mean mama


working is hard work
October 31, 2008, 10:23 am
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I used to love my job. I still like it, but something has changed. Me? School? Both? Maybe I’ll get used to it.

Being fulltime means I see 20 groups throughout the week plus 3 choruses and some meetings. This would be busy at any school, but at ours it’s a little much because our students all need special consideration and attention.

I think eventually I’ll like it better again.

Leaving the baby is hard. I love his babysitter, though. But it’s hard. Except when I’m honest with myself about the fact that staying home with him can be tedious and being home makes me feel really bad about myself. The cuddly moments are great, but what of the in between? (Remember too, I stayed home with his brothers.)

He drinks like 14-19 oz. breastmilk in the course of 8 hours. Really. I pump about 10 oz. If my frozen stash eventually runs out, then what? I don’t think I’m willing to try harder to pump more, because I am already maxed out on the trying.

Life is now about getting ready for the next day. Truly. Afternoons/evenings are like this: 1.come home play with boys help them use potty nurse baby.  2.conjer up dinner.  2.5 nurse baby  3.bath. 3.5nurse baby   4.read to boys.  5.put boys to bed.  5.5 nurse baby 6.clean up.  7.drink wine 8.eat something if I didn’t eat with boys. 9. cuddle/play with baby  10.do dishes  11.pack lunches for boys  12.write in boys’ communication notebooks, pack pull-ups, etc. 13.get myself ready for next day.  14.sweep floor.

And that’s with P helping completely.

But. There are weekends. And tonight is Halloween. It will get better, I just know it.

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20 facts, in very random order
October 2, 2008, 6:23 pm
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1. My allergies are so bad right now that I want to rip my eyes out of my skull.

2. Having 3 days home with all 3 boys is a good cure for lacking motivation to go back to work.

3. Having 3 days home with all 3 boys is so nice during those nice moments.

4. I have been told that M is spinning and running around in circles at school and that he has low tone in his mid-section. He has now begun to spin at home, too (this is M, who is NOT in special ed mind you). When I asked him why he is doing it, he cheerfully says, “Cuz I WANT to, Mommy!” Dear lord.

5. I have been told how affectionate and happy M is at school. I guess that’s what they tell you when they want to break it gently to you that your “normal” child is spinning and running in circles during group activities. Again: dear lord.

6. MBB needs to be evaluated for torcolitis. Wouldn’t it be awesome if all 3 of my kids could receive services? Let’s see, that would be 4 kinds for J, 2 (maybe 3?) kinds for M, and 1 for MBB. Just thinking about scheduling it all makes me crazy.

7. How can it be that we need all of this when, to the outside viewer and even to myself at times, my family seems typical?

8. Oh well.

9. I have finished cooking and freezing enough food for 14 meals so that after-school time with the boys does not have to be cooking time once I return to work. It’s kind of like what I imagine nesting would be, had I ever been afforded the luxury of nesting.

10. I am not resting on my laurels about tonight’s VP debate. All of my friends (Liberals) are snickering with glee about how le Dem is gonna squash la Rep. But our buddy Joe has been known to say some dumb things, and the conservative minds behind the Republican campaigns are so, so crafty that I wouldn’t be surprised if they come up with some brilliant way to throw things off kilter.

11. Lots of people in the computer and in person are discussing what to cook tonight for the debate. I was going to make this fabulous green bundt cake, but it requires pistachio pudding mix, and guess what. They don’t make that anymore, except in sugar-free. I know, you are probably shocked and appalled at this news. Sorry.

12. I had to box up some of MBB”s 0-3 month clothes, and I did not feel the sting that I felt when I did it for the twins. I think that’s a good sign.

13. Back to cooking and freezing. Here’s what I made: squash lasagna, meatballs (for spaghetti and), tofu burgers, empanadas, Asian salmon patties, chicken-artichoke stew, vegetable chowder, lemon fish cakes, chili, eggplant calzones, and stuffing for tacos.

14. Instead of dessert last night, I had a mug of hot cider, and it was very yummy.

15. I am finally in reach of my pre-pregnancy weight+5. I added the 5 because I don’t think I can realistically get back to where I was before after this baby, at least not without working out and/or going on Weight Watchers.  I’m in my BMI and feeling okay, besides the fact that my clothes won’t fit.

16. My clothes won’t fit because my waist is so much bigger than ever, because my abs are realllllly separated (already were before this pregnancy, and they got worse), because I have so much extra skin/tissue now, because I carry all of my fat in my tummy. My butt actually is smaller than after the boys when I weighted this same weight. Who the hell knows why.

17. Instead of trying to get into my old clothes, which barely fit me even when I dropped down to a very low weight with Weight Watchers before my last pregnancy, I got some new clothes. Now THERE’S a concept. And the new clothes only come in S, M, L types of sizes, so I don’t have to worry about the subtleties of 8s, 10s, and 12s.

18. Even though I’m perhaps flabbier than ever, I am much less self-conscious than ever. And perhaps that’s a little scary, considering the state of unkempt-ness that allowed myself in public to begin with.

19. Having just one baby has been so much easier for me than having two was. Even when he’s fussy, it’s not awful. I think his nature is much like the boys’ were. In other words, they were not difficult babies. But since there were two of them,  and it would get very hard when they would fuss off and on throughout the day. Also, many things that were on my mind like crib vs. co-sleeping, etc., do not even come up with this baby because it is possible to just go with the flow and see where it takes me. With twins, there was no flow.

20. I finally tweezed my eyebrows, and the world is thanking me.



uncertainty
October 1, 2008, 6:04 pm
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Monday will be the first day with our new babysitter. The following Monday I will go back to work full time, and am in total denial because I don’t want to imagine how hard it might be to leave my baby. I’d rather deal with it when it comes. Other news: The baby has had thrush for months but thank God neither of us have had any consequential symptoms. But geez, will it never go away? My twins are displaying some strange behaviors that I suspect are due to them being separated at school (although there have been no obvious pleas to reunite), and as a result I’m feeling like a terrible mother who is surely scarring them FOREVER. Oh, and I am now on my second real cycle and am already having bad cramps. A word to the wise: if cramps are wreaking havoc on your innards, eating a lot of vegetables in not helpful.

Life is still lovely, but my stomach does churn on a regular basis (and not just because of cramps+vegetables). We just have to get through all of these adjustments, right? I’m not asking too much of my kids or my family as a whole, am I? Going back to work is a decision I based on the fall-out of J’s needs that forced us to pay for M’s school and the baby’s sitter, but should have I just stayed home with M and the baby while J went to school?  Is J too little to be in school that much? What else could have I done?  I like my job and have never thought I was selfish, but sometimes I am not sure. That’s just the problem. Most of these things are things I will never, ever be sure of. It’s unsettling.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled programming: Denial.



service à la russe
September 29, 2008, 1:44 pm
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The last time I was in a bath house was in Hungary during my college years. Women beat our backs with branches.

This one was in Manhattan, and though there were no beatings, it was verrrrrry Russian nonetheless. Lots of big hairy men speaking Russian, and lots of beautiful young women with showy cleavage also speaking Russian. The place was a little broken down, but all in all it was a great place for a bachelorette party.

A college friend of mine is getting married soon, so a lot of the ladies at the party were old college friends. Out of 10, I was one of only two women who had any kids, and about half were single. It was nice to be among women and not just mothers. Admittedly, I was asked and talked a lot about my crazy experiences so far as a mother, but my experiences have been kind of extreme and therefore interesting to others. For me, it was refreshing to hear about these women’s careers, relationships, talk politics and religion, and just be. We swam, jacuzzied, saunaed, steamed, were insulted by a really mean waitress (“no ice for you!”), were offered a menu of smoked fish at the juice bar (where vodka is not on the menu but seems to be readily available in big bottles nonetheless), and chatted.

The bride-to-be asked advice from those of us who were married. The first thing that came to my mind was, “Pick the right person,” which is not very useful advice. But I also noted that things will really suck sometimes, and it will probably cycle out and be okay; also, try to maintain as much balance as you can in your individual life -sometimes that will be almost impossible, but hold onto the desire to do things that interest you/meet your own needs and you’ll be okay. Some other people said similar things to the “it will suck sometimes” statement. Others said talking a lot is important, while still others said that sex is the key. It’s all true, I think.

The night ended with me realizing that I had left my bag of underwear on the kitchen table at home. You know things are a little acey deucey in your life when your main concern is that the bag may have fallen out of your backpack onto the street, causing you to lose your best nursing bra, as opposed to being upset that you’ll have to wear your wet bathing suit under your clothes all the way home. But they had hair dryers so I just dried the butt part so that water would not soak through my skirt. It was fine. All my friends were so concerned, and me? Not. I guess once you’ve been through the shit I have in the past couple of years, these snafus are nothing more than laughable. Truly.



why it kind of works sometimes
September 25, 2008, 3:22 pm
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The thing that makes the chaos that is my three-child family sort of doable is that MBB does not mind being ignored… as long as his brothers are around, that is.

Even before MBB was born, he would kick when I sat by the boys as they chattered.  And shortly after he came home, he would clearly focus on them as they ran back and forth past him.  Sometimes I put him in their room with them if they are doing something calm, like blocks or trains (they are always under my watch, of course).  He would normally begin to cry after about 10 minutes in his chair, but he stays in much longer if he has them to observe. In fact, I’ve begun to put him in his Bum.bo when they are around, because he doesn’t really like being in it (but needs to because he needs more neck strength), and he tolerates it much better when hanging out with his brothers.

I have to admit that before MBB was born I was not focused on or particularly excited about the new sibling relationship(s) that his birth would create.  Having twins, you have to negotiate and get to appreciate such a relationship from the very beginning. And now that he is here, the impact is not as dramatic as I’d imagine it would be in a 1 kid + 1 newborn situation.  The unexpected perk has been that the baby has built-in entertainment, and that entertainment is not me. The fact that he actually enjoys sitting there like a lump while I insanely chase the boys around in the morning getting them ready for school serves both parties very nicely.  Also it kind of makes up for the miserable moments, when MBB is crying and the boys are whining and I… if you’re lucky, I’m not yelling.

It is sweet that he already adores his big brothers. -Not that they pay him much attention.  I don’t push it, though, because they have already been asked to share, get along, and be aware of each other for all of their freaking lives.  I would rather see their interest unfold naturally as MBB grows and develops.

Until then, MBB is a tag-along little brother and likes it just fine.

Taken about 2 months ago.



public education, reimagined
September 24, 2008, 4:37 pm
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I am very tired of hearing about “teacher accountability” in this election.

If you are a teacher, you are probably nodding your head. If you are not a teacher, you are probably saying, “What’s wrong with teacher accountability?”

Well let me ask you this. If you are a doctor, should you be held personally responsible for every single one of your patients’ outcomes? If you are a lawyer, should you be fired if you don’t win every case?  If you are a social worker, should you feel personally responsible for the psychological state of each of your clients?  Most would say no, because each case/relationship depends on many things: family support, living environment, the patient/client’s abilities and dispositions, cultural backgrounds and financial situations, and countless other influences.

Like in any other profession, if you are clearly bad at your job you should be fired. But the main determination of whether a teacher is successful these days seems to be based on test scores of students. That is an absurd measure. My father-in-law once said to me, “Well, how else can you hold teachers accountable?” Well, you should probably determine whether their students are making any real progress, in the context of their personal situations. If a third grader comes into the classroom in September not knowing how to read, is it not absurd to expect that he will score well on a standardized test at the end of the year? And should the teacher not have the opportunity to work with that student and help him begin to read rather than being forced to prepare the entire class for test-taking for the entire year? Look, I’m not completely against holding kids back if they are not performing at grade level, but they will probably never perform at grade level if teachers can’t teach them to.

I believe to really teach struggling kids (and probably the majority of NYC students could be considered as “struggling”), you would need small classes. How small? I’m talking 12 kids per one head teacher and one assistant teacher. Start first with the “failing schools” and make the classes small (the schools that get 200K/year with which to do what they want are just fine for now). Teachers will know their students well, students will know their teachers well. Accountability from both parties will be naturally important, because what goes on within a small classroom is pretty transparent. Take away the tests, or at least have less frequent tests, giving teachers more time/energy to teach to individuals’ needs. Then and only then will we begin to see more clearly who the more and less successful teachers are. And the teachers who really don’t like teaching would be more likely to opt out of such a system, because they would have to work harder if they really had to figure out what each of their students needed.

There may be dinosaurs out there in the public system, and there may be some truly caustic teachers, but most are simply jaded and stressed out about the testing. Most are decent people who, given the chance to actually be successful, would probably work a little harder. As the saying goes, “Let teachers teach.”

Both candidates have their solutions: Obama has preschool programs, college tax breaks, less testing, support for failing schools, and incentives for teachers. McCain has school choice, doing something about our kids’ sucky test scores (more tests, anyone?), and other conservative hogwash. But neither has suggested reducing class size.  It may be an unrealistic solution, but we seem to throw money at plenty of “realistic” solutions that do not work (I wonder how much all that testing and test-scoring costs…). Keep your increased teacher compensation for now and make teaching something that people can be successful at and therefore get excited about. Then more people will want ot be teachers. Make public eductation something that works, something that tax payers can once again believe in. Then more people will participate in their children’s educational processes.  Make it so that successful schools get an incentive for helping failing schools, rather than successful schools getting hundreds of thousands of extra dollars while failing schools are penalized for bad test scores. I have worked at an officially failing school, and I promise you that asking the teachers to just. work. harder. is not going to increase test scores. (By the way, the kids scoring well at the “successful schools” often have supportive families, home environments that are conducive to study, and – let’s all say it together – TUTORS!  So rewarding schools for test scores is somewhat artificial.)

Much of what I am saying is based on a special education model. Special ed classes are hardly ever large. There is a lot of communication between schools and families, even in the lowliest of schools. Perhaps this is because special ed students have individual education plans that, by law, must be followed. In the failing school where I taught, many of the kids displayed such incredible problems that, though they were cognitively and physically fine, I would almost consider a need for a special kind of education. I have dealt with special ed kids who probably needed services less than some of these kids needed help. Not that we should compare, but it is kind of remarkable. I do see the field of special education unfolding in more innovative and thoughtful ways that general ed, and I daresay that special ed should be our guide in dealing with the country’s educational crisis.

I can’t seem to wrap this up in any eloquent way, but those are my ideas. Obie, give me a call and we’ll have lunch.



tranquility
September 18, 2008, 5:29 pm
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warning: shiny happy post ahead

I would not have predicted that I’d define having twins and a newborn as “tranquility,” back when I was trying to determine whether to have a third child, and even when I was pregnant with MBB. But there is a shift happening here that feels right. The boys are in school, we found a great babysitter, and I will start back at my job, which is more than just a job to me, in a few weeks. Sure I am panicked at times when I look at my adorable, smiling baby: how can I leave him? He was so hard-won, and he is a miracle for sure. But those panicky times are not frequent enough for me to assume they are speaking to me any louder than the excitement that leads me each day to work on newer, better ways to teach my students, to lead them to do things they didn’t know they could do.

There is true bliss in having this third baby here with us. He makes everything different, new, amazing and yet just calmly goes with the flow much of the time in true third child form. He is a chubby ball of smile that seems to just roll around our apartment amidst the constant chaos. What was I ever thinking, being scared to have another baby? This new family is just right. It is hard sometimes for sure, but not too much harder than it was having twins in the first place. The biggest issue is that sometimes the boys want a little more attention than they are getting.  But mostly, it’s just… just bliss.

P and I went on a very cool date the other night. The coolest thing about it was that we felt like not a day had passed since before we had kids and used to just hang out together whenever and wherever we wanted. We didn’t really worry about or even think much of the kids – not that it would have been wrong if we did – but it just didn’t happen that way. I think our relationship is doing well. It does get neglected frequently, but we seem to be able to pick it back up on a regular basis and both see each other as husband and wife and in love and lust rather than just co-parents and best friends.

I have also chilled out about renting a smallish apartment (as opposed to owning) and not having a lot of things at this point in my life. I think this really surfaced when we had to do nanny interviews, and I was nervous about whether anyone would want to work in this environment. I saw that it was okay and that I should be happy to have a warm, cozy place to live in a neighborhood I like instead of mourning what I don’t have.  And I also see that I am living per my values, and that’s not only okay but is great. For example, I am making good decisions for all three of my kids right now in terms of their education and childcare. I can afford to buy local and sometimes organic food. I can afford to hire a babysitter and go on a date once in a while, which is definitely an investment in our relationship day-to-day and long-term. Maybe we can’t save money for a couple of years, but we will pick that back up when we can and be okay.

I have to say that putting pregnancy and childbearing behind me is a huge relief too. I’m sure this would be harder for me to accept if I didn’t have such problematic pregnancies. I could never, in good conscience, be pregnant again however, because pPROM recurs. Next time I might not be so lucky. I have been considering some things that happened in my first pregnancy with J and M, and looking back I think it’s possible that I may have experienced a slow leak without knowing it, meaning that my latest pregnancy may have already been a recurrence of pPROM. I’m not ready to write about that, but it’s a strange and creepy possibility.

Despite being done, I have been having dreams lately of a girl.  There are many interpretations of this. Women dream of baby girls all the time, and many times I think they are dreaming of some part of themselves. I have been dreaming of a baby girl for years and years; now she’s a 4-year-old, and I’m just not sure what it means. The other day, I said to P, “If we are out of NYC someday and living in a bigger space and doing well, maybe we’ll adopt a girl- not a baby but a child.”  He said with a strange confidence, “Yes.”  It was just one of those weird moments. But the thing that makes it not so crazy and okay, to think about the future and to dream, is that we are okay with where we’re at right now. So regardless of what we do or don’t do in our future, we are rid of the aches of when will it happen and what if it doesn’t work. I think that’s tranquility.