Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I read my post from the other day, and the Exceedingly Practical voice in my head says: hire someone to clean, fer Gawd's sake, and your load will lighten. Get that budget worked out, girl!

And Exceedingly Practical always has a good point, so you know it's true.

But I took a walk in the snow with my boy last night, and I thought while we walked, and it's not only the housework.

I'm almost thirty-six, and I chose a life of constant change a good many years ago. But I'm tired. And I look ahead...and it doesn't end. Our babies become toddlers and then children. My career will need to pick up again somewhere, and while I have a variety of lovely ideas, I'm just. tired. I'm jogging, here and there, practicing a little pilates, and a little more yoga. I don't feel stronger yet though, most of the time. Just exhausted.

The housework is part of it, but my body's tired too, and I'm existentially exhausted. I want to be a loving parent, and a joyful, playful teacher. I want to exercise, a lot, and to teach my kids to love their bodies. I want to plan menus, and keep the kitchen clean. I want to stop stepping on Cheerios and cheesy crackers, so often. I want to write, sometimes. I want to honor the things that are good in myself, and in all of us. I want to get closer to God. Oh, and I wouldn't mind figuring out who the hell God is, also. This stuff is hard, exhausting stuff.

And part of it, too, for me, is that the beautiful simplicity of mothering babies has been replaced with the challenges of parenting children who will someday be out in the world, dragging me with them, my heart naked and terrified, beating with fear in plain sight of everyone, outside my warm winter coat, unprotected, leaping forever in front of my loves. I didn't write often enough about how much I adored the baby phase it while I was in it because I was always afraid of sounding smug, sanctimonious, or straight-up-crazy. Who the hell loves the post-partum/newborn period?

*waves hand* *shrugs*

It's sad to say goodbye to the season of my babies -and my old job- because together they enforced a slow, gentle structure upon my life. Slow is my speed. Slow is my jam. I sat with my babies, soaking them up, and then I went to work and sat with other parents, and shared it with them, and they shared their babies with me. It was pretty wonderful. And I was lucky too, in that my babies were easy.

But now the easy babies are bigger, and they race everywhere they go, leaving messes in their wake. The house is on hyperspeed at all times. My husband has a new job, and so do I, both with longer hours, both with steeper learning curves. My boy will be starting school next fall. My girl's laughing at the word no. I'm picking up new yoga and pilates classes next month, and my kids will be trying another gym childcare. I have career plans in the works, and a long list of next steps. I still want to learn to make my own yoga pants. There's just so much change that's happened, and a bunch of change that's still happening, and when I look ahead I see more change that will happen. Even if someone else deep cleans the floors, I'll still be tired.

Change is exhausting.

Don't get me wrong though. I already told my husband I want to call the cleaning lady again asap.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Warning: this post is all over the place. I ought to edit, I know. But it ain't gonna happen. It was this or nothing at all. That's just where I am with life these days.

So I stumbled upon this article today. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait. What? You say you're in a hurry? Maybe you'll peruse it later? Fine, I'll summarize: In the latest round of the media concoction mommy wars, positing that stay-at-home mothers and work-outside-the-home mothers are at each other's throats for ratings purposes, enter Anderson Cooper and Dr. Drew to fan the flames, claiming that a recent study says working moms are happier, and asking if stay-at-home moms are lazy (is it just me, or wouldn't the stay-at-home moms be happier if it were all about being lazy!? You show me lazy, and I'll show you bliss! But maybe that's just me...) .

But this blogger (who I never read until today) did something I really appreciate: she followed the links back to the original study and read it. And what did it ACTUALLY say?

Basically, that I'm right about everything! :)

Okay, okay, it didn't cite me personally or anything (hmph!), but here's the title of the study: Mothers’ Part-Time Employment: Associations With Mother and Family Well-Being. Turns out it's part-time employment that offers the most benefits to mothers, kids and families. I read it, sitting on my couch, looking at the room I just cleaned that already needs to be cleaned again, and I pined for my old job back. My lovely, wonderful, I'd-send-it-to-the-Vatican-for-sainthood-if-I-were-still-a-practicing-Catholic, as close to perfect as can be, old job.

And while it had a number of things going for it, here was the very, very best part: it was PART-TIME! And the hours were FLEXIBLE! It was luscious. Delicious. A thing of great beauty.

I am still struggling with adapting to this (not-so) new (anymore) life, six months later. It's a lot HARDER than my old life. On the days the boys come, I work ten hours: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. On the days they don't come, I have my two kids for the ten hours my husband is at work. On weekends, I have essentially the same job; it's just bring-your-husband-to-work-day, twice in a row. Oh, and the grocery shopping needs to be done too. My house ALWAYS (and I cannot stress enough that it. really. is. ALWAYS.) needs to be cleaned. And I don't feel like I can slack off on that when I have other people bringing their children here every other day. It's one thing to subject your own family to your irredeemably messy tendencies; it's another thing altogether to subject clients to the same. So the haven of my home doesn't feel like a haven very often. Sometimes it feels like a work-induced hangover that never ends.

By the definitions in the article, I worked part-time before, and I work part-time now. But my old job was twenty hours a week; this one is thirty (three more hours per week and I'd be out of the part-time category). My old job was divided evenly between five mornings a week; this one is three long days, with two days off (but my days off don't feel as different as they did when I worked outside the home). And having your home be your workplace is stressful for me. I recently said to my husband: It's like if you went to work one day, and they said: Good news! Grades and curriculum are optional now! Teach whatever and however you like! But -oh yeah!- the cafeteria workers and janitors have all been laid off, and we will need you to do their jobs. Also, people LIVE in your classroom now, and will treat it accordingly. It's up to you to keep it up to whatever standards you need to successfully teach. Good luck!

There are times I catch up on (or ignore) the housekeeping, and focus on the teaching. These are the times I enjoy most. But it's hard to focus on teaching when the students are eating feathers off the floor because they escaped from your throw pillows when you were busy building Pillow Mountain in the middle of the living room. Suddenly it's time to put Pillow Mountain away and vacuum. Again. And then it's time to serve lunch, and sweep, and mop, and throw in another load of laundry, and get it folded, and then...and then...and then. It's way too easy for the lessons to end up in last place, while the never-ending upkeep takes over my time. These are the times I enjoy least.

I'd love to sum this up, all pretty with a nice bow. But I have no idea where the bows are. Organizing the Christmas stuff is still on my to-do list. I just threw it up there on a Sunday night sometime early this month because the boys were going to be here in the morning, and I haven't gotten back to it yet. So, sadly, this is all I got:

Part-time work is the bomb-diggity-dog, and don't ever forget, you heard it here first! But balance? I don't haz it right now. And I don't know how to find it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I want my son to go to school next year. I might be the only one who feels that way, though. He'll be 4 in July, and we live in a city that offers free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) classes for all 4 year olds in the district. Our assigned neighborhood school isn't great, but another elementary school in our neighborhood is considered excellent, and I'm prepared to do what I can to try and get him transferred into the better one. I didn't think I'd be able to do that until kindergarten, but it looks like they just added a pre-K class, so I might be able to get him into the preferred school right away. I'm planning to start making calls next week, and official registration happens in March. We're headed down this path, I'm leading the way, and it seems I'm just dragging everyone else in my wake.

I started by talking to my husband about it. I worry, he told me. It seems so early to send him out into the world. Even for a half day preschool class.

Umm, it's full day, I told him. 9-3 if he gets into the school I want him in. 8-2 at the other one.

My husband grimaced.

I took my boy for a walk past one of the school playgrounds. That might be your playground next year, baby! When you go to school! Won't it be fun to play there?

My son squinched up his face and began to whine. I don't want to go to school! I want to stay home with you forever and ever!

We visited my mom for the weekend, and I told her about the dilemma. When I mentioned the 6 hour school day, she winced.

I guess I'm the only one looking forward to it! And it's not because I want him out of the house. Actually, we'll miss him here. He plays a great little leader role with the 2 year olds! My job might be harder without my helper.

But I used to teach UPK, and here's the thing: It's FUN! It's a play-based curriculum, and they do lots of amazing literacy activities (I'm very familiar with the district curriculum from my previous job), and develop pre-math and pre-science skills, and he'll get to socialize with other kids his age in large and small group activities. I remember my UPK classroom so fondly, and my boy is exactly the type of kid who will thrive in that environment. I want to give him the chance to do that. Does he need preschool? Probably not. But I think he will love it. Once he gets used to it.

So I'm going to make those calls next week, prepare for battle to get him transferred to the better school, and show up at registration in March with my boy's hand in mine. If I'm wrong? I'm wrong. It's never to late to learn something new, and make a better choice. We're not going anywhere, and he's always welcome back! But for now: it's time to get ready for school. And if I have to be chipper enough to bouy the whole darn ship about it, well then, that's just what I'll do!

Pre-K! Woohoo!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Everything outside is covered in white, and it keeps on falling. The bare branches outside my window are frosted delicacies, and the city streets look cleaner than white china right from the dishwasher, whiter than a duvet cover freshly laundered in a bleach load. The city sleeps under a snow blanket, and loathes to rise.

I spent last night unable to sleep, thinking about my boy (my baby!) starting school next fall. Or not, as the case may be. There's this whole new world, waiting for us just beyond the horizon. Our worlds keep changing so quickly it's hard to catch up. Who knows where we'll be by next fall.

But today is the first real snowfall. My husband has a snow day. My kids are still asleep, even though one of their friends has arrived and is happily bogarting the train tracks and engines.

Today we'll stay in, and stay warm.

There is comfort in that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I want, I want, I want...

but what, exactly?

Too many things, and all at once.

I just started building a professional blog, then found out one of my boys might be leaving. He has special needs, and a team of therapists, and a meeting coming up where it will be decided if his home-based therapies should be delivered in a center-based setting instead. So the professional blog, detailing our adventures in early childhood education, is on the back burner while we wait to find out if the group we've pieced together since September will remain intact or move in some other direction.

In November I interviewed for an evening gig teaching fitness classes at the new facility my gym is opening near my house. I got the job, and I'm so excited to start planning and practicing for my new classes! But they're building the facility and the opening date is frustratingly soft. The Director of Wellness says she'll send me a schedule with the days, times, and names of the classes I'll be teaching, but it hasn't shown up in my inbox. I wait, and keep doing the yoga I've been doing, even though I sometimes feel tensed up like a runner at the start of a race, waiting for that starting shot, hearing nothing but silence while my muscles itch with impatience.

Our house is closer to whatever complete might be than it's ever been, and still, complete recedes ever further into the distance, and lists of tasks amass faster than a toddler can trash a toy shelf. I do more in the house than I've ever done, which can be satisfying, when you first see tangible results. But, dudes, the sheer. amount. of. work. The cleaning lady came once, but until the checks from the evening gig start rolling in, I'm on my own again. I alternate between fierce drive and bouts of despair.

My husband's been working 11 hour days at his new job. Then there's cooking, and eating, and cleaning, and bedtimes, and then we're both exhausted, but still driven to do more, more, more. Because we want things. We want a better curriculum, or a deadline met. We want home-cooked meals, and a balanced budget, and the old clothes bagged up for charity. We want the junk off the mantle, and the kitchen set we built for Christmas shellacked, my roots dyed, and his hair buzzed short, and neat enough for work. We want the socks with holes thrown away so they stop taking up space in the drawers, and the basement reorganized, and all the paperwork in the basket filed. We want the fucking snowblower fixed already.

I interrupted the writing of this blog post to go buy a sewing machine. I asked my husband: if I sent his mom a few pairs of cutout fabric for yoga pants in the mail, did he think she would sew them for me? I need them for my new job, and the discount store where I used to buy them closed, and I think I could make them cheaper than I can buy them. He reminded me of the cost of shipping and told me to buy a sewing machine instead. I logged onto craigslist, and you can't get one of those suckers used for under $50. But while I was writing, a $25 machine popped up in an adjacent tab when I hopped over and refreshed. I texted her; she texted me; the next thing you know my boy and I are zipping a few miles down the road, and she gives it to me for $20 because she doesn't have change.

Am I a seamstress? A homemaker? A maid or a mother or a teacher or a yogi? A child of God?

Where the hell am I supposed to put this sewing machine?

I just want a tiny peek into the future. Everything -everything- is asking me for baby steps, and I just want to know which direction to go in.

The answer, though -and the real rub is that I've chosen this answer- is: all of them. baby steps.

That may be the answer.

But it doesn't make it any less obnoxious.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The More the Merrier

You wouldn't think the antidote to feeling exhausted by parenting two kids would be to invite two more kids into the mix. But today's our first day having the boys I babysit here after a 10 day break, and it's so nice to have them back.

Between caring for the kids all day and then sleeping in my daughter's room at night while she wakes repeatedly, nursing, climbing, and rolling on me, I feel less like a person and more like a creature with child-sized appendages. There has been no space between my body and the bodies of my children, and at times it's all I can do not to hiss: don't touch me.

But then the boys come, and because I'm not their mothers, they don't treat my body with the same sense of cavalier ownership. I hold them, sure, and ruffle their hair and give them hugs, but all of a sudden I'm something more than just a mother, and a sense of self emerges from the primordial ooze of constant neediness I've been navigating with my children.

They play together on the floor and I compose questions to facilitate language development. They bicker and I intervene to model age appropriate social skills. They begin to bounce off the walls, trapped indoors by the whims of winter, and I introduce a new gross motor activity.

It's the same things I might do with my own children -and do- but the distance I gain in the subtle shift of roles: mother to teacher, is just enough room to take a deep breath and by redefining my role, find and tap into some source of energy I've been lacking.

The kids, too, come alive in the presence of their peers. My boy is showing off his new train table and sharing in ways that eluded him when it was only his sister dismantling the tracks. My daughter deigns to remove herself from my lap and squeals with joy passing plastic food back and forth with her friends.

It's funny to find it here, but I think this is why some women value their work so much: it offers a chance to define the self in a new set of parameters, to discover and prove a different set of competencies. It's amusing that I can see it so much more clearly all of a sudden when I'm working from home, caring for other children in addition to my own. Because my professional work has always included a healthy dose of care-taking, it was difficult to discern the difference between what I did for a living, and what I did at home. Now the two spheres overlap more than ever, and yet the differences stand out more starkly.

Welcome back boys! We missed you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Walk, baby. So we can sleep.

The baby, she can almost walk. She can cruise the couches, the train table, the walls and doors of the house. She can stand unsupported, and step forward with one foot. But then ... a careful lowering into a squat ... forward dive aaaaand ... supercrawl! It's faster.

You know what's not faster, though?


Her feet walk sideways through space, legs extended off the side of my lap while I nurse her. Her arm rockets rhythmically through the air: pumping up and down, or shaking side to side, or spinning small circles; it seems beyond her control, almost. There's so much potential energy bound up inside that little body, it's spilling kinetic all over everything she does.

You know what else isn't faster? In fact, it's so much slower. Endlessly longer. Longer than it's ever been, it seems.

The night.

She woke up six times last night. Every time, standing up, still half-sleeping, gripping the crib bars and marching in place while she cries out for relief from this endless obsession her body has with walking. Each time I had to soothe her back to sleep while her fingers and feet continued to pulse energy out into space, like a metronome or a padded fingertip callused by years of drumming the same beat, a sound that will never leave your poor mind be.

Her body is exhausted, and yet it can't. stop. moving.

She slept only an hour today, and took multiple tries to fall asleep at night, hours late, though she was rubbing her heavy-lidded eyes and weepy for so long before finally -mercifully- giving in to slumber.

I've been sleeping in the futon on the floor of her room; navigating the stairs up and down from our attic bedroom is too much six times in a night. I feel weepy and exhausted myself, parenting round the clock for a one-year old who won't ever sleep, and needs to act out her overflow of motor activity at all times. I've been head-butted and hair-pulled, palm taps pick up speed and become slaps on my shoulder, she kneads the top of one breast while nursing from the other, walks up my torso and steps on my face when I hold her standing on my thighs.

Sleep, baby, please, sleep. I beg her as we rock. Click, click, click, the recliner ticks and tocks an endless song, all day and all night. I stare at the corner of her room, where the chocolate brown of the east wall meets the soft pink of the north one. I imagine a contraption, half-hamster-wheel, half-treadmill. She climbs on with a giant grin, two bottom teeth jutting from the gums with irrepressible relish, and suddenly her legs know how to walk, to run, to sprint in place, until the energy is finally spent. I look down and her eyes are still open. They meet mine, both of us requesting relief. Neither of us knows how to give it. Sleep, baby, please, sleep.

I hope she learns to walk soon.