Hurry hurry!, patience, play with umbrellas, spice racks

“Rush, rush! Hurry, hurry! Go, go, go! Don’t dawdle! Get a move on! No, we don’t have time for that!” This is the cry of the (possibly overscheduled) parent. Today I had two lessons to teach in the morning, the first one of which was scheduled to begin right at the start of my childcare time. Immediately after the second lesson I had to book out of here to get Hazel to her swim lesson, and then hurry back so we can make it in time for the end of my nanny’s shift. It doesn’t make for a relaxed day, and depending on how I handle it internally, it can be quite stressful, for me and for Hazel. But it’s hard to know what to do, exactly: I have to work; Hazel loves swimming class; we can’t afford more nanny hours, etc. So mostly what I have to do is adjust my attitude, and not worry about being late to class if that happens, just prioritize trying to make the points in the schedule that matter most happen.

Also, I have to remind myself that if I’m not getting what I need in any given moment, I will later. All is not lost. This was pertinent this afternoon. I made the mistake of agreeing to Hazel’s plaintive insistence on having her quiet time out here rather than in the playroom. I told her she was going to have to be quiet and let me have my quiet time too, but of course that did not work. And once I finally had her set up to her satisfaction, the twins woke up 30 seconds later, and poof, there went my down time. I didn’t quite manage not to keep my irritation to myself, and was not too adult in my communication. I sometimes get stuck in the problem rather than working on a solution. Gee, I wonder where Hazel gets that?

My inner dialogue sometimes looks like this, I think:
“Enjoy the process!”
“No!”
“Dammit, relax and enjoy the moment!”
“No way!”
“Oh come on, you’re just stressing yourself and everyone else out. Let it go!”
“Piss off!”

Nonetheless, today was another fabulously beautiful day, and we did get outside for a bit after nap. We hung around outside the house. Hazel brought out a couple umbrellas, and I got to see Emily’s feet walking along under an apparently self-propelled kid’s monkey umbrella. Later, she wielded the big red adult umbrella with impressive aplomb.

The evening’s lessons went well, and now we’re getting the spice racks back up on the wall in their new location. I’ll be able to put the spices back, they will cease to be toddler attractions, and we’ll be able to move the cart around when we want to use the butcher block on top of it. Yippee!

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A day of work and play

Today was productive, varied, and enjoyable. I practiced, I got to the gym, I relaxed in a comfy chair with Jasmine during the twins’ nap and Hazel’s quiet time (after I did the dishes), I got our veggie boxes in, I steamed and baked various vegetables, and I took Hazel to her piano lesson. I got Ted and the kids going on dinner, and then I went to the coffee-house to write. After struggling a bit with resistance, I took some notes and then got a good start on a scene. Tonight I talked with my sister, and in a bit Ted and I will have some time to talk too, before we hit the sack. And when I came home from writing there was a container of gluten-free chicken nuggets left over from dinner, so I got a snack, too. A good day.

This afternoon I got out the butcher paper and covered the kitchen table. The kids painted with water colors while I cooked. All I had to do was remind Hazel a couple of times that her sisters could do what they wanted (she has a tendency to micro-manage them), and to prevent Emily from drinking (all of) the paint-water.

This evening, Ted got a yummy chicken & spinach dish cooked, so we actually have a good start on our week’s food. Dinner was a bit unorthodox, as it consisted of a smoothie (made from a whole box of strawberries, a whole bunch of kale, and coconut milk and cinnamon,) followed by the chicken nuggets. When I was preparing the smoothie, I caught myself before saying, “No,” to Hazel’s request for a kale leaf. I told her she needed to wash her hands first. When she came back she eagerly took the kale and shared it with her sisters. I did a little internal victory dance. You have to cherish those moments.

Oh, adding the tag, “sisters” reminded me that Emily is now saying the word sister. It started as “shuh-shuh”, and has gradually modified so that now it’s “shi-shuhr” or something like that. Very exciting. When Hazel and I came back from her preschool, Emily pointed at the door and said, “Mamma!” and “Shi-shuhr!”

Joanna has started to say, “Yeah!”, “buh-buh” (for bubble), and “moeh” (for more).

conversations, how to apologize, and racial integration

Today was gloriously beautiful, and it’s going to be sunny and increasingly warm all week. Yippee!

On the morning’s walk to collect the car I ran into a neighbor, the husband of one of my cello students. We had an enjoyable conversation, covering schooling, learning languages, music, encouraging the acquisition of the skill of discipline in your kids, etc. All of this took place under blue skies and sunshine.

After that I practiced, yay! I have started working on the Kodaly Duo for Violin and Cello, and am enjoying the work.

This evening I read an article posted on Facebook by a friend about apologies, how to do them and how not to do them. It’s written by a teacher, but it sounds like a good strategy within a family, too. The results reported by the teacher in the behavior of the kids in her classroom are pretty great. One foundation for compassion is consciousness, and if you’re not used to thinking about your behavior and the impact it has on others, it’s hard to develop compassion, either the feeling or the action. And it makes sense that requiring the regurgitation of an apology when it is completely insincere would backfire. It’s also true that sometimes (often, all the time?) as a parents it’s hard to know what else to do when your kids hurt each other.

This afternoon I also finished a very powerful article about re-segregation in this country, as federal enforcement has diminished or ceased, and school districts have found a variety of ways, subtle and not, to re-isolate black and Hispanic students. This has disastrous consequences for the students, their communities, and ultimately, for us all. We must live together, eat together, learn together, talk together in order to learn to accept differences and even to celebrate them. Isolation never leads to equality, never leads to understanding. We need integration, we need Affirmative Action, and we need justice. We cannot count on people coming together when they feel like it. We need incentives, we need rules, and we need oversight. The stakes are high, and the continuation of the terrible price of slavery cannot be allowed unchallenged.

Justice is not blind, and there is no such thing as “color-blind”. Justice must look into every corner of the world, must see every aspect of a situation. And in order to move forward, we must learn to see our differences, to learn to live with them.

A white member of a school board who had voted against a plan whose purpose was to further re-segregation had this to say about her experience after the vote: “It was totally orchestrated. It was awful, I felt powerless,” Powell said recently. “I remember sitting in church after one of the votes. It was a Wednesday-night supper and no one would sit with me, because I voted with the black members. It made me realize where people stood.”

From the article: “Desegregation had been wrenching and complicated, but in Tuscaloosa and across the country, it achieved undeniable results. During the 1970s and ’80s, the achievement gap between black and white 13-year-olds was cut roughly in half nationwide. Some scholars argue that desegregation had a negligible effect on overall academic achievement. But the overwhelming body of research shows that once black children were given access to advanced courses, well-trained teachers, and all the other resources that tend to follow white, middle-income children, they began to catch up.”

And: “Notably, Rucker also found that black progress did not come at the expense of white Americans—white students in integrated schools did just as well academically as those in segregated schools. Other studies have found that attending integrated schools made white students more likely to later live in integrated neighborhoods and send their own children to racially diverse schools.” (bolds mine)

Exclusion and deliberate blindness are wrong. Diversity in schools generated by their racial integration is a lifelong gift. It is one thing that can help heal the nation. It will benefit everyone. But most importantly, it is right, it is just, and it is necessary.

critique meeting, gardening with tots, rebalancing of our family schedule

This morning while Ted took the kids to a friend’s birthday party, I went to my monthly writing critique meeting, where my ineluctable prose succeeded in grossing out my friends. Victory! (I am writing a paranormal YA novel, after all.) I read three excerpts, to which they were generous to listen all the way through, as that was a lot of content. One was one of the pivotal scenes in the book, something I’d been avoiding for a while. I think I have at least some of the important elements now. I am sure it will change a lot in revision, but the feeling is there.

I currently have too many characters running around in the book, and will have to reduce its population at some point soon. Also, too many of them have names starting with “M”. I will keep one and change the other two names.

It was also good to see everyone (minus one person, who couldn’t make it today) and hear news and stories. Writing has greatly expanded my social horizons, as well as providing me with an important new creative outlet.

This afternoon we went over to visit friends who wanted to include Hazel in the planting of some potatoes and carrots. The dirt hills they had proved to be immensely appealing, as well as the watering can, though she did enjoy the planting, too. Kids are like cats: you can’t be sure that they won’t prefer the box to the toy inside it. We brought some food, and Hazel took it upon herself to serve us all with bowls of fruit. That put a smile on my face.

Tonight I cooked up the last of this week’s veggies and made some pesto meatballs. This afternoon during nap Ted and I had a good life balance/scheduling talk. We keep going to bed too late, because we keep wanting to have an actual evening after we put the kids down. We brainstormed some ideas for how we can change bedtime, how we can change what we’re doing in the evenings so it’s not always tasks, and how we can get more family time into the schedule. It was a productive conversation, and I think we’re going to move in a better direction. In the fall I am going to tweak my teaching schedule so that I get one more evening with my family, because as it is I am not with them for at least chunks if not all of four out of the five weekend evenings. That’s feeling like too much. Life is a constant re-balancing, we find.

parent-teacher conference, a day with friends

Today I had a parent-teacher conference at Hazel’s preschool. Her teacher says her Spanish is improving a lot, that this year she’s responding in Spanish in class, understands what they say to her, and joins in the singing of Spanish songs more than she did. She thinks Hazel’s really ready for kindergarten. She loves art, is good at making letters and numbers, gets along with other kids (and since she’s been doing the afternoon program which is for older kids one day a week is learning more about not always getting her way), and loves to learn. All good things.

Then Hazel had a piano lesson which went well, and then we headed off to see some friends who live out from the city a ways. They bought this place fairly recently, and we were all excited to see it. They’ve got a horse barn which will soon be housing two horses that their daughter’s teacher is going to board there. Even more excitement! They also have two new dogs, a new batch of teenaged chickens, and four kids. They had two and then they had twins. Their twins are a year and four months older than ours, so we got a bit of a preview of things to come. I remember when MA was pregnant with theirs, and when they’d found out it was twins, thinking, “Wow!” and having that non-verbal, only partially articulated thought/impression along the lines of, “Imagine/not my life.” And then, a year after her twins were born we discovered that we were going to have a pair ourselves, and suddenly, my interest in her twins became more personal.

Hazel used to spend an afternoon and evening at their house, starting from before she was a year old, when I was teaching out in that neck of the woods. I think that went on for over two years (my brain is too fuzzy to figure out the math). It is always lovely to see them again, to reconnect with the kids and to see Hazel run off with their daughter H to play. Their son used to read to her. Seeing their twins and ours together is great too. Today Joanna and the boy twin shared a hug and a walk. It was one of those moments of intense sweetness.

All three kids fell asleep in the car, and we were able to transfer them to bed pretty easily. And now I’m sitting in the comfy chair, enjoying listening to the rain, and looking forward to going to sleep.

All in all, a lovely day.

adventurous daughter, family balance

I took the kids to a park to meet a friend today, and Hazel spent quite a lot of time going on a zip line ride. I am not sure how it happened, but she has gotten more adventurous recently. When we arrived at the park she started climbing the fence, and with my friend A spotting her, she got quite high, up above his head. She wouldn’t have done that a month or two ago, I don’t think. And she asked him to lift her higher and higher for a “large” start to the zip line run, another thing she would have been scared to try not so long ago, or which would have freaked her out had she gotten on it. Seeing her big smile and hearing her laugh as the seat swung up at the end of the line was really great. It inspired Emily to try it too, held carefully by A, with Hazel running along to help. Joanna tried it once, but I didn’t control the end of the run very well, and she got partially dumped off the seat and scared. We’ll do it again another time.

There was also a slide that the twins enjoyed, a plastic quasi merry-go-round, and other playground equipment to explore. It was a stunningly beautiful day, and that helped the general mood too: blue skies, sunshine, and people smiling all around.

Because I had the kids from 9 am to 9:30 pm, only got about 20/25 minutes during their nap (due to awakenings and crying), and Ted was going to be out with the dads from our parents’ group this evening, he took the kids for an hour or so in between his workout and his night out so I could have some downtime. I went to pick up a few things at the pharmacy, and then stopped off at a restaurant for soup and salad. It was great to sit by myself, enjoying a perfectly spiced mulligatawny soup along with beets & greens. It made the rest of the evening easier to handle, having had the refreshment of solitude.

Once I got home, we handed off again. Ted had given them most of their dinner, but Hazel said she was still hungry. So after Ted was gone, I shared out some sardines between the kids, and then gave them some frozen fruit with coconut milk as dessert. Then the bedtime routine, a somewhat protracted process of getting the twins down, and I was on my own again.

I am hoping for a smooth night. I could use the sleep!

Bad TV, kids throwing fits

I got back to gym today, yay! During my workout I watched most of an episode of, “Bones”. I’ve seen a couple before, and don’t really like the show, but keep hoping to like it more, due to the presence of David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. But really, I find the writing and character development to be extremely sub-par. You can’t just SAY that a character is lacking in emotional insight, or socially awkward. You have to create characters whose personalities and habits speak for themselves. You can’t just say, “This is the hero. He is handsome and incredibly perceptive. You shall love him on sight!” You have to create a character who is, in fact, perceptive, smart, whatever else you’re having other characters describe him to be, or point out the ways in which their descriptions don’t actually match the reality of the character.

It reminds me of the show, “Friends,” in which the writers decided that Ross was a Nice Guy whose pursuit of Rachel was right and proper, because he’s such a nice guy, don’t you know, despite the fact that he was an asshole to his sister, never stuck up for her with their parents who were emotionally abusive toward her, was an asshole toward the woman he supposedly loved, and who was so driven by his ego and narcissism that he was unable to understand his motivations or other people’s needs. But he was the main guy, the hero, and so he was spoken of by the other characters in the show as though he was something he never showed himself to be.

And that’s leaving out all of the rampant fat hatred in the show that made me cringe on a very regular basis.

If you want more anti-Ross analysis of “Friends”, see the series on Shakesville.

—–

Hazel has been throwing incredible fits lately, but I think that Emily, as she gets older, will give Hazel a run for her money. Emily screamed so loudly at my nanny this afternoon (when she told Joanna to get off the table) that she had to cover her ears. Five minutes later, Emily’s laughing and happy. I suspect that as she grows she will have powerful emotions but not be a grudge-holder. Hazel, like I was as a child (and sometimes still am internally) is an, “It’s not fair” kid. Of course, sometimes she’s right. But it’s becoming clear to me that at least some of the lessons Hazel will have to work on are the same ones I have.

Bedtime was pretty stressful. I have to find the space between giving into Hazel’s demands when she ratchets up the emotional drama, and giving her a loving response that’s got understanding and compassion at its core. All I can say is that I am learning that those few and far between moments when I feel I am doing the right thing as a parent are moments to treasure, even if they turn out in retrospect to have been NOT the right thing.

I looked up a series my sister mentioned on child development. The book for age 5 is: “Your Five-Year-Old: Sunny And Serene”. The description at this moment does not seem apt.

So what do you do when you’ve set a condition that your child can do X when s/he calms down, but calming down begins to seem impossible? I get stuck in that place often, refusing to give in, but seeing that Hazel really can’t process, can’t talk. I see her work herself up, and can see how she’s so attached to being upset that she’d rather be upset and continue to insist that life is unfair, rather than calming down and/or being comforted. So I am beginning to think that I can set that condition, but not for anything involving affection from me. Saying that she can come snuggle when she’s calmed down doesn’t work when she needs comfort but I’ve set the rule that she can’t receive that comfort until she’s not screaming any more. *sigh*

Sometimes I wish I could ask her to stop for five minutes so I could figure out what to do. It is, of course, not that easy.