Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh my god, just post already

My drafts, they are many, but my finished works are few.

Rather than continue to battle myself over what I ought to post (in queue, a post about how freaking cute and squishy H is at eight months, a post about how important it is to give boys the same messages about valuing female role models as we give girls, and a Christmas post) I'm going ahead with a quick and relevant point. 

Ladies! (I assume mostly ladies anyway) I have created my own sticker chart and, lo, it was effective.

Last month Baz was having trouble focusing and needed extra motivation, so I printed out a blank monthly calendar and picked out a bunch of cool stickers from the scrapbooking aisle. Every morning Baz outlined the day with markers and if he accomplished his goal by dinner he got to choose a sticker to put on the space. After 7 stickers he got to choose one fancy scrapbooking sticker. (7 total, all in a row was too daunting). It was very effective and we could stay positive about the struggles without putting on too much pressure.

So I realized - ideally I'd be going to crossfit 4 days a week, but I always feel like someone needs me and I bail. The baby weight and squishy belly, they remain. This seems to be the norm when I have babies at home - gotta hurry and get home to nurse/spend time with the kids/catch up on work. I'm not motivated by rewards or shame by this point. I don't hate my body any more - which constitutes significant progress from the dark days after having a micropreemie birth - but I am frustrated.

So I figure, what motivates me is not wanting to disappoint my kid. So I printed a sticker calendar for me, got more stickers, and now Baz gets to put a sticker on my calendar every day I exercise. Doesn't matter how much, and if the day made it hard to carve out time, we can do air squats or yoga together (family air squats are hilarious, btw). 

So far, it's been way more effective and fun than any other motivation. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Career decisions

A year ago I left my job as a public interest lawyer and joined the staff at the law school. It was, hands down, the best choice I could have made for myself and my family. I'm infinitely happier working in higher education and I have no real plans to return to full time lawyering soon, if ever. 

So I believe I have a choice coming. My job now ebbs and flows with the semester, particularly the duller administrative tasks. August and September are an all out sprint to get the programs and students up and running, with lulls around the holiday breaks and utter silence during the summer when I am one of only a handful of people left in the building. 

Aside from the sprint at the beginning of the school year, I wind up with about one quarter time in excess. It's a good problem to have, because it lends me an opportunity. I could ask to take on additional responsibility and build my position out of the pure admin role that it was before I came on (this already started last year, with me doing some tutor-like support for the faculty along with other jobs). I could take on program development, reach out to other agencies in the area, and possibly run a project or adjunct class of my own in a few years. 

On the other hand, I could ask to cut my position to 3/4 time. I'd still work enough to get loan forgiveness, but I'd see my kids more and maybe take summers off or at a steep part time cut. I could take more vacations with them. 

I kind of want all the things, and I'm glad to be in a job that supports me enough that, even a year in and after maternity leave, they could genuinely consider either option for me. I know that left as is, I will get bored within a couple of years. I also think that I'll want to develop a career within higher education, especially in the law school, and am particularly interested in project director sorts of positions rather than teaching. 

So, I'm thinking. I have a mentor, but he just retired this summer so he's now able to offer more advice than leverage for me. I will probably address it with my boss this semester, to see if she sees any reason for me to keep my license active before renewal in January. Either way, I'll keep it active for a bit, but I'm curious to hear her thoughts. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekend note

Baz: Mom! Can I have a necklace?!
Me (from other room): Yes!
Baz: ...To use as a weapon?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What about H?

Hello to this boy, hello my baby.

H is five months old on September 1. Can you even imagine? I'm realizing that while I enjoyed snuggling with him during the early months, I really love this stage. I love the chuckles, the beginnings of baby silliness. Snuggling babies is lovely, but I really like them when they become little people.

H is so darned happy all the time. He was fussy one day at daycare and all the teachers commented on how strange it was, they kept taking his temperature because it was so out of character for him. I admit that we do it, too. H fussed for a day and I ran him to the doctor convinced he had an ear infection. As A says, H only yells at us when we deserve it.

This baby adores his big brother and laughs at everything Baz does, to the point that my new line for intervening depends only on H's neck and head position. Baz will roll around on the ground with H, leap across the floor onto H and his chair, and H just laughs and laughs. I remind myself that as wild as they get, if they're both smiling they're probably ok. Baz will have the startle reflex trained right out of H by age two though, for sure.

While Baz was the Boson or Higgs, H collects nicknames centering on the adorable. He's Wigglesworth and Mr. Snuffles (daycare germs make him sound so much like a pug, we just rolled with it). I've been calling him Zoolander, since he's been torturing me lately by refusing to go to the left to nurse.

We had a great run of sleep for a while, 8 to 2 then 2 to 6, but it couldn't last. Our trip to A's family reunion at the beach toasted all H's good sleep habits until he would only be able to sleep on my body or in short bursts, and daycare has done the rest. I know we'll get back there but god am I just dying now.

H is 50th percentile for length and weight with an 80th percentile head (hello to my genes) but something about him is so darned stocky that people are always commenting on how sturdy he is, how big he seems. He's a happy little fireplug, this boy. 

Where with Baz I always felt acutely aware of my love as a mom, H occupies a piece of my heart that I find difficult to define. It's general, it's everywhere. I told A that I'm tempted to start calling H the Gambler, because he reminds me of that Kenny Rogers song: Know when to hold 'em/ Know when to fold 'em/ Know when to walk away / Know when to run. I can't believe my luck these days.

Monday, August 18, 2014

School choice

Hear that starting bell? That's the sound of the School Choice Lottery kicking off. Baz starts kindergarten next year (!!) so we have until December to decide which, if any, of the twenty-some district schools we'd like to bid on. It's intimidating, to say the least. 

Not to be all 'in my day we had one school to choose from and we walked five miles uphill both ways and we were glad for the chance to do it!' but, well, we only had neighborhood schools. I grew up in Connecticut in the 80's, so I only knew about kids who went to private school or the ones who got bussed between towns under Sheff v O'Neill in an unsuccessful scheme to address inequality between districts. School choice, charters, and magnets are all new to me.

Here, within a reasonable distance we have two bilingual schools, two IB schools, Montessori (which also requires tuition to be paid?), an arts focus, a science/tech focus, a 'no grades/peace and love' focus, all in addition to regular neighborhood schools. Several friends and coworkers have been through the lottery with their older kids and everyone agrees that it's both stressful and confusing. While you can bid to change schools each year, kindergarten provides the best odds of getting in, and then the kid can be in that school through middle school or graduation. It's no New York City, but it's not fun either.

So, I pose a serious question. How do you know which approach is best for your kid? The websites all seem to boil down to, "We make kid good kid! Smart kid! Strong kid!" when what I need is, "Your perfectionist kid will melt the f*k down in our deliberately unstructured environment." One of my friends had to transfer her son mid-year when she discovered that the combination of 'child driven learning' and his sleepy approach to life meant he was spending a good part of the day lying on the floor looking at the ceiling. 

Complicating this is the fact that our default neighborhood school is highly regarded and usually has a lottery waitlist of its own. Good in that we don't have any disastrous choices, but it means that if we choose to go elsewhere we lose priority for the neighborhood school ever after. 

I recognize that my experiences are coloring this - I was utterly miserable in my well regarded neighborhood school and begged to be sent somewhere, anywhere else. Baz's temperament is more like mine than A's in many ways, and I don't want to see him squished by the wrong school. (A the Mathlete, on the other hand, swears he doesn't have any memories from before fourth grade, and would have been oblivious to social strife as a kid. If Baz took after him more, we could just choose the most intense curriculum, throw a physics textbook at him, and call it a day.)

December brings a flurry of school visits, and then we bid by midmonth and choose 10 days after getting the results.  A is inclined to just go with neighborhood school and save ourselves the brain damage. I know that whatever happens will probably be ok, but I would like to make the best choice possible.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In which my four year old contemplates mortality and nearly kills me in the process

Baz has been interested in the concept of death for a long time - I want to say since he turned three, but time is funny and I can't quite remember when he started. His interest may have begun when his grandmother's dog died, or when he started asking us about our parents and realized that A's dad was unaccounted for, or maybe when Baz's great-grandma passed. In any case, questions like, "When will you die?" and "When will I die?" have been pretty common for a long long time now. 

It has been important to me that Baz never feel fearful, as though, because of his history, he is more fragile than another child. Run of the mill bumps and bruises, I usually ask 'Are you ok or do you need a hug?' and let him assess. I think it has worked... I hope. A and I also saw Baz at risk of being spoiled, treated as a precious Faberge egg of a child, so we tried to instill in him a sense of responsibility to the people around him. Which is all to say, we've tried hard to interpret Baz's medical history (especially his scars) for him in a way that makes him feel strong and normal and never really fearful for what might have been. 

So the latest twist is way more about my feelings than Baz, I think. He's been telling me what his funeral would be like if he died and it is killing me. I know that he's processing his thoughts about mortality and ceremony and even just what he's seen of loss in frigging Disney movies but OH MY GOD my heart cannot handle it. He said that he'd have a tombstone with Minnie engraved on it and he'd crawl inside the tombstone and sleep, and he wants everyone to look at his Frozen books at the funeral and talk about what he loved, and I'm totally crying even thinking about this. Even worse, half his imaginings are probably accurate if we lost him so it makes it all the more painful for me to hear. Child, you are killing your mother. Just killing me. 

Ugh, parenting. Your heart is never safe.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Last Week

I return to work next week. In a way I've already dipped a toe in, since I spent a day and a half in a retreat at the office. I'm also back on the email chains as we prepare for the beginning of the semester. So it's all becoming really real, right down to the boys' first solo visit to daycare tomorrow morning.

I am... ok. Genuinely torn, in that there are things I'm looking forward to - working out without having to trade off with A or else attending 6 AM classes to make it happen - and a lot that I will miss. Returning to work a month ago would have been easier emotionally, balancing both boys and their schedules was a lot harder then and I would have been just grateful for the break. 

But now? I've finally got things figured out. We have our pattern down, Baz has leveled out, we hit our stride. H is also coming out of newborn into full baby, and it's freaking adorable. He laughs at everything his brother does, which encourages Baz to find new ways to entertain the baby. Oh AND, we've been allowing Baz to run with the pack of friends on our block which means I had a whole hour the other day to read while H slept and the Gang of Four (Year Olds) ran from house to house with foam light sabres. Glorious.

I just can't believe I'm about to hand this guy over to daycare. 

Meanwhile my friends in Canada and Japan are finishing up their year-long maternity leaves. Sigh. 

I'd love to go back part time. It's not impossible, especially since A got a JOB and has been working for a national lab for two weeks already. (That background music would be the sound of angels singing). We were swinging from one trapeze to the next, financially, and made it ahead of schedule. So we have options. Right now I'll just plan on staying in my fun, easy job as is, knowing that I have the flexibility (and possibly support from my employer) to fiddle with the setup in the future.

God, how things have changed, eh?

Right now I'll soak up every minute that I've got left. Today that means lounging poolside at the Y, with a baby on my chest, library book in hand, and Baz toodling about the pool in swim camp. 

Not bad at all.