Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Not to brag or anything, but over the years, my sister and I have sort of figured out Thanksgiving. Yeah, we know exactly how to do it right.  Sure it took a few years (well, like 20) to figure it out, but we've got it. For so many years we had super high expectations, and kept inviting our mother. A couple of years ago however, we decided to set the bar super low, my sister would host, we would have her husband cook and my husband play with all the kids and watch football, we may or may not go shopping on Friday and we didn't invite our mother (I'm not really a jerk, it's a long story and a lesson in good boundary setting, it's really a good thing, I promise).  Boosh! Thanksgiving bliss.

But then my kid goes and breaks his leg in a super dramatic way during a football game and our amazingingly perfect Thanksgiving plan went out the window. My sister lives in Kentucky and Peyton couldn't travel with his braced leg and wheelchair and ahhhhh.

Luckily, my sister and I are used to holidays being disrupted by family members so we went to a Plan B. They came to my house, her husband still cooked (and they even brought groceries!), my husband organized the football games, there was a little shopping done and a whole lot of togetherness. 

If it's one thing we have learned over the last 40 years it's that you can't let a family member ruin Thanksgiving, you have to roll with it. And it helps to have great husbands.

I got out my fancy-ish, not-so-new camera and took a few shots of our Thanksgiving bliss...

This weekend can maybe be summed up in three words pie, electronics and football.

Pie!!!!!!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!

The girls had so much fun with the app Seriously so fun, but they didn't want me to post any of their videos.  Look at my sister all impressed with their skills.

Playing electronics while watching football.
 Ahhhhhmazing (to the boys.

There was a little father daughter bonding too. :)

Football outside!

Dirty elbows, a sign of a good time.

Dirty knees too.

Football again.

Time for turkey.

Almost all the kids are happy before dinner.

Pie and a random All American right?

Black Friday
The girls loved baking and we loved eating what they baked.
It was a real win-win.

Oh my god, what is that? A puzzle and not an electronic device? Why yes it is. Happy to report the kids had fun doing a good old-fashioned puzzle.

football outside

football inside

Lots of snuggling while watching football.

And of course there was a little kitchen dancing too...

A video posted by Angela Youngblood (@jumpingwithmyfingerscrossed) on

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grateful For Dancing 2015

We live in a crazy, chaotic world with so much going on around us. So much that we can't control. It can be overwhelming.

But there's good stuff going on in this world too. So much good stuff that I am grateful for.

No matter what is going on, good or bad, I am maybe most grateful for dancing....

(Click here to watch the video.)

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
And I hope you dance.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not Breaking My Stride

Yesterday I was running down the street in fancy-ish clothes and high heels dodging ice patches and piles of snow. Several cars stopped and people asked if I needed a ride. I didn't break stride and I told them "Oh no thank you, I've got this," I said breathing heavily and smiling. "It actually feels pretty refreshing."

I was running out of the fancy football banquet to get to the minivan that Tim refused to valet because duh it costs money so he parked it across the street down a little way in front of the library. (He had to leave in a different car earlier to get to the next kid event that he was coaching.) I was running because I left the two little boys with the older brother in the wheelchair and didn't want them to have to wait too long. I was running because we were late for their sister's basketball game. I was running because ahhhh!!!!! life is hectic and crazy and packed and I'm not the most together person and raising kids is intense and I want everyone to be happy and god dammit I am doing the best I can.

Life has been a little stressful the past couple weeks, but this kid has been amazing. And he has been incredibly patient with my lack of together-ness and all my hovering.

Running down the street in high heels smiling and waving to all the together-looking families driving off very together from their much, much better parking spots at the fancy football banquet is the perfect metaphor for my life. I may look ridiculous, and oh holy shit I looked ridiculous, but I'm doing everything I can to give my kids a good life. I'm hustling hard, running as fast as I can, loving big, feeling it all, not breaking stride even when I am unsure and making mistakes. I'm not one of those people that gets the good parking spaces or looks very together, ever. And I'm cool with that. Running down the street in my high heels dodging snow piles was indeed sort of refreshing, until I had no choice but to step through a foot of snow to get to the minivan. That wasn't refreshing, but it was hilarious.

So much of this life is pretty ridiculous and hilarious. And even when it's not, you better believe I'm going to keep running and messing up and making up and loving big and feeling it all and doing the very best I can. Just like that kick-ass song from the 1980s says, "nothing's going to break-a my stride...I got to keep on moving." And I got to keep on remembering to laugh at myself and maybe spring for the valet every now and then.

Click here to watch the video.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Community and What I Know For Sure

This past Saturday morning I took one of the dogs for a walk on the trails near our house.  The sun was shining brightly, the air was crisp and felt new.  My mind was reeling with the news of the attacks in Paris the night before and my heart was heavy.  I was weary already from all of the worry over Peyton's injury/surgery/hospital stay and all of the hovering over his return home a few days earlier.  I had gone to sleep feeling completely drained and vulnerable and feeling like everything everywhere was fragile.

As a I walked outside the next day, I breathed in the fresh, crisp, new morning air and soaked up the sunshine. Then I came upon a sign that said "community" (it was part of a community garden sign).  It was hard to see because of the bright sunshine, but it was there and it mattered.  

Community matters.  I saw firsthand what a difference having a community can make with so many people helping me with Peyton.

When Peyton got hurt on the football field a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have people looking out for us, taking care of us before he was even loaded into the ambulance.  Two friends were by my side asking what I needed. They got my purse, they hugged me, they had my back.

After I posted information about Peyton's injury on social media, more people had my/our back. People that knew us a little bit, people that knew us a lot; people that are a part of our football world and people that are completely against having their kids play the sport; people from our neighborhood and people that lived in other states...they sent well wishes, made dinners, said prayers, sent text messages, came to visit us, bought us groceries. 

One friend called and said "what do you need?"

"I don't even know what I need," I told her in a completely frazzled out of breath way. I'd barely slept and Tim and I were juggling life and kids and worry and ahhhh.

"Just take a deep breath and think about it for a minute," my friend told me.

"I need toilet paper and milk," I laughed because I was embarrassed.

"Okay, I'll drop it off this morning," she said without one ounce of judgement. And then she did and then I cried because we had toilet paper and because I didn't have to run to the store and because people are so nice.

The kindness of people has truly blown me away. It's made me want to be better, do better, pay it forward, have someone's/everyone's back.  

When I think about our little corner of the world, I cling to the belief that there is a bigger world community full of love and empathy and goodness.  People that have each other's backs especially in times that can feel sad, scary and/or uncertain.  A community that cares for one another. Just like that sign, it may be hard to see sometimes, but I truly believe it's out there. And it's in these times of vulnerability and uncertainty that we need that loving community the most, I know that for sure.  

Here's what else I know for sure this week:

  • Dogs are also good to have around when life gets all scary and sad. Rufus is the best cuddler.

  • Good storytellers are some of my personal heroes. They are magical and beautiful and I love them.  I am so honored to personally know one of the best.  My friend Satori Shakur is so good.  Listen to her talk about her breast cancer and her body and her power.

  • Speaking of stories, I am so excited to announce I am co-producing the third year of Listen To You Mother in Detroit this spring. Woot! Woot! Here's a little video I made about last year's show and the announcement of this year's. Check it out.

LTYM 2015 from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.

  • Dude, I feel old. After months of holding menus and books at arm's length I bought my first pair of "readers." My kids call them my granny glasses and that's cool.  I kind of love them. And most importantly, I can read again.

What do you know for sure this week?  Tell me here or on my Facebook page.

And come play with me on Instagram-

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Past 11 Days

I feel like this picture could be in a magazine article about a mother's love or loving an athletic kid or sports injuries or being totally exhausted because you love your kid so much and you want to protect them from everything and anything and ahhhhh.  This picture pretty much sums up the last 11 days of my life--hovering/exhausted/a tiny bit irrational/a whole lot of heart bursting love and gratitude/determined/I got this but woah I'm tired/motherhood.  But it's not the whole story.

There's other parts of this story...
There's the night before surgery full of Peyton's pain and grogginess and my fear. There were the beeping machines, his scary low heart rate, the no sleeping, the worrying.


There's the story of the morning.  A new day full of light and hope and still the worry but it seemed a little better in the light.  Waiting for your kid to get out of surgery sucks, there's no pretty, cheery or light way to say it. Waiting and wondering and not knowing is hard.

But then there's the story of healing.  After Peyton got out of surgery and we found out things went well, I felt like I could breathe so much easier.  He's young and so healthy except for the broken leg, he will heal.

It's now time for all of us to heal. Watching their brother get hurt on the football field and rushed off in an ambulance was scary. Seeing their brother weak and needing help is strange for all of them, but it has also given them a chance to show him how much they love him and taught them a lot about compassion and helping each other out.

The biggest story of healing is Peyton himself. I truly think he is a special kid. He hasn't complained once (except for his leg being itchy under the wrappings and brace). He is nice and polite to everyone he's met. He is strong and stoic. He is already working hard at his recovery. 

There's the story of going home. It's actually a very funny one, at least I told Peyton he will think it's funny in a couple years. It was just the two of us and it was ridiculously hard to get him and straight-leg-only brace into the minivan. The more I tried not to bump his leg the more I bumped it. We finally made it in and on our way home, it was so hectic I didn't stop to take a picture (and he might not have been so polite if I had tried!).

There's the story of food and friends and family dinners.  The physical therapist nicknamed "Sergeant" told me not to baby him and to get him up to the table for meals.  So that's what we did.  He was groggy the first couple days, but then a few neighbors came by and played video games with him and ate dinner with us and he smiled and laughed and acted more like himself. Sarge was right.

We practiced with the wheelchair on Friday.  There were no students because of a teacher professional development day. The halls were eerie and quiet.  Peyton was frustrated. It was a little depressing.

 But thank goodness the siblings were there to brighten his mood and distract him.

This past Sunday night we went to the kids' basketball games and cheered each other on and told stories and it felt almost like normal.

And THEN this past Monday, I dropped Peyton off at school in his wheelchair because he said he could do it and the doctors and sarge agreed. I couldn't sleep the night before because I was so worried and I might have gone up to the school Monday on my lunch break and secretly watched him in the lunch room to make sure he was okay. But come on! I mean for the past 11 days I have been by his side and worrying and thinking about all the what-ifs and oh my god life is so fragile and scary and we are so lucky that we are mostly so healthy and my heart breaks for people that are going through more and ahhhhh.

The stories from the past 11 days are about hurting and healing; breaking and mending; worry and love; coming together and feeling grateful; and being inspired by how life moves on and the strength of my kid.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cursing Kindergartners

The past week has been a little intense.  After Peyton's dramatic injury during the football game, emergency surgery and hospital stay we were all exhausted. When he came home, we were happy he was home but it was also a week still filled with worry and juggling work and schedules and helping him get around on his crutches and trying to get back into a groove and wrapping our heads around feeling so vulnerable and being positive and ahhhhh. Things were bound to fall through some cracks, things were bound to be forgotten...that's just what happens in a big family when one of us gets injured.  But no one was prepared for what happened on Saturday night.

The whole family sat down to watch a movie. Tim chose a movie that I didn't think was appropriate for Wade, but I was too tired to say anything so we started watching Jurassic World. Some of us screamed as the giant dinosaurs moved in for the kill. Some of us covered our eyes. One of us said "Oh f@*%."  

"What did you just say?!," Tim asked after he paused the movie.  
He was looking at Wade. Yeah, Wade, the kindergartner, the baby of the family, the smallest human in our house. Wade who sat there with eyes that were wide with surprise like he couldn't believe he had said it either. He looked like he was holding his breath, waiting for the moment to be over.

Tim was horrified that his baby had said f@*%. Tim is a guy that hates swearing and simply doesn't do it. In the almost 18 years that I have known him I can count on both hands the number of times I've heard him swear. Me on the other hand? Um, I love it. I especially love to say or type f@*%. But I never do it around the kids, ever. Or at least I never do when life is normal and not crazy and one of us is injured.

"Where did you hear a word like that?," Tim asked Wade who was still sitting with his eyes open wide.

I held my breath and my eyes got wide. I waited for Wade to say "I heard it from mom."

It seemed like a long silence and then JT said "he heard it from some kids we were playing with." 

Phew. Not from me. I was both relieved at the source and amused that Wade knew the appropriate time to use f@*%, when a giant dinosaur is chasing someone.

Tim went on about how "its the worst curse word" and how Wade should "never ever say that word, ever."  I nodded, hiding my smirk behind the blanket I pulled up to cover my mouth.

Even though I was slightly amused, I was a tad worried that my cursing kindergartner was crying out for help and attention during a week that has been so crazy and emotionally charged.  I worried that he felt forgotten and was going to be saying f@*% at school and turn into a troubled kid who didn't care about anything or anybody. Ahhhhhh!

We only made it about half-way through the movie until Wade was crying, not because he was scared but because the people were shooting the dinosaurs.  Awwww, he cares, he's still nice. Phew.

I took Wade into the other room to watch something else while the big kids and Tim finished Jurassic World. I was snuggled in close with my sweet baby feeling better about everything. I mean sure things fall through the cracks but it's just a temporary crazy, emotionally charged time. We'll get back to our routines and our non-cursing normal.  

"Mom, you forgot to feed me dinner," Wade whispered in my ear.

"F@*%," I thought. I THOUGHT it but I didn't say it, that's progress.

Awww, of course this boy is still sweet. And so cute!
We all went to Lucy's basketball game on Sunday night and the little boys got asked to fill in for another game. It felt almost like a normal night for our family for the first time in a while. It felt good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Story of the Last Game

Recently I read something that said a good story needs conflict, tension, vulnerability, grace, relatability, maybe a hero or two and maybe a lesson or two.  I get that. I also get that sometimes we tell the stories and other times we live them and can't believe they are happening to us. The story of Peyton's football season has all the stuff that a good story supposedly needs.  The past few weeks have been filled with conflict and tension and vulnerability, especially last Saturday. This past weekend there were heroes and lots of relatability and grace. I'm sure there's a lesson or two as well, but I'm not sure just what they are yet.  This isn't a story about how bad football is or isn't, it's a story of one kid's season and one mom's fears.

The Conflict: Second Opinions, Second Chances, Second Thoughts

The week before the football season started, we took Peyton to a follow-up appointment for a very severe concussion he'd had a few months earlier (not football related). The neurologist thought he found a blood clot in his brain on the MRI and said he didn't think football was a good idea, but ordered more tests, blood work and more doctors to investigate. Peyton was devastated, but also hopeful that there would be new answers. He loves football and wanted to play. I love football and wanted him to play, but not if it put him at higher risk for not recovering fully from the concussion.

Even when we found out that there was no blood clot and he got cleared to play from two different doctors including the neurologist that originally had concerns, I didn't want him to play. I cried a lot. I fought with Tim who wanted Peyton to play.  I cried a lot more. I stopped talking to some friends who wouldn't quit sending me articles about how bad football is and giving me unsolicited opinions and advice. I worried. I agreed to let him play but vowed to maybe not go to any games and I might have told Tim "if he gets hurt I will hate you." (hint that's some good old fashioned storytelling foreshadowing)

I did end up going to the football games. I even enjoyed most of them and sometimes even gave Peyton some constructive criticism about a few missed tackles. Remember deep down I really do love the game of football. I cheered. I shook the shaker one of the moms made with all the kids' names and numbers on it. I rang the cowbell. But I also held my breath watching my son, a linebacker, play.  Behind the smiling face and shaking the shaker, each game I worried that my kid would end up in a crumpled heap in the middle of the field.  I vividly pictured Tim going out on the field to our injured boy, an ambulance being called and my world falling apart.  

Most games I hid behind my fancy camera. I took over 1,000 pictures of both my sons' football games over the last few weeks. 

I have so many pictures of the teenage boys being so nice to little Wade, the water boy, this season. I was so impressed with how kind all the boys were to him.

JT loves football just like his older brother.

I love taking pictures. I love capturing moments. The camera was a buffer between the game and my anxiety and fear.
The Last Game

This past Saturday was Peyton's last game of the season. I sighed thinking about how the past few weeks had gone down--all the worrying, all the breath holding, all the fear--and how it was almost over. I drove to the game alone with Peyton which was odd because we are never just the two of us.  I leaned over and told him "geez kid, the last game, we made it, well I made it through all my crazy worry, you've had a great time." We laughed. Then we took a selfie which he suffered through because he's a nice kid and he knows I love taking selfies and pictures.

The game started and I started snapping pictures in between talking to my friends in the stands. Fifteen minutes into the game my worst nightmare came true.  The scene that I had feared happened right in front of me. There was a player crumpled in the middle of the field after a play. I knew it was Peyton. I had been taking pictures. I saw him not get up.

"It's not his head," I laughed to my friends. "He's okay. It's just a leg."  

I laughed but inside I was terrified and my heart was racing and I wanted to scream and cry.

When I saw Tim run down the stairs from the coaching booth to be with him I started to literally lose my breath again. Then the coaches standing over my son yelled to the crowd that they needed blankets. Blankets to cover my crumpled boy in the middle of the field.

I got up. "I can't do this," I think I said out loud.  I walked to the gate by far edge of the stadium. I walked past two men saying things like "yeah, it looks bad" and "I think that's Youngblood."  It was like a bad dream or a movie.

"Fuck, fuck this, fuck, fuck, fuck" I repeated over and over. (hopefully this is relatability, hopefully a few other people would say fuck in a situation like this)

I turned around and saw two of my friends walking toward me.(Two heroes of this story.)  They knew where I was mentally and emotionally. They knew that my fears were coming true. They hugged me and cried with me for a few minutes.  Then Tim called me on my cell from the field, "It's his knee, he needs you."

I wiped my tears, straightened my back and walked out to be with my son.  It's not that I am particularly brave, it's that sometimes when you have such anxiety about something you are sort of oddly prepared for it when IT happens.  

I walked out to the crumpled boy in the middle of the field, my boy, covered with blankets. I got on my knees, held his hand and told him it was going to be okay. He was being so brave. He wasn't screaming or sobbing, only repeating "it hurts so bad" while a few single tears ran down his cheeks. I looked up and the men, his coaches and the coaches from the other team, looked so concerned and many of them had tears in their eyes.  It was serious and heavy and heartbreaking.
A friend of mine in the stands took these pictures. She took them because she knows me, she knows that I appreciate the stories that pictures tell. I am so grateful that she knew that and took these pictures, they are painfully beautiful to me.
JT was still in his uniform from his game earlier in the day.
Tim consoling the little brothers.

We all waited for the ambulance to arrive.

When they finally loaded him on the stretcher and wheeled him to the ambulance, Peyton gave a thumbs up to his team and the crowd.  I walked behind him in disbelief. 

This horrible moment, this amazing all seemed so surreal, so powerful.

Healing and Heroes

Once we were in the ambulance, they started an IV for Peyton. I held his hand and carried his cleat in my other hand.  Peyton looked scared. I felt determined, determined to make him less scared.

"We are giving you Fentanyl for the pain, it's a synthetic morphine," the ambulance guys explained.

"Otherwise known as one of Grammy's favorites," I interjected. I've talked with Peyton at length about my mother's drug abuse, so he knows. He smiled and even laughed. He looked less scared. The synthetic morphine and I were a good team for the ride over to the nearest hospital.

The nearest hospital was like a scene out of Grey's Anatomy, lots of interesting people and drama.  Police officers walked patients around who were handcuffed, there was another officer questioning a patient, a very loud, wailing woman, a couple uninsured people and woah, just a lot happening. 

Tim had followed the ambulance in our minivan. When he walked into the ER I whispered "this is exactly what I feared, this is all your fault, if there weren't so many cops in here I'd scream at you and throw things."  Not my proudest moment but it was real and raw and painful.  "Not now," Tim said and looked at the floor.

They wheeled Peyton back from Xrays and informed us he had broken his femur and would need surgery.  And also that they didn't have a pediatric department and Peyton would need to be transported to another hospital immediately. 

"Fuck," I said.

Peyton was transferred by another ambulance to another hospital. He had surgery. He stayed in the hospital a few days. He hardly complained. He just said he was disappointed he couldn't try out for the eighth grade basketball team and was hoping he could help manage the team.  He worried about his science homework. He refused pain meds at first because all of my at-length talks about how addiction runs in our family and my mother's drug abuse (the doctors and I forced him to take the meds because um, a broken femur, yeah I told him it was worth the risk). He only asked for one thing, a Dr. Pepper, after we offered him "anything" he wanted.  He's now dedicated to practicing his physical therapy and getting back to school.

He's amazing. I don't know where he gets his drive and his kindness and his strength. He is the kid who gives the thumb's up. He is my hero.

Since Saturday we have had an outpouring of love and generosity and compassion and kindness. Offers to help drive, get groceries, make dinners and offer support. All of these people are my heroes.

The goodness of people and the strength of my son make it hard for me to breathe all over again. I am breathless with wonder, in awe of people's kindness, and breathless with gratitude. If there are lessons to be learned from scary situations it's that they happen and there's no control BUT also that there are people that care, people that go the extra mile, people that teach us all how to be better and stronger and kinder and make us want to pay it forward.  

The Last Picture

Yesterday, I got out my fancy camera for the first time since Saturday and looked at the pictures I took. The last picture is a picture of the tackle where Peyton got hurt. When I saw it I felt sick. It's the last picture I took from the last game of a long season.

I still feel pissed that this is how the story went because really, what the fuck? The last game? But that isn't where this story ends. The story continues with good people that are helping and a good son who is healing and a couple of parents who love each other so much  they will work through all their feelings of resentment and figure out football and fights and fear and be better for all of it. 

At least that's how I hope to write it.