ve just been sitting with it and hoping it resolves. Sometimes you just get a teacher you don’t really click with; I hope that’s the case here.

So it’s nice, in a way, to cocoon at home, no school, no homework fights, work in my pajamas, be there when Owen wants to come up for a hug, snuggle under a warm blanket, and go outside with our goofy dog who ADORES the snow.

Plus, it’s kind of pretty.

(That said, PLEASE LET THERE BE SCHOOL TOMORROW. Thank you.)

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, My Cute Kid, Other Stuff, Out of My Head | 3 Comments