balancing relationship and family needs; meditation class, punctuality, rehearsal

Today Ted and I tried to combine family time with conversation between the two of us. I am not sure how successful we were. The conversation was so interrupted it became very long and drawn out, and thus the kids felt they weren’t getting enough attention, and interrupted us, ad infinitum. It’s an issue partly because I work in the evening and he works during the day, and there is often a miniscule amount of time when we have the opportunity for conversation of whatever nature. I think that what we might need to do is tell the kids, “Ok, we’re going into the other room. Here is the timer. We’re going to come back in 15 minutes, when the timer goes off.” And then talk fast and be as efficient as possible. And then stick to the timer so the kids know they can trust it and us.

We had a mediation class tonight that went considerably over, and from which I really didn’t feel it was possible to depart in any way that was respectful to the group. But I had a rehearsal after it, and we had to get back for our babysitter, so both Ted and I experienced a fair amount of stress in the latter part of the class, worrying that we weren’t going to make it back on time (we didn’t). Even at that moment, I was, on some level, internally amused by the contrast between the worry I was experiencing personally about being late for my rehearsal with the peace and centering that was being cultivated in the class. I was about 15 minutes late in the end, but am usually punctual, so in balance it’s fine. But ironically, I was late for our last rehearsal, too, because I had been left off an email regarding a change of venue for that rehearsal. Next time, come hell or high water, I hope fervently to be on time!

Rehearsal was good.

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Practicing cello, x-rays, conversations with various people, the nature of top-down heirarchy

I am gradually becoming more disciplined, I think as a result of getting more sleep and getting my daily balance/routine working better. So yesterday morning when my student was late rather than pulling out my phone and playing Scrabble or surfing the web, I got my cello out to work on the last movement of the Beethoven quarter, which goes pretty wickedly fast, and so is amenable to being worked on in small chunks. I only got about ten minutes in, but it was productive.

After that lesson I called up the bike shop and made our down payment for all the work we’re going to have done on the Madsen. That was an enjoyable conversation, including a discussion of lighting on the bike, and what sort of basket we can get on the front.

Then I took Joanna to get her hips x-rayed. Apparently babies born breach can sometimes have their hips out of whack, and so it’s something we just wanted to check out in the category of crossing t’s and dotting i’s. She didn’t enjoy the x-ray at all, but liked the fishy decorations at the place. I loved spending that time just with Joanna, with no other kid to jump in. She gestures a lot more than she talks, and having a chance to communicate with her in her way and at her speed helped me to feel closer to her. It confirmed something I’ve been feeling for a while, which is that I need and want to make individual time for the twins in my weekly routine. Joanna has a sweetness that brings tears to my eyes, and I want to experience the gift of that interaction now, not just when they’re in pre-school and I can send them different days.

After that I talked to my friend R who’s in jail. We’d been missing each other for about three weeks, as I can’t call him and he can only try to guess the right time for calling me. We talked about how the fancies and fears that people can develop in prison are like those that sometimes occur in the middle of the night, when you find yourself creating entire frightening narratives about something that might be happening, which are then dissipated by light of day. In jail, there is, in some sense, never any light of day, and it’s possible to get totally out of balance, having lost your perspective entirely. It was very good to talk, one of the best conversations we’ve had. I was glad to be able to make the time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hierarchy is a structure in which a certain amount of distrust, anger, and a sense of betrayal is developed, and how antithetical it is to the family life I want to cultivate. I’ve been thinking about my OB’s reaction to my desire to give birth at home, and that she said I had betrayed her by not talking to her about it. She was unable to see beyond her mental box. And I think that has to do with the top-down approach so often found in the world of medicine. I view my health-care practitioners as members of my health-care team, but I am the person whose choice and agency ultimately matters most. It is a collaboration, or should be. That’s one of the things I love about naturpathic care: in that world it’s more likely that you’ll find partners in such a process.

I want each member of my family to learn how to think about each person’s needs, and the need to balance those needs. Ultimately, of course, Ted and I are responsible for our kids’ well-being, and that requires establishing boundaries and making some rules. But I think we’ve been working too hard, doing too much, and that we need to cede some of the work and responsibility to Hazel, include her in conversations in which we’re figuring out what to do for the day, for example, and in deciding how much work everyone’s going to do in the maintenance of the house.

Otherwise, we merely make her wait, telling her to be quiet as we figure out what’s going to happen. That doesn’t really work for her or for us.

Obviously, not every family decision is up for discussion by committee. But I think more of them are than we’ve been allowing.

Then, last night after I taught I went to get my hair cut and colored. The building in which the studio rents space was purchased last year by people who then attempted to kick out all the residents with 20 days notice, some of whom had been living there for decades. It’s all about money. They were prevented from carrying out that maneuver, but they’ve still won, making everyone leave so they can fancy up the building and charge triple or quadruple what was being charged before. I think it’s unethical. A longer but more humane process would have been to gradually renovate and increase prices after tenants had left. I also think that every building owner should be required to include 25% of the apartments or condos as low-income. Our societal segregation is one of the things that leads to lack of understanding and compassion, as well as to extreme injustice.

Despite the heavy conversation, it was nice to have my hair done, to sit in a chair and relax, to be responsible for no one but myself for an hour and a half.

Then when I got home Ted and I continued our ongoing conversation about how things are going in our family, and what we want to try next. I think I want to put up a sign in the kitchen as a reminder to me that, “Not Every Moment Should Be A Teachable Moment.” Not everything has to be fixed right then and there. In fact, not everything has to be fixed.

Hard to remember in the heat of the moment as Hazel assiduously sabotages what feels like every parenting move I try to make with the twins. Hard to remember, but important to remember.

Kids learning about friendship

“But they’re my best friends, and they never want to play with me!” cried Hazel, so sad.

Oh my. It is hard to watch your kid start to enter the complicated world of social interaction with a child’s understanding, and a child’s heart. Her neighbors, T and J, are brothers, one year older and one year younger than she is, respectively. The older brother isn’t as comfortable with people in general, and perhaps with Hazel specifically. Today they kept running up to our house, calling for her, and then running away screaming with laughter as soon as she came to the door. She wound up sobbing on the couch. I know that a) it is likely not mean-spirited, but a game in which they expect her to run out and chase them, but that b) especially with their history of telling her they don’t want to play with them she won’t see it that way, and c) none of them have the emotional communication chops to discuss it, and that d) I need to keep an even tone even when I feel distressed about it.

I have been asking her lately what she likes about so and so, and why they’re her best friend (a term she uses pretty much indiscriminately to describe anyone she wants to play with). I’ve been trying to encourage her to consider what she likes and what she doesn’t like, rather than just focusing on whether someone wants to be with her or not.

I want to put my head under a pillow, really.

I wasn’t graceful when I asked their dad about it (I tried to be, but didn’t manage), and should have waited to talk with him later, when I was entirely calm myself.

Social interactions are sometimes so hard. And the interweaving of the interactions between parents and kids complicates them even more.

But here’s the thing: no one *has* to play with Hazel if they don’t want to, and that is a tough lesson to learn. It can be so hard, to grant people their right to free choice and not take it personally, to realize that people have moods and desires, and right now doesn’t have to determine tomorrow or next week.

Sometimes I feel so damn clumsy in this parenting gig.

Got into the Spanish school!

Last night’s sleep was somewhat better, and I am actually looking forward to going to bed tonight, so those are both positive steps in the right direction.

This afternoon after I got home from picking Hazel up from school and running an errand, the phone rang. It was the school district’s enrollment office, calling to tell me that a spot had opened up at the school we’ve wanted Hazel to attend, and that she could start tomorrow if we wanted to take it. I felt a mixture of things: shock, because I didn’t really think she’d get in, and because it felt so abrupt; happiness that after all, she can go to that school and continue learning Spanish; sadness that she won’t get to sit next to her friend E, whom she loves, at her current school; a bit of concern about how she was going to take the news; relief that our schedule will be a bit easier (Ted will be able to take an earlier shuttle to work, and nap/picking Hazel up from school logistics will be less tight); nervousness about how the transition to the new school will go; embarrassment/shame about having such strong feelings about the whole thing all along; self-directed amusement at the mix of things going on in my head as I was talking to the enrollment person.

After I got off the phone I sat down and invited Hazel to sit in my lap. I told her I was excited, because she’d gotten into the school we’d applied for. I said it was going to be neat to be able to just walk a couple blocks over to the school, and that she’d be able to see some of her neighborhood friends there. I named a few names. I said I understood if she was sad not to be able to see her friends at her current school. She said she was sad about that, that she would miss seeing E. I went and got a little journal-type book I’ve been saving, and wrote in it a list of her friends she wants to keep in touch with, their parents’ names, and where we know them from, and told her we’d make sure to make play dates with them. I also told her that the day would be divided, half in Spanish and half in English. She seemed pretty cool with it.

Tomorrow morning we’ll all walk over and get all the relevant things done, and hopefully see her classroom too.

This evening after I was done teaching we went to get a hot dog in celebration of the change, and (almost) shamelessly, let her have two treats, both cookies and ice cream. Yup, I will admit to a spot of somewhat artificial positive association.

We will have to see how things go. I am pretty sure she’ll have some resistance initially, but I’m also pretty sure she’ll settle in and make new friends. She always does.

Of course, we don’t need to bike her to school now, but I think I probably will bike over to get her in the afternoons, and then pick a park to go play at afterwards. IMO, kids don’t get nearly enough outside time in kindergarten any more, so I’ll want to give her a chance to run around for a while before we go home and do tea time and anything else.

So here we go!

school friends, school supplies, bedtime routine, communication and apologies, terrible sleep

This morning it occurred to me that Hazel knows kids who are going to both of the schools she might be attending all year this year: the one where she’ll be starting on Wednesday, and the one where she might be transferring sometime during the month of September. So I told her that, and during the day she and I both thought of kids she’ll see at each school. That helped both of us, I think.

This afternoon Hazel and I went shopping for her school supplies. We got everything on the list for school number one, and held off for school number two. If she transfers, that will be time enough to augment. She struggled some with the idea that the things we were buying will be communal, that they’ll be shared by all the students in the class. She was looking forward to having her own personal pencils, etc. I think I will get her something special for herself, a pack of markers or some such, that she can use on the nights I’m putting the kids to bed and she’s waiting for me.

Speaking of which, tonight I remembered after we were upstairs that I’d planned to have her wait for me downstairs in the yellow room. So I had her sneak out while I was reading to the twins and head downstairs. It worked well. That way when I was going in and out of their bedroom (which I only had to do once, I think) I wasn’t trying to switch off in my focus between crying toddlers and Hazel. I was able to be calmer, and the twins both self-soothed successfully. Hazel and I read a few books, snuggled for a bit, and then I carried her into the bedroom and put her in bed. Much better.

That is, of course, after I lost my shit after she’d said the same thing a gazillion times while we were brushing teeth. I apologized later, and told her that I need to just stop talking after I’ve said something a couple of times, because repeating myself doesn’t help either of us. She agreed. She communicated quite clearly about it, both at the time and afterwards. I was proud of her. She said, “I don’t like the way you’re talking to me, you’re not using a kind voice,” when I was mad. She said, “That was rude,” when I said I was sorry for not using a kind voice in the bathroom. I agreed. I asked her if she could work on remembering not to repeat herself too, and she agreed with that. The whole conversation was productive, respectful, and loving. It’s really true, that saving problem solving for when everyone is not upset is quite useful!

This afternoon Ted and I fixed the picnic bench. Now the benches have two pieces of wood each instead of one. My sit bones thank me. The twins were fascinated by the whole thing. Joanna picked up a clamp and giggled madly. They were also good at staying back when we asked them to.

So, we’ve gotten done almost everything we planned for the week. The porch is still disgraceful, but it won’t take us too long to fix that. And we’ve been consistently picking up and putting things away several times a day. I feel hopeful that we won’t descend into quite the level of household chaos as before, at least less frequently.

Last night I was awake from 1:30 to 6:30. Ugh doesn’t quite cut it. I am hoping with a certain degree of fervor that tonight will be better. The clock didn’t turn on this morning, which is probably good given how little sleep I’d had. But I want to try to figure out why not. It worked remarkably well the night before to help me relax and want to go to sleep. I’m hoping for good results in the morning, though more importantly, I’m hoping for at least 4 consecutive hours of sleep tonight…

Edited to add: I forgot to relay that when we were shopping for Hazel’s school supplies, a woman said to Hazel, “Great haircut! I love it! I want one just like it!” I was so happy and grateful, I almost cried. I thanked her for saying so, told her she’s one of the few who has, and I just appreciated it so much. She was so genuine and positive.

play and cleanup, communication with kids, quartet rehearsal

This morning I was dragging, having gone to bed way too late last night. I went upstairs to get dressed after my shower, and the three kids came with me. So, I burrowed under the comforter on Hazel’s bed, and relaxed while they played, with some interruption, snuggling, poking, and playing with various of them occurring at intervals. Hazel made a fort with a lot of towels, and then we had a semi-successful clean-up when we decided it was time to go downstairs. I think I should have done more of it with her, but as always, I’m learning as we go.

During some moment of differing needs today, I thought that it might be a good idea for me to have a morning check in with Hazel (and, ultimately, with the twins too) about what we all want for the day. I don’t have to run the whole show. We can discuss and form plans together. Duh. I am an old dog, but I figure I can learn new tricks.

I got to nurse the twins for the first time in a few days today. They went to sleep quite promptly. It is lovely and centering to spend that time with them. I am glad that they’re still interested, even in the brief bits of time they nurse at naptime and bedtime.

This afternoon Ted and I had another joint session. I am so glad we have that resource. Our therapist also gave us some good ideas to consider with how to handle Hazel’s dramatic and frequent reactions to “owies” big and small. Good food for thought. Her basic idea was to encourage self-care, so that Hazel’s taking on more responsibility for herself and her emotions. I think that, combined with some ideas we got in our parenting class, we’ll figure this one out. It has been getting to both of us.

My quartet had a very productive, very enjoyable rehearsal this evening. We did our most thorough work on the fist movement of the Prokofiev String Quartet No. 1, but after we’d dug into it to our satisfaction, we read through the rest of the piece too. It’s a three-movement quartet with a fast second movement and a slower, quieter third movement. There are lots of paired melodies; the two violins, the second violin with viola, viola with cello. There are consequently a number of places where we’ll have to work the intonation carefully. We did some of that work tonight.

I floated out of my studio on clouds after we were done. Having a regular quartet for the first time in decades fills a hole that I had in my heart. I love music, love practicing and playing it, enjoy the larger groups of which I am a part. But quartets speak to my soul and my heart, my mind and body. I cannot overstate how impactful and meaningful is the experience. And to have three such genial, interesting, interested, and talented people with which to share it is a life gift of epic proportions.

Gardening, parenting, teaching, bedtime, emailing friend in jail

This morning I spent a while weeding while the kids played in the dirt and water. Hazel really wanted to weed with me, but the plants I’m pulling up have long, fragile roots, and they’re taking over the garden, and I wasn’t in the mood to teach and weed with her while also looking after the twins. I asked her if she would like to weed with me at our next Mommy-Hazel day, however, and she said yes. At that point I’ll have a few more neurons freed up and be in a place where I can enjoy that activity more.

I used some of the training we’ve received in our parenting class to come back from being mad this morning about missing caps and markers. After I’d cooled down, I got a piece of paper and wrote the problem at the top of it. Then I asked Hazel if she’d like to help me come up with some solutions. And she did. In fact, the first thing suggested was the idea I’d had while in the shower, and that is, if adults aren’t in the same room while the kids are coloring, we pick out one marker each for them to use until an adult is back in the room. I’m excited to try our solutions (also including having a basket for caps while the kids are coloring, and another basket for pens), and even more excited that I was able to calm down, do some repair, and then do something productive with Hazel. Score!

I didn’t manage to eat lunch today, and after teaching four students in a row I was ravening by dinner time. It is amazing how easy it is, with kids, to accidentally skip meals. Focusing and communicating with others, however, is definitely impacted by lack of sleep and/or lack of food. The lessons after dinner were easier than those before. All went well, though. I was in the mood to work on intonation today, and my students all put in a lot of work. I appreciated their willingness and their focus.

Tonight the twins didn’t fall asleep nursing, but came off and wanted more books. It was time for songs and bedtime at that point, and I was a bit worried it would take ages. Joanna went down pretty easily, though, and Emily didn’t take too long, just having to be replaced in her bed a couple of times. I am feeling cautiously optimistic that we might be moving to a better place regarding bedtime. That is good. In a few weeks it will all have to happen earlier, with the advent of kindergarten.

After we got them down I came downstairs and finally figured out how to email my friend in jail. The system had misfiled him, and therefore not given me the option. That has been fixed, so I sent off my first message tonight. As weirdly fun and nostalgic as it has been to send him letters through the regular mail, I have to admit that I appreciate the speed of electronic mail. Hopefully he’ll receive it in the next day or two. There’s still the logistics and procedures of prison, after all.

And now, time to wind down and attempt to go to sleep.