Letting it get to me

I’m so tired of the way I react to certain things. Posts about how great someone’s life is, how over achieving someone’s kids are, how fabulous and fulfilling someone’s job is, how beautiful someone’s house looks. I KNOW it’s not the whole truth. I know life is a nuanced, complicated thing. I totally GET it. And yet I find myself stewing in… I don’t know what. Not self pity. My life is not awful. My life is, in fact, pretty great. I am, actually, quite satisfied. So why do I let this petty shit, THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, get me down?

I honestly don’t know. I WANT to know, but I can’t figure it out. I think identifying why something bothers you can be enormously effective in learning more about yourself. If I could figure out why these posts make me feel what I feel (which honestly, is hard in itself to determine – What emotion is this? Envy or jealously toward them? Disappointment in my own life?) then I could work on some obviously deep seated issues. And yet, I can’t seem to manage it. Sometimes I really wish I could find and afford a therapist.

This is clearly a big trigger for me. Social media made me so miserable, I walked away from it and never looked back. And whenever I consider allowing it back into my life, even for something I know would be positive (like creating a new account to participate in a book club that happens only on FB), I ultimately decide I can’t handle it, or just don’t want to try.

I probably have more to say about this but my thoughts lately are so jumbled. Instead I’ll just hit publish, and put this out there, because maybe someone else feels the same way and reading this will make them feel less… I don’t know, alone? Weirdly unable to cope with something everyone else seems to manage just fine? Or maybe I really am the only one who gets bummed out by the “my life is magical!” posts where people have houses and children and husbands and meals that photograph (and write up) perfectly, and I need to just shut up and get over it. Either way, I’m putting this out there. Because my house is a disgusting right now and my kids haven’t been bathed all week (and are yelling at my a lot), and my husband is being a stress case and I made frozen samosas for my dinner last night.

Funding the Nicaragua Trip

When I first considered traveling abroad with the kids this summer, I assumed I would fund the trip with the money we would be saving by not paying for day care in the fall. Then I did more research and realized the chances of us getting into a TK were pretty much nil, and that the chances of us getting into the pre-school at my daughter’s school were even less (it is a needs-based pre-school so families who make MUCH less than us have priority), so I started reconsidering my options. I do have some extra money that remains untouched from our 125B tax-deferred child care account, but I’m guessing that will be spent on the water damage we still haven’t dealt with (and then some). I’m also not banking on our tax return, especially since I’m one of the lucky ones in a coastal city with high state taxes that will be hit by the new tax bill. So what then? I could try to save, but I don’t think I’d have enough by the time summer rolls around. Luckily, I have a third option.

I plan to AirBnB my house.

How can I do that when I have a husband who won’t be traveling with us. Oh, and a cat?

Good questions.

They will be staying at my in-law’s house. The chances of my in-laws actually being in California this summer are VERY low. Even if they are here, my husband and cat can still stay with them. If they want to leave their condo sitting vacant for a huge portion of the year, that is fine, but I’m going to take advantage of it.

{Also, I feel I should mention that one can AirBnB a house WITH a cat occupying it. The guests just agree to take care of the cat. I’m sure they get a better deal on the house that way. My friends has done this dozens of times–she actually camps all summer so she can make money AirBnBing her house! I just don’t think our cat could handle it. She is not the nicest feline.}

Of course, AirBnBing the house is not a panacea. Getting it ready for paying guest will require a TON of work. But it’s work I want to do (or better said, it’s work I want done), and having a tangible, date-specific reason means I’ll actually do it. There is also the fear that our guests will do something to our house. We don’t have anything that is worth much (and what we do have will be stored at our in-laws, ::cough:: the electric cargo bike ::cough::), but that doesn’t mean damage can’t be done. The thing I’m most worried about is someone bringing in bed bugs. I’m going to look into the guest ratings and see if I can choose who actually rents the place. If I can, I will only pick people who have been scored highly.

So yes, there are drawbacks, but the reality is, living in San Francisco, I can make A LOT of money renting out my house while I’m away (seriously, it’s A LOT of money). Probably enough to finance the whole trip – including airfare).

I think we might even rent it out while we’re in St. Louis. I would use the money to pay for those flights.

So yeah, that’s my plan. My parents have rented out their (much nicer) house on the peninsula many times without problems, and I know many friends who have done the same in the city. We really don’t have anything I am worried might be stolen (only the TV?); the biggest issue is clearing it out enough to be ready for guests.

So, AirBnB it will be.

I’m sure everyone has AirBnB horror stories they want to share. Feel free. I’d much rather be aware of the potential problems. 😉

Least Favorite Work Day

Wednesdays are my least favorite work day. We have two block days a week this year, and Wednesday is our 2/4/6 day, which means I need to be at work right when then the first bell rings and I don’t get a prep period. Wednesdays are also our minimum day, so there isn’t even a lunch break. It’s basically go, go, go until the end of the day.

It’s stressful enough getting to school on time. My daughter and I have to leave the house 10 minutes earlier than any other day, and if there is traffic I am still screwed. The morning is really stressful.

Then, because my second school starts earlier on Wednesdays (why?!?!) there is only 2 minutes between my last class at the first campus and my class at the second campus. A teacher at the other school covers my class there for 15 minutes, which means that by the time I arrive the students are done with their silent reading and ready to go, whereas I’m a disheveled mess that still needs to set up. This is already my hardest class behaviorally, so starting without a moment to get ready on Wednesday, when the class is 85 minutes long, is really hard.

The icing on the cake of my least favorite day is that 2nd, 4th and 6th periods are my least favorite classes.

So Wednesdays suck, but then Thursdays are awesome. On Thursdays I get an 85 minute prep in the morning and then there is a break, so I don’t start my first class of the day until 10:20! I have one class I like, and then lunch, and then another class I like, then a break and finally my Quest class, which for me is just a Guided Study where I can get stuff done in between quick trips around the room to make sure the kids are being productive.

I do like the block schedule, because it’s nice to have two days where you don’t see every class, and where you have the time to do an activity, or series of them, that requires more minutes. But man, do I hate Wednesdays. Thank goodness they are always followed by Thursdays.

Being a Better Delegator

I struggle with delegating work to other people. This has always been a problem for me, in both my personal and professional life. It’s something I definitely need to work on, now more than ever.

This week the PTA board is officially embarking on a 2.5 month effort that will culminate in a four hour fundraising event. I’ve created a series of Google Sheets in an attempt to organize the effort. One of the sheets has a list of weekly tasks. An adjacent column has the beginnings of a list of names by each item. Already I see my own name next to too many things. I know I need to give some of this work to others, but I’m not sure how to do it, especially when people don’t offer to take it on. Do I indicate the tasks that require point people and wait through any amount of awkward silence until someone steps up? Do I ask someone specifically to do something? And once tasks become the responsibility of others, how do ensure they are getting done? I want to do weekly check-ins, and I’m sure everyone will agree that’s a necessary component of the process, but I’m already worried people won’t get their stuff done. How should I handle the inevitable failure to meet deadlines? How do I hold people accountable, while resisting the urge to take on their work?

I hate having to do something I know I suck at, but in this case it’s absolutely necessary. I can’t put on this event by myself. I need help, and lots of it. I hope I can figure this delegating thing out somehow, before it’s too late.

Are you a good delegator? Any tips for someone who needs to learn?

Success!

Last night was a success! It was crazy and exhausting and harder than I expected but in the end we raised $570 (a huge amount of money by our standards) and the parents and kids seemed really happy. Most people mentioned seeing us again next month.

And next month our Parents’ Night Out month is on the 9th — Lunar New Year is observed by our district on the 16th and we figured a lot of people would be out of town for the four day weekend — so it’s only three weeks away. We exchanged ideas to make it better (and easier!) next time over group chat last night and will confirm those changes at our board meeting next week.

All in all I’m really glad we did it. In the future we’ll have more people helping (it was one board member’s birthday and another was at Legoland) so it shouldn’t feel so intense. We’ll also have a much better idea of what we’re doing and when so it will run more smoothly.

All in all I’m very pleased, and excited to continue these events. It’s definitely a great way to get the surrounding community to support the school, and to have a positive association with it. Double win!

Our First Financial Success

Tonight our PTA is hosting a Parents’ Night Out to raise money. Parents pay $20 a kid ($15 for a sibling) and get 3.5 hours of childcare. We take them to the playground (glow sticks!), feed them dinner (Mac n Cheese and chicken nuggets!) and show them a movie (Trolls!) Tonight’s theme is Neon Night.

We attempted this fundraiser last year, got about 15 kids and made a little money. This year a woman who used to (and still periodically does) run a similar event at a nearby Rec and Park sent out an invite to our event to everyone on her list (at our request). Even though she ended up sending it much later than we had hoped, we still got an overwhelming response. We now have 32 kids paying to come, and with plans to do this every month (and the emails of all these parents who are interested), we are poised to make quite a bit of money for the school.

Fundraising at a school like my daughter’s is especially important because of the significant economic needs of the students. It’s also really difficult for that same reason. Planning a fundraiser that brings in money from the surrounding community, and creates a positive association with the school, is a double win for us.

This was my idea and I’m doing most of the execution. I will also be the parent most involved with the kids tonight because I feel very comfortable with large groups of kids I don’t know (being a teacher has its perks!). If this even goes well (the kids have fun and the parents want to come back) it will be a massive win for us, and especially me. And I really need a win right now.

Wish me luck!

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?