Kid Zoned

Kid Zoned

“Mommy, I was happier before.” said Kai a propos of absolutely nothing.  He does this a lot – starts a thought in his head and then starts talking to be about it as if I were there from the beginning.  I know developmentally he’s processing that we are two separate people, that Mommy is not just an extension of Kai, and that he’s at the end of that – where he gets it, but it makes him a bit anxious…and still, I think he thinks I can read his mind.

Well, sometimes I can.

“You mean before when I wasn’t working?” I intuited.

“Yeah…” he sighed.


“But you’re at school all day,” I said, “and I’m home to get you off the bus every single day.  We spend the same amount of time together if I were working or not.”

I saw him working that out in his head…and I also know that its not entirely a true statement.  Yes, hours of the day, we’re together the same…but I’m not *with* him in this hours as I used to be.  I used to do all my “me” stuff when he was at preschool.  All day preschool.  Then, I’d get the kids off the bus and I’d be in kid-time.  Kid Zoned.

Now, I get home from work, I get kids off the bus…and I’m a bit more frazzled.  A bit less present.

Kai’s no dummy.

“I wish you were home ALL DAY.” he finally says.

“I don’t,” I tell him, “I’m happier working.  I like working.  It’s really interesting work, like how you learn stuff at school.  But, how about we try to do more together after school, sound good?”

“Okay…” he said skeptically.

I’m trying.  I blocked out 4pm-6pm in RED on my Google Calendar.  It says FOCUS ON KIDS.  I can’t put anything else in there.  Our laundry situation is a bit dire, but I’m trying to ignore that and just be with Kai.  Soon enough he won’t want me there, present with him, he’ll have homework or practice or just want to be on his computer ignoring me.  I’ll do laundry then.

Follow me, he says.

Follow me, he says.

I’m feeling a little anxious.


I leave for a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land next week.  Well, next week plus a few days.  Whatever, I leave soon.  I will be gone for two weeks.

Basically, my month of October ends on the 15th.

I am very, very, very interested to see what being suspended in a new place, out of time, feels like, especially when that place is the Holy Land.  I haven’t traveled internationally since college, and then I was on choir-tour time – not quite the same feel, although I am following an itinerary with a guide, so there will be something to ground myself to.

I am trying to get all of my October “needs” resolved before I go, and most of my early November ones done as well.  Cramming 5-6 weeks worth of stuff into 2 weeks feels about as good as it sounds like it would.

When the disciples dropped their nets and started walking after Jesus, they didn’t say “wait, let me clear my calendar first” and I’m wondering if I should sort of trust things to fall out as they should as well.

Because that sounds so like me.

Ironically most of my energy is invested in delegating and preparing others to do the church volunteer work I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis while I’m away.

Therein lies the other source my of current anxiety – I’m trying very hard to step away from chairing Altar Guild.  I spent a year preparing everyone that I would be doing this, and we had a meeting in early September where I said I was done when Advent 1 began, and we talked about how to move forward.

And in that time since then, I have received so many e-mails and hushed pull-aside conversations, all basically saying the same thing – “no one is willing to lead this.”

Don’t I know it, I want to say, but instead I’m repeating over and over again “I’m willing to do so much work, I love this work, but I simply cannot be in charge of it.  It will work itself out.”

And then I go home and hold my body very still lest the tension of that moment cause me to shake apart.  “My heart hurts” I told Andrew the other night.

Everyone on and around Guild wants this resolved “before you leave” (as if I am never to return, and as if Advent 1 is tomorrow and not two months away), and so the intensity of those e-mails and hushed conversations is increasing just as I am trying to get the month and a half of calendar taking care of.

As I was falling asleep last night, I thought of the image of church being like putting many rocks in a bag and shaking it over and over. The rocks hit against each other and are rubbed smooth.  “I’m just being banged around right now” I thought “it will end.  I will be smoother.”

But it doesn’t feel good.

Helicopter Sister

Helicopter Sister

I admit, I have never really empathized with helicopter parents.  Loving your kids?  Of course.  Wanting only good things for them, to protect them from bad?  Yup.  Trying to give them all the skills they need to succeed?  On it.

But the worry, the lack of perspective, that I never got.  I got a package from Kai’s Kindergarten teacher the day before his First Day, with a cotton ball, a kleenex, and a peppermint tea bag.  It also had a cute poem in it, telling me that I would be sad on Kai’s first day, but I could stroke the cotton ball to remember his sweet, soft, spirit, I could use the kleenex to dry my tears, and I should put my feet up and enjoy the cup of tea and reflect on this momentous day.

Um.  Right.

I think my First Day emotions were more like “WHOO-HOO!  FINALLY!  HE’S IN SCHOOL ALL DAY FIVE DAYS A WEEK!  He’s so ready!  I’m so ready!  Let’s do this!”

I did enjoy the tea, however.


My lack of helicoptering with my kids left me totally unprepared, though, for what happened when I got a text from my Elizabeth, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, that said, “my water just broke.”

Whoosh.  My everything flew across that ocean.  My focus, my energy, my prayers, my breathing, my thoughts.  I woke up every 90 minutes that night.  The next day I had the day off from work, and I’d planned some to-dos to do, but instead found all I could do was a. walk and pace and breathe and think about her or b. curl up on the couch and watch reruns of Call The Midwife.

We’ve had a bug running through the house, and when Andrew came home from work and saw me curled on the couch, he said “are you feeling sick or just worried about Elizabeth?” and I answered, “honestly, I can’t tell the difference.”  (HSP shout-out!)

I assumed once the baby was born, I’d Whoosh back to my present life, wishing her well and glorying in baby photos…but not so much.  I wake and I think of them.  Lulls in work, I think of them.  And when we had a text exchange last night and I could tell she was so tired with new-mommy stuff (which is, really, an insane unreasonable time and why on earth is it designed this way?  It’s like those stupid penguins marching for miles – who designed these systems?) and Andrew was talking to me and I couldn’t hear him because I was there, with her, and…

…well, in bed later that night, I realized I had to let go.  It’s coming from a place of love, but it’s not healthy to me and my family.  I can be an amazing Aunt Erika, and a supportive big sister, and love them to pieces, without being a hovering mess.  I took a deep breath, and asked (implored, demanded, whatever) that God hold her and that new baby very very very very very close…and I flew my helicopter back to the States.  I parked it.  I got out.  I snuggled my husband in bed, and thanked God for my own sweet babies (kids, hulking boys, whatever) and I went to sleep.

Zumba Strong – Erika’s Thinks

Zumba Strong – Erika’s Thinks

Last night I took a Zumba Strong demo class.  People ask me ALL. THE. TIME. what I think about Zumba as a Jazzercise Instructor, and I’m hesitant to speak because, well, I have strong opinions about how group exercise classes should go.  But, I figure I’m an informed participant, so, here are my thoughts.

The format:
– it’s good. The cardio is not too complicated, very with the beat, lots of strength – mixed with straight up strength – like the planks and lunges.
– I didn’t find anything too challenging until the floor abs part, and that was just unreasonable, to my mind. Even the instructor wasn’t hanging in for all of it.
– I did not like the 90 second catch-your-breath-get-water break every 5 minutes. Killed the momentum. (But, see below, maybe it’s really needed for most of the customers).
– I would enjoy teaching this class.
– We already do almost everything in this class (except for the copious amounts of burpies) in Jazzercise – it would easy easy easy to create this using what we already do. The “techno music set to the strength choreography” selling point – feels just like our choreography. Totally.

The class:
– the instructor was cute as a button and CUT. I liked her. BUT.
– she flipped between facing the mirror and facing us, and sometimes facing side randomly, but didn’t bother to switch her R/L when she did so. I was careful to be equal on each side, but the customers weren’t – they just followed.
– this kind of thing needs really good cueing for safety and to know what’s coming up next. When the choreography is set to music you have to be on the music – no time to wait another 8 counts and jump in. This instructor did not know what was coming next in time to cue for it, and it showed.
– I liked the challenge of the intense bursts of strength (and a lot of the plyometric jumps into burpies into kickboxing was pretty intense)…but I’m in pretty good shape and teach Jazzercise. Most of the class was not like me, and could not keep up. About 25% of the class left after the first 10 minutes, and those that remained, over half did not ever touch the floor – and going down and up from the floor was a big part of this.
– safety – eek. I was in the back row and looking at all the knees ahead of me and thinking “this is really not safe”. Without the cueing and prep, the quick turns into lunges and such were not done safely by most of the class.

The workout:
– I burned the equivalent calories to an Interval Fusion class, says my fitbit. Remember – I was going all out and doing everything; most of the customers were not.
– I am a little sore in the core and glutes.
– I am a lot stiff in my back.
– My head was pounding after the class – I think it was all the quick inversions from the burpies and planks and up again. Ouch.
– I was a sweaty mess after…but not sweatier than when after I teach Jazzercise.

Thems my thinks!

My Raffle Winning Superpower was in full force, and won a free month of group exercise classes at the Parks and Rec Center for attending this demo…so I’ll go back and take this for a month and see if my perception changes.  It was a good enough class for me, personally, to get something out of it.

A corner of my own…

A corner of my own…


Well, this would do splendidly…thanks, Pinterest!

“There should be at least a room, or some corner where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you. You should be able to to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free, loosing all the fine strings and strands of tension that bind you, by sight, by sound, by thought, to the presence of other men….

“Once you have found such a place, be content with it, and do not be disturbed if a good reason take you out of it. Love it, and return to it as soon as you can, and do not be too quick to change it for another.”

— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

This is one of the few complaints I have about our new house…in our condo I carved out a corner of our bedroom, a nook by a window, that was all mine.  It had my altar, my prayer things, some photos or mementos that rotated as I felt they needed to be, a candle, and a small vase for flowers.  I could sit on a cushion in my nook and just…be.  I could lock the door to our bedroom and claim some quiet space and time.

New house?  No nook least, not one I’ve found yet.  It did take me 4-5 years in the old place to discover my first nook, so maybe one will be forthcoming.  But for now – I’m always available, and always in the family space.

A working lock on our bedroom door would help, I suspect…

Oh, and I yoinked the above quote from Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project.  One of my fav’s – an almost daily check-in for me.

Occupancy Agreement for the Spiders

Occupancy Agreement for the Spiders

Use And Occupancy Agreement between homeowner, Erika Hagan, and occupants, The Spiders.

Homeowner is open to occupancy of the aforementioned Spiders, with the exception of black widow spiders (Latrodectus), brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) and hobo spiders (Tegenaria agrestis), the three species of spiders in Connecticut which are poisonous.

Occupants agree:

– not to bite homeowner or homeowner’s family, especially her children.

– not to be so crazy with the web-building that any part of her home looks like a haunted house.

– to catch and eat as many mosquitoes as possible.  It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet here.  Get really fat on those suckers.  Gorge.  Get them all.

– never, ever, to just show up out of nowhere while homeowner is going about her day-to-day and frighten her, but especially when she is in the shower, or heading in or out of the bathroom to shower.

In return, Homeowner agrees:

– not to kill spiders on sight.

– to only clean up webs that break the “haunted house” clause (see above) OR that are in the monthly FlyLady zone.  Homeowner is aware that spiders do not use calendars, but assures Occupants that such cleaning is done on a regular, predictable, basis such that spiders could vacate safely and move their webs elsewhere if they so desire.

– to leave select, energy-efficient, lights on in the time-frame between dinner and bedtime, in high-bug zones (such as the sliding glass doors to the deck, or the front porch) to help lure in mosquitos and other pests to occupants’ webs.

– to compliment occupants on especially lovely webs, good catches, or just looking kind of awesome in their bad-ass spider selves.

Of note:

– Occupants do not have to answer to the name “Charlotte.” but Homeowner will be calling all Occupants by that name, as well as coo-ing “who’s a pretty predator?  Who is?  You are!”

– If Occupants break any part of their agreement, they are going to forfeit their lives if seen, and their web-building privileges for all time.

So far, this summer’s agreement between myself and the Spiders has been going swimmingly.  Nature!


This is not “our” Charlotte, but each night a spider just like this builds a web as lovely, if not lovelier, on our sliding glass door frame in the kitchen.  When we head into bed, there are so many mosquitoes stuck in that thing.  Get ’em, girl.  Photo credit:

Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day

“What day is today?” Kai asks.

“It’s a HOLIDAY.” I say, “no school or work today.”

“What’s it called?”

“Labor Day.”

“What do we do on Labor Day?”

“Well…we don’t work.  It’s a day to not work.”

“But what do we DO?”

So far, I have slept in a bit, read a bit, taken a shower, and migrated my Bullet Journal to be all set up for September.  (Only a few days late.  August.  She is hard.  We do the best we can.)

Isaac has gotten dressed and loudly demanded pizza regularly as he plays computer games.

Kai has declined to get dressed (he did consent to underwear) and is building a giant train-and-railway system in front of the woodstove.

Andrew is gaming with friends (networked.  I mean, they’re not in our house, but he’s talking to them on his headset.), still in PJs.

Because if you don’t take a day now and again, it’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it…

I am a highly sensitive person! or “what I learned on my summer vacation”

I am a highly sensitive person! or “what I learned on my summer vacation”

One of Andrew’s former co-workers had a family at a similar stage to ours – kids the same age, dads working at Theatre Projects, moms former theatre-professionals staying at home with the kids.
They would often swap family-guy stories, and one of my favorites of this family’s was that when they’d get to an end of a paper towel roll, they would hold the empty tube up to their mouths and boom out sentences in a grandiose manner. “Today is Friday!!!!” “I love tacos!!!” and, my fav, one of the little ones declared “I am a very important person!!!!!!”

I’ve been thinking of how to present this next little bit of info without sounding like a little kid booming “I am a very important person!” through a paper towel tube…because what’s cute in a little person is kind of obnoxious in a big person, ya know?

But, here we go.

I am a….highly sensitive person!!!!!!
Or, an HSP.


Yes, it’s a thing.
Yes, I got there through an online self-test. (THIS ONE in fact).

Yes, I did then consult with my therapist, who actually is the person who originally nudged me towards thinking about HSP and the possibility that it may provide insight into a lot of my overwhelmed people-pleasing propensities.

Friends, the more I read about HSP, the more it was like reading about myself.  Someone wrote this about ME.

(I am a very important person!!!!  Sigh…)


  •  – I am overaware of subtleties in my environment.  I see every detail in the grocery store, in a room, on a screen.  (I can also find stuff in the fridge super-fast – it’s a super-power of sorts).  I process a lot of visual stimuli at once.
  •  – I am highly sensitive to physical touch.  It gets to be too much very quickly.  Tickling is awful – I’ve always hated being tickled.  When all my boys pile on me for hugs, I feel like I can’t quite breathe.  (Isaac being over 100 lbs now may have something to do with that as well).  I can’t sleep if anyone is touching me.
  •  – I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.  Regularly.
  •  – I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.  If I have caffeine after noon, I do not fall asleep that night easily.
  •  – I have trouble falling asleep in general.  Between my inner life being so complex and busy (see below) and my hyper-awareness to physical and visual sensation (see above), it’s just hard.
  •  – I have a rich, complex, inner life.  Alternate storylines to choices I make, that I suss out all the way.  Daydreaming of being a character in a movie or book series I’m particularly taken with.  Conversations in my head with writers or artists or musicians or, usually, with Terry Gross, while I’m driving or walking.  It’s busy up in that head.  Related: I often talk to myself, as these inner words slip out to the outer.
  •  – I startle easily.  It’s embarrassing.  Like full-on start to run away, have to put my hand on my heart to calm its racing, when someone walks up behind me and I don’t know they are there.  Or when there’s a loud unexpected noise.  Or, you know, the doorbell.
  •  – I get rattled when I have to do a lot in a short amount of time.  To the point of tears.
  •  – I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too much at once.  Just ask Andrew about how our weekends go sometimes.  (I’m not READY to do this yet!, I’ll wail.)
  •  – I try hard to avoid making mistakes.  Get it right the first time, or self-hate.
  •  – I make it a point to avoid violent movies or TV shows.  I almost threw up when watching Daredevil.  I couldn’t finish Slumdog Millionaire.  I self-censor a lot.
  •  – I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.  Kitchens during Thanksgiving are the worst thing ever.  Big parties with lots of murmuring.  Walking around fairs or festivals with lots of milling.  Zoos.  It makes me really agitated.
  •  – Being hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.  Hangry.  I get really, really, really hangry.  I’m not nice to myself or others.  Related: I get anxious about when the next time I will eat will be, and what that food will be.
  •  – Changes in my life shake me up.  (Although isn’t this everyone?  Who really likes change?)
  •  – I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.  Multi-tasking makes me exhausted.  I need to take breaks.
  •  – I read the emotions of others easily, and in some ways experience them as if they are my own.  When I disappoint someone, it’s devastating.  When I make someone happy, I get happier.  (This is why we people please!)
  •  – I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid making choices, and to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.  All my systems and routines, and how I choose to shop and make financial decisions – do it once, don’t ruminate, take out having to think on it over and over.  Creates calm, but when those systems and routines are disrupted, creates lots of stress.
  •  – When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.  Took me four times to pass my driving test.  When I drive with another adult in the car, suddenly I bump curves or stall the car, when I never would while alone.  I can’t cook if someone’s observing me.  I don’t like working in open offices.

As with all these types of things, it’s a big picture of lots of characteristics together, not any one thing individually – but seeing myself in this way has been incredibly helpful.  Specifically, I’ve been giving myself lots of buffer room.  More time to commute to and from work (running late/fear of being late is a hard thing for HSPs).  Built in transition time from one type of thing to another (coming home from work and not jumping right into household chores).  Leaving a room and taking a moment when I feel it’s too much.  It’s been good.

I’m also working on culling the schedule, a bit.  What did I say yes to because I wanted to, and what did I say yes to because I feared the emotional reaction of the person I would be saying no to?

This is harder.  Saying no I can’t do this is really, really, emotionally hard for me.  I’m doing a lot by e-mail to avoid the person’s face/to add some distance.  And I’m trying very hard to take good care of myself as I say no, since I know I’ll be feeling raw.

Right now, I’m going through the wringer as I’m stepping down from chairing the Altar Guild at my church.  I’ve been talking about stepping down for 2 years now, and I haven’t been able to do it.  Now I am.  With support of my priest.  But, it’s a process, and won’t be over until November, I think.  Many months of saying “no, I just can’t.  No, really, really, no.  No.” and it makes me a little nauseated when I think about it too much.

But I’m going to do it.  I need more time to create those buffers, to decompress, to give myself space to function so I can do those things I love well.

Don’t eat the baby

Don’t eat the baby

“Mommy, did you eat me?”

What?  My mind floundered for a minute.  I was trying to find the left shoe from my new Stitchfix order – super-cute grey flats – and to then get Kai’s teeth brushed and his own shoes on so we had a shot in heck at getting to church on time this morning.

“Did I eat you?” I stalled.

“Yes.  When I was a baby.”

Oh.  I got it.


(Me, having eaten Kai and then deciding to teach a Jazzercise class, at 36 weeks pregnant.)


“You mean when you were in my belly?”

“Yes,” Kai clarified, “when I was a baby.”

Sure.  Let’s start this conversation for the first time, a conversation I want to get so right, when we’re running late to church.

Only answer what he asks. I reminded myself.

“No,” I say, “I didn’t eat you.  You started as a very small egg inside me right *here*.”  I point to my uterus.  “And then…you grew!”

“How did I fit?” he asked.

“My belly grew too.”

Kai laughs.  “It must’ve been soooooo big!”

“Yes,” I smile, “it was.”

He pats my belly.  “But it went back to small.”

“Yes,” I say, “it did.  Let’s get our shoes on for church.”

I don’t know if age five is late or early or right on time for starting to wonder about how babies happen…but I do know that I showed Kai a photo of his Aunt Elizabeth about a week ago, where a distinctive bump was visible.  ‘That’s your new baby cousin.” I said.

At the time all he cared to know was if it was, in fact, a going to be a boy like him.  But, clearly, he’s been thinking about it more.  May I continue to handle it well.


Also of note today:

– Kyla went to church with us today, and sitting in a service as if for the first time (as it was her first time) is wonderful.

– Kyla, who is visiting us for a week to help with the August Madness, has a wonderful superpower…anything seems doable when she’s about.  You think, “I really want to get that linen closet organized” and simply because she is in the house, rather than thinking “but that’s too much right now” you think “so I shall do it today!”  And you do.  And it’s glorious.

– Andrew hung my new clothes line in the backyard from the deck to the garage, and it is also glorious.  I realized soon after, however, that my clothespin stock is a bit under what I need for the now super-long line.  Hello Amazon. Hello cheaper utility bills.  Hello feeling kind of awesome.

– I need new tablecloths.  We have a new table in the new house and my old ones don’t fit.  They are now off to Goodwill (see linen closet organization above), and I get to daydream about new.

– I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  I don’t want to take Kai for more dental work tomorrow (he’s 2/3rds done with an epic cavity drill-and-fill plan.  It’s horrible.).  I don’t want to get through another 10 days before school starts.  Wah.

Lookin’ Slick

Lookin’ Slick

It was a big car-maintenance morning for the Hagan household.  This morning we all departed at the same time.  Andrew and Kai went off to the Mazda Dealer for a regular X-mile check-in (aka, lets keep those warranties valid, kids!).  Isaac and I headed to the Firestone dealership, where we get all our non-Mazda needs met due to the 6-months same as cash credit card we have with them.  Love that sucker – makes those car repairs feel a bit easier to weather, and since we’ve had the card for approximately a million years, they keep throwing fun coupons and promo deals at us.  My oil change cost $18 today after all the perks – and I can pay it off at a rate of $3 a month if I so desire, same as cash.

ANYWAY.  I digress from the point of this story which is that Isaac is lookin’ slick, apparently.  We were on main street in Danbury, heading to the Firestone,waiting at a stoplight,  when I hear Isaac say, “hello! hello there!” from the backseat.

I glance back, and he’s waving at the car next to us.  In that car, are two giggly tween-age girls, waving at *him*.  When they notice that I notice them they break out into even more giggles.

Their car pulled ahead of ours first – and one of the girls blows a kiss back at Isaac!

“Isaac,” I say, “I guess you’re looking good, kid.”

“Bagel!” he says.  His reward for being calm, quiet, and non-pinchy in the Firestone is we stop at Dunkin Donuts after.

“Bagel.” I agree.

Also in the looking slick department…check out the new blog!  Oooo-Oooooh, am I right?  I’ve been blogging since 2006, and so to celebrate a decade of putting my personal details on this here world wide web for the world to read (which isn’t strange at ALL and seems kind of quaint now that we have the faceypages and twitter et al), we’ve upgraded our look.  I’m still playing with formatting, but so far, I’m liking wordpress a lot.