Friday, March 23, 2018

Another Week in the Life

I'm not sure this week was busier than usual... It was a little unusual in that the girls' school had a spring break this Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. But my spring break was last week. And David's spring break is next week. My parents offered to come up Wednesday night and keep the girls yesterday and today, which meant that Wednesday night I shut the door to an office that had marker lines on the desk and Cheerios ground into the carpet because I had to entertain two little helpers at work all day! (Seriously a student commented that my office smelled like cereal and I was like, "Hmmm. Must be the Cheerios."). I did enlist babysitting help from two students because I had to teach classes and attend meetings without my entourage, but it was SUCH an exhausting day because instead of being able to sit quietly after class and prep or grade or read or answer e-mails, I was switching in parenting mode while trying to multi-task. Whew.

I've been thinking a lot about where my time goes lately. In a perfectly productive day, here’s what I’d do:

Yoga in the morning before work

Drink a full glass of water before coffee and breakfast, though those both are usually consumed in the car. I almost always eat an English muffin with fresh ground peanut butter on it for breakfast. It does not bother me in the least to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. One less decision to make.

Drop girls at school, podcast or audio book on the way to work. (I have a 30 minute commute, but there's no traffic, which I think makes a huge difference in terms of it not being miserable. It's my podcast or audio book time and OMG I've been listening to this podcast called Blue Babies Pink. It's the story of a guy growing up as a conservative Christian in Alabama and trying to comes to terms with his homosexuality. It's fascinating. I also like his southern accent. Very cute.)

Teach class (I teach two classes per day, every day of the week), grade, do email, meetings, lunch in dining hall on MW, in my office other days, occasionally out to lunch with work friends. Sometimes I have time or I want to stop grading so I check social media. Other days I'm too busy/preoccupied.

Pick up girls after work.

Supervise Kumon.

Help prep dinner or drink wine and supervise Kumon while David makes dinner. Eat and help clean up.

Scroll Instagram.

Hang out with kids—puzzles, books, art projects or watching performances (they have been working on “tornado spins”)

Put kids to bed—read, snuggle, talk


Read for class

Read for fun



Watch TV

There’s just not enough time for the last five things on the list. It’s like I have to pick just one or two, and that bums me out. If I stay up later, obviously I can do more, but then it’s that much harder to do yoga the next morning. On my spring break, I drank tons of water and used the elliptical every day, but when I get home from work, getting on the elliptical is basically the last thing I want to do. Exercise quickly gets pushed aside.

Plus, if I do any kind of social event—a dinner with friends or a meeting—I miss bedtime, so I don’t commit to more than two evenings during the week ever, and I prefer to keep it at one. 

My solution for now is to rotate what I choose for fun and this week blogging has been pushed aside by other writing and reading. Sometimes reading gets pushed aside for TV. It feels like a good kind of trade off, though as the girls get older I hope our evenings stretch out a little more and I can fit in exercise. They go to bed early—ideally asleep by 7:30, which means bedtime routine needs to start around 7, which sometimes feels like that happens right after dinner gets cleaned up. By that time, exercise is out the window. And they are still so needy and hungry after school that it just doesn’t work.

One thing we don’t do during the week is screen time. It truly feels like we just don’t have time for it. I know it’s a lifesaver for a lot of people, so no judgment, but it becomes such a battle at my house to turn it off once it’s on, that for us it’s truly not worth the 22 minutes of peace we get with a Netflix show because it seems like it negatively affects behavior for at least an hour after. I’m glad we are able to avoid it—they will occasionally ask, but they expect to be told no, so its just not a big deal. (It will be interesting to see how summer goes when every day feels more like a weekend... I may need some strategies on how to deal with TV as a SAHM this summer.)

Anyway, that’s mostly how my day gets divided, plus the little stuff that eats up time but gets unaccounted for... making photocopies, texting friends, cleaning... and that list doesn’t include days when I have to run errands. The other day it was raining and I had intended to leave work 30 minutes earlier than usual to run to Target and get necessities--lotion, shaving cream, pull-ups for night time. But I couldn't get away from the office when I wanted to and I needed to pick up the girls and the thought of dragging them to Target in the rain at 5:30pm was impossible. So I went home, placed a Target order online, and scraped the last of the lotion out of the bottle just before the new one arrived two days later. Errands are hard! How did we live before Amazon and online Target?

My thoughts are turning more and more to summer even though (or maybe especially because) the weather here is cold and yucky. I'm attending the March for Our Lives here in St. Louis tomorrow and it's supposed to rain. My friend ordered ponchos and I'm going to put on my rainboots and march, though! Enough is enough. We need to make some changes. I'll make time in my day for that.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Weekend Extension

Today is the Monday of my spring break (but no one else's). This is lovely because I get hours to myself, but also will make for some craziness next week when the girls come to work with me one day when we're in between child care (I have students lined up to babysit during my classes and a faculty meeting).

This weekend was a busy and productive one. On Saturday morning, I got up and wrote out my list of things I wanted to get done that day and then proceeded to blow through it LIKE A BOSS. Got my laundry done, did yoga and the elliptical, graded some papers, walked the dog, got through Zuzu's Kumon, got the girls to dance and back, and made huge progress on the cardboard barrel we're creating before going out to dinner with friends to celebrate Carol's birthday. Also I drank a lot of water--the recommended 64 ounces! And so I felt like I spent a lot of the day going to the bathroom.

My productivity was made possible because David took the girls to his school to work with a girl scout troop on cleaning up the yard and putting in a green house. They were gone for four hours. I missed them, but also I had no distractions or interruptions, which was amazing.

On Sunday I made up for my time away by being in full-time mom mode from the time I rolled out of bed and didn't do yoga before church because daylight savings time kicked my a$$ even though I went to bed at a reasonable hour on Saturday. We went to church, then came home and ate lunch, took the girls to JCPenney for Easter pictures (I cannot resist). It was SNOWING like a ridiculous amount even though it was in the 30s so nothing was sticking, but there were huge flakes falling fast and then instant slush and mud on the ground. I took a picture of the girls in Easter outfits in front of the glass door with a blizzard behind them.

At the start of our photo session, I thought we'd hit a sweet spot in ages where the girls would be totally cooperative. Three photos in, I was dragging Zuzu outside the room to threaten her with not attending a birthday party if she didn't go in there and SMILE without squinting her eyes closed and grimacing and she'd better quit being disrespectful about the photographer's time. (Twice a year we do these portraits and twice a year David tells me I'm crazy and twice a year I agree with him, but then the next year I pull out the frames mixed in with holiday decorations that have last year's Christmas or Easter photo in them and I forget everything except how damn cute they are). She ended up being marginally cooperative, but it was maddening. Coco wasn't quite as bad except her fake smile includes a really disturbing vacant expression that the photographer managed to capture multiple times.

After JCP, we dropped David at home and then went to visit Coco's best friend and her new baby brother. The girls played together beautifully and I had a great time chatting with E's parents.

Confession: I didn't hold the baby. He was very sweet and cute and a part of me even wanted to hold him, but I still struggle a little with new babies and this guy was just two weeks old. I said that I was worried about germs and didn't want to expose him to anything, which is true because this winter has been brutal for sickness, though the illnesses at my house have been more inconvenient than worrisome, obviously your concern is heightened when you're talking about a newborn. But also I think I didn't want my heart to ache for another baby and I just didn't want that level of emotion that I feel about babies. KEEP it LIGHT. We had a lot of Sunday to get through.

We left their house to take Coco home and then drive Zuzu to a birthday party at the Magic House. The Magic House is not my favorite attraction in the St. Louis area. Don't get me wrong--it's cool. But it's always crowded and not easy to keep track of quick-moving kiddos and I had a headache and of the moms I asked at the party, one of them had a single aspirin which I was about ready to CHEW just to remedy the pounding head but swallowed like a normal person with water and it did help but you know how kid birthday parties are... I really like the sweet little girl whose party we were celebrating--one time Coco was teary at drop off and this girl paid such special attention to her and tried to get her to feel better. But even so it was kids running everywhere and I was lugging around two coats and a purse and a cup of water and I really wanted to just take a hot bath and go to bed.

But we got home just in time to have our neighbors over for dinner! I'd been looking forward to it. We have really nice neighbors at the bottom of our hill and we share part of a driveway with them and their daughter has babysat for us before. We wanted to get to know them better and they have been so nice since we moved. David put together an amazing meal of smoked tri tip and salmon and twice baked potatoes and broccoli and bread and buttered noodles for the girls. It was really fun, but with the time change and visiting, we ended up not putting the girls to bed until 8pm, which was too late for them. Coco actually asked to go to bed, which was hilarious but also made me feel like a negligent parent! (Also, Zuzu would never, ever ask to go to bed, no matter how exhausted she was. They are so different.)

Anyway, spring break starts today with getting through a stack of grading and a few housekeeping things. Also finishing a cardboard barrel. I'm feeling pretty good about it so far, but we'll see!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Scene: Coco shoving a stuffed animal in Zuzu's face.

Zuzu: Coco! The bunny doesn't toot in people's faces! That's RUDE!

* * *

Scene: Coco wonders aloud if she'll be put in a group with her best friend for the upcoming preschool field trip.

Backstory: She recently bit her best friend on the arm because E sat next to the teacher during story time and Coco wanted to sit there and E would not scoot over. We talked a lot about how we only bite food.

Coco: We can't sit together because we bit together. And we are not food!

Zuzu: (matter-of-factly) But we are made out of meat.

* * *

Scene: Driving to school. Contemplating the moon that is still visible in the sky even though the sun is up.

Zuzu: The moon is actually in space.

Coco: I don't like space because it's a long way to fall.

* * *

Scene: Looking through a Disney princess cookbook Zuzu checked out from the library (she's really into the nonfiction section these days). Backstory: David made cupcakes with the girls last week and we didn't have frosting so he tried to improvise and I don't know what he did but the "frosting" he created ruined all of the cupcakes.

David: Well, we can't make that because we don't have those ingredients.

Zuzu: What do we need?

David: Cupcake mix and gummy treats.

Zuzu: Oh, yeah. We can't make that. You make horrible cupcakes with gross frosting.

David: (silent, looks offended)

Zuzu: (shrugs) I'm true.

* * *

Scene: In our kitchen.

Coco: I have to go to the bathroom! I need to pee and poop.

Me: Well, go! You don't want to have an accident.

Coco: I want someone to watch me.

Me: Coco, honey, people don't like to watch other people poop.

Zuzu: (laughing) Oh, Mom. You're so adorable when you say that.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Annie Edson Taylor and Zuzu's Feminism

The kindergartners at Zuzu's school are each choosing a famous American to research for a presentation. They get to dress up as that famous American for the presentation. My understanding is that the teachers checked out a bunch of different biographies for children and they selected a famous person featured in one of the books.

On the way to school the morning of the choice, I really talked up Rosa Parks. How AWESOME was she to protest on a bus? Wasn't it great that she started a huge movement for equality that we still want to be part of?

Other girls in Zuzu's class chose people like Jane Adams, Juliette Gordon Low, and Sacajawea.

Zuzu chose... Annie Edson Taylor.

The first woman to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

If you need me this weekend, I'll be crafting a barrel out of a cardboard box. Don't worry--I found a YouTube video on how to DIY this.

I sent Zuzu's teacher a link to this article the other day because it aligns so strongly with the Montessori philosophy, as well as the way I want to parent. Her teacher's response included this gem:

"Caroline is one child who is especially in tune with what she loves to do! It's wonderful to observe!"


Zuzu is definitely in tune with what she loves to do. And she really doesn't care very much at all if it meets anyone else's expectations or desires. Her teacher put such a generous spin on that personality trait, which is one of many reasons she is a wonderful teacher!

I was talking this over with a friend in the context of a conversation we'd been having about this past week's This American Life. which is kind of a spin off the #metoo movement and follows five women who worked for the same guy and their experiences, reactions, and expectations of sexual harassment in the workplace. My friend's comment about Zuzu was, "I hope she will use that trait in the future to avoid tolerating shitty behavior from others because she thinks her desires should be secondary. It's very feminist of her."

Yes! This! Exactly! I want to nurture and encourage this take-no-shit attitude. I want her to be as fierce and confident at 15 and 25 as she is at 5.

I definitely don't want her going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, though.

So maybe she can be fierce and confident and also be willing to listen to her mother? I mean, is that really too much to ask?