Creepy Cancer Scarecrow, Parenting, Puppies, and Poop

ANdy and ellieI’ve been quiet for awhile.

So many words have been tumbling around in my head.  So many things I’ve wanted to say.  I’ve wanted to write blog posts on poop, and puppies, and the way we make parenting so hard for ourselves.  I’ve wanted to write about my belief in a higher power, and about a certain type of rage that can only be created by the adult version of strep throat.  I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to say.  But every time I picked up my computer I  just stared at the empty screen, and my fingers just didn’t feel like dancing.

Even now, this post feels more like drool than coffee, and my fingers are clumbsy on this keyboard, and I have to stop myself from stopping.  So I forgive you if you stop reading here . . . this is for sure not my best work.

Puppies and poop go together.  When you have a newborn you are constantly analyzing your baby’s diapers.  Are they wet enough?  Is the poop too runny? Too hard?  Can it tell us the story about how much they are eating, or if they are healthy?  And there is nothing like trying to get a toddler to poop on the potty.  All of a sudden they are in control of something, and they use that control to make our lives miserable.  And before we know it, we are at Target buying plastic crap to bribe them to crap in a place that doesn’t squish their crap all over they butts and up their backs.  Joel and I thought we were done with that stage of life, and then we got a puppy.  And wouldn’t you know we are back to asking each other: did she poop?  Did it look solid enough? Did she pee when she was outside?  Are you sure? Do you think that cry at 2 a.m. means she has to pee again? Poop and puppies go together.

For the first 4.5 years of Andy’s life Joel and I were sure we would never sleep through the night again.  From the moment that boy was born he rebelled against sleep.  It was almost like he was allergic to it.  I can’t believe we didn’t wear a path in the hardwood floor of our house.  We paced it every night taking turns with the wide-eyed baby that would trick us into believing he was in deep sleep just long enough for us to lay him down in his crib, sneak out of his room like a trained assassin, crawl into our bed and just start to experience the first caress of sleep before he was up again screaming at the top of his lungs.  If I had a dollar for every time I yelled “fuck me” into my pillow, I would be a wealthy lady.  Joel and I weren’t down with the “cry-it-out” concept, so as soon as Andy could walk he found his way into our bed, and before we knew it we were co-sleepers.  And the entire process of getting him to bed was also a nightmare.  If we didn’t lay with him he would cry for hours and figure out a million and one reasons he needed to leave his room to seek more parental attention.  We would try every single piece of advice that was given to us to get him to fall asleep on his own, and none of it worked.  We were frustrated and exhausted, and we just wanted him to fucking sleep.  I would be lying if Joel and I didn’t feel judged.  (Don’t we all feel that way when one of our children doesn’t do what the world expects them to do?)  But somewhere along the way Joel and I stopped fighting it, and we just started laying with him, cuddling him, scratching his back, and singing him to sleep.  Now the 1.5 hour battle every night was only lasting 15 minutes, and they were quickly turning into a very enjoyable 15 minutes.  And now Andy is almost 6, and while Joel and I still cuddle with him until he falls asleep (which surely means we have failed as parents), he stays in his bed all night, and he ends his days feeling loved and cared for.  And I realized sometimes those are the best few minutes of my day.  Every once in awhile he whispers something like: “mommy even when you are dead,  I know you will be in my heart forever.”  And I can’t even stand the cuteness.

So when our puppy cried off and on through the night in her crate.  It was an easy decision to bring her doggy bed in our room.  Now Joel and I are rebels.  And ruin-ers of sleep rules. And sometimes when our sweet little Ellie is licking my arm at 3:41 a.m. I smile and roll over and feel lucky. I finally get it.

Sometimes we make things so hard on ourselves because we are sure things have to be a certain way.  But why? Will I ever look back on my life and regret the time I spent cuddling my kid? No.  And cancer didn’t teach me this truth, but it still reminds me of it.  I am not suggesting that we always say “yes” or always do the easiest thing, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves is this worth the fight? We can loose a million battles and still win the war.

Cancer.  I almost wrote a whole post without mentioning it.  But dammit it is still there like a creepy scarecrow that every once in awhile pokes me on the shoulder and makes me turn around and stare at again.  And I want to scream, ” I know! I know! I see you.  I get it . . . you are still there.  You are still there.”

Because when I get a virus, and then strep throat, and then another virus, and it feels like its been weeks since I felt like I could jog up the steps, I don’t just think, “oh it must be May, the time of the year when all teachers feel like a deflated balloon and I must be tired and maybe I have spring allergies, and ‘oh yeah’ that puppy has been waking me up a lot — so that’s why I feel like hell.”  No.  I don’t think that.  I think, my cancer is back. 

Today I went to my 6-month cancer check up.  This is the FIRST time I went ALONE.  Joel went to the other 798 appointments with me.  But this time I was determined to do it without him.  There is this moment when I am sitting on the exam table in that terrible hospital gown waiting for the oncologist to come in and physically check me and then read my blood work results that I feel absolutely paralyzed with fear.  What if he tells me that my numbers are a little concerning and that they need to run a few more tests.  This is my BIGGEST fear right now.  This terrifies me because it would mean MORE WAITING, MORE WORRYING, MORE WONDERING, MORE CANCER talk and less, “did the puppy pee on the rug or did your spill your coffee?” I like being upset about traffic jams, and long work meetings, and that they are out of the oatmeal with flax seed at Trader Joes.  I like my simple problems dammit.  I LOVE them,  I am grateful for them.  I smile up at the stars at 2:42 am when I am in a tsunami of a rainstorm with a puppy who wants to do anything but pee.  I am so happy NOT to have cancer.  I would crawl on my knees over hot stones for miles to beg someone to please, please guarantee that it will NEVER happen to me again.

But as the therapist that I saw said, (yes I finally went) – we don’t have control.  We don’t have control. Shit happens.  Shit happens to the best of us, shit happens to the worst of us.  Shit. Just. Happens.

But what I can control- is my mindset, is my attitude.  What I can control- is my breath.  I can control my breath.  I can pay attention to the traffic jam and realize that there was an accident that caused it, and feel grateful that it wasn’t me, and say a prayer for whoever it was.  I can notice the perfectly blue sky, and feel the sun on the left side of my face, I can notice the song on the radio, and I can sing along.

This time I got a good report.  And I am glad.  But I know I head back in six months, and I want to really live each day between now and then with cuddles, and puppies, and with sunshine on my face.

So I’m not going to runaway from the creepy cancer scarecrow just over my shoulder.  I am going to turn around and acknowledge that it is there, but choose to focus on the road in front of me.