The Devil Wears Children’s Clothes…

Being a mother is the most challenging, rewarding, terrifying, satisfying thing I have done thus far in my life. I gave birth to our first daughter in 2009. I remember taking her home from the hospital, settling in, laying her down on a blanket on the living room floor & Scott & I then sitting & looking back & forth from her to each other. We literally said “Now what? What do we do with her?” Bringing home our second daughter in 2011 at least had us more prepared for an infant, but we were just getting started with a 2-year old.

My niece just turned 3 a couple weeks ago. She is, of course, beautiful & funny & goofy & stubborn! She was having a moment of defiance when my brother had asked her to do something. I said “She’s a three-nager, get used to it!” He laughed hysterically & said he was going to steal my word. They just had a baby in August & they are familiar with the infant stage, but just starting to navigate the toddler ones. These are stages that we all go through as parents. One stage we are in seems to last FOREVER & then before we know it, we have a new stage & we realize that the other one ended…but we can’t remember when.

Our oldest daughter, Kaitlynn, is now 9 1/2 & in 4th grade. She was excited & nervous to start school in the fall & had a positive outlook. She knew she had a teacher that has a reputation of being “tough” & “strict”, but we reminded her that it was for her benefit to remain respectful & optimistic. She listened & did just that… for 3 days. Then all of a sudden she had a stomach ache & didn’t feel well enough to go to school. When my kids are sick, they have to go to work with me & hang in my office, so that’s what she did. Throughout the day, I knew she was physically fine, but couldn’t put my finger on what was up. Over the next few days she developed a form of hysteria while getting ready for school in the morning. She complained of constant stomach aches & was convinced she was going to vomit at any given time. Then she had an over-active bladder- using the bathroom every 10 minutes sometimes. I would send her out the door in tears while telling me she didn’t want to go to school… & once she left I would either be so frazzled I was pissed the rest of the day, or I’d cry in defeat because I was somehow failing my daughter. Scott & I knew for the sake of our sanity & our family, that we couldn’t do enough to help her on our own. I contacted the school social worker & her homeroom teacher. Scott & I met the following week with a counselor that was going to help her navigate the anxiety she was exhibiting. To date, she meets with her every week & we are SO thankful for the progress made & the joy we have seen be returned to our daughter, not just for school, but socially as well. She joined basketball this year & we are SO proud of the progress she’s made! Their first game was pretty much painful to watch- now it’s so fun!

Our second daughter, Abby, is 7 1/2 & in 2nd grade. She’s always been the go-with-the-flow kid whose “pokey” & nonchalant demeanor tends to drive me crazy. As she’s gotten older, she’s become stubborn & ornery- which I attribute to her older sister always bossing her around. She’s also funny & sweet & creative. There is very little “peace” between the two of them these days as they do whatever they can to tick each other off. Some days I think they fight simply because they breath the same air…. But back to Abby being stubborn… Scott & I went on a much-needed vacation to the Dominican Republic (that’s another post). Scott’s mom stayed at our place with the girls to help keep routine & ease the anxiety Kaitlynn was having about us being gone. The day we returned home Abby laid on the floor, cried, said “no”, or “uh-uh” when we asked her to get ready & was just plain defiant. She’s frustrating & relentless!

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Abby threw an actual tantrum last Thursday morning. She was laying on the floor in the living room with her feet up the wall- kicking. I told her she needed to get ready for school so we could leave. Due to our MN winter weather, the kids hadn’t school all week & were 2 hours late that morning, but I still needed to get to work. Her “fit” started because she didn’t get to give Lilly (our dog) a treat after going potty. I told her she would be going to bed at 7p.m. that night due to her behavior. I finally got her in the car & drove to work. That evening she was supposed to be unloading & reloading the dishwasher. She was “set-off” when Kaitlynn turned on the Wii to play Mario. The next almost 2 hours were chaos. She screamed, she yelled, she told us “No!” We tried reasoning with her, calming her, getting her to open up, but nothing worked. After about an hour, I did what any logical mother would do… I got a glass with some ice cubes, told Scott she was his problem, I poured myself some Bailey’s Irish Cream & sat down on the couch to wallow in my frustration. After another 20 minutes in which she yelled that we didn’t care about her, I swallowed the last of my drink & got her into her bed as opposed to the stair she was laying on in the hallway. I crawled into bed with her & got her talking. Communication is so important & it’s hard in the world of technology to make those connections, but it’s extremely important to me that my girls know how to talk to me.

The gist of the issues with both of our girls is simple: it’s hard working learning how to grow up. They are “in a mood” or “having a day” & at the quick, I see the Devil in Children’s clothes slamming a door or telling me I’m so mean. It took me climbing into bed with her & then reflecting later on that there are SO many expectations for them that as adults- we forget they don’t know how to process it all. Often with both of our girls, it’s other girls that are at the heart of the drama. So & so wouldn’t let me play with her at recess. So & so said I was ugly/fat/not cool. it’s hard to teach them to grow tough skin & let it roll off their shoulders. It’s hard to teach them that they can’t let one “bad” thing ruin their whole day.  I started a journal with Kaitlynn so she has a safe place to write things down if she feels like she can’t actually talk to me about something- anything! If she writes in it, she puts in on my pillow to read & when I write back, I put it on her pillow to read. Sometimes she tells me about a worry, sometimes about something fun or exciting that happened at school. Sometimes a whole page will simply say “I love you Mom”. As long as she’s using it to communicate with me, I’ll take it!

Abby earned her radio back tonight & as I tucked her in & she kissed my nose, I told her I was proud of her for listening yesterday & today &  making good choices- & my heart melted a little when her response was “I’m proud of myself too, mom.” While I feel like I’m failing as a mother & that my kids aren’t near as respectful (to us) as I dreamed they’d be, my heart grows a little bigger when I hear words like that that prove to me they are listening. This does NOT change the fact that we need to make some adjustments in how we parent/handle different situations. This is a learning stage for us as well!! Kaitlynn has really started opening up about different things too. I see her interact with her friends & sometimes I’m so stinking proud of her & others I can’t figure out who that weird kid belongs to. In all of what they do, they are learning how to grow up. They are disguised as the Devil in children’s clothing, until I, their mom, stops & sees God speaking to me that they need me. They need my compassion, my guidance, my comfort, my stern hand & my ears. Teaching them to listen requires me to listen. I pray to God everyday to allow me to do my girls justice- to be worthy of him giving them to me. I’m trying. That’s all any of us mothers & fathers can do. I believe at the end of the day, God prevails & the Devil tucks tail & runs. In the mean time, I always have a bottle of wine in the fridge & two little girls to pray over.

Haircuts are a Celebration!

My “hair lady” is back from maternity leave!! This is much cause for celebration! For the last 8 years, this woman has worked magic & supported my tresses as only she can. I’m sure you all have “the one” that does your hair better than another so you can understand how liberating it is to get your hair done by them! However, getting my hair CUT in itself is a celebration- it means I actually HAVE hair that can be cut!!

Ever since I learned how, I’ve been particular about my hair. Let no wind, rain, tousling, etc. flatten my perfectly poofed crown! My brother-in-law even referred to me as “Troll” due to my high hair & 5ft. stature. I still won’t go out in public without my hair done. No get-out-of-bed & leave for me! So imagine how I reacted when that hair all started falling out…

My husband & I own a convenience store & had an opportunity to go to Mexico in January of 2016- & we took it! It was the first trip like this for either of us & the first trip without our daughters. I run the business & my husband works another job. I experienced increased anxiety and this vacation was just what was needed! We were enjoying the sun & relaxing & NO responsibilities- as was expected! One of the days after I had showered, Scott went in to use the toilet. I will always remember his comment & the subsequent conversation… & the next 3 years…

He said, “You sure shed a lot.” I was like “Huh?” He said, “You shed a lot. Look at all the hair in the bottom of the tub. I haven’t noticed that at home.”

I went & looked & was also very surprised. I didn’t think much else of it- we were on vacation & I didn’t have my tri-fold mirror to perfect my hair. Besides, no one knew me there!

Scott & I on our last night in Mexico.

Upon returning home, my tri-fold mirror revealed a bald spot on the back right side of my head… not just a small spot either. This was tennis-ball sized & growing daily. I messaged my “hair lady” with a picture. “Did you notice anything when you did my hair before I left?” “No!” she replied. “You need to see a Doctor.” I was fatigued & irritable & scared. I was convinced it was cancer of some kind & I worked tirelessly to convince myself that I would be around to raise my daughters & grow old with my husband.

All the blood tests that my doctor did revealed one thing: I was as healthy as could be.

I was referred to a dermatologist for final diagnosis. I asked about stress/anxiety & the role it could be playing (because let’s be real- I Googled that sh^&). I was told there was no direct link, but if I was experiencing high stress, to work to reduce that. I asked about changing my diet- would Whole 30 be the answer? Could I survive Whole 30?? No wine, no chocolate? That in itself was punishment! I was ultimately given a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata. I would then spend the next 2 years losing my hair, having my husband shave my head & steroid injections in my scalp too numerous to count while watching it grow back. I read books & blogs & tried to connect with other people in the Alopecia community for support. The second time it became evident I was going to lose my hair, I went to my “hair lady” with a friend, a bottle of wine & some tears while I watched her shave my head & then slightly customize my new wig.

Picture #1 is me in my new hair April 2016. Picture #2 is the after effects of an appointment at the dermatologist & a round of injections in my head April 2017. Picture #3 is me in my new hair June 2017. 

Fast forward to November 2017 & my hair was thinning again. I had a bald spot about the size of a ping-pong ball in one area & one about the size of a quarter in another. I thought “Here we go again.” I was experiencing the same fatigue & irritability. I was on the phone with my step-mother arguing about Thanksgiving (again, like every year) & I had my first REAL panic attack. I’m thankful at this point that I have only experienced one of those & I hope that I have things under control now to not go through that again. However, the next day, I wasn’t ok. I just wasn’t. I called my doctors office & asked to be seen right away. I was put on an anti-anxiety medication- something I was afraid to do for too long, for all the wrong reasons.

I’m a HUGE believer in mental health support & asking for help & believe that it’s ok to not be ok. Anxiety & depression run in my family & while it took too much “work” to bring it forward along with family stressors, I am acknowledging it & work through it daily. My bald spots stopped growing after I started that medication & I haven’t experienced any new ones. I truly believe that stress & anxiety were the causes of my hair-loss all long.

So stop & think about that. A perfectly healthy 35 year old woman who works out 5 days a week, drinks ample amounts of water, eats salads prepped in mason jars (& gets picked on about it) & who by all accounts is HAPPY- lost all of her hair from too much anxiety.

That’s heavy.

Stress & anxiety are very capable of wrecking total havoc on our physical selves, not just our mental & emotional ones. By all means, I beg you, ask for help! I still take a daily medication. I bullet journal, I read a daily devotional & say my prayers (both of which are newer to me). I make more of an effort to STOP working- be it my business or the housework- & enjoy time with my kids. I learned to say NO to the things that added to my anxiety instead of alleviating it… I’m still learning to walk away. I choose to surround myself with people who are supportive & encouraging & who are just all-around amazing.

Me today- & that hair is MINE 🙂

So the next time you go in to get your hair cut, think about all of those people that can’t. Think about the women like me. Think about the cancer patient. Think about the person with Alopecia. Think about how something so “normal” to most people, is literally a celebration for others. Then throw a quick “Thanks” to the higher power you believe in & ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to control the anxiety & stress in your life before the anxiety & stress controls you.

All my love,

Jenni