Parenting Doubts

{First of all, a big thank you to everyone who left kind, encouraging words on my last post. It does help to know why you all read… Moving forward I hope to write more posts that are about specific topics and not just run-downs of my day-to-day. We’ll see how I do…}

I remember when my daughter was young and I spent a fair amount of time tracking her milestones and worrying vaguely when it felt like she was behind. I always wondered if I should be doing more for her “development,” that low-grade anxiety always simmering in the background.

Then my 2nd child was born and I was just trying to keep my head above water. And while there was some concern over his ability to meet eating milestones–we attended some PT with swallowing specialists–I mostly stopped caring about milestones altogether.

Those years were mostly focused on my daughter and her needs. We saw a “feelings helper” for a while, we got a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and learned how to understand and accommodate our daughter’s needs. Then there was the transition to Kindergarten, vision therapy, and just getting through the days with a full time job and two kids.

2nd grade has been great for my daughter. She has flourished academically and socially this year. And while she’s still struggling with her big feelings more than I think most kids her age, she is doing really well overall. She’s now seven-and-a-half, can read and write and regroup. She meets all the academic expectations set by us and the school. It’s easy to feel like we can just sit back and relax for a bit, that we don’t need to keep pushing.

But I’m realizing there are other skills we may be neglecting. Our daughter can’t really tie her shoes. I mean, she can do it, when under duress, but she has HATED, and basically refused to wear, the two pairs of shoes we’ve gotten her with laces. While she can swim (keep her head above water), she doesn’t know how to do any of the strokes. She can’t ride a bike. We haven’t yet introduced an instrument.

A lot of this stuff has happened by seven, or can start. I could definitely ride a bike by seven, and I remember my parents thinking my sister was odd when she couldn’t. I started playing the piano at seven (maybe even six actually) and I could definitely swim all the strokes… I absolutely was tying my shoes on the reg.

I spent Saturday morning at a soccer class with my son, and then we met his friends at a nearby park to ride scooters and bikes. All his friends (none of whom are 5 yet) could ride two-wheelers without training wheels. I have never even put my daughter on a bike WITH training wheels, let alone without, and my son refuses to give his balance bike a real try.

They both love swimming lessons but we haven’t gone since before the summer. It’s so hard to find lessons for both of them at the same time, and the thought of taking them separately, at two different times during the week, makes me want to die inside.

I hadn’t even considered an instrument until I heard all the parents talking about what their kids play.

It’s so easy to be complacent, to just get through the days. I’ve always known I was less inclined than other mothers to put my kids in extracurricular activities. They are so expensive! And such a pain to fit into our schedule. Also, I HATE missing a class I’ve paid for–it’s one of my worst pet peeves. So my kids’ friends go to sports workshops or gymnastics or dance or art or drama and my kids go to… Girl Scouts (which I hate) and soccer (which we’re newly going to). For the past seven years I’ve been able to shake off the guilt, reminding myself that they are still young and don’t need all that stuff yet. But my daughter is not so young anymore. There is a reason so many kids start an instrument at seven (or before). There is a reason soccer classes for 5-year-olds are so popular.

I definitely want my kids to like sports, and feel confident in their ability to play them (or at the very least do something physical that requires some skill and determination). I want them to play an instrument, or at least practice playing one. I swam year-round for years and credit the sport with keeping me sane in middle and early high school. I am incredibly grateful for the years I played piano and still feel proud for the level of technique I achieved. I want my kids to have these experiences as well, to learn not just the specific skills required to play a sport or instrument well, but also the resolve needed to practice when you don’t feel like it, and the determination required to keep attempting something even though you’re frustrated and continue to fail. I want them to feel the pride of finally managing what they couldn’t manage so many times before, and also the delight of recognizing how far you’ve come.

It’s so easy to throw so much of myself into my work, and my daughter’s school, that I don’t have much left for these endeavors. When the simple act of making them finish dinner, or put on clothes to leave the house, let alone homework, requires SO MUCH effort on my part, the idea of creating yet another obligation is truly daunting. It would be one thing if they were self-motivated to swim better, or ride a bike, or tie their own shoes, or play a sport or instrument, but so far neither has asked. They don’t seem to care, yet, that they can’t do these things. I don’t know if I have the energy to care enough for all of us.

What do your kids do? How do you choose their activities? What are your plans moving forward?

More

I wonder a lot why I keep writing here. I wish I had more to offer.

Yes, I believe my story is valuable. I love reading other people’s stories, and it seems some people are interested in reading mine (thanks!), but I wonder sometimes if I could be doing something different, and more productive, with this space.

In my old space I wrote for me, to process all the feelz. There is less to process these days. My life has taken on a monotonous pace, and in the absence of big feelings to work through, I can’t help but consider the purpose of this place.

Also, I think my writing has actually gotten worse over time. I went back to read some of my first posts here and I didn’t recognize the writing. Even then it felt like I was tackling bigger issues; now most of my posts are run-downs of my days, and not very articulate ones at that.

I think a part of me expected to some day have my Aha! Moment, some epiphany to lend purpose, or at least direction. But that epiphany never came, and I continue to struggle with the many issues (spending, clutter, overwhelm, job dissatisfaction) that still plague me, after having abandoned others (friendship, community, creativity, mindfulness) along the wayside of life. I don’t know if I want this place to be mostly a brief summary of my days, but I don’t know what else I have to offer…

At this point I keep writing because I can’t imagine stopping. But that isn’t a real reason to continue doing something.

It’s something I’ll be thinking about.

2nd Day Back

Thank you everybody who commented on my last post. Now I’m even more excited about my trip! It was so awesome to hear that people have been (or lived) there and loved it. I’m am super stoked to go Nicaragua.

Now I just have to get through the next seven months… 😉

Today was our second day back since the break, and I was reminded yet again, that the second day back is almost always harder than the first. On the first day back you are tired, but you have energy saved up from all those days of not being at work. On Monday I was up at 5:45am like it was my regular wake up time. I felt more awake and ready to go than I did most days on break. But today I slept right through my 5:45 alarm and almost missed my 6am wake up call as well. I was still trying to keep my eyes open at 6:15, and it wasn’t out of bed until 6:30.

I was exhausted all day.

Monday there were teachers from a neighboring district’s middle school watching me teach for their professional development. I would normally schedule some really low-key activities for me and my students on the first day back, but since I had teachers watching I had to bring out my bid guns. While it was very gratifying to meet new teachers who were super interested in the way I teach (and told me I did a great job), it was HARD to rally on the first day back. By the end of the day I was totally done.

My kids were also done by the time I picked them up, and the evening was a shit show. I was so happy when they finally went to bed. Unfortunately I had some PTA stuff I had to do, so I didn’t get to bed nearly as early as I wanted to. Today I paid for that.

I’m not going to make the same mistake now, especially since Wednesday is my hardest day of the week. I need to get my daughter to school early, and then it’s go, go, go until the end of the school day. I really hate Wednesdays.

So now I’m headed to bed… Sweet dreams!

2018 Destination: Nicaragua

It is still my plan to live abroad, in a Spanish speaking country, with my kids for a year or two. I almost wrote “goal,” but the words we use are important. This is a plan, not a goal. It isn’t on my bucket list, it’s something I expect will happen.

It is also my plan to travel with my kids to Spanish speaking countries for a few summers before we live abroad. Last summer I thought that 2018 would be a good first time to take them to a Spanish speaking country. Then the bed bug situation happened and I accepted the fact that my traveling money was going to be spent treating our tenant’s unit, if not our whole house. I let go of the idea of traveling abroad with them this coming summer, and I must admit I felt a significant amount of relief.

Then I did some thoughtful reflecting on 2017 and realized traveling to Ecuador was absolutely the highlight of the year, not just the experience, but also the fact that I made it happen. That trip is the accomplishment I am most proud of from 2017.

I let all that germinate for the first week of the break. Right before the new year I decided, tentatively, that the summer trip was back on. I didn’t feel super excited about it, but I recognized that it was important for me to at least try to make it happen.

The first step was getting the kids’ passports ordered, and I’m so glad I thought to do that over the break because it would have been a total PITA to get all four of us to a passport office during business hours.

The next step was to decide on a place to visit. I knew I couldn’t do all the work necessary to make this trip happen if I wasn’t at least a little excited about going. I first narrowed the destination down to Central America, because it’s closer, and cheaper to fly to, than South America. Then I took Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica out of the running because I’m still weary of traveling in the parts of Mexico I’d like to visit, I’ve been to Guatemala twice, and I want to save Costa Rica for when they can do the zip lines and white water rafting (and I’ve been there twice as well). Finally, I borrowed a bunch of Central America travel guides from the library and read about all the countries that were left.

Of them, I landed on Nicaragua and Panamá as possible destinations, and ultimately decided on Nicaragua because (a) it’s cheaper than Panamá, which uses the dollar, (b) it’s really hard to travel there without speaking Spanish (so we’ll need to use our Spanish!), and (c) it sounds fucking awesome. Nicaragua was not much of a travel destination–with that pesky Contra War in the 80’s–but now that it’s experiencing a period of relative political stability, the tourism industry is picking up. Nicaragua has volcanoes, coasts on the Pacific and Caribbean, and some amazing lakes. Since my biggest goal on this trip (besides speaking Spanish) is to get in the water on the cheap, Nicaragua seems like a great option.

My plan right now is to be there for three weeks–my husband with us for one–toward the end of July/beginning of August (when the rainy season is a little less rainy). I have a general area in mind, with some specific places I hope to visit, but otherwise I have no idea where I’m staying or what I’m doing.

The one thing I am certain of, is that this trip is not going to be the three (or four) of us prancing around pristine beaches, soaking up the sun. I know it’s going to be a roller coaster of highs and lows, and that I’m going to have to take a TON of crap from my kids. I’m not planning this trip to relax, or get away from it all. I’m doing it to have an experience with my kids that will force us all to grow and gain perspective, and that ultimately I will learn from. If I go into it hoping to gain experience traveling internationally with my kids, I will appreciate the trip no matter what happens. Ultimately I’d love to feel more confident traveling with them after this, but even that feels like a high bar to set. Mostly I just want to do it, to show myself that I can. That, I have some control over.

So, I’m going to Nicaragua this summer. I’ll let you know how the planning goes.

Have you ever traveled internationally with kids? Any words of wisdom?

Goodbye Winter Break

Today is technically the last day of winter break (the last day I actually get off). I must say, it was a pretty great two weeks. I actually love when Christmas is at the start of the break, and most of our days off come after that big day. That way I avoid spending my time off doing last minute stuff for Christmas, and instead get to enjoy the down time after. It’s even better when we get two extra days off, because Christmas is SO close to the start of the break (like this year! Squee!) Those two days really did make this break feel long and luxurious.

But the best thing about this break? How little we had to do. Most days we just stayed at home, and while there were moments when I worried the kids’ bickering would drive me batty, most of the time we all enjoyed each other. The whole family has gotten cough after cough after cough since Thanksgiving, so it was nice to have some extended time to rest. And while my daughter did get sick again this past week, now she seems much better. I think we are all officially on the mend after over a month of respiratory maladies.

I think what made this break so great, was the balance between getting stuff done and doing nothing. And while I look around the house and wish more had been accomplished, I recognize how much I enjoyed all the nothing I did over the past two weeks. I think I struck a good balance.

The first week of break was all about now-me, the one who just wanted to indulge in the present moment: lie around and read and watch TV and play The Room. The first week of break, I let myself do all of that, without laying on the guilt trips, and it was awesome. The second week I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to f*ck over future-me by doing absolutely nothing of substance for the entire break, so I got off my ass and got some shit sorted. There was still plenty of time for fun stuff, and I think I was in a better mind set to do shit after having such a long break off.

Fun things I did:

– Read Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (in Spanish). I’m a sucker for quality YA fiction, and this was really good!

– Finished The Room 2 and almost finished The Room 3 (they are so fun, seriously, try the first one out). I’m actually taking my time finishing the third one because 4 doesn’t come out until Jan. 25.

– Watched Mindhunter (a Netflix original series) with my husband. It was surprisingly awesome – I would definitely recommend it.

– Watched most of The Magicians season 2 while I was getting other work done.

– Slept in until my son woke up, which happened most days around 7:30! It was blissful to sleep so late.

– Stayed up until midnight, secure in the knowledge that I’d probably still get 7 hours of sleep. So amazing!

– Drank cocktails on weeknights. (Not every weeknight, but a few.)

– Played The Room a lot with my daughter. She is incredible at that game! (And it’s fun to go back and revisit the rooms I’ve already finished.)

– Spent a wonderful 24 kid-free hours with my husband celebrating our 12/9/4 anniversary (12 years together, 9 as domestic partners, 4 married).

Shit I got sorted:

– FINALLY sold this huge stroller that had been taking up space in my garage since the summer.

– Took down the tree and hauled it outside.

– Packed up all the Christmas stuff.

– Graded and inputted the work for my four 7/8 classes.

– Made my grandmother’s calendar! (This took at least 7 hours!)

– Made the summer photo book and sent copies to my aunts and uncles (this took another 4 hours!)

– Moved a bunch of toys and books to the garage, where they will live for a few months until I am sure my kids don’t remember them, at which point they will be given away.

– Packed up all my son’s 4T clothes and many of his toys.

– Actually dropped off those clothes and toys at my friend’s mom’s house. (This part is huge, as it can take MONTHS for me to make that final step!)

– Create a flier for PTA (in English and Spanish) and copied it.

– Planned the first week of school, and went there today to make copies of everything. I am set and ready for the first week!

– Went to the SFUSD enrollment office to get questions answered, and then visited two TK and aftercare programs.

– Filled out my son’s TK application, gathered the necessary documents, and then had my HUSBAND turn it in! He texted me three times while he waited, bitching about how inefficient the process is. Yeah. Tell me about it. (He also remembered to articulate that he never has to do that kind of stuff, and to thank me for always doing it for us – double win!)

– Filled out the paperwork, gathered the documents, made the copies and got us all to the Post Office on time for our appointments to order the kids’ passports.

– Deep-cleaned the trashcan in our kitchen. It was DISGUSTING.

– Deep-cleaned the shower.

So yeah, I actually did a shit ton! And yet, it felt like such a restful break. And while I did get pangs of envy reading other people’s posts about trips to amazing places, I’m ultimately grateful we didn’t go anywhere. Staying home for two weeks was exactly what I needed. I’m so, so thankful for this break.

And while I’m not 100% prepared to return to the grind this Monday, I know that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Bring it on.

Revisiting my 2017 Goals

So I was feeling really “meh” about making resolutions, and/or setting goals for this year, and then I remembered the goals I wrote out for 2017. I knew before I even revisited them that I hadn’t achieved most of what I set out to do last year, but I was really struck by how LITTLE I accomplished. Of course there were things I did that weren’t on my radar in January of 2017, but there was a lot on my radar at the start of the year that dropped off completely. Revisiting this list, and seeing how little I actually accomplished, just makes me all the more committed to NOT formalizing goals in 2018. Clearly, writing out goals is a waste of my time, as I don’t achieve them. Even more evidence that I need to accept myself for who I am, and be okay with my life as it is.

Q1 (JAN-MAR)

PROFESSIONAL
*Write and teach “fútbol” chapter. I did end up writing this, barely.
Connect with two difficult students in each class. Nope. I never do this. And I always wish I did. And my classroom management still sucks.

PERSONAL
Meditate 5-10min/day during work week. Bwahahaha! I can’t remember the last time I meditated. I don’t think it happened once this past year.
Take Vitex every morning and Tumeric every night (make this a habit). I don’t take either of these anymore, but I should start taking Vitex again (my period has been super wonky lately, and I do believe Vitex helps regulate it). I AM taking Magnesium and B-6 daily though, so that’s good.
CREATIVE
Draw pictures for “fútbol chapter.”  I started to do this, and it was taking forever, so I ditched the effort completely.
HOUSE
Find contractor and make appointment to look at water damage and talk about the possibility of pocket doors. We still have not done this, and we really, really need to.
*Get heating ducts/furnace replaced. We did this! Yay!
FINANCIAL
Track spending for 3 months. Ha! Still haven’t done this, despite trying SO MANY TIMES.
Only buy necessities. Again, a goal I never achieve. Not ever.
FAMILY
30-60 minutes of quality time with each kid per week. I don’t know if I did this. I do think I am better about trying to carve out QT with each kid each week, but it’s a lot harder to make that happen now that my ILs spend most of their time in Texas. They move there indefinitely in February so it’s not going to get any easier…
*Buy St. Louis tickets for summer. I did do this, but I’m not sure if I did it in the 1st quarter. We got decent flights for a decent price so I’m fine with it.
MARRIAGE
*Hang out 2 times per week (put on calendar). I don’t think we were doing this at the beginning of last year, but we are probably doing this now. Thank you Desus and Mero!
Friends:
Meet up with a friend one time per month. Remember how I spent a couple of years obsessively trying to make new friends and doubling down on my past friendships? Well, not surprisingly, nothing came of any of it. I’m down yet another close friend, and haven’t made any new ones. The only thing that has changed is I stopped caring about having/making good friends, and I think I’m much happier since I let that go. It’s not something you can make happen, no matter how hard you try.

Q1 GOALS ACHIEVED: 3.5/14

Q2 (APR-JUNE)
Professional:
*Apply for at least 2-3 jobs (even if I’m not really interested in them). I did this! And then I didn’t get any of the jobs I applied for! But I did this!
Prepare “fútbol” chapter for TeacherPayTeachers and post. Did not do this. Barely had this chapter ready for the end of the year, and ended up using other people’s illustrations so I couldn’t sell it.
Purge when I pack up my classroom (UGH!!!!) Didn’t do enough of this, and I’m paying for it now.
PERSONAL
Meditate 10-15 minutes a day. Nope.
CREATIVE
Morning pages during work week. Nope. God, I forgot I even did this, or read the Artist’s Way, or thought so much and so hard about creativity.
HOUSE
Purge winter clothes before packing away. I really struggled with purging this year. I don’t know why.
Purge kids’ toys. See above.
FINANCIAL
Review tracked spending. Hard to do this when I didn’t track my spending.
Make short- and long-term financial goals with husband and create action plan. We did not do this. We have never done this. We should really do this.
Continue only buying necessities. Ha! I love that I assumed I would make it three months with this one.
FAMILY
Spend 10 minutes of QT with each kid 5 days a week. This does not happen 5 days a week. At all. Maybe twice a week?
Create list of city adventures to take with the kids during the summer. Did we take any city adventures this summer? I don’t think so… I honestly can’t remember…
*Plan San Diego trip. We eventually took this, but I remember we were planning it right before we left so… this kind of happened?
MARRIAGE
*Continue hanging out once during work week and once during weekend. I would say this happens now, I don’t think it happened then.
*Listen to the same podcast during week and discuss during hang out. We watch Desus and Mero instead. And my husband shares his favorite tweets with me, and we laugh. I consider each of these half-achieved, as I managed them eventually, if not at the time.
FRIENDS
Meet up with a friend 2 times per month. Definitely didn’t happen.

Q2 GOALS ACHIEVED: 3/16

Q3 (JULY – SEPT)

PROFESSIONAL
??? Yep, that’s about right.
Get Day of the Dead chapter ready and post on TpT. I totally forgot I even wanted to do this. Damn.
PERSONAL
Meditate 15 minutes a day. F*****ck, I really wanted to meditate. Meditating is not even on my radar these days. It’s weird how we obsess about things that later we don’t even think about…
Have list of at least 5 Spanish-speaking cities/countries I want to visit with kids. I’m kind of doing this now…
Train for a late summer half marathon. This didn’t happen and I really need to revitalize my exercise regimen…
CREATIVE
Morning pages during work week. Nope.
*Make St. Louis photo book. I finally did this! Last week! (Half-point for doing this eventually!)
Take photos with my Olympus once a week. I haven’t busted out my Olympus in AGES…
HOUSE
Do ultimate “junk stuff” purge. Sigh, I wish.
Organize/clean/purge garage. Sigh again. I really wish.
Work on backyard (specific goal to be determined). Oh my god, my backyard looks like the end of days. Just glancing at it out the window causes a panic attack.
FINANCIAL
(Insert action items from Q2 discussion). Bwahahaha!
Continue only buying necessities. Bwahahahaha again!
FAMILY
Go on one city adventure a week (see Q2 goals). Nope. We didn’t do much this summer, at least not when we were home.
MARRIAGE
Go away for a long weekend. We haven’t done this in a long time. We haven’t even had a weekend-long staycation. Boo.
FRIENDS
Meet up with a friend once a week. Nope, but I did do a lot of communicating with the women on the PTA, which I think is what makes me feel okay about not having many good friends.
Visit a friend during the summer. Nope, but I will be seeing a friend in London in April! Whoot!

Q3 GOALS ACHIEVED: .5/17
Q4 (OCT – DEC)
PROFESSIONAL
??? (Not sure where I’ll be at this point). Losing your mind about not having a classroom, and finding out you won’t have one again next year. Not a great place to be.
PERSONAL
Meditate 15 minutes per day. Nah.
*Add new strength training regimen. I got kettle bells, and then realized I needed to be trained in how to use them, or I would hurt myself. I have not yet figured out how to be trained in how to use them, so I don’t really use them. At least I tried! (I will give myself a half-point for this.)
CREATIVE
Re-read The Artist’s Way (or sequel). Totally forgot about this book, and that I ever read it. It’s amazing how something can be so meaningful at one point, and then totally leave my mind completely.
Morning pages during work week. Nope.
HOUSE
Purge summer clothes. I don’t even understand what I meant here. Mine? The kids’?
Work on backyard (specific goal to be determined). As I stated before, my backyard is a shit show, and I have barely set foot in it since summer.
FINANCIAL
Continue only buying necessities (son’s birthday?). How could I have thought I’d make it an entire year doing this?! I didn’t even make it one month.
Price out summer trip abroad. Just looking into this now.
FAMILY
*Trip to Disneyland for son’s birthday? We did this! And it was awesome!
MARRIAGE
*Read an article and talk about it every week. Nope, but we still got Desus and Mero! And my husband’s twitter feed. We frequently read the same TPM articles and talk about those too. I’ll give myself this one.
FRIENDS
Continue meeting up with someone 2-3 a month. I don’t see anyone just for fun anymore, but I do talk to other women, who are my friends, about PTA stuff, which is something…
Q4 GOALS ACHIEVED: 2.5/12
As is clear from this extensive list, I totally failed at achieving the goals I set for myself last year. And it’s not just the specific goals I missed, but the overarching life I clearly wanted to live, that I didn’t manage to live, at all.
Moving forward I will focus on acceptance of what is. I think that is where I can make an actual difference.

New year, same shit

So, 2018 is finally here. May it be less of a raging dumpster fire than 2017 was.

Seriously, 2017 was a really shit year. And I didn’t even have it that bad! For some people it was a nightmare.

And honestly, I’m having a hard time getting excited about the new year being “a clean slate” and “a fresh start.” I used to eat that shit up, the promise of a new beginning, the excitement of not only a new month, but an entirely new calendar, all crisp and clean, without a creased corner or blemished page, nothing but promise and possibility.

Now all I feel is, meh.

I’ve done it so many times before. Started the year with goals and resolutions, plans and proposals written out with neat little bullet-pointed tasks to accomplish. It has never amounted to anything. I’m still here, still trying to make positive changes, still struggling with the same shit.

And yes, I’ve done stuff that has made a difference. But even those positive results eventually disappeared, buried under habits I can’t change and the tendencies that have created them.

It’s not all for naught. My marriage is better, though I couldn’t explain why. Maybe the many books I read eventually helped? Or we figured each other out enough to better avoid the many pitfalls we fell into before? Or maybe our kids are just easier and so life is just easier and so our marriage is just easier. While I am so, so grateful that it’s better, it’s not something I feel I accomplished.

And other things are… better? Not as bad? I do feel more acceptance about my job, mostly because I know there is little-to-no chance of me getting a better one, especially when you take into account the tenure and years of seniority I’d lose if I left.

I am more accepting of the fact that I will never be a neat or organized person. Sure, I think I’d be a whole lot happier if I could keep my house or my desk at work neat and organized, but I just can’t seem to do it. The amount of effort it would require is just too great. I would basically have to let go of everything else in my life that is important if I wanted to keep my life neat and tidy and organized.

So I guess acceptance (it’s hard not to write resignation) is the key. Acceptance of this shitty political situation. Acceptance of the fact that I don’t love my job and probably never will. Acceptance of my messiness and disorganization. Acceptance of who I am, and who I will never be.

Sure the number we write with the date has changed, but nothing else has. I certainly haven’t. And I am okay with that. Do I wish I could change more? Sure. Might it be healthier to accept myself, and my life, for what it is? I think so.

Are you writing resolutions this year? Do you feel excited for this fresh start?

 

Ending the year with intention

When I saw this post a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to answer the questions for myself, in hopes of ending 2017 on a thoughtful note. It’s easy to think back 1.5 years ago to how excited I was when I realized I’d turn 37 on 7/17/17 and remember all the hopes I had for this year of my life being straight up amazing. Then Trump was elected and I didn’t get any of the jobs I interviewed for and I lost my classroom at work and people I loved died, and I had to end a long and important friendship, and my in-laws started living in Texas most of the time and it became clear that 37 was not going to be some magic year for me. That in fact, it was going to be fairly shitty. It’s easy to let my self slip into a self-pity spiral, and that is NOT how I want to end the year. So here I am, trying hard to end the year thoughtfully, and feeling very thankful that someone posted some questions that help me do that.

1. What makes this year unforgettable?

I visited South America for the first time. It was also my first extended trip away from kids, doing something that was 100% for me, both personally and professionally. The fact that I planned and executed the trip feels as important as the time I spent in Ecuador, improving my Spanish and reawakening my love of experiencing other cultures through travel. It was also an important first step toward traveling internationally with my kids, which I’m thinking about a lot right now.

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

I enjoyed my evenings with my husband. I wrote about that more here. Our marriage is still in one of the most-stable and positive places it’s been, maybe ever; that feels really good. I enjoyed listening to Spanish music in the car. It’s been a long time since I sought out new music and I really love the mix I’ve made. I’ve enjoyed building LEGOs with my kids. I enjoyed riding my bike around the city.

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

I’m really grateful for my husband, who has been a great support to me in the past six months. I’m always so grateful for my mother, especially since her sister passed away suddenly and her sister-in-law lost a battle with cancer, leaving her two college-aged daughters to navigate adulthood without their mom’s guidance. Those loses have been huge reminders of how lucky I am that my mom is here, and healthy, and an amazing support when I need it. I should make more of an effort to spend time with her without my kids. I miss that.

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

My biggest win was making it to Ecuador for 10 days without my family. That gave me the confidence to book a trip to London for a week in April (which is during the school year and will require a lot more work on my husband’s part), and to start looking into an international trip with my kids.

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

Hmmm. This one is harder for me, which is interesting because I am always listening to books that are meant to change my perspective, or help me parent better, or fix my marriage, or some such thing. This year I didn’t read so many books like that, and the ones I did read didn’t seem to have much impact. I actually wrote more about that here. I do have a few books on my to-read list for next year (they aren’t out yet) that I hope will have an impact.

The one thing that did have a big impact on me this year was listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates read his own book, Between the World and Me. That was a hard read, and definitely changed the way I look at the world.

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

What I’ve worried about most is our president and our country and we don’t yet know how it will turn out. I suppose that is most people’s answer for this year. The reality is the effects of his presidency will be insidious and far-reaching and will still be having impacts for generations to come.

But as far as concerns that are a little closer to home, I’ve been worried for many years about my daughter and this year she finally seems to be coming into her own. That has been very gratifying, and an immense relief. She still has struggles, but they feel so much more within the realm of “developmentally appropriate.” It was a long seven years to get here, but she is showing me that I needn’t have worried so much when she was younger. Who knows though, if I hadn’t worried, and didn’t get her the support that I did get her, maybe she wouldn’t be where she is now…

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

I regret not doing more to purge stuff around the house because now I feel like I’m absolutely drowning in shit, and the state of things is back to the code-red panic-inducing place it was before I did the first major Kondo-inspired purge. Except this time I can’t seem to motivate to make any real or lasting changes.

8. What’s one thing that changed about yourself?

Ha. I think one thing that sets 2017 apart is that I did less to change myself than I have in any other year. Well, I suppose that is not true. I did apply for new jobs, and it was the first time I’d done that in 14 years. So that was a massive thing. And not having a job offered to me was also a massive thing, the repercussions of which I don’t think I’ve quite processed. All I know is that since I applied for those jobs and didn’t get them, I’ve basically stopped trying to better myself. Hmmm, I wonder if they are connected… Do I know longer believe I can affect real change in my own life? I should look at this more…

9. What surprised you the most this year?

How happy I am in my marriage… How awesome 2nd grade has been for my daughter… That my family was okay without me for 10 days… How hard it is being PTA president at my daughter’s school… How many steps back I can take in areas of my life that I’ve wanted to change… How difficult, and ultimately beneficial, it can be to let someone go… How much I can miss someone that I didn’t think was a big part of my life…

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

Oh fuck, this is a hard one. I think I’ll wait and ponder it a bit, and post my thoughts on the first of the year…

Anticipation Hangover

Well, the big day came and went, and I find myself in a pretty intense anticipation hangover.

I sometimes don’t realize how much I’m relying on the anticipation of a big event to get me through the days. December was very much about Christmas and preparing for its arrival. And even though I didn’t have grand expectations for the actual day (which was quite nice, all things considered), I guess I was really enjoying the anticipation, and even the preparation, leading up to it. Now that there is nothing fun to look forward to (at least not for the next couple of months), I’m reminded of my real life, and of what the day to day actually consists.

To be honest, I’m not super enthused.

I had a similar realization on the first day of my break, when I went down to the enrollment office to figure out what exactly my option are for our son next year. There is a part of me that is considerably frustrated with his fall birthday, and the fact that I will probably have to pay an extra $20K for a fourth year of preschool/daycare, because of his birthday not meeting the Kindergarten cut off. My daughter turned five in June and I only needed three years of care after she turned two. My son will be two months away from turning six when he starts Kindergarten, which means I have an extra year of care to arrange for him.

In the grand scheme of things, $20K is not an insane amount of money. It’s totally manageable, and I’m thankful we have the option of keeping him where he is if the public school options don’t work out (and there is a VERY good chance they won’t). So I was surprised by how frustrated I was when the answers to my questions revealed how few options we have for next year, and how low are chances are of something working out.

I found myself whining to my husband, as I tried to make him (and me!) understand why I was so upset: If he stays at (his preschool) everything next year will be exactly the same. My job! Their schools! Nothing will have changed! I need something to change!

And that’s when I recognize how unsatisfied I am with so many aspects of my life right now.

The fact that I still won’t have a room next year, let alone a new job. The fact that I’ll have to ask for first period prep, and commute between campuses during that tight, 15 minute window. The fact that my son mostly likely won’t be at my daughter’s school, which means they’ll only have two–or maybe even only one!–year together at the same place. The fact I will still be struggling with the same problems, not making improvements in the same areas of my life. It all feels like too much.

And yet, I had a sense this year, that their littleness is fading in very real and noticeable ways. Things do change–they change–and I see it when they can do something that before they couldn’t do, when they can manage something that before they couldn’t manage, when they say something that makes them sound like a teenager, instead of repeating a now rarely-heard vestige of some sweet toddlerism they used to employ.

On Christmas Eve, when I packed away our Elf on a Shelf, I realized this was certainly the last year my daughter would believe. We had so much fun finding her every morning, and using the keys she held to open the boxes with the little surprises. I think I enjoyed it even more than they did. And next year she’ll be 8.5 and he’ll be 5… And there will be almost nothing left of the little loves they used to be.

When my son wakes up early we snuggle together in his bed until it’s wake up time, and I cherish those moments instead of resenting the missed sleep. I am acutely aware of how rare those moments will be, of how precious they are now.

So why, if I recognize how fast they are growing, and how fast their lives are changing, am I so frustrated that next year things will stay the same? It doesn’t make any sense.

All I know is that right now I am an emotional mess. I don’t know what is going on, so I’m trying to patient with myself, to be understanding, even though I don’t understand, to show myself some compassion and remind myself that it’s okay to not know why I feel all these conflicting emotions.

And there are things to look forward to this spring. There are big events to anticipate. And even if next year looks very much the same, it can be different.  can make it different. It’s all in my perspective.

‘Twas the day before Christmas

Yesterday my son woke up at 7:30am! Huzzah! It’s amazing how much more manageable the day feels when you’ve only been awake for 1.5 hours at 9am, instead of 3.5 hours.

I spent much of yesterday running around, getting the final presents for Christmas. I definitely found a couple of awesome things, so I’m glad I headed out. Costco was so overrun I couldn’t even get into the parking lot, but the other stores I hit up were fine – a little crowded but nothing crazy.

Last night I was up until 1:30am wrapping and sorting presents. The way we do Christmas Eve and Day is kind of crazy: we spend Christmas Eve afternoon at my parents’ house, then drive home to sleep, wake up to open one present under our tree, and then head to my in-laws’ for Christmas morning. At lunch we head back down to my parents’ house and finish the day there. At the last minute we head back home to sleep in our own beds. It’s insanity, but it allows us to see both sets of grandparents in a way that works for well enough for everyone. It also requires I have an equal distribution of presents for each child, for each house. It definitely gets complicated.

My son woke up at 6:30am this morning (two steps forward, one step back) and I’m exhausted after only 5 hours of sleep. It’s definitely going to be a long day, especially since both kids are out of their minds excited for tomorrow. I’m anxiously anticipating the festivities as well, and hoping the kids can pull it together for most of the day. I hope we can manage frequent down time, and help them find ways to recharge between bouts of over-stimulation.

Mostly I’m so thankful that Christmas fell on a Monday so my husband can be home today. The years I’ve had to navigate Christmas Eve alone are super long and difficult.

Right now I’m working out while the kids play in the bath. We’ll probably re-watch the Lego Ninjago Movie since the rental expires tomorrow (they have refused to watch ANY Christmas movies this year, much to my disappointment) , and then head down to my parents’s house. Let the festivities begin!

What are you up to today?