The Return of the Routine

Last night I laid out my kids clothes, and packed the non-perishables for a week of my daughter’s lunches. I gave them both a little melatonin so they would fall asleep at a decent hour despite sleeping in that morning (daughter) and a late nap (son). Then I set my own alarm and went to sleep.

Today my daughter starts 2nd grade, and my son starts what I hope will be his final year of daycare (we’ll be entering the transitional kindergarten lottery in the fall). I will be standing in front of my new students this Wednesday. Another school year begins.

This is my 37th year on this earth and my 14th year teaching. I have high hopes for this year, in my personal and professional lives. Sure the world is on fire (and I never know what to write about that) but I still want to make positive changes for me and my family.

The nature of my job really brings into sharp focus the passage of time. At the beginning of every school year it feels like the following summer will never come, and yet, every year, it does. The years pass whether we mark their passing or let them slip by. Now, with kids, I am even more acutely aware of that. Someday I will be looking back on this time in my life with some mixture of appreciation and regret. This year I will try hard to ensure there is more of the former.

 

External Reflections

I’ve been buying a lot of shit lately, and my house looks like a hurricane hit it.

I’ve been me long enough to know that I’m buying things in the attempt to exert some control over my life, and that the chaos of my house is an external manifestation of the overwhelm I feel inside. I know all of that, but it doesn’t help me to make it better.

I KNOW that if I clean my house it will help me feel more in control inside. I know it will do that because I will be forced to make decisions when I clean up that will reinforce my values and help me better define my priorities. I get it. But inside I’m such a mess that the thought of cleaning and organizing is literally paralyzing. I. just. can’t. do. it.

I wonder if it’s my ADD, rearing it’s ugly head. I’m sure that’s part of it. The medicine I take to help me manage my ADD symptoms finally lost its patent and in June I received my first bottle of the generic substitute. I immediately noticed a difference, but hoped the overall affect would be similar enough. And maybe it is. I’m not sure. The new medicine could be having an effect, but it could also be the stress in other areas of my life.

And their are plenty of stressful areas. School is starting and I don’t have a room. I’m also trying a whole new way of teaching that could be highly rewarding, but initially will make me feel vulnerable. I’m sure some people would argue that without my room I should stick with curriculum and teaching methods I know, but so much of my old system depended on materials and having space to store them so they were accessible. I just won’t have that to the same degree in five different teachers’ spaces. So I do think this new teaching method is ultimately a very good thing for me, it’s just stressful to think about changing everything up after so many years.

And of course there are my responsibilities as PTA president at my daughter’s school. I have such high hopes that the new admins will turn things around, but I can’t know what this year will bring. If it’s anything like last year we will probably have to leave, and the prospect of that makes me sad.

I’m also stressed for my daughter, who has backslid so significantly on a number of behavioral issues that I’m totally panicked about her well-being this year, and for the rest of her life, frankly. She reminds me so much of my sister, who struggles so much, and is never happy. It breaks my heart to watch my sister try to navigate her life, and the thought of my daughter following in her foot steps makes me blind with panic. And of course there is the guilt of knowing she gets all of it from me. Sometimes I think I had no business passing down my genetic makeup to my innocent, unsuspecting children. It isn’t fair to them.

Yes, I remind myself not to get ahead of life on the worry front. Yes, I tell myself that my daughter is a different person and is likely to have different outcomes in her own life. But she is an emotionally volatile child. Resilient cannot possibly be used to describe her and all you can read these days is articles about how resilience is the number one indicator of a person’s future happiness. How will she ever be truly content if even the smallest perceived transgressions send her into a rage and shame spiral? Her reactions to disappointment are so totally inappropriate for a 7-year-old, even her friends notice and avoid her when she can’t pull herself out of an obsession that is upsetting her. It’s heartbreaking to watch.

Parenting her this summer has put a ton of stress on my marriage. Most of the time we don’t have the energy at the end of the day to connect. I don’t want to imagine what the first month of school will be like.

And I know my own lack of resilience isn’t helping me manage any of this either. It also doesn’t help me manage my daughter. So yeah, it’s super fun in my head right now.

Ugh. It’s all I can do right now to keep writing this and not click over to Amazon. Shopping allows me to escape, especially when I’m getting things I think will help difficult situations, like a different pair of shoelaces for my daughter’s new shoes (learning to tie them is not going well).

Writing things out can be helpful, it can put things perspective and help me understand how I’m feeling and why. But that isn’t always the case. I guess sometimes we just have to get it out, and hope the healing happens over time. I’m sure things will be better once all the new stuff starts – the anticipation is always harder than reality, right? When you anticipate like I do, it is.

One week until my daughter starts school. Wish us luck.

Oh yeah, I’m going there

I have always been sensitive to smells. Strong smells, even if they are supposed to be pleasant, bother me. I am always acutely aware of fragrances and odors – they can make or break an experience for me.

I am especially turned off by body odor. I absolutely loathe that particular smell. I find even my own BO totally offensive. I am so bothered when I smell my own BO, that I carry deodorant in pretty much every bag I own. I also keep some in my car and at my desk at work. There are few things I’ve bought out and about as much as a deodorant; if I realize I’ve left the house without it, and don’t have some on me, I pretty much have to buy a stick. If I don’t, I’ll keep checking under my arms to make sure I haven’t started smelling yet.

I don’t shower every day, but I wash under my arms in the mornings and at night. I have a nice bar of lemongrass soap that I use to chase the BO smell away. I really cannot stress enough how much I HATE the smell of my own BO. I am lucky I don’t live somewhere where it’s hot.

Yes, I am obsessed with wearing deodorant. I’m also kind of scared of it. My roommate from college has the kind of mother who scares the shit out of you with articles about how this and that thing you use every day is eventually going to kill you. She used to lay the deodorant articles on thick. Because of her I never touched an antiperspirant, and even tried some of those crystal deodorants that are supposed to be less bad for you. Unfortunately none of the natural stuff ever kept my body odor at bay, so I kept using Dove, which I liked well enough, even though there was always a linger odor at the end of the day (hence the twice daily under arm washings).

Needless to say, when my aunt casually mentioned that she is now using lemon instead of deodorant, I was very interested. She said it worked like a charm, WAY better than any deodorant ever had. I was intrigued. All she does is cut a lemon in quarters and rub one slice under her arms every day. I vowed to try it.

Except I kept forgetting to buy lemons. So one day when I was googling “lemons” for deodorant (I’ll admit, to see if anyone else could corroborate what felt to me like an insane claim), I fell down the rabbit hole of homemade deodorant recipes. As you know, I’ve become a HUGE fan of coconut oil, and use it for all sorts of hair and body care. I also really love tea tree oil, and have used that a lot as well. I know they both have antimicrobial properties, so I wasn’t surprised that most DIY deodorants used them both.

When I got home from San Diego, I decided to whip up my own DIY deodorant. I had all the ingredients already – it only called for baking soda (which I buy in bulk at Costco), cornstarch, coconut oil and tea tree oil. So I found one that seemed straight forward, followed the recipe, and the next morning, gave it a try.

I will say that putting it on (which I did with my fingertips) felt a little weird. It’s grainy, because of the baking soda, and the coconut oil never fully “dries” in the way I’m used to deodorant feeling, but after a few minutes I didn’t notice it anymore, and I really loved the tea tree oil smell whenever I gave my pits a sniff. (Yes, I sniff my pits.)

In fact, I kept sniffing my pits all day. At first they smelled like tea tree oil, later there was a lingering hint of coconut oil, but never did they smell like body odor. The first day I reapplied before I worked out, and not surprisingly, I never got a whiff of BO.

The second day I never reapplied, but I also never worked out. I did ride my bike up some gnarly hills with both kids though, and I definitely worked up a sweat when I did that. When I went to bed there was not even a hint of BO, and even the next morning I still smelled good! Well maybe not good, but very neutral – there was no body odor to speak of and usually there is. (I always smell bad after I wake up, I’m not sure why.)

Today I put it on again (after washing with the lemongrass bar – I couldn’t help myself, it’s part of my routine!), biked all over the city (with an unnecessary sweatshirt which definitely left me a little damp) and now I’m working out. I’m half way through my elliptical set, sweating like a pig, and still no body odor.

As you can imagine, I’m totally sold on this DIY deodorant. I’m thrilled to have something that will keep me odor free, without having to worry about how it’s maybe poisoning my body! The fear that my deodorant was doing something awful to me has been a niggling worry in the back of my brain since my friend’s mother planted the seeds all those years ago. I’m thrilled to be able to silence it!

AND NO MORE BO! I can’t tell you how much I love not worrying about body odor anymore. I will definitely carry a little pot of this with me in case I ever forget to put it on, otherwise I will trust it’s capabilities implicitly. It really does work great, and when I apply it with my fingers I don’t have to worry about streaking my shirts. (You can pour it in old deodorant containers–or buy new empty ones–and apply it like regular stick deodorant, but I think I’ll keep using my fingers because it’s easy and it doesn’t get on my clothes that way.

One thing to keep in mind is that coconut oil starts to liquefy around 72-75*, so if you keep your house hotter than that during the summer, you may need to keep it in the fridge. Here in SF that is never an issue, so I can keep mine in a seal-able glass pot in the bathroom.

Also, this is a DIY deodorant, not antiperspirant. I sweat easily, and a lot, but I’ve never used antiperspirant because I was afraid to deny my body that necessity. If you also want to stay dry, this is not for you.

If you are interested in trying this DIY deodorant at home, I followed this recipe from Beginner Beans, but there are tons of other recipes that come up when you search DIY deodorant. I may try some others at some point, but right now I’m loving my first pot. It’s truly amazing.

What deodorant do you love? Have you ever tried anything of the DIY variety?

One More Week

There is officially one week left of my summer. I can’t believe it. It feels like it started only yesterday.

I haven’t traveled like this during the summer in a LONG time. I think the length and nature of my trips made the summer fly by, but maybe any kind of traveling would seem to shorten the summer.

Parenting has thoroughly kicked my ass this summer. I feel like I spent the entire seven weeks yelling at my kids. It’s not what I want our summers to be like, but I’m not sure how to avoid it. Transitions are hard for them (especially my daughter – they are impossible for my daughter), so traveling and having to be places around a certain time is difficult, but they don’t play well together so staying at home just ends (or starts!) in them bickering and fighting. I don’t know what the answer is. Part of me is relieved the school year is about to begin. Maybe all of this will get better as they get older? My seven year old seemed to backslide intensely this summer, which suggests that might not be the case. I’m trying to be accepting of who they are and what they are capable of, but it’s hard.

San Diego did not make it easier. Of course the family we were with had calm, easy going kids who never so much as tried to negotiate with their parents, let alone openly defy them. And yes, I realize it’s harder when you’re away from home, but my kids were up in all of their shit, playing with their toys and using their art supplies and neither one ever had anything to say about it (at least not while we were around, which was pretty much always during the weekend). I also understand that their younger kid is five, but their older son is exactly our daughter’s age and he was happy to entertain himself writing and illustrating all the words he knows related to “electricity.” He even spelled “circuit” right. He never complained to his parents, let along hissed or scratched or yelled at them (all things my daughter did multiple times over the weekend).

At my best moments I found myself marveling over how rested and not stressed the parents seemed – it’s what I imagined parenthood would be like for me — at my darkest moments I found myself berating myself and my parenting, sure the fault lied with me and my own moments of anger and frustration (which are many).

By the end of the trip I was back at my baseline, which oscillates between acceptance and resignation. These are my kids, and this is my life. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at making choices that take into account who they are and what they can handle, but this summer reminded me that I still overestimate their capabilities much of the time. I need to think long and hard about what they, and I, can handle next year.

I won’t even go into the challenges my husband and I faced as we negotiated simultaneous parenting this past weekend, but I will mention that it was rough, especially at first.

Yesterday was nice. They both were sweeter, with each other and with me, than they had been in a long time. I needed that and was grateful.

Sad

I reached out to my friends yesterday. Turns out they have been together since last Saturday. I had no idea it was a week long trip.

They sent me pictures (at my request). Everyone smiling and having a great time. Children sharing chairs. Adults sharing drinks. 

They all have this shared experience that I don’t have. They all know each other’s children and families, and they do not know mine. I do not know theirs. 

It makes me sad. 

Together

I’m on a text chain with three friends from college. We can go a couple of days without messaging, but usually somebody throws something out there eventually. I realized today that that text chain had been silent for a long time – maybe a week? And then I remembered that my friends are all getting together this weekend… they aren’t texting because they are actually talking to each other, in the same room (and I’m sure this past week they were making and confirming plans on a different chain that didn’t include me, which was very kind of them).

This is not the first time I have not been on a trip with them. They have traveled together quite a bit, and there have been visits, like this one, that I couldn’t attend. I decided not to go this weekend because flying across country again with my kids would have cost a fortune, in both dollars and my sanity. Like so many times before, I couldn’t afford it, not because I can’t afford to travel, but because I’d prioritized other things instead (to be fair, this trip was planned only two months ago, long after my other travel plans had been finalized and tickets purchased).

The weird thing is, I’m not sure how I feel about it. In the past I’ve felt all manner of things when I “couldn’t go”: jealousy, envy, self-pity, indifference, frustration, FOMO. I felt left behind and it hurt. And now, it seems like I should feel those things, especially since this is the first trip in which kids are included, and I’m the only one who won’t be there when this new chapter in their friendships is… consummated? I don’t know. It feels like a significant milestone, one I was desperate to share with them when I embarked on the insane journey that is motherhood, back when they weren’t even thinking of having kids, and couldn’t relate to anything I was going through (so I tried my best to pretend like it wasn’t happening at all). But now they are moms, with kids close in age, and they are together, and I am not…

Of course this weekend I’ll be away myself, and I’m sure all the logistics of traveling with two kids (again) will distract me much of the time. But we are visiting my husband’s friends and I will surely be left alone with the kids in the later evenings, (which is how it should be – I would expect the same if our situations were reversed) and so I’m sure my mind will wander, to my friends and what they are doing together…

The things is, we have all changed so much, and we live so far apart, and there are… complications, as there always are with long-term friends (especially those you met in college)… I’m not even sure who they are to me anymore, or who I am to them–I mean, they are and always will be, my three closest college girlfriends, but what does that mean anymore, 15 years after we graduated? Does that even make sense? So much has changed, we can’t just stay the same.

And that is why I’m not sure what to feel anymore. I am all too aware that the reality of something like that is never what you expect; I know the actual experience would be strange and exhausting in all kinds of complicated ways.

So yeah… that is where I will, and won’t, be this weekend.

So Many Balls in the Air

I have way too much going on right now, way too many things I’m trying to accomplish. There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to get all these things done; I need to prioritize, and push some projects to the back burner. I keep reminding myself that I can come back to them some day, that I’m not abandoning them forever.

{Except so many things I’ve pushed to the back burner HAVE been abandoned forever…}

The things I’m trying to do right now (with one goal outlined for each thing):

Improving my Spanish. If I want the scores (from that test I hope to take) to help me get a new job next year, I need to take said test by mid-winter (so I have the scores during application time). That means I don’t have much time to make big gains in my Spanish. It would be easy to push this because I won’t reap the rewards immediately, but improving my Spanish so important to me finding a new job next year. I truly need all the time I can get, so I have to find a way to build intensive Spanish practice into almost every day. Right now I’m doing it before bed, but with my son waking up somewhat regularly around 7am (huzzah!), maybe waking up early is the better answer. My goal is to study for 30 minutes in the morning or evening every day for the next two weeks (in San Diego this can look like 2ish hours of speaking to my kids in Spanish).

PTA President responsibilities. The National PTA office sent me a massive “new president packet” last week. I finally opened it today. It’s width gave me a bit of a panic attack, reminding me of exactly how much I still need to know about being in this leadership position. I am not letting myself get sucked into their shiny messages about how great it would be to accomplish X,Y, and Z at our school site this year, but there are some procedural details that can’t be overlooked lest we violate our non-profit status and lose our PTA charter. I’m think I have a very basic understanding of what those essentials are, and am focusing on a few personal PTA projects that our boards wants to execute in the coming months. I need to find a good system for managing the dates and to-do’s associated with PTA. Creating that system is high on my priority list right now. My first goal is to share an email with the other parent group leaders by Thursday and send that email out the PTA membership Monday of next week.

Decluttering the house. It would be so easy to not focus on this right now–a huge part of me wants to just look past all the crap and go on my merry way–but I recognize that the state of the house (and garage!) is causing me enormous stress, and decluttering at least our most used spaces would allow me to be more productive in all other areas of my life. I hope to get a lot of this done after our San Diego trip, when my son’s in daycare and my daughter’s home. I have also resigned myself to not purging (which requires more time but is also much more effective), and will instead do some organizing. I already bought two storage drawers for under my son’s bed. Getting some of the lesser used toys into one of them (and the 5T clothes we’ve been given into the other) should help with the state of things. My goal is to have the living room and the kids room decluttered¬† before the start of the new school year.

Spending quality time with husband. We are both stressed, and exhausted, and so, so tired of dealing with our kids. I’ve been traveling for most of July, and we’re finding it harder to reconnect now that I’m back. Most of the time it feels like we’re mad at each other, or we would be if we had the time and energy to care. I know what I can do to make it better, but I’m so sick of being the one who always extends that conciliatory branch. Ugh, I’m finding it hard to prioritize this right now, so hard that I haven’t managed it yet. I hope San Diego helps the situation instead of exacerbating it. My goal is to connect with my husband in a positive and meaningful way at least once before, during and in the week after San Diego.

Learning New Teaching Method. I got two books that introduce a new teaching method, one that I builds and extends on the method I already use. I think if I read one of them I’ll be ready to get started with the new method, and I can work through the other books as I need suggestions and support. Reading that one book is totally doable, I just need to make sure I also make time to take notes and map things out for the first month of school. My goal is to have the book done by the time we’re back from San Diego.

Helping daughter transition to new school year. We’ve been working on math this summer (she can already add two digit numbers and regroup!), but I’ve let reading aloud fall by the wayside, mostly because she reads alone a lot (and I do think she’s actually reading because she’ll ask me what a word or phrase means). But reading aloud continues to cause friction, and I know it’s important, so this past week we’ve been asking our daughter to read us a book or chapter before we read to her at night. This has mostly been in English, which is easier for her, so we need to up the Spanish reading too. My goal is to require my daughter read to me in Spanish for at least 10 minutes every day (even if she has already read aloud in English) and to do 10 minutes of math every day (after San Diego).

Seeing those prioritized goals definitely helps me to feel like accomplishing some of this might actually be possible. It’s officially August, I have two weeks until my first staff day, five days of which I’ll be in San Diego (or driving to/from). I CAN DO THIS!

Some Thoughts on a Saturday

~ Today I got my kids all ready (and excited) and took them to a birthday party that it turned out is actually tomorrow. #epicmomfail Their disappointment was compounded by an event at the park that boasted not one, not two, BUT THREE mega bouncy house/slide combinations, which they of course thought were for the party. They were understandably upset but handled it well. We went to another playground with their scooters and they each got a lollipop as compensation.

~ My daughter grew out of both her size 1 and size 1.5 tennis shoes (ack! she is so big!) this summer so I ordered her a new pair, but didn’t really point out that they only had laces until it was too late to cancel. She freaked out, but I’m glad she has an incentive to learn how to tie her shoes because she’s seven and starting 2nd grade and it’s time. I can’t really believe we haven’t tackled this milestone yet; I suppose it was easy enough to avoid with so many sneakers having velcro at the top. She really likes the shoes so I hope she’ll attempt to learn. Right now she is absolutely refusing, but we’ll see.

~ Speaking of refusing to learn, I can’t get my son to even try to ride his balance bike. My daughter never wanted to either but she wasn’t a very physically daring kid so I didn’t push it. My son does love to run and jump and climb and can put in the time (and manage the frustration of) learning a new skill when it comes to all things balls (like shooting baskets or hitting a T-ball), so I hoped he’d want to learn on a balance bike, but he hates it when I ask him to try. It makes me sad, and I’ll admit, frustrated. I’ve read a lot of articles responding to parents who want to encourage their kids to ride balance bikes, but the main piece of advice is to go with friends whose kids can already ride. I don’t really know any of my son’s friends’ parents well, and no one is ever riding one when we take it to the playground, so yeah, that hasn’t happened. Blerg, I just wish he’d give it a try because I know he’d love it once he felt comfortable.

~ I took my daughter to the mall yesterday to buy birthday presents and we also got a bunch of uniform pieces for her for next year. We ended up being there for three hours and even spent a large chunk of time in the Disney Store and she handled herself beautifully. Why she can handle that but was such a mess for most of our trip I don’t understand. Maybe just because her brother wasn’t around? Ugh, they make each other so crazy, which in turns makes me crazy. I don’t know how other parents navigate sibling issues… we seem to be failing on that front, big time.

~ The other reason she might have been good was because I got her a Moana doll (I had told her beforehand that I would). She has a whole collection of plush Disney princess dolls and is currently obsessed with Moana (an obsession which I endorse wholeheartedly as I love the movie and soundtrack), so I offered to get her one. She loves it and has been carrying it around ever since. It really is an excellent movie and I’m okay with her being into it for a long, long time.

~ I have amassed an extensive library of advanced Spanish materials and am working through them slowly. Most of them were created to prepare for a Spanish language exam given in Spain (much like the TOEFL, which English speakers can take to demonstrate mastery and get English-teaching jobs around the world). The materials focus on Castellano (the Spanish spoken in Spain), and the test I might take focuses on Latin American Spanish, but I don’t think I’ll find anything else that challenges me at my current level (there don’t seem to be any preparation materials available for the test I would take, only one practice exam). I am excited to work through the writing and speaking activities with my tutor from Guatemala.

~ I have (what I suspect is) heat rash, which (I suspect) I got in St. Louis where it was in the high 90’s, low 100’s for most of out trip. The little red bumps are concentrated in small areas behind my knees and elbows, and on my legs and arms, and holy shit do they itch. I’m glad it didn’t hit me until I left the heat because man would it be uncomfortable if I were still in that oppressive heat and humidity.

~ Having said that, I appreciate that we faced that weather and not only survived, but had a lot of fun. I was really worried my kids wouldn’t be able to handle it, but they did a nice job. Of course there was AC whenever we went inside – if we were in a Spanish speaking country with that kind of heat there wouldn’t be AC everywhere – still, it’s nice to know they can handle it, despite almost never spending time in temperatures above 80. Dare I say I was becoming accustomed to stepping out into a solid wall of water-infused heat every time I went outside. By the end I hardly noticed.

~ I’ve written a few times before about my thrice weekly workout combo of elliptical machine followed by push-ups and ab work (and ended with stretching, which for me is incredibly important). I’ve been doing the same basic routine for what feels like an eternity, only ever switching it up to train for a run last summer (though I do try to run once a week during daylight savings). I’ve been considering trying something new for a while now, but didn’t have the slightest idea what to do. I really liked some of the Jillian Michaels DVDs when I was losing my 2nd pregnancy weight and I spent a few months doing some of the PiYo workouts, but I don’t love having to watch something while I exercise and really wanted a weight lifting routine I could get through quickly after my cardio (which I need because it helps me avoid becoming depressed). Then on my trip, I was struck by how amazing my cousin’s wife looked less than a year after having her THIRD child (girlfriend is RIPPED) and I also asked my other cousin about how he stayed in such fantastic shape (also RIPPED) when he works a million hours at the hospital, and he gave me the kettlebells sermon and oh man, did he convert me. So now I’m signed up for a foundations class at a gym all the way across the city on Monday, where I’ll learn how to perform the basic moves and find out what weight kettlebells I should get. I’m SO EXCITED to actually be weight training again (I haven’t weight trained regularly since college) and doing something new after my cardio. YAY! I don’t usually take before and after picture but maybe this time I will; I’m curious to see if there is a noticeable difference in my arms (which I like, but always want to look better) and my abs (which I hate, and always want to look less awful, or at least easier to hide under my shirts).

Sorry for two bullet point posts. I guess that’s where my mind is at these days.

All Over the Place

We got home Wednesday night and today my brain is all over the place. I’m still thinking about my most recent trip, I’m stressing about what needs to get done tomorrow, I’m freaking out about going back to work in less than three weeks. Sometimes I’m not sure if my trip to Ecuador really happened, or at least if it happened to me.

We’re finally home after ten days in St. Louis. It was a really fun trip. The end was challenging as the kids and I got a really horrible cold and felt awful. Our travel day was a shit show with a delayed flight and then more time spent on the tarmac while the water system on the plane got fixed. We ended up taking off seven hours after we’d arrived at the airport and we didn’t get into SF until after midnight (so 2am our time). The kids did surprisingly well until the last hour of the flight when the (not surprisingly) melted down from total exhaustion (and hunger). That travel day, and the five days I was alone with the kids in St. Louis, is making me wonder if it’s really a good idea to travel with them alone for an extended period next summer. I have to think about it some more, and I’m sure they will be a post or two dedicated to the subject.

We’re supposed to drive to San Diego for a family trip next weekend but we’re considering canceling. The kids really were struggling at the end of our time in St. Louis and with three of us sick this week, we’re not sure if it’s the best idea. But… we haven’t been in two years and it would be a shit move to cancel on our friends who are hosting us (and surely told someone else they couldn’t come that weekend because we had “reserved” their “casita”). I’m hoping that after this weekend, which will be very low key, we’ll feel up to it. The thought of packing us again so soon is not appealing in the slightest. At least I would know exactly what we actually need.

Speaking of which, I definitely brought too much with me on this last trip. It was a PITA to keep track of everything. In Ecuador I only took a carry on rolly bag and a backpack so I had to pack sparingly, and I did a great job. With my kids in tow, and my parents to take our big suitcase free of charge, I went way overboard. It was a constant point of frustration during that trip.

Being back in my own home is so nice, but I’m also acutely aware of both how small it is, and how full of crap every corner has become. After staying in my uncle’s much larger (and uncluttered) house, I’m surprised by how cramped everything here feels. We’re stuck at home sick today and I feel like we’re all on top of one another, even though we have our own rooms! It doesn’t help that the kids started fighting the minute they woke up. I thought I’d at least get a couple of hours of, “Look! My room! My toys!” before they started being assholes to each other, but of course that was an unrealized dream. If they don’t even care about their shit when they are gone from it for so many days, why have it around in the first place? Seeing how little joy their stuff brought them upon their return will definitely make it easier for me to purge their toys and books.

If purging is going to happen it will have to be next week, which is my last week of double child-care. My daughter has her last camp and my son can go to “school.” I hope to get a lot done at home and also to read some books before the start of next year. The following week my daughter will be home but my son can go to daycare and the week after that they both are home, but I start work on Wednesday. I still haven’t figured that out… Man the summer really flies when you go on two big trips!

I really can’t believe I go back to work in less than three weeks. I’m trying to get psyched about the new school year. When I think about my specific classes, and the new teaching methods I’m going to try, I get excited. When I remember that I don’t have a classroom I panic. I’m sure it will be okay, and that I’ll learn to depend less on stuff this coming year, but I’m really not looking forward to teaching in five different rooms. It’s kind of a nightmare scenario for me… I’m just the kind of teacher who builds her systems into her surroundings and hates feeling like she is borrowing other people’s space. It’s really going to suck. God I wish I had gotten a new job last spring… It’s still disappointing when I think of it, so I try hard not to. Onward to next year. There is nothing I can do but get through it.

There is also a ton to do at my daughter’s school for the start of the year. Did I ever mention I’m the new PTA president? Yeah, that happened. The son of last year’s president ended up getting transferred to another school because the English track at our school was full. It wasn’t what he intended to happen but once the change had been made there was no going back (yes, our district is a cluster fuck). So now I’m the president and the woman who basically guided us through last year termed out and is no longer on the board. Two good friends of mine stepped up to be secretary and vice-president (though the latter is not actually necessary and I don’t think she’ll be very available as she is already on the board of two other parent organizations), so at least we have a full board. The good news is we have two new administrators and I have high hopes that they can turn things around. The principal is African American, which is really important to that population at our school. The vice-principal is Latina, which is also very important to the Spanish speaking population at our school. Hopefully they will not just bring their cultural heritage and understanding to our students, but also strong leadership and effective communication. Our first big event is the Back-to-School BBQ on the 19th. So much to do!

Finally, I hope to get the photo book I make of our St. Louis trip done soon. Every year I put together a book and gift it to my aunts who make everything happen during our trip. It’s such a fun way to celebrate our family and it has become quite the “thing” as everyone is trying to outdo everyone else for the best photos. This year I took a TON of great shots and can’t wait to relive the trip as I put together the book. I hope to be done with that by next week.

So yeah, my mind is darting back and forth, fondly remember the past and careening anxiously into the future. So much to do! It’s almost August!

Summer Fun

We got back from the farm today. It was a three day trip. We got up there around lunch time on Thursday and left after lunch time on Monday. It was a really good time. 

When I was a kid we spent a week every summer in the Ozarks at a cabin on the lake. We swam and fished off the dock and water skied behind the boat. It was always the week my dad was in town (he spent the summer traveling for work) and my aunt took off work. It was a super fun week of swimming and boating and playing card games with family. 

The uncle whose family owned that house in the Lake of the Ozarks (my dad’s sister’s husband) now owns his own “house” (it is so big that the word “house” doesn’t seem adequate) with a private quarry lake behind it. Our new tradition is to go every year and spend a long weekend there: my parents and my two aunts and uncles, my seven cousins, their spouses (four of us are married) and the kids. 

It’s a ton of fun. We play and swim and explore. The kids have an incredible time and the parents do too. With so many grandparents around there is always a helping hand. Meat is grilled and dinners are prepared and we all eat together. Then we enjoy drinks together after the kids are asleep. Mostly we swim and have so much fun. 

I’m so glad my kids get to have these experiences, spending a few days surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles, catching frogs at the “fairy pond” and spending hours in the lake. I hope these memories are as foundational for them as the Ozarks were for me. 

View from the house.

The dock.

The quarry.

Swimming.

The “fairy pond.”

My husband goes home tomorrow and we fly back Wednesday afternoon. I’m definitely ready to head home, but am thankful to have a few more days to see my cousins.