Friday, November 16, 2012

How To Make Dinner in 33 Easy-ish Steps

  1. Put children #s 2 and 3 down for nap. Set child #1 up in front of laptop open to page full of math games.
  2. Listen to child #2 calling from her crib: No nap! Up now! No nap! Up now!
  3. Remove child #2 from her crib, with promises to play quietly without waking child #3 while Mommy cooks.
  4. Wonder why you are attempting to extract promises from a one year old when you already know for certain she has no intention of keeping them.
  5. Drink afternoon coffee (without which no cooking of dinner shall occur).
  6. Go into kitchen. Dig through fridge. No meat.
  7. Realize meat has not been thawed.
  8. Retrieve from freezer; defrost meat in microwave.
  9. Child #2 will be running in circles -yelling loudly and with great zeal- by this point, while child #3 sleeps next door. Shush her. She won't shush, but it's always worth a shot. (Optimism is important both in life and in the cooking of dinner.)
  10. Continue digging in fridge. Realize there is no spinach.
  11. Scavenge kitchen. Find partially rotting zucchini squash, halfway decent yellow squash, green and yellow peppers only slightly beginning to wrinkle and shrivel.
  12. Good enough. Chop 'em. (Toss rotting parts.)
  13. Heat meat in pan. 
  14. Add veggies, 3 teaspoons of husband-made taco seasoning, half-cup of water.
  15. Dig through cupboards. Realize you are out of black beans.
  16. Continue digging through cupboards until you find a can of refried beans.
  17. Good enough. Add 'em. 
  18. Child #2 will by now have stripped down to a saggy, baggy diaper, and will still be running in circles, yelling: NAYKEE!
  19. Wrestle child into bedroom. Change diaper. Re-clothe.
  20. Attempt to impress upon child the need for quiet.
  21. Futile. Child will grin winningly and yell at maximum volume in response.
  22. Return to kitchen to find mexi-slop burning and sticking to bottom of pan.
  23. Mutter a curse word under your breath. Scrape mexi-slop from bottom of pan (but not too much--best to leave bottom layer of burned mexi-slop as a further-burn-barrier; this has been learned from experience). 
  24. Reduce heat, and cover.
  25. Child #2 will -of course- hear the muttered curse word, and begin yelling it loudly while running in circles.
  26. Child #3 will wake up.
  27. Go get child #3 from crib; change diaper.
  28. Child #1 -attracted to the sounds of chaos- will close laptop and race to join children #s 2 and 3.
  29. They will run in circles, yelling loudly (at least the muttered curse has been forgotten)(recall the importance of optimism), until child #3 is retrieved by his mother, arriving to pick him up after work.
  30. Husband will arrive home from work. He has 2 important steps to complete.
  31. Make homemade guacamole to transform this dinner from mexi-slop to mexi-slop with delicious guacamole on top.
  32. The final step is of utmost importance to the success of both the dinner, and the evening.
  33. Send husband to store for beer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Want to Tell the Truth When I Grow Up

Studying early childhood education as an undergrad, I attended a conference where the following question was posed.
What do you say to parents or administrators who ask what you're doing to "prepare young children for school"?
 When I heard the answer the speaker gave, I gasped, and knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I like to say: If you knew that, in a year or so from now, there would be a famine across the entire earth, and there wouldn't be enough to eat ...
... would you start starving yourself now?
I want to be someone who can say things like this out loud, in a professional setting. Getting paid for it will just be the icing on the cake.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Clubhouse

Way back in high school, I had a friend named Luke. We graduated; years passed; we lost touch. And then facebook came along, and we reconnected there. I began blogging in November of 2009 (hey, happy 3 years to me!), and -to my surprise- got a comment on the second post I wrote. It was from Luke's wife, Michelle.

I followed her comment back to her website, and found out she was some sort of ... career coach? I wasn't sure exactly what that was, but it looked like fun. In any case, my career was humming along happily at that time, but I still visited her blog occasionally, and enjoyed reading about entrepreneurship and all the possibilities people discovered in a world wide open and full of opportunities.

Fast forward to early March of 2011. I found out, while home on maternity leave, that when I returned to work I would only have 5 months of employment left before our federal funding ran out. The program I worked for had been eliminated, nationally, for the 2011-2012 school year by a newly conservative Congress following the 2010 midterm elections. I wrote about it and Michelle popped up in the comments again, offering support.

The truth is, I wasn't ready for any support yet, at least in the career arena. I had a new baby, and I immediately knew I would do in-home childcare. It was the quickest, easiest shift I could make, and had the added bonus of allowing me to be with my young children.

As my first year at home passed, I realized I was still -in my heart of hearts- a teacher. My work is important to me, integral to who I am. I missed many things about my old job, even as I got better at new parts of the work I do. And as that first year came to an end, I realized I was ready for a new plan. But doing it alone, in the confines of my own head, was really hard. Now I was ready for some support. I e-mailed Michelle and she responded with some options. I thought it over, and decided to join her Clubhouse.

I have never regretted that decision.

Every time I have a question, a concern, a late-night fear freakout, a desire for some you go girl energy, or just a place to brag: I go to the Clubhouse. It's full of other smart, interesting, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be. Between the whole group, it seems like all the knowledge in the world is available there! From legal, to financial, to web-savviness, to artistic, to managing self-care in an entrepreneurial world gone mad!

The truth is, in my day-to-day, tangible, career-building world, I am still alone. I don't have colleagues or staff to help me. I'm only beginning to build clientele, and that takes time and care. I never thought I'd be an entrepreneur. It's terrifying a lot of the time.

But I no longer feel alone. I have a place to go when I want to talk shop, get kudos, complain, or learn more. I've been able to support other people doing things in areas far outside my expertise, because they wonder about things I know, or need exactly the type of support I feel comfortable and happy to give.

It's a good place to be, this Clubhouse.

There will be some more openings there, starting in January of the new year. Check it out if it sounds like it might be your cup of tea.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


After the pain: the legs pushing harder, breath sharp and ragged, muscles that beg me to quit, after the pain that seems interminable ends, there is something else.

There is flight.

My legs rotate like pedals attached to a wheel racing down a steep hill; they circle faster and faster without effort. I pass over the ground like a helicopter, legs whirring like a blade as I finish that final lap.

My arms pump by my sides, backandforthbackandforthbackandforth, my hands open up, loose fists leftover from a slower pace releasing, fingers reaching toward the future, my whole body stretching forward into space.

I tuck my head down and my breath comes quickly now hoowhoohoowhoohoowhoo. I'm not cold anymore.

I am effortless.

There is pain. But then there is flight.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Running Faster

My feel hit the gravel shushshushshushshush. My breath comes hard and rough through a layer of fleece wrapped around my face and neck. When I inhale, the air is cold and sharp, slapping the back of my throat on it's way to my lungs.

Studying health & phys ed as an undergrad, I learned the definitional difference between walking and running: the flight phase. I think about this as I push my legs further through strides, try to catch more air in the moments between sneaker smacking earth.

My legs hurt: the muscles in my thighs ache, sharp pain moves up each shin when that foot hits the ground. My lungs hate the cold air rushing down into my chest. Somewhere in the vicinity of my right shoulder blade, a knot begins to form.

Still running, I pull my iphone from the pocket of my husband's down vest, and sneak a peek at the time. Shit. I speed up.

Everything hurts.

I keep going.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snapshots of Learning

The year before the wedding, my future-husband and I lived in Prescott, Arizona. We attended a few yoga classes together. The year after the wedding, we lived in Niagara Falls, NY. We attended a few more yoga classes together.

Talking about a pose one night, he said: Well, you'll always do *this* with your back, and demonstrated drawing his shoulder blades together and down.

How do you know that? I asked. We only attended a few classes! You remember that pose?

No, but I remember the basic principles. How they felt in my body. You don't?

No, I replied, I remember a bunch of chanting in Sanskrit.

* * *

He came home from the grocery store tonight, began unpacking the bags while I packed my yoga mat and CDs to leave for work. Both of us running around our respective rooms while the kids sat at the dining room table eating greek yogurt, he says: I bought some C-H-E-E-S-E C-R-A-C-K-E-R-S at the grocery store tonight, for you to give the kids tomorrow.

I'm still visualizing the letters in my head when the four year old pipes up, with great excitement: Daddy, did you get CHEESY CRACKERS for us!?

* * *

When I began studying yoga, I read all the books I could find. I wanted to know everything there was to know. I learned to stand from this website. I read it, and read it, and read it. 

I read it aloud to myself, while standing.

I copied and pasted it into a word document. I bolded print. I cut excess verbiage, and added bullet points. I read it again, just the bullet points, while standing. I read it aloud during one of my classes, while students stood in tadasana, eyes closed.

My most difficult student interrupted me, to say scornfully: This is a bunch of shit.

I replied, zenlike: just try your best, and if the instructions are too much, tune them out and focus on your breath.

* * *

I remember our boy trying to learn to jump. He tried, and tried, and tried. He just could not clear the ground. The desire was there, but the flesh (or maybe it was the muscle) wasn't willing. It took months.

Our daughter was doing somersaults around 18 months.

How old are you supposed to be to do somersaults? the husband asked me, and I replied: Oh, I can't remember! It's one of those details I'll have to look up.

The first website that came up on google listed it as a 3-5 year old skill.

And then, last month, when she was 21 months old, my friend said: she puts on her own socks, boots and coat? I'll have to teach my 2 year old to do that!

I didn't teach her, I said, somewhat puzzled. I'm actually not sure when she started doing that.

* * *

We were talking one night, late, and quite possibly full of wine. I think we must have been grad students, both of us majoring in education. We'd been married a couple years at this point.

I like to know ALL the details, he said, hands drawing wavy lines through the air as they spread apart, as if to symbolize the potential exponential growth of detail.

My eyes got big. A lightbulb went on in my head. I HATE details! I told him enthusiastically, I want to know the BIG picture! Without it, the details make NO sense whatsoever! And even once I UNDERSTAND it, I prefer bullet points!

He stared back at me with eyes like saucers. I HATE bullet points! And if you give me the idea, without the details, it means, like, NOTHING! Give me the DETAILS! And I'll give YOU the big picture!

We stared at each other, like strangers who had only just met.

Everything about all of our conversations suddenly made so much more sense.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Week In And It's a List

  1. It's been a week, and I'm already like: Seriously? Blog? Again? For goodness sakes!
  2. I work 9-10 hours a day.
  3. That's my day job.
  4. It's one of those unusual jobs that comes sans lunch or other breaks. I eat standing up (sometimes walking) and I listen through the bathroom door for sounds of potential mayhem while I pee.
  5. When the day job ends, I have an hour to shower and change.
  6. Next is my night job. More of an evening job, really
  7. That one might be an hour; it might be 2.
  8. There's another half hour, or 90 minute commute, depending on the day.
  9. Then, depending on the night, or the hour, I help get the kids ready and down to bed.
  10. And then, along with my equally exhausted husband, I collapse.
  11. Today was my biggest playgroup so far, for the day job.
  12. I had 7 kids here, all under 5, for 3 hours this morning. (Only need 8 for the nursery school, so this is good news!)
  13. I had 4 kids for the rest of the 9-10 hour day.
  14. The night job was 2 hours tonight.
  15. The commute was 90 minutes.
  16. The dinner was reheated leftovers.
  17. The couch was (is) comfortable.
  18. The blanket was (is) warm.
  19. Can our exhausted protagonist make it to 20?
  20. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night

I voted for Obama in 2008. I'd always kind of liked John McCain and his whole maverick schtick,  but the modern-day Republican party seemed (and still does) to be walking one-way down a narrow path to crazy town with increasing speed, and McCain appeared to be reluctantly following along.

I remember watching the inauguration in January, though, and all I could think was, he's bound to let us down. When Republicans made fun of Democrats, calling Obama "the Messiah," I thought they had a point. He was just a man, projected up onto the same big screen where we project all our hopes, dreams and ideals. He never had a chance to live up to that.

Of course, we were fresh off the George W. Bush years at the time, so a relatively friendly homeless guy hanging out outside the local grocery store would have looked like a good bet at that point, in comparison. (But then again, there was John Kerry in '04.)

I haven't been able to get into this election. Obama hasn't disappointed me, necessarily. I loved his talk about transparency, but didn't particularly believe it at the time. His continuation of Bush's foreign policy is also saddening, but I knew when Bush assumed so much power in the executive branch that it would be awfully hard to take it back, regardless of party.

Also, it seems like we've known Obama will win all along in 2012 (if Romney wins tonight, color me surprised!). Even the Republicans don't particularly seem to like Romney. I look at politics, and it's hard to see anything but theater.

I enjoy the theater, but don't tell me it's real life.

I almost didn't vote today. It's not because I'm disillusioned; that happened a long time ago. I was born into a post-Watergate political America. I don't know that I was ever illusioned in the first place.

I worked all day. Took kids to the library. Packed a picnic lunch. Visited an indoor playground. Passed out peanut butter sandwiches and, later, carried little girls to beds and cribs. Later, I woke them, changed diapers, played chase and served snacks. My husband walked in the door at the same time I should have been starting my yoga class, all apologies for being late (meeting with a mortgage re-financier, in case I needed a reminder that The Big Decisions do Trickle Down one way or another), and I raced out to teach my class, and then attend a physical therapy session for the tendonitis in my shoulder.

I had thought we were all going to go vote together: the husband and I, with the kids. But then he texted and told me he went while I was teaching. I got out of class, and I knew: if I go home, I'm not going back out. I also knew that New York's electoral college votes would go to Obama, regardless of what I did this evening. It was a long day, and I was tired.

And yet, I found myself pulling into one of my polling station's parking spaces a few minutes later. It's housing for the elderly; they sit in the lobby in their wheelchairs, pointing us voters in the right direction when we walk in the building. One woman had put together little baskets of used goods to sell at her fold-out card table. And the election officials were just as daft, disorganized, and delightfully human as they have been every other time we've shown up to vote.

All of us, there at the polling place, we were too fat, or had too much makeup on. We were born ugly, or wore the same sweatpants all the time. We were in wheelchairs; our mustaches were unfortunate in every way; we couldn't rip a serrated sheet of paper off a ballot pad. All of us are imperfect. We're just doing the best we can.

I voted for Obama in 2012. I'm not an idealist when it comes to politics.

But nonetheless, I'm glad I went.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jogging, Math and Music

When I was in elementary school, I was somehow chosen to be part of a special, city-wide math group. I say "somehow" because I attended Catholic school, so I have no idea how they even knew I existed, let alone invited me to be part of the group. We had to report to one of the public elementary schools early on Saturday mornings. Special workbooks full of shapes and symbols were passed out; I recall circles and half-circles, ovals and squiggly lines. We spent an hour or so each week practicing some sort of advanced mathematics.

I remember perusing the workbook, closely studying the shapes and symbols. They never meant a thing to me. But somehow, I always intuitively knew the right answers to the problems. I couldn't show my work; I had absolutely no idea what work to do! But I chose the right answer almost every time.

Eventually, I complained enough about having to get up early on Saturdays to do more math than was already required as a result of attending school, and my mom gave in and let me quit. (Seriously, whose idea was this anyway!? Saturday mornings? Extra workbooks? It's like punishing kids for being good at math!)

As an adult (and an educator) I've come to realize that I probably understood the work on some level, but was stymied by the language of visual symbols. I'm not a visual learner, and when I think back on that experience, what stands out in my memory is the feeling of complete befuddlement while looking down at a page full of circles, ovals, and squiggles, followed by a strong, intuitive feeling that the answer would be X, even though I didn't understand the question.

* * *

My mom made me take piano lessons for a couple years as a kid. One Monday, she didn't mention getting ready for my lesson. Being wise to the ways in which things work in a big family, I stayed the heck out of her way and laid low, assuming she forgot. Relief rushed hot through my body. I played happily in a quiet corner where she would be unlikely to stumble upon me and suddenly remember.

Later that week, she told me I didn't have to go anymore. After years of supervising my practices, she realized I literally could not hear my mistakes on the keyboard. If I couldn't hear them, how could I correct them? Which explains why I never got any better, despite regular practice.

I grew up with the idea that I lack musical intelligence. For the most part, I think this assumption is correct. It's been borne out by most of my life experiences (never made a mixed-tape, nor a playlist; can't tell an electric guitar from acoustic, unless I see the cord plugged in). With one notable exception.

Home from college one summer, I worked for my hometown's Parks and Recreation Department, driving between the various city parks with art supplies for the children to do weekly projects. One morning I arrived at my scheduled park to find another activity already in progress. There was a troupe of African drummers in a huge circle, with hand drums for anyone who wanted them. I dropped my supplies off to the side and joined the circle, full of kids, staff, and neighborhood families. The lead drummer taught us how to beat the drum, how to hold and angle our hands to make different sounds, how to count out loud and then match the movements of our hands to the sound of our voices.

For the first time in my life, I was there, with the music as it was happening. He taught increasingly complicated sequences of beats, and I could follow and reproduce them almost immediately. I got it. I didn't understand why I got it, but I got it.

Years later, a handsome stranger handed me a leaflet about drumming. It claimed that the human heartbeat was the very first rhythm, reproduced as a drumbeat. Maybe that's what I need to learn music. Start at the very beginning. Begin with the beat of my own heart.

That handsome stranger is my husband, now.

* * *

I think it was sixth grade when my best friend decided we should get up before school every morning and jog. It sounded like the worst idea ever, but she was one of those bossy and convincing friends who always gets her way.

I was the sort who pretended my shoelaces were untied repeatedly, far more often than they were ever likely to be untied. Every city block I stopped and knelt down, retying a perfectly tied shoelace. Thinking about how much I hated jogging.

Over the years I tried it again and again, never liking it any better, never sticking with it. And then last January, for no particular reason I can remember, I decided to give it another go. Surprising myself as much as anyone else, I'm still at it! I run around a reservoir near my house. I think of it as a circle, but it's really more of a squiggly oval.

There's something about the rhythm of my feet hitting the gravel path that brings to mind both math and music. I count while I run: laps around the reservoir, total mileage covered, circles and ovals and squiggly lines taking on meaning in my mind as I jog. I sneak peeks at my phone each loop around, when I reach the starting gate, and calculate speed: dividing time by distance, or maybe it's distance by time, until I discover a per minute mile, round and whole, a number that feels as intuitive as the answers in a long ago Saturday morning math class.

I count the crunchcrunchcrunchcrunch of my sneakers crushing gravel, beating time as I move through space, finding a rhythm that echoes a drumbeat, chasing and matching and pushing my heartbeat faster and faster, as the sky turns from daylight to night. Circles and ovals and squiggly lines left written in the earth where my feet beat a rhythm in the autumn mud.

I run rhythmic, count and calculate shapes, create drumbeats of feet on dirt.

I do everything I've ever been bad at, and I feel so free.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


My next-youngest sister, let's call her Carlotta, is the type of person I imagine might someday be described as a pillar of her community. She's not currently in the role; she's a first time mother of a one year old, living in a new city, and just starting back to work at a new job, after a year at home with her baby.

But she got this new job because she did things like attend an annual Wetland Forum for New York State, and then when she was invited to present, she said yes.

I work alone, out of my home, and I rarely-to-never speak to anyone in my field. I read quite a bit, though.

Some of this is happenstance, and some of it is probably not the slightest bit surprising to our mother.

* * *

I've started a Wednesday morning playgroup, as a sort of prelude to my eventual nursery school. This week I had 5 kids. As we get a routine established, I hope to add more kids to the group (I can take a total of 8), and perhaps expand it to another day in the week.

Instead of advertising on Craigslist (which is where I started with childcare, and was quite successful), I joined a couple of yahoo groups. One is a bigger group for my whole city, and the other is a smaller one specifically for my neighborhood. I also discovered that my neighborhood has it's own Facebook page, so I joined up there too. It turns out I'm primarily attracting neighborhood kids, and getting to know people who live nearby. Nice for the nursery school -the professional piece- but also nice on a personal level.

* * *

My husband and I started dating in February of his senior year in college. He was an art major, in a tiny, Midwestern college town. I was a transfer student from New York State (which might as well have been New York City, for all the difference it made in Kansas). By the time May rolled around, we were engaged, and he was displaying work in pretty much all of the local shows. I accompanied him on his rounds.

He stopped to make small talk with the husband/wife team-teachers, who split both a full-time job and an old elementary school that they had reclaimed and renovated into a home and studio space.

When he dropped in at the local gallery to drop off a series of paintings, he spent some time chatting with the local artist who rented space in the back.

Our small-town watering hole was always a reliable place to find Ernie, if he wasn't standing on the sidewalk outside his house, painting. One way or another, my husband found him when he needed to, and they talked.

I waited by his side, in the same general manner that I waited by my sister's side, over many years. Except that with my sister, I was mostly bored, and wondering: what in the devil are they still talking about!? I was so enamored with my husband and our brand new, bright, shiny love that everything he did was wonderful. I saw this type of small talk in a new light, all of a sudden. This is his PLACE, I thought. He BELONGS here. This seemed marvelous to me, for the first time ever.

* * *

I have a great, big, wonderful family. Probably bigger, and louder, and more enmeshed than a girl who lives mostly in her imagination and between the pages of books, really requires. So I never needed community. I don't have a tribe. Never found my people. Never sought.

My parents live a few hours away. All five of my sisters live less than an hour from them. Two of them have kids the same age as my kids; a third has a baby on the way. They get together for dinner on a random Tuesday. Meet for a cup of coffee or a beer. Jog around the park together. Take advantage of free babysitting.

I had no idea how much it would break my heart to miss out on all of this, by just a few hours.

But my husband has a great job; a job he loves. And tenure. We own a house, and we really, really love our house.

So I'm going to try something I've never had to do before. I'm going to be intentional about building community. After all, this is our PLACE now. I've never belonged anywhere before. But maybe, just maybe, I could.

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoPoMo Yo!

What the hell, I guess I'll do this post-a-day for a month thing. But I'm warning you now: I totally cheat! :)

Can't say I didn't warn ya!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Third Maybe (or With Money Already Done, I Might as Well Talk About Sex)

I was on the birth control pill that went with breastfeeding. And then I mentioned to my OB-GYN that my period had come 4 times in 8 weeks. She looked concerned. She prescribed something else. I was on the something else for a month or so, and then I weaned.

And then.

Oh. Good. Lord. The something else!

I am not an emotionally volatile gal. My moods are typically quite stable. I don't suffer from PMS (except for sugar. I do want to eat ALL THE SUGAR one week out of every month). My husband is the moody one of the two of us. Over the past decade plus of marriage, we've both become accustomed to to this reality. And then.

Suddenly. The something else pill!

I hear that I threatened divorce over the whereabouts of a pair of shoes.

We don't even say divorce.

Nor do we put our shoes away, reliably.

I don't actually remember how things went down. My sister, months later, between giggles, called it a rage blackout. It's really only funny after the fact.

I did wake up the morning after, cramps rushing violently through my body like a tidal wave. Flow so heavy it required multiple backup systems.

I looked at -felt- what was happening to my body. I reflected on what had happened to my mood, just yesterday. The similarities. I said, to my husband: This might sound crazy, but ... do you think yesterday might have been PMS?

He held both hands up, surrender-style, before he even answered: I wasn't going to say it. I THOUGHT it. But I wasn't going to SAY it!

I called my doctor. Told her I was done nursing and would like a new pill. She said the pill I already had was perfect for both nursing and non-nursing. She hung up the phone before I formulated a reply that might convey the crazy.

In hindsight, I suppose shouting I'M CRAZIER'N A SHITHOUSE RAT ON THIS PILL might have done the job. But I'm not that quick a thinker, all the time. Sometimes I am. But not all the time. And not this time. We hung up the phone, and I threw my pills in the garbage.

And so. That's the story of how I ended up a 36 year-old-mother-of-two-with-no-form-of-birth-control.

And a six-pack of Jamaican Red Stripe combined with poor calendar math skills is how I ended up, late one night, reading my husband's mind when he telepathically asked me: your period just ended, right? and I telepathically answered: yah, seems that way, doesn't it? (Math is neither of our strong suits.)

But then, the next morning, minus the Jamaican Red Stripe, upon counting days using both my fingers and the calendar, it seems we were both a bit off with the numbers. And so it was a two week waiting game.

I don't know what surprised me more. My first reaction, where I was thrilled to be potentially-pregnant. I felt unbelievably powerful. All my current problems had solutions. I was prepared to march right into my planned future without missing a beat. Quite frankly, I miss that potentially-pregnant woman. She was 'bout to get shit done. Or the week-later-panic that hit. How badly I wanted to hide under the covers. How much scarier my financial future suddenly became. The desperate desire for sugar that suddenly took over.

Oh, no, sorry. That was just PMS rearing it's ugly head once again.

No third baby. Not now.

Just a third maybe.

And a big old question mark in the middle of my heart.

Monday, October 29, 2012

So, I'm Going to Talk About Money

I wake up too early, with a start. Realize all of a sudden that it's a day later than I thought it was. Still Monday, but the date is a number ahead of the number in my head. Meaning, an automatic withdrawal for a monthly bill is happening today, not tomorrow. No time to teach a private yoga class and then rush that check to the credit union before closing time tomorrow. I've been counting on that check to cover the withdrawal.

Now I'll be counting change.

I turn it into a homeschool lesson. Pour the change jar onto a blanket on my lap and the kids help me separate coins. We talk about the worth of each coin, the difference in sizes, copper versus silver. My husband brought to our marriage a series of red plastic coin containers. We fill them up to the line at the top, and the coins slide right into the paper sleeves in the perfect amounts, all ready to go.

We have more than we need. Means we can put some gas in the tank this week. Not a full tank, but a half tank will do.

My emotions, during the course of this exercise: Worry and anger over what I keep seeing as our lack. A simple pride that I can turn it into a lesson and allow my kids to help. A certain sense of detachment, of knowing it will be okay, and that I needn't be overly attached to the details. Just count the pennies, Katy, and collect them in the sleeves. Just do the thing before you to be done. (That's all there ever is to do. How many times must I learn and relearn this?)

* * *

Sitting on the bench at the beach with two stay-at-home-moms of my recent acquaintance. The short-haired brunette is watching her two children climb on the slide. The long haired brunette is watching her only son dig in the sand and fill a dump truck. I suppose I'm the medium-haired brunette in this vignette. And my eyes are darting across the playground and back to the sand, because I have three kids to keep an eye on. No, I don't have three kids of my own, but I babysit to pay the grocery bill, so I spend less time sitting and talking, more time moving quickly to and fro, counting three heads, three heads, three heads. Everyone's accounted for.

* * *

I often think about how I wish I didn't have to do childcare. I'm so over the ten hour days. Then my husband comes home and I toss the children in his general direction, hop in the shower, and rush out the door to teach an hour or two of fitness classes every evening. My coffee intake is strategically planned to the hour of each day. I eat in the car, sometimes, to be sure I have enough energy to make it through the evenings. I miss bedtimes for work. This is precisely the full-time-work-life I never, ever wanted.

But I spend all day with my little ones. And they are so happy. They love this life, full of friends who arrive first thing in the morning, stay all day, go with us wherever we go. I resent it sometimes, but they think it's simply wonderful.

* * *

Suddenly I hear the long-haired brunette finish the tail of sentence I'm sure I must be misunderstanding . .. since I'm trying to keep the grocery bill to $50 or $60 a week. 

I take my eyes off all three children, and plunk my backside right back onto that bench. I lean in, and ask: Did you say $50 or $60 a week? For groceries? She nods. How do you do that? I ask, We spend $250 a week for groceries and gas. Both heads whip in my direction: short and long-haired brunettes, faces aghast. I mean, I hasten to add, $100 of that is gas, so... but then I spurt out the rest: If I make $300 a week, we easily spend that

They look at me like I'm crazy.

I mumble something about organic meat. They nod knowingly. The long-haired brunette assures me she could get my grocery bill down to $70 a week. I wonder in my head if she could possibly be serious.

* * *

Later, I ask my sister, who assures me that she spends about the same amount as I do. So does our other sister, she confides, and I feel better about it.

I think it over, and realize I would not trade my too-busy, babysitter-by-day, yoga-instructor-by-night, life for the simpler pleasures of factory farmed meat.

Funny, how I can feel scarcity in the face of such obvious abundance.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Hardest Job

Well, my in-home nursery school won't be opening until next fall. Which is both a disappointment, and a huge weight off my shoulders. I suppose it's unrealistic to expect that I can conceive of opening a school in my house and then get it off the ground in under 6 months. :) But then again, what fun is realism all the time, right?

Speaking of realism, I've stumbled on a few too many articles recently about how parenting is the hardest gig going. And each time I can't help think (like we used to say in high school): for real? I'm tired of that trope. Am I the only one who disagrees? I've never worked in a coal mine, but even so, I'll take parenting any day of the week. And actually, I find childcare harder than parenting. It's all the same expectations, at least for the hours you're doing it, but you don't love the kids the way you love your own, which makes the work that much harder to do. Motherhood has never kept me up all hours of the night with knots in my stomach, the way teaching special education in a classroom of kids called "emotionally disturbed" did. Give me a gaggle of kids of my own over another day of that year of hell!

But maybe my particular cross to bear isn't parenthood so much as paid employment. Now, that conundrum has never come easy for me. Always underpaid, underemployed, overworked, overwhelmed or overeducated! I only ever hit the sweet spot once with employment, and for the life of me, I don't know how to find my way back to that balance.

I know what to do with my kids. When it's hard, it's also pretty clearly my own fault. I always know what the problem is, and how to solve it. Get out of the house more, and get them running around. Quit bickering with my husband in earshot of the kids. Don't use a snappy tone of voice if I don't want to hear a snappy tone of voice used at me.

All of that seems simple in comparison to: how do I earn a living? And especially: how do I earn a decent living doing something that interests me, while homeschooling my kids? I find answering that question infinitely harder than motherhood itself.

There was never a magic moment where becoming a parent changed me. If I changed, it was like slipping on a new skin that fit so comfortably I never noticed the difference. But losing my job, deciding to homeschool, and trying to create a new career, is breaking me down, and rebuilding me. Someday -I hope- I will look back on these days and be able to say: of course it was hard. You built something from scratch that hadn't been there before. And now it's so amazing/rewarding/much easier than it used to be!

I can imagine some mothers might say that very thing about their difficult babies, who grow up to be far less challenging children.

I only hope I can someday say it about my career!

Monday, September 3, 2012

End of Summer Bitching and Wishing

I've been waking each night at 1 or 2am. I lie in bed, and try not to think about money. I pray, please, please, please and then I change it to thank you for providing what we need, in case The Secret is right and you have to assume you'll get whatever you're praying for. Don't want to repel the grocery money, for goodness sakes.

(I've never even read The Secret, but you can never be too careful. And all the Gods I've ever studied seem to be so picky about rules. I'd never make it as a God; I tend permissive, and assume everyone's doing the best they can. I don't like a lot of rules because I'm no good at paying attention to the details.)

I push thoughts of money from my mind, roll over, fluff the pillows, huff and puff in frustration. I stay in bed, hoping for the sweet relief of sleep. But if it doesn't come, then I walk down the stairs in the dark, stubbing my toes, kicking things over by accident, and come to read on the couch.

I never thought I'd be an entrepreneur. I thought I'd be a teacher, in a union. I once thought about all the advice I'd ever read in women's magazines about asking for a raise (document your successes, put together a presentation, focus on what you've done for the company's bottom line and how it has benefited from having you as an employee), and I thought: Thank God I'll never have to do THAT!

I wish we could live on my husband's income alone. If only we didn't need to eat.

I wish I had one million dollars stashed away somewhere, and I could live off the interest for the rest of my life.

I wish I gave a shit about money, and found it even the slightest bit interesting, so that thinking about it was not an exercise in the torture of tedium. I spent a long, sleepless night once in the home of a former acquaintance, reading all his self-help books about getting rich. They always asked: do you want, more than anything, to be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams? I knew, then (like I know now), that I would never be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. My answer, at the start of every book, was: nah.

I just want to be able to buy the groceries, daydream a lot, and spend the days in the company of my kids.

Childcare costs have dropped precipitously in the past year. I charge the top of the market rate, but now everyone else is charging exactly half that. It's a ten hour day, no lunch, no breaks, and even with two kids -my legal max, in addition to my own two- I'd clear less than minimum wage per hour. I won't do that. And so I'm short on clients, and short on grocery money.

Today's the last day of summer and, as if on cue, the summer money is running right out. And the stupid groceries keep needing to be bought!

My husband goes back to work tomorrow. I've somehow got to figure this out on my own.

And I've already rolled it around and around in my head until it makes me furious to think about it.

I know I ought to count my blessings, but today is not the day for that.

Today is the last day of summer. All I've got today is bitching and wishing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

By The Numbers

Millions Billions Trillions Quadrillions Gazbillions: of fleas! have infested! our basement! Ugh. And that's all there really is to say about that. UGH. OMG. UGH.

1: husband is home for the summer. And managing the fleas. It's probably, almost, even WORTH the gazbillions of fleas, to have him here. I love summer break! (But I would still love it sans fleas! Even more! Just in case you're listening in, Universe. Geesh.)

2: kids are so goddamn much fun; I can't even tell you. I'm just a big, exploding heart, every day. Sometimes I wonder how I could spend the vast amount of time I do with these kids and still be so stinkin' enamored with them! Anyone else would be working my last nerve at -->

22+: hours of every day spent together. But I just keep loving them more!

18-24: months -my girl- is hilarious and amazing. I can't believe she ever won't be this perfect. I'm cool with her being less exhausting, though, and less likely to risk her life on the regular, during everyday situations. That part will be just fine.

4: yrs -my boy- was always my favorite age to teach. I used to say to my husband: It's all downhill after 4, man. The pinnacle of human awesomeness peaks at age 4. Sorry 'bout your luck, readers. I'm going to assume you're all well past your prime.

3rd: summer in a row we're going to the beach for a long, summer weekend. We have a tradition! We go on vacation! I feel like a real and proper grown-up. Also, I just eff love the beach!

Mad stuff (technically a number, by my qualifications): is getting organized this summer. That's all I'll say. Okay, fine, twist my arm: basement, attic, teaching supplies, kitchen, dining room turned classroom, baby clothes, photographs, books, toys, files and paperwork...okay, I have to stop and breathe deeply for a moment. Perhaps into a paper bag. No, I'll be fine. Just better to keep moving forward than to stop and survey the ridiculous landscape of possibility and it's attending responsibilities. And speaking of responsibility, I can't believe I'm -->

36!: In 4 years I'll be -->

40!: I have no idea what age means, at all. Which might even be for the best. Especially since I'm starting new in so many ways, and so that puts us back at -->

0:And speaking of 0, do you think -->

LOVE: could be the opposite of 0? I feel like maybe that's true, in some magical mathematical principle.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hit Publish Before July Ends

I've all but abandoned this blog, and my other one too. Sorry 'bout that.

I'm opening a school. In my house. In January. And there's a lot to do.

I'm doing it.

I'll be back at some point. Wish me luck!



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Present and The Future

I feel, at the same time, a sense of stuck, of rigid, of all tensed up, and a sense of compassion that is the very opposite of stuck, rigid, or all tensed up. Compassion is like water; it flows and pours all over everything; it's lava, even, sometimes. It can melt things.

So I'm melty and I'm tense. That contradiction just sits in me all day, or it battles back and forth, like a fencing match taking place inside my heart, ribcage, and belly. All the places I breathe into. Yoga breathing keeps it at bay, but when the classes are over, and my verbal narration ceases, so does the sense of ... well, escape. Then the relentless drumbeat of my thoughts march back on to center stage.

I've been told I think too much my whole life, and I resented every motherfucker who ever said it to me. Maybe they had a point, but who asked 'em?

It's Tuesday, and my daughter won't nap. I rocked her, and I nursed her, and I filled her belly with homemade mac and cheese, and read her stories, and left her in the crib awhile, and it's just not happening. I feel a certain benign detachment from the whole thing. If she naps, she naps. If not, I just do the next thing to bring peace into the household. And so it goes.

Of course, that's why we're outside on the deck on a muggier day than I'd prefer, and my laptop is almost out of power. That's why I sat down to write at 11:30am and now it's 4:30pm and I'm only just beginning.

But then, the compassion rolls in. If I'm tired, how must she feel? And then the benign detachment: and who cares if we always nap? Let's eat strawberries and cheese, drink juice, and sit in the muggy air. Why not?

In the living room, I let the kids climb in and out of the big footstool that opens up for storage. Weeks worth of Sunday newspapers are sitting inside it, and I let them throw it around the living room, and stomp through. We knead basketballs out of sale ads and toss them into paper bag baskets for recycling. I keep picking things up and putting them on shelves. The kids keep taking them off and playing on the floor. I shrug. The stuck, rigid, all tensed up hasn't anything to do with them. It's inside me.

I can flow like compassion when I do what needs to be done next. I freeze when I look ten steps ahead.

But dammit, if I ain't always been just the type who can't help myself from looking ten steps ahead.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Grumpy, Begrudging, Revealing Attempt at Prayer

I think about writing here, but I know it will end up, like, a to-do list with bullet points or something, and really? You had to go and get yourself a blog to make your to-do list? C'mon now.

So I've promised myself no bullet points.

I had a bad day. One of the boys is being rough, and I'm trying everything I can to teach him to be gentle, and he's gentle most of the time, but you never know when the rough will pop out and bam someone in the head with the wooden spoon he's supposed to be using on the djembe. Or throw a handful of sand in someone's eye. It's normal 2 year old stuff and it, too, will pass. But oh, it's a terrible feeling to know that someone might be getting popped -or worse!- any minute of the day and despite your constant vigilance, you might not be able to prevent it. Today I failed to prevent it. Twice. Bad day.

Then in yoga, near the end of class, a class I spent in tense negotiation with the frustration I carried in with me, I heard a voice. It very distinctly said: Change your reaction.

And I knew it didn't mean change the reaction I offered the child. It meant change how I feel about it. Which sucks because I felt rather entitled to my frustration.

Not that it's doing me any good.

So I'm working on that.

And it would be the simplest thing in the world to say: Hey God, will you help me be better at this, please? Thank you!

But it's like I don't even think to do that unless or until I feel I've done absolutely everything I can do to improve the situation myself, and what's more I feel as if I shouldn't ask God for any help unless or until I've done absolutely everything I can do to improve the situation myself.

I think that's a fundamental misunderstanding I have about God.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Development of an Idea (or My Brain Won't Ever Shut Up)

Read, read, read. Research, research, research. SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING! PROJECT APPROACH! UNSCHOOLING! I can't send my kids to a crappy school while immersing myself in these amazing educational ideas here at home. Can I even go work for a school district again, when I'm rapidly losing faith in the model?

I will homeschool. I guess I'll continue to provide childcare to earn a living?

Read, read, read. Research, research, research. Or ... I could open a preschool, right here in my house! REGGIO EMILIA and MONTESSORI inspired for early childhood education!

Read, read, read. Research, research, research. YOU CAN START YOUR OWN CHARTER SCHOOL IN NYS???

How do you open a school for unschooling?

Public school for unschooling? Look no further! THEY'RE ALREADY DOING IT! With locations in Western New York!

Oh. It's for high school. I want to do elementary school.

I need a network of people.

I hate developing networks of people. I like ideas. I want to be the idea person. I want someone else to be the people person.

Read, read, read. Research, research, research. YOU CAN GET PAID FOR BEING THE IDEA PERSON!? *SWOON*

Okay, I want to be an infopreneur. My idea is to take unschooling principles and make them work in elementary school. This could happen in one of two ways: we can take what they're doing in high schools like these ones, and bring them down to the elementary school level, OR we can take the approaches used in early childhood education, like these, and bring them up to the elementary school level.

So: homeschooler-->infopreneur-->open a charter school. Then who knows, because I would send my kids to this school, and then I'll either have to get a job there, or figure out a new life plan. :)

Assuming I don't have a WHOLE NEW idea next week, how the hell do I go about making THIS happen?

Monday, April 16, 2012

25 Thoughts Today

Because a list is all I can manage.

  1. I was complaining to my husband tonight that with all my years of yoga, I still somehow ended up with bum knees, a jacked-up shoulder, and -most recently- a bad lower back! WTF?
  2. I picked up my 3 year old 2 days after turning 36 and threw my back out. Niiiiiiiice. That will have been 3 weeks ago this Friday. Mother Effer!
  3. It's actually almost better, I think, though. Which I owe mostly to yoga. But I still wish it had prevented the injury rather than help heal it!
  4. Spring Break: my husband was off a week. I had kids all 5 days. I had a week off; he was back at work. Blah! I like our vacations to align, please, universe! For the next time, then.
  5. Today was the first day all 4 kids were back together after the week off.
  6. It. Was Seriously. Adorable.
  7. It was in the high 70s and we spent all day outside together.
  8. I feel as if I'm finally finding the spot where I'm figuring out exactly how to DO this job REALLY well with the kids. And that makes me love it more and more.
  9. Maria Montessori: how do I know so little about her when I've been studying early childhood ed for so long? I don't know, but a wonderful old friend of mine has been sending me info, and I love it! I want to know more, more, more!!!
  10. That same dear friend might be moving to Austin, TX. My father-in-law lives in San Antonio. I so want to sit with her and talk about Montessori for hours!!!
  11. When I first started thinking about homeschooling, I felt it was really what I had to do for my kids. I hated all the other options, more than I loved homeschooling.
  12. But I seem to have turned a corner, where now I'm really looking forward to it for myself!
  13. I have a goal, for my professional self.
  14. I want to master teaching.
  15. By teaching, I mean that I want to master the art of facilitating people to be in flow.
  16. I haven't figured out yet how to get anyone to pay me for this pursuit, but that will come in time, I guess!
  17. Actually, speaking of flow and money, I think I have a blockage somewhere.
  18. It's in my mind, and here's what it says: how much is the minimum I need to make to survive and do what I want to do?
  19. And so I only ever make the minimum I need to survive and do what I want to do. Because that's the question I ask.
  20. I think somewhere inside me, I believe that I am buying my freedom.
  21. With all the money I'm not earning, I am buying those hours back to do what I wish with them. The freedom to exist without the structures, demands, the shape of lucrative employment.
  22. Do I believe there can be both money and freedom?
  23. That's a good question. 
  24. I'd like to say yes. To embrace abundance of money the way I embrace abundance of choices, of ideas, of possibilities, of ways to be right, and ways to be beautiful.
  25. But I don't know if I'm there yet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Updated: Sunday Morning with the Toddler and William Carlos Williams

so many possibilities

in wet morning

against bright white

under a dripping

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Son, the Preschool Dropout

Remember my pro-preschool spiel? Soon after I wrote that, my son -after a series of conversations about preschool- asked me if he could go to a preschool for 3 year olds. After making some calls and observing at a nearby school, I signed him up.

Funny side story: So during this series of conversations, I am -of course- espousing all the benefits of preschool: It's so much fun! You're going to get to make art projects, and play with other kids! You'll learn new songs, and listen to stories! Oh, you're going to LOVE it! Rapturous me, with my love for preschool.

When the time comes to sign him up, his dad comes home from work, and I say: So I've been talking with him all day about preschool because it's time to turn in the paperwork if we're going to sign him up. We've been talking about what it will be like!

My husband turns to our son and says: So, what it will be like is that Mommy will drop you off there. And then she will leave you. She. Will. Leave. You. She won't stay. She won't be back for hours and hours! You'll be there all by yourself with a bunch of people you don't even know. This is what you want to do, Bubs? You understand? You want Mommy to leave you? That's what it is. She'll just leave you there.

He turns to look at me, and my jaw is on the floor! I said: Hon, you're kind of scaring ME, and I love preschool! He looked a little sheepish, and then said: Oh yeah, I guess I was kind of emphasizing the bad part, huh? Yeah, ya think? Our boy did decide to give it a try, but (to return to our original point) ...

He never, ever wants to go. We spend every Tuesday and Thursday morning talking about how he doesn't want to go in the afternoon. He separates from me without any problem when I drop him off, and his teachers tell me he's doing fine, and fits in well with the group. But he tells me it's too busy there (there are 3 classes of 10 kids each in adjoining classrooms, so it is pretty busy). He says that we have all the same toys at home (also true for the most part). And he keeps reiterating that he prefers to play with his smaller group of friends at home.

I'm finding it hard to argue with any of that.

Since I've been working evenings at the gym, he also attends childcare twice a week there. So he's getting socialization with a wide range of kids, and the childcare provider at the gym is a certified teacher who does planned activities with the kids. He loves going there, and said he wants to quit preschool and only attend the sessions at the gym.

Also, because I'm providing childcare full-time for March and April, it's a real pain to transport to and from school. I have to keep 2 little ones awake late to drop him off, rush them home for nap, and then wake them up early for pick-up. If he loved it, I'd do it without complaint, but the fact that we've spent all morning discussing how he doesn't want to go makes the inconvenience more annoying than it would otherwise be.

I told him he has to go for the month of March because we already paid for it, and I wanted to give him a chance to get acclimated before he chooses, and that he can decide about signing up for April. Often, when I give him choices, I phrase it: yay or nay? Like: Do you want chocolate milk? Yay or nay? Every time I tell him he'll have a choice come April he tells me: I say NAY, Mommy! I say NAY today, and I will say NAY in April! He has said NAY all month long, so I'm not inclined to fight it.

I told the director today that next week will be his last week. I made something up about picking up another child care client (they see me dragging two tiny ones along with him at drop-off and pick-up, where we have to walk through a parking lot, up a sidewalk, through a hallway, and up and down a flight of stairs) because I didn't want to tell them he just doesn't like it there. I don't think they're doing anything wrong; it seems like a perfectly lovely little place. But just because I love preschool doesn't mean he does.

So my firstborn? My almost-four? He's already dropped out of school.

If any of you see him smoking behind the bleachers, you'd better call me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Perfect Misfit

I've decided I like the rugs anyway. Things that fit just right into the spaces we already have are overrated. Things that make us smile, even -or maybe especially- when they leave pockets for mud and rain and mess to enter into our lives, are worthwhile. I smile every morning when the sun streams in through the door and window and hits the kitchen floor.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Many Bloggers Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

It's early in the morning. My kids are both still asleep, and the little guy that I'm watching full-time for March and April has just arrived. He grabs both remote controls, points them at the TV and says: music! every morning as soon as he gets here. I put a Common CD into the DVD player, turn on the TV and adjust the volume. He lets me choose the music, and I pick from the grown-up CDs on the top half of the shelf. I turned all the kiddie CDs over to my son after months of battling over scratches, and now they're all scratched beyond listening, but they belong to the kids, and I'm perfectly okay with that. It gives us an excuse to start the day with Common instead of The Wheels on the Bus. Little dude smiles at the start of the song and takes off into the train table corner. He likes to play independently when he arrives to a sleeping household. It's his only chance all day to be the boss of every toy! I pick up my laptop to start my story here.

I had been scrolling through facebook before little man arrived, and I clicked and opened the most recent post at The Not-Ever-Still Life. Robin wrote about taking up sewing, and a little bit about finally having the time and freedom to take up sewing now that her youngest is a toddler. Reminiscing about the start of her blog, and the name she chose, she wrote, "I was thinking of the whirlygig whirling dervish cyclone effect of it all, that there was always a baby to nurse or a diaper to change or two diapers to change and a milk to pour, or a diaper to change and a spill to clean and a hungry child screaming and a misplaced critical item and a mess just stepped in."

That description struck something inside me, as I read it. Like the peal of a bell. THAT's what I like about mothering -and teaching- young children. I LIKE the whirlygig, whirling dervish, cyclone effect of it all.

* * *

What's written above is as far as I got this morning, little dude playing peacefully with trains, before I heard my daughter wake up. We went to get her, and our busy day began. The housekeeper came back today, after a 2 week vacation that only served to remind me how very much I despise washing the floors. So I spent the first few hours of the day feeding the little ones and racing around, furiously tidying. We all got out of the house by 10am and went to a playground. We came home to a clean house (just in time to mess it up again!). I heated macaroni and meatballs for the little guy, stirred his daily medicine into his applesauce and served it. I heated gyro filling for my girl, topped it with tzatziki sauce, tore pita into pieces with my hands and set it out on the highchair tray for her. I bibbed them both, and filled sippy cups, and I asked my boy: are you sure you're not hungry yet, Bubs? about 3 times before I took his word for it. I hummed while I zipped here and there, kitchen to the dining room and back again, and then I diapered times two, and I lullaby-CD'd one, and I recliner-rocked the other, and then I had them down for nap.

So I was scrolling through facebook again, while my big boy played independently at the train table, and I clicked and opened the most recent post at Momastery. Glennon wrote about her need to write, and how her sister gifted her with a laptop that allowed her to do it. Thinking back to the early years of her children's lives, she wrote, "I know, because I hear from you regularly, that there are mamas out there that feel completely fulfilled and filled by mama-ing itty bitty ones. I used to be mad at you – and secretly believe you were lying – but I know better now. I’ve read so many of your stories that I realize you don’t feel this way just to spite me. It’s just that we’re all different, and that is a beautiful thing. It’s okay."

That's what it is! I thought. It DOES fill me up to do this work, and it fulfilled me long before I had babies of my own. Meeting with my college advisor, I told her I thought teaching was the field for me, and when she asked what age, I answered: the younger the better. That's the story of how I ended up studying early childhood education.

* * *

I think I tried to say it here, still home on maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, when I wrote, "...our day is both busy and mellow, ebbing and flowing from moment to moment. It's like a dance I have to perform. I know the basic steps but never the tune that will play from day to day. So I have to improvise. Sure, I trip sometimes, end up in a heap on the floor, both babies crying at the same time, one wailing and bobbing at the breast, the other climbing loudly onto my lap, competing for space and seemingly for volume with their sobs. But even this is part of the performance. Can I keep my cool? Can I breathe into my belly, straighten my spine, scoop my daughter to the side to make room for my son, spread my arms wide enough to embrace them both, set my voice to the most soothing of tones, and move us all from chaos to a carefully choreographed quiet?

When I do find the rhythm? When I manage to dance through the day with something resembling grace? To keep balanced both babies, my husband and my house and a small space for myself, just enough to catch my breath and stretch, to catch the beat and ready my feet for the next number?

It's exhilarating.

* * *

It's not just that it's exhilarating, or fulfilling, or that I simply like a little chaos in my day (although all of those are probably true). There's something in it -for me- that I think maybe other people find in prayer or in yoga, in meditation or in climbing mountains. There's a sense that I'm just a vessel, with grace flowing through me. That if I get out of the way and let it flow, nothing I do can be wrong. My feet won't stumble or step the wrong way. My arms will always be big enough. My voice will forever be calming and melodious. I can create calm out of chaos just by being. By suspending my own will, tossing it off to the side like the temporary cloak that it is, and letting this other thing take over and move through me, I become the calm. I carry it with me because it is me for that little while.

I find this center of perfect zen stillness in the hurricane's eye of unending needs that little children exhale like carbon dioxide, and then I counter their exhalations by breathing calm all over the place, and I watch it take over, taming everything in it's path. And I feel absolutely delighted that it traveled through me to get here.

That's the closest I come to finding God, and it's why instead of going to church, I care for young children.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


On Friday, I got ready to jog. I made and drank my coffee in the late afternoon. I got my running sneakers and socks, dressed in layers, filled my water bottle. I babysit until 5:00 and then I leave, just as my husband arrives home, walking steep up the hills of my neighborhood to the reservoir. I run around it .8 miles plus .8 miles, 3 or 4 or 5 times in a row, until it's time to walk back home and have dinner with my family.

My husband was late coming home. We always eat pizza on Fridays, usually homemade, but we'd decided to grill burgers instead because the weather was supposed to be nice. So we didn't pull the frozen dough down to thaw. We didn't have burgers either, but he was going to stop and pick them up on the way home. That's not why he was late, though.

He had to drop artwork for a show in a small town, miles and miles north of where he works. We're south. I had 4 kids under 4, and we were texting sporadically to talk about all of this, but it was tough to keep up, what with me watching the little ones and him driving, and unloading photography, drawing, painting and sculpture from the back of his car.

The last boy's mom came to get him right at 5:00. I had just sent my husband a text after an hour or so without hearing anything, realizing all of a sudden how late it was. That we had no dinner. That I was ready to run, but the rest of the regular plan wasn't in place. As the mom walked toward the gate to go home, my daughter began to follow. Her son came running up behind, an open, happy look on his face. His arms shot out in front of him and he shoved my baby girl through the air. Her face hit a metal bicycle as she landed; the skin on her cheek broke open along with her wail. The mom came running, and picked her up; I raced across the yard; we both began to check and comfort her. My son began to yell at his friend: NO! No, no, no! You do NOT hurt my sister! You are in BIG trouble!

I don't think he meant to hurt her. His face was just so open and happy as it happened. I don't think he knew what he was doing. He does push sometimes, usually if someone is taking a toy from his hands. But this was so different; she wasn't even in his way. I took her into my arms, and tried to calm my angry boy: brother defending his sister. The little boy's mom gathered him sternly and took him to the car. I could tell she felt just terrible.

As I walked to the house with my sobbing daughter on my hip, and my angry son ranting beside me all the way, so wounded was his heart to see his sister hurt, I realized they both needed dinner. Like, now. I checked my phone. My husband had responded and was still an hour away. I called in the pizza order before I told him not to bother with the burgers. My son was so disappointed we weren't grilling burgers that I ordered chicken fingers and french fries too, just to placate him. My husband wouldn't even make it home on time to pick up the food, so I'd have to do that with both of the kids.

By the time we got dinner it was an hour later than usual. I was too hungry to jog first, and too full to do it afterward. And then there was the bedtime routine, and it was too late. There's such a small window in there, where I can have that hour to myself. Anything out of the ordinary and it disappears *poof* into thin air. Like magic, except in reverse. Black magic, maybe.

I didn't get away at all on Saturday either. We had the Farmer's Market in the morning; I kept both kids and let my husband get that done on his own, to save time. Because this weekend was the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown, and we had to hurry through the morning to make it on time. We took the kids for a couple hours, but had to rush home so the little one could nap. Then we had the rest of the grocery shopping to get through, and of course there's always dinner, and bathtime, and bedtime again. By the end of the day on Saturday I was beginning to feel like a dishrag: wrung out, dirty, hung to dry too often, growing brittle and crusty. I drank a few beers and fell asleep on the couch just as Saturday Night Live was beginning.

I got up with the kids early this morning, and had 3 cups of coffee, determined to get out for a jog after my husband woke up. The weather was warm, and we filled the sandbox earlier this week. He had food for the grill and by all rights it should have worked out perfectly. But there was something growing inside me by the time he got up and I got my daughter down to nap: something ugly and spiteful, something determined to fail.

That's not quite right either; I'm not giving myself any mercy. It's just that I felt underwater. Like Friday I had my running sneakers on, and instead I fell into a creek, or a pond, or maybe it was even a lake or an ocean; I don't know. It's hard to look around for the perimeter or gauge the horizon when you're just trying not to drown. So I treaded water instead, with my sneakers on, and all my layers, holding my water bottle heavy in my hand. And then the kids jumped in and I had to catch them, and I kept on treading, but I was just getting so tired. My husband jumped in too, and he tried to help, but what I needed to do was swim away, swim far enough away that it was just me, surrounded by the cool, dark water, alone under the moonlight, sneakers and layers off, naked in the night. And I couldn't. I never got the chance to swim. I just kept treading, and treading, passing the kids back and forth and worrying about life jackets. None of us seemed to have them. By this morning I'd given up treading and was spending most of my time underwater, just holding up the feet of my children, darting up for quick breaths when I could, but it was never enough. Never enough air, and I couldn't get a deep enough breath to hold me when I had to keep darting down to grab their ankles and keep them up.

So when she went down for her nap, I didn't want to jog. I didn't want to swim. Coffee was swimming perfunctorily through my veins, 3 cups, but it just wasn't enough. I wanted to sink. Sink way down to the bottom, and just sleep. I didn't want to die; I'm not remotely suicidal; I'm just. so. tired. And I knew I had limited hours before she woke up, and I simply couldn't muster the energy to use it to jog 2.4 or 3.2 or 4 miles around and around the reservoir. I didn't have a reservoir of energy upon which to draw. I just couldn't. I just. Couldn't.

I stayed on the couch, and I cried a little bit. My husband and son tried to soothe me, but I didn't particularly want to be soothed. I saw some neighbors pulling away in a jeep with no roof, and I was filled with envy, and a desire to be irresponsible. Instead I just sat, and talked with my husband about how to best manage our (stupid, stupid) schedules. At one point, he said: it sounds like there's nothing we can do to fix this today. And I burst into tears anew and said: Yes! That's it EXACTLY and what a relief to hear it spoken aloud! He thought that was a disappointment, but I thought it was perfectly true, and high time we just said it, already.

After our daughter woke up, we all went to Target and Marshall's and bought shoes that people needed, a battery charger to replace the one that just broke, and new rugs for the kitchen floor. The kitchen is our entryway and the winter rugs have been through the wash one time too many and the backing is shredded and dissolving on the floor. We came home and I arranged and rearranged the new rugs on the floor.

I like them an awful lot, but no matter what I tried, they never did fit quite right into the space. We just did the best we can. Which is really all we can ever do.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I remember standing on a covered porch with two of my sisters. The year was 2000. I think the season was fall; it seems as if there was a slight chill in the air. We were standing close together, clustered almost. One or two of us might have been smoking a cigarette. I don't remember that for certain.

We were talking about an article one of us had recently read about what motivates people. There were a handful of options, and the idea was that people can be categorized by which choice is their primary motivator. The only two I remember are having fun and being competent, although I'm sure there were at least two or three other possibilities.

Being competent, we all agreed, was our primary motivator. I think it was me who added: I've gone years without having any fun!, although it could have been one of my sisters. And then we all chuckled.

I'm pleased to report that I'm a lot more fun than I used to be (cue the chuckling), but I'm still highly motivated by competence.

* * *

I miss teaching parenting classes. It was such a great job and -sadly- I don't see another opportunity to do it in the future. I could be wrong about that, but it seems to me that programs that include a parenting education component are few and far between. The non-profit that the district I worked for collaborated with is struggling to fund their parenting programs. It was just the sheer luck of the program design that allowed me to be a certified early childhood teacher and work for a GED program that served parents along with their young children. I stumbled into it, and ended up so passionate about the work. It was a whole new direction for me when I started, and it terrified me, if I'm honest. But by the end it was my very favorite part of the job.

One of the first parenting classes I taught was in a small room that a local library let us use for free. I stood at the front, jammed into a corner too close to a hissing radiator, and asked a question. I didn't know anyone in the group of women sitting in front of me. All of them were high school dropouts, mothers, living in poverty. No one answered. I stood there, and waited for the silence to grow uncomfortable. It grew uncomfortable for me. I repeated wait time, wait time, wait time, wait time in my head. Finally, after an excruciating period of thickening quiet, it grew uncomfortable for them. I saw a look on a face that meant someone was thinking about answering. I gave some form of encouragement. And the conversation began.

I didn't particularly like my job that day. But over time, as I mastered new skills, and was able to work with a team of colleagues I absolutely adored to implement changes we thought would improve the program, I grew to love it.

* * *

It's funny though. While I mastered parenting classes, and writing reports, and analyzing data, and managing a team, I moved further and further away from the children: the reason I was hired in the first place. My presence in the classroom was replaced with a teaching assistant, so I would have time to do the planning and paperwork required to coordinate the program. I developed a thematic curriculum that covered the year, and we used it alongside a home-visiting curriculum with individualized activities for each child based on their age in months, so planning curriculum wasn't an ongoing process anymore. My hands-on work with the kids became a smaller part of my job. I still possessed the skills, but I didn't practice them regularly. I played with my son at home, and applied my skills there, but he's only one person, and an easy one to teach at that, so my skills weren't stretched; I wasn't challenged in a way that took me out of my comfort zone or required more of me than I had at my fingertips.

And, to be honest, I didn't know that this new job would challenge me either. I had enough experience that I felt comfortable resting on my laurels. I thought I'd soar in, and that it would be easy. And certainly I'm a competent babysitter. But I don't want to be just a babysitter. I want to master my craft. And it's taken some time to get back in the swing of things with the little ones: observing, planning, carrying out, reflecting, correcting, tweaking, and repeating. I very much miss teaching parenting classes. But I don't have to miss teaching or parenting. I still get to do those every day.

* * *

I feel like I'm getting good at this! I said to my husband the other night over dinner. It took me a couple months to settle in, and then to realize that I just plain couldn't keep up with the cleaning and still teach. And it took some time for the kids to get to know each other too. It seems like all I did for months was work on social-emotional skills, which was necessary, but it got boring for me. Now our little group has gelled, and the kids are a little older. I can really do stuff with them! I'm feeling like I'm good at this!

In the past month we've made play dough out of used coffee grounds, painted valentines with tempera paint, made rainbow spaghetti with food coloring, made and used homemade glue (for my littles who eat everything) for crafts projects, gone on a field trip to an art show, walked to the park in the wind, mixed snow with food coloring, chosen our favorite nursery rhymes on youtube, and read and reread more books than we've changed diapers (okay, it's pretty close to even there).

I'm getting more competent as I observe the kids and respond to their needs and interests. And I enjoy things so much more when I'm competent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Jumped!

And the parachute opened on the way down!

I FINALLY got up the cojones to e-mail the parents of both of the boys I watch and ask them about starting a teaching blog. And they both loved the idea!!!

So my teaching blog is up and running, with it's own facebook page and everything! I'm not going to link to it, because I'm anonymous here, and public there. This is where I come to tell all my secrets and wrestle with my mid-thirties angst. That will be the public face of my teaching journey, and something to put on my resume if or when I return to the workplace. And never the twain shall meet! Ha!

If you'd like to  check it out, though, leave me a comment with an e-mail address and I'll send you a link! I'm excited about this. I've been floundering professionally for the past few months, even as I devour information daily and become a better teacher by leaps and bounds. It's the community of colleagues that I miss. It's having people to bounce ideas off of, and discuss failures, and celebrate successes. I hope this is step toward creating that in a new way.

I hope this is a step into whatever future I discover -or create- as a teacher.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My mom tells a story about my first day of school. I walked out of the red brick building at the end of the day and when she asked me: How was your first day? I replied: Well, I won't be going back THERE again. We laugh when she tells it, but I believe I was dead serious. I still remember my kindergarten teacher as one of the meanest people I've ever met. She brought her newborn baby to school one day in the middle of the year, and although I was a well-behaved and generally kind little kid, I vividly remember thinking: I'd like to hurt her baby. So she knows how she makes other people feel.

Another one my mom tells: Shortly after I started kindergarten we were driving through the city, and I was sitting in the passenger seat (back before the dawn of booster seats and airbags), gazing out the window at the passing scenery. Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" began to play on the radio, and I grew animated and emphatic, singing along with the lyrics: We don't need no education! We don't need no thought control!

In light of these stories, it's amusing that I became a teacher. Or it could be that I had strong opinions about education right from the start.

* * *

The first time I heard of the school where I've been planning to enroll my son, I gasped loudly in the middle of an Irish pub and then read aloud from the newspaper to my husband. Our city had just moved from an open enrollment plan to neighborhood schools, and kids were being moved from the schools they'd previously attended to whatever building they were assigned by a street-by-street district map.

We live in a middle-class neighborhood backed-up against poverty stricken pockets; our whole city looks like this. We didn't live here back then, but I was familiar with the name of the neighborhood. And parents from this neighborhood were being asked to pull their kids from a school with a decent reputation to send them to one that ended up being closed down a few years later by the federal government under No Child Left Behind (Remember how the government could come in and close down failing schools if they didn't make adequate yearly progress? That's what happened here.).

A group of parents banded together to sue the district. Their lawyer was quoted in the newspaper, commenting on the fact that these kids had to leave their school of choice to attend the newly-assigned school with the bad reputation: This school isn't suitable for middle-class children.

I gasped aloud over my entree, because I couldn't believe he'd say that out loud, to a reporter. But it's suitable for poor kids!? I said to my husband.

Of course, once we moved into the neighborhood, and I did my research, which school do you suppose I wanted my son to attend?

* * *

No Child Left Behind expired in January, along with parental rights to school choice. The transfer request form disappeared from the district website; the woman who answered my call in the district office chuckled when I asked about my chances at getting my son into the decent school.

She chuckled.

I'm guessing that means my chances don't look very good?

* * *

Because I'm at home, teaching these babies, and I have no colleagues to talk to, I've been reading voraciously: everything I can find on early childhood brain development, activities for learning in the home, self-directed learning, promoting literacy in young learners. I'm bursting with excitement every day for all the amazing potential that education contains!

I look at my boy, who never runs out of questions and ideas. He's full of stories and theories; he overflows with energy and joy. His mind races like his heartbeat, only faster, and I imagine I can see the neurons pulsing, the dendrites reaching out in every direction. They only grow when you feed them, you know. Some of them grow like weeds, and others shrivel and die, and this is just how the brain works, you know? But you have to feed the ones you want to grow.

* * *

All this is to say: I'm thinking about homeschooling. It's never anything I thought I'd do. But things change, and here we are.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More, More, More!

In the past fourteen months, since the birth of my daughter, my life has had:

More Color

More Light:

More Motion:

More Love:

and More Joy:

And now: I can't imagine it any other way.