Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Slice: What I've learned from having children

When I was eighteen, I still didn't see myself ever being married or having children.

When I was twenty-three, my boyfriend and I talked about how many children we wanted to have--two, three tops if the first two were the same gender.

At twenty-seven, boyfriend-turned-husband and I had our first child, a micro-preemie.  Three years later, I had an early miscarriage.  One more year, and child number two was born, just a tad early and with an extra thumb and oh, I just happened to have HELLP syndrome.

It's a good thing we didn't want a dozen children.  These two have taught me plenty, and I expect more lessons to come.  I wanted to chronicle what I've learned as a parent...this may be a series of posts, as I've learned a LOT.
  • Life often does not go as planned, especially big events like childbirth.  My pregnancy with child no. 1 was going along just fine, right on schedule, then BAM!  Welcome to mommy-hood at 26 weeks!  Who needs that third trimester, anyway?
  • Doctors and nurses with great bedside manners are heaven-sent.  It also helps to supply said doctors and nurses with home-baked cookies--though I think they would have cared for and spoiled our daughter anyway (she was held a lot in the NICU by her nurse-mommies!).
  • Health insurance.  Enough said.
  • I picked the right guy to father my children.  He is a hands-on, providing, listening, doing-what-it-takes dad.  And he treats me very well--something I want both of our children to see and internalize.
  • I can handle really yucky bodily fluids of all kinds.  I think this helped me conquer my distaste for handling raw meat, too.  I was squeamish about making hamburgers before I had kids.  Now I can squish together a meatloaf with the best of 'em.  
  • I'm glad I was a teacher before I was a mom.  The experience honed my behavior management skills, and gave me lots of ideas to keep my kids engaged and learning during the summer--reading, doing crafts, going on field trips, listening to great music, playing outside, and letting them be bored to learn to entertain themselves.
  • No two children are alike.  I thought I had the baby thing down when child number two arrived.  I said so to our pediatrician when we were having feeding and sleeping issues, and he just laughed.  As a father of four himself, he knew better.
  • Even with help, moms break down.  There were moments that I deeply regret, when my skills weren't enough and my emotions got the best of me.  We made it through.  When you counter every child's utterance of "I hate you" with an "I love you, no matter what you say", the relationship is never in question.  It helps to remember that the child has an underdeveloped frontal lobe. Repeating to oneself "I am the adult.  I am the adult." can also do wonders.
  • Trust your experience and gut instincts, and seek help when you need it.  Physical therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists, speech therapists--they all have jobs for a reason.  And that reason is to help your kids.  I even learned to do play therapy, a skill that came in handy when I returned to the classroom.
I've learned more from parenting the first fifteen years than in the eighteen years of formal education I've received.  I keep learning, every day.
What have you learned by having children?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday Slice: An hour late, but for what?

I was supposed to get up an hour ago.  The sun isn't even completely up, and I've already disappointed myself.

Why do I feel this way?  I'm on summer break!  I should be luxuriating in the ability to arise whenever I feel like it (except for the next three days, when I'm back to work hours for iPadPalooza).

There's this urgency for me to be up and at 'em on these fleeting vacation days, to tick tasks off my to-do list that seems to grow exponentially while I'm working.  Teachers don't do spring cleaning--they do summer cleaning.  And summer reading, and planning, and professional development.

I've also had more restless nights since school got out than I had during my last work calendar.  Library needs, lesson ideas, work-related issues have kept me awake at least twice this past week.  This rarely happens August through May.

There have been attempts to get into summer mode:  a lazy day last Friday, swimming, sitting on the back porch celebrating the solstice yesterday.  Going braless at home (I had forgotten how good that feels!).  But I'm still driven to fill up my planning diary with self-imposed assignments.

Maybe this is a detoxification process, my mind and body shaking off the stress of the school year, like a fever burning off an infection.  Infectious laughter would be more suitable for this season of rest and rejuvenation.  
Summer solstice sun, from my backyard.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Slice: Summer not summer

I just looked at the calendar and figured out how many completely open weeks without work-related events I have this summer.

Four weeks.  Just four weeks.  When one considers that my work calendar ended on June 9th and doesn't start again until August 8th, four weeks doesn't make sense.

I've done this to myself.  I'm going to work today, as I did yesterday and will do through Thursday, because my library is nowhere near August ready.  (If it's not done by Thursday, though, it's not getting done until August.  I'm putting my foot down!)

I signed up for the three-day iPadPalooza conference, hoping I can get more ideas for iPad use in the library.  Then there's the one full day and three half days of district-level workshops (also tech-related), and the half-day presentation I'm co-presenting (which will take a few days to put together prior).

Add that to my to-read pile of Bluebonnet and professional books....and this entire summer is laced with work.  Unpaid work, except for the presentation I'm doing.

Yes, I chose to do these things, because I am a lifelong learner. I also love my job.

I do not want my job to become my life, however.  That happened before, as a young teacher, and I was burned to a crisp after six years.

I'm going to keep that in mind when I plan next summer.  Something's gotta give. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tuesday Slice: Oz and Kansas

The last four days on my work calendar for the school year are quiet days.  I only counted seven people yesterday, minus the few that came in to interview for open positions--three administrators, the registrar, two custodians, and myself.

I'm able to get to the tasks that have eluded me during the chaotic month of May.  Yesterday, I tabulated the last of the funds that came in for birthday book donations, lost lunch cards, and lost and damaged books.

This is only my third year as a librarian, but I don't think I've had as many payments for lost books as those I tabulated yesterday.  It made me wonder if the books were truly lost, or was it just easier to write the check after a quick search didn't turn them up?

I headed to the office to let them know I was leaving for the day, and mentioned the payments to my assistant principal.  She pointed to four very large plastic bags sitting in the front hall, labeled "Goodwill".

"Jackets," she said.  "I haven't seen so many jackets left behind before.  Really nice labels on them, too.  And water bottles--some worth ten, twenty bucks, just thrown away."

While I was tabulating that money, a friend who subbed at my current school texted to tell me she was interviewing at my former campus.  What could I tell her about it?

Great principal, I texted back.  Smaller school means smaller teams means camaraderie.  It's an IB-PYP and Capturing Kids Hearts school, both wonderful programs that have made a positive impact there.

The teacher websites are lacking, she texted.  I replied that when the learning community doesn't have much access to the internet, the websites aren't a priority.  And there aren't as many volunteers--very few, really--because parents are working, home with younger siblings, and/or lacking transportation.  Teachers are busy doing there what volunteers help with here.  

There are more ESL students, more struggling readers, more behavior issues.  Low-income means homes with fewer books and extracurricular opportunities.  I told my friend that she needs to be very, very aware of the differences between here and there.

It hasn't ceased to amaze me, the existence of Oz and Kansas, just a twenty-minute drive apart in our school district.  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Dreaming is an act of self-care

I hit a wall at 34.  I realized I had no vision of my future.  My life was full of work and children's needs and a house I couldn't bring myself to keep clean and a body I didn't recognize anymore.  My depression came to a head after a shopping trip for holiday clothes (I can't even remember if it was Christmas or Easter)--everyone got an outfit except for me, because I couldn't find anything that fit right and didn't make me look dumpy and frumpy.  My husband nailed it when he lovingly said that something needed to change, even if it meant getting counseling.

I had to start with taking care of my body first--moving it, giving it healthy food and rest.  Wearing makeup again (for me, it's an act of self-care), getting my hair cut the way I liked it.  Then I had to set some basic housekeeping routines in place--FlyLady helped me out there.  It took time, but my head cleared and I started thinking about where my life was going.  Nothing definite at first, but at least I envisioned wide open opportunities instead of daily drudgery.

Here I am, sixteen years later, in a job I love, with a family that's thriving.  Yes, the house is still a cluttered mess--but the dishes and laundry get done (nothing says "I love you" like clean underwear!).  Yes, my exercise routine is lacking once again, but I am aware of that fact and looking forward to making that a habit this summer.

I still have trouble dreaming for myself, setting big goals and working towards them.  I used to wonder how people made 5 year and 10 year plans, but now I see the wisdom in doing so.  Setting intentions isn't stifling, it's empowering.  Dreaming feeds the soul.