A Memorable First Day of School

Memorable First Day of School 4Memorable First Day of School 3Memorable First Day of School 2

First Day of School

Today was my kids' first day of school and although they were excited to meet their new teachers and see if any of their friends were in their classes, no one was more excited than me. I love back to school time. I had been dreaming of 7-hour, uninterrupted work days since they started preschool four years ago.

Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my kids. I love the fact that I'm able to work from home and my non-profit work is so flexible that I make my own schedule. But having worked in 15-minute, 1-hour, and 2-hour increments for the past 3 years, I was finally ready to have a regular workday. I envisioned seeing the kids off on the bus at 7:45am, working for 7 hours, then picking them up at the bus stop. My hope is that with our new schedule I'll be able to have more work/life balance with those 7 hours of uninterrupted work time while they're in school.

First Day of School Drama - chairWe had a great 1/2 week vacation at the beach with our friends, and returned home Sunday afternoon. To celebrate the start of school, and the fact that my tushy would be spending more time in my home office working, I made a trip to World Market to see about buying a new office chair. I found the perfect one - on sale, too! My new office is starting to look more and more like the productive workspace I was hoping it would become.

This morning was the big day. I got the kids up at 6:30am and made them and easy and fun breakfast (thank you frozen french toast sticks), packed their lunches, and took a few photos before my husband and I walked them to the bus stop. They were all smiles waiting for the bus and Owen agreed to walk his sister to her classroom since we had missed Meet the Teacher day last week while we were at the beach.

The bus arrived right on time and we sent them off to school with kisses and hugs. The bus driver gave us parents all a knowing wink and told us to enjoy our days. I couldn't wait to get started in a nice, quiet house which was all mine for the next 7 hours.

Memorable First Day of School 1For a second I contemplated making myself a Bloody Mary to celebrate the occasion, as one of my best friends from high school had sent me a bottle of famous Natural Blonde Bloody Mary mix - a specialty product we had tried on our girls' trip to Charleston back in April. Then my productive side kicked in and decided to save the drink for Sunday brunch instead. Good thing.Memorable First Day of School 5

Ben was packing for a quick business trip to Denver while I figured I'd use some of my time to bake some banana bread with our spotted bananas. The kids would have a nice after school treat for their first day. Got it into the oven and set the timer, grabbed a mug of coffee and sat down at my computer to start my first glorious full day of work.

Thirty minutes in, I got a call from school.

At first I was worried one of my kids was sick. But the nurse quickly assured me Vivian was fine, but that she couldn't be in the classroom since they did not have her completed health forms.

F*@&#@&-A!

Parent of the year over here. I thought I was winning when I ordered their school supplies in June when we got the email from the PTA.

I nearly broke down in tears as I was talking to the school nurse. All I could think about was my little girl in tears because I was going to have to pick her up. I knew she'd be devastated and I'd feel like a terrible mother for ruining her first day of Kindergarten.

I asked the nurse if she could stay at the health office until I called the pediatrician to see if they could fax over her forms. (I was pretty sure her health records were up to date, and that I'd just forgotten to turn them into school, but I was freaking out a tiny bit that I missed the boat all together and she'd need a complete physical which could take who knows how long.) The nurse said that was fine and I assured her I'd call back as soon as I spoke to the secretary at the pediatrician's office.

The hold time during that phone call seemed to take an hour.

Finally I got through and told the secretary I felt like the world's most awful parent. I asked if she could please look up my daughter's record because I forgot to turn in her forms and today was her first day of school.

Thankfully, her health record was complete, but the doctor who did her physical wasn't in today and she'd need to sign the form before they could send it to school. So I'd have to wait until tomorrow. I pleaded and asked if there was anything they could do. She said I'd need to come in and fill out the top of the form and they'd see, but they couldn't promise anything because they had patients to see, etc. I said I'd be over right away, and may have cursed (loudly) after making sure I had hung up.

I didn't care anymore about having a day to myself to work. I didn't want to disappoint my baby. I felt like such a failure. I screamed at my husband for not helping me remember things like stupid health forms. He said he didn't even know they needed health forms. (Of course he didn't, because it was always my responsibility. Moms are in charge of everything.)

Instead of turning into a sobbing mess, I decided to just do what I could do.

"Take the banana bread out of the oven or turn it off before you leave!" I yelled as I ran out the door.

Driving over to the pediatrician's office I told myself that there are worse things that could have happened, and that if she has to come home today and start school tomorrow, it's not the end of the world. I could figure out something to make it up to her.

To make a long story short, the secretary said she'd do her best to get another doctor to sign the form and she'd fax it over during the morning. As I handed over my credit card to pay the $15 administrative fee I told her to charge me extra for messing up. She laughed. I took that as a good sign that she'd take pity on me and help me out.

On the phone again to school, I told the nurse they'd be faxing over the forms. Within 20 minutes I had a call back saying they got the forms and she was walking Vivian back to her classroom.

Parenting crisis averted.

 

They both had awesome first days of school and Vivi didn't even mind missing "morning work" in class since she did it while she was waiting in the nurse's office. The first thing she noticed when they walked in the house was the smell of banana bread. It turned out to be an eventful and memorable first day of school. Here's to a full day of work (and school) tomorrow. Cheers!

 

This is Friday

Friday mornings we're up by 7:30am at the latest. I'm downstairs in my fuzzy yellow bathrobe, attending to priority number one: coffee. I talk the kids into cereal or oatmeal because it's faster and less messy, even though they'd prefer pancakes or waffles if I could let them choose. Three minutes later I look over and they're deep in conversation together so I listen in. He talks of his excitement over his friend coming over to play later in the afternoon, a playdate arranged by the mommies since the two boys seem inseparable at school lately. She ponders what color tights she'll wear from the rainbow of colors Grandma got her at Target the other day. Friday mornings mean her brother and I get to watch her gracefully twirl and shake and jump while my heart bursts with pride and joy. I melt at seeing how much she loves to dance.

By the time 4:30pm rolls around, we're anticipating Daddy's arrival home. He's the pizza master, and since I've been thawing the dough since noon, it's ready to go and so are our appetites. The kids and their father eat the meat, so they cover their side with turkey pepperoni. Mine usual is mushrooms and yellow pepper slices, whatever veggies are left in the fridge by week's end. While it cooks we talk about our days. I show off Instagrams from the morning's dance class and any from the afternoon that I've taken. We're thankful it's Friday. We have the whole weekend ahead of us, together.

I convince the kids to pick up the toys and puzzles scattered around the family room while the pizza cools, fresh out of the oven. We make it a game with a timer to see who can beat the clock. He hands me a glass of red wine, cheers, and we sit down to our family dinner. Everyone oohs and ahhhs over Daddy's pizza skills and I vow to never cook again, again. Why cook when your husband is perfectly capable?

The movie starts at 7 and by then we're all ready for some serious cuddling time. We line up: big person, little person, big person, little person, and stretch the big red furry blanket out over all of us. Phones are left on the kitchen counter, ipads and laptops and turned off. I don't know a time I am more complete than when I have my children in my arms, my husband squeezing my hand from the other end of the couch, and I stop and appreciate all that I have.

This is Friday night with a three and a five-year old.

this-is-friday

Sure, there are squabbles and timeouts and messes to be cleaned up after every meal and snack. I'm highlighting here, for posterity.

The last few weeks this has been our new tradition. Lucky for us, our kids have only just begun to be exposed to the incredible world of Disney. Our past few Fridays have included The Lorax, Tangled, Brave, Frozen, all but one on loan from our best friends. Not sure what it will be tonight, but one thing is for sure: I love how we do Fridays.

#TGIF and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Best Day of My Life

{Have you heard the song ‘Best Day of My Life’ by American Authors yet?}

I woke up this morning to the sound of my daughter stirring in the room next to ours. Peeking into her room, I saw her sitting up smiling brightly in her teeny toddler bed, still tangled up in the flannel sheets with her lovey beside her.

Her eyes met mine and I managed a sleepy grin and a “Good morning, Sweetie” as I walked over to turn off her fan.

She hopped out of bed and I opened my arms wide to hold her and start our morning off with a hug. Her legs wrapped around my middle, wrists gripped snug behind my neck, she declared the perfect start to our day:

“This is going to be the best day evah!”

Yes, my sweet girl. With that attitude, you’re right. It’s another day we have together.

I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast because that’s what’s on the menu for the best day ever, of course. As I flipped the last of the golden brown circles into the pan, I eavesdropped on the conversation between my two littles at the kitchen table. They were exchanging giggles over whether to feed their Transformers tangerine slices or bites of pancakes, and I couldn’t help but catch it on video.

They play together while I do dishes and between sudsing up the pan and rinsing it off I look up through the steam to notice the snow that has started to fall outside the window. In the back of my mind I’m hoping this is the last time we see the white stuff this winter, but as I dry off the pan I am reminded of my daughter’s declaration and with that I remember the art project I had been saving for an occasion just like today.

A few minutes later the kids are elbow-deep in tempera paint when my son looks up at me and says, “Mommy, sometimes my dreams look like this."

best-day-of-my-life

And I think, you know what bud? My dream looks like this, too. Except it’s not a dream. It’s real and it’s every day.

It's the best day ever.

Finding Focus

Finding-focus

She woke up shouting “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs and the shrill of her voice jolted me out of my deep sleep. Having stayed up past midnight last night didn’t bode well for the day ahead of me. I stumble sleepily into her room and turn off her white noise machine. After pulling on a hoodie and slipping on some warm socks, she reaches out her arms and asks me to carry her downstairs. I oblige, noting that in another year she’ll be emerging from her room by herself in the morning, on her own time, like her brother who is still curled up in his bed sleeping but likely not for much longer.

Breakfast is served, it’s oatmeal again and they both love choosing their own packet from the variety box of flavors. Milk added, to cool it down, I sip my hot coffee as their little voices chatter over their bowls. I mentally start to add up all the things I need to get done today. Worry seeps in but I refuse to let anxiety take over. It will get done eventually. It’s not the end of the world.

Once their bellies are full, my littles snuggle up on the couch under blankets, watching a favorite show, while I attempt to cross items off my list.

I have a lot going on these days. So much that I often hear, “I don’t know how you do it all. You must be so busy!” It’s true I constantly feel pulled in a hundred different directions, I have trouble saying no, and I stress myself out continuously throughout the day thinking about impending deadlines and the like. But I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

I’m learning to take things one step at a time. I’m working on staying focused on the task in front of me because in reality nothing matters more than the moment we’re living in; life does not come with the guarantee of tomorrow. I’m trying my best to practice all these things, and I catch myself smiling in the moments when I get it right.

This morning just happened to be one of those days when I felt like I had so much to get done that I couldn’t figure out where to start. I begin one task only to be distracted by my daughter asking for milk or my son asking me to play a game. It was no use. I gave up on attempting anything other than sending out a few emails.

Instead I closed my laptop, surrending to the morning. Scooping up my little girl, who was pulling at my sweatpants, begging for attention, I found focus. We rubbed noses, our silly little way of saying ‘I love you’ and she pulled me in tight for a big bear hug. As she pulled away, she stared into my eyes and asked me a simple question.

“There. Do you feel bedder, Mommy?” her head tilted to the side, a sweet smile dancing across her perfect lips.

It was all I needed to put things into perspective. Yes, I felt much better, I told her. Now, how about a snack?

Snow and writing

Snow-and-Writing This week has been full of snow and writing. I haven't posted anything to the blog this week because I've been busy writing for Postpartum Progress since I'm a member of the Warrior Mom Editorial Team. If you haven't already seen my posts via my social media promos, I'd love for you to check them out. {Postpartum Psychosis Doesn't Equal Failing as a Mom & Psychosis During Pregnancy and What It Taught Me are the titles of my two posts.} When I hear the song from Frozen it makes me think of that time in my life when I was having babies and not taking medication in order to protect them.

Seems so long ago, but it hasn't even been four years since my last episode. Back then I worked to hide what I had been going through. I've matured since then and I now know - from the tweets, comments and emails I receive from people who have read my words - that I made the right decision. Speaking out helps so many people. I'll never know how many, but my heart is content with my decision to become an advocate.

It's been a long week here with Monday being MLK Day and the little man off from school, then the snowstorm on Tuesday which led to school being cancelled for the rest of the week. I've been trying not to tear all my hair out from the "I'm-at-the-end-of-my-rope" feeling due to having to entertain a 3 and 5-yr old for four days straight. We're all getting on each other's nerves from being cooped up in the house all week. I say cooped up because for the most part I despise winter and only go out in negative wind chill weather when absolutely necessary.

Like for my therapist appointment yesterday. Couldn't ask for better timing.

I've been working on a ton of stuff for the show in May. Hard to believe it's only four months until we take the stage. Audition slots are starting to fill up and my Association Producer Anne Marie and I are thrilled to see everything coming together. If you know anyone you you think would be fabulous for the show - I'm talking creative, funny, inspirational, energetic - please have them sign up for a spot before they're gone.

I recently accepted a new writing assignment for an organization doing a tremendous amount of inspirational, educational, critical work surrounding mental health awareness. I'm honored to have been approached by them and cannot wait to share my first post with you. It's a once-a-month gig, which is definitely manageable and plus, it's an opportunity I couldn't turn down. {Sorry I broke my promise, Maria - but this is worth it!}

So yeah, a lot going on. But if I've learned anything over these last few months it's that the work eventually gets done. When the kids are calling for me to get down on the carpet and play "picnic" or board games with them, I listen. I close the laptop and grab hold of the quality time. Or when exhaustion sets in, we snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie together. Life is good. Better than good, actually. It's pretty damn amazing. (Including the occasional teachable parenting moment, which I wrote about for WhatToExpect.com recently.)

   "If you are always trying to be amazing, you will never know how amazing you can be."                                                             - Maya Angelou

Keep Climbing

Keep-Climbing

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My little man and I both had the flu last weekend, and I spent two straight days in bed, fighting off the virus that had crept into my bones. I got down on myself because the two goals I had set for myself in January - exercise every day and write 500 words a day - both went untouched for a full forty-eight hours.

Even when I started feeling better, I felt paralyzed by the growing pile of tasks I needed to accomplish this week. Which led to stalling. And self-pity. And more procrastinating.

I am just stuck, I thought. I know there’s a way to get back on track. But how?

Not knowing whether or not it would work, but thinking it was at least worth a shot, I gave myself the day off. After dropping off my son at preschool for the afternoon, V and I had an impromptu Mommy/Daughter day.

Our first stop was the mall, where we returned a Christmas gift I had given my husband at The Gap. She had a ball hiding in the racks causing her mama anxiety, quickly indicating how much of a challenge shopping with little Miss Independent was going to be. So I decided to head back towards home to pick a different activity. But not before snapping a photo of my big girl and her new friend.

new-friend{Because this isn't the least bit creepy. That's her avocado from lunch on her sleeve.}

Every Mommy/Daughter day needs a special treat. We stopped in at Starbucks for a little coffee time. Caffeine and sugar are always good for igniting my writer’s voice. My mini-me picked a chocolate cake pop which pleased me since I know I can usually count on her to share at least one tiny bite. Her brother? Never.

From there we headed to the playground. As we drove in to the parking lot, I was relieved to find it empty, not wanting to have to make small talk with other moms I didn’t know. I just wanted to soak up the precious minutes alone with my little girl. Greedy for our one-on-one time, new territory as of recently. I've stopped fighting her on afternoon naps, reminding myself that her brother gave his up around this age.

She wanted to do everything. I watched, mostly, cheering her on from the sidelines while sipping my latte, admiring my baby’s fierce determination and squeals of joy in the little pleasures like riding the springy elephant to being pushed on the swing, her fine blonde wisps blowing in the chilly breeze.

My playground bunny asked for help scaling the rock wall. Putting my coffee down on the bench, but not wanting to give her more assistance than she actually needed, I placed a hand on her lower back so she could feel my presence. And instead of physically helping her with the climb, I used words to motivate her.

“Find your footing,” I said, as her toes tapped the ledges to find her next step forward.

“I can’t!!” she cried, ready to give up before she had even climbed a foot.

“Don’t say ‘I can’t!’” I chided gently. “You can do it. I know you can.” I reassured her. She wanted to keep going. It’s not like my little girl to give up on something that easily. I knew she was just testing me, making sure I was there to support her.

The climb was slow. She’d ascend a step, but would suddenly seem to get stuck, not knowing her next move.

Stuck. Like me.

“Keep looking ahead, Sweetie.” I reminded her. Her tiny fingers reached up to the grip above her head, legs stretched straight until she found her next step.

That’s it. That’s all my daughter needed and a few more reaches and steps and she was at the top of the mountain doing a happy little dance. Proud mama below, cheering.

We wrapped up our afternoon outing with a trip to the library before collecting her brother at preschool carline where she promptly fell asleep. In that moment I sat in the car waiting for my little boy to emerge from school, full of gratitude for a day spent hand-in-hand with my second child who reminded me how to get unstuck.

Find your footing. Don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Keep looking ahead.

My mantras for the rest of this year. Thanks for the tips, baby girl. Let's keep on climbing.

 

Less and More

less-and-more Sitting here, on the barstool at our kitchen island - my new favorite writing spot once the kids are in bed and Ben has kissed me goodnight before heading upstairs himself - the house is quiet except for the hum and rhythmic click of zippers from laundry being tossed around in the dryer.

I'm snacking on a bowl of the granola bars I made with the kids today. It's in a bowl because they never set and are all crumbly so I have to eat it with a spoon. I choose a kiddie spoon out of the drawer, realizing in that moment that we'll soon be getting rid of all the kiddie cutlery. At three and five my kids no longer want to use a tiny plastic fork or spoon, protesting when I still serve them cereal with the brightly colored utensils.

Practically every night I worry that I'm failing them as a mom. Why is it I always play back the mistakes I made during the day, rather than recall the beautiful moments we had playing and laughing and snuggling together? I wonder if I'm too focused on my own personal goals and feel guilty I don't consciously set goals as a mom.

I want to make significant changes in this new year, this fresh start. I want to check email less, and bake with my kids more. I want to complain less and drink in the giggles more. I want to not stress out over small things and hug my family and friends more. I want to be less critical and be more appreciative. I want to not freak out when the kids are simply being kids, and instead smile and file the memory of how they are at these ages away so I never forget.

Every day is a new chance to try again. Another day to try my best at being the absolute best mom I can be for my kids.

The Thanksgiving Clock

4236278556_cef6edb710Photo Credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

Last year at Thanksgiving time, our world was turned upside down when our daughter's health was threatened by a disease neither my husband nor I had ever heard of. She spent ten days in the hospital while the doctors tried to figure out what was causing our baby all that pain.

It was one of the hardest, most scary times in our life as a family.

Finally, after tons of tests, three different IV antibiotics including vancomycin {traditionally known as the drug of "last resort"} and no changes, they moved forward with a 12-hour procedure called IVIG. The morning after the treatment, she perked up and her personality returned. The relief we felt was immeasurable. Forty-eight hours later we were going home.

 

In our daughter’s hospital room, there was a huge digital clock displayed on the top of the wall opposite the bed. You couldn’t miss it. The numbers glowed red as you watched the seconds of your life pass you by, morning, noon and night. It didn’t make a sound, but it didn’t need to.

There were plenty of moments I caught myself staring at the clock while my daughter napped. I wanted to reach up and snatch the seconds that were slipping away. Time was moving too fast. It was disappearing before my eyes. If I could only grab onto time and tuck it away, I'd make sure I didn't waste it.

 

Watching time that closely changed me.

 

The big red hospital clock taught me to count my blessings. Not just at Thanksgiving time, but every single day of my life. Because I'll never know when my time will be up. It was a brilliant reminder that even when we're not paying attention, time is passing silently in the background of our lives. I want to make every moment count.

These days I sometimes stand by the clock in our kitchen to hear it tick. It only takes a few seconds of listening to the tick, tick, tick, to be reminded of how precious life is and how it’s important to savor as much of it as I can and to be thankful for all the seconds which when added up equals my time here.

I'm thankful for time this year. Time with my family and friends, time to work at what I love, and time to admire all the extraordinary people I'm meeting along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be sure to count your blessings. Tomorrow and every day.

 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A Lesson in Hesitation

lesson-in-hesitation {written Monday morning}

Last night was awful. Well, not all of it. I've been so stressed and when I'm stressed I snap easily. I forget that the kids are just being kids and when they're in an environment other than their own home and they're eating different foods than they normally do, they are going to behave differently. I forget that this water damage to our house and having to live in a hotel affects my husband, too. He just doesn't show it like I do, all screaming in frustration and throwing my hands up in the air. He never loses it like I do.

I got mad at him for not wanting to come with me to get dinner. {The insurance agency took pity on us and put us up in a hotel and gave us per diem for the past five days due to our lack of stovetop plus the heat and bone dry air from the blowers and humidifiers running 24/7 to dry out the damp floors.} So he stayed at the hotel, watching a movie, while I loaded up our two littles into the car to go grab takeout.

I was stopped at a red light, dreading having to load up my arms with dinner items while at the same time wrangling the two monsters when I looked out my passenger window. I caught sight of a young Indian woman on her cell phone, shivering in the cold. I wondered what she was doing out there on the corner of a busy road. Our eyes met for a moment, but I quickly went back to staring straight ahead, hoping the light would turn green already so I could get this outing over with.

Next thing I knew she was at our window. The light was still red as I rolled down the glass and she began speaking quickly, asking me for a ride to a road I wasn't familiar with. I hesitated, saying I didn't know the street and that I was headed in the other direction anyway.

I was nervous to let her in the car because her story sounded sketchy. Her husband had left her at a restaurant while he went home with the baby to get the baby's snacks which they had forgotten. She said he had been gone for twenty minutes and she was worried because when she called his phone, the baby answered and just babbled. The more she explained, the more concerned I became for her and her family. My biggest fear was that he had an accident or a heart attack or seizure or something and no one was there to help.

I told her to get in, I'd take her wherever she needed me to.

She directed me down two roads, all the while wringing her hands and talking fast, almost in tears. She told me her name and I gave her mine. They had moved here only recently and she was obviously scared.

We pulled up to her neighborhood, but she wouldn't let me drive her all the way to her front door. Maybe she was concerned her husband would be mad that she had hitchhiked home?

I didn't want to keep her longer than needed, but I gave her my number and asked her to call or text me and let me know that everything was okay once she got home. She put my number into her phone and promised to call. She thanked me profusely and said goodbye, and as I pulled away I watched in my rear-view as she walked quickly down the sidewalk, her stride turned into a run as she got closer to the row of townhouses in the distance.

The kids had been silent in the backseat the entire time. I looked back at them when we reached a red light and tried to explain what had happened.

"That lady needed to get home to her baby and the baby's Daddy. She needed a ride and we helped her. When people need help we should always try to help."

Vivian was nearly asleep since they had gone swimming earlier, but Owen listened intently and smiled with his level of understanding on what took place.

And in that moment I was thankful I had gone ahead, thankful I had pushed past my hesitation. I was still worried for the woman, but I was hopeful that things were okay and that I'd hear from her soon.

We were almost to the restaurant when my phone rang and "Private" flashed up as the caller. I knew it was her. Her voice was happy and excited as she explained to me that her husband had tried to surprise her. He had flown her mom here from India and he was on his way back from the airport. I apologized for hesitating to help her. She said it was okay and just kept thanking me, she repeated "God Bless you," several times.

What a relief. I could sense that she was likely crying joyful tears on the other end of the line. Soon her husband would be home with her baby and her mom and they'd be together. I hoped it would be a long visit, maybe through the holidays. There would probably be laughter as they retold the story of how she spoiled the surprise to friends and relatives.

We got back to the hotel and I replayed what had happened to Ben, realizing if he would have been with us, she may not have approached us for a ride as the car would have appeared full. I appreciated having to lug the two kids into the restaurant, breaking up squabbles between them as we waited for the food.

I'm a firm believer in "everything happens for a reason" and I believe this beautiful person showed up in my life because I needed to learn a lesson in hesitation. God Bless her and her sweet family.

Playground confessions

4036587818_808fece881_bBrandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

I don't know what it is about me that makes me want to tell people my life story when I first meet them. Sometimes I wonder why I'm so open, why I wear my emotions on my sleeve, why I have such a strong sense of trust in people I may have just met.

Why do I think my life is so important that everyone I meet needs to know about it?

Take yesterday afternoon for example. Vivian woke up from her nap a complete disaster, so upset that I dared come in her room to get her before she had fully woken up. After fifteen minutes of a terrible-two's-almost-three tantrum, I was finally able to calm her down and convince both kids to let me push them in the double stroller to the playground.

Let's talk about who got the better deal here for a moment. They got to enjoy a tasty snack of a cherry-vanilla cereal bar and a generous handful of sweet red grapes, along with a beverage of chilled water fresh from the fridge in their water bottles filled to the brim by yours truly, while I had the luxury of pushing them for thirty minutes in 85-degree, muggy heat to the playground.

I was happy to do it though. I've made a commitment to myself to be more active in September (and beyond, but I'm taking it one month at a time). My new therapist says I need to schedule self-care into my day or else I will end up neglecting myself and I know this is true. I've felt it lately. I can definitely tell a difference in my mood, my parenting, and my overall enjoyment in life when I take time to do things for myself each day.

So pushing the kids to the playground and back home is my way of having some time for myself (great exercise and fresh air) while also allowing them to burn off some energy.

The bonus was meeting a really cool mom and her two kids who were the only other people there when we arrived.

I didn't expect to strike up a conversation with her. When we got there... she was talking on her phone. But as our kids began to interact she wrapped up her call and a few minutes later I found myself asking her the customary playground ice-breaker among moms:

"How old are your kids?"

Her son, a year older than mine, jumped right into my son's imaginary fire-fighter rescue scene, while we pushed our daughters (also close in age) on the baby swings as we chatted. I asked her if her son had started Kindergarten this week and she admitted he was actually repeating it since he had some issues focusing last year. I told her how my husband and I had decided to hold Owen back a year since he was so close to the cut-off for enrollment. "He just needs another year to mature a little bit more," I said and she nodded sympathetically.

Then she revealed that she and her husband suspect that their son may have ADHD and they had consulted a child psychiatrist this summer and he had recommended trying meds, but she wants to see how he does this year. Maybe it's a maturity thing. But she also mentioned his lack of awareness of personal space which he demonstrated a few minutes earlier when he playfully tugged at Owen's arm to get him to follow him over to the slides.

Owen didn't seem bothered by it, although the mom said sometimes her son can be aggressive with other kids. It was at that moment I had to bite my tongue.

Just listen, I told myself. And so I did. And I'm glad I made that choice.

But at the same time I felt a connection to this wonderful stranger I had just met and I wanted to tell her that there is nothing wrong with mental illness, and if he does have ADHD it does not define him and there are treatments that can and will help. I wanted to tell her that it's going to be okay and that she will get through this.

I can't help it. The advocate in me always wants to speak up.

But I didn't this time because I sensed from the way she was telling me all this about her son that she got it. She's on my side. And in that moment it was such a joy to simply watch our kids play pretend together on the playground.

Her husband called and I noticed it was already five-thirty and I still had a half-hour walk home. We had been talking for forty-five minutes like good friends and I hated to have to say goodbye.

My kids reluctantly made their way down the slides one last time before walking over to hop into the stroller. As I walked over to buckle Vivi, my new friend's son ran up beside me and took my hand. Looking up at me he asked in the sweetest voice, "But why does he have to go?"

It melted my heart.

His mom and I looked at each other and smiled. We both said how it was getting close to dinner time but maybe they'd see each other at the playground again sometime.

A part of me wishes I would have asked for her email address and maybe we could have set up another playdate. But for some reason I didn't and now I'll just hope we'll run into that lovely family again in the future at one of our local playgrounds.

Because I'd love the chance to tell her my story. I'd love the chance to tell her why I'm passionate about mental health advocacy and most of all because I'd love to just watch our kids have fun pretending to be fire-fighters again.