Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just like mama

Yesterday, I did something drastic. I tried to read. An actual book. While my baby - err, toddler - was awake.

I had been reading during naptime, and she was playing on the floor, and I really just wanted to finish the book, so I figured I'd give it a shot. And do you know what she did?

She looked at me, crawled over to her shelf, picked up a book, and started flipping through it.

Wow. So,apparently, she's watching.

(Okay, before you are all jealous, she did that for about 2 minutes before crawling back over to me and climbing on my head. But that's not the point right now.)

I guess I've always known that she was watching everything I did. I guess I've always realized that the things I did were setting an example. But suddenly in that moment, her tapping away on her Fisher Price laptop with both hands didn't seem as cute.

I try to play with her. I try to make her healthy food. I read to her. I sing to her. But what am I really teaching her?

If I want her to be a reader, she needs to see me reading. If I want her to eat well, she needs to see me eating and cooking well. If I want her to take care of herself, to feel good about herself, to lead a healthy and successful life? I may need to reconsider the way I'm living mine.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Be enough me: I am striving for purpose

All I am looking for in life is a purpose. I want to matter.

I know that I matter to my baby girl. I know that I am her entire world. I know, and I'm glad.

I know that I matter to my husband, and that he'd be completely lost without me, thankyouverymuch.

I know that I have some loving, darling friends and family to whom I matter very much.

But what I mean to say is this.

What I want more than anything is to be someone or to create something that really matters, to the world. Something that changes everything and everyone I touch for the better.

I believe in the power of love, in the power of beauty, in the power of kindness. I believe that when we do the ordinary things in extraordinary ways they can change the world. I believe that the personal is political, that the little things aren't little.

So, you see, what I'm striving for isn't a lot. Except for the fact that it's everything.

What I want, more than anything, is to do something that truly matters. It doesn't need to change the world - at least not more than anything else does - but it needs to change something, to change someone.

If I can do that? I will be a success.

The topic for this week's Be Enough Me was, "What are you striving for?"

My Baby Girl's Valentine from Shutterfly.

Love Hugs Kisses Valentine's Card
Invitations, announcements and Christmas cards by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Right now, Shutterfly is giving a $10 credit to bloggers who share a card they have made. Just click on the card, then click share and embed the card on your blog.

This is a card Baby Girl sent to her grandparents last year. I can't wait to make her Christmas cards!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In my head

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

When I was a teenager, my mom used to tell me that the reason I was being cranky, or teary, or bitchy, or whatever was because my blood sugar was low. Or because I hadn't slept enough. Or because I was hormonal.

And I hated it, I hated it so much. What I was feeling was real and I wanted it to be seen as valid. If I was upset, it was because something was upsetting. If I was frustrated it was because something was frustrating.

And I hated it even more because she was usually right.

But so was I.

I know that depression is a disease. I know that it tells us things that aren't true. I know.

But I miss my friends and family. And I am still having trouble making friends. And I'm still figuring out a whole new identity. And DH and I don't have a lot of help here. (BG has never been left with anyone other than us. Not even for an hour.) And teething sucks. And temper tantrums suck worse. And I'm sad. And I'm lonely. And I'm frustrated. And all that is real.

But maybe I should go eat something. Just in case.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A couple weeks ago, I got a call from the Infant Cognition lab at a major university near me. A cold call. They even asked me if I had a baby.

But then they asked if we wanted to participate in a study. I thought about it for a second and then thought "well, what else am I doing?" and agreed. So I made an appointment.

This morning, Baby Girl and I drove downtown. A grad student met us at the gate to swipe us in with her access card. She walked us inside, got some demographic information and went over some consent forms with me.

Then Baby Girl and I watched an animation of some balls bouncing off each other. For about 10 minutes. And that was the whole study. The research assistant gave Baby Girl a board book as her compensation for participating, explained to me the purpose and the preliminary findings of the study (oh, be still my teacher's heart), and we were on our way.

Did we cure autism this morning? Did we make a major breakthrough in human development? Did we pioneer new methods for early childhood education.

Neh. But I like to think we did our own little part. For science.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life's lessons: On cleaning

Oh, I am so long overdue to link up with Rach for Life's lessons. Please, forgive me, sweet friend.

  1. I'm not good at lists.
  2. I don't know if you've noticed? But even these lists? End up being stories.
  3. And the other kind of list? The kind that tell me what to buy at the grocery store or do around the house? Oh gosh, they're even worse.
  4. But somehow I always get what I need at the grocery store.
  5. You know, because I really like food.
  6. I think perhaps there is just a petulant little child in me who looks at to do lists and says, "But I don't wanna."
  7. Because, you know, I really don't.
  8. But. But. But. I do feel better when the house is clean.
  9. So, I think what I need is for someone to every day say to me, hey go clean your house. Go fold your laundry. Go make some mac and cheese.
  10. Speaking of which, it might be time for a snack.
  11. Because I really do like food.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


If you aren't a teacher, there's a good chance you haven't heard of Harry Wong. He's written books and made videos about classroom management. They are brilliant and helpful and hilarious, and they helped me through my first few years of teaching, but what I remember most is this.

Harry Wong says there are four stages of effective teaching:

  1. Fantasy
  2. Survival
  3. Mastery
  4. Impact

His description of surviving is so funny and so familiar. Teachers who give kids busy work. In elementary school, the ditto. In high school, reading the chapter. And my favorite line? "Friday? Here's a movie. It kind of relates."

Oh boy.

"For the very new teachers," he says, "I give you permission to survive."

Whew. What a relief.

But, he goes on to say, if you've been teaching for years and are still just surviving? Something has gone wrong.

I feel like, as a mom, I'm still just surviving. When is it time to stop giving myself permission to survive?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It may not sing, but it is delicious

So I made a comment on twitter today that I wanted to make mac and cheese, and suddenly I had an angry mob adoring fan club egging me on to make it and to blog the whole thing. So here is my contribution to the ensuing #macandcheesewar. FYI, I do NOT have a future in food blogging.

I started with this:

Please pay no attention to my messy kitchen.

Hey, I said not to look!

Put on water to boil. You should use a lid. It just doesn't photograph as well that way.

Add macaroni to water. I forgot to photograph this because I was, uh, tweeting. Drain the macaroni. (Umm, no. There can't be dirty utensils in my sink, can there?)

At this point, you may have to take a break to rescue your child from her crib prison. It's okay. I'll wait.

Okay, back? In the same pot (because you don't want to wash another pot, do you? What are you, crazy?) melt some butter. That's my incredibly scientific explanation. This happens to be how much butter I had thawed.

Mix a few spoons of flour into the melted butter until it looks kinda like this (except without the macaroni in the pot. You should probably have made sure you got all that out.)

Then add milk. You know, some milk. Umm, just kinda pour it. Stir it until it thickens. (I meant to take a picture of this, but Baby Girl had my camera. And I wanted to take a picture of *that*, but, y'know.)

Turn off the stove (and remove from heat if you have an electric stove, but I'm cooking with gas). Add a bag of shredded cheese (yes, you can shred it by hand, and yes that is a little cheaper and tastes a little better, but what am I, a machine?) and stir it until it melts.

Pour the drained macaroni into a Pyrex pan. Mix in the cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs (oh, they weren't in my picture!) and reserved cheese (crap! Did I forget to tell you to save some cheese?).

If you are making ahead, set it down and go play peekaboo. Otherwise, throw it in the oven and turn it on to 350 degrees. Bake it for . . . I don't know, a while. Until it looks melty and delicious.

(Sorry, no, there is no final picture. I'm too busy eating).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Before I was a Mom: the college years

Did you read my first Before I was a Mom post? Well I never promised it would be a frequent series.

My college roommate (ahem, are you reading this?) and I used to like to sit outside to study. We said sunlight gave us energy. I don't remember which of us realized that that made us plants.

At the one and only party I ever threw in college, one of my loveable nerdy friends was walking around my apartment insisting to everyone that he couldn't be drunk because he knew that Paul Wolfowitz was the deputy secretary of defense and because he could still do calculus. I asked my drunk apartment mate if she could still do calculus.

"No way!" she said. "But I never could!"

I stopped by the post office on my way to class my Sophomore year and picked up a package my best friend had sent me. When I went to open it in class, someone asked me what it was.

I looked at it and realized for the first time, "Oh. Today's my birthday."

My roommate talked to my future husband online several times. When she finally met him in person, she said that she was glad to realize he was normal. We all agreed that that was the opposite of the reaction people usually have.

At the end of my junior year, I was literally running down the street in a dress and heels because I was going to be late to my Phi Beta Kappa induction (okay, seriously, everyone gets that I'm a nerd, right?), and a guy with a guitar slung over his back stopped in the street looked at me and said, "you're lovely." I paused for a second, said thank you, and went back to running.

One year, my friends and I decided to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. Only we didn't defrost the turkey long enough. And then an hour in, the power in our apartment went out. So we put the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and biscuits in the car and drove across campus to finish cooking them in our friends' shared dorm kitchen. We spent the next several hours going up and down the stairs to their third floor suite. We had to borrow tableware from friends and steal a table from their floor lounge, but we had ourselves a lovely dinner. At midnight.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I wish I were braver

I wish I were braver.

(Subjunctive tense. I am a grammar genius. Count it. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah. About how I am avoiding this topic. Wait no, that wasn't it, was it?)

(Sigh, let's start again, shall we?)

Last week, I walked to a metro station in Maryland, got on a subway with my baby in her stroller and took her to the zoo. And I did it all by myself. Cue applause.

Only ... not. Because that's ridiculous. Because it's ridiculous for that to be a big deal. Because it's really not hard to get on a train. Because it's even less hard to go to the grocery store, to pick up a phone and call someone, to drive a few blocks out of your way to get a cupcake you really want.

Except these things terrify me.

Yael wrote a post a while ago about our comfort zones. About how stepping out of them is overrated. About how we need to take care of ourselves and that makes it okay to stay in.

But I've stayed in my comfort zone my whole life. And I'm not very comfortable here.

Lately it seems like all the bloggers I admire most are saying, "If blogging feels hard, if you feel the pressure from it, if you can't write every day, then let it go. Write less. Let go of the guilt." And I read it and think "Oh good, I'm off the hook."

Except I don't want to be off the hook.

I want the pressure. Because otherwise I won't do it.

Because I need it to be scary. I need to be scared. I need to do it anyway.

Because the zoo? Was lovely. And the train? Was just a train.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And I'm me again

So, my MOMS Club activity for today was coffee at Dunkin Donuts. I didn't RSVP because with all the craziness I just didn't know how much I'd have time to do. Everyone who had RSVP'd had said "maybe," so as far as I knew no one was even coming.

But the worst that could happen was I'd have coffee and a doughnut with Baby Girl, right? And at best I'd get to hang out with mamas and talk and get out of my funk.

Well, actually, maybe that wasn't the best.

No one was there when I got there, so I got my coffee, a bagel, and a doughnut (umm, yeah, I'd eaten breakfast already. What? Don't judge! Did I mention BG is nursing *every hour* again??), and pulled the stroller over to a corner table. We were there for a while just eating and making eyes at each other before anyone came in.

I saw her walk in with the carseat in her hand, and knew right away she must be the new member who had just joined. I'd seen her name on the list. If I hadn't been there, she would have shown up to her first event and been all by herself.

For the next half hour, we talked (and ate). Her entire face lit up, and I could tell she had been in a place I had been not so long ago. She felt isolated. She felt trapped in her house.

She felt like suddenly someone had turned a light on and she had realized there were other people like her.

We talked about naps (even though, yeah, her 3 month old is a better sleeper than my 13 month old. Sigh), tummy time, sign language. We talked about story time at the library. I told her how glad I was that she had joined, how important it was to get out and see other people. She nodded.

She looked like she could suddenly breathe again. I knew that feeling. I knew it particularly because at that moment I realized I could breathe again. I remembered who I am, what I love, what I believe in.

Peace and purpose? May already be within my grasp.