Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Gut-Punched (in the best possible way)

My to-do list for today is huge.  Huge!  But I can't get to a single thing on it because I got a little blindsided this morning by this video, which a former student posted to my Facebook wall:

The short story is that the year I came back from China I was asked to be video taped teaching, so the video could be shown to teachers in training in California.  This sounds much, MUCH more exciting than it actually is.  I wasn't necessarily chosen because I am some sort of teaching god, more because I was a willing participant and didn't care if credential students nit-picked my work.

The people in charge promised to send me the video so I'd have it for my portfolio, and they never did.  I asked several times since moving for the video, all with no results. I'd pretty much forgotten about it, until this student posted it on my wall because a friend of his had to watch it in his teacher credentialing class.

So I watched it this morning, while the monkeys ate breakfast.

(Not eating breakfast, sorry.  This was a couple weeks ago.)

And I cried and cried.  Big, fat, ugly tears. For so many things.  How much I miss the classroom (I do, I do!), how much I miss these kids in particular (they were AWESOME), the state of my hair (wha?!). But mostly for the woman in that video who is so, so young to me, not because she's all that much younger but because she doesn't know Anna and Aaron yet, she doesn't know that in less than a year she will call Minnesota home, she thinks she knows blessings and happiness but she doesn't.  She really doesn't.

But here's the real story, people.  All of that is good, all those wonderful teacher emotions you can't put a price tag on, all the pride I got from my career... seeing the video was a reminder of who I was (still am), and all that teacher-y stuff is great, so great.

However, if you look at that video closely, you'll notice something.  Stooped posture because... pooched-out belly that I thought my shirt hid pretty well... tired, tired eyes.  I was pregnant in that video, or at least I thought I was, despite all the doctors who kept looking at me with serious eyes and saying things like, 'Hmm.  Let's check again in a week.  Be hopeful.'  This video was taken during a yucky, yucky time, and this woman in her thirties has a serious talent for blocking out yucky times.

Seeing it and going back to that moment this morning was like a punch in the gut. Memories, before and after, so many tears, so much secrecy... am I the only one who senses a tug in my voice?  A strain? I have almost no pictures of that time, and for good reason.  But now I have video, plain as can be.  That is me, teacher.  It is also me, woman.  Aching for so many reasons.

Still, I am beyond grateful that this video has surfaced.  That group of kids was-- I'm not kidding-- a saving grace for me.  Despite the bad memories, there are so many good ones.  That classroom was inspiration for The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High.  I made great friends teaching at that school, many of whom I'm still in contact with.  It was during that time that L showed me the man and father he was capable of being, and here we are.  Happy.  Blessed.

People often talk about the importance of letting go of the past, and I think that's mostly true.  Today, however, I'm glad that it's crept back upon me.  When given a chance, it's okay for a woman in her thirties to take a moment to acknowledge the past. All she's been through, all she's done.  Even all that might have been.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties has a Great- Really Great- Summer

Anna and Aaron had their school open house today, which can only mean one thing:  summer is almost over.  It is with a heavy heart that I write that sentence, because this summer has been the best in this woman in her thirties' recent memory.  Here's why:

1.  We slept.

Let me tell you a little something about this sweet face.  Aaron turned two on June 21, and on that day he decided he was going to start sleeping like a normal human being.  That's right-- two solid years of sleep deprivation over here.  Sure, we had our occasional breaks (one lasted FOUR WHOLE DAYS!) but for the most part, this stink pot was up 2-3 times a night, and I was definitely going crazy.  That is not to mention this other stink pot:

For whom nightmares have plagued us for the last year or so.  But this summer, by a miraculous act of God, we have slept.  And I haven't taken a single night of it for granted.

2.  I "worked".

If you can call hanging out with super fun and motivated kids and helping them write creatively "work".  Teaching this summer was a joy on a million levels, and I loved every minute of it. I blogged about it here.

3.  We played.  

In the last three years of at-home momhood, I've felt fairly chained to the house for naps, meals, and various other anxiety-ridden baby activities.  Not this summer.  Here are some of my favorite outings:

The splash pad.  Whoever thought of this concept is a genius.  

The community pool.  This was the first year I've been able to go and actually enjoy myself.  Not in a relax-with-a-book kind of way, but in a my-kids-are-so-much-more-independant kind of way.

Lake Harriet.  Aaron's favorite summer activity is throwing rocks into bodies of water.  He's quite talented at it.  

Bike riding.

Playgrounds.  Lots of playgrounds. Hardly any rocks were consumed.

4.  I joined a CSA.

I have wanted to join a CSA for years, but this year I finally gave it a shot and shared with a friend. Best decision ever!  I'll blog more about this later.

Fresh eggs!  Every week!

5.  We vacationed.

I already talked about our Dirty Dancing vacation, which was awesome.  But last weekend we went to SoCal for my beautiful, wonderful cousin's wedding.  Here we are, investigating the Pacific Ocean (which Anna kept calling Lake Harriet):

Anna reaped the benefits of her first pinata:

And throughout all the chaos of the weekend, I was so grateful for a chance to catch up with family I all-too-rarely see.  

Mommy :)

Grateful, grateful, grateful for a great summer!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Goes on Vacation

You know those families who take vacations all the time?  The ones who, despite crazy hectic lives and unpredictable children are always off doing something fun? Since having kids, I have harbored a secret jealousy of these brave people. I see their Facebook posts of their smiling toddlers exploring a new place and think, 'I wish I was a cool mom, like that.'

Earlier this year (probably during the polar vortex) I told L that it was time to start taking vacations.  At least once a year.  Sure, we've gone on trips since the kids have been born, but we still have PTSD from a couple of those.  I'm talking pack-up-the-family-with-the-intent-to-make-memories kind of vacation. Anna is three and a half, and Aaron is two.  It's time.

A couple years ago we met another couple here, J and J.  Well, L met J first. The way I tell the story when people ask how we met is by saying that they fell in love, because it's mostly true.  L liked J so much that I was actually nervous to meet his wife because I wanted so much to like her (and her me) the same way our husbands liked each other.  Well, we did.  And we now have combined our last names and are looking at building a compound so we can live together for always.

J and J suggested we all go to a place called Grandview Lodge, which apparently every single person in the Midwest has heard of and gone to before, except L and me.  We rented a huge cabin, had most meals included, and went on all kinds of adventures.  (This is GLAMping, people.  This woman in her thirties doesn't camp.)  Here are a few highlights:

(Our first of many chaotic meals.)

(Our first of many ice cream cones.)

(The captain and his first mates.)

(Had to stop and take a picture of this on our bike ride on the Paul Bunyan trail.  All those signs point to people's cabins.  So Minnesota.)

(Aaron's first s'more)

(Turtle races in downtown Nisswa.)

(Yes, we had shirts made for the trip. Deal.)

(We had a babysitter one night and went out for a nice dinner.  We shut the place down and may or may not have sung along to Richard Marx, Toto, and most of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack that was playing over the speakers.  Good, good times.)

The looks on my kids' faces in this last photo pretty much sums up how we all felt about leaving. A wonderful week with wonderful people, and we are so very grateful for all of it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Slows Down.

For awhile now, Anna has had a bit of a stutter.  At first it seemed like no big deal, and all of my parenting books confirmed it for me:  lots of kids stutter, and most grow out of it.  But then it wasn't going away, and then it started to get noticeably worse, and long story short, a few weeks ago we took her for a speech therapy evaluation.

I like to think I have a bit of an advantage in parenting since I was a teacher.  Sure, the first few years are crazy-town, but after that I can deal with schedule, discipline, and that oh-so-delicate balance of tough and love.  I've done it many, many times.  How could my child be different?

The evaluation itself was good.  The therapist saw a bit of what we saw, but didn't seem terribly concerned.  We are to watch it and be patient, both with Anna and with the 'disfluency' (as it is now known).  Okay, we both said.  Phew.

At the end of the evaluation, however, the teacher in me came out.  'Be patient', sure, but what else could I do? Surely there was a workbook out there, or a book I could read, or some sort of work I could do with her at home?

'The best thing you can do,' the therapist said, 'is to slow down yourself.'

'What, you mean my speech?'

'Yes, your speech.  And everything else.  Just slow down.'


I believe parenting-- like teaching-- is unique in that it places a big, glaring spotlight on your strengths and weaknesses as a human being.  I have lots of strengths in my life.  Lots!

Slowing down is not one of them.

In the weeks since that appointment, the advice to slow down has been at the forefront of my brain.  Slow down, yet our schedule is packed every single day, and hurry up get in the door before the flies get in, and could you please walk a little faster because I've already lost your brother, and oh, I'd love to talk to you about butterflies right now but we have to go. Go. GO!

As is is now August, and summer is... gulp... almost over, I have three to-dos.  (To-do lists being one of my strengths, mind you.)

1.  Eat pretzel curds at the State Fair
2.  Experience a real-life Dirty Dancing Vacation (more on that later)
3.  And slow down and enjoy these precious moments.  For Anna, and also for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties on Fifty Years

My in-laws have been married fifty years this year, so we celebrated this weekend.  Before I go into a post about it, I think we need to break that first sentence down.

These people got married in 1964:


In talking about how to celebrate this milestone, I saw a common theme among my married friends and family:  Making it to fifty years of marriage is downright incredible.  Marriage is hard, hard work.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  My ALMOST SIX years have been nothing but magical walks on the beach...

Magic, I tell you. 

But fifty?  FIFTY? That takes some serious commitment, people.

The evening was marked with speeches and toasts, all from friends and family both distant and not-so-distant, but everyone touched on that aspect of marriage.  The ups.  The downs.  The decisions that need to be made along the way to stick it out, stay in love, hold hands and make it through.  I can't speak for everyone there, but it was certainly a lesson in perspective for me.

Oh, and the dancing:

And serenading (amaze):

And catching up with family and friends:

And feeling the sense of community that comes from fifty years. In my very brief toast, I said that Ye Ye and Nie Nie's fifty years have been a blessing to all of us, and I meant it.  I know as a fact that they still, after all this time, snuggle up on the couch with popcorn and whatever Michigan game is on TV. A woman in her thirties might get caught up in life goals, money, the long list of 'wants' in her life, but I can't imagine anything better than that.

So happy anniversary to my wonderful in-laws.  May you have fifty more years of happiness, and may that happiness be punctuated by many Michigan wins.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties and the Lonely Boy at the Zoo

Last month, Anna and I went to the zoo. We were supposed to see butterflies, but unfortunately that exhibit wasn't open yet.  So we saw penguins instead.

Then we grabbed some lunch-- a slice of pizza to share.  It was a great morning, actually. I don't ever take my girl time with Anna for granted.

There were school groups everywhere, as is often the case at the zoo.  But as we were leaving, I noticed a boy sitting by himself at a table, obviously friend-less and very alone.

(Full disclosure:  In seven years teaching, I never figured out how to deal with the emotions I feel regarding the excluded kids.  It got so bad that there was a while there when I would avoid leaving my classroom at lunch for fear of seeing a kid like this one, sitting alone in the hallway, waiting for the bell to ring so their humiliation could end.  It kills me.  KILLS me.)

So we walked by him and I gave him a weak smile, then Anna and I proceeded to the aquarium so we could see a couple more things:

But I could not get this kid out of my head.  I know I was only seeing him for a tiny second of his life, and maybe his life is totally happy otherwise, but this second was just so painful that it brought tears to my eyes.

So that night, Anna and I said our prayers.  Our prayers consist of two things:  Things we thank God for and things to ask God for (hey, I'm a work in progress here).  Anna always thanks God for "Uncle Chris" and her "Cousin Uncle Patrick".  We usually pray for Grandma, Ye Ye and Nie Nie, and all of our friends.  

But this night, I said, "Let's say a prayer for the lonely boy at the zoo.  That he finds a friend."

Anna agreed, and that was that.  But then the next night, after a fabulous day at the art fair, when we said our prayers....

... her first words were, "We have to pray for the lonely boy at the zoo."

I smiled, of course, and said yes.  And then the next night, and every night since then.

Finally a couple weeks ago she had an epiphany. "Momma? The lonely boy needs a friend."

I said, "Yes, Bubbie, the lonely boy does need a friend."

She thought about it for a second. "How about I be his friend?"

A woman in her thirties who is a mom has many proud moments.  My day is filled with proud moments.  But I can't think of anything that makes me more proud than my sweet Anna's enormous heart.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties, the Second

Dear Mister Buddy,

Tomorrow is your birthday.  Again.  Two.  As in, years old:

Mimsydotes.  She captured you perfectly.  P.S. you faceplanted about thirty seconds after this photo was taken.  

Let's talk about you, shall we Mister?  Things you love:




Your favorite two people in the world:

Nie Nie.  There are no words describe your love for Nie Nie.

And Anna.  Happiness, for you, is playing with your sister:

See that look on your face in that last picture?  Joy. That is you.  You are all joy, all energy, all the time.  

Of course, all that energy has a downside.  I am constantly in running shoes so I can keep up with you.  You did not get Anna's compliant nature, so when you want something you are GOING TO GET THAT SOMETHING.  And when you don't want something, say, oh I don't know, 


Well, let's just say I pity the person you fall in love with someday, the one who's going to have to say no to these giant brown eyes:

Seriously.  It's a challenge.

It wouldn't be your birthday if I didn't get a little sentimental, but I'm really going to try this year.  When I wake up tomorrow morning and remember where we were last year at this time...

And then just one short year before that...

When I remember the fullness in my heart knowing just how blessed we were...

I'm going to hold it together.  Really, I am.  On the outside.

But on the inside... well you know.  Because we're so lucky, and you're growing up so fast, and seeing you become the boy you are brings me so much happiness that sometimes I'm fairly sure I might burst with it all.

So happy birthday to my sweet boy, my sleepless wonder, my picky eater, my butterfly chaser and big, wet kiss giver.  My days with you are as crazy as they are wonderful.