Friday, September 30, 2011

Five on Friday: fall edition

Daniel is recovering nicely, but there's nothing really to say about that, except that I have watched entirely too many hours of Winnie-the-Pooh and related spin-offs (have you ever seen Disney's My Friends Tigger and Pooh? If you have any loyalty to the original A.A. Milne stories, you'd find it as intolerable as I do). So instead of blogging about that, I'm totally piggy-backing on Jessi's post from today and doing a Friday Five list of Fall Favorites:

1. Leaves. Really, who can argue with fall leaves? Fall foliage can be so stunning, the trees exploding with a riot of color before they drop them all and go dormant for the winter. (My husband grumbles about the giant silver maple tree in our back yard dropping all its leaves in the gutters, which he has to clean out a few times every autumn season, and since I never climb up on the roof, I'll allow him that.) Also, there is nothing more fun for little kids than playing with fallen leaves, jumping in piles, throwing them around, crunching the dry ones on the side of the road on the way to school.

2. Fall vegetables. I do love me some squash soup, fried potatoes, beets in any form, sweet and chewy spinach, shallots in salad dressing, sliced raw kohlrabi, celeriac cooked with white beans, carrots in just about anything, baked sweet potatoes with butter and a little brown sugar, and I even like parsnips. I'm alone in that last one, I'm afraid. I did just find a recipe for parsnip muffins by Alton Brown that I'm looking forward to trying out once they show up in the CSA box.

3. Halloween. I'm not as passionate about Halloween as some people out there, but it sure is fun for the kids. Since last year, Daniel has been planning to dress up as a skunk. He actually wants the whole family to dress up as skunks, which sounds like fun except that Anya wants to be a ghost (original, I know), so I guess we'll be three skunks and a ghost. I'm thinking with black hoodies and some white fleece or craft felt I'll be able to come up with skunk costumes without too much trouble.

4. School. I don't miss going to school myself, since I have spent so much of my adult life as a student, but as far as I'm concerned, Kindergarten is the best. invention. ever.

5. Apples. I suppose these could just fall under the "autumn produce" general category, but I am listing them separately. I love apples and all related apple products - cider, pie, applesauce - though I think the best way to enjoy a good apple is just to eat it down to the core. We're lucky to have several good orchards in the area, some who are vendors at local farmers markets, and nothing beats apple-picking in the sunshine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

quick update

Here's a quick update on Daniel, since so many of you have kindly called or emailed or left comments to ask how he's doing. The procedure went fine. The surgeon removed a whopper of an adenoid and got the tubes in without trouble. Waking up was such an ordeal that I got very lightheaded and had to lie down on a cot with a cup of apple juice. (As humiliating as it was, this reaction by mothers of seeing their kid coming out of surgery is fairly common. I was the second of the morning.) It took a while before Daniel was ready to come home. He seems to have a hard time with anesthesia, unfortunately. However, this will pass, and the good news is that the surgery went well and accomplished what it was supposed to. By next week, he should be back to his normal self.

As for Anya, she had a fabulous day hanging out with various friends and neighbors and going to preschool. At least one of us can end the day smiling!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Tomorrow is the big day. Daniel is scheduled to have the procedure to have ear tubes put in and adenoids removed at 9:00. We have to be there a couple hours ahead of time, so Anya gets to hang out with the neighbor for breakfast, and then a friend of mine is coming over to watch her until either Stuart and I can run her to preschool while Daniel's in recovery. Several people have offered to help out with Anya, more than I can take advantage of, and this I found quite touching.

Even though I know everything will be fine, I'm anxious to get the whole thing over with. I'm most apprehensive about the early morning, actually, since he's not allowed to eat or drink anything and will be hungry and thirsty and probably cranky about it. Afterwards, we'll hunker down with lots of videos and popsicles and try to make the most of a few days off. The end result is that he'll stop snoring and he'll be able to hear properly, so it's definitely good for the long run.

I am telling myself it certainly could be worse. Daniel's teacher at school is out for the week trying to pass a kidney stone. I'm sure this is small potatoes in comparison.

Friday, September 23, 2011

love notes and life lessons

Kindergarten is going very well for Daniel. He loves his teacher, gets along with the kids in his class, and somehow still has energy to burn at the end of the school day. Academically, he is doing just fine. He seems to have above-average math skills (which comes as no surprise, actually. I don't think there is anyone in either my family or Stuart's who had trouble with math), and I can tell he's improving leaps and bounds with reading and literacy.

A few nights ago at bedtime, he had a special request for me. "Mom, when I wake up in the morning, do you suppose there might be a little love note from you under my pillow?" he asked. Of course I obliged, and I have every night since then. I usually just write something simple like "Dear Daniel, I hope you have a good day. I love you. Mom." Daniel has been returning the favor, leaving little notes he write himself on our pillows and in our dresser drawers. This morning I found one he wrote to Anya. It said: DEAR ANYA I LOVE U HAVE A GOOD DAY U ARE A GOOD GERLL AND I HOPE THIT U THINGCK THIT U LOVE ME I THINGCK U SHUD LOVE ME ("Dear Anya, I love you. Have a good day. You are a good girl and I hope that you think that you love me. I think you should love me.") My heart melted a little. Also, he needs to learn how to spell "that," "girl" and "think."

That boy is so full of kindness and love, it just spills out of him. I worry sometimes that this translates into naivety, and that more calculating children will take advantage of his generous spirit. I'm talking about bullies. More than once, Daniel has come home and talked about a bully on the playground, an older kid who pushes others off the equipment and gets into trouble. So far, the kindergarteners have not been targets of this behavior, so Daniel speaks as a witness and not as a victim. I tried explaining to him that some kids come from homes where they aren't treated well, where grown-ups aren't nice to them, so they bring their anger and bad behavior to school. It's not an excuse, I said, but it helps explain why bullies act the way they do.

There are some lessons in life we all have to learn one way or another. It's hard knowing that sooner, rather than later, my kid will learn that life is simply unfair for a lot of people out there. He will see suffering, poverty, racism, and just plain bad behavior, and not because he doesn't go to a good school (his school has a very good reputation, and as far as I can tell, its reputation is well-founded), but because this is simply the reality of public schools, even good ones. I wasn't naive enough myself to believe otherwise, but the reality is starting to sink in for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gah, for all of you who read that self-indulgent post of a few days ago, thank you. For those of you who skipped, I don't blame you. I don't want to give a false impression here, that I'm unhappy or pining away or having regrets about my life. For the most part, I'm pretty okay with what I'm doing. I certainly know that my kids, my family, are better off with me as a SAHM right now. As tempted as I am to insert a snarky comment right here about how it would be nice for anyone to have an unpaid worker hanging around the house all day fixing their meals and doing their laundry, I know that my work here is more than that.

My conundrum is that it seems like the way I spend my time is best for everyone's intellectual well-being except mine. And you know, as it turns out the universe does not revolve around me, and the sun will continue to rise on our ever-warming planet whether or not I claw my way up the professional academic ladder. I should probably get over myself, you're thinking. I'm working on it, really I am.

It's just that mixed up in this cocktail of emotions is vague resentment that I am the one letting my career path lead to a dead end because I am the one with a uterus. If I were a dude, I know things would be different, and that bugs me.

Okay, okay. All that said, I'm willing to count my blessings and let this topic go, at least for now.

So anyway, changing the subject...I volunteer in Daniel's KG classroom for about an hour a week, on Tuesday afternoons. I wasn't sure I would like it at first, but it turns out that I love it. I'm really glad I'm doing it. For one thing, I can see what actually goes on in there. Kids line up outside in the morning before school and meet their parents/bus drivers outside in the afternoon when school is done, so if I wasn't spending time in the classroom, I'd have no idea what it's like. For another thing, I am getting to know the kids in Daniel's class. They call me "Daniel's mom", which is actually kind of cute. Anya comes along with me, and a few of the girls in the class kind of dote on her.

It's not always easy. By the end of the day, the kids are tired and squirrelly and not necessarily willing to focus. I help out with math activities and free choice, depending on what the teacher has planned for that time period. Today, I was supposed to help individual kids with math activities like sorting noodles (according to shape or color), writing numbers, and counting to 11 forwards and backwards. One girl was resistant. She didn't want to count, and said she couldn't. I asked her to try, and she did fine counting forwards, but she simply could not count down from 11. I had her try just from 5, and she could when she repeated after me, but couldn't on her own. I simply didn't know what to do. This child is well-behaved and attentive and very creative, as I have witnessed with the projects she comes up with during free choice time. I don't know if the problem was that she couldn't read the numbers yet, or if she was just tired and unwilling to try, or what. As it turned out, the teacher called for the kids to clean up, so I didn't pursue it further. Teaching kindergarten can't be easy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

did i succeed?

Mostly, I feel like I'm doing the right thing, by which I mean my "decision" (was it a decision, really?) to be a SAHM. Certain aspects of our family life are important enough to us - eating at home together, parental involvement in school(s), community involvement - that my role as a mother and community member is important and valid, and makes it totally okay that I have put aside any serious aspirations of pursuing a career that actually challenges me intellectually.

I have my moments, though. Like today, when Daniel said something about how mothers don't work. I do not know where he came up with this idea. I told him that some mothers go to work, and some mothers consider their work to be the time they spend with their families (like me) and that either path in life is valid, and that also, some mothers simply don't have a choice in the matter. Either they must to go a paying job, or they don't, and sometimes, either decision is a necessity. I'm not sure how much of this got through to him, but I hope that at the very least, he understands that what I do is, indeed, actually work, even if I don't get paid for it, and that other mothers he knows who go to a paying job, do so for good reasons.

(Don't get me started on the discussions we've had about race. This public school thing is probably harder for me than him, because he is young and naive, and I am naive but not so young. The race thing - it's terribly complicated. A whole 'nuther blog post, too.)


So here it is, if I may. I am constantly conflicted. Am I a wasted talent, as a smart and reasonably talented person who has chosen (did I really choose???) to spend her time taking care of her family? Or am I to be admired for focusing my talents in the domestic sphere, in the interest of family stability and nurturing my children? I honestly don't know.

I suspect that there is no straight answer to this question, because the answer would depend on how one places one's priorities. What is more important: career or family? For people like me, the priority is clear.

I spent some time this evening talking to a friend of mine, whose husband is in the local academic community (he's a grad student at UW), and we were talking about departments and hiring. Some departments at the UW are willing to hire their own graduates, and some aren't. I said the school of music tends not to hire their own, and at the very least, they wouldn't hire me, and she said, "Why? Are you too much of a troublemaker?" and I laughed and said, "No, I'm just not good enough." I'm not.

Maybe that's the real truth. I hide behind my fear and insecurities. I could gripe about how you're forced to choose one priority over another, but maybe it's just a cover. I'm better off "making the decision" to volunteer at my kids' schools and cook from-scratch meals every night because I simply can't cut it as a musician. I have yet to meet a former colleague - fellow grade students and professors both - who hasn't congratulated me on the fact that I am staying home to raise my kids. Clearly, the musical community hasn't missed a thing by not having me present as an active member.

Can this be me? I was voted "most likely to succeed" in my high school graduating class. Have I succeeded? If so, in what? Changing diapers? Lefty rants?

I remember this one moment, so clearly, in 7th grade. We had this class called "Discovery" that was the sort of feel-goodery self-esteem nonsense that some people hate, but at the time I loved. We read, we wrote, we discussed our feelings, and we had a teacher to whom I was absolutely, unequivocally devoted. She read Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea out loud to us and I was so riveted I checked it out of the library and read it myself to find out the ending before anyone else. (That, by the way, is the one and only Hemingway novel I've ever been able to finish reading.) I was so young and innocent I didn't understand the fisherman died at the end until she explained it to me when I admitted I'd read it before she got to the end in our class...

Anyway, this moment: we were supposed to write an essay about our dreams of our futures and read them aloud. It was a safe environment, where we could say out loud whatever we believed and wanted to believe about ourselves. I have no memory at all about what I actually wrote. Before we read our essays for the class, however, we would stand there and wait for the class to speculate about us, what we appeared to be to them. One large black boy, Gary, looked like a preacher to all of us, and he talked at length about meeting Jesus at the golden gate. (I have no idea what happened to him.) When I stood before the class, I remember I was wearing a long, pink buttoned-down shirt. I had dorky glasses and permed hair. I was wearing glasses, shrimpy, flat-chested and younger than everyone else by a year because I had skipped the 3rd grade, and though I don't remember at all what I imagined for my own future, everyone in the class thought I looked smart. "Brain surgeon!" someone called out. "She'll find the cure for AIDS!" said someone else. (Remember when AIDS was the most frightening thing? Soooo 90s.) I had a distinct reputation for being smart. And I don't know that I was so smart, necessarily, just not good at anything else.

Did I do the right thing pursuing music? Pursuing full-time motherhood? Is career really so important? Would my kids be okay if I was out there trying to cure AIDS? Am I hiding behind motherhood as an excuse for not doing more with the talents I chose to pursue?

Clearly, this is a conundrum I have yet to solve. Maybe I never will. I'm still trying to figure it out and get life into perspective.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Have I mentioned yet that Daniel has chronic ear infections? I may have alluded to this problem a couple of times, but since I try to keep sick-blogging to a minimum, I probably have spared you the details. He's had at least six or seven since the beginning of the year. Honestly, I lost count because there were a few times when he'd finish a round of antibiotics (which got steadily more powerful and less effective, I might add) and start complaining of an earache the very next day. The last two, or possibly three, were in July, and the fact that we've gone two months since the last visit to urgent care is, frankly, worth noting.

We got a referral to see a pediatric ENT specialist, and Daniel finally had the big appointment at the children's hospital this afternoon. There was also a sophisticated hearing test. Everything went pretty much as I expected: he's got plenty of fluid still in his ears, though no current infection, and has significant hearing loss as a result. Fortunately, the hearing nerve is totally normal, so the hearing loss is all because of the fluid, which is completely correctable. Surgery is recommended to correct the problem. He'll need tubes to drain his ears properly and the doctor will also remove an adenoid. Because Daniel hasn't had recurring ear infections before this age, enlarged adenoids are probably the culprit; this is apparently most common in children ages 4-8. The whole procedure will take about a half hour, but recovery - which includes a week of fatigue, sore throat and skunk breath from the adenoidectomy- means he'll miss several days of school. I wouldn't want to send him to school with skunk breath, yo.

I have no idea when they'll have an opening for the surgery. Maybe in two weeks, maybe in two months, who knows? They wouldn't tell us. I'm trying not to be a big ball of nerves and anxiety. I'm trying to keep this all in perspective and remember that there are children in that very hospital with far worse medical problems than clogged up ears. It's hard, though, because of course he is my child. I wish I could endure the pain and discomfort for him, but I can't. (I've actually had a few ear infections this year, myself, but unfortunately they don't do anything to alleviate his!) I just have to keep telling myself: it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. In the long run, it's going to be okay.

Monday, September 05, 2011

labor day

This Labor Day spending the day as a family, going on a picnic, bike rides for Daniel and Stuart, and cooking hamburgers (out of grass-fed locally produce beef, of course). I sort of feel like we should be rallying somewhere or at least going to the Capitol for the sing-along, or doing something to acknowledge the important historical role unions and organized labor have had in fighting for fair working conditions and wages. Not to mention weekends.

I feel a little guilty about the fact that we're not doing any of those things, considering the plight of public workers here since the beginning of the year. I suppose this blog post is my brief tribute to the men, women and children who over the past 200 years literally gave life and limb advocating for better working conditions and fair wages. We should never underestimate the tremendous effort and sacrifice that was and is the labor movement, and though we often take for granted such perks as sick leave and weekends off, we really shouldn't.

This guy says it better than I do.

So Happy Labor Day, everyone. If you have the day off (and if you don't, I'm truly sorry), take a moment and thank the unions.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

daniel's first day of school

Daniel's first day of kindergarten was today. No tears were shed, though seeing other parents wiping their eyes nearly got me going. I made it, though.

And Daniel, as far as I can tell, had a pretty good day. We walked to school with the family across the street, whose son is Daniel's good friend in first grade. This past Monday, I dropped by the classroom to sign up for volunteer hours, and during that time we met another little boy in his class. "O" was there with his mom, and he and Daniel played a few minutes on the playground before we left. They hit it off pretty well, so they had each other as buddies when we arrived this morning. (I have a sweet picture of the two of them, but I didn't ask permission to post it, so I'm not going to.) Also, Daniel's teacher is by all accounts excellent, so I am feeling pretty optimistic about the coming year.

Unfortunately, it was a hot day - over 90 - and the school isn't air conditioned. So after a sticky, sweaty walk home and snack of fruit popsicles, we headed to the pool for what was probably the last outdoor swim of the season (tomorrow will be warm, too, but it's also supposed to storm).

I wonder what, if anything, Daniel will remember about his first day of kindergarten? As he was going to sleep tonight, I told him all I could remember about my first day of kindergarten. All I remember is what I wore (a jumper with a strawberry appliqu├ęd on the front), and the fact that I went to the wrong class on my very first day.