Remind Me

Remind me that I feel better when I do this.

Remind me that everything is improved with a trip outside.

Remind me that the world is more bright and lovely midday when I step into the grass rather than tuck my toes under on the couch.

Remind me that all I have to do – ALL I have to do – is to get out of the way. To be silent and wonder. To ask the question and wait. To not turn my somersaults of confusion and anxiety trying to twist myself into already knowing what I do not yet know. To not justify my every action when they are all wrong because the only right one is to listen.

Remind me that it cannot all be mine, but look at what is.

Remind me that I would be overwhelmed with more anyway.

Remind me that it is the space between: the cool air, the ghost outline of a mostly round moon in the afternoon, the pine needles oddly tinkling like the sound of icicles in the spring breeze, the new baby-green buds born on the old dogwood branches.

Remind me that those trees in my yard have been there long before my comings and goings, my doings and not-doings, and they’ll be there, watching, long after. They are neither joyed nor dismayed by the antics of people in their yard, just observant.

Remind me to be observant, too.

Remind me to rest my face in a half-smile so as not to frown as I concentrate. I want to smile at what I’m considering, because if I’m going to frown, I want to do it on purpose.

Remind me to ask people questions about their lives.

Remind me to not interrupt.

Remind me that the world is spinning, and the ozone, and gravity, and revolution, and isn’t that all amazing when I remember to not take it for granted?

Remind me to stop avoiding what is difficult, because hiding it behind my back just makes it harder to hold.

Remind me to be careful.

Remind me to be purposeful, because so often I am not, and I allow myself the ease of being carried on the momentum of how-things-happen, forgetting that I have options: agency or complacency.

Remind me that “one day” backwards is “day one”.

Remind me that my parents are proud of the adult I’ve become. Remind me that I don’t have to act childlike for them.

Remind me that there is no rush. But also remind me to do a little every day.

Remind me to spend some time cleaning out the dusty old notes, files, boxes, and unused things. Remind me to unclutter my head, too.

Remind me that I want to learn to garden. But that I can start with something familiar like lavender or forsythia, and wait to tackle vegetables another year.

Remind me to keep the pen moving.

Remind me I’ll miss it all when I’m gone: the quiet classroom, the chaos when it’s full. The young minds shooting thoughts out in every unorganized direction like fireworks. Too loud, too scary, too much, and my responsibility to reign all that flash and fire in and make it into a timed, bright show, on schedule and in order.

But I already know that when I look back, I’ll first remember all that color and light and beauty, and I’ll need to be reminded of the slog.


Chronicling Summer 2016

I find myself, everyday, making mental notes to myself to record the cute and wonderful things my kids are doing that I don’t want to forget.

Things that are so cute and wonderful it seems like I could never forget, but as I have learned from going through the early stages with Maya, do slip away. The immediate day to day routine incrementally adjusts to include the new skill that the baby acquires until it’s another norm taken for granted: Of course Cole can give hugs; I don’t remember a time when he couldn’t!

As much as I love going to my job, I am so grateful for this time home with my kids, so I can SEE these small advances and take note. It is miraculous to observe how things really do change day to day.

Cole is 13 1/2 months old.

Maya is 4 + a couple months.

  • Cole just started hugging for real within the past week or two. For as long as I can remember, he has “given hugs” by turning his face so that his cheek is on your chest,  tucking his arms down by his sides, and pressing into you. But recently, when he woke in the middle of the night because of whatever ghosts haunt a baby’s sleep, I went in to pick him up, coo, and settle him back down, and when I lifted him, he wrapped his wiry baby arms around my neck and squeezed with all of his little might. I may have teared up in the face of such beauty and reason for living.
  • He also, occasionally, will give what we call an “Ahhh-kiss”: two people put their open mouths together while saying “Ahhhhhh,” like we each have a tiny dentist in our mouths that needs to check out the other’s teeth. (Maya and I have a whole repertoire of kiss types that we run through at bedtime: Butterfly kisses, Vacuum kisses, Ahhh-kisses, Cheek kisses, Surprise kisses, Herbert kisses, Fish kisses…)
  • He will make a kiss face and smacking sound when sitting alone, but has not put that together with actually delivering a smooch yet.
  • Cole is starting to experiment with how forks and spoons work. This mostly results in food flying off of his plate/placemat and raining down a buffet of treats for the dog hovering under his high chair, but sometimes he gets food to his mouth while using a tool.
  • He’s tall. He can get things off of all counters now. Move the knives and coffee mugs back.
  • He really loves lift-the-flap books right now. He will carry a book over to me, then turn around and back himself up until he plops down on my lap. So damn cute.
  • He says “Mama, Dada, Maya, Nana, Gigi” but not always exactly with purpose. For example, he says “Dada” almost any time he is expressing joy. Or anytime he sees a truck. Or a car. Or a cloud. Or whatever. And he yells “Mamamamamama” if he is at all upset. A friend recently told me that that is where those terms came from: Fathers are “Dada” because that is the sound of joy that babies make, and this helps fathers to bond with their babies, and Mothers are “Mama” because that is the sound expressed when a babe is in need of comfort. I can’t officially cite this etymology, but it seems to hold true in our household.
  • He LOVES to dance. He sways back and forth, marches his feet, and pumps his arms up and down. It is so damn cute. He will dance to any Pandora station, theme songs on TV, or even low background music behind the long list of side effects in a prescription drug commercial. Or if I sing. Or if he sings to himself (Da, da, da, da, La, la, la, la).
  • His absolute favorite food is frozen blueberries. And he can drink an adult sized smoothie no problem. He also likes beans and sweet potatoes. He is not too keen on salty or garlicky foods yet.
  • He smiles all the time. He is a very happy kid.
  • He climbs and climbs and climbs and climbs. And has recently begun to consistently get himself down by putting his feet first. This has been a big step for me as it means I don’t have to constantly hover or jump across the room if he’s standing on Maya’s art table. I know now that he can get himself down.
  • He can bark like a dog (oof, oof), tweet like a bird (a high pitched eep, eep), growl like a bear, and hiss like a snake.
  • He can play peek-a-boo himself – when did this start!? I don’t know! But I do remember Maya playing this game with my scarf when she was 15 months old and we were on our CA road trip.
  • He has 8 teeth – 4 up top, 4 below.
  • He has started playing with our reactions if he screams at the highest possible pitch. Usually in a restaurant. Hilarious.
  • As I write this, he just opened the magazine on the dining room table, pointed at the Ralph Lauren Polo model and said, “Daddy”. You betcha, son.
  • He’s gentle with patting the dogs, but occasionally hits and bites Maya.
  • He knocks on the window and waves bye-bye to Daddy.
  • He will run up to us, hundreds of times a day, and hug us around our legs out of the blue.
  • He understands:
    • If I say, “Where is your paci?” he will point to where it fell/he threw it.
    • This morning, he brought me Maya’s detangling spray we use to coax the rat’s nest out of her lovely long hair, and then bowed his head and waited for me to spray his light tuft of wispy hair.
    • As I made Maya’s bed after Sean took her to school, Cole picked up the throw pillows one by one and stacked them on her bed, already having observed the job she usually does in the morning.

  • Pushing her toy baby stroller is his favorite thing to do. But he will also happily push the toy shopping cart, though it doesn’t handle turns as well as her lithe sports model wheels.
  • He naps (usually) twice a day: Once at 9am and again around 1:30/2pm. He wakes at 6am and goes to bed at 6:30pm. The clockwork of his schedule is just enough structure to keep my day moving productively. I’m not so great with wide open free time. I need something else to build the parameters. I do yoga when he goes down for morning nap. Period. No wavering or justifying. No doing the dishes first. Stick to the schedule.
  • Maya is capable of everything. Everything.

  • I love the way she says “Okay,” when she’s satisfied with an answer we’ve given her, her voice lifting at the end like she’s checking an item off of a list.
  • She has had walking pneumonia this past week (low fever and yucky cough, fixed with antibiotics), and having her home with me each day, I have learned that she really enjoys making her bed, helping me with mine, and is totally fine with picking things up and putting them away. I did not realize this when we were rushing to and from work/school and leaving detritus in our wake of getting ready for our outside-the-home lives.
  • She enjoys pushing her baby stroller (with Little Red Riding Hood – a doll she “found” (thanks to Gigi) in a rabbit hole in a tree out by the river behind my mom’s house) along side my big stroller as we take slow morning walks on the Morgan Creek Trail before the day gets too hot.
  • She can name a bunch of different birds and plants.
    • “I smell honeysuckle! Where is it? I want to drink it. Oh, there it is; too far down on the rocks to get to.”
    • “There’s a redbird! It’s a boy cardinal because it’s red. The girls are brown.”
    • She can identify the plants in our yard: eucalyptus, black-eyed susans, rosemary, irises (“Like my friend, Iris!”), day lilies (“like Aunt Lily!”), dogwood trees, a magnolia (“Like my friend, Magnolia!”), crepe myrtles, and a bradford pear that “smells like dirty socks.”
    • She asks me why she has mosquito bites or needs to look out for poison ivy. I tell her it’s because it’s North Carolina in the summer.
  • She still starts to cry at any bump, bruise, scrape, or stub, but the meltdown is much shorter and she seems to be confident in her body’s ability to heal quickly. She also finds comfort in band-aids and will reluctantly allow me to clean any cuts with hydrogen peroxide (“bubbles”). Though she will scream/cry the whole time, she will hold her own arm or leg out over the bathroom sink so that I can pour it over her boo-boo.
  • She asks us multiple times per day, “What are you going to do tomorrow?” and laughs like we’re the butt of a joke when we make a fake-exasperated face and give her the same answer we already gave 10 minutes prior.
  • I am currently trying to talk her into a hair trim – my main line of reasoning consists of using the theme from The Little Prince, which the two of us went to see at Carrboro High not so long ago – a wonderful student production. We must take care of our own “little planet” – this can mean picking up and cleaning our home, but also can mean taking care of our bodies by washing, brushing our hair/teeth, trimming our nails, and yes, even our hair. I also parallel it to pulling off the yellow and brown leaves from the plants on the porch – it’s good for the plant, and good for your hair to trim off the dying ends so more healthy hair can grow like Rapunzel’s. Yesterday she agreed to do it “when I’m 5”, but I suggested she may have to decide while she’s still 4.


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.