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8.20.2019

The Loneliness of "Boy Mom" Life

Growing up, my younger sister and I would spend our summer breaks living with my Grandma in New Jersey for three months. We’d help out around her family business, take frequent trips to the library, and eat out for nearly every meal. For one weekend of that summer, our aunt (who had two boys of her own) would scoop us up for some girl time. Our days were spent swimming and doing arts and crafts. She would spoil us with whatever junk food we wanted, drive-in movies and back-to-school shopping.

We lived for those weekends and in retrospect, I can’t believe how lucky we were to have an aunt who just genuinely loved hanging out with “the girls.” In hindsight I also see the situation differently as a mom of two boys myself. I think my aunt needed that time with the girls just as much as we did. Because I’ve been finding something as of late- #BoyMom life carries with it a unique sort of loneliness.



For months (maybe even years now?), Chuck and I have frequently gone back and forth about whether we want to have a third child. The window of time for us to decide is growing smaller and smaller if we don’t want an awkwardly large age gap between our hypothetical middle and youngest children. And yet, we legitimately cannot figure out what our family should look like. I’ve found myself frustrated by the conventional wisdom that says if you’re meant to have another child “you just know.” Or the cliche that asks you to picture what you want your family to look like in 5, 10, 20 years…The truth is, I have no idea!

We love the idea of Chuck being a “girl Daddy.” (He would be the best). However, it’s vastly outweighed by the cons of four more years of childcare expenses, the agony of pregnancy and childbirth, and pushing back the timeline on our career and financial goals. Not to mention, we feel like we’re barely keeping our heads above water with these two insane children- I can’t even imagine the stress of trying to juggle three!

Chuck and I were in tears discussing it for the zillionth time a couple evenings ago, because we’re so dang burnt out and exhausted right now. And I came to realize something. I don’t know that I actually want a third child. I think I just want a daughter.

Only having ever had a sister, boys are basically a new species. Everything about boys is new to me and I have found so much joy in the journey. My boys are the most kind, silly, tender-hearted, smart, inquisitive, and hilarious beings I’ve ever had the privilege to know and love. But some days the endless litany of wrestling and poop jokes overwhelms me and I question whether I’m cut out for this. "Tom boy” is not a term anyone has ever used to describe me. My childhood was spent playing Barbies with my sister or with my nose in a book. The sheer physicality of boyhood feels like too much sometimes and I wish I had a female in the house to balance out all of the testosterone.

I want a girl.

But I don’t know if I want a girl enough to take the chance of a house filled with three boys. International adoption is something I always thought I would do someday, and Chuck and I are leaving that door open for the future. But right now, I'm just trying to find peace in the occasional loneliness of being a boy Mama.

8.19.2019

Charlie's First Day of Pre-K (and Other Mommy Blogger Musings)



A little bit of real talk before I launch into an ode to how adorable my child is. Since I went back to work full-time last June, it would be an understatement to say I've let this blog become a little neglected. It wasn't an intentional choice; just something that had to slide off my plate to make room for everything else going on in life.

I don't know if you know this or not, but toddlers are a lot. Chuck and I have been feeling a little burnt out lately. They say that comparison is the thief of joy, so I try to find contentedness and gratitude in what truly and genuinely is a very fortunate and happy life. However, in my less "Pollyanna" moments I look to my friends who have children around the same age whose parents are able help with childcare and the little green monster of envy gets stirred up in me. That's not a slight toward our boys' grandparents because I know if they could, they would. It just wears on you to be in parenting mode all the time (and the cost of childcare can be tough pill to swallow!)



All of that to say, that blogging has moved down my list of priorities and I've spent a lot of time thinking about why I don't want to let this space go, even if it's rarely used these days. I think I've narrowed it down to two things: 1. I suck at scrapbooking, so this weird little online space is essentially my kids' baby book, and 2. Writing is just a part of my genetic makeup. I feel like I simply don't know how to exist in this world without it.

So, if you like to follow along with my pretty mundane little life- I've got good news for you, I'm not going anywhere. Whether you'll be receiving more regular content any time soon is probably a crap shoot. I'm not in a season where that feels doable yet, but who knows- I may get there soon.

But I digress...my firstborn started Pre-K! Last year, Charlie attended a 2-day/week preschool at the local Methodist church. It was a sweet little program, but it required a lot of coordinating transportation logistics which was an annoying stressor in our life that I was all too ready to give up. Our local school district has a Pre-K program in which kids can ride the bus with school-aged kids, so that was really all I needed to know.



The program is made up of 2/3 students with special needs and 1/3 typically developing students. On top of the provided transportation, I really liked the idea of Charlie attending school with some of his special needs peers. On top of having a Grandpa who was disabled for twenty years, our boys' also have two sweet cousins on the autism spectrum. I want my boys' to be surrounded by other kids who are differently abled. I never thought much about my Dad's disability while he was alive because he was just my Dad. I didn't think of him as "a disabled person." However, since his death I've spent some time meditating on ways in which I can be a better advocate for children and adults with special needs and/or disabilities. I don't have any real answers yet, but this feels like a start.

His first day was last Wednesday and after a couple days of transportation issues, I think we finally got him on a bus schedule that works for him and his sitter. He hasn't told me nearly anything about how he spends his days, but I know that he loves riding the bus with the big kids! And Mommy loves that his school has an app where his teacher sends pictures and classroom updates so I have some semblance of knowledge of what he's doing four mornings per week!



Once we've gotten these first couple weeks under our collective family belt, we're also going to be enrolling him in a boys' tumbling class. This kid never stops moving and loves to do flips so it seems like the perfect fit. Mommy is excited for him to burn off some of that energy and learn a fun new skill!

On top of that, our Crosby Loren turns 3 in less than three weeks! It may take me another month to draft a post, but definitely stay tuned for my little Ninja Turtle's birthday celebration!

7.30.2019

The Time I (Didn't) Run a Half Marathon

For awhile, I've had a bucket list goal  to run a half marathon. I've mentioned it several times in different goal-related posts on my blog, but it's been awhile since I've written anything related to my running, so I thought it'd be fun to record for posterity.



Running has been a pretty big part of my life for the last two years. I've never been athletic or someone who enjoys going to the gym, so running has always been my fallback way to stay moderately healthy. I ran track in high school. At the time, I took it for granted and misused my time to hang out with the "wrong crowd." Looking back 15+ years later, I'm really glad that I participated because I think it helped in conditioning me and setting me up for fitness success as I've gotten older.

The last time I ran in a legitimate race was 2014. My employer at the time was sponsoring employees to run the Capital City Half/Quarter Marathon & 5k in Columbus as part of an HR initiative. I trained for a couple months and successfully ran the 6.55 miles having just found out that I was pregnant with Charlie. Once the race was over and childbirth became my new "marathon," I gave up on running for awhile. I ran a 5k when Charlie was 3 months old (#FirstTimeMom) and then I may have done a sporadic treadmill run here and there, but no real training of any kind.

Last year began my foray into actual half marathon training. The combination of my Dad's scary and traumatic health complications and my need for some mental sanity in balancing stay-at-home motherhood and my part-time jobs led me to seek out running again. Last July, I signed up for my first-ever Half Marathon- the 1/2 Way to Christmas Half Marathon in Dayton. In the months leading up to it, I was doing a long-distance run every weekend and 2-3 short-distance runs during the week. I felt great and was completely prepared to run my first 13.1 mile race. Unfortunately, at the last-minute something came up at one of my jobs and I wasn't able to run my race.



Although I was fortunate that the race organizers let me defer my registration until the following year, my motivation took a big blow. I had just started my new full-time job, was studying for my professional exams and once I no longer had a race to train for running stopped being a priority. The silver lining was that I now had a race to train for in 2019.

So, with my Christmas-themed race scheduled for Saturday, July 20, 2019 I began my training about three months ago while on my April stay-cation. It was more half-assed than I'd like to admit. I didn't do any weekday runs, but committed to a long-distance run every weekend. I pulled off some 8-mile runs in May and into June, and then in July I ran my first 10-mile run in over a year. It wasn't easy and my legs were jello by Mile 9, but I felt as ready as I could hope to be for my first half marathon.

The week approached and it seemed that every time I checked the weather the temperature crept up another degree. Two days before the race, the organizers sent out an email saying that due to the excessive heat warning they were adjusting the course to keep everyone close to the start line in case of a medical emergency. They also provided the option for anyone to "downgrade" their half marathon registration to the 10k option. I weighed my options and decided to swallow my disappointment in another lost half marathon opportunity and made the smart choice to run the 10k instead.

I woke up at 4:00 AM on race day. I like having a long, slow start on my long-distance run mornings where I have time to slowly drink my coffee, hydrate, eat a light breakfast, and use the bathroom upwards of 5 times (only a slight exaggeration). I drove to the race and discovered that the 10k started an hour after the half marathon so I killed time in my car and continued to hydrate. By the time I took off at the starting line I had to pee terribly. Thankfully, there were Porta Potties at the Mile 2 marker. I made a mad-dash and once I'd emptied my bladder, I was good to go.



The course was a down-and-back so the first two miles through a field in full sun were also the last two miles in full sun. Suffice to say, it was HOT. The heat was oppressive and I was one of the few runners who actually ran the entirety of the full-sun section of the course. I made use of every aid station for water and Gatorade and fought the urge to walk because I just wanted to be done. The last 100 yards, I channeled my inner high school track kid and sprinted my little heart out finishing the 6.2 mile course in 1:10:40 (11:23 pace, in case anyone actually cares about that sort of thing).

I felt really good at the conclusion of the race. Compared to the 8 and 10 mile runs I had trained for, 6 felt remarkably easy. I recognized that due to the heat (and my inexperience) I was really glad I chose to run the 10k instead. First, because I genuinely don't know if I could have finished 13.1 miles. Secondly, because even if I had miraculously finished, I would have been miserable and useless for the rest of the day. Instead, I drove home after my run, swung by the farmers' market, and then had a huge post-race breakfast at Bob Evans with my guys. Not bad for a Saturday morning.



I would still like to run a half marathon, so after my 10k experience, I signed up for a half in October. The race is an all-women's event in Cincinnati called the Queen Bee Half Marathon and I'm really excited for the combination of estrogen and race-day adrenaline!

I feel as though I've finally arrived at the place where I enjoy running. It always takes a little while to get there, but it's done wonders for me both physically and mentally. Running is the perfect activity for my inner perfectionist- giving me the opportunity to always be working toward self-improvement. It gives me the solitary time I crave as an introverted Mom of two very noisy toddlers. And it genuinely makes me feel closer to my Daddy (who passed away in October). I feel as though every run I complete is honoring my Dad's physical struggles and I can feel him right alongside of me.

I don't know if my October half marathon will be a one-and-done kind of thing, or if I'll commit to running them with some kind of regularity. But I do know I want to continue running- whatever that looks like- for many years to come. 

7.11.2019

Life Lately v9 (Or, Anything to Distract Myself from the Fact that my Family has Lice)

This post has been brewing for a few weeks now, but honestly it's been so long since I last hit "publish," that I've really struggled with where to begin. I feel like there's so much ground to cover that I haven't even known where to start. Well, who woulda thunk that it would be a case of head lice that brought me back to my blogging roots?

That's right- my parenting nightmare became a reality when I realized yesterday evening that there were in fact tiny little creatures skittering through Crosby's and my hair. *shudders* I spent upwards of four hours scrubbing, shampooing, and combing through all our hair. I managed to go through the entirety of my childhood without getting it, but ah yes, the joys of motherhood. I promise, I'm really trying not to be overly negative or dramatic about this- but head lice is one of my biggest irrational fears and I cannot even tell you how much I'm freaking out right now. So much so, that I used a sick day (that I do not have to spare because it seems like my children are literally always sick) to stay home and wash every last linen and article of clothing in our house.

So, while I sit here in my freshly laundered bed suffering from phantom itches all over my body, I figured I'd do something relatively productive with my downtime (anything to distract myself!) and publish the post that has been a long time coming.



LIFE LATELY (v9)


When last I left off at the beginning of the year, I was spending my cold, winter months trapped inside organizing my house and attempting to upgrade my wardrobe. I shared that I was still in full-on study mode at work and that Chuck and I were going back and forth on whether we wanted to have another child. In March, Crosby celebrated his half birthday so I threw together a quick 2.5-year interview post. And then I checked in on some bucket list goals.

Now here we are, over two months later and my blog is like a desolate, Mommy blogger wasteland. Allow me to catch you up to speed...

HEALTH & FITNESS
I felt like we spent so much of our Spring just battling sickness. We had two bouts of strep, a couple ear infections and other assorted ailments. It's remarkable how you can be the healthiest person in the world and as soon as kids enter the picture, it's game over.

On a more positive note though, I'm back at it with half marathon training (Version 2.0). You may remember that I trained last year and at the last minute wasn't able to run due to some unfortunate circumstances outside of my control. Thankfully, I was able to defer my race registration until the following year. Which sounded like a great idea at the time, but now it means I actually have to be able to run 13+ miles NEXT WEEKEND. Eek! I'll be honest, I haven't been as motivated as I was last year, BUT I've managed a couple 8-mile runs which gives me hope that I might actually be able to pull this off. Now, I'm just praying that this Ohio humidity takes a hike!




STAY-CATION: 2019
Since I've been actively saving up to buy a minivan in cash, we knew there was no way we could swing a vacation this year. Instead, I made my birthday week in April a Staycation week. While I devoted my week to studying for my professional exam, scrubbing every square inch of our home, and all the other house projects I haven't had time for, our handyman friend Dale spent the week installing a window in our upstairs spare room that will eventually become Charlie's big boy bedroom. It's been a really slow process because working full-time with two toddlers doesn't lend itself well to getting projects accomplished, but as we're currently in a season of bed-sharing right now, I honestly don't think the boys are ready to sleep in their own rooms anyway. I'm hopeful that the timing will fall right into place. (This picture doesn't look like anything special, but just try to imagine what the side of our house looked like prior without the second story window):



WORK
I think I've only mentioned it a few thousand times, but I spent basically all of the past year studying for two professional exams. I passed the first in December, and then sat for the second in May. I am so happy that I passed because let me tell you- all that cramming was brutal. This is the first summer since becoming a Mom in which I haven't had a job that requires me to work on Saturdays, so I have been relishing all of this free time to spend with my kiddos. I've been doing a lot more reading, trips to the farmers' market and church on Sundays these last few months. I will probably study to obtain a professional designation at the end of the year/beginning of next year. But for now, I'm giving myself a much-needed break!

THE FAM
I am absolutely delighting in my boys these days. While their physical energy leaves me in a perpetual state of exhaustion, they are still so much darn fun. Charlie is 4.5 and Crosby will be three in less than 2 months! Crosby is talking more and more and is honing his sense of humor. He is silly, still affectionate as ever, and copies every little thing his big brother does. Charlie is becoming a big boy before our eyes- he went to summer day camp for the first time this year and loved it. Although it rained the entire week, he didn't know the difference and was completely reluctant to leave every evening at pick-up. He starts Pre-K next year and is bursting to be able to ride the school bus and points out his new school every time we pass it. I adore his personality and just love spending time with him. They're both the very best and I couldn't possibly love them more.



SUMMER
Our summer has been so much fun. It's been very laidback, but we've managed to fit in some stellar friend and family time. Chuck's brother was remarried in June and it was the boys' first wedding. They TORE UP the dance floor and we all had the time of our lives. The weekend of July 4th, my Mom came to visit on her three-wheeler. We had to be on "back door watch" because all these little toddlers wanted to do was go outside and sit on Grandma's motorcycle! We also took them to a friend's house for a July 4th party where Charlie proceeded to take up residence in the pond and basically had to be dragged out. He was a little wary last year, so I was so impressed by my eager little fishy! We don't have too much else planned for the summer except a Labor Day trip up to NY. Chuck and I will be attending a friend's wedding while the boys go camping with Grandma and Grandpa.



I think that about gets us up to speed on life with the Stuckerts! I haven't had much desire to blog lately because I was so burnt out from studying and wanted no part in anything that felt remotely like "work." But I have missed it. And even if it is a dying art, this blog has been with me for over a decade now and bears witness to the best moments of my life. I am in no hurry to say goodbye. So stay tuned, hopefully I'll be back with some more regular content- including some updates on our finances, the books I've been reading and loving and other beeautiful, mundane stuff!

Since it's been awhile, I'd love to know who (if anyone) is still reading this blog. Leave a comment and tell me all about your summer!
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