Chronicling

Lesson four: Take note!

I have been keeping a journal since I was 9 years old.  In fact, we were recently cleaning out our office/guest room/workout room/storage room in an attempt to make it only a yoga room (ha!) and we found a big long tortilla box full of my old journals.

My toddler wanders into the chaos and finds the book that appeals to her the most – a white puffy plastic number with musical notes and polka dots, locked to keep out prying eyes of parents and siblings.

Hottest style of the late 80's
Hottest style of the late 80’s

When she lifts it, all the pages (pink, blue, and yellow) slide right out the bottom.  So much for that crummy lock! I do my best to re-gather the pastel pages before she puts a permanent hurting on any of them and I am sent on a whirlwind trip down memory lane.  There, scrawled in pencil and big ol’ loopy kid writing are my most important thoughts, feelings, and happenings of 1988.  Gems like, “I LOVE Corey Feldman!” and on January 7, 1989:”Dear Di, Just like yesterday. P.S. Sorry there is nothing to talk about.  Love, Rae”

Today we had a wild day. First we went to since (science?) then we had math then 10:35 recess then came daily oral language and then we played "password" then came lunch. and I have this real big crush on this boy named Joey. We all ran after Joey today to try to kiss him then at 2:00 recess we spyed on Joey.
Oct. 27, 1988 Today we had a wild day. First we went to since (science?) then we had math then 10:35 recess then came daily oral language and then we played “password” then came lunch. and I have this real big crush on this boy named Joey. We all ran after Joey today to try to kiss him then at 2:00 recess we spyed on Joey.

What is “daily oral language?” and did I have another class called “daily written language?” Clearly I could have used a lesson in run-on sentences.

My point with this anecdote is to prove that I have been chronicling my thoughts, feelings and not-so-major happenings in my life for 25 years.  So I thought that of  course  I would be all over writing about Baby Bell’s adventures in growing every day.  I mean, just take 5 minutes, right?

Nope.  For my baby shower, I requested and received a super cool book by artist, Nikki McClure, called “Baby’s First 1000 days” and I thought to myself, nose in the air, “Hmph! Only 1000 days? That’s nothing!”

I literally have filled out 3 days of that book.  And now the kid is 635 days old (give or take a whole bunch of days) and I feel like it would be weird to try and pick it up again at this point. Thank goodness for iPhone cameras – if a camera were not always in the pocket of my husband, my mother in law or me, then there would be no recorded history of this child.

I have already promised myself that I will totally write it all down with the next kid.

So that is one of my goals with this blog – to be better at recording these moments.  And though I still love the idea of my daughter as a grown woman, cleaning out my old dusty attic after I’m gone and happening upon her baby book where I lovingly recounted the first time she rolled over or cut a tooth or pooed on me, that’s just not the reality. We live in an online world, where our baby books are blogs, our photo albums are Instagram, and our pen pal letters are Facebook.

Truth be told, I am kind of afraid the Matrix will happen and all this digital, Cloud content will either just disappear, turning into the thin air from whence my wireless came, or it will take our weak, 140-character minds over and rule the world.

But hopefully, all of this will never go away (like that photo someone tagged you in when you were drunk at that party) and my girl can access these archives on the internet database in her brain that she controls by blinking and twitching her head back and forth.  Yes, in my vision of the future, the next incarnation of Google Glass is individuals walking around with serious body ticks to surf the web implanted in their brains.

But I digress…

So, the other day, Bell was eating rotini noodles with tomato sauce and I was sitting next to her at the table.  I noticed that she was just swallowing them straight down, whole. She seemed fine with it, but it made a sympathy lump in my own stomach.  So I tried to “teach” her how to chew (though she has no problem doing this instinctually with other foods.) I don’t know how much of a learning or growing moment this was for her, but her imitation of me was pretty darn funny.

So, to chronicle:

  • She has most of her teeth at 21.5 months, but not the middle ones between the front 4 and back molars.
  • She says “cheese!” when we brush her teeth at night.
  • She calls me “Baba” instead of “Mama” – she may be doing this just to spite me.  But I do think it’s pretty funny when she yells out, “Hey, Bob!” to get my attention.
  • She can identify some numbers and letters and short words (even Mama with ‘M’s), but is not saying as much as we “expect” her to – I know, I know, kids progress at different rates.
  • She signs “I love you” now and will do it of her own volition, not just when commanded to, and this warms my heart like the sun.
  • She makes a big ole smacking noise when she kisses my cheek.
  • If you ask her what a cow says, she says, “Mooo”, if you ask her what a snake says, she says “Tsssss”, if you ask her what a fox says, she sings the youtube song.  This is my fault.  I’m kind of sorry and kind of not.
  • She has only in the last week allowed ponytails in her hair – which is growing naturally into a mullet.

pony tail

The Story Changes

Lesson two: The story is always changing


At the start of this school year, August 2013, my daughter was just over a year old.  The plan was to work this year and then take next year off to have another baby.  We planned the timing of Bell really well (kind of accidentally, but we made it look purposeful!) so that she was born at the end of April in 2012.  That means I was able to take my (measly!) 7 weeks of (unpaid!) maternity leave off at the end of the school year and roll right into summer. So, when I went back in August of 2012, she was 4 months old.

Maternity Leave Around the World
Maternity Leave Around the World

That was really tough.  She was still so little and I still couldn’t wear clothes properly and had to sit in the department closet to pump a few times a day. I was exhausted and my mind and body were spent. Luckily, my husband and mother-in-law were able to work together to take care of Baby Bell, so we didn’t have to try to find (and pay for) a day care on top of everything else we were juggling.

But now, my mother-in-law does nearly full time day care with toddler Bell – some days, up to 9 hours, as my husband and I still need to be a two-income household. (We are so very lucky to have her and that our families here with all their love and support!)  It just wouldn’t make sense to have another baby and expect Nanna to take on two kids full time, so we were working toward me staying home next year: I would get the quality time of hanging out with my young children before Bell starts pre-school for real and Nanna and Gigi (my mother-in-law and mother, respectively) could see the babes without considering it a full time job.

This year was to be my tenure year. It will be my 8th year in teaching, but because I like to move around a lot, I hadn’t stuck anywhere long enough to achieve tenure (4 years in one place).  Now, here in Chapel Hill, I have become part of the school, part of a team, part of a community.

Tenure does not call to me because I am worried about job security – I feel confident in my professional position at the school and in the district, but what was calling my name was the fact that I would be able to take a year off without losing my job with the district.  Who knows, maybe if it worked out, I would want to take 2 or 3 or 5 years off, or maybe we move to California, or Costa Rica or heck, just the NC coast. But still, I wanted that comfort of knowing that I could take some time to be Mama and not worry about having to find a job if I needed to go back.

However, this year, NC has taken tenure away.  Now, I could go into the pros and cons of the tenure debate, but that is a post for another time.  This, for me, now, hurts in a personal way. I no longer have a protected year to foster the growth of my family. There are other reasons that we are having to postpone this decision, but we had planned our family planning around the benefits of my job – and that rug was just pulled out from under us.

We have decided to wait another year and see what happens then.  I am heartbroken that I have to put off having another baby (we just cannot afford to try to find day care for two pups, nor can we put that on the grandmas), so hopefully, in a year, things will shake out in a new way and we will find some new way for me to stay home.

So, the story changes.  Best laid plans, right? I am trying my damndest to look at this as different, not bad. As opportunity, not disappointment.  Who knows what glorious things may happen in the course of another year with my school? (Is my optimism convincing? 🙂 ) Who will I meet?  What will I learn? And who will baby #2 be when he/she does finally come into our family?

The annual Gatsby Speakeasy
The annual Gatsby Speakeasy

Let’s see where this new story goes.

Mother? Teacher? Writer?

Lesson one: The power of punctuation

I was going to list my “titles” in my header with the question marks above to indicate the confusion of which really identified me, but then I decided that step one was owning it: I am all three. While the first two take turns taking the lead in my life, and I may not exactly know how to look the part of  juggler of  all three, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t all there.  They are. Period.

Motherhood has transformed me (I know, all the girls say that!), but it’s so true.  All people have arrived on this planet in pretty much the same way, but dang! what a mind-blowing, magical, out-of-this world experience! Sure it’s hard work, but I have yet to complain that it’s hard.  It’s just so damn rewarding.  Love like no other.  Sure, sometimes I’m tired and fried and am counting the minutes until she goes to bed, bribing my husband to do bath time and bed time just so I can check out early, but I still look at her and think the whole purpose of the history of the world was to bring Bell into existence.

I work full time as an English teacher for 10th and 11th graders. This means that I get to work at 8am, teach 5 classes in 7 hours, and do my very best to leave as close to 430pm  as possible to relieve my mother-in-law of toddler duty (Bell is 21 months).  Before Bell was born, I stayed at work every single night until 7 or 8pm – I was never very good at working at home.  When I was pregnant, Sean implored me to learn how to work only while I was at work and to come home by 5 – he pointed out that I wouldn’t have a choice once the baby had arrived.  He was right.  What I learned then, is how to get the kid between 4 and 5pm, come home make dinner, do bath/bedtime and then work at home after she’s asleep.  And yes, I still work on the weekends.  Bottom line: teachers work as much in 9 months as most people do in 12, so no, summer off does not mean teachers work less.  (Sorry that sounded so bitter – teachers have fielded a lot of insults lately about not deserving our pay.)

I love teaching for all of the rewarding elements: the relationships with the students, the satisfaction of seeing young people grow and learn, the thrill of feeling successful and competent, my unparalleled camaraderie with my colleagues/friends, and yes, holidays and summers off.  But damn, it’s a hard job – it’s an emotional roller coaster, never-ending, hard on my family and frustrating beyond all belief. And no, it’s not the students that make it hard or make me want to quit.  Ever.

I know that to be a writer, one must write, but I’m sorry: I almost never write (fiction – I write professionally and journal almost every day), but I still know it’s in my bones. I am my best self when I do.

Here’s to being a mother.  Here’s to being a teacher.  And here’s to being a writer.  It feels scary to say those so definitively, to say each loudly and proudly, but that’s my aim – that’s the direction in which I’m moving.  Let’s go.

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