On Being Done

A funny thing happened in the last month.  I did a flip-flop.

Jude turned 1 in November, and although I’d been on the fence about if I wanted more kids, his first birthday made me absolutely certain of how I wanted the future to unfold.  I couldn’t imagine never celebrating another first birthday, never watching a little one seemingly reach new milestones every day, never having a doctor place a squeaky new baby on my chest and proclaim, “Congratulations!”  I wanted another baby.  I was sure.

I don’t know what changed, but about 6 weeks ago something shifted and I’ve gradually gone completely to the other side.  Another baby?  HA!  Me?  No way!  Please don’t make me go through the drama of a sleepless first year again!  And colic!  Colic is not worth the risk!  Please don’t make me start over!  And, most importantly, please don’t make me do another torturous pregnancy!

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 Jude, my favorite little elf

It’s the pregnancy part the has always made me hesitate.  Jude’s pregnancy was far from easy.  And not just hard, but risky.

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 In the hospital with a blood pressure headache.  Fun times.

When I developed preeclampsia, I spent a lot of time trying not to panic that I was going to start seizing and leave my children with a vegetable as a mother.  I’m sure that was good for my blood pressure…

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Gabe meeting Isla

On the other hand, the wonder of a newborn and the relationships between siblings are the things that have drawn me toward another child.  There’s just nothing like them – no replacement.  I’ve never doubted my feelings about these things.  They’re precisely why I pushed through infertility for so goshdarn long without giving up.

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Full hands, happy heart. And Isla got a giant black eye about 5 minutes after this happened.

But I’m 37, and I’d be at least 38 by the time I had another baby, maybe older.  I’d be higher risk due to age and prior medical issues.  We currently fit in a regular rental car – no upgrade to a van or SUV necessary.  Regular hotel rooms still accept us.  A 3-bedroom house, although not ideal, is doable.  Plus the biggie – I have my hands full.

When I think about all of this, I still feel a little pang, so I don’t think I’ve made my peace with a final decision yet.  But I think I’m moving in that direction.

February Goals

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It’s getting a little late to set goals for February since we’re nearly halfway through (!!), but I wanted to get something down anyway so I can hold myself accountable for something.  It’s the whole “if you aim at nothing you hit nothing” sort of thing, right?

Here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with the time I have left in February…

1.  Celebrate Valentine’s Day by doing something special || V-day usually ends up being just another day around here.  I’d like to do something special – little, but special – for Tahd and the kids.

2.  Lose 2 pounds || somehow, for Tahd’s work/insurance/incentive program, I’ve been roped into health coaching.  I set a 3 month goal to lose 8 pounds, so it’d be awfully nice to get started with it right away. Usually, when I set a goal to lose weight, I gain weight.  So we’ll see what happens here…

3.  Finish reading 2 books || I’m working on about 42 books.  I’m closest to finishing Train Like A Mother, The Andy Cohen Diaries, Disease Proof, and Breathing Room.  Hopefully I can knock out two of these.

4. Drink 10 cups of water every day || I’ve been doing pretty well with this in 2015.  It was a lot at first, but it’s getting much more manageable.  I fell off the wagon around my birthday and have been trying to get back on.  I’d like to really get back on the wagon and keep it up.

5.  Go to bed by 11:30 at least three times || my regular bedtime is 1:30.  Late is 2:00 (or after).  Early is anything in the 12s.  It’s a horrible plan.  I need more sleep.

6.  Put together the January-a-day photos || I kept up reasonably well with my plan to take a photo a day in January, so I’d like to get these photos into some templates so I stand a chance of printing them into a photo book at the end of the year.

7.  Take some detail photos || almost 100% of my photo-a-day photos are of the kids – who I love deeply, but I’d like some variety in my photo project, too.

Are you working on any goals this month?

There’s No Cute Little Bow On Top

I enjoy writing stories.  Pulling at a thread from within my days and unraveling it helps me make sense of my life, reminds me of my priorities, and refocuses me for the future.  When I blog, I often wait until I’ve figured out what the story is before I write my account.  But sometimes I think that gives the impression that everything in my life is happy and buttoned up and topped with a cute little bow.

That’s so not the case.  This week is a perfect example of that.  I thought I’d write it down – the as-it’s-happening, raw details without the cohesive story thread running through them.  There’s no conclusion, no lesson, no ending, not yet, at least.

Sunday & Monday

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It started Sunday with a blizzard I wasn’t expecting.  We got a lot of the snow cleared out before it was over because Tahd was leaving Monday morning – really, in the middle of the night around 4:00 – for a work trip.  He got up at 3:00 AM to snowblow the back to make sure we could get the car out in time for his flight.

We bought a car last October, a long-overdue replacement for a series of vehicles that had been on their last legs.  I did a lot of research and we were very careful with our priorities and our finances in order to pick a vehicle that would serve us well for the next 6-8 years, especially since Tahd travels a ton and I do a lot of driving.  We ended up with a 2008 Honda Odyssey minivan and have been loving it.

I drove Tahd to the airport, and within 10 minutes after I dropped him off, my check engine light came on.  Not just on, but on and flashing.  I drew upon my mad google skills and learned that the whole flashing phenomenon is a bad sign.  <sigh>

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We still had lots of snow removal to do on Monday, and since it was all up to me, I bundled up all three kids and put Jude in the Ergo and headed outside to get to work.  Snow removal is hard work to begin with.  Snow removal with a baby strapped to you?  It’s no joke.  But we got it done, and thankfully it wasn’t windy that day so nobody minded being outside.

Tuesday

I didn’t go anywhere else on Monday, but when I started the car on Tuesday, the light was still flashing, so I took it into the Honda dealership. By the time I got there, the light was off.   They told me to go home and make arrangements for alternative transportation.  They rubbed me the wrong way, though, so I came home and made arrangements with my neighbor to look at it.  He and his son recently opened an automotive shop, and he used to be an automotive instructor at a local technical college.  I totally trust them.

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It snowed again on Tuesday.  I nearly cried.  I also got the shovel caught on a lip in the sidewalk and rammed my upper thigh into the butt end of the handle.  It’s swollen, purple, and sore.

During naptime, I laid down with Jude.  When he woke up and was sitting on the bed with me while holding my phone, he unexpectedly slammed his head back and nailed me on the bridge of the nose.  The bony part.  I think it’s broken.  I’m pretty sure. My nose has a saga.  The last thing it needs is another break.  But my children have a magnetic attraction to it, specifically to smashing it.

Isla has been screaming all week.  Especially after naps.  It’s loud and long and shrill and usually occurs in the car.  Jude realized that sometimes I put leftover food in the trash, and he’s been retrieving it.  And eating it.

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Wednesday

Wednesday, I took the van in.  I could make a story out of that, but the long and short of it is that our new-to-us van that came with a stellar reputation and excellent maintenance records quite possibly needs a new engine.  WE HADN’T EVEN HAD IT LONG ENOUGH TO HAVE AN OIL CHANGE YET.  I’m furious.  It’s not for sure yet, but the more they looked things over, the more it seems likely that we’re going to end up paying the equivalent of a lovely family vacation to fix our NEW car.  I cried.

I’ve been washing the same load of laundry for 3 days because I keep forgetting about it.

Today

Today started with Gabe getting angry at me for complaining.  Apparently, I was complaining that he wouldn’t comb his hair and that he hadn’t handed in his homework.  Which he then blamed me for losing.

After school, I took the kids to Target.  Gabe played the recorder the whole way there.  While we were there, people stared, and it wasn’t because we were cute.

Then we went out to dinner, and finally to soccer, at which I lost at least 3 years from my life expectancy because the spectators sit on the stage, and both my little children are magnetically drawn to its edge, which is at least 3 feet off the ground.  I didn’t see a thing Gabe did because I constantly had one hand on one child and eyes on the other. Oh, and Jude screamed most of the time and tried to practice his newfound walking skills.

Related: 3 foot high stage.

When that ended, we came home and I fell down the stairs.  I cried again.  Isla tried to comfort me by giving me a cuddle a la Doc McStuffins, but I just cried harder.  Then Tahd and I argued about his travel schedule – over the phone, because he’s still not home.

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Nobody died.  No one is ill.  Perspective is a good thing.  But this week still stunk, and I’ll be glad when this week is turned over to the history books and I can see it (and it’s story) from the other side.

Why I Quit Teaching – Part Two

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Part One here

I know I said I’d be back last week with the second part, but whew!  Digging back into one of the most anxious, stressful periods in your life isn’t exactly fun!  ;)  Cathartic, maybe?  I’ll have one final part to this, but it’ll probably be next week before I get it done.

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Do you know how hard it is to live on $18,900 per year?  Even 12 years ago in rural Maine, it was next to impossible.  Tahd got a job at a lumber yard (and later a conservation district), but in spite of slaving away for hours, we carried some debt that felt oppressive, especially since the salary scale made little more than miniature increases during the first few years.

Also, the 8th graders I started with had a well-earned reputation for being very intense.  Full of energy and mischief, they went well beyond being a handful most days.  Being a people pleaser, conflict is hard for me.  Being a young people pleaser, teaching rascally children who weren’t much younger than I was?  Well, let’s just say classroom management was arduous.  Looking back, I comfort myself with the fact that I didn’t struggle to manage all the classrooms, so I must have had some skills, but as far as I was concerned, that group lived up to its reputation.

Adding to the things stacked against me was the fact that the middle school health teacher saw all the kids in the school twice a week.  Instead of learning 30 or 60 or even 90 kids – their names, learning styles, and personalities – I had to learn about 250.  Grading was a logistical nightmare.  I was constantly drowning in work, feeling like I wanted to give more of myself but not having more to give.

Yet, the kids!  I loved the kids!  They entertained me, delighted me, and fascinated me, and I carved little places in my heart for each of them.  Several of them have since found me on Facebook, and I love getting to peek into their adult lives, to see who they are now, to hope they’re thriving.  Even the mischievous ones!  I still think about them and hope they’re well.  While chaperoning one of the dances, a group of girls cornered me to ask me why I didn’t have children and if I was going to have any, and I told them I already had 250 of them (the number of students I saw each week) – why would I need anymore?

Of course, I did want children of my own, and that was one reason I got done.  We wanted to start a family and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother.  I couldn’t fathom being able to do justice to my own child and a hundred other children at the same time.  Many teachers find that balancing point; I had no interest in even trying.

Second, I was exhausted.  I’d spent my first year at the middle school, but a position opened at the high school, and I transferred.  It was very much a mixed bag.  I preferred the high school setting – the regular schedule (middle school schedule was wonky), the high school environment, the breadth and depth of material covered, but it meant following the difficult 8th grade class and having them all again for a second year in a row.  The stress of staying one step ahead of them – and everything, really – had taken a tremendous toll on me.  In fact, it was during that time that I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and thyroid disease.  I was physically miserable.

Emotionally, things weren’t much better.  On this third front, I had such anxiety about my job that I just wanted to hide or run.  On one particularly difficult day, the administration had made what I felt was a particularly boneheaded decision, and the students were angry about it.  Basically, adults had complained to the administration about the girls’ attire.  It was true that girls often wore short skirts, short shirts, low-rise pants that exposed undergarments, and various other things.  The boys, however, also wore their pants around their knees with their boxers hanging out of the top, but the administration had decided to target only the girls with a 40 minute assembly demonstrating “What Not To Wear.”

Curiously, they planned the assembly to overlap half of period one and half of period two, thereby guaranteeing that teachers would be virtually unable to participate.  The whole situation was a disaster, and the female students were understandably irate at the glaring sexism.  The day the assembly was announced, the students were angry.  The girls were practically militant.  There was positively no time for learning, and I scrambled to attempt to salvage what I could while I had all I could do not to crawl behind my desk and hide.   This response in myself surprised me, but it was one of the experiences that made me start to realize how anxious I’d become.

At another time, I had rotating before-school cafeteria duty during my first year at the high school.  When the bell would ring, I’d head to my classroom to meet my first period students.  On the way, I’d pass an exit door, and I fought overwhelming urges to open the door and run.

When I started my second year at the high school – my third year overall – with an already-made countdown to the end of the year, I knew I something would have to change, sooner rather than later.

Why I Quit Teaching – Part One

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It seems like it was another lifetime ago, but at one time in my adulthood, I was a school teacher – a bona fide health teacher.  I spent approximately the first 17 years of my life dreaming of that career, 4 years educating myself, three years doing it – two of which I dreaded – and the last 12 years being eternally grateful that I had the chance to quit.

For the most part, I haven’t missed it, except for a few rare moments, usually revolving around new school supplies and curriculum development.  Also around identity, especially when it comes to my kids.  I worry about them thinking of me (and thereby extending that to all women) as “just” mommies, people who don’t/can’t/won’t/aren’t capable of contributing to the betterment of our broader society.  I don’t usually miss the kids because I have some.  I don’t miss the pressure because I have some of that, too.  ;)  I don’t miss being beholden to other children’s parents.  And I certainly don’t miss standards and alignment and tests and smart goals and grading and conferences and report cards.

But I’ve been surprised lately when sometimes – very rarely, mind you – I notice a pang.  Maybe do I possibly by chance perhaps want to be a teacher again?

(Tahd, don’t faint!)

The answer is a “mostly no” (I even let my certification lapse!) and a “resounding yes” (but not in public schools).  But these pangs have had me reflecting on why I got done in the first place and where I am with those thoughts 12 years later.

To set the stage, imagine a 7-year-old child who used to sneak white chalk to write letters and math problems on her white walls (hello…invisible) while she imagined imparting knowledge to classrooms full of eager, innocent children.  When my mother realized what I was doing (yes, it was invisible, but chalk leaves dust on brown carpet), she got me a chalkboard for my next Christmas and I commenced setting up shop while I tortured my younger sisters with lesson upon lesson.  Seven was when I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and although I considered other options, but the end of high school I was sure I wanted to be a school teacher.

I vascillated between teaching English and Health.  I’d had teachers in both subjects that I really admired and who had instilled for me a love for the content areas.  When I thought about what I wanted to study for 4 years of college, however, the idea of drowning in endless English classes with piles of books and papers made me overwhelmed, so I decided that I’d go with health.  It seemed more engaging and more practical to me.  In retrospect, it was an excellent choice.  I have used my degree – although not professionally – every day of my life since graduation.  It was not a wasted investment.

I didn’t get a teaching job right out of college.  I didn’t even really try.  I was betwixt and between, my family living in Illinois while I was graduating from a school in Maine.  I got a well-paying job nearby family, working for a private real estate assessment company.  Although it was a good job with interesting content, I’m more of a people person than I am a structures, buildings, and taxes person, and real estate didn’t make my heart beat fast like a classroom full of kids did.  When a job came open at my alma mater’s district, I jumped at the chance to apply.

As luck would have it, I got the job, all $18,900 per year (!!!), and Tahd and I – recently married – set out to move back to my girlhood town so I could teach health to grades 6, 7, and 8.  I remember one of my first days of school, thinking how lucky I was that I’d never dread going to work again – I had the job of my dreams and was going to stay there forever!

Part 2 later this week!

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