April 4: Discovery and Delight


She runs tree to tree:

Rainbow eggs filled with sweetness;

Spring peeks out at her

Maya Easter

A to Z Challenge: This month, I will be writing a haiku (sometimes a senryu – same syllables, not marveling at nature) each day save Sundays for the 26 letters of the alphabet as part of the blogosphere’s A to Z Challenge.

April 3: Clean


She calls to the sea:

“These waves are making us clean!”

In all ways, yes, love.



A to Z Challenge: This month, I will be writing a haiku (sometimes a senryu – same syllables, not marveling at nature) each day save Sundays for the 26 letters of the alphabet as part of the blogosphere’s A to Z Challenge.

Celestial Lights

When you have a child, you begin to do everything one handed. Best practice or no, everything is a multi-task, like juggling with one hand while doing dishes with the other. I can’t count how many times I have lamented my ignorance about appreciating free time before I had kids. It’s not that I want that back, I just wish I knew what I had when I had it. Now, everything, from switching the laundry to reading a book, only comes into being after negotiating with, or trickily dodging, a toddler.

Now, pregnant with my second baby, the pregnancy itself is taking a backseat to that negotiation. When I was pregnant with Maya, everything about the experience was in sharp, closely examined focus. It was magical; it was scary; it was uncomfortable; it was beautiful. But everything that it was was clearly in front of me at all times. It was the sun that everything else spun around; it colored my days with its new take on how to live, move, breathe, and be.

We have only remembered to take a picture of this pregnancy twice. Once at 17 weeks, then again at 32 weeks!
We have only remembered to take a picture of this pregnancy twice. Once at 17 weeks, then again at 32 weeks!

Now, sometimes, I forget that I am pregnant. And I am pretty far along at seven months. It is another thing that does not get my full attention, just like work, writing, household matters, husband. I do not mean to sound like I am complaining about life with Maya – it is neither unpleasant nor difficult – she is a happy, relatively easy kid who has a good routine and is cooperative, most of the time. But she does need me and her dad and her nana and her gigi, and that’s cool. She is helpful in the way that a windstorm is helpful when folding laundry or sweeping the floor, but the fun, learning, and building of good habits makes it better and not tedious or frustrating (usually).

This morning, I managed to squeeze in some pre-natal yoga before Maya woke up, and the directives of “place one hand on your baby” and “breathe into your baby” snapped me into awareness of how often I am not doing this with this second pregnancy. I am aware of this new life, and I really enjoy that we have reached the stage of big, obvious movements that catch and hold my attention, but being pregnant has become part of our routine and has been swept along in the nuts and bolts of our day. The pregnancy is not a new experience to be marveled, or the sun around which everything else spins. It is more like one of the planets – part of the team, but just another thing in line with everything else in our solar system.

We are not finding out the gender of baby number two, and I think this has contributed to “it” (I hate that) not being a real person yet. But we did, recently, decide on a name for each possibility, and that has made a difference in my perspective. It is evolving from a routine pregnancy, at which I am old hat, to an identifiable baby – my little May baby girl or boy.

I will begin to carve out some time to talk directly to him/her and not just have him/her listening in on the conversations I have with Maya. I realize that very soon, he/she will be here and be swept into our routine. But he/she will also make some big changes, and Maya, the sun, will have to take a backseat and help to warm the new babe. Maya will grow a little and learn to share being the center of the universe, which can only be good for both celestial lights.

So for now, as the weeks wind down, I will place one hand on my belly and breathe into the baby, practice saying each name out loud, and try to appreciate how easy it has been to do everything with only one kid.



Snowday = Pinterest

Our snowy front yard
Our snowy front yard

This morning, around 6:30am, I groggily woke up, put on my glasses, reached for my phone to check the time, and noticed that it was snowing. Not a lot, but it was.

“It’s snowing” I said to Sean as he began to stir. The snow was light and unobtrusive, and I really did not think that it would continue for more than a few minutes.

Maybe Maya will get to see it when she first wakes up, I thought to myself.

I got out of the shower.

“It’s really coming down now,” Sean said as I came back in to the bedroom.

“Well, it must not really be a thing, because I haven’t heard from school.”

I went about my morning routine; Maya woke around 7:30am and she and Sean spent some time chatting about the falling snow while I made coffee and smoothies. I asked him to get her dressed because we needed to leave by 8.

7:40am: We get the call – two hour delay. I go back upstairs and change from my maternity “work slacks” into jeans. Maya stayed in jammies.

By 9am, school was cancelled and the snow was still steadily coming down, lovely to look at.

Maya is pulling her "dog sled" - she's the sled dog.
Maya is pulling her “dog sled” – she’s the sled dog.

But after having THE WHOLE WEEK off last week due to a little snow and a lot of cold, I was staring down the barrel of another day stuck inside with a twonager and trying to avoid a Caillou marathon.


Well, I had pinned a number of “things to try” for a day stuck inside with a kiddo, so I supposed we would go ahead and try some of those things.

First, we made what I am calling “magic sand” but was really just a bowl of baking soda, some little bowls of white vinegar with food coloring in them, and two spoons. When you put vinegar on baking soda, it fizzes. This has been A) a revolution for me in cleaning the house – thanks to Pinterest and the 9,864,3993.78 pins dedicated to the hidden uses for these two common household items and B) cool to me that it fizzes, so it was sure to entertain Maya also. Plus throw in some food coloring (I kept it limited to two because it was getting messy already) and voila – entertained kid for about 20 minutes.


I count it as a Pinterest success.

Next, as I tried to gear her up for nap-time with a soothing warm bath, we microwaved a bar of Ivory soap. Again, science is weird and cool. It did not break my plate, as one commenter on the original site had said, but it did get way too big, so I had to keep stopping the microwave and letting it deflate a little before continuing.

Then, it broke up pretty quickly and anti-climatically in the bath tub, but I think it was worth it to A) get Maya in the bath mid-day and B) watch it grow in the microwave for two minutes.

Before it became a million little "clouds"
Before it became a million little “clouds”

I don’t need to worry about letting her stand with her face inches away from the microwave for that short amount of time, right? I didn’t ruin her pure-self for good with micro-waves?

She napped, I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I should have been cleaning out the fridge or filing papers, but you know, snow day. (Review: I’m really enjoying it. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her.)

Sean had since braved the arctic to go to the store. He said our neighborhood and side road were bad, but the main roads were fine.

I’m glad he went, because I needed Cream of Tartar (I have no idea what this is actually used for) for our post-nap Pinterest experiment: homemade Play Dough. And yep, I was drawn to the smell-good essential oils recipe.

Once again, I kept the options down to two – I only had two essential oils on hand: lavender and jasmine, so Maya picked her two colors: purple and green.

IMG_5046 IMG_5047

BIG THUMBS UP for this one. It feels so much better than store-bought play dough (at least than the off-brands we have gotten so far) and the good smells were a pleasant bonus.

Maya made a snowman out of the dough that was much more successful than our tiny-snowman-made-of-ice from our back deck a few days ago.



This kept her busy for a good half hour or so, and we can pull it out again because it’s storing nicely in an old tupperware.

All in all, not a bad day for the Pinterest solutions to cabin fever, though the prep and set up and clean up all amount to about as much time as the actual playtime – but that’s something to kill the time too, so win.

We have a two-hour delay tomorrow morning now, so maybe Maya will be just as thrilled with helping me clean out the fridge? Though I hope we don’t encounter as much science in there…



Chronicling: Please, let it go already!

One day, maybe a year ago, I wondered about this movie that I saw people talking about:

I saw John Travolta botch saying Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars and didn’t think much of that song at the time.

Then I read on Girls Gone Child about Frozen and Feminism.

So I watched a YouTube video of “Let it Go” and let my daughter, then almost two, watch it with me.

Again, I didn’t think anything of it. But some seed was planted. Maya requested the video again. And again. Then we checked out a few other songs. But again, I didn’t think anything of it.

A few months ago, my cousin had us over for dinner, and thinking ahead, she rented Frozen so Maya could watch the whole movie. Maya had never seen a whole movie before (she has always gotten distracted and wandered away), so I was shocked at how fixated and focused she was.

She watched the WHOLE THING – as did all of the adults, despite the movie being rented to distract the kid so we could enjoy adult conversation.

Since then, she has become obsessed. She is no longer Maya, she IS Anna. And I am no longer Mommy, I am Elsa. Daddy is Kristoff, and one of our three dogs (whichever is most near) is Sven. A Christmas cookie tin is Olaf (yes, it’s shaped like a snowman). A now ever-present light blue sheet draped over chairs in our living room is the ice castle.

Maya wearing her "Anna gloves" (yes, I know Elsa was the one that needed gloves)
Maya wearing her “Anna gloves” (yes, I know Elsa was the one that needed gloves)

There are some moments where I am SO impressed with her imagination and brain-ability. She has only seen the movie three times (in as many months), but she has already memorized lines from scenes and makes me act them out over and over. Granted, she only knows a line or two, and I am totally improvising, but she still wants to create the scene:

For example, she will make me sit on one side of the closed door and she will sit against the door on the other side and she will want to build a snowman, and I have to tell her to “go away, Anna…”


It will be the early scene where Anna wakes Elsa up by pulling on her eyelid. Maya makes me lie down and pretend to be asleep, then she pulls on my and says, “The sun is up, so I am up. Let’s play!”


It’s the scene where Anna goes to the ice palace to try and talk Elsa into coming back. She says, “Elsa? It’s me, Anna.” I say, “Go away, Anna” (because I do not know my lines verbatim) and she says “But I just got here…” and tells me I look different.

Also amazingly, she can sing chunks of a couple of the songs. I am in awe of this tiny baby brain (am I in denial about her growing up?) being able to memorize and sing swaths of “Let it Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”.

This is probably not making for very interesting blog reading, but I am just so amazed that I had to note it down for my own memory.

Truth be told, I am totally sick of being Elsa. She literally calls out for Elsa when she wakes up – middle of the night or first thing in the morning. I miss being Mommy. I have started to tell her that, “You know, Maya is just as cool and brave as Anna, and Mommy is just as cool as Elsa, even without ice hands.” But I have to admire that her little, developing mind is creating this fantasy world and play-acting.

I remember now that when my little sister was two or three, she WAS Dorothy Gail from The Wizard of Oz. She wore red “ruby slippers” everywhere and her blue and white gingham dress (or was it a long tee shirt that she pretended was the dress?) She would not wear anything else. I was only ten at the time, so I may not have been marveling at my annoying little sister’s creative imagination, but I do remember this being a very solid and lasting phase.

So this post is to add my little babe to the billions of kids who have gotten Frozen Fever (an oxymoron?) and to remind myself of this solid and lasting phase of creative imagination in my little Anna, I mean Maya.

I do, however, look forward to the day that I wake up in the morning with ANYTHING OTHER THAN A FROZEN SONG  in my head.

Even at Nana's house...
Even at Nana’s house…

P.S. I am glad that Maya is identifying with Anna; I think she’s the real star of the movie and the good role model. I also really enjoy Olaf and am happy to sing about snowmen in summer anytime you want me to.

2015, Welcome.

Earlier this year, I posted this brief tidbit about recognizing the balance of “good” years and more trying ones. I don’t think any entire years are throwaway ones – good things happen in the more trying years, and hard things occur in the most prosperous ones.

I am grateful for all of the growth that has come from this challenging year, but I must admit that I am breathing a sigh of relief to bid adieu to 2014, and I am welcoming this symbolic/calendar fresh start with open arms.

And though this has been a tough year, so many good things have happened, and there have been so many joyful moments. Here are my favorite photos from 2014 – a reminder that every day is an occasion to make something great happen, and a dark and cloudy time has beauty as well.

New Years 2014
New Years 2014
My sister and Sam, New Years 2014
My sister and Sam, New Years 2014

IMG_2891 IMG_2868 IMG_2893IMG_2954 IMG_2967IMG_3026 IMG_3025 IMG_3027 IMG_3036 IMG_3064IMG_3138 IMG_3204 IMG_3279 IMG_3334 IMG_3394 IMG_3406 IMG_3452Maya on Nina IMG_3536

She turned 2!
She turned 2!

IMG_3660 IMG_3738IMG_3841 IMG_3814 IMG_4295 IMG_3973 IMG_4314 IMG_3998 IMG_4464 IMG_4495 IMG_4010 IMG_4083

4th of July
4th of July

IMG_4156 IMG_4202 IMG_4207 IMG_4519 IMG_4552 IMG_4597 IMG_4253 IMG_4625 IMG_4635 IMG_4670

A toddler learns about life and death

My mother in law’s house is in a great location – close to the park, close to town, but it’s also right next to the water plant. That means water, in the South, in the the summer. That means mosquitoes. It’s like her little sloped driveway leads to a valley which houses a protected mosquito population.

So when I go to pick Maya up at the end of the day, part of our dance is getting the car doors open and closed quickly enough to keep as many buzzers as possible out. It never works. Once Maya and I are all buckled up in the car and pulling up the driveway, we roll down all of the windows and pick up speed to hopefully cause the blood-suckers to catch a ride on the wind wave.

Inevitably, there is always at least one that manages to maintain its in-vehicle spot for the duration of the ride home. My theory is that he tucks himself in down by my feet and the pedals and gets all warm, fat, and happy feeding on my ankle flesh. I have the “itchy bites” (as Maya calls them) to prove it.

The other day, we were halfway home when I realized there was still one stowaway buzzing around in the car. I opened my window and Maya’s rear passenger window to strategically create an air stream. I thought it worked, so the windows went back up and the AC back on. But then, Maya starts crying hysterically and yelling “Mosquito!! Mosquito!!” I thought her reaction to getting bitten was a tad on the strong side for a girl who has more itchy bites on her arms than teeth in her mouth.

But then I realized that when she felt the bite on her foot, she instinctively slapped at it, and there on her perfect baby-child foot, lay a flattened and dead mosquito. This sudden awareness that she had taken life broke her poor sweet heart!

My first reaction was, “Good job, babe! You got it!” but then I thought for a bit; she was so upset, and here I was – cheering her on for flattening a bug.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still promote the smacking and flattening and smushing of mosquitoes, cockroaches, and some other undesirables, but I became totally aware that my reaction was building a link in her between smashing and cheering.

Okay, okay, I know I’m being a little dramatic, but I have thought a lot lately about how we form kids’ attitudes and how important semantics are in how children perceive things.

So what angle do I take to begin the discussion about life and death? How do I say it’s okay when some things die, but it’s also okay to be sad about it? And while I may start with the mosquito, I’m really thinking ahead to when we will have to have the “Your dog has been sent to the farm” conversation. I don’t want to lie; I don’t want to whitewash it. But I don’t want to freak her the F out either – I mean, her heart was broken by a mosquito, and I love that it was; it shows how untainted she still is by this world.

Any advice about how to have this serious talk with a toddler?

Having a serious talk with the baby
Having a serious talk with the baby

G is for Golden-Eyed Dog


Each morning, there are tasks to be done. Usually, because I have a wonderful husband and I try to be a decent wife, these tasks are split in two. One of us gets the babe up, changed, soothed, milked, and dressed, and the other gets the dogs up, out, fed, watered and the coffee brewed.

front porch dogs

The dogs are familiar with this routine, and are, for the most part, patient. Pious in their faith that we will come each morning and take care of them.

I have had Anna Banana since she was just a 3 pound pup – and that was almost 13 years ago. But she is a small dog – a Jack Russell Terrier – so she will live 18-20 years. Sometimes her proximity to her upper years makes me realize my own proximity to my upper years, as we have grown together.


Holiday Anna
Holiday Anna

Sean rescued Nina from an abusive household when she was already a couple of years old. She is fiercely loving and loyal and grateful to him. Unfortunately, she is also wary of anyone else, nature (thunder, rain), technological advances (cars, cameras) and especially gun shots (occasional in our country neighborhood).

Nina and the blooming cherry tree
Nina and the blooming cherry tree

And Lola is a dog’s dog. She likes people okay, but she is all about chasing squirrels, running, and enjoying the outdoors. She’s also cool with stretching out on the living room rug. She has her flaws: a taste for neighbor’s chickens, a slight Alpha complex, but she is pretty much an all around good dog otherwise. She does not beg, does not get on the furniture, only barks if others do first. Lola was the runt of the litter (I think this is what caused her Alpha issues – a canine-Napoleon complex) and Sean rescued her before she was starved out by her siblings.

Nina, perpendicular to Lola
Nina, perpendicular to Lola
Lola getting a boost from Nina
Lola getting a boost from Nina

We were unsure of what it would be like to introduce a new little baby into this bustling household of doggies. Would she be part of their pack? Could she learn to out-Alpha Lola?

There were no problems when we brought little Maya Bell home – Anna and Lola became fairly indifferent, though Anna was initially peeved about losing her prime lap space, but Nina fell in love.


Nina, once dubbed by a friend, “the mean one”, now lets a toddler pull her ears, push her face, ride her back, and yank her tail. She sometimes is a little over zealous with baby-face kisses.


Our golden-eyed Nina is getting old. Because she was a rescue, we are not sure of her exact age, but she is somewhere around 13. And our best guess is that she is a Pit-Lab mix. So that’s 91 in large breed years. We are noticing her sharp edges waring away a bit and we fear her hours are winding down.


I so hope that Maya remembers this wild beast that loves her so; this golden-eyed girl that found joy in her baby hands. And I will do my best to appreciate this love, this dog, these moments, and capture as many as I can for Maya to hold on to as she grows.

Maya on Nina

Cry it out, Baby

Lesson seven: Do what’s hard now to make it better in the long run

My cousin, Marie, asked me today whether I had written a post on “cry it out”, the method of teaching babies to comfort themselves and *phew* sleep through the night. She has a friend who is fried and exhausted and willing to try anything.

Well, first, I was so tickled that someone actually thought of my blog as a resource, even if I have known that person since the day she was born (so she is obligated to read it and like it). 🙂

Marie and Rae, mid - 80's
Marie and Rae, mid – 80’s
Rae and Marie, 2010? 2011?
Rae and Marie, 2010? 2011?

Second, I was uncomfortable with the idea of recommending this method to another parent. There is much debate over this controversial issue and I am not an authority and have done very little research. (I did read the article linked above, though).  All I can do it talk about my own experience.  I am not going onto the web and promoting that this is right for every baby and every family.

When I was exhausted, sleepless, stressed and crying for no reason in the middle of my workday (I went back to teaching when Maya Bell was four months old), a dear friend and colleague told me of her experience and now, I am telling it to you.

I will say, that I think I remember that this method has no effect on babies younger than six months, though my pediatrician didn’t see a problem with “practicing” it when Bell was five months old-ish. This was also
about the time we were transitioning Maya from sleeping in our room to her very own crib in her very own room.

There are specific how-to guides out there, but here is what we did:

We went through the every-day bedtime routine:

  • bath time around 5:30pm
  • singing and rocking and nursing/bottle around 6pm
  • put her down, hit the “whale” option on the Sleep Sheep noise machine (Maya never seemed to like the ocean waves as much as I wanted her to), and started the mobile
  • Then she cried.
  • After about 3 minutes, one of us would go in there, pick her up, sing “You Are My Sunshine” (but without the sad part in the 2nd stanza and taking out the 4th stanza completely)
  • Put her back down, and she would cry again.
  • This time, wait 5 minutes. Go back in, another hug, some brief crooning (have I mentioned that it’s probably my singing that was making her cry in the first place?), put her back down.
  • Rinse and repeat, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15, 20 – upping the span of minutes until you go in again each time.
  • Around round 3 or 4, I had to stand on the back porch so I couldn’t hear her. Often crying myself.
  • If I remember correctly, the longest this went on was about an hour.  Maybe an hour and a half.
  • When you are ready to give in, give it one more round – that’s usually when she finally would fall asleep

It was really difficult for about four days. Then, just like a snap, she slept.


I would wake her again just before I would go to bed – usually around 11pm or so – and nurse/give a bottle one last time.  From there, she would sleep straight through til 6:30-7am.

We all changed for the better.  A well rested mommy is a better mommy – there’s no debate about that one. The article linked above says that after a cry-it-out session, there are still stress hormones in the baby’s saliva.  That may be true, but in my, ahem, professional scientific opinion (not), that is a short lived symptom, because – and again, I can only speak from our personal experience – Maya stopped crying for more than a couple of minutes at bedtime.  She no longer created the stress hormones from the crying because she was no longer crying.

She was just sleeping. And like a champ!

She will be 2 next month.  And she is still an awesome sleeper.  There has been some recent night waking, but that is a whole new phase of being-almost-two and is its own e-mail chain in my baby/mommy circle.  Maybe that will be another post.  But for the last year and a half, Maya has slept about 12 hours a night. Hallelujah.

A well rested kiddo
A well rested kiddo

And now, our bedtime routine looks an awful lot like the one from back then, only much shorter:

  • 5:30 dinner time
  • 6:00 bath time
  • 6:30 read books, have some warm milk (we are currently switching from bottle to sippy cup here. Next step, move milk to dinner time and try the routine without the step, but we’re not quite there yet – that and potty training are on the docket for summertime, when Mommy (or Bob, as Maya calls me, short for Baba – she doesn’t say ‘M’s) isn’t teaching teenagers all day)
  • Brush teeth
  • In bed by 7.  Still listening to the whales.
  • 95% of the time, she sleeps on through until 7:30 0r 8am.  There is not even a peep or whimper out of her when we put her down now.  Not at all.

Again, I am just telling our own story here – no advocating or promoting of any particular school of thought – but this is was happened with us, and it’s been very nice.

The first time Auntie Marie met Maya
The first time Auntie Marie met Maya

Now if anyone has any tips on how to get her to say Mama, I’d love to hear it!

Lessons and Themes

Lesson Six: Find yourself through the stories

I think in themes.  It’s a hazard (benefit?) of my literary analysis training and day to day routine with students.  I cannot hear, read, watch or see anything without finding the theme of the incident, story, piece, etc.

When we are in elementary school, we are taught that the theme is the moral of the story.  This is not incorrect, and when students are stuck, I direct them to start again at this basic step.  But now, in my advanced literature classes (sounds fancy, right? Well, remember, it’s still only high school!), we talk about theme in terms of the universal human truth. The thing about the story that relates to being human.  The underlying current of understanding and connection. It leads to discussions about archetype and culture and basic humanity.  Theme is the language of my every day work life.

Teacher Rae
Teacher Rae

And I tend to apply it to the “real” world as well.  I have a narrative mind that turns each and every situation into a fictional story – which means that it must have been built with all of the nuts, bolts, stylistic choices and literary tools and devices authors use. I do not give enough credit to random coincidence or purposeless happenings.  Some might call it a faith in a higher power – some puppet master/story writer of our fates – that everything happens for a reason, but it really could just be my English teacher default 11th-grade-lit-analysis brain setting.

Whatever it is, I like it.  I feel better thinking that there is a lesson or purpose behind everything and that my life has some significant meaning.  (Students of mine will be very familiar with this vernacular of mine: significant moments, meaning, universal human truth…)

I recently read that a “successful blog” should have a theme.  And I have struggled with this – I do not want to have a separate blogs each  for my education musings,  my mommy blogging, and yet another for  my writing practice. Maybe those are genres, categories, not themes, but still – what is my theme here?

I started off my posts with “Lessons” and I kind of trailed off from that because it seemed a little kitschy, but it is the truth of my perspective and how my brain works.  I am writing this blog to make my own life lessons apparent to myself.

think haiku

To teach myself how to look, notice, appreciate, be grateful.

write haiku

To teach myself to write regularly.

So whether my readership is just me or if there are countless of you out there, that is my purpose here.  You may notice motifs arise and threads of themes begin to weave from post to post, whether they are tagged parenting or teaching, and my aim is to make that more purposeful.

Truth be told, this is a challenging time for me.  I am grabbing my story by the reigns and making purposeful notes to change it.  Don’t get me wrong: I have everything I need to be happy – the most wonderful family,  a good job, great friends, a sturdy home – and I am happy, but I am also unsettled and uncomfortable. I am at a crossroads (is it my age? The mid-30s?) and I am going to write until this path is clear.

Who is Rae?
Who is Rae?

Thank you for all of your support and guidance, friends, readers, universe, story writer in the sky. I am looking closely at the beautiful things in my life and I am listening and I am writing.

So, theme?  Universal human truth?

How about self-discovery?



One must know oneself to be happy. This is my bildungsroman* (just started a little later in life than Scout Finch or Holden Caulfield).

*German, a novel about the main character’s moral, psychological, or spiritual growth.