Two months into a new job. And really loving it.
I haven’t done a mostly picture post in a while, so enjoy.
Two months into a new job. And really loving it.
I haven’t done a mostly picture post in a while, so enjoy.
On February 15th, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a segment on “Singles Awareness Day,” focusing on how single people shouldn’t feel so alone because everyone else, apparently, had such an amazing Valentine’s Day.
Here’s how Valentine’s Day went down in this house, where two kids and a marriage of 13 years reside.
Wednesday, February 13th: Spent the day at home with the toddler because of a diarrhea bug, which was mercifully mostly over by Wednesday. Lost time for grading and planning.
(Calm down: This is the extent of the day’s romance.)
The Day’s Redemption: I achieved not one, not two, but THREE full sleep cycles.
So, let’s dispel all those myths that married people / people in relationships are having amazing Valentine’s Days.
Because at the end of the day, what married couples of so many years with young kids really want is SLEEP.
This is going to be quite the year.
That has been the feeling for at least the past 12 months, since the youngest child started becoming mobile. In the back of my mind (as I’m transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer or moving dry dishes to the cabinets or dirty dishes to the dishwasher), I’ve had this nagging feeling that…
Perhaps, it’s all over.
“It” being my ability to reclaim any empty moment for myself.
If, by some miracle, an empty moment finds me during the day, and I choose to use it for myself, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of Oh my God, you should be doing something else right now! You are so far behind!
But then, the thought: Behind who? Behind what?
My pre-child self? Because she’s been dead for quite a while. And the hope of her resurrection is pretty much gone.
But then there’s the realization that, There is no end to this.
At least not for the foreseeable future.
This is my life now.
Moving from task to task to task to task until the day is done.
My life has become an endless treadmill of tasks that begin at 4:00 a.m. and pull me along, chug, chug, chug, until I throw in the towel at 6:45 p.m.
I don’t mind being busy. Sometimes, I even revel in being busy. Instead, what pulls me down is when I feel like I’m not growing or changing for the better. If I’m not pushing myself to learn more or grow, boredom soon sinks in. And that makes it harder to find joy and purpose in what I do.
So with that in mind, here are a few things that I’m trying out this year, as a way to grow and change.
The rationale here is…
I’m afraid of math. And I’m tired of being afraid of math.
So I wondered, What it would be like to learn math without being afraid of failing? What if I could go at my own pace and see how far my limits take me?
It’s also great preparation for taking the GRE (I may or may not be thinking about a Ph.D. program in the future).
Again, this is something that I’ve been afraid of. Maybe because it’s mostly a male-dominated field? But it seems like learning how to code is becoming not only useful, but necessary as computing power doubles, triples, quintuples.
This is unabashed escapism. I’m okay with that.
Some mothers have daytime TV.
Some have romance novels (I never could get into those. Too formulaic. Too many one-dimensional characters.)
I’ve got fantasy fiction.
So, Fellow Parents, gather your provisions and your fortitude, and breathe deeply.
It’s going to be a Long. Long. Journey.
While I normally LOVE to be productive and useful, the past few days, I have done little else besides completely veg out.
This is what I do to myself: I do ALL THE THINGS. For months on end. (I won’t even list them out. I’m sure you have your own list of ALL OF THE THINGS).
And while I’m doing all of those things, I think in the back of my mind, When I finally have some time to myself, I’ll do X or Y. (And X or Y is usually a second-priority item from ALL OF THE THINGS that I just don’t have time for).
And then I hit a wall.
And then I do NONE OF THE THINGS.
(Are you like that? I can’t be alone in that.)
I don’t do skirts or pantyhose. Or makeup. I “sleep in” until 5:30 or 6:00. (Sad? Meh. It’s tolerable.) It’s the fluffy pink bathrobe around the house (most of the day, at least). In this week before Christmas when I’m not teaching, without a shred of guilt, I send my beautiful children to daycare.
And I am finally alone.
And what do I do?
Let’s start with what I DON’T do.
I don’t think about upcoming presentations or writing that I could be doing. I (mostly) don’t write. It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s simply because after so many months of giving pieces of myself to everyone else, I’ve got to have time to turn inward and fill my own cup.
Instead, I watch movies and shows. I read books. I listen to podcasts or read articles that I’ve been meaning to read for months. I exercise when I want to. I send the cards, I dole out the Christmas bonuses to every lovely daycare teacher that deals with our kids, and I stuff the stockings.
In fact, I kind of love that part of Christmas. Because it gives me time to think about the people in my life for whom I’m grateful. It takes a village, right? Damn right, it does. And I want my village to know that I’m grateful for every blessed day that they take care of my kids so I can continue to pursue my own goals.
I also get the few gifts that we’ll give our kids. (Don’t tell them, but it’s a few small games, some Play-Doh, hand puppets, and some winter clothes.) We don’t really do many gifts at Christmas. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. Seriously. What’s the point? Instead of gifts, what we’ve said we’re going to do for each other is give the other person a solid day of not having to take care of the kids from sunup to sundown.
(Merry Christmas, BG. Love you.)
Love my kids.
But I also enjoy such privileges like, I don’t know, setting my own agenda. Or making a decision based on what I feel like.
Guess what I discovered over the past few days while my kids have been at daycare?
7:00 a.m. is the perfect time on a winter day to go for a run. The sun is just starting to come up and the frost is still crisp on the fallen leaves. It’s light enough to easily spot patches of ice, but the sun isn’t high enough yet to blind you. And in that perfect light, your breath comes out in fluffy white puffs, momentarily adorning the air.
And I love lying still on the middle of the living room floor, eyes closed, no damn phone in my hand or notifications calling for my attention, for a solid 30 minutes.
And laughing about South Park’s Buddha Box.
And crying with PBS’ newest version of Little Women.
And thinking about Black Mirror’s Hang the DJ.
And reflecting on how much the kids have grown this past year.
So this Christmas, I’m happy to Bow Out, Sign Off, and Check Out.
And be happy to do None of the Things.
Hoping you all find your own Time and Space and Peace.
Because I have pretty much no time to write lately due to a combination of factors and because I feel like, Come on, it’s been a whole month and you’ve written nothing…
Totally expecting to find only memes related to the infamous Clerks’ line of “I’m 37!?!“, I was surprised to find that googling “I’m 37” led me to a several humorous tidbits that have helped me to celebrate my 37th birthday this year.
2. Monty Python: I’m not a lover of Monty Python (though my husband is). Still, this made me laugh out loud.
3. “37 Things I’m Thinking about Now that I’m 37” by Casey Lewis.
Please enjoy this gentleman’s thoughts because I really don’t think I could have done any better in explaining where I’m at in work, relationships, and reckoning with my place in the world.
And here are some birthday artifacts that I’ve found particularly humorous. Kudos to my birthday buddy, Cate, on her clever birthday cake ideas.
She’s also great at picking cards. (We’re also Game of Thrones buddies.)
Cards from my husband (respects my love for puns) and daughter (practicing “cursive”):
My daughter’s first “Writer’s Workshop” in her kindergarten class. The teacher interviews one student a day and records their ideas on paper for the whole class to read together.
Lately, most days pass by in a blur of responsibilities with barely more than 10 minutes at a time for me to catch a breath and retreat into much-needed alone time.
And then I remember:
Oh, sweet Lord.
Here we go.
Lately, it’s hard to commit to writing about any single topic for any period of time in a meaningful way.
There’s just simply no time to develop anything that I want to write about.
Maybe I’ll tell you that I signed up to be the Hospitality Chair of the PTO for my daughter’s school. Actually, scratch that. I signed up both of us–me and my husband. For a few reasons. First, feminism. Second, I kind of like being nice to the people who are teaching/caring for my children while I work. They are the reason I can do anything else at all.
Or maybe I’ll tell you that the toddler has a 50% rate of having diaper explosion in the morning. On the bad mornings, it’s all over the crib. (And sometimes the floor. That was how Labor Day greeted us.) On good mornings (for me, at least), it happens at school. On okay mornings, it happens in the highchair, where it can mercifully pool in the seat.
I could tell you our family survived the first stomach bug of the season. It was a quick week of passing it around the house. (Patient Zero was, of course, the toddler).
I experienced my first all-out sprinting in heels through the daycare on the morning that my husband came down with the bug and–SURPRISE!–I needed to take the kids 10 minutes south to daycare before driving 25 minutes north to go to work.
And I didn’t fall! (It’s shocking, I know. Calm down.)
Or maybe I’ll tell you that I’m learning about the possibilities (and potentially horrors?) or augmented reality in my Seminars in Technology Trends in Education course.
Gamify me, I guess?
Or how about the impending doom that I feel when I think about Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as the ninth Supreme Court Justice? I have a whole 2,000 word post called “So You Want to Overturn Roe v. Wade?” that I haven’t published yet. It’s emotional. It’s cutting. It’s snide. Just not sure I’m ready to put that out there.
We could talk about how I subscribed to LetGrow.org because I’m kind of frustrated at the idea that letting my kids play outside by themselves–down the street at the park! Gasp!–might earn me a visit from the police. I’d like to meet other parents that believe we’re a lot safer now than we’ve ever been and it’s not neglect to allow your kids to play unsupervised.
Have a little faith in humanity, people.
I could talk about the fact that I realized several weeks ago that I now eat the same breakfast that my dad did for as long as I can remember–black coffee and a hard-boiled egg.
W. T. F.
We could talk about the fact that my current college students pointed out that they weren’t born yet when Titanic was first released.
Right. Of course, they were born in 1999.
God help me.
Or how those lines in my forehead are becoming a little more permanent. And God, they really do follow the same path of the face that I make when I say, “Huh?”
I could tell you that before I grade a pile of papers, I sometimes daydream about what I’ll do on my next vacation. I scroll through my Google calendar and think about when I could get away from it all for even just one or two days. I map out my favorite cabin in the middle of nowhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and think about when we might be able to get back there.
Would we need to bring the kids? Could my mom watch them? It would be nice to just sit in a cabin in the woods and write for a like a whole week. All by myself. Writing, writing, writing. So luxurious…
And then I realize that I’m sitting in front of a stack of papers, that my students have been writing, writing, writing.
Back to work.
Last week, I bought your first backpack for kindergarten (not your first one ever—you had one for preschool). While we were shopping, I thumbed through the spiral-bound journals, remembering when I was eight years old, and my mother bought me my first scented diary. I let you pick one out for yourself and you chose a light pink one with a unicorn, the words Make today magical scrawled across the front.
That night, you stayed up far past your bedtime. You wanted to write in your notebook, but you’ve only just learned how to write the alphabet. So you pulled out your Richard Scarry book and copied words from it.
Then, you wrote your oft-repeated motif from your fourth year of life,
Mom love. Love moma.
I thought you would sleep in the next morning.
But there you were at 4:00 a.m., standing next to my side of the bed. You didn’t touch me to wake me up. You just stood there until I opened my eyes to the light of the hallway.
“Henry’s talking, Mama. So I’m going to write in my notebook now. Are you going to do yoga?”
It turned out that Henry was just sleep-talking, but I got up anyway since I usually get up early to exercise. To you, exercise always means yoga. But instead of yoga, I lifted weights while you copied words into your notebook while eagerly watching me lift weights to my workout DVD. After fifteen minutes, you joined me in lifting weights.
You picked up a two-pound weight with your right hand.
Since this happened to your left elbow a few weeks ago.
You and I “worked out” together. You, with a 2-pound weight and a haphazardly stretched resistance band. Me, with 10- and 20-pound weights.
And when we were done at 5:00 a.m., we took a walk down the street, you wearing your brand new backpack. With the tags still on.
You told me about how excited you were to start kindergarten and all of your plans about what you would put in your new cubby in your new school. You recited all the steps that will be involved in getting you to your new school.
“First, I’ll get up in the morning and get dressed. Then, Daddy will take me to daycare and I’ll eat breakfast. Then, someone will drive me on the bus to kindergarten. And then what, Mama?”
We went over the steps several times, our sneakered feet moving quietly across the pavement, the moon high in the early morning sky.
Of course, by 1:00 p.m., you completely crashed at naptime.
I’ve learned a lot about you in the first five years of your life.
You’re like me.
Caring. Lover of books. Curious. Persistent to the point of Stubborn. Strong.
But you’re also not like me at all.
You’re a Natural Born Leader. Optimistic. Super-sociable. Pusher of boundaries. Observant. (You can spot a tiny cricket, hiding behind the vacuum cleaner, from across the room.)
Some mothers say they love the baby years. Some say they love the toddler years (though I think they’re few in number). Others love the preschool years. And although I had moments when I couldn’t get enough of your newborn smell, I have to say…
I think I’m going to love the school-age years.
Here’s what I want to say to you as you turn five on your first day of kindergarten.
If I cry when you leave, it’s not because I wish you were still a baby. Still small enough for me to encircle in my arms. Still young enough to believe that I can keep the moon from fading from the early morning sky so we can walk together, uninterrupted for hours.
If I cry when you leave, it’s because I’m so excited for you.
To learn to read and write.
To find out what interests you, makes you curious, drives you crazy.
To dive into math and science.
To figure out how to build friendships and make amends.
To solve puzzles.
To make bad decisions, and (hopefully) learn from them.
You won’t understand this just yet, but someday you will:
Please, please, don’t try to be the best.
Please, please, don’t try to be perfect.
There will always be someone who is better at something than you are.
I don’t care if you get all A’s. I don’t care if you’re the best at clarinet or soccer or gymnastics. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re class president or voted Best Artist.
Please, please, don’t live your life according to ways that you think will earn my love, my attention, and my respect.
You already have them.
Find what you love to do. Find what you’re good at. Try lots of different things. Read lots of different books. Ask questions.
But most importantly, don’t serve yourself.
Do good. Follow a higher calling. Keep your moral compass pointed north.
Don’t create a life that leads you down a path of wanting more money and more power. It’s futile and unsatisfying. And it will never be enough.
I’m so happy for you.
Happy that I get to be a witness to it all.
When you pay $$,$$$ for 4.5 years of full-time, year-round infant/toddler/preschool daycare, you’re damn right we get a tassel.
There goes your college fund, Kid. Love you. Hope you had fun.
We never had plans for a college fund. That’s why your mom teaches at a university.
For the win. Again.
…aren’t really weekends and holidays.
Today, when someone says to me, “Only one more day until the weekend,” I think, Nooo!!! It can’t be!!!
When I come in to work on Monday morning, sometimes I sing, “It’s the Most. Wonderful. Dayyyyy of the Weeeek!” (If you missed it, I go to work to “relax.”)
Not kidding. Ask my students.
When people describe their weekends using the words, Nothing much, or Pretty low-key, I think, You lucky dog, You.
When someone says, “Any big plans for the holiday,” I think, Yes, keeping my children alive and keeping myself sane until it’s time to go back to work where things are so much easier.
Where I can just do work without having to simultaneously mentally track a toddler’s location at any given moment.
Where I can do things like think. And eat while sitting down. And zone out.
Before I had kids, I never understood the “I never get to sit down to eat comment” that I would sometimes hear from mothers.
Just insist that your kids sit down so you can sit down, I would think. I would never let my kids dictate whether I can sit or stand.
Oh, sweet naive little Me.
It’s not that kids insist that you stand while they eat.
It’s more like, the toddler pushed his food off his tray. So you need to pick that up.
Or the older one slid into her chair at the table and managed to take the tablecloth with her. And there goes her plate. And she’s trying to pick up the food off the floor–and mashing it further into the carpet.
Or Surprise! The toddler decided now is a good time to poop.
Or. Or. Or.
A few weeks ago, one of the funniest tweets by parents published by Huffington Post was, “Every meal with my children is fifteen hours long.”
Amen, Girlfriend. Amen.
So it was just recently Memorial Day weekend, as you’ll recall.
How do I even explain to you how I was feeling by Sunday night, when I can usually see the light at the end of the tunnel…
By Sunday night, I found myself staring at a sink full of pots. My husband said, “Just go sit down. I’ve got this.”
In my head, I thought. No. Please. Seriously. Let me occupy myself with inanimate things that can’t cry to pull at me or give me sass or yell for me to wipe their butts after they’ve pooped.
But what I said was, “No. Please. Right now, I just really need to be away from kids. They are bringing me no joy right now.”
Until that point, I had taken both kids to church so Doug could stay home and do house repairs without interruptions. To be perfectly honest, I don’t mind this time because both kids go to the nursery and I sit in the luxury of unattached solitude in an air-conditioned space with the stability of the music and liturgy reminding that, Hey, it’s going to be okay.
After that, while the toddler napped and my husband got a head start on cooking for the weekly meal (that’s how we save time prepping meals in the week), I had taken the older one to a children’s museum for two hours of Run-Around Time, followed by a trip to Target (because the toddler needs new shoes), although the older one really didn’t want to go. And Mama, you could just drop me off at home first, How does that sound?
But I don’t wanna go!!!!!!
Then, because I couldn’t stomach the idea of sitting in their play room while the toddler turned into King Kong, attempting to bust down the baby gate, it was two hours outside in the hot humidity of May (!?!) while my kids played at the water table. The toddler–who is finicky about which sippy cup he’ll use to drink his milk versus which one he’ll use to drink water–was actually gulping cup after cup of (certainly) parasite-infested water directly from the same table that 24 hours earlier had been sitting in our garage, covered in garage dust and spider webs.
Gulp. Gulp. No problem drinking today, Mama!
Oh, sweet, sweet Lord.
The water table is actually a great idea. For about fifteen minutes. That’s about the longevity of both children being occupied by only the water table.
After fifteen minutes, the sphere of entertainment grows by about a foot every several minutes.
First, they’re wandering over to the mulch and bringing handfuls of it over to the water.
Then, they’re finding the broom in the garage and bringing it over to the mulch.
Because it needs to be swept?
Then, they’re pulling their tricycles and bikes over to the water table.
Why? Does there ever have to be a reason?
And maybe they’re even bringing the scooter, which belongs to the older child (although it’s the toddler who more frequently requests to use it) which means that one parent is hunched over the toddler on a scooter, carefully guiding it down the driveway while said toddler teethes on the rubbery handles, his slobber landing on his new toddler shoes. (The slobber, I’ve heard, helps break them in.)
And then the older child says, “Let’s play Little Red Riding Hood, Mama. You’re the Big Bad Wolf and Henry’s the grandma.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the Three Bears.”
Oh, that makes sense.
And then it’s time for dinner, but they’re covered in sweat and sunscreen and snot (?!?) and water table parasites. So it’s actually really Bath Time. So all their clothes come off in the laundry room and they’re running around the house naked or in just a diaper while you’re picking up the trail of shoes and towels and clothing they’ve left behind. So you’re trying to get everything straight into the washer–only, there’s already a finished load that needs to be dried and a dry load that needs to be folded. So you’re doing that. And then it hits you–
Oh my God, where did the toddler go?
And he’s rummaging through the diaper changing area, chewing on latex gloves with a smile on his face.
Death avoided again.
Then baths. Then dinner. Then dishes. Then vacuuming for the third time. Then laundry. And, oh yeah, I need to do my laundry.
Then bottle for the toddler, books for the older one.
I really can’t think of anything more exhausting and less holiday-like than spending 72 hours with my own young children.
Every holiday, in my head (and sometimes aloud), I think, Someday, holidays will be holidays again.
Until then, pass the parasites, I guess.