Category Archives: mama life

When I’m a Grown Up…According to Henry

Something Henry has been saying with increasing frequency lately has started: “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy….” He follows that up with some adorable way he’s going to act as an adult. Tonight he declared that “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy I’m going to cut the grass using the stick cutter like daddy uses.” He means the weed whacker, and thought that cutting the grass with a lawnmower (like I was doing tonight) was barbaric and less efficient somehow. Adorable, right?

But the words he ALWAYS includes when making these statements nearly make my cry with happiness each time he says them, “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy, and I’m staying at home with the kids and my wife is a pastor….”

I can’t take it sometimes and give him a hug so fierce he can’t take it (he’s not my cuddly little).

My joyful and proud mama moment is twofold.

First, he sees Keith’s job as important, but not something he’s into (thank goodness; clergy positions, even when they’re in wonderful congregations, are tough). Plus, he knows that women make excellent pastors and he’s fine if his wife is one.

Moreover, he sees what I do as a stay-at-home-mom all day, every day, and wants to have that life. So often I feel like I’m doing this whole mama thing wrong, especially when I yell, feel frustrated, and am bored with playing with toys. But he overlooks that, and sees my all-encompassing love for him and his brother, and wants that for himself when he’s a daddy. I hope he feels that kind of love someday.

Sometimes I Want To Not Care

I have a secret. Sometimes I want to not care about things happening in our world today. It would be easier. I’d have more time for fun. I could be frivolous at will. Maybe I would live in the moment more easily than I do now. Certainly, it would be a relief to live in a bubble free from deep thoughts and anything unpleasant that didn’t directly affect me. Society’s problems would not disappear, but it wouldn’t matter because as a member of the white population in the United States I’m super privileged.

But this indifference to others is not me. I hope for a more peaceful world, and understand that I need to actively participate to create change in it. I care beyond what’s happening in my immediate world.

I care so much it makes me cry tears of rage and sorrow when yet another white male perpetrates a school shooting and kids are killed in the line of fire or while protecting their classmates. The papers call the murdered ones heroes, but that’s not the right word – martyrs would be better. We don’t have to continue our complicity and keep allowing our children to be murdered in mass shootings. We can change the laws by providing better access to (and quality of) mental health care and limiting gun rights in the name of public safety. The Florida legislature’s response (besides its usual thoughts and prayers) to all this of arming teachers – it will not help. Kids deserve and need to feel safe and protected at school. If their teachers are carrying, they are inherently unsafe. Guns do not belong in classrooms with students.

Another facet of education that I wish I didn’t care about is the world of high-stakes testing. My kids aren’t old enough for the FSA, and the incredible pressure that comes along with it. I feel anxious for their future selves because I know how terrible it feels to bomb a single test that determines whether you get to move on to the next grade (or get into a top tier law school). I am a mediocre test taker when only given one shot to prove myself. I may know the material backwards and forwards, but my anxiety causes me to freeze up, misread questions, and panic. And I’m an adult. Now think about how kids feel when faced with the FSA.

We fail our students when we submit them to testing that is designed in the name of education reform but is truly created to destroy the great equalizer that is public education. Tests are rigged so a certain percentage of students fail, which allows the government to label schools as failing. Parents rightfully become upset and begin looking for a way out through vouchers and for-profit charter schools that are publicly funded with our tax dollars (siphoning off money from public school systems) but with less (or no) public oversight. I have family and friends who send their kids to these programs because they view the public schools as broken. They aren’t wrong. They want what’s best for their children. We all do. But as a collective society, if some kids are slipping through the cracks it is our duty to look out for them and lift them back up.

The current inequity in our public schools is astounding, but it can be fixed. Rozella Haydée White’s new book, Love Big: The Power or Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World, contains a roadmap for seeking peace through moving toward justice. She “define[s] justice as equitable access to resources that provide people with the ability and agency to create a life of meaning. Working toward justice requires dismantling any system, ideology, or institution that promotes inequity….Justice becomes a reality when we recognize that we need one another. When we become justice seekers and peace bearers we recognize that our lives are inextricably linked. What one person does, thinks, or even believes affects another.”

“What if we practiced the belief that we belong to one another daily?”~Rozella Haydée White

As I read her words, it clicked that I have been actively working through this philosophy of peace and justice through my membership with FAST. Over the past two years I’ve become increasingly involved with its youth suspensions and arrests committee where we have researched and learned that if restorative justice practices (RP) are properly implemented in our schools, students and teachers succeed. Behavior issues are handled with student accountability and compassion, giving kids a toolbox to deal with the big emotions they feel on the daily. This in turn allows teachers to spend more time teaching the material and keeps kids in the classroom versus being removed, suspended, or arrested for disciplinary issues. Teacher retention rates in schools using RP methods are higher (but we still need to pay them what they are worth, an entirely different battle).

Changing the culture in public education is difficult, but I truly believe RP is the real game changer into creating an inclusive culture where all students feel heard and wanted as assets in their classrooms. Because I truly believe this transformation needs to happen, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and feel uncomfortable. With FAST, I flew to Louisville to learn about RP from a school district that is effectively implementing the initiative. Earlier this year, I spoke directly to school board members not only at meetings but also in front of a crowd of 2500+. This scared me because I’m uncomfortable speaking in public…not only the everyone’s eyes on me part but also my need to deliver my message perfectly using the correct words with the proper gestures and presence. I want to convince people this matters, and I know my discomfort is nothing compared to what kids face at school. So I woman up, lean in, and demand change to make the system more equitable.

I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m a parent who believes that public schools offer the best chance for all kids to become the people they are meant to be. I care, and I want others to take responsibility in creating change, too. Don’t you?

Forget January, Bring On February!

If you haven’t seen this picture circulating around the internet yet, here it is:

At first, I laughed about it, but then the more I thought about it, the more I felt it’s totally true for me. January felt like an entire YEAR rolled into a single month. What’s up with that?!?

January was rough with waiting for my melanoma to be removed. It’s hard waiting for treatment for weeks after a cancer diagnosis knowing there’s nothing I could be doing to stop its growth. Except for surgery. Thank goodness only surgery was required to treat it, because stopping all normal activities for two weeks was definitely difficult.

Not being able to pick up and hold my 2 and a half year old, who is a supremely cuddly little, was torture for both of us. He quickly figured out I couldn’t keep up with him so he threw down some of his most epic flops and temper tantrums to date. The worst occurred at the library where he sprinted away while I was checking out books, climbed the stairs and almost made it inside an elevator to head downstairs that way. That kid is FAST! And I can usually hang but not this January.

I also couldn’t work out beyond walking at a leisurely pace. If you know me, you know that drove me bonkers! I’m at the gym 5-6 days a week normally taking various classes for my mental health. It helps decrease my anxiety and is my time to not focus on anything else in my life but myself (and mostly my breathing, because dang I take some challenging classes!) And walking at a 20-minute mike pace could not compete.

But January is over and done with, thank God!

My surgery went better than I imagined (because of course my brain occasionally went to worst possible scenario of extreme pain, permanent disfigurement, and/or death). Although exhaustion took over post-surgery thanks to the anesthesia, I never really had pain. My scar looks great so far, especially because it’s only been 3 weeks. My melanoma genetic testing came back in the lowest possible category, and my two basal cells have been removed.

I’m cancer-free! We’re settling back into our regular routines. February is looking lovely with Bad Kid Christmas only 2 weeks away!! And I’m working on my five-year plan, trying to figure out my place in this world. Everything’s coming up Sunshine, and I’m ready for it!

Merry Christmas! I’m Totally (Not Really) Fine!

Today is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. So I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post that is all over the place and full of my rambling feelings. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like being in an emotionally precarious state when you have to keep it together so your family can have the best Christmas ever! Isn’t that how parents feel about Christmas every year? Matt Damon and the cast of SNL seem to agree.

Something I didn’t include in our Christmas cards this year even though it’s pretty significant change to our lives is that just after Thanksgiving I found out I have melanoma. Merry Christmas! I have cancer! It puts a damper on people’s holiday cheer so I left it out. Even though I can’t stop thinking about it.

I have cancer.

Skin cancer. And I’m only 36.

I’m angry. And terrified. And upset. I’m short with my kids who don’t know what’s going on with me. I cry at nothing. And then pretend I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

Maybe if I say it enough times I’ll trick myself into actually being okay. Sometimes I actually feel mostly fine. And I’m not even faking.

Just kidding. I’m not fucking okay. Thanks for asking.

I’ve continued my normal routines like a boss. I’ve gone though various events and fun times this holiday season, and had fun. Really. I promise I did. I can compartmentalize and ignore the voice in my head shouting “I HAVE CANCER” without ruining everyone’s party. I’m fine. I’m drained. I feel loved.

I feel so very loved. Really, I have the best family and friends. I could go into their amazingness in excruciating detail, but it would get embarrassing…that’s how awesome my people are. I’m keeping their love and support to myself because I need it all. Sorry not sorry.

Meeting with the plastic surgeon definitely helped me feel more at ease with the situation. My melanoma was caught early and should be easily removed. It is on my hairline so it’s in the best possible spot for removal with minimal scarring. It will be like a mini-face lift on one side.

I feel extremely fortunate that my cancer can be cut out and that its removal should be the end of the cancer in my body. I won’t have to have chemo or radiation or anything like that. But part of me is terrified it will return. Because I’m more likely to have another one now that I’ve had one already.

I’m especially scared because my FIL has been dealing with melanoma for 9 years now. I’ve seen him cut up again and again, watched him deal with experimental therapies that harmed his body as much as they helped, and observed him not being himself as he received treatments.

January 10th I say peace out to my melanoma. I hope and pray it’s for good. Although if for some reason it’s not, I’m going to fight. Besides, if the Notorious RBG can come out swinging against Round 3 of cancer, I can certainly do likewise (although I can only hope to match her intense exercise regimen).

Meal Planning for My Sanity

If you follow my Instagram (@lwalbolt) or my Facebook, I’ve been posting weekly pictures of our dinner menu since just before Henry began kindergarten. It’s been helpful for me to plan out our dinners for grocery shopping purposes and to give an advance look at our evening plans that may interrupt family dinner time. I feel calmer about the whole dinner process, especially because my house becomes crazytown between 5 and 7 pm (the time when I make dinner).

If your house goes bonkers in the evening like mine does (I continuously ask myself, “Is it bedtime yet?”), maybe my process for meal planning can help you find some peace in the actual cooking of dinner.

First, I compiled a list of all our favorite recipes with accompanying website locations since I had them saved in multiple places (including the abyss that is my Pinterest account). I divided the list by meat (chicken, pork, beef) and vegetarian meals. That way I can do a variety of foods and not just eat delicious pasta every night.

Next, I look at our schedule to see when Keith and I have evening meetings, family fun times, or gym classes, and I make easy, quick meals on those nights. I know I never feel like cooking on Sundays (church drains all of us as a clergy family) so we either do leftovers or pizza (Publix has excellent dough in the bakery which makes for easy assembly). Since Monday is Keith’s day off, I produce a more elaborate meal with leftovers so he has food to take for lunch during the week. I also alternate the type of grains we eat so everyone gets their favorite. Finally, I got an Instant Pot over the summer so I’ve been making something in there once a week.

Sometimes the kids are not here for eating my new creations. “I hate broccoli,” exclaims Elliot, and “It’s too spicy” are two statements I often hear. So I always make sure there is something on their plates they love (like applesauce), and they are required to try (occasionally with tears) all parts of dinner. But there’s usually leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge that I heat up once they try it, if they’re still so so hungry.

Most importantly, I allow myself grace when I don’t feel like making whatever dinner I have planned (no real reason required). Chicken nuggets and fries plus salad (just kidding – chicken nuggets and tots are a totally fine dinner) is something we eat on the regular, and never gets old. Assuming the ingredients haven’t gotten disgusting, I just move the meal I didn’t make to next week’s menu. So if you see a meal on my menu two weeks in a row (or more), it’s probably because we had a lazy night (or maybe we really liked it).

Currently, we are trying to eat more vegetarian meals so I’m only planning meat a couple times a week. I’ve been scouring my favorite websites (Six Sisters Stuff, Damn Delicious, Budget Bytes, and Pioneer Woman) for new recipes, because I like to do 1-2 new to us recipes each week. It keeps me from getting bored in the kitchen, and some of them turn out to be hits. Only a couple of times have we had to order pizza because dinner was inedible. So I consider myself a self-taught cooking success! Now if I could find some trained animals to do the dishes afterwards that would be ideal.

Coping with the Low Valleys of Being a Mama

Right now, I am one weary mama. My Fitbit tells me exactly how much sleep I’m not getting at night. And then it tells me I should sleep more. I want to sleep more than 6-7 hours, but my body will not let me. And I love sleep, especially naps, so this hurts me.

My allergies and asthma work together in concert to exhaust my lungs and body systems. This year’s pollen crop keeps up its attack without ceasing. My usually black car now has a yellowish-green tint to it. Going outside to play with my kids for an hour sets me back at least a day in terms of system recovery. And my boys live to play outside and run around. So we coop ourselves up in our house or indoor play areas, but they just aren’t the same as playing at a park.

My asthma got so bad this week, I breached proper theatre etiquette and walked out, mid-song, of The Color Purple, a musical I’ve been waiting all year to see. All because I couldn’t stop coughing and I knew it would be worse for those around me if I stayed. So I interrupted 16 people to escape the theatre, and didn’t go back inside due to fear of the same thing happening again.

I can’t exercise the way I want; I have to take breathing breaks because I’m sucking wind. Or I can’t even muster up the energy to take my regular classes because moving my body seems impossible.

These are all my coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and life that make me a better mama to my boys. And I can’t do them right now. So we are all suffering.

I get angry over little things (and big ones, too). The house is more of a disaster than usual because we are in it more and I can’t stop coughing enough to fully clean it. I cry easily, and feel like I’m letting everyone down. I am not at peace with myself, and am struggling.

I tell myself it’s all right; it’s going to be all right. I pray and ask God to help me feel better. But it’s so hard when I can’t even breathe. I’m being carried away and cannot ground myself.

So I ask for help. I hate it; I want to do it myself, be strong and persevere. But I can’t. My husband is pretty fantastic at supporting me when I get like this. He’s positive, and affirming, and full of hugs. It’s difficult to float away when you are receiving a hug. My boys give full-body snuggles, too. Their empathy is outstanding and a great comfort to me. I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I’m working at accepting it. I am loved, and enough.