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Talking about race in all the spaces

I was just getting into the groove of occasional pandemic blogging when George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. The world was already on fire before it happened, but this event took us to another level of anguish and devastation. Millions of people expressed their collective outrage as they took to the streets to protest yet another horrific killing of a Black person by the police. A huge awakening was and is taking place as more and more people are committing to taking action to dismantle racism in this country.

I stopped writing in here. There are always many reasons not to get around to writing (see: single working mom with two little kids at home in a pandemic), but after a while it dawned on me that I was very much paralyzed on the topic of race- couldn’t go on without writing about it, but unsure how to write about it in this space, thus far dedicated to capturing details of my life as a solo (white) mom.

I wasn’t sure what to write about racial injustice (who wants to hear a white lady’s interpretation of all this?). But I also couldn’t go on writing about my usual topics of day-to-day cute kid stuff as if nothing ever happened; with no acknowledgement of the uprising taking place, of continued police brutality, of the sickening racist systems on which our nation is built. Of all that we can and must do.

I’ve watched many a Facebook group melt down over this in recent weeks–someone posts, “Do we have to talk about that here?” And then all hell breaks loose.

Well, I don’t expect all hell to break loose here, because it’s my blog and I can write whatever I want. But I now realize that yes, mamas. We have to talk about it here and in every space we’re in, because it’s related to everything and we have to stop pretending it’s not. Silence communicates ignorance, apathy, or (at worst) conscious complicity. I’m creeped-out and nervous in that space of silence and I’m no longer OK with it, I’m no longer giving silent people the benefit of the doubt. So that’s why I’m writing about it here, because I have a small platform, and because otherwise I’m not sure I can continue writing here at all.

I posted on a local single mom Facebook group on this topic, because no one had posted about it, and I was getting that creepy feeling– like, who’s in here? Are there Trump supporters here [gag]? And if I’m feeling uncomfortable, how are the Black moms feeling about this silence?

I wrote something and deleted it. Wrote something and deleted again. Spent two hours revising a post and chickening out and deleting AGAIN. I admitted to myself that I was terrified–of saying the wrong thing, of making it about me (“centering”), of “virtue signaling” or”performative allyship” and every other thing that clueless white people do when discussing race. I also had no idea who I was dealing with in there and what responses might be coming my way. I could imagine someone posting a comment like “All lives matter” or worse, sending me completely over the edge.

I phoned a friend who is good at this stuff and she encouraged me to go ahead and post. I did. The post acknowledged the painful time we’re in, that I personally have a lot of work to do to be a better ally to BIPOC, and that I’m learning. I asked how other white moms are thinking about our role in making change happen and how they’re getting involved. And how we can make the next generation better by raising anti-racist kids.

I also addressed the Black mamas and those raising Black children (and I want to do that here too): I stand with you and support you. You belong here.

Posting was mostly a relief by that point- and responses were thoughtful. Lots of people didn’t engage (which makes me wonder). But I had no responses that weren’t fully supportive.

I had no idea how difficult that would be–and it was just a post on social media. Imagine being on the receiving end of a lifetime of racist actions, policies, assumptions. Fearing for the safety of loved ones.

I’m very sheltered in my liberal bubble (and therefore have little practice with this) but damn- I can post. And if I’m faced with racist responses, then I will stand up to it. It’s the least I can do.

Maybe it will come out clunky and awkward, and maybe I’ll F up, but it’s really important to do it anyway. Thus my post here today.

I came across this quote today:

“While many people are afraid to talk about race, just as many use talk to hide from what they really fear: action.”

~Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race

So far, I’ve been talking about talk. But most important is taking action. Sure, we can cancel Aunt Jemima and “master bedrooms,” but if Black people continue to be brutalized and murdered by police, our biggest problem remains unsolved.

Clearly SMCs have no free time, especially in a pandemic, but if you’re a white person looking for a way to integrate action into your daily life, I highly recommend this 30-day Justice Plan to get started- an awesome curated list of articles, books, podcasts, TED talks, action steps, organizations to donate to, etc.). Doable and eye-opening.

And just the beginning. Hopefully we keep this momentum going forever (so it’s important that we pace ourselves). (and, full disclaimer, I haven’t worked through all of it yet–I’m thinking of it as a Summer Justice Plan.)

Yesterday was the 4th of July. We had a completely normal day with not one ounce of patriotic activity included. It never even came up. 2020: obviously not America’s best year. I believe that taking action to support the Black Lives Matter movement is one of the most patriotic things we can do right now. We have many generations of healing ahead of us before the pain of slavery’s legacy subsides.

I took my kids to a protest in our village a few weeks ago, and I hope we’ll be doing much more of this together in the years ahead. I want to raise white kids who are anti-racist, and who understand white privilege and our history. And who’ve learned how to fight for change.

Stay safe. Black lives matter.

Miss you!! xoxo

blm

 

 

 

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living our lives now

The goddesses have blessed me with a quiet moment at 7:14am with my cup of coffee, chirping birds, and two sleeping children.

The sun sneaks through the north-facing bay window of my dining room at this time of year at this time of the morning, for only a few weeks. I’m always really conscious of this- I keep track of splashes of sunlight in unusual locations, sometimes due to a reflection. The angles of the sun orient me. Today it feels like the sun is going to revolve around our house, filling it with light and warmth, and very welcome after two days of chilly rain.

Oh, friends. What a time. As nature does its spring bloom explosion and celebration of birth and life and rebirth, the air is clear and the streets are quiet. And, behind closed doors, humans are suffering everywhere. In more ways than I can even imagine. From loss of life to loss of livelihoods to loss of control, sanity, confidence, faith. It’s so hard to get any perspective on it because we’re in it and we each have our individual epic battle to fight. But it’s out there, churning, evolving, charging ahead into a future full of unknowns.

Meanwhile, we do our days. I remember times in life when I had something really big to look forward to, when I was counting the days until it happened, like reuniting with a long-distance boyfriend. It would be a time period like 3.5 weeks. I wanted it to fly. I wanted it to disappear. I wanted to shortcut ahead to the reunion- those weeks were drudgery. But I knew, even then, in the back of my mind, that those were days and weeks of my life, and I should never wish them away. I also knew that my time with the boyfriend would be fleeting and that the relationship itself was impermanent and nothing is more valuable than my time on this Earth. I was wise! Even though I was impatient and frustrated.

I really feel that now. Obviously we’re so limited compared to the endless options of our previous times. But it’s still our life. It’s still our kids’ lives. We didn’t actually go on pause.

We were on a Zoom call yesterday with C’s Montessori teachers and C basically never stopped talking, telling them in paragraphs all about the train she was playing with, connecting phrases (often incorrectly) with “so,” and “because,” and “but.” They were wide-eyed and exclaimed at her language development in these seven weeks. We might be sheltering in place, but this two-year-old will keep on growing. Maybe she can’t hug her favorite teacher or bounce around with other two-year-olds, but she is learning a lot. Her development adapts and finds its way.

E has probably built 50 different forts in the living room since we’ve been at home- and they’re not your run-of-the-mill roof and four walls. They’ve got tunnels and secret exits and surprising hallways and a side-cave for C. He needs prodding to do his virtual school work but he will build and build and build- pillows, Magnatiles, legos. He’s constantly honing his technique and bringing in new ideas. This is a different type of education and it continues.

And how about me? Sigh! I knew that motherhood would be a giant exercise in multi-tasking but never imagined this extreme merger of parenting, work, and whatever tiny threads of self-care I can weave in. Yes, I’m getting better at it, though there are good days and rough days. Eventually, when I can compartmentalize work and family again, I will have laser focus and be hyper-productive. I’ll get my job done in three hours a day. I’ll build in exercise and all kinds of self-care. I’ll know what’s the most important thing to get done. I will meal plan to the moon and back. I’m sure of this. My brain is going through its own transformation to handle this time, and while it’s hard and brings little to no relaxation, I’m learning the tricks.

We did have a relaxing moment last night, totally organically, which is how they probably have to happen. We had gone on a failure of a walk around the block, starting at 5:15pm in 48 degree rain, with E on his scooter and C on a little car and everyone complained and cried the entire time until I was pushed to my limit and unleashed the sarcasm (“I’m SO GLAD this walk was such a GREAT opportunity for FRESH AIR and EXERCISE and FAMILY BONDING”) and we kind of limped home with E crying about his freezing hands and me carrying C and the car. I threw together a dinner of leftover turkey burgers, leftover rice, roasted broccoli, and corn on the cob, which turned out perfect–and we had classic jazz playing on Alexa, which kind of chilled everyone out.

I gave them mango for dessert and pretty quickly cleaned up the kitchen. I heated up some hot water and lemon and sat down with them where they’d gotten into doing puzzles spread out all over the floor. It was like 7:40pm. We were calm. We were engaged. I wasn’t rushing to finish something to get to the next step of the day. We finished three or four little puzzles, all of which were missing a few pieces. It was still immensely satisfying. I hate to put another thing on my list of things to do, but I want to let go of the daily upkeep sometimes and get more into the present moment with my kids. Because that’s where they are and I don’t want to miss it.

And with that, friends, I have completed a blog post with no one waking up. I leave you with this idea to chew on (as I do the same): how will you continue to live your life, your precious days, in spite of everything? Or maybe inspired by everything? I’m not talking about what we’ll do “when this is over”–I mean right now.

I’m sending you moments of peace and a whole lotta love. xoxo

 

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taking it easy in the chaos

I’m sitting with E on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. He’s watching Wild Kratts while I write on my laptop. C is napping.

E asks me for a sandwich because it’s 3:30pm and, aside from dinner, meals are requested at super random times. He mostly wants to live on cheese sandwiches and tortilla chips, but I’ll sneak some fruit or veggies on there for him to ignore. On my way to the kitchen, I pick up several dishes from the dining room table so as to make my trip as productive as possible. An important trick to this whole solo management of everything is: no wasted motion like walking from one room to another empty-handed.

I remember when I was a clueless waitress at 19 years old, the restaurant’s manager sat in my patio section, sipping on a glass of wine while watching me work. At the end of my shift, he pointed out how many times I passed stacks of dirty dishes on tables and trays without bringing them back into the kitchen. He was a jerk, but he was also right- I was so focused on getting orders placed and delivered that I was creating quite an unsightly and unnecessary mess. As a 46-year-old solo mom, I have so deeply learned this lesson by now. Unfortunately, it also means staying On Your Game practically all minutes of the day if you don’t want the housework to snowball and then eat you alive.

In the chaos of lockdown, I long for that satisfying feeling of the house being clean, like when I sigh with relief after the cleaning lady has been here. I miss her. Back when I had full-time child care, I would reset the house almost daily and the cleaning lady took care of actual cleaning.

These days, the pillows in my living room have not found their true homes in weeks due to the creation of forts that evolve daily. There are many crumbs on the living room carpet, despite my initial rule that no one should eat in front of the TV (that one went by the wayside early on). There are random toys in random places- books scattered, legos underfoot, evidence of home school activities cover half of the dining room table. There is ALWAYS clean laundry piled on the guest bed waiting to be folded and put away. I’m one meal behind in cleaning the kitchen and the counter tops are not visible. Also- what’s for dinner???

Even more annoyingly, there are stacks of boxes clogging up the back bedroom, waiting to be taken back downstairs to our storage area, including Christmas ornaments (sob). And disorganized piles of giveaway clothes as both kids recently moved up a size. This stuff takes up mental and physical space and I can’t seem to prioritize getting it moved (maybe now that I’ve announced it I can get it done?).

The question is- how to get ahead of it when there are two little whirlwinds quickly undoing my work? It feels like every time I’m getting into the groove, it’s time to prepare another meal.

Do I need a plan for this? Lower expectations? Break it down into steps? Focus on the kitchen and bathroom and let everything else go? I really don’t want to engage in Sisyphean tasks, especially when time is extra precious.

Life is messy right now.

Clearly I need to get the kids to help! And to accept that the end result may not be perfect or even helpful.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to incorporate more moments when I’m doing nothing.

The other night, I was sitting in the living room with the kids after cleaning up dinner. They weren’t doing anything special, just bopping around on the furniture, listening to music. I happened to look out the window because it was extra windy and the trees were swaying violently with the sun setting in the background. I spaced out completely. I didn’t decide to- it just happened. The kids bounced and played and I stayed fixed on my outdoor nature show for like five minutes. It felt so restful and meditative to do nothing, to let go of anticipating whatever needed to be done next. I don’t think I’ve ever stared out an ordinary window as entertainment.

It felt at least as good as a pedicure. This really redefines my idea of a “getaway.”

So- are we all safe and healthy right now?  Yes- and that’s more than good enough.

I’m wishing the same for you, and hope you’re going easy on yourselves right now!

xoxo

 

 

 

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running in my apartment

My manager recently mentioned to me that she was walking 2.5 miles per day in her compact NYC apartment. That really impressed me. Granted, she doesn’t have two small people to block her path and ask for snacks but, still- it planted a seed.

I’ve been grateful to have the double stroller that I acquired at the beginning of quarantine because it allows me to get out even if no one is in the mood. Strap them in and give them trail mix with M&Ms in it. I’ve done up to four miles with it and it’s a smooth ride. But yesterday, when I felt like my body really needed it, it was snowing. Again. And I was just not up for the double stroller AND the snow AND the cold. And, gosh, the virus. Because let’s be honest, every outing includes some level of stress about sanitizer, surfaces, and who’s touching what.

So, I thought- I’m going to try running in the apartment. I can do a loop, thanks to two doors in my bedroom; a loop I’ve mainly used to pace while on important phone calls. I’d never tried running it, because why would I????? I used to have 9 hours a day of child care (sob). I was also hoping my kids would chase me because they needed exercise too.

So I put on my sports bra under my jammies (not really jammies but these days I only wear clothes I can exercise or sleep in) and some running shoes that I hadn’t used outside in a long time. I started a workout in MapMyRun, wondering if GPS would even be able to tell if I had left my couch. I even put in my earbuds to listen to a talk by Tara Brach.

The kids ran with me for a while. C was giggling and running in her Crocs, E was in socks and soon twisted his ankle, and after about 7 minutes they were both crying and whining so I put them on the tablet. On one of my loops, I stopped to take a lasagna out of the oven (I can’t say I’ve ever done this in the middle of a run). I noticed that my postpartum incontinence is a thing even on a slow interior run, but that only made it seem more legit.

My only injury was clipping the doorway with my shoulder a couple of times but when you’re running like 1 mile/hour, there is no pain. (PS I am not exaggerating my pace to be funny- I actually did half a mile in 30 minutes.)

Toward the end, I noticed that my perspective was changing- my place felt bigger, fresher, and I had the sensation of coming home after a long walk. Like I was seeing my place with new eyes, in the context of the larger world. I felt taller.

Survival strategies are important right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures! I would do it again, but hopefully spring arrives before that’s necessary.

We got the news yesterday that schools are closed through the end of the school year. I absorbed the news and kept going. It was expected. It’s hard for me to conceptualize the future right now, when we’re so very busy in the present. But I did find myself pausing on how to tell Evan that he wouldn’t be going back to kindergarten.

I ended up telling him today, when we were out romping in the blessedly uninhabited woods on an unmarked trail along a river in the warm sun. He paused and said happily, “but I’ll still see my class every day on Zoom!!!” Sigh of relief. He’s lucky to have a wonderful teacher and, dare I say, home life (read: lots of screen time). He’s also much more focused on his 6th birthday, which is only one month away.

Lately, these two are going by “Henry” and “Zoe,” which I guess are characters from a show they watch. Henry and Zoe drive me nuts and also make each day delightful in some way.

I’m off to clean my disaster of a house and, you know, do weird, earthy quarantine-inspired things like set up to brew kombucha, feed my sourdough starter, and make a vegetable broth out of veggie scraps. Maybe get some seeds planted in cups.

Thanks for reappearing out of the woodwork to read and comment on my blog, friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve written and I’m happy you’re still out there reading. I’m sending awkwardly-long hugs to each of you. Lots of love xoxoxo

henry and zoe

 

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A typical pandemic weekday

I’ve wanted to write forever but guess what- there’s a reason you don’t hear from any solo parents lately. Like- I haven’t read an excellent single parent perspective essay since the pandemic started. And that’s because there is no time, energy, or bandwidth. We are slammed.

I just finished eating dinner, alone, because I mis-timed the snacks and my little housemates are not hungry, playing with magnatiles around the corner from me in the living room. Thank goodness they have each other.

Then I realized my laptop was in reach. And charged. And no one is looking at me or asking for anything. Go go go

I also realized that this day is pretty representative of our lives lately and someday I’ll want to remember. So, let’s start with my 7:45am wakeup.

I woke up out of a dream- my company was going under, and I had been tasked with figuring out how to phase the layoffs. I was collaborating with my friend Janet and we’d been given very little information. We kept getting calls from the company president, barking out a few details and then rushing off to another meeting. I was relieved to wake up (my company isn’t going under).

It was snowing. A maddening, mid-April, post-daffodils snow. Accumulating on the little green shoots and buds.

Chloe is newly night weaned, so she eagerly looks forward to “shay-shay when the sun shines.” In fact, sometimes she puts up a fuss at 5am which is pre-sunshine and starts kicking me and her brother, so I round up and give her the goods. Most often, though, she wakes at 6am, exactly with the sunrise, and I have more milk than she can even handle, and she rolls over with a full belly and goes right back to sleep, giving me an hour or so to do whatever most needs my attention.

On this morning, though, I had been up for two hours in the night, eating cereal and reading about the world which is never satisfying or enjoyable. So I wanted to let myself sleep. Sleep is everything right now. Sleep is the secret.

Evan got up and started playing with his new remote-control car, C with her new magnetic train (Easter gifts from our upstairs neighbors that sat in the closet for two days before opening). I think I showered briefly. I let C prepare my coffee by spooning the coffee into the filter (messy). She also served herself yogurt with “cherries” (blueberry jam) (also messy). I fried some eggs and made toast. While they ate at their little table in the living room (moved in front of the TV for last night’s Elmo’s Playdate, which we missed because I couldn’t find the right channel), I scanned my emails, my schedule for the day, and E’s schoolwork for the day.

They graduated to building a pillow fort, which is their go-to activity when no screen is on. E finished it and called it the Chillax Cuddle Zone (lots of cuddling is required lately). It seemed like a good place to kick off the school day, so we piled in with my laptop and started with the daily school announcement video. Every day, this 4th-grade girl says, “I pledge of allegiance, to the flag…” and it drives me nuts. Otherwise, cute- there are birthdays, jokes, and inspiring messages.

Then E filled out his attendance form, adding about 30 exclamation points to his first and last name. (he also added them to my email address and the form wouldn’t go through so we had to delete them…)

We did the question of the day, “What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone?” E’s answer: “I brought a picture for my bus driver.” He always finishes with “the end.”

Then we looked through the slides of potential content for the day. I’m telling you, there is an insane amount of work in there to choose from. I can’t even describe it without getting stressed. I’m lucky if we complete one thing and upload it to the kindergarten padlet (today we did…nothing).

At 9:30, E gets on his kindergarten Zoom on my laptop, which means I can’t do much work but I did have a call with my boss at 10, occasionally emerging from my bedroom to find out why someone was crying. At 10:30, I put on Zumba, which is Facebook Lived from C’s school Zumba teacher, and my kids almost never actually do it but we like to hear the music. In between, I tried to have them do a project that E’s teacher sent in the mail- two coffee filters that you’re supposed to color with blue and green, then squirt with a spray bottle and paste to a piece of construction paper for Earth Day. Both of them started crying and were unwilling to do it so I shifted gears. You can’t transition them too quickly or it falls apart.

Next I got C dressed, which required some cajoling, and then it was time for her Zoom call. I quickly looked up what was required: draw a big E and little e on a piece of paper and get little one-inch pieces of paper and glue. Then I confirmed the Zoom link, there are so so many (some days she has two). Then I got her started and left the room.

From my office, I heard the teacher say, “Buenos dias, Chloe, cómo estás?” and she actually answered “muy bien,” which she never, ever does when I’m in the room. Mental note to always leave the room. Meanwhile, Evan expressed having no choice but to get on his tablet. OK.

Somehow he has learned the tablet inside and out and knows how to download (free) apps. I am wise enough to limit his access to the most kid-friendly, tame stuff, but I’m also kind of horrified that he’s playing video games and downloading games within games and is getting dangerously savvy. (e.g. I took YouTube off but he has a workaround)

After her Zoom call, I set them up to watch the replay of Elmo’s Playdate from yesterday and at some point Evan came to tell me it was below his age level and could he please go back to video games. Yes.

I delivered snacks and water. And then lunch. And then we decided to go outside because it was snowing and the snow was melting and they wanted to try this “snow chalk” a friend gave us. First, Evan’s feet were hot in his boots so he changed to shoes. Then his feet were wet and freezing and he wanted to come in. We were outside for about ten minutes. I can’t quite motivate to go running with the double stroller in this cold.

We watched a show together called “If I were an animal…”, while I ate some leftover quinoa from the night before. Then C was asking to shay-shay on the bed.

I nursed her down quickly. Some days recently I’ve been very nervous that she’s dropping her nap, because… she won’t nap. But today she slept for 3+ hours (!!!) and I got a bunch of work done and an important hour-long work call while Evan watched Wild Kratts. Miraculous. I worked until 5pm, made gnocchi, roasted parsnip and carrots, and collard greens, served it on three plates and they ate none of it because they had just had a snack. I drank a can of kombucha which is my best treat these days.

E is furious with me right now because I haven’t come to see his fort, and C just nursed and then started poking my keyboard very annoyingly so I put her on the floor and now she’s in distress so I have to go. [here I took a break to go sit with them and cuddle and inspect the fort and nurse and be present with them. They need it.]

It’s a lot. I’m dead tired every day at 6:30pm. I don’t have time to reflect on this now (or ever?). I hope you’re all keeping safe and well during this strange time. xo

Chloe: “You need to turn it off now!” (reaching for the power button)

041520

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morning snapshot

Sometimes I wake up before my kids and sneak in a little personal time. This morning, I sat in my favorite corner to meditate. Then I picked up a notebook and did some brainstorming, and planning. I didn’t even notice when it started to thunderstorm.

Then I heard little feet pattering across the wood floor. Evan, in his summertime shark pajamas, caught a glimpse of me through two doorways and hurried to my lap. He was excited about the approaching storm and pointed out, correctly, that thunderstorms don’t usually happen first thing in the morning.

We snuggled and listened for a bit. Then he remembered the science experiment we did last night and said we should check on the celery.

We ran to the dining room to find our celery stalk in its beaker of blue water (colored with food coloring), drinking it up into its plant veins. Not as much as I thought it would overnight, but we marveled at it for a moment before we heard another pair of feet pattering across the wood floor.

Chloe appeared around the corner, with wildly curly hair and a droopy diaper. She pointed to the window and said “it’s raining!” (“sraineen!”) and then hurried to my lap for shay-shay. She paused from nursing to say, “funder, mama!”

It got extra dark and we watched the rain pour down.

We moved into the kitchen for breakfast which is where my snapshot clicked: Chloe in her highchair and Evan beside her in the eating nook. I was handing over cereal, eggs, toast, grapes, tomatoes, cups of water, I opened the window and a cool, rainy breeze gusted in as I poured steaming hot water to make my coffee, the sound of pouring rain, the thunder, the giggles and squealing, the kitchen crumbs under my bare feet, the zing of salt and pepper on my fried egg and toast, the humidity on my skin. And then, “ALL DONE, MAMA. ALL DONE, MAMA. ALL DONE, MAMA”- Chloe’s alarm went off and we moved on to getting dressed, brushing teeth, skipped sunscreen due to the rain, shoes on.

We ran, screeching laughing, through the rain to the car and off to school.

(unrelated summer snapshot because I didn’t take an actual photo this morning)

Happy summer xoxoxo

summer night

 

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soccer mom

On Saturdays, Chloe naps in my room in a Pack n Play since her weekday crib is in our au pair’s bedroom (which the au pair kindly agreed to since we only use it while she’s working).

Only problem is- I’m stuck out here in the living room post-shower with only the clean clothes available in a hamper, and that did not include pants.

So I did find a top and undies but no pants, so I’m sitting here bare-legged and longing for an important notebook on my desk but it is NOT worth potentially waking her, so. While Evan watches “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” I blog.

He’s wearing all black, which is his thing. He also favors giant scarves tied over his face with only his eyes showing, because he’s a ninja. So if you see him on a warm day looking bundled, this is why. He also insists on grip socks, like the ones he gets at Skyzone. He would wear the same black Hot Chillys and Skyzone grip socks every day if I let him.

He’s almost five, and we are engaging in more complicated battles of will. No longer can I scoop him up and carry him to wherever we’re going (I actually pulled a muscle in my arm the other day trying to lift him onto the kitchen counter). His arguments are more complex. The “right” approach is not as straightforward to me as it was when he was smaller.

For example, I signed him up for soccer this spring- once a week, 5-6pm, with 3 and 4 year olds. He started off fine, laughing his head off as the coach said, “Ready, set… Cheerios!” etc. and ran around dribbling and scoring goals. The sessions run by month and as soon as we switched over from January to February, it was a new batch of kids. Suddenly, he was “scared,” and “shy.” There were some of the same kids, same coach, same assistant coaches, same gym. You had fun! Get out there! He joined like halfway through the class.

One day, we showed up late and I was grumbling at myself about it when he refused to play because we were late. The coach came out and said, “Hey! You’re early! We’re just warming up.” That was enough to convince him to play.

One day, he didn’t play at all. He told the coach that it was because he was ready to play with the bigger kids and didn’t want to play with the littler kids. When we switched to the bigger kids class (4-5 year olds rather than 3-4 year olds), he refused to play with the bigger kids, crying, saying he was shy, scared, tired, sick, and hated soccer. (It was also 6-7pm, dinner time.)

As I type this out, it seems normal for this age, and nothing to worry about. But it pushed my buttons so bad. I was frustrated (but you love this!), mad (you asked me to sign you up!), resentful (we paid the money! we woke the baby!), embarrassed (no other kids are sitting out!). I was not the calm, understanding, supportive mom I think I usually am. I tried to force him, guilt him, bribe him. I gave up and then tried again and called my parents. I seriously didn’t know if I was “supposed” to let him sit out, go home, quit. I was kind of an a-hole, honestly. I never expected this I could not fight it. I was like an out-of-control football dad, a side of me I never knew existed. Other parents were around to hear, quietly not making eye contact or saying anything, and I very nearly asked them for advice…

And I made it into a bigger problem with my own resistance.

So what in the world was my deal? I feel pretty strongly about follow-through, keeping commitments, pushing through fear, being open to new experiences, being grateful for opportunities not everyone has, and looking on the bright side. I really really want to instill all of these things in my child.

But he’s 4. My family social worker friend K reminded me that you raise a resilient child not by throwing them into the game but by supporting them through their big feelings and getting creative about how to move forward. She had a little chat with him about what was feeling scary about it. Afterward, he said, “Maybe I’ll play tomorrow. Maybe I’ll transform my mind.” (!!!)

And he did. I gave him a big ol’ ham and cheese sandwich on the way over, and that may have helped too. He played the whole time with the big kids and he was so proud to call Mimi and Chacha afterward to let them know.

I’m reminded that kids are never simply “being difficult.” They are hungry, tired, scared, nervous, longing for connection and safety, overstimulated, frustrated over their lack of control, overwhelmed, and still learning so much. The list goes on. Our job as parents is to understand the root of it, connect, help them regulate, give them tools. Whew! This IS harder than I thought.

I’m proud of him. I’m a little proud of me and trying to give some love and support to my football dad side who is scared of weakness and vulnerability. I had all those shy and scared feelings as a kid in swimming class and it pained me to see it in him. I know much better how to manage this next time. (I think.)

And I’ve stopped raising my voice altogether because it never, ever helps. We’re doing good.

Chloe will have the calmest of the moms when she’s 4. 🙂

And she’s up!

xoxoxoxoxosoccer

Uncategorized

fishies #1 and #2 :(

I got Evan a betta fish named Yellow for Christmas and we were enjoying him a lot. Two months later, the heater malfunctioned, taking the water to 95 degrees, and he died.

I’ve spent more mental energy, time, and money on this than I would have expected. Obviously I wanted his first pet to be a good experience and these fish can be sensitive to all kinds of factors. I very much wanted him to live a long life. So I spared no expense on a lovely 2.5-gallon tank, filter, heater, gravel siphon, food, thermometer strip, test strips, and treats. We were in a good groove with Yellow and it wasn’t his fault (or our fault) that the heater cooked him, but I still feel sad about it, especially that he had to suffer.

I cleaned the tank, moved it to a new location where I could plug the (newly researched and ordered) heater directly into the wall so there would be no extension cord to potentially cause overheating. I treated the water,  tested it for 5 different levels using special (expensive) test strips, got it to the perfect temperature, ran the filter for 24 hours. On Friday night, we were ready to pick up our new betta.

E picked a blue one, probably twice the size of Yellow, with big, flowing, shimmery turquoise fins. He named him Blueberry. We brought him home and put him in his new tank. He swam around actively, even lay on his special leaf for a bit. By Saturday night, though, he was moving less and never did eat what we fed him. By Sunday morning, he was dead.

WHAAAAAAAAAA?! (not sure if this is a wah wah cry or a WHAT??? but sort of both)

I was the first to get up and checked him and he was upside down sort of stuck to the filter. No. No. No!!!

OK, guys, this is a little fish we’re talking about. We just had salmon last night for dinner for which I paid significantly more money. (maybe he was horrified as he watched us from the tank’s new vantage point off the dining room?) Still, it makes me sad.

Admittedly, his little bowl was very dirty when he got him at the store. When I called them today, the woman who answered the phone said, “yeah, seems like they’ve been dying more recently, I wonder if we got a ‘bad batch.'” She also mentioned that they didn’t get a new shipment this week (they do most weeks) so Blueberry might have been in that little dirty bowl for two weeks. (Yep, I’m done with that fish store.)

In that case, he was probably sick and it was nothing to do with our setup. Maybe I helped him be more comfortable in his final days?

Anyway, this is surprisingly hard for me. E is stoic. I was heartbroken (and crying) when I told him that Yellow died. I watched him process this info, first wondering if he could be just sleeping… but he had more curiosity about it than anything. We had a ceremonial walk to the toilet to flush him down. He wondered if we could get a lizard now (no). When I told him about Blueberry (not crying this time since we didn’t have time to get to know him), he was OK. It was even kind of funny that we couldn’t even keep him alive over a weekend. We had another walk to the toilet.

What’s hardest for me is this lesson: we don’t control everything, even when we do our best. It’s one of the hardest lessons there is.

For now, I’m glad that we’re assigning this lesson to something as small and not-cuddly and non-communicative as a fish, as I imagine this would/will be WAY harder when we someday get some genre of cute mammal. The life lessons of having a pet are real.

RIP Yellow and Blueberry

And you know I’m going to insist on a #3. (Maybe not today though.)

Let him/her live a long life!

blueberry

 

 

Uncategorized

lost and found

On MLK Day, I lost my water bottle. It was a Christmas gift from Evan, a bright coral Corkcicle high-end perfectly-designed water bottle that I’d apparently been waiting for all my life. I was loving everything about it- until it vanished from my life.

That day, the last time I had a Monday holiday off of work, I definitely had it with me at the gym. I couldn’t clearly remember if I’d left with it… Afterward, I’d gone to a café with the fam, and after that to another café to work by myself. I called the gym. I called the first café. Both checked their lost and founds but no dice.

At the second café, I remember being on the phone with my parents, regretting that I must have left my bottle in the car, and getting a cup of water at the water stand by the door. Why would I get a cup of water if I had the bottle with me? I never called the second café.

I proceeded to spend almost a full week in distress over my lost water bottle. My brain could not let go of replaying my movements that day. It was my perfect water bottle, a gift from my son… And yet so ridiculous to be in distress over a replaceable and relatively inexpensive object! Jorge called me over the weekend to let me know the bottle wasn’t coming back. I admitted he was right and ordered a new one. The same exact one. It arrived, and I was placated and moved on to worrying about other things.

Today, on President’s Day, I again reserved some time to myself to work from the café. I ran into my friend Isaiah who works there often. Sometimes I hurry off to my own table but today got pulled into a conversation and ended up sitting at the community table next to him, facing the cash register. I ordered a banana chocolate chip muffin and a latte and pulled out my computer and my notebook. I put my bright coral (Corkcicle wrongly calls it Off Red) water bottle on the table next to me.

After a little while, the woman working behind the counter said, “Excuse me,” and Isaiah said, “Me?” and she said, “No, her.” I looked up and she said, “Is that the first water bottle like that you’ve had or did you have one and lose it and order a new one in the same color?” I smiled in disbelief and said, slowly, putting it all together, “I lost it and ordered a new one in the same color!” And she pulls out my original water bottle from a lost and found shelf to the left of the cash register, where she’d been looking at my lost water bottle for the past month. The visual cue of my identical water bottle sitting on the table in her sight line lead her to put it all together and ask me precisely the right question!!

Her name is Christine. I ended up giving her the original water bottle because of her kindness. I showed her how I wrote my name and number on the bottom of mine so I won’t lose it ever again and she took a Sharpie to the bottom of hers, writing “From Katie, 2/18/19.” She said, “I love a good story.”

I mean. That was cool!!! What does it all mean? I don’t know!

Chloe looks at it and says, “aya aya aya aya aya aya” (agua)

(kiddos in taxi cart photo thrown in just because)

Good signs are everywhere…

xo

 

 

Uncategorized

scattered

I was scattered this week. Trying to push forward on too many fronts, I was jumping from one task to the next thought to the next incoming request… very much in reactive mode. It didn’t help that my phone started malfunctioning over the weekend, randomly crashing and then going into a reboot/crash cycle for hours at a time. Then I lost my water bottle.

The water bottle was a Christmas gift from my son Evan, a gift he thought up and purchased via my sister. It was a 25oz Corkcicle in Off Red, really more of a bright coral. During the month that I had it in my possession, I was in awe of its functionality- a textured surface that allowed for good gripping, a flat edge kept it from rolling, great insulation, and a rubber ring on the bottom to keep it from slipping. It was really the best water bottle I’ve ever had. And then it disappeared on MLK Day, somewhere between the gym and the car and the house (and maybe a café). My scattered brain could not deal.

In between calls to Apple Care, I meditated on my every step of that Monday, trying to recapture every detail of my movements in case there was clue as to my water bottle’s whereabouts. I called the lost and found of the gym (and the café) multiple times. I wandered around my house peering into nooks and crannies, as if a giant, bright-pink water bottle could be camouflaged in the clutter (after seeing a photo of it, J texted me “I’m sorry but how the F could you lose that thing???”). Someone on a local FB moms page posted a “Post your first world problems here.” I posted, in an effort to let it go. It was bothering me that it was bothering me… I mean, water bottles (and phones) are replaceable. Fortunately, it wasn’t bothering Evan, who said, “I’ll get you another one!” (my sister had paid)

On Wednesday, I picked him up early for soccer class and the three of us stopped at a local supermarket for dinner since class ends at 6 and I didn’t want to start cooking after that.

In the supermarket, I felt tired. I realized I should always get a cart to put the wiggly (and heavy) baby in, even if I”m only buying one thing. Evan wanted spaghetti and Pirate’s Booty and I didn’t have energy to insist on a vegetable. I got myself a chicken burrito to share with Chloe, and a kombucha. We paid and headed to the seating area.

As the TV blared Fox News, I stripped off all of our winter gear and set the food up at the table. Chloe didn’t want the highchair and fortunately, blessedly, she wanted to nurse, giving me the chance to eat.

Then there was a moment, as I scooped my unwieldy, loose, dripping burrito up to my mouth with my free hand, when I made eye contact with the mom who had just arrived with her two boys at the table next to us. She gave me the warmest smile. I mean it made time stop.

I suddenly saw my messy, tired self through her eyes- hunched over, nursing a squirming one-year-old, trying (and somewhat failing) to feed myself, while my 4-year-old ate a pretty darn unhealthy dinner and alternated between watching disturbing news and… climbing anything climbable.

And she was so well put-together, with calmer, older kids in colorful, expensive-looking ski-jackets, one quietly eating chicken soup and the other quietly eating sushi.

They were sitting close enough to us that I would normally strike up a friendly conversation with this other mom. But, in that moment, I let her smile validate my tiredness, my scatteredness, and her implicit message: that I am squarely in a season of little ones and I’m doing a good job and someday I will get back to using two hands for eating and buying myself a new pair of jeans that fit and I’ll have two civilized eaters and I’ll smile at the crazed baby mama with the wild hair at the next table over.

I’m rounding the corner. I ordered a new phone. And my new, same water bottle arrived yesterday! I Sharpied my name and number on the bottom.

I also started meditating every morning. It’s helping. xoxo