Today, I had a morning science program from 9-noon at my school that I helped run. I snuck out at 7.45 am while everyone else was sleeping to go set up. By the time I got home at 12.30, I was pretty tired. I tried to get Julie to nap, but she obstinately didn't want to; perhaps that's the reward for letting her sleep in. Our living room is fairly toddler-proof, so I let her play and watch SuperWhy! (her very favorite show on Netflix from PBS kids from which she is learning the alphabet and perhaps even how to read). I relaxed on the couch. I dozed off but thought I was keeping an eye on things.
Tonight, I decided to get the diaper bag all set up for our visit to the Minnesota Children's museum in St. Paul tomorrow. I noticed Julie had been playing with it. Obviously, I slept longer (and deeper) than I had realized. Not only did she play with it; she repacked the diaper bag for me. I was hilariously surprised to find that she had shoved all her diapers into the front pocket (where we keep snacks) and zipped it back up. The entire body of the diaper bag itself was empty, and every other item had been stashed in another pocket somewhere.
All is in order now. We are repacked with items in the correct (for Mama) pockets. Extra snacks, two changes of clothes, and a few distractions are ready to go too. I'm excited to venture up, meet some friends, and have a great time.
One of the blogs (The Frugalwoods) I read just achieved one of their big goals; they bought a homestead in the woods. They currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They're moving there soon to pursue a simpler life, according to them. They have been able to do so due to extreme frugality and high levels of savings. Their most recent post is describing the homestead they just bought and some of their plans. At the end, they pose the intriguing question: what would you do if you didn't have to earn a paycheck?
This is an excellent question with no easy answer for me. It's something I've pondered on and off over the years. I think the key part is not needing to earn. I've been unemployed before with lots of time on my hands, but the stress of not having a job and possibly running out of money was distracting. I am a good saver and have a solid cushion set aside, but it's not enough to retire indefinitely. So, when I didn't have a job, what did I do? I played music (mostly ukulele), read books, meandered on the internet, and ran more often. Nothing major but mostly fulfilling when I wasn't stressed about not working.
There's a big part of me that says I would continue teaching. When all is going well, I truly love my job. Interacting with students, sharing my excitement, and seeing them geek out about learning is wonderful. But then there are the stressful times, when I have too much planning, too much grading, and not enough motivation to get it all done. I often feel overloaded. But then summer hits. While I enjoy doing nothing for awhile, I really appreciate the structure and focus that my job brings to my life. Without it, I start to feel diffuse, and there's not much pressure to get anything much done.
My hope for this summer is to work on planning for one of my classes. I teach three different classes. One is mostly planned and just requires little tweaks from year to year; that is mostly not stressful, although there is a lot of grading for that class. The other two are less well-planned. My hope is to get a second class to the "well-planned" stage during three weeks I have slated for pure work this summer. I am curious to see if getting more planned helps me have a bit more time during the school year. I think I would enjoy my job even more with a bit less planning and a little more time for family and myself in the evening.
I am glad that I have found something I truly care about to do as my job. I don't have the patience to simply punch the clock for a paycheck. I enjoy doing something fulfilling. But maybe just a little bit less of it some of these weeks.
This past weekend, we went to Minnesota Opera's production of Tosca. It was truly beautiful; gorgeous sets, wonderful music, and amazing singing. Matt and I have been subscribing to the opera for the past three years, and I think this might be my favorite (or close to it).
what I loved:
everyone sang beautifully; this was so well-cast
there were two large statues in the set: made from styrofoam then hand-painted, they legitimately looked like marble and metal statues
the costumes were gorgeous
the opera moved along at a good pace; I never felt as if the action were stalled or the music stuck on one point over and over
death scenes: quick and non-agonizing
This is a Puccini opera, and I haven't always loved his operas in the past. They've been fine but not excellent. Maybe that's because I'm not an opera person. We subscribed to the opera more for the experience of it. After 11 operas over three years, I can truly say I feel like we've experienced opera now. We are no experts, but we have a reasonable breadth of shows we have been to.
This opera was just fantastic. It's even led to some mixed feelings. We decided not to renew our opera subscription for next year. We can renew again in the future, and we are ready to explore some other options for our date nights (hiking, plays, other concerts, game nights -- who knows?). I was okay with this, because we've also attended some operas I didn't love as much. But, on the whole, I'm glad to go out on a high note. This encourages me to see operas again in the future.
For the record, the operas we've seen:
La Boheme -- outdoor venue, pretty fun, lots of lovely music
Manon Lescaut -- 40 minute long death arias are not my thing; lovely costumes, but the first half was better than the second
Arabella -- a German comedic opera that I loved! This is one of my favorites
Macbeth -- Italian, so even more dramatic than the original. Julie first kicked during this opera! I enjoyed it, but I was so, so tired that night.
The Magic Flute -- a spectacle indeed with innovative staging. Perfectly fine but not a stand-out for me
Hansel and Gretel -- so excited to see this, and so disappointed in the end. The best part is that it was short. Oh, and there was some good dancing too.
The Manchurian Candidate -- in English, based on the book, and pretty awesome. Different for an opera
Carmen -- I so wanted to like this, and I was underwhelmed. The two main leads didn't have any chemistry. But the music was great!
Ariadne auf Naxos -- first half was good, and the second half was less good
Rusalka -- a Hungarian opera and a tragic version of little mermaid. I loved this one! Starred the lovely Kelly Kaduce, who is my favorite Minnesota Opera singer we've seen
After school sometimes, when Matt has picked up Julie, he'll bring her to my classroom if I've been slow getting out of there as I finish up work. The joy on my little girl's face as she runs into my room and rushes to give me a big hug is unparalleled. This is the best part of motherhood so far.
Today, I had a coworker come check in with me right as I finished class. I had two small tasks to finish, but he needed help, so I stayed to work with him too. Around 4.40, my two loves came into the room. Julie bounced over and jumped into my arms (well, jumped as reasonably well as a non-quite-2 year old can jump). I received a giant hug and a face full of smiles.
Then, after, she happily helped Matt feed my classroom fish. She is mesmerized by them. "Pinch, pinch" she'll say as she gives them a little pinch of food at the top of the tank. I've got three fish with goldfish: a 40 gallon tank with one massive fish ("Goldie"), a 10 gallon tank with three medium-small fish, and a 10 gallon tank with 20 small fish. She makes the rounds and chatters about the different fish sizes: "small!" stated so exuberantly.
I hope she can bring this joy to all the tasks of her life. When I'm not tired and overwhelmed with the amount of work, this is the joy I love to bring to my own daily tasks. Hoping that I can plan some this summer so that my next school year is not quite so grueling (this has been a rough year with some class switches mid-fall, so I've got a new prep and a lot on my plate). But having my little one brings the most joy of all. I feel blessed beyond measure.
We ate dinner in the dining hall and then walked back home. Julie alternate between holding my hand, running ahead, and wanting to be held. We went home and snuggled in for reading books and Facetime with Nana. A wonderful counterpart to a full day of work.
Plus, a semi-related final note I can't add in any better way: I am thrilled to say that Julie has finally popped out her last molar. We've had three months of fussy nights, random bites, and lots of ibuprofen/tylenol before bedtime. Seemingly by magic, last Friday night, I forgot to give the tylenol and it didn't matter. All four of those pain machines are finally out! I am beyond thrilled. I already notice her mood is even more joyful!
With the exception of the past few days, as teeth are being cut and all sense of normalcy has been flung to the winds, nights are a lovely and calm time here. We struggled mightily with routine over the course of the first year. We read all about putting babies to sleep, and nothing seemed to work. Sometime around the year mark, we turned a corner. We sleep trained using Ferber's book, and we also developed a great routine. The sleep training took 5 days or so, and the routine fell right in place once Julie had a set bed time.
Bath time is every other night, and we usually start that around 6.30. It's a typical bath time. After bath time, or at 6.45 on the off nights, we start our bedtime routine. First, we get into jammies. She often picks her own jammies out; favorites are soft, warm fleece footie jammies with animals on them. Right now, that would be her santa monkey pajamas. During the dry winter time, there's also a lotion rub down. Julie loves to get some on her hand and rub lotion into her tummy.
After, she gets books. Normally, daddy takes this on. They read anywhere from 3-10 books, depending on how tired she is feeling and how early we got started. At some point, she gets droopy and asks for the "boppy." The boppy is our nursing pillow. At 19 months, we still nurse twice a day (morning and night), at her request. I've thought about weaning, but she gets so darn excited, and it doesn't bother me too much to nurse.
After nursing time is teeth brushing. We have a little song we sing. I brush her teeth, and she will either brush mine or try to help with hers. We do the tongue last. Then, it is time to hug daddy goodnight. Finally, we rock gently while standing and sing a few songs. Finally, I lay her down in her crib, lay a fuzzy blanket on her, and say goodnight. No nightlight, but we do have a fan and a humidifier running.
Recently, it's been rough with teeth cutting. Some kids aren't bothered by their teeth; mine is. She is also a bit on the late side for teething, it seems. She only has 8 teeth, and she is cutting 2 more. No molars yet, and I am not looking forward to those. It takes about two weeks for her to cut a tooth, so I appreciate that we get big breaks between teeth.
I hope the sweetness of our evenings comes through. It is such a calm and lovely time of snuggles, and I really relish the routine. Even on my duty nights, I run over from the dorm for about 20 minutes to do my part. I know that, someday, my little girl will not be so little, and she won't want mama's help. Until then, I soak up every bit I can.
Finally, finally following up on being tagged for a Q & A. I always mean to write, and I let time get away with me. So, without further ado, since any delay here will result in not finishing this.
1. Is there something that you accomplished last year that you can now look back at and say, "Phew! I'm glad THAT's done with!" If so, what is it?
The thing that springs to mind is actually something I finished in May 2014, so it's more like the past two years. I finished up my MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching), which was a great relief. I did the majority of the program from 2010-2012, when I got my teaching license. I had two classes left for my MAT, but I didn't want to do them during my first year of teaching. We decided to get pregnant right before my second year of teaching. I figured finishing the MAT would be better without a baby. SO relieved that I got that done, and I continue to be more relieved in hindsight. I completely could not manage that today, and I only had a 5 year window post-graduating to finish, so it's a good thing I wrapped it up.
For my thesis, I wrote about and created a website on multicultural science education. Spoiler alert: the most important thing is to use good teaching skills that allow all students to use their own experiences to relate to science. I defended at 8 months pregnant (and I think I surprised at least one member of my committee!).
2. How do you keep track of your appointments and to-do lists? (I'm really curious about how other people manage time and tasks).
I use a google calendar for appointments. I live by that thing. Still trying to figure out how to sync up with my husband. I think he started using google calendar when he got an Android phone, so now it's a matter of taking the time to put them together.
For my to-do list, I go old school. I have tried to do electronic lists, but it gets really overwhelming for me. Mostly, I keep a list on paper, tho I will jettison the list at times (paradoxically, this usually happens when I get really busy and am in "put out the fires" mode). I've got a little moleskin notebook I'm using right now. I just try to rewrite my list every few days and keep track. Honestly, it's not an optimal system. I routinely struggle with the to-do list, prioritizing tasks, and being as efficient as I'd like to be.
Back when I worked at a nature center and had more of a desk job, I had a really good system going. I just used a normal size cheap notebook. The left side of pages was for running tasks (large things, long-term stuff, etc). The right side was where I wrote down a specific to-do list for each day along with the amount of time I thought each task should take. That worked really well but proved hard to keep up with.
3. What do you normally eat for breakfast?
A cup of strawberry yogurt and sometimes a banana. Recently, I've been eating Stonyfield Farm yogurt, but sometimes I go on a chobani kick. If I really want to mix it up, I'll have peaches and cream oatmeal. And, occasionally, a bowl of cheerios with raisins and banana slices. But mostly just yogurt every day.
4. What is the goofiest little thing, that other people don't necessarily notice, that makes you happy?
I get downright giddy about cute erasers, pens that write really smoothly, and a nice fitting pair of headphones. I love to listen to music when I need some me time, and comfortable headphones are essential.
We are at my in-laws' house in Iowa today for Thanksgiving. I am supremely grateful for good food and happy family. We are having a wonderful time playing with the cousins. Last night, we introduced my nephew to "Ticket to Ride," one of our favorite board games.
Right now, we are watching football as Matt reads to Julie and the last of the dinner preparations are being made. I am grateful for an extended family where everyone loves to cook good food, so we take shifts in the kitchen to prepare this amazing meal.
Happy Thanksgiving to all out there. May your day be full of blessings.
Sometimes, in the day to day minutia, I get overwhelmed with teaching, planning to teach, and parenting a young child. Julie requires a lot of hands-on time these days. I don't have much time for personal pursuits, hobbies, or even much wasting time (tho I still steal a few moments here and there). There are days when I wonder if it will ever end; when will I have free time again?
I am heartened, then, by the reminders when I quick-browse blogs in those stolen moments. Blogs like Chookooloonks remind me to look for the light in my every day. Karen, who writes Chookooloonks, has a tween daughter. She has found much more time for herself as her daughter grows.
This reminds me that parenting a young kid (and perhaps someday kids) is simply a season in my life. Just like being a kid myself, or being in college, lent itself to certain ways of spending my time, this season too has its own preoccupations. I do not have the time for binge-watching seasons of TV shows on Netflix or devouring a book right now. Marathon training will have to wait (and that's even assuming I ever decide, for sure, that I will run a marathon). And the pleasure of spending all day in solitude is a thing of the past.
However, I do have the time for laugh marathons. I have time for going on lovely walks and pointing out all the cool things we see; Julie is getting to the point and excited squeal stage, and occasionally she pops out a whole word. Today, "baby!" on a page in one of her favorite books. I have time for reading short stories with gorgeous pictures, playing a myriad of percussion instruments (all gifts!), splashing in the water, and lots of time proclaiming "wheee!" I have time for mimicking animals and hearing her repeat back: favorites are kitty, owl, bee, snake, and puppy.
This is but a season in my life, and this too shall pass. I am beyond excited to see the woman Julie grows up to be. And I am also doing my level best to enjoy the moments of joy, excitement, elation, exploration, and love right now.
On another blog, I left this comment. I decided I wrote enough about our summer routines that I want to share it here too. While hard at first, we have ultimately been really glad that we decided to keep Julie out of daycare for the summer so that we could spend more time with her. We will ultimately have 8 full weeks of hanging out with our wonderful kid, and it has been such a joy.
At first, there was some desperation. The transition to having our little one home full-time when the school year ended was rough. But we did figure it out, especially with googling “stay at home mom of toddler tips” and such. The first few days were just us playing with her on the floor all the time and getting worn out from so much direct interaction. Plus, she didn’t nap because her routine was all different. She starts back at “school” in two weeks, and now I’m pretty sad I won’t get to hang out with her awesome self all day long.
What did work was to set up a routine that included getting out of the house. We hit up library story time regularly, did sensory activities (playing with flour was a big hit), traded off so neither of us got exhausted, and went for a LOT of walks. As in, miles of walking. Recently, swim lessons and biking have put some good routine in to our life, and we’ve been to three state parks in the past week. Little one loves the hiking backpack.
We often wear her in a baby carrier. That's great for development (of abs and of ears). We also love the baby carrier for the ease of movement and napping potential.
I set up a bit of a toy rotation, and that helped too with playing. I also made some toys for something different to do. An empty kleenex box (for putting stuff into and out of) was a bit hit. I also tied together a string of bandanas and stuffed them into an empty container. Even after many times of play, she’s still amazed by how much she can pull out.
We learned songs at baby class, and we do those. The songs all have motions. I also found some toddler music station on Pandora. I seem to know almost all the songs; they play stuff from when I was growing up. My dad is a kid music enthusiast, so I pretty much heard all the most common stuff.
Books! We have read so many books. We do spend time talking about what we see on each page and pointing out different items. We talk a lot about animal sounds when animals are on the page. She knows what a bee says! We also talk about what might happen in the book. So, working on early reading comprehension. I think we usually do a half hour to an hour of reading per day, usually in chunks of 10-15 minutes. She now brings books over for us to read to her, and she definitely has favorites.
We also finally did Ferber because we were spending hours trying to get her to sleep in other ways with no success at all. After 5 nights, with each night seeing less crying, she now goes to sleep really easily at night and okay for naps. That went a long way to helping us feel refreshed and ready to interact during the day.
So, that’s my novel to answer my own question based on what we figured out this summer. We decided not to be afraid to go places, and so we go. We usually stay home for the afternoon nap, but if she doesn’t go down for that, then we just take her hiking and she falls asleep in the carrier. Stealth napping!