Ramblings on Motherhood

Just picked up a few things at the store
Just picked up a few things at the store
Just hanging around
Just hanging around
It's so intense when the kids are sick.
It’s so intense when the kids are sick.
Enjoying Sukkot close to Ima's heart.
Enjoying Sukkot close to Ima’s heart.
Ella learning to take big steps on her own.
Ella learning to take big steps on her own.

I go through my day, hoping for the best, trying to be present, wondering what comes next. I follow my toddler across the playground, sometimes wishing to be standing closer to my friends, so I could actually hear their conversation, and chime in. I remember to look around at the trees in the afternoon sunlight and marvel at the pure delight that is autumn in California. The sun is so warm, the breeze so cool, the leaves fall yet we stay in shirtsleeves. I feel lucky and fortunate and grateful that my kids are roaming around on a lovely safe playground surrounded by friends and trees. I wonder what’s for dinner, and know it’s up to me. I remember what feels like a million years ago walking through the market and deciding what to make at 7pm, knowing it was just for me. Now my work day is just nearing the end at that time, and I know it’s never really over. Because these heartbreakingly sweet, heartbreakingly frustrating people still need me nearby, need help to fall asleep, return to sleep, to wake up in the morning and eat. They look to me for help, advice, and information, but mostly nourishment of body and soul. This is alternately empowering and suffocating, inspiring and intimidating. What if I don’t know how to take care of myself? What if I forget for a moment how precious they are to me and tread on their trust? They always forgive me, partly because they need me so much, but I hope also because I honor their trust most of the time. I notice so many things about each of them changing every day, and I take mental notes and pictures of a million moments as they flash by. I remember moments from the time before I had kids, which somehow seems like I was only half me, or half awake, or swimming underwater maybe. Not because kids are so magical, but because the day my son was born so was I. Everyday I wake up more to life. My kids offer me the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. All I have to do is stop trying to turn them into whatever I think they should be, stop insisting on what I’m sure I have figured out and they need to know, and just really see them. Witness and listen, and just spot them as they climb, literally and figuratively.

Working it out
Working it out

Yesterday Ben and I were talking about working toward a learning goal and after I got frustrated and tried to force something with threats and incentives he said, “Ima, just let me go at my own pace.” I dropped everything, thanked him, and started over. Today he picked up the work in question and told me he would do it by himself and just check in with me if he needed help. Then tonight in bed we were laughing about something that was nothing but it felt so wonderful to just laugh and be silly. I’ve learned that often the best way for me to connect with my kids is through humor. I tend to take myself too seriously and get bogged down by the woes of the world, so it can be both difficult and so healing to just let go and laugh at nothing. It turns out I have a very similar sense of humor to a seven year old boy, at least a seven year old boy who love potty humor and any kind of pun. I’ve found the best way to respond to gross kid humor is to out gross him, which he loves. Mo thinks we’re both ridiculous. Ella tries to get in on our jokes but she hasn’t quite gotten the nuances of potty jokes yet so she mostly just says any rude words she can think of and then commands us to laugh. Which in itself is funny, so she gets her laugh after all. Even Zeecee makes jokes without words. I’m telling you, she makes us all laugh just with her eyes. She also likes to climb all over us when we are laying in bed and there really is something funny about a one year old coming and sitting on your head when you’re trying to read a bedtime story. There is a lot of humor in life if I’m willing to look for it, and stop dreading the disaster that hasn’t happened yet. The truth is that the disasters that will inevitably come, please G-d not soon and not often, are not the ones I play out in my head. They will probably be unexpected and random and my rehearsals won’t make a bit of difference. Pain is pain is pain whoever and wherever you are. My fear of the unknown is outweighed only by my courage to take each moment as it comes. I’m only learning what that means a little every day, and I have to trust that that is okay.

Ben working on a rudimentary computer kit Mo's coworker gave him to try.
Ben working on a rudimentary computer kit Mo’s coworker gave him to try.
Ella liked the rainbow colored wires.
Ella liked the rainbow colored wires.
Being silly
Being silly
I love this kid!!!
I love this kid!!!

All photos from Mo’s phone (thanks baby!)

I hope to update more frequently to share our journey with you!

love,

c

What Should Mother’s Day Mean?

Mornings with the Kids
Real morning portrait.

Today is Mother’s Day, something which I remembered partially, and was very proud of myself for getting a small package into the mail for my own mother, although it likely won’t make it until tomorrow. However, my husband forgot. I didn’t really think to remind him a few days ago when I remembered long enough to head to the post office with the kiddos. After that I forgot again until this morning when I woke up sandwiched between my daughters, after a night of nursing my nine month old every twenty minutes, feeling groggy as if I hadn’t slept at all. I brought the girls out to the living room while my husband and son slept on, and I remembered.

Today is Mother’s Day! I should be in bed right now! He should have had the kids make messy but cute homemade cards! We should have plans for an idyllic family day, or I should have the day off! I didn’t really feel resentful at this point, but I was working up to it. “Haha,” I thought, “I’ll tell him it’s Mother’s Day knowing he forgot, and now he’ll feel guilty and let me go back to bed!” Then I remembered his usual statements about Hallmark holidays, “Everyday is Mother’s Day.” I used to think this was an excuse, a way to ignore a chance to make someone feel special, but today I finally get it.

Of course we should show our mothers that they are special on Mother’s Day, and I’m sure my husband will offer me some flowers or something today, but please, let’s not forget moms the rest of the time. As a homeschooling mom of three, I spend a lot of time thinking about parenting and motherhood, and as far as I can see, it is generally under-appreciated, overlooked, overwhelming, and pretty much impossible to feel like we are doing a good job in this society, at this time. Working moms are frustrated that they aren’t with their kids as much as they would like, at-home moms are frustrated that their work isn’t valued, everyone is frustrated with household tasks that there isn’t enough time to do, self-care we’re supposed to be taking time for that seems more like a burden than a luxury, a lack of maternity leave, vacation time, and support from dads who are working outside the home. And where do we find nurturing, non –competitive, deep social connections with other mothers? How do we create a fair, supportive relationship with our spouse that prioritizes our own personal time as well as our partner’s, as well as time to grow as a couple, as well as satisfying family time? How do we connect with our children deeply and authentically when they are in school for eight hours a day and have homework in the evenings and we are all exhausted?

These are not happy, friendly Mother’s Day sentiments, so I’m sorry if I’m reminding you of something negative on a day when we should be celebrating. I do want to celebrate mothers today, including myself, and I want to do it the way my husband suggests when he says, “Every day is Mother’s Day.” He may have forgotten that the calendar says to remember moms today, but yesterday he let me sleep in for three hours while he cared for and played with our three children, and managed to keep them quiet in the hallway so they didn’t disturb me. Then he took our two older kids to the park for two hours while I spent quiet one on one time with our baby. He does one or both of these things every Saturday. The day before he took the day off from work to spend the day hiking through a redwood forest in a nearby state park with our two older children. As a homeschooling mom this was a great break, even just for my mind not to have to keep track of all the kids. I appreciate the way he helps care for our family, by working outside the home, but also by genuinely witnessing and appreciating the work I do in the home, with our kids. To the best of his ability and time, he offers me time off to recharge, and listens to the details of my day, and my ideas and problems. If I need support, I know I can come to him, and that makes my life and work not just possible, but meaningful.

In the past few weeks I have had a conversation with a long time nanny who doesn’t have her own kids. Her husband passed away, then she went to culinary school to become a pastry chef, then she had breast cancer and after recovering, began to work as a nanny, and has been caring for others’ children as if they are her own for the past thirty years. I found her story moving and inspiring. I also spoke with a friend who is a mother of two who told me that she had an older child who passed away a few years ago, something I hadn’t known and almost couldn’t imagine, something that I have thought about every day since. When I think of her sunny demeanor and obvious love for her two younger children, I feel sadness but mostly a tremendous amount of hope. I had a long conversation about motherhood with a twenty-four year old mother of two who is struggling to make ends meet by working nights in a restaurant and caring for her little ones all day, giving a whole new meaning to working a double shift. These women inspired me to remember that we may see women with children today and have a sweet or sentimental thought or word for them, but we don’t know the depth of their stories, the complexity of their struggles, or the nature of what motherhood looks like for them. There are many people for whom this day is unbearably sad, whether they have lost their mothers or children, or long to be a mother. I would ask us all to be compassionate toward the daily struggles of every kind of mother, to work toward appreciating our own work and our partner’s, and to care for ourselves and each other with love.

Happy Mother’s Day.

At the beach with my Mom.
At the beach with my Mom.
Mo's forest selfie with the kids on Friday.
Mo’s forest selfie with the kids on Friday. I was busy staying in my pajamas all day. Every day is Mother’s Day folks!

Of Me, But Not Mine.

A treasure of a moment, the baby's look is the one she always has for her Abba.
A treasure of a moment, the baby’s look is the one she always has for her Abba.

I get lost in the haze of daily tasks, one to the next to the next until we finally make it out the door and I feel like I have narrowly escaped something. I’m not sure what, but it was really chasing me back there, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that sun on my face, because it’s now more real than the stress I was swimming through while making lunches and listening to my kids argue. I also find myself sinking into the depths of love for these kids at least a few times a day, which has to be a pretty good rate, considering all the tasks and chasing and arguing. When I look at them, and really see them, it’s thrilling and terrifying and beautiful and painful and above all, I see that they aren’t mine. They’re here on loan from G-d, from their future selves, from the universe or nature or whatever higher power you believe in.

My two year old daughter closely guards her feelings in a way only a two year old can. She is feisty and emotional, and her true softness is hidden inside. It can be hard to get a genuine snuggly hug with her, but last night after helping her work through some big intense feelings and sad sad tears she sat on my lap and asked me to put my hand on her chest while I held her. I felt her heart beating under my hand, so fast. I almost couldn’t believe it keeps that up all day and all night, every day. How can I remember to be grateful for that heart beating it’s rhythm so quickly, tirelessly, without even a thought from me? I feel like my children’s caretaker, and I try to be their teacher, I know I’m sometimes a great example, but I’m not running that heart. She is. They are. The great machine of life is running it’s current through the bodies of these people who were once a part of mine. I have to sit here knowing that and still go to sleep and wake up and make more lunches, and somehow love them and see them, really see them. It’s hard so much of the time, but I will remember to be thankful for these fast little hearts growing in my care. Of me, but not mine.

Flying frogs.

What’s New?

Mo’s winter break from school is coming to an end, and even though it hasn’t been too wintery so far here in Miami, it feels like a new season is beginning. Ben’s new semester of homeschool classes is beginning on Monday and we are all looking forward to a new routine. I’m hoping to do much more planning, shopping, and cooking ahead so I’m not scrambling to get dinner together at 5pm while everyone melts down around me. Mo and I are hoping to have a routine of going out for a long walk together around the exercise path across from our house once a week. This may seem simple, but it is kind of a big deal for us to set that time aside, have the babysitter come, and get out together. We are both hoping to exercise more so I feel like this is a good move in that direction as well. I feel like I’m writing New Year’s resolutions, which wasn’t my intention, but somehow it seems appropriate to share what we’ve been up to, and what we’re working on.

During the break we mostly spent family time snuggled up at home on lazy mornings with omelettes and and lots of reading books with the kids. We went to the park many times, wandered around our favorite part of the city, Mo did a lot of cooking, and other than that I have no idea what happened the past two weeks. We did have an awesome meal with friends who more than catered to our dietary requirements and made an array of gorgeous Israeli style mezze salads. The kids all played in their yard until it got dark, running with plastic pirate swords through the bushes. It made me so happy to see Ben with his homeschool friends of all ages, off in their own world. I remember so much time spent running around my quiet neighborhood as a kid, engaged in imaginary worlds. It seems like kids nowadays, or at least my apartment-dwelling-semi-city kids, don’t get to run out in their own headspace as much as I’d like, so it made me really happy to see them feeling free.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the two halves of the tiny actions all day and all night that add up to a parent’s life, and to a childhood. The experience for me, for them, and how we see and relate to each other throughout the long days and short years. The buckling and unbuckling, wiping, stacking, folding, carrying, lifting, hugging, eating, sitting, head-in-handsing, smiling, talking, explaining, listening, explaining, listening, explaining, listening, following, leading, wishing, wondering, worrying, whying, cooking, cleaning, collapsing, celebrating, seeing the fleeting, then waiting for time to pass. It’s such a conundrum of life in general, but I see it most clearly in parenting, the meaning behind all this time spent doing mundane things. The tiny peaks, pitfalls, and glows suddenly turn into an ocean of time. I am sometimes left wondering what I have learned, how I have changed, how my children experience the life we share. I try to see what I like and what I want to be more aware of.

My blessing for 2014 for myself and for you too is illumination to reveal new sides of ourselves, and new ways of seeing our loved ones.

In the spirit of seeing different sides of things, here are some assorted photos from our phones lately:

Ben when we were camping in the Keys a while back. I love this photo.
Ben when we were camping in the Keys a while back. I love this photo.
Me and Ella camping, with the north star shining bright in the background.
Me and Ella camping, with the north star shining bright in the background.
Roasting marshmallows with my big kid.
Roasting marshmallows on the beach with my big kid.
Photographer.
Photographer.

 

Dude selfie.
Dude selfie.
Ella in the laundry room. Oh hey giant girl, you can reach the door knob and open it yourself now! All of a sudden they grow!
Ella in the laundry room. Oh hey giant girl, you can reach the door knob and open it yourself now! All of a sudden they grow!
What's up from the DJ at an event in Wynwood during Art Basel.
What’s up from the DJ at an event in Wynwood during Art Basel.
These characters, so tough, so sweet. Visiting a sculpture in a park that a friend helped make.
These characters, so tough, so sweet. Visiting a sculpture in a park that a friend helped make.

Happy New Year!

love,

c

“Loving life, loving you.”

I have no new photos to share so this is a throwback that captures the happy feelings we are having this week!
I have no new photos to share so this is a throwback that captures the happy feelings we are having this week!

I got both kids to sleep, snuck out of the bedroom, and wandered around the apartment. I enjoyed the quiet, contemplated putting in some laundry, surveyed the messy zones and mentally prioritized what needed to be addressed. Within five minutes both kids were up again, most likely a side effect of the rainy day spent mostly indoors and the limitless kinetic energy still swirling in their tiny bodies. I was crestfallen. Sweet freedom, snatched from my fingertips! I went back in and Ella wanted to nurse, Ben wanted me to snuggle. I whispered to Ben furiously, “You were both just asleep! What happened!?” He said, “Ella woke me up. Hug me.” I was still mad but I felt the edges soften a little. It is amazing how often seemingly important immediate demands conflict with the things that offer long term satisfaction and linger in sweet memories. I took a deep breath of Ella’s freshly washed hair on one side and wrapped my arm around Ben on the other and I felt free in that moment, suspended in the sensation of being aware that these times of long bedtimes and short personal time won’t last forever. Ben is already five, he is not going to want me to hold him while he falls asleep for too many more years. Already when I look at his wiry body jumping and running around and hear more logic in his thoughts, I can see that he is about to make the switch from little kid to big kid. I’m pretty sure when his baby teeth start falling out he’ll have crossed over. Ella is already moving out of the realm of babyhood, she recently started answering questions with “ken” or “lo” (yes or no in Hebrew) or by shaking her head. Just like that, she’s a tiny person with a clear opinion. Ben is thrilled that she is seeking out his attention and playing with him more and more.

I’m really enjoying watching my kids this week! Sometimes I find it so hard to balance the necessities of caretaking with actually enjoying my kids, other times it’s easy. Overall, this week feels like the most successful so far in terms of homeschooling. The kids are generally familiar with the schedule and the places we are going. They are also becoming more of a team so I find them much easier to deal with. I notice much less rivalry and I hear “It’s not fair!” far fewer times each day. Ben and Ella are both making friends in the homeschool community, which is awesome to watch. I absolutely love the groups of people we have met so far, and I feel very relieved that we made this decision. I have seen beautiful changes in Ben in just a few months of being at home and taking individual classes rather than being at school all day every day. He does complain sometimes about going to the classes and says that he just wants to stay home all day, but it is entirely obvious that he needs the physical exercise and the mental and social stimulation.

I am ready to call it quits for the night but I hope to be back soon with a more specific homeschooling update and some photos of our adventures!

Love,

c

 

Homeschooling Diary 10: Ups and Downs

These characters!
These characters!

I’m finding with having both kids together all the time that the highs are really high and the lows are really low. The sweetness between the kids is growing as they bond and spend more time playing. There is also a lot of frustration between us all because we are kind of on an island right now. Our formal activities are getting started in the next few weeks, so in the meantime, we are playing it by ear a bit more than I would like to be. We have been getting together with friends and going to different parks, playgrounds and museums. These casual plans are allowing me to develop a rhythm to the days themselves, which is helpful. However, the lack of consistent structure and direct engagement with activities and peers to play with have been hard for Ben and therefore for all of us.

Scoping out a caterpillar who was on a papaya at our friends' urban farm.
Scoping out a caterpillar who was on a papaya at our friends’ urban farm.
Close up! He was kind of intense.
Close up! He was kind of intense.

There are about a zillion different ways to parent effectively, eat healthfully, and just plain live life. What I’m trying to find is what works for me, for my husband, for our kids, and for all of us as a family. Four people with different needs and personalities are kind of a lot to consider, especially when we are spending so much time together. Realistically we can’t be everything that each other needs, so we need to discover when to outsource as well. I would be tempted to call this process trial and error, but let’s go with discovery because it sounds nicer and is closer to the way I am trying to see it as we move through this stretching time. I really do feel like I’m stretching right now, emotionally and mentally especially. I feel like I am burning out a little in this introductory phase, which I guess is fine because Mo is on vacation for Rosh Hashana starting Friday afternoon. We will have to readjust our routine, if you can call it that after just a few weeks.

Mo and Ella reading together. Totally snuck this shot without them noticing.
Mo and Ella reading together. Totally snuck this shot without them noticing.

Truly, all this living is really good practice for life, which to me is the point of homeschooling. As a kid in school I always felt like I was waiting for something to happen, learning a skill to use in a more practical application later, being prepared for something that never seemed to come. My hope with homeschooling is to turn childhood into life (if that makes sense), and spend as much time as possible with the people who are most important to me. One of the good/bad side effects of the new set up is that I am spending SO much time with them, that I am finally forcing myself to get out and spend time alone, simply because if I don’t I will lose my mind. I am also more excited to write, because it is even more satisfying than usual to spend time alone in my own head.

A quiet visit with some friends.
A quiet visit with some friends.

I would like to take the space at the end of my homeschooling diary posts to acknowledge some of the ups and downs that we go through each day.

Highlight: At bedtime tonight Ben and Ella were laying in bed, gently patting each other’s faces. Ben said, “I love you forever and ever and ever.” Ella said, “La la la,” which I think is her way of saying “I love you.”

Lowlight: Every argument, refusal, and moment of anger. Example: Discovering that Ben had inexplicably bitten through the rubber part of my new stroller’s handle.

Try to continue: Getting kitchen cleaned and prepped for the next day before bed.

Try to change: I am really working hard to follow through with what I say to Ben.

Looking forward to a quiet weekend, sending love!

c

Homeschooling Diary #8

Tiny flowers Ben picked for me at the park.
Tiny flowers Ben picked for me at the park.

Yesterday was crazy. My post about mom friends went viral on Facebook and I had the most views on the page ever, then the post got picked by the Huffington Post somehow. Plus, I was invited to blog on HuffPost! I was pinching myself and dancing around the house. My head was in the clouds. The complete icing on the cake is that Nici Holt Cline, of dig this chick, one of my favorite blogs that I have written about here before, actually read my post here and commented. I am in blogger heaven right now! I have been writing this blog for several reasons, the most important to me has been the reflection, personal growth, and sense of empowerment that I am not alone in my struggles. I do also have some great book ideas that I would love to bring into the world, which is what motivated me to start The Joy of Caitlin in the first place. Having a moment of recognition and success felt amazing. I was excited and happy and so very thankful for the positive response!

The only downside was that all of my personal excitement led to me being entirely distracted with my kids and on the computer and phone all day. I generally try to keep myself in check when it comes to this, and it is usually when I am tired and stressed that I find myself surfing on my phone a lot, to distract myself from my feelings. It works just as well as chocolate or any other distraction, but leaves me with just as much of a crash. Something like getting together with a mom friend or going for a walk in the fresh air is a much better distraction from my stress, which actually leaves me satisfied. However, yesterday I was not looking to escape, I was genuinely busy doing something important on the phone and computer, so I felt it was justified to ignore the kids a bit. The tough thing was that Ella had a fever all day so we cancelled our morning plans and stayed in, then I had to take them with me to sign Ben up for homeschooling enrichment classes in Miami Beach. It was a hectic experience, with a lot of driving and waiting. After all that I took them for guilty parenting/celebratory ice cream. Then we picked Mo up from school and came home to a package from my mom. Ben loves packages and he was thrilled to open a new easel for his homeschooling art projects. (Thanks Mom!) The easel was in many parts and had to be put together, and I made the mistake of telling Ben that Abba would do it for him last night.

 

We had a tough night with Ella (don’t worry we’re taking her back to the doctor tomorrow to figure out what is going on) so when Ben woke up this morning and the easel was still in pieces, he was disappointed. He does not handle disappointment well and he started the day in a difficult mood. Ella still had a fever so we cancelled our plans again and I took them to the nearby playground so Ben could get his ya-ya’s out and I could hold Ella in the carrier. Somehow, especially after yesterday, today seemed so difficult! It is hard to come down after excitement. I really wanted to get together with my friends as we had originally planned. I really wanted Ben to stop giving me a hard time about everything. I really wanted my baby not to be sick. I really wanted to have the head space to still feel excited about moving forward in my blogging adventure. I had moments of total frustration, and moments of watching myself be frustrated. I knew that I was creating my own stress by arguing with reality, but I was having a hard time reeling myself back in. It was a difficult day!

Hahaha he got ahold of my phone! I love kid self portraits.
Hahaha he got ahold of my phone! I love kid self portraits. Notice the frowny eyebrows. I saw wayy more of those guys today than I wanted to!
Big guy
Big guy

All in all, in terms of homeschooling, I think the day went fine. We wrote a thank you note to my mom, and Ben put together the easel almost entirely on his own! I was just there to lend a little anxiety over my difficulty understanding spatial relationships, and offer a few incorrect directions, which Ben kindly but gleefully informed me were wrong. He said, “Don’t worry, I am a Master Builder.” I saw the way he carried himself change, as he expertly put the parts together and tightened the screws with the allen key. Apparently this is something that he likes and has a natural inclination for, and I was so proud of him! If anyone has any suggestions for building toys or projects, please let me know. Or maybe I’ll just get those Ikea bookshelves and let him at them…

The completed project (Go Ben!)
The completed project (Go Ben!)
"Ima, come look! I drew a sea turtle with its babies on the beach watching over its eggs!" Awwww
“Ima, come look! I drew a sea turtle with its babies on the beach watching over its eggs!” Awwww

 

We also met up with family for dinner to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary (August 23rd)! It was my brother and sister in law’s third anniversary last week so it was a joint celebration. We ate at a nearby Israeli restaurant, and after we had all met in Jerusalem, it felt like such a throwback to sit around the table with everyone. Here we all are in Miami, our families growing and changing.

Thanks for reading and for your support! Here’s to the future, one moment at a time.

love,

c

Homeschooling Diary #7

Readers
Readers

Today was amazing. I felt like I ran through every emotion under the sun, yet somehow kept it together. We had a busy adventurous day yesterday, so today we stayed close to home. I realized our library books were due yesterday so we gathered them all up and headed to the library in the next town over. The town where we live has a casino, a race track, and an enormous mall, but they haven’t yet rebuilt the library that was destroyed in a hurricane seven years ago. I long for the public libraries in the New York/New Jersey area, that I had taken for granted! the library in the next town is okay, the children’s section isn’t great, but it keeps us in a steady flow of picture books and graphic novels. Ella has very little patience for places where she has to act civilized. She likes to scream and squawk, walk up to everyone and say “Hi!”, pull books off the shelves and stand on them, and just generally disrupt the quiet of the library. I would say that if it weren’t for Ben I’d give her a good six months to a year before I tried the library again. Alas, my big kid loves books (thankfully!!) so we go. As I’m writing this I’m thinking that the library would be a fantastic activity for just me and Ben on the day I do a babysitting trade for Ella with a friend! I love the way solutions sometimes find us out of the blue.

Since I know we have a limited time of patience at the library, and we got there twenty minutes before it opened (oops) once they unlocked the doors I was like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. “Ben! Take this basket and fill it up with books!” He looked at me like, “Geez what’s the rush?” But walked down the aisle to the children’s section while I returned the books at the counter. The women who work at this library are not overly friendly, nor are they enamored by children. Ella was unstacking the baskets in a corner and someone came by and said “Whose baby is this??” I was standing nearby so I said she was mine and the woman said, “Someone could come and trip over these!” I wanted to say, “Yes, but this is keeping her from screaming!” Instead I just picked up the baskets and scooped Ella up, who let out a high pitched squeal of displeasure. We found Ben perusing the small children’s area stacking books into his basket. Normally I try to choose books carefully but this time I just grabbed a handful, tossed them in the basket and checked out. We got home just in time for Ella to actually take a nap in bed, instead of the car where she has been catching most of her daytime sleep lately.

Skypers
Skypers

While Ella was sleeping Ben looked at his books and I did some writing. Library day is a treat for both of us because Ben loves looking at books so much that he will spend literally hours poring over the illustrations. Graphic novels are especially exciting for him because he can really follow along with the story. Once Ella woke up I suggested going out but Ben was so committed to his library treasure that he didn’t want to go anywhere. He never really wants to go anywhere but is always happy when we do go out, but today I relented and we spent the afternoon just hanging around. We made buckwheat crust mini pizzas, kale chips, and strawberry banana “ice cream” out of frozen fruit and coconut milk in the Vitamix. We eventually went downstairs for a swim and I forced myself to take deep breaths, look around at the beautiful scenery and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my skin. I reminded myself that people travel from all over to vacation in Miami, and I enjoyed the feeling of being on vacation at my building’s pool. We came inside, the kids took a bath, I put them in their pajamas and we went to pick Mo up from work. He was happy that we came out even though it was close to bedtime, and the kids were so happy to see him as always. I felt satisfied with the day even though I had moments of uneasiness and lost my patience a few times. I was proud of myself for feeling like I chose to go with the flow, enjoy the sweet moments, and let the frustrations pass without sinking into a bad mood. The kids were also very affectionate with each other and played together for a while today which brings me so much satisfaction. Seeing them hug or do something together is the sweetest thing in the world.

Huggers
Huggers

When bedtime came Ben decided that he wanted to sleep next to Ella and she let him wrap his arms around her for a few minutes. The more time they spend together the more I feel like they are on the same team rather than rivals. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to homeschool this year, to bring our family closer together. Little by little, we’re finding our way.

More soon!

Love,

c

Top 5 Qualities to Look For in a Mom Friend

My friend Zinta cooking with my kids and her kids, bless her heart!
My friend Zinta allowing my kids and her kids to “help” her cook, bless her heart!

1. She isn’t good at everything. This may sound silly, because no one is good at everything, but what I really mean is having a friend who is honest and open about what she is good at as well as her shortcomings. No one wants to hang out with the mom whose house is always spotless AND she makes everything from scratch AND she works out every day AND… When I asked my friend if she exercises and she laughed out loud, I thought, “I really like this lady.”

2. She calls you on your stuff. Having girlfriends who “yes” you may be easier to deal with, but a friend who values your relationship enough to call you out when you’re being ridiculous is worth a million acquaintances.

3. She’ll take your kids in a pinch, even if they have a snotty nose. I don’t like it when my kids hang out with sick kids. I try not to bring my sick kids to other people’s houses. In the end, the world is full of germs with various incubation times, and my kids have been infected/we have accidentally infected our friends kids. When you have a date scheduled for a month and you’re about to lose your mind, the best mom friend will take your baby even with the snot.

4. She lets you do things for her. This is a tough one, since many of us women folk have a hard time accepting help. It is hard to be vulnerable! However, it is very gratifying to have a friend who lets you into her life and is appreciative rather than apologetic. If you can bring dinner over for her family when she’s having a tough week at work, or help her fold the ever growing mountain of laundry, that’s true friendship.

5. You can talk about your marriage/birth story/challenges with your kids. Sometimes there is an awkward stage in mom friendships, when a friendship grows past the playground chatter of milestones and local activities, and turns to more serious matters. It can be difficult to open up about the things in life that we truly struggle with. The beautiful thing that I’ve found is that even with moms who are very different from me in many ways, we all have these deep relationships and intense experiences in common. Everyone has challenges in her marriage, everyone has a crazy birth story, and everyone struggles with certain aspects of having children. I never want to be oversharing with every mom at the swingset, but when I have allowed myself to be open, honest, and real with my friends, our relationships always grow more fulfilling.

 

If you want to make some new friends, here is a helpful post on dating, I mean finding a mom friend, in six easy steps!

 

Homeschooling Diary Day 4

Ellacopter. Ha!
Ellacopter. Ha!

Yesterday was a long one. The weather was rainy which changed our plans for the day from a visit to our friends’ garden downtown to a visit to our other friends’ house in a neighboring town. I am still undecided on how concrete our plans need to be ahead of time, whether it is okay to play it by ear and change routine. I created a basic schedule on a poster, which is nice but needs pictures of some kind if the kids are going to get anything out of it. Now that I have an idea of what our day looks like, I’m trying to figure out how far ahead of time I need to plan our morning and afternoon activities, and how much of an issue it is to change things last minute. I think it depends mostly on how the kids react, I am trying to be conscious of how even simple choices affect them. When I was home with Ben when he was a little one we had a similar routine to what we do now, with the morning spent at a playground or botanical garden, and the afternoon spent at a different playground. Now that he is bigger I am hoping for one of the activities to still be a park or outdoor play of some kind, and the other to be a more specific educational experience, like a class or something at home.

Yesterday our morning was quietly spent at our friends’ house, the kids are matched up well and played together for a few hours while my friend and I caught up. There is nothing quite like spending time chatting with a girlfriend, it’s the best. We left in time to get home for lunch and Ella’s nap. Thankfully she took a long nap so Ben and I had two hours to create a schedule poster, read a few books, and finish up a letter he was working on for his cousin. Yesterday’s lesson was chosen by Ben when he woke up and said he wanted to draw a picture for his cousin. A few hours later he found paper and a pencil and drew a picture of a rocket ship, a dinosaur, and a letter L. “The dinosaur doesn’t have teeth, he has fire in his mouth so he just burns his food up right in his mouth. He’s looking at a letter L, which is boring for the dinosaur.” I wrote his cousin’s name and Ben copied it onto his drawing. I wrote the address on the envelope and on the way home from picking Mo up from work we all stopped at the post office. I gave Ben money to buy stamps, he put one on the letter, and put it in the mailbox. It was a great experience, and he was very proud of himself. If you recall from the other day, the post office is next to a store with gumball style toy machines. Ben was finally able to get the 25 cent ring that he had been thinking about since Monday.

Stamps are really just expensive stickers.
Stamps are really just expensive stickers.
Got in in the right spot.
Got in in just the right spot.
Off it goes!
Off it goes!

I saw for the first time something that many homeschoolers talk about; kids will ask for what they want to learn. I see Ben being curious about reading, writing and basic math, and this was the first time that he specifically asked to work on a project. A spark of curiosity followed through to completion is one of the most satisfying learning experiences I can think of and I am hopeful and excited for more of this kind of activity in the future.

After we came home from the post office I tried to cook dinner, which was hard because Ella was looking for some attention because I hadn’t spent much time directly with her during the day. I was trying to focus in the kitchen, Mo was trying to hang out with the kids even though he was tired and stressed from work, and it was raining so the pool wasn’t an option. The evening was a bit frustrating and felt like it stretched on forever. The kids finally fell asleep around 8:30, I made banana “ice cream,” and Mo and I watched an episode of Chopped (I love Amazon Prime!). Then we spent about two hours having an existential conversation/argument. I am glad that we are in a place in our relationship where we can “fight” but feel connected and productive by the end.

I feel like today is not going so well so far. We didn’t drive Mo to work, so we are at home without the car. I am planning on walking to a nearby playground soon and once we get outside I think we will all feel better. So far the morning has included some incredibly frustrating behavior from Ben and not the most well thought out reactions from me. Part of the problem is that I am trying to write while the kids are awake. I think it is important for them to see me do something other than caring for them and spending time with them, so I feel like it is okay for them to be a little frustrated while they wait for me to finish. On the other hand, I would like to have more ideas for what they can do while I am working on something like cooking or writing, etc. The ideal situation would be the two of them playing together.

The four year age difference is tough in this department and they really only play together once in a while. The best game they play is basically fetch. Ben throws a ball, Ella chases after it and brings it back to him. I would love to expand their repertoire of play, but I’m not really sure how to facilitate it. One of the hardest things for Ben is Ella being big enough to get into his toys. I have followed the suggestion of a parenting article I read that suggested allowing older children to select a few toys that are precious to them to keep on a high shelf and the rest of the toys in the house are community property. This is a nice idea, but it hasn’t really worked in practice. Ben is still angry when he sees Ella touch his toys.

So, that is where we are, feeling frustrated, ready for the week to be over. I try to remember on days like this that parenting, and learning, are not something that I can get “right.” I just have to keep showing up, keep trying, keep loving. I am looking forward to a quiet weekend, and maybe a trip to Ikea to get our “office” up and running.

Here’s a super simple “recipe” (if you can even call it that) for two ingredient banana ice cream:

Cut up bananas and freeze. Put them in the blender or food processor with a little coconut milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Top with whatever you like, and enjoy!

Banana ice cream with cinnamon and maple syrup.
Banana ice cream with cinnamon and maple syrup.

I was inspired by this recipe at Food52 and decided to add a little coconut milk for some fat to balance the sugar in the bananas. In a different article on the same blog they said it’s the pectin in bananas that makes it so creamy. Mmm.

Have a great weekend, I’ll be back Sunday or Monday!

love,

c