She’s Fourteen

Today my daughter turned fourteen. It’s an exciting age, fourteen, in that you really can’t completely predict what’s going to happen to a kid. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s a good kid. She’s smart, funny, and super interesting. But I think you have to admit that these are the “hang on to your hat” kind of years in a child’s life.

 

Let’s all take a moment and reminisce about what we were like when we were fourteen. I’ll start. First of all, hormones pretty much wrecked what was already unfortunate hair for a self conscious teenager. I had naturally curly hair, and once I turned fourteen, it became uncontrollably frizzy. Also, mullets were in style (at least I kind of thought so). Also, I had a lot of misplaced confidence in a styling product called Hair Glue.

 

I’ll leave it to your imaginations. All I can really share to help you understand this situation is to tell you about the time in Grade 9 when my brother and I got off the school bus. One of his female friends took him aside and asked him, “Is that your sister?” He answered in the affirmative, and she said “poor girl.”

 

POOR GIRL. She wasn’t wrong.

 

So clearly I can understand that my daughter might go through some times that may seem a bit tricky. And I worry because, in many ways, we are very much alike. We care about current events, and get too loud when we are really worked up over them. We love animals and animals love us. We can’t go anywhere without finding one following along behind us, knowing somehow that they’ve found some very soft hearts. We crack each other up, as in falling-against-each-other, stumbling-around-laughing.

But she is a bit ahead of the person I was at the same age, in that she understands that styling products shouldn’t have to be removed the same way one removes gum from hair. She is also a lot funnier than I was at the same age, which bodes well for her future.

 

She’s super talented at drawing, and has that creative artist’s sensitive soul. She is far more athletic that I was, which means she can run without making her P.E. teacher laugh behind his hand when he thought I couldn’t see him. Ahem.

She already knows how to apply makeup, even though she doesn’t wear it out of the house quite yet. I was allowed to at the same age, and I really shouldn’t have been, considering the heavy hand I had with the hot pink eye shadow. But my girl follows her heart, not the crowd, and she’s still not interested in showing up in makeup or high heels.

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Most of all, she’s so very brave. We once had a mouse in our kitchen, and while I do love animals, I don’t do rodents in my cooking space. My husband was at work, and I was alone with the kids, so I put on my best tough face and got to work trying to catch it in a box so I could release it. But every time it would pop out from behind an appliance, I would begin to scream in a manner that was quite out of my control and run into the bathroom across the hall. It was frustrating, and more than a bit embarrassing in front of the kids (who have that healthy sense of humor).

 

Finally my son went back upstairs, since the entertainment was getting repetitive. My daughter looked over at me, red-faced and sweating from anxiety. She took my hand and sat me down. Then she went back into the kitchen and picked up the box I had just thrown in hysteria. She said “Mom, I got this. Just stay there. The screaming scares it back behind the oven.”

 

I stayed. And I watched this realist, this brave human that somehow descended from my gene pool. I couldn’t imagine anyone more beautiful than this capable, valiant, tender-hearted human being.

 

Happy birthday to my fourteen-year-old girl. You are one tough cookie, and I am proud to be your mom.

 

Our Dad’s Day

Hey Dads! Sunday, June 21 is your day. You may already know that because your significant other has been planning this day ever since you failed to remember Mother’s Day on May 10. You might think that this is a very odd vengeance; to celebrate you with a dinner filled with your favorite foods and a big bow-wrapped box sitting on your chest, just waiting for your eyes to open in the morning.

 

But it really isn’t odd at all. You underestimate your partner’s capacity to commit passive aggressive acts designed to inflict guilt and a tendency to overcompensate on the next special holiday such as Christmas, a birthday, or the soon-to-be-traditional Just Because.

 

Or maybe you DID make a big deal on Mother’s Day, with the flowers and the breakfast in bed and the online shopping. If you did that, then I salute you and say that I am sure you will be treated in kind. Because your partner feels valued, they will then want to be sure you feel the same value. At least, that’s part of the reasoning behind it.

 

My husband is a wonderful father. He is kind, compassionate and fun, and I celebrate him on Father’s Day for those reasons. But also:

 

  • He tells terrible jokes, and they lighten the mood anyway. For those Dads who think you are actually very clever, your jokes are still terrible. They make us laugh because they are terrible, because you are trying, and because we love you.
  • He does a lot of things around the house. He does things that I really didn’t think of doing. He does things that I sometimes wish he’d set aside so that he could change the lightbulb in our bedroom that’s been dark for six weeks. But still, he does so many things.
  • He eats the food I cook, whether it’s his favorite dish or if it’s veggie tacos, which is not necessarily his favorite. He even eats my special cranberry and goat cheese spinach salad. He probably eats it without complaining because he doesn’t feel like cooking most of the time. But still.
  • He loves our kids with everything he has in his being. And these are teenagers. He lights up when they walk into a room, no matter how much their eyes are rolling when they enter. He chats them up no matter how palpable is the adolescent silence. He sits with them in their worst moments, and celebrates with them in the best of times. They know they are loved, and this is going to pay off. Some day. I am pretty sure.
  • He ignores so much of what we do that is downright annoying. He doesn’t say a word when I mutter to myself and slam things in the kitchen after a bad day. He picks up my laundry that I leave on the bathroom floor without a word. He bring the kids their forgotten homework with a smile.

 

There are so many reasons why my husband is such a very mighty father. But I think the best way to explain it is through this very true story:

 

Our family likes to play volleyball together. None of us are professional, and I am actually downright poor (it’s ok, it’s totally true). My husband is by far the strongest player, and he loves the game. The interesting thing is that he is almost never on the winning team, no matter with whom he plays.

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The kids haven’t quite caught on, but I have been with man nearly twenty years, so I’m onto him. The thing is, whoever is teamed up with him is going to get the chance to really play. He is going to make sure we get a chance to hit it over the net. He sets it up so that we can’t miss.

 

But we do miss. A lot. He keeps smiling as we lose points for him and let him down time and time again. He offers a few pointers and then lobs us the ball again instead of just spiking it over the net and getting the easy points. Over and over he gives us chances, and over and over we fail him.

 

Once in awhile, we get one over, and he lights up like a candle. He cheers us on. He lets us shine. And if that’s not a Dad who deserves to celebrate Fathers Day this Sunday, I don’t know who should.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who cheer on their children every day. Thanks for setting it up for us. We’ll do our best shine for you.

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Teacher’s Day at a Distance

Every May 15, Mexico celebrates her teachers. It’s a national holiday, but the parents always organize some kind of fiesta for us at school. This is going to be the first time I have experienced Dia del Maestro outside of my kindergarten classroom at the American School of Puerto Vallarta.  That’s because, in Mexico and around the world, we have not been inside of our classrooms with our students since mid-March. Instead, we are all in our homes, working in virtual classrooms that cannot begin to imitate the warm, cozy learning spaces inside our physical school buildings.

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My classroom these days

Sometimes I go to my real classroom to pick up materials so the students can watch me online, describing how to add and subtract using manipulatives, or reading their favorite books, or building the Louvre out of their favorite castle blocks. I always stay a little longer than I need to in order to breathe in that waxy crayon smell and see the evidence of our time together. I get nostalgic over their wildly improbable watercolor paintings and long, scribbling letter strings that represent stories and scientific ideas.

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I miss my colleagues, even though we are conferring several times a day over a program we are very nearly inventing all over again. I miss walking through a campus filled with caring professionals and all of the staff who are there because it’s a wonderful place to spend a career. I miss the beautiful, welcoming campus where I’ve grown as a professional and a human being.

I miss myself as Miss Leza, surrounded by little humans that I truly care about. I miss reading a story and watching their faces light up when I got to the silly parts. I miss being surrounded by students and developing a project based on our conversations, ideas and all those questions. I miss the energy of the room, even when it was really maybe a bit too much and I had to throw around my Teacher Look now and again.

 

And oh boy, I miss those little people, even though I see them at least twice a week in a virtual meeting place; even though I can hear their voices and see their faces. I miss the hugs, the impromptu singing at lunch time, and the shared excitement over a new project. I miss them.

 

Fortunately for me, I know my students are at home with loving, supportive parents who are helping me carry out this new way of teaching. I am truly blessed, and I know this is not the case for every teacher or child. I may be working many, many hours at home, but I have a comfortable home with a loving family. I have an administration that goes above and well beyond in staff support. I can keep doing my job.

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But it’s Dia del Maestro in Mexico this week, and there are many teachers who would love to share it in their schools with their students, but will not be able to do that this year. There are those who are getting ready to return to classrooms next week and aren’t sure if they are safe. There are those who still don’t know when they will be allowed to return to the jobs that nearly define them.

 

So if you know a teacher, no matter where you are, send them a virtual hug this week. I guarantee that they are out there doing their best, worrying about students, fighting with their internet, crying over their failed attempts to install Zoom. They are comforting worried teenagers, reaching out to stressed parents, and trying to transmit love and calm to young children over a shared screen.

 

These are the people who have never been in it for the money. They might do it because they love the subject area they teach or because they love pedagogy. They might even do it because they were inspired by a teacher themselves.

 

Whatever the reason they first became a teacher, they virtually all share a common purpose today. The reason they  stand up every morning and set up their laptops even before they make their coffee is because of all the kids who are sad, or stressed, or afraid. They do it for the kids who absolutely love school and for those who wish they didn’t have school at all. They do it for the quiet ones, the not-so-quiet ones, the ones who test that last strand of their blessed patience. Teachers do it because all these children matter, and deserve the best. Teachers do it because they care more than ever before.

 

Mother’s Day 2020

If you are a mother to children who carry two passports, this Mother’s Day is going to be difficult for you in a few different ways. For one thing, this day is celebrated on May 10 in all three countries this year. In Mexico, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the date of May 10, and in Canada and the U.S., it is celebrated on the first Sunday of May. So that means you will get only one Mother’s Day this year and not the customary two days of wringing out every last drop of appreciation from your bicultural offspring.

The other reason it’s going to be difficult (and strange) is that, for most of us, we won’t be able to go somewhere to stand in line for a buffet brunch with free mimosas. And that’s because we can’t go anywhere. Also, neither lines nor buffets are allowed. Plus, mimosas are less special when you drink them more often.

So there you all are, in your homes, mothering on a pretty intense level every day. There are no quiet moments to yourselves, no school drop offs, no play dates. You are their teachers, referees and playmates. You are the confidantes, the coaches, the judges and the juries. It never lets up until you wave the white flag and they fall asleep until morning. And then it starts all over again.

Mamas, you are tired. You are working twenty-four hour days sweating over algebra assignments and recording video responses to class assignments. You feel guilty and stressed when the Zoom audio won’t turn on and when the dismal math grade is posted. Some of you are even working outside the home in essential services, coming home to a set of math problems to re-do, dinner to un-burn, people to cheer up (ladies, I need to lay down just typing these words).

You’re cooking and preparing meals when you’re not looking up essay samples on global warming. These children are eating more than they are complaining about the WiFi signal. You are breaking up fights between people who are spending too much time together. You are giving in on rules that were written in stone just weeks ago.

At night, there are more nightmares than ever. Your children are waking you up at 2am, tears tracking down their chins, climbing into bed with you for comfort. They wake up in the morning with more unanswerable questions than ever. In fact, their questions are your questions too.

Sometimes you want to run very far away, leaving a trail of graph paper and mac and cheese boxes in your quickly dissolving wake. You would even settle for a minute or two of silence, where no one calls to you while you take a shower or read a paragraph in a book you might enjoy. But you don’t run away. You swing those legs out and set those feet on the floor every. Single. Morning. And you get it done.

In other words, mothers, no one deserves to be celebrated more than you do. You deserve a five course dinner with a bottle of bubbly all to yourself (orange juice on the side). Your labor for these last weeks is worthy of a marching band parade. Heck, it’s deserving of a marching band leading an entire Macy’s Day parade. You deserve five days alone in a bubble bath that is always warm, frothy and raspberry-scented.

Of course, you are a mother, so you are a realist. You know that, even though you deserve all this and more, you’re going to get a day that’s pretty similar to yesterday. You’ll get some kids and possibly a partner who aren’t going anywhere for a while longer. You might even get a work shift outside your home. You’ll probably at least get an “I’m so borrrrred”.

But you’re here. And those kids, sitting in front of the TV or their phone or just under your nose, they’re here too. You’ve worked to your absolute limit to make sure that it is so.

All around the world there’s an army of mothers doing the same. You are holding together a planet full of families; desperate, sleepless, and afraid. You are the ones holding them in your arms, whispering “it’s going to be ok” into their hair, even as your heart is icy with your own fears.

We see you, mamas. We know what you’ve done these last weeks. We feel the love that surrounds us even as we sleep, even as you face your own doubts and uncertainties.

May you enjoy a minute of silence that doesn’t end in a baby covered in syrup. May you have the best coffee you’ve ever tasted, with real cream and maybe a delicious scone from Dee’s Coffee Company. May every simple pleasure you hang on to with all your strength be multiplied one thousand times today.

Happy Mother’s Day to our strong, courageous mothers who hold us together, all around the world.

Looking back on 2009

I don’t know about you, but I was so productive for the first couple of weeks of this quarantine. I went through our Important Paperwork files that looked, for months, more like Crumpled Paper files. I baked delicious treats. I cooked healthy meals to offset the delicious treats. I thought of alphabetizing the pasta in my cupboards. In other words, I developed a split personality.

This burst of industry has fallen by the wayside, along with my need for the spaghetti to sit to right of the lasagna noodles. However, the other day I decided to clear off shelves and get rid of some books that we no longer needed. Unfortunately, I am a bibliophile and a terrible sentimentalist and, instead of getting rid of a single volume, I pulled several off the shelf and read them for old time’s sake. One of the books I read over was a homemade, faded one made from blue construction paper. On it was the title, written in my best Kindergarten Teacher printing, The Amazing Adventures of Elijah and Gracie! April 28 – May 18.

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This book happens to be the product of another pandemic back in 2009 which originated in Mexico. The virus was called H1N1, also known as “swine flu”. I don’t remember all the policies put into place due to the virus. I recall that we were encouraged to stay inside, to use masks if we went out, and to avoid going out if we could help it.

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We were asked to avoid large gatherings, but we could still visit friends and swim in their pool. We went on day trips to places where few people gathered in hordes; the Botanical Gardens and Playa Destiladeras for example.

However, I do recall staying put for the most part, and I do recall wondering how three weeks had suddenly turned into about seven years. Time. Stood. Still. As I page through the book now, I realize that I wrote “Amazing Adventures” for my children’s sake only, so that they could look back on how cool it was that I let them watch “Over the Hedge” three and a half times per day.

 

Each page tells the story of a mother stuck at home with two children who refused to eat anything that wasn’t Cheerios or yogurt. If you read between the lines, you can see that she had to cajole her oldest to practice his cutting and pasting (“Elijah cut and pasted a ROBOT SPACESHIP!”). You can see that the only way her daughter would scribble a picture of their day at the beach was if her exasperated mama added in a few stick figures of her own:

In all the photos in this nine-page scrapbook, there are two parents pointing unnaturally huge grins at the camera, having spent hours picking up crepe paper from piñatas that their preschoolers hit inside their house (if you’re thinking of doing this activity because it’s unusual and fun, just remember it’s about four minutes of fun and a lifetime of regret).

Eleven years later, we are locked down with the same people, but not the same in the sense that they are taller and don’t usually nap. Also when they agree to play games they almost always legitimately beat us and not because we pretend to be inept. So I guess, in some ways, my husband and I are not the same people either. We are shorter and far less competent than in 2009.

However, while I AM a little nostalgic for those little children who got excited over indoor piñatas and “helping” mommy bake unsuccessful loaves of bread, there are advantages to being locked in with my older kids.

  • They like to watch movies only one time
  • They’ll watch movies that I’ve been waiting to share with them (even though they call any movie made before 2004 “retro”)
  • I actually find their jokes humorous and don’t have to laugh because it’s the right thing to do

So moms and dads of little ones, I hope you know that I understand because I’ve gone through it. And that we are all challenged in uniquely aggravating ways. But I do encourage to enjoy it, and to make a book. Someday you will want to drag it out and read it, hopefully not because you are locked in with your teens, but because of the great memories you made together.

 

Words from my heart

I read an article yesterday that someone posted on Facebook. It was about the fact that many parents were complaining about being locked inside with their offspring. Not only were parents complaining to the writer personally, but some were actually making funny and sarcastic posts on the topic all over social media. They were talking about losing their minds due to the unbearable prospect of remaining indoors with the demanding, tiring human beings to whom they had given life.

The writer of the article proposed that if the idea of spending all this time with children was so unsustainable, perhaps these people shouldn’t have become parents in the first place. Perhaps they should consider their children’s feelings, he added. How sad it was that many of these kids would someday read these comments and realize how unhappy their parents were to be quarantined with them.

Let’s just take a look at this point of view and understand that it is valid. We should enjoy this special time and consider it a gift. We should do the things with our children that we always said we would do but never had the time. We should read to them, bake with them and watch their favorite movies. We should speak of them as though they were standing there with us, and not belittle them or undermine them to others. Yes. All of that.

But let’s all admit some things: we are all under a tremendous amount of stress. Many of us are not working and our bank accounts are draining away like sand through a plastic beach sieve.

We are trying to help others who have it even worse than we do.

We are all inside together for twenty-three hours a day, and the twenty-fourth hour is spent outside doing a physical activity that at least one family member is unhappy about.

The worst part? We don’t know for sure when it will end. We don’t know if someone we care about will get sick. We wonder if our healthcare system will be able to handle the weight of so many sick people all at once.

The truth is, most of us are scared. So it’s true, we aren’t always patient. Sometimes our kids get on our nerves. Sometimes we re-tweet a funny comment about how kids never seem to know what they want, or have the worst taste in music (Baby Shark, anyone?), or are causing us to dip more deeply into our limited wine supply.

When I read back on some of my articles and blog posts, I do detect some unflattering feelings about parenting kids and teens at times. I think it’s been amplified in recent weeks. It’s a good time to reflect on the question: someday, when my children read everything I’ve written about them, how will it make them feel?

I hope they breathe a sigh of relief, and know that it’s ok to doubt themselves as parents. I hope they laugh at the absolute absurdity that so often marks day to day family life. I hope they cringe in sympathy at my failures and my inability to manage some of the trickiest situations.

I hope they’re glad to know that I was human; scared, full of doubt, sometimes fully exasperated. I hope they read the lines about those sleepless nights, the anxious days, and feel a heart-squeeze, knowing it was always for them. I hope they see that I cherished many of the special moments spent inside our home for all these weeks.

I hope they read it all and know I did my very best. That I wasn’t perfect, but I loved them deeply through it all. I hope they see a mother who lived through the worst of times holding tightly to the people who mattered more than anything else.

When all is said and done, these words are my love letter to them; the funny, the sarcastic, the sweet.  They are imperfect words from an imperfect parent, but also words from a heart that loves them through every minute of these strange days.

Reach Out

Hey, time to celebrate! It’s Semana Santa and we’re finished school for two weeks! I think what I’ll do is celebrate by continuing to stay at home. I might even mix up another batch of brownies which I’ll eat directly from the pan. I’ll dress up by combing my hair before putting it into a bun on top of my head.

Yes, these holidays will take place in our homes, in the same location as regular life was taking place for the last few weeks. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Well, I mean, it probably will be boring a lot, let’s face it. But it can also be interesting without being unsettling, like most of the news coming in from our cellular devices.

And there are so many many (many many) friends on social media sites willing to show you fun and productive things they are doing at home. So fun! So happy! So creative! I am beyond grateful to them all for these opportunities to learn and feel ashamed that I am not putting in my very own vegetable garden in my front yard. Guys. I am not judging you for teaching your children the art of aerial silks in your own home. You have my utmost regard for your ability to manage this situation by starting a business or writing a book or discovering a new planet.

It’s just that I am now under pressure to do that stuff I used to say I wasn’t doing because I lacked the time. Now I have oodles of it. My cup overfloweth with time.  I have an embarrassment of time on my hands. What am I doing with it? I am making pie. Also, I am fighting a Dust War inside my house. I am wrestling clumsily with apps like Zoom that are apparently the easy (HA) way to stay in touch with loved ones. And, of course, I must set aside some time for that Existential Dread thing (so as to have conversation starters once I’ve figured out how to do Zoom).

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But that really pales in comparison to those who also have time on their hands and a desire to fill that time with a job that they have recently lost. Yes, my husband isn’t working now, and he is thus at home all the time “helping” me figure out technology and eating my pie. It’s not easy, not by a long shot, but we have pie, and that’s really the point.

And that brings me to my favorite part of this article. Can we help just sitting in our homes surrounded by the debris of our fifth “junk drawer” organization?

The answer to that is a big ol’ yes! We can! There are so many ways. For example, many restaurants are doing their best to stay open on delivery and take-out orders only. This helps them continue to employ people and support their families. And, you can’t cook three meals a day for your perpetually hungry children. I mean, you can, but you have that online business to get started.

You can also contribute to the Vallarta Food Bank initiative. Check them out on Facebook. They are feeding a lot of people and they COULD feed a lot more if we all lend a hand. Share it to family and friends who are sitting in their own homes in Canada and the US. Everyone wants a Vallarta to come home to when this is over. Ask for their help through gofundme and other ways to send some much-needed donations.

Check on people! Not everyone has a wonderful, helpful family by their sides every. Single. Minute. There are some people alone, scared and unable to reach out because they are required to self-isolate. Let’s find them and link arms digitally. We are in this together. And if you’re alone, reach out and connect with someone else. This is who we are, people!

We are Vallartenses, and we’ll get through this. Are we separated? Yes. Are we hunkered down in our own homes? Sure. But somehow we are together, and we are strong. We are a united community that leaves no one behind. Reach out today.

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Distance Learning

So I’m just going to admit right now that I haven’t really been at my best lately. I hope this helps any of you who haven’t been the very models of calm, reasoning human beings. I think it’s good to lay it out on the table and just acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. I’ll start with all the ways I have been less than stellar in the management of the Current Situation:

  • I’ve read too much information, false and otherwise
  • I have been doing a lot of sitting around and wishing things were different
  • I have snapped repeatedly at a variety of family members including our dogs, who (let’s admit) haven’t consistently been Their Best Selves either
  • I’ve wept real tears over my children’s high school assignments, because I was never meant to teach anyone about cellular division. I just wasn’t.column, distance 2

However, I have been absolutely stellar in other areas. I’ve learned a new way to continue my students’ education online, and I learned it in twenty-four hours. Anyone who knows me understands that this is nothing short of supernatural in level of achievement. Here is the thing (and it’s a big thing): I teach early childhood. I believe strongly in the importance of play and in the construction of knowledge using concrete, real-life materials. To that end, I do not advocate for IPads in the classroom for kindergarten students. I recommend that families limit screen times for their young children.

Thus, I am not a very technologically astute person. I spend most of my professional development time on things that I DO advocate for in an early childhood classroom: cooperation, language development, social interaction, all wrapped up in a beautiful package called PLAY.

But now, my classroom is contained within an application on an IPad. And my students aren’t physically with me. I guess this is probably a good thing, because we aren’t supposed to hug or even shake hands. And if you’ve ever been in my classroom, you know that there are a lot of hugs going around.

When we got the news that our schools would be going online, our technology director suggested an app to our Early Childhood team. The app is called FlipGrid, which allows for teachers to post videos, pictures, documents, etc. and invite feedback via video responses from students. So each day you’ll find me in another room in my house, chatting away to a screen or giggling over my students’ happy responses. We’ve decided to design our own blanket forts and have a big ol’ pajama party next week. We’re going to meet up all day Friday on the app so we can all see each other’s forts.

I thought I’d find it uncomfortable to show up on video, but it feels like I’m talking directly to my kids, the way I do each morning in my classroom. And the children’s responses tell me they feel the same way. Their video responses are smiling, and chatty and brilliant. They are enthusiastic and bright-eyed, full of ideas and eager to be part of the group. Their messages are filled with hope and caring: “I miss you guys!” “I love you Miss Leza!” “I hope everyone is fine!”

Technology and social media have two very sharp edges. There’s too much false information running around, filling people with dread, worry, and fear. But it’s become my link to the job that is my passion. And it’s the glue that is holding my classroom family tightly together. When my students see that school goes on, that life goes on, they feel like it’s going to be ok. And when I see their happy, excited faces, I feel pretty hopeful about the future too.

While we are all apart, let’s find a way to connect that invites hope, peace and unity. Whether it’s FaceTime with family and friends or a virtual classroom, we can be promoters of love and peace. Brighten someone’s day and wipe away the cobwebs of loneliness and despair, just like a little group of five-year-olds have done for their teacher.

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Staying In

Hello my friend, I can’t go out tonight. Yes, I deserve a night out, and yes, I’d love to go and see my talented husband play the guitar. I’d like to have a bit of dinner first, washed down with my favorite crisp, cold white wine. I’d enjoy a laugh with a good friend, a bit of conversation with a fellow mom, or even a quiet browse on my phone at a table for one. I’d like it a lot, I’m sure.

But I’ll stay home again, because I have a newborn and I haven’t slept in three weeks. My little boy can’t seem to settle, and spends most evenings screaming those brand new lungs out, shrill little voice lifting above mine, tiny fists waving and indignant. I can’t imagine putting him into the arms of anyone else. I couldn’t even imagine bathing today.

So I’ll have to take a rain check and stay home. I’m going to try out some personal hygiene when he falls asleep for a few minutes. I will probably have a cry in the shower, because I am totally overwhelmed by all of this. But I’m his mother, he’s my baby, and he needs me.P1000897

Hi there, I won’t be painting the town tonight. My toddler is sick (again), feverish and heavy. She came home from preschool with another virus, and cries for hours a night. I am exhausted with the burden of holding her next to my heart all evening, and I’m almost as ill with worry as she is with fever. I would rather leave my own arm behind than shut the door against her voice calling “mommy, come!”

I’m going to call the doctor one more time and try to distract my girl with a little Saturday night Disney marathon. I’ll drape her with cool cloths and fill her sippy cup with all the apple juice she wants. After all, I’m her mother, she’s my baby, and she needs me.

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Hey all, I guess I’m staying in this time, amigas. The sitter couldn’t make it, and to be honest, something is bugging my daughter. She cried her eyes out tonight and I rubbed her back until she lay quiet across my legs. But she’s sad and so I’m sad, and I need to get to the bottom of this. I think it’s a friend thing, a three’s-a-crowd thing, a lost-invitation-to-the-sleepover kind of thing. And I can’t look in her eyes while I put on my dancing shoes and tell her we’ll talk about it in the morning.

So we are going to get out the teapot and have a little chat, just us girls. We’ll work out what’s going on, and I’ll keep a calm, empathetic face while the momma bear roars underneath my skin. ‘Cause I’m her momma bear, she’s my cub, and she needs me.

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Thanks for the invitation, ladies. I’d love a night out, but I have to say no, one more time. My kids have had exams all week, and they are stressed out , wrung out, overwhelmed. He is certain he failed his math test, even though he went over all the review sheets. She’s locked herself in her room and there’s no music rolling out from under the door.

So I’ll stay home and make myself available, room door wide open, until my babies (who are no longer babies) come find me and plop right down beside me. We’ll watch some TV, or talk about politics, or play some cards. There will be pizza, and probably something covered in chocolate.

I’m sure that soon I’ll go out and have my time away with the grownups. I imagine it will feel like it’s been about two years since the last time I’ve gone out. I bet I’ll have a great time. I’ll order something that certainly isn’t good for me. I might even dance (and may need to apologize later).

But tonight I am definitely staying home. And I’m definitely ok with it. Because I am their mom, they are my babies, and they need me.

celebrating love in february

So after what has been labeled the longest January in the history of the Gregorian calendar, we have come to the month of love and friendship. Which is nice, but I didn’t really mind that January felt longer than a double root canal. I love the weather in Vallarta in January, and I also love posting pictures of how great it is here in order to entice my family in Manitoba to visit.

However, it is now February, and that means I’ll start feeling romantic any. minute. now. Here are two things that could cause a short delay in my warm fuzzies: 1) I am a mom whose children think parental affection is very gross and used only for the purpose of their personal discomfort; and 2) It is high season, I am married to a musician, and I don’t quite remember if we spoke yesterday except for a text exchange that went:

“Did you turn on the slow cooker?”

“What is that”

“What is what”

“What is a slow cooker”

“Nvm I’ll do it when I get home”

“what is that”

“what is WHAT”

“nvm”

“ok”

I don’t know about your marriage, but when you don’t see your spouse for longer than fifteen minutes a day (and only when you need him or her to back you up regarding your teen’s cell phone bill), things get less spicy and a little more, well, mild.

But the good news is that February is here, and it’s time to celebrate. Not just because of Valentine’s Day. And, let’s face it, Valentine’s Day can be a little(!) cheesy in its glitter-bathed, heart-shaped, pink and purple, cartoon-character-ish exuberance.

No, I’m talking about a special day that my husband and I celebrate every February 3rd and which he forgets about until the week before. I like to bring it up by asking him what we are doing on the weekend. He’ll say, “Ida know, hopefully nothing, because I’m working and I am beat.”

Now, I think you are all just impressed that he didn’t say, “Well obviously watching the SUPER BOWWWWLLLL YEAH!” but at this point I’ll sigh and say forget it. He’ll know he’s said something wrong but won’t begin to be able to imagine what it is, so he’ll go on with his day. I’ll continue to drop disappointed remarks around the house until my daughter stomps up to him, grabs him by the shoulders and says “DAD! It’s your ANNIVERSARY! Please do something!”

Yes, we have been living this married bliss for twelve years now, and have been together for nearly eighteen. Neither one of us is even close to being an American football fan, so we chose February 3rd as a wedding date back in 2008, much to the baffled annoyance of most of our guests (bless them all for coming).

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And I know it sounds like the passion in our marriage is on a serious decline… but I can honestly say I love this man so very much. I love him even more than I did twelve years ago when I said “I do” while my dear friend’s husband jiggled his knee in the audience and wondered if the hotel sports bar would carry the Giants vs the Patriots.

The thing is, I fell for my husband the way a penguin dives into the icy deep – it was sudden, it was fast, it was shocking, but it was completely inevitable. That kind of love is the greatest, isn’t it? But the fact that, over the years, it can evolve into something comforting, heart-warming and totally enduring – that’s downright miraculous.

And it’s all the little, every day things that I love now. For example, I love how he is always on my side when I describe my latest outrage. Even when I’m not totally right (but mostly).

I love how he embraces the Embarrassing Dad role into which he’s been tossed. He does his absolute best to provide ample evidence that he’s uncool and tells lame jokes. He plays his eighties hair metal loud and proud, grinning while the back seat groans and calls for hip hop.

I love how we walk through this life together; good times, bad times, terrible times. He’s held my hand through it all and let me know I’m never alone. His optimism and encouragement is my brightest light.

So yeah, we usually talk less about passion these days and more about what’s for dinner. But it’s real love, it’s life-long, and it’s very much worth celebrating.

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