Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Co-Sleep, Snuggle, Whatever. Just Love Them.

How can we keep our kids out of our bed?

When will my kids stop sleeping in our bed?


I've asked it all, and I've said it all.  In reality, I know my kids won't stay in my bed forever.  As I've read at least 1,000 times since becoming a mom, "I don't know anyone who's gone to college still sleeping in his mom's bed."  

So, at least there's that.

My husband may not agree, but he, like. literally, never wakes up when our son comes stumbling into our room, arms full of stuffed animals, voice loud, sleepy, and certain, "I want to sleep in YOUR bed. Mommy, can I come in your bed."

The rules have, more or less, flown out the window.  I used to aggressively check the clock and walk the boy back, night after night, to his own bed.

Shockingly, we both slept better, and more, once I just started walking him to the potty and then back to our bed.  He spoons in next to me, his soft hair right under my chin, just at kissable distance, and quickly slips into a deep slumber. Ironically, the earlier he comes into my bed, the better and longer he sleeps.

I've started judging the time not by a clock but by how tired I am when he shuffles into our room. Haven't fallen asleep yet? Too early.  Wide awake? Gosh, probably a smidge too close to the alarm going off.  Can barely open my eyes and am warm and snug? Perfect.

Over Thanksgiving, we stayed in a house with not quite enough bedrooms.

We wedged a cot in between the wall and my side of the bed. After a confusing first couple of hours, in which the boy insisted that he start on my side of the bed, we went back to our routine. He climbed in sometime in the middle of the night.  Because of vacation, because of rain, because of warm covers, we slept in, snug and happy, as late as seven a.m. (oh my!).

The return to school on Monday felt rough and brought into clear perspective how much we both value our sleepy time together.  

I climbed into bed, for twenty or so more minutes of warmth, after prepping for the day - breakfast ready, baby's bottle warmed, lunches in the car.  My sleepy son cuddled back in until the alarm sounded.

"I don't want to get up. I want to stay here with you."

"I know. It's warm and cozy."

"And I love you."

Heart. Melting.

After sneaking out of bed in the morning, I used to squeeze in some of my own work - editing photos, writing, folding laundry...but one morning, months ago, my son called me back into bed.  That quickly became part of my normal, something I miss if he gets up too early. My mornings now flow like this - up, shower, prep the day, cuddle some more. I'm much happier.

Forget the rush. Forget busy.

Snuggle.

These years are all too brief, and I am done worrying and stressing about the shoulds.

Get under the covers. Stay snuggly and warm. Give lots of hugs. Love them.




Saturday, October 29, 2016

No Homework

Last night (Friday), I spent just under two hours updating my agendas for next week's classes.  I added links, converted online articles into Google Docs, transferred projects from class to class.  Two hours doesn't seem like much, but it's far less than most teachers will spend on school work on a typical weekend.

You have probably seen this floating around during various "teacher appreciation" parts of the year:

I call shenanigans.

I don't know what exactly the quote (or the countless other ones just like it) is supposed to inspire, other than, "Wow, teachers do a lot for their students," right before we proceed to talk about how low test scores are the burden of the teachers. 

At first, I thought about titling this post, "Why I Won't Answer Your Kid's Email," but I realized that I believe in something beyond my time.

I don't believe in homework.

At the start of each school year, to both student and parents, I announce that I won't answer emails after 3 p.m.  When I walk off school grounds, some days later than others due to some leadership roles I willingly hold, my name becomes, "Mommy," end of story. I live a full life outside of my job, and I prefer to work to live than to live to work.  And I wish the same balance for all of my colleagues, whether they have children or not.

I believe the same for my students. Go play basketball, piano, soccer. Go dance, sing, swim, run. Go read a book. Go help your parents with housework, with a business, with caring for siblings or a grandparent or a parent.  Let school stay at school.

It's ironic.

I teach advanced students, and I know that they can't leave their work at school and only at school, but I won't require them to do anything at home. Have a video project? Yes, you can use my class time to film.  Have an essay? Here's forty minutes a day over several days.  Need to talk to me about your grade? I'm right here. A meaningless homework assignment just for the sake of it? Not from me.

It changes the game, for all of us.  

It means that I have to plan and teach differently - some of my big plans get modified to fit the time I actually have to put them into action. It means that students need to take responsibility in the classroom, or they will need to take work home and finish it. It means that these teenagers need to remember to ask me questions during the day and not expect an answer to a panicked email at 8:30 Sunday night, but it also means that, eventually, they shouldn't be panicking at 8:30 Sunday night.

I still do some work at home. I can't possibly grade 109 essays in a reasonable amount of time when only fitting them into a prep period every other day.  So, I take them home and spend 8-10 hours grading them - but I don't want you to feel sorry for me or to praise me or honor my profession.

What do I want?

For teachers to be respected enough to have the time in their day to prepare for their jobs - time to prepare to teach these future world leaders (and every other job that leads up to that).

While most of my friends bring work home with them emotionally, few bring work home to complete uncompensated.

I plan and teach in the hours my employer provides me to plan and teach (at least...that's my goal).

Some of my colleagues will go above and beyond and plan incredible, awe-inspiring projects that truly mean a lot to their students but that rip them away from their families and friends most evenings and nearly every weekend.

I'm going to travel a different path - I'm going to model balance. I will teach, and I will teach extremely well (because I'm me, and I strive for excellence), but I refuse to sacrifice my personal life, my mental, emotional, and physical health to meet impossible expectations. I refuse to guilt trip everyone around me because I sacrifice so much for my students. I will use the tools I have been given.

And I will seek balance.

Balance means no homework, for teachers or students.

I won't answer those emails after 3 p.m., and my students shouldn't feel the need to send them.





Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Healthy


While I write as part of the Healthy Living Fall 2016 Grow Your Blog Hop...I should probably write about what it means to be healthy.  I get a bit caught up in emotional and mental health, and I should spend some time talking about the other pieces that need to fall into place in order for me to feel well-rounded and healthy.

When I was in the fourth grade, I kept getting sick. Nothing too bad, but every couple of weeks I had what present as strep throat.  Eight or ten strep tests later, my doctor thought maybe something else was going on with my body.  

Throw in one leukemia test, several tests for lupus, and a whole host of other needle pricks, and ITP finally came out of the fog of test results. Feel free to follow the link to find out more, but essentially, ITP means that my spleen doesn't recognize my platelets as part of my body. Or as my hematologist told me, "Your spleen thinks that your platelets are little chocolate covered cherries and eats them all up" (like I said, I was nine...).  

With a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, my mom went into full-on organization mode. We set up meetings with specialists, went in for weekly blood tests to monitor my progress, and I started fighting. By fighting, I mean that I moaned and groaned. I begged to go to school when I felt a fever coming on. I ignored bruises and fatigue. I pretended to be perfectly healthy.

Not much as changed in the couple of decades since my diagnosis. I refused to go for weekly blood tests a couple of years into high school - seven years of weekly tests felt like plenty, thank you very much.  I refused to be treated with prednisone to artificially increase my platelet count. I knew (and still know) my body's signs.  I can tell when I'm having an "ITP issue."  I eat more red meat, stuff some spinach in my face, and maybe take a few naps.  

Is that how everyone should handle this type of condition? Probably not. For me, mind over matter works.

At various points in my life, doctors have suggested removing my spleen. It will get rid of ITP. Maybe. We aren't sure. But you will need to be on antibiotics your whole life because your spleen won't be there to clean things out for you.

So, what if I start rejecting antibiotics?  Even in high school, I argued back, What about when I have kids? I can't be wandering around without a spleen, catching EVERYTHING.

One doctor offered to treat me with something that would inevitably send my body into leukemia.  What about that sounds good?

My platelets are steady. Unless I'm sick, they stay in the same range.  I monitor my health by keeping in touch with my body. I know when something is off.

Having ITP meant that I couldn't have an epidural. So, I had two babies without one.  Both times, my platelets hovered around 40,000. Actually, the second time, I refused all the blood work because they came to check my platelets (to see if I qualified for the epidural I already knew I didn't want) after my daughter had already arrived in the world...

And even though I ignore it most of the time, ITP means that my healthy might look different than your healthy, 

I need time to rest when I'm ill. My *ahem* sports injuries take longer to heal than for some others. I need to put a lot of energy into preventing illness and injury, because either one can sideline me (or cause me to invest in way more red meat and spinach than I really want to consume). 

My definition of healthy has also changed since having my second child.  I haven't run a race in...a long time. I don't feel that pull.  Instead, I want to keep my body healthy and strong to show my children what healthy means.

With all aspects of my health, I need to focus on getting all the pieces in place - balancing it all will make me stronger and healthier. 

"If it's not hell yes, it's hell no,"and I need to remember that with every commitment I make.  

I have felt overwhelmed and crazy. Between major tech and curriculum changes at work, my mom's health, my kids' increasingly complex lives, the harvest season, and...stuff, I've felt pretty darn lost.  The fog has started to lift though. I feel more back in my own body. 

When I attend to my emotional and mental health, the physical part is easy.  When I'm not drowning in rush of it all, I can willingly sink into the rhythm.

And, thank the sweet Lord, just as the emotional and mental fog begins to lift, it's FALL. That means hikes, oh glorious hikes, along the Sonoma Coast!  

And just like that, I can breathe again.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sinking Into Motherhood

Sinking.

It sounds bad.

It sounds like giving up.

But what about sinking into bed? Sinking onto the couch? Sinking into a pile of fresh snow? Those bring about warm feelings and happy thoughts. Right?

By Thursday this week, when I snuck out of bed so as not to wake the four-year-old who had climbed in an hour earlier, all I could think about was the weekend, when I could sink into motherhood, when I could unabashedly...MOM.

Despite the fact that, on paper at least, I don't care what other people think of me, I do want people want to be around me. I'm painfully aware of not wanting to be the one who can't do anything because, "We know you have kids."  I constantly redirect the conversation: well, so and so has triathlons to train for, and the other one has like 100 weddings to go to this year, and that one has cooking lessons, and why can't we all just agree to leave campus on time regardless of whether or not we have kids?

I talk about my kids all the time. Like, all the time. But I'm hyper aware of when I'm doing it. I have this little voice that pops in my head, "YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT YOUR KIDS AGAIN. STOP."

My male coworker has a daughter the same age as my daughter.  He unabashedly showcases photos of her and talks about the cute things she does, and everyone thinks it's adorable and sweet, and like the best thing ever for a dad to talk about his kids that way. I do it?  "Cute."  And the conversation moves on. Ah, I see.

Don't get me wrong, I've got some amazing coworkers who know all about our kindergarten search and when I don't sleep at night, but I have this sense that I have to constantly prove that I can still do my job even though I'm a mom.

On the weekends? On school breaks?

I mom so hard.

I play Legos. I go grocery shopping. This weekend I made cookies and I made pancakes.  I try to put my phone away and focus on my kids. I listen to the same crazy kids songs around 181 times.  And I love it.

Then Monday comes, and I feel like I'm supposed to turn that off.

I don't. I can't go twenty minutes outside of the classroom without mentioning at least one of my kids...

But I feel like I should.

So, starting tomorrow, just one more new change in me.

Bless it.

Release it.

No more guilt about being a mom.

I can't change that I'm a working mom.

I  can't change that my mind, my body, and my soul have changed in countless ways since having kids.

I suspect I'll feel a whole let better about life.

But come Friday? Oh, friend, I'm backwards on the diving board free falling into a pool of mommyhood.






Thursday, October 20, 2016

Moving at the Speed of Four

Hi! If you're stopping by from the Blog Hop, WELCOME! I am happy to have you and happy to have this reason to push my writing. I tend to fall into a habit of posting once a week or every other week. When I participate in hops like this, I push through the inertia...and write.  If you're new to Roaring Mama Lion, you might want to start with 13.1 Things About Me. Take a look around...I hope you like what you read!

I have one other small plug - I recently started writing for Sonoma County Moms Blog - if you're not reading, you should start now ;). Come check out our little band of crazy, tired, sleepless moms trying to the best we can and maintain some semblance of sanity.

This week, my best friend send me an article that is totally on point with my life right now.

In the article, "It's Hard for Them, Too," the author talks about how it really is hard to be a tiny human.  While the author seems to talk about a child much younger than my son, this article resonates a great deal with my life with a #fournado.

I am constantly at battle with myself. When do I parent and lay down the law, place high expectations on my son and let him know that I am the mom? When do I back off and try to meet him where he is

Are those two approaches mutually exclusive?

We have rushed mornings.  I can't do much about this. I need my kids to sleep as late as they can, for their health and for all of our sanity.  That means that we run through our morning routine at lightning speed.

Otherwise known as, "I need milk. I want to wear my train jacket. Where's the book I wanted to bring? Why do I have to go to school? How many days until I don't have school anymore? What did you put in my lunch? I said I wanted peanut butter. Why did you let Sissy get dressed after me? Why...I forgot."

The faster I need to leave, the slower he moves. It's a fact of nature.

For now, Sissy does what I need. She's up and ready to leave in less than ten minutes. But the boy? Oh...

Again, the...faster...we....need...to..leave...the...slower...he...moves

So.

I thought about what he actually needs. Does he need his mommy panicking and basically throwing him into the car? Or does he need patience and grace?

When I actually had time to sit and think it through, the answer felt pretty darn obvious.

I stopped telling him that we need to hurry.  

He gets up, he runs through his morning routine. A bowl of cereal with milk and a spoon. The occasional glass of milk on the side. He gets dressed when I go get Sissy.

The change did not result in miracles. I still pull up to work feeling a bit panicked. I still pray that the traffic angels will work overtime for me.

But.

We leave a smidge earlier than we used to, because morning routines in the life of a four-year-old have a bit too much SQUIRREL to move at lightning speed.   There are questions to ask, trucks to race, and it will always take a bit longer than an adult would like to get out the door.

Even though I didn't gain much time in the morning, I did gain a lot.

I gained my son's smiles.

I gained singing in the car on the way to school, instead of whining.

Worth it.





Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DO EVERYTHING BETTER

Yes, I shouted the title of this post.

After I posted about how my mom buys me books, she mailed me some books.  Amazing how that works.

The first one I received, and the first one I picked up, is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I really need to meet Shauna.  Almost every word in the book feels painfully familiar.  I will probably have posts to write about this book, but for today, it's about priorities.

Shauna writes, "The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be..."  And, oh, how I fall into that trap, on daily basis, really.  I look at my list of things to accomplish, my areas where I need to improve, my weaknesses, my challenges and failings.

The only clear solution?

DO EVERYTHING BETTER.

We have already established that I cannot find an easy solution to my feelings of overwhelming panic.

So?

I will DO EVERYTHING BETTER.

Except. No.

I can't.

I have stretched my time and talents to the max, and I have nothing better left to give.

DO LESS.

I look at my middle school students, struggling under the demanding weight of the curriculum I implemented. I am responsible when they drown under the weight of a project's details, when their presentations lack...quality.  I tell them they must bear the responsibility, but then I look at what I've designed and determine that I need to...DO EVERYTHING BETTER.

I can't.

I can't just do it all and better.

I will do less.

I will design projects with far fewer fancy trappings, with the hope that my students will learn more.

I will simplify holiday presents, with the hope that my family and friends truly believe that the thought really does count.

I will breathe more and worry less.

And, in the end, maybe it will all turn out better.

Here's hoping.




Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lemons

I don't make lemonade.

I sit there and suck on my lemons and complain about it.

You know exactly what I'm talking about.

And then, when the lemons are all gone, I talk about how I had to suck on these sour lemons that one time at every encounter for like the next four years. Yep. That's me.

I can't let go.

I also am way too tired (and also lazy, to be fair) to do anything about the fact that there are probably many solutions to all of these lemons in my life.

So, sit and revel in the sour, I must.

Recently, I've realized that not everyone wants to hear about my sour lemons.

There are parts of me that don't care. Like, when people ask about my mom, I'm not going to say she's fine.  Because she's not.  I know that everyone is, like, flustered, by hearing the truth, but I need to accept the truth and so does the rest of the world. So, I'll tell you that it's hard and that she's struggling.

And, sometimes, I get it. The majority of my problems are pretty first world.  We have to decide what public school to pick for our son that he might or might not get into.  We have to wrap our minds around the cold, hard fact, that it's not financially responsible for us to choose the really good schools that have private before and aftercare.  Big whoop.  That's still a pretty privileged problem to have.  Sure, we have friends who don't have that particular problem, but I'm sure they have their own lemons stacking up in the kitchen.

I can't promise I'll stop whining about that problem in the foreseeable future, since we are in the midst of it. I can at least acknowledge that not everyone cares.

Yeah, we had (have? It's sort of fixed...who knows #homeownership #AmIRight?) a plumbing issue.  And the printer broke. And...you know, stuff.

It's FAR too easy for me to get trapped in a spiral of little details that went wrong.

I could get lost in the fact that my kid, like, shut down, at track like he did at swimming way back when (ahem, June...that was in June...), despite the fact that when I signed him up for the class, he told me, "I know you signed me up for track because you know how much I love running" and that he has been talking about it literally everyday since August and asking, "Do I have track tomorrow?"  But...who's counting?

So far, the only answer I've come up with, the only solution to my negative spiral, is to place fewer expectations on myself and my days. And maybe not to look too closely at the big picture. Like with my mom. I can't look at that particular picture too closely. So, it's week by week.  Public school issues? Well, I can't fix equity in education before my kid starts kindergarten; so, we'll roll with what we've got and see what happens.  Plumbing? Eh, that's what savings accounts are for, yeah? And this whole track debacle has me fully confronting the fact that, maybe, just maybe, I should stop signing my kiddo up for city sports.  At least until he's like...ten (I'm kidding. Maybe.).

But really? What I need to do is focus on the other fruits in my life, even if it's the lemons that take up a lot of time.

Like?

The community of people budding up and telling me all of the things about our local schools and offering to sit down and parse through the nitty gritty details with me.

My beautiful team of teachers who listen every single day as I update them on the crazy in my life (mwah, love you girls!).

Dancing in the kitchen with my daughter holding my hands and my son bopping along saying, "She wants to hold my hand, too! She loves holding my hand!"

My sister-in-law putting together Halloween crafts while I stir up some pancakes.

My father-in-law chasing my daughter all around a school playground so I can wait with my son to get his face painted.

The sound of my son's laughter when he plays with either of his grandfathers.

Cuddles on the couch.

Pumpkins.

Mic drop.