Archive for the ‘Koskie Life’ Category

Are you a Quantity or Quality Parent? I’m Both and Neither.

Friday, March 6th, 2015

It’s 10 o’clock on a Thursday night. I’m currently sitting in my bed in the dark with my four-year-old passed out asleep on my right arm. The one I type with. Her tiny baby face is lit up by my computer screen, her hands tucked together under her head. She lied there and watched me work until she finally fell asleep.

This tiny part of me thinks it’s sweet; snuggled up next to her. The rest of me feels like shit. My co-worker absolutely would have understood if I’d pushed our conversation back ten or 15 more minutes. But I’d also just returned from a late night at the office, and my brain was still in work mode. Dad allowed her to stay up late until I got home, so this was the only time we had together today, and I squandered it.

It’s not like this every day. Some days. Sometimes a lot of days. That’s why I don’t have the luxury of playing quality/quantity game.

Carla Birnberg recently wrote about the quality/quantity debate on her blog. I adore Carla. She’s brilliant, generous with her time and brain cells, has an energy that I crave and covet, and does not care at all what anyone thinks. Everything she writes almost always has me sit back, nodding my head, mumbling uh-huhs under my breath in agreement.

This time, though, I paused. She made me stop and think about which parenting camp I fall in — quality or quantity. I loved her analogy of saturating the market “with mama-product and hoping, along the way, I’d churn out at least a few quality stuffs.”

Who amongst us doesn’t feel the same way? We all want to do the very best job we can; that’s why we are killing ourselves with guilt and Pinterest projects. My mom never worried about that stuff. Her mom certainly didn’t. And I’ll take a safe bet that neither my great- nor great-great grandmother messed with it either. They just loved their kids the best they could and that was good enough!

Somewhere along the way we allowed ourselves to be ruled more by the opinions of other mothers than by our own two cents and intuition. It became easier to declare Worst Mom Ever and Mom of the Year than to just own the decisions we were making, own the circumstances in which they were made.

Some days, like this one, my daughter and I get so little time together that the quality/quantity argument doesn’t even factor in. Tonight there was no real quantity and there was absolutely no quality… but we were skin to skin, and we made small talk, and I kissed her and hugged her a dozen times, and played with her hair in between chat IMs. Instead of a book, between chat IMs, I read an old blog post to her from when she was two. She loved it, and asked for another.

And so maybe my definition of quality is skewed. Because on the surface I look at how we spent tonight and I’m just appalled with myself. Then I read that scene back and think, you know, that’s not so bad. After all, it shouldn’t be about how I define quality, but how she does. For her, she got to have snuggle time with mom in bed, hear a story, and fall asleep in … on… her mom’s arms. That’s all she needs, right?

Tomorrow I’m taking the afternoon off work. I wish I could say it was by choice, but we’re between nannies and we’re sharing the load with her. She’s having a friend come over to play and I’m throwing our usual super healthy food rules out the window. I stressed for 20 minutes at the grocery store tonight trying to figure out what to make for the kids and what nice thing I could make for my friend and then decided that I’m absolutely exhausted, the most tired I’ve been in recent memory, I still have to work while she’s at school in the morning…and then make lunch? We’re ordering pizza and making sugar cookies. She’ll be thrilled!

And in that, we’ll score a little quality and a little quantity.

I get frustrated when I can’t do some big awesome red-banner star-spangled actual Mom of the Year level thing with her every. single. day. It doesn’t matter to her though. She likes riding the escalator at Target three times in a row. She likes to help load the washing machine and unload the dishwasher. She likes to read an extra story at bed time. She likes when I lean my head over the tub so that she can wash my hair for a change. She likes to sneak in an episode of Gilmore Girls. She likes getting an iced tea at Target to share while we shop. She likes looking at pictures on Instagram. She likes when I help her do the math for a pizza game on the iPad. She likes walking to school instead of riding in the car. She likes when I take even 5 minutes to play “getting married” with her.

This is what’s important to her. This is what she remembers. This is when I get to hear “you’re the best mama ever;” she means it so I need to stop doubting it.

In that list is a lot of quality and a lot of quantity — by her definition.

So it comes back to my rule of all things in moderation. Sometimes there is quality. Sometimes there is quantity. Sometimes there is neither. I’m OK with that.

A Summer of Happy is Our Next Big Adventure

Monday, April 21st, 2014

We’re taking off an adventure unlike anything we’ve done before. We’re doing it for a lot of reasons, and we’re very excited to hit the road.

Here’s the short explanation and some details: We’re taking off on a four-month road trip, departing from Wichita on May 22. We’ll be back “sometime” in September. So far we’ve had a massive moving sale, sold one of our cars (the other will sell soon), turned in notice on the home that we rent, and secured a POD for storage.

We’re mapping out our itinerary, which starts with a month in the Denver area. From there we’ll make a pit stop in Wichita to see James Taylor and then depart for Savannah, Georgia. I’m speaking at a conference there and then we’ll settle in for at least two weeks. From Georgia, we’re not really sure other than we’re going to work our way up the east coast. Part of the adventure is not really knowing! We’ll be in Rhode Island by mid-August and we’ll spend the remainder of our time in the far northeast. After that, we’ll start winding our way back home.

You’ll be able to keep up with the adventure via our Twitter and Facebook, of course, as well as a new blog we’re building at For more on the title, keep reading. (more…)

The Great Christmas Boycott and Making This a True Season of Giving

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

This year has been a roller coaster that I frankly don’t want to ride again. I’ve lived 32 years with my family in tact. Save for the loss of great grandparents, no more recent than a decade ago, we’ve never lost anyone. If that won’t make you count your blessings I don’t know what will. In a devastating 17 day window this summer, the two, not just grandparents, but human beings I hold nearest and dearest left us. Without warning or a chance to tell them all of the things, they took one last breath and bid this life farewell. I called this season of my life All Of The Dying. I’ve spent a quarter of my year without them and I’m still grappling with how to deal with this, how to process this. I still keep reaching to send my grandpa funny pictures and stories of Paisley, and on Monday mornings I have to remind myself that there is no grandma’s house where I can take Paisley.

I write for therapy, I have since I was a little girl. And the pain around these losses has been so tremendous, so completely overwhelming that I haven’t even known where to begin, how to properly say it, how to do either of those souls the justice they deserve. But then, I guess I did (and maybe I am again). I wrote my grandfather’s eulogy, and I told a church full of strangers what kind of grandmother 28 of us were lucky to have. Both were humbling experiences that were a great honor.

This season, I intend to honor them one more time. I’m boycotting Christmas, at least in the modern traditional sense. I’m not accepting any gifts this year, and I’m not exchanging any either. Instead, this year, me, Shelton, and Paisley are going to celebrate a Christmas with more heart and make it about anyone but ourselves.

Here’s how I arrived at this.

We’ve done the Angel Tree every year; it’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Two years ago I realized they have an adult tree, too. And that year I scanned the cards hanging from the tree and consistently saw microwave or blanket written on every card. Grown adults whose only wish in the world was something they could use to stay warm and comforted, or something they could use to prepare food. I bawled. I stood next to those trees picturing the beastly large microwave in my kitchen, the underwhelming stove, and the cabinets and refrigerator bursting with food. And I bawled because I couldn’t help any of them. I’d already burned through my Christmas budget, having sent bottles of wine to people who really didn’t need them and heaping piles of other gifts that were more symbolic than necessary or probably even desired.

Last year, I returned to the Angel Tree and budgeted to help two of the adult angels. New dishes for a single mom of four and new bedding to another woman were distributed and I felt better, but still like there was so much more I could be doing. After all, look at all the things I’d purchased for Shelton alone that, let’s be honest, he didn’t need at all.

Then, Christmas morning, standing in the kitchen with my grandfather, I saw him choke up, fighting tears, as he told a story. This was a first. My grandpa has tears inside?? He told how he’d recently been in the thrift shop in his small hometown where he saw people purchasing used toys and games. He reconciled that they were Christmas shopping for their kids – with worn out used toys – and he couldn’t come to grips with the financial imbalance in the world.

And then, during the week of my grandmother’s passing, as the stories of this 74-year-old spitfire of a woman were spun, I received the final message I needed to commit to my Christmas boycott.

My grandmother was the most impressive woman I’ve ever known. She raised five kids on her own at a time when families were rarely divorced much less had a mother working outside the home. She raised five really amazing kids while working nights at a club. They didn’t have a lot by way of material possessions, but their home was very full. One Christmas, like so many families face, there was just not going to be enough to pull off a holiday full of gifts and surprises like she wanted. But one night, she walked out to her car after work and found it stuffed to the brim with wrapped presents for her five kids. To her dying day she never knew who did it, but their secret generosity was just the Christmas miracle she needed to make a memorable holiday for her little brood.

This year, we’re truly embracing the idea of a season of giving. I’m pulling together my usual Christmas budget, which really isn’t that much anyway, but what I do have, I’m giving away. We’re going to adopt a family who, like my grandmother, would have no other way to see those Christmas morning smiles. We’ve adopted a girl from Carpenter Place (my grandmother loved supporting this organization) who has an impressive wish list. I’m going back to the Angel Tree and I’ll select a card (or hopefully more) from each side of the trees. I’d like to pay off a layaway. I’m donating hats and mittens to Child Start. And I’ll hopefully find a few more ways to make Christmas morning brighter for my neighbors.

I’m not telling anyone this publicly to get some kind of pat on the back or whatever. Please don’t read this as me being some sort of braggart (God knows I probably do enough of that w/ food and my kid). I’m doing this, quite selfishly, for myself. And I’m telling everyone (namely my family) so that when I decline a gift you’ll know why. Through tears and a cracking voice over dinner recently, I told Shelton how committed to this I was. I told him that on Christmas morning, I want to wake up and know that my gift will be a full heart. My gift will be knowing that I don’t want or need for anything, that my family woke up under any number of blankets of their choosing, that our bellies are full and satisfied, and that we are all, mostly, together.

There will be a gaping hole this Christmas morning; two to be exact. But I’m going to try to focus more on the people who are present; those who I can still make memories with, laugh, hug, and love. That will honor my grandparents more than sappy tears falling all over my pigs in a blanket. They were never ever ever the types to feel sorry for themselves, no matter what life dealt them. So I’m not going to feel sorry for myself this year and I’m going to try to make that the case for a few other families, too.

Santa will still visit our house this year because I have a three-year-old and I believe very much in the magic that is Santa. I’ve talked to Paisley about how we’re going to give more this year and she gets very excited – she loves any opportunity we have to help others and always wants to be involved. But I also know that she’s, for all intents and purposes, a very tiny little girl who has been very good this year and wants to have a Christmas morning surprise, too! Heck, I want to give her that! So Santa will be following the Need Want Read Wear rule this year (that I learned about from Suzanne Tobias), and my little tot will receive one thing she wants, one thing she needs, one thing she can read, and one thing she can wear.

Merry Christmas.

I Voted for Barack Obama Because I’m the Mom of a Little Girl

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I became more “political” in this election than I ever have in my life. While not many people could have influenced the vote I cast on Thursday night, I don’t imagine I can influence many either. With 24 hours until the polls close, I’ll do my best to change the mind of someone riding on the fence. In my heart, I can’t help but feel like I want to tell people why I rocked my Obama Mama T-shirt today and why I voted for Barack Obama to have a second term. I can sum it up in two words…

Paisley Joon.

Shelton and I took her to vote with us on Thursday night. It was a very, very proud moment that truly gave me goosebumps. I tried to tell her what we were doing; hopefully the picture of the three of us leaving will mean more to her later on. (PS – anyone else think it’s SUPER weird to vote inside of a church?)

I voted for Barack Obama because I’m the mom of a little girl who will one day be a woman who, like me, shouldn’t be forced to have decisions made for her; especially those completely out of touch with the reality that is being a modern woman (or how a tampon works). I want her to have as many rights as I do right now, if not more. When it comes to her body, her health, her place in the workforce, it’s her choice and her right to be there. I want her to know that I voted for the rights of all people, not those we selectively decide should have voices and rights – and that goes for women, gays, the poor, and anyone else who, I believe, will be left out of the conversation in a few months if Mitt Romney is elected.

For the first time since I was legally allowed to vote, I really studied the issues, I truly listened to both sides, and at the end of the day, I felt I couldn’t look my daughter in the eye if I cast my vote any other way.

I like Barack Obama. I like the work he has done in Washington in the past four years and I can honestly say I think he’s tried to bridge a gap that has dangerously separated our country. I voted for him for a lot of reasons and on a lot of different issues, but years from now when Paisley asks me about this election, I’ll tell her that I clicked the box next to his name for her.

Please vote tomorrow. I sincerely mean this when I say that I hope you vote even if you check the opposite box.

Traveling for Work Sucks, but Cute Crafts Sort of Make up For it

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

When I was in college, I had daydreams about having a job that would allow me to travel. “Frequent flyer” just sounded so fancy, so professional. I wanted to be both of those things. When I found my current job, I knew I’d have quarterly-ish trips to NYC. That worked for me! But as the past five years have progressed, I’ve bounced all over this country. It was always relatively easy to throw my things in a suitcase and fly away for a week – I didn’t like leaving Shelton of course but he understood.

Then I had Paisley. The first time I left her for a week-long work trip was right before she turned four months. It was brutal; one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I took a xanax for the fist time in my life because I couldn’t physically bring myself to set her down and leave. I think I’ve been gone 10 full weeks since then. I don’t love it, but I guess I also asked for it.

I used to think the trips would get easier because it would slowly become more familiar for all of us. If anything, it’s gone harder. When I’d leave when she was just a little bag of muscles, she didn’t know I was gone and, well, let’s face it – I wasn’t getting woken up at 3am. But now she does so much, she changes every day, and she’s very aware of my absence.

Shelton and I left at the beginning of September for a week in Portland to celebrate our 10th anniversary and simply just get away. We debated for weeks whether or not to take her because we knew she’d have a blast and we’d miss her. But ultimately, we decided to go without her. We were both so heartsick by the time we got home because seven days was just too much. When we picked her up after we landed, she ran in to my arms and burst into tears. Apparently she missed us too.

Well, I have to leave tomorrow, again for another week. I told her during a walk at the park that I have to go on the airplane and I’ll be home in a few days. Her reply was, “but you just got back to see me again.”

Talk about a world-class heartbreaking guilt machine.

It certainly doesn’t make up for my absence for either of us, but I’m hoping a little project I put together for her will at least ease the time away.

I put seven notes in seven envelopes, each labeled for the days of the week that I’m away. Each has a different note, wishing her a good morning, and a reminder that even when I’m far away I still love her, miss her, and am thinking of her. I hope she feels that.

Serving My Left Ovary an Eviction Notice

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

You heard me. Pack your cysts, and your pain, and your $500 sonograms and leave. Don’t let my belly button hit you on the way out.

So here’s the deal, I’m having my left ovary removed on Tuesday, March 13. I’m totally OK with it. In fact, if we could have done it yesterday I’d have rearranged my schedule. It’s not emergent, but it is necessary.

My cystic ovaries and the issues they’ve caused me have been discussed many times here and has been part of my medical dialogue since my senior year of high school. In 2008, I went on birth control to manage the cysts. In fall 2006, shortly after we started BabyOrBust, I had surgery for ovarian cysts. In 2004, shortly after I graduated from OU, I had my first surgery for cysts, an exciting way to spend a Saturday night after a grandparent’s funeral. Prior to that, I can recall all the way back to my senior year of high school having severe pains every other month and thinking they were bladder infections. Knowing what I know now, and what I learned after my first-ever gynecological visit at the tender age of 17 because of the pain (NO, MOM, I AM NOT HAVING SEX AND I DON’T NEED BIRTH CONTROL! GAH!), I am convinced my cyst issues started all the way back then.

In the past four months, I’ve dealt with almost constant pain. Sometimes the numb, annoying kind like when you eat too many Hot Tamales and your gums ache. Other times, it’s been crippling pain that left me stranded on the couch or in the bed with Lortabs. Frankly, this isn’t what I want to live with. The pain takes away from playing with Paisley, needing to just sit at my desk, stand at my stove, and umm, other stuff, and so I’m ready to just not have to deal with this any more.

In November I visited my awesome OB/GYN Dr. W and we did a sonogram that discovered yet another cyst on my left ovary. I was told to come back in January to see if it had gone away. I waited until late February when they found the cyst still firmly attached, only larger at almost 5 centimeters. Let’s go golfing!

Ordinarily, we’d let sleeping cysts lie. The kicker this time is that this is a (as I type this Stephen Colbert is using a trans-vaginal ultrasound wand to stir margaritas. How appropriate.) dermoid cyst. Simply put – it’s my parasitic twin. This thing can be made of hair, teeth, nails, bone… my doctor informed me it can have any type of tissue that the body produces except for heart tissue and something else that I can’t recall right now. The look on my face as he described this was classic WHAT THE F! All I could think was … THIS is what happened to the second embryo!

Unlike the cysts that I typically have, these won’t rupture and they won’t go away. They also tend to embed themselves into whatever they’ve grown on, giving cause to remove the ovary.

All women grow cysts on their ovaries, this is where our eggs develop. For most women, these burst (we’re talking teeny tiny ladies), you ovulate, babies are or are not made, life goes on. I do all of that except the bursting part. Mine wait to do that until they are the size of lemons and soft balls and then send me to my knees in pain. It’s like, totally super fun. Except not.

My husband was incredibly concerned when I shared this surgical development. I assured him that I’m OK with this. I’m not sad. I don’t feel like I’m losing anything. I think I’m gaining a life that isn’t filled with so much pain.

I don’t have any plans to have another baby. Even if we did, I have a spare tire on the right that’s never caused me an ounce of worry, pain, or lost twin sisters. In fact, during IVF, my right ovary produced most of my 17 eggs. We’re holding on to her.

So, that’s the deal. If you need me next Tuesday, Wednesday, and likely Thursday, I’ll be drooling on myself and eating macaroni and cheese in between nibbling on my Lortab candy necklace.