#Microblog Mondays 1: The Boy Who Loved Nonfiction.

 

Microblog_Mondays

(Want to know what #Microblog Mondays is? Click here)

My son treats the library as his own personal learning experience; he spends all his time in the kids room in the Early Reader Nonfiction section with the books on emergency vehicles – Fireboats, Ambulances, Fire Trucks – construction vehicles, and thankfully has moved on to natural sciences like the book on the lifecycle of a frog and salmon and bee.

It’s a hard sell for me to get him to agree to a book with a Story, but I keep trying. Because *I* need a book with a story sometimes. Took me three tries, but he agreed to Charlotte’s Web, which he thankfully enjoyed.

I recently convinced him to try Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this last trip to the library, and so the book came home with us. He wouldn’t read it right away. And when I was out one night, Jeff asked Owen if he wanted to read that it.

Oh, that book, Owen said.

Mom made me get that one.

(Someday. I still have hope.)

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Token November Post.

I know, I KNOW. I suck at posting.

I miss the days where I’d be driving into work and have an idea and think, Oh, I need to post THAT to my blog!

Right now? I’m listening to David Sedaris on audiobook and I’m mostly struck by what a brilliant writer he is. And by the time I get to work, I have ZERO ideas of my own.

Well, except for the week after the marathon, when I had a hard time controlling my Jello legs on flat ground and I couldn’t believe how comical I looked.

But really, that’s all I wanted to post. Hey, it’s three days after my marathon and holy crap my legs don’t even feel like they’re attached to my body! It’s pretty crazy, people!

I didn’t post it, though.

(You’re welcome.)

Anyway.

So it’s November. And I said that in November I’d write a LOT more.

I have not actually managed to follow through with that resolution. Until today, the only things I’ve written are To Do and grocery shopping lists.

So what have I actually BEEN doing these past few weeks?

Well, the good news is that this November, I’ve been able to run, because I did NOT end up injured at the end of the Baystate Marathon. That’s good, for sure.

However, that does not mean I have been enjoying my runs; apparently trying to actively recover from a marathon by running makes said runs kind of suck. In fact, this past Saturday I actually had a piddly three miler that ended at the halfway point; I did the Walk of Shame home the last 1.5 miles because holy crap my legs could not run ONE MORE STEP.

Recovery: going from completely NAILING a 22 mile run to bonking on a 3 mile run.

Humbling.

The good news, though, is that Saturday’s Walk of Shame was my low point, and my runs have gotten considerably Less Sucky since then. I wouldn’t put them in the category of Good yet, but I’m starting to believe that perhaps running WON’T suck for the rest of my life. Which is really good news.

The other thing I’ve been doing is cooking. Like spending all my time in the kitchen on the weekends sort of cooking.

Last weekend I made my own chicken stock – courtesy of unsmitten kitchen. Then I made homemade cream of celery root soup, courtesy of food network. I made an awesome spanish chicken casserole from November’s edition of Cooking Light. I also made and canned a batch of apple butter to get a head start on the holiday season.

And when it was all done, and I had no more cooking to do, I wandered around my kitchen, looking for something else to cook.

Oh, I have IDEAS.

I have ideas for egg-free banana bread and chocolate chip sour cream bread and I REALLY want to try my hand at making the maple bacon scones my friend Sue brought to my house for brunch one day.

MUST. COOK. ALL. THE. FOODS!

In other news, the other day I happened to notice that my kid seemed to have a second tooth growing BEHIND his baby teeth.

Photographic evidence? Here.

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Cue frantic googling. Because I was prepared for loose teeth and the Tooth Fairy visits and all of that. I was NOT prepared to handle another set of teeth growing in his mouth before the baby ones fell out.  Fortunately, the interwebs came to my rescue.

The technical term for it is called lingually erupting mandibular incisors. It is also referred to as “shark teeth.”

Our dental hygienist confirmed for me today that I do not need to worry about it, because it is common and it’s likely that it will force the baby tooth to become loose and fall out.

There are things I never anticipated I’d have to deal with as a parent. And I’m not sure why, but this extra tooth thing is DEFINITELY one of them.

So that’s what I’ve been up to in November thus far. And now that I’ve popped the proverbial cherry on writing, I AM hoping to post a lot more.

Maybe even once a week! 🙂

Nostalgia.

Owen was born via c-section; he was breech. And if I’m being truthful, I was happy with the idea of a c-section; after years of infertility I was terrified that my body would screw up in childbirth, and the idea of a procedure where doctors could have him out of me within minutes gave me a lot of relief.

I didn’t really expect to HAVE a baby, you see. I had convinced myself that something was going to happen to him while I was pregnant and we were going to end up empty-handed.

So when they handed my newborn to me, I was a little unprepared. For everything, really. Nursing, care, etc. I spent his first few days fretting about how much he slept – normal for a baby who was nearly three weeks early – and how little he ate. Shouldn’t he want to feed?

And then there was the whole learning how to feed him thing. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, I relied heavily on nurses and lactation consultants in those days after he was born.

Recovering from a c-section is tough: there’s not a lot of positions you can sleep or sit in that’s comfortable. So I was having a tough go of it finding a position where I could nurse my new son comfortably.

And then, one of the night nurses showed me a position where I was able to lay down on my side, a pillow under my leg, with my son laying next to me. It was perfect: not only could I feed him easily from this position, but if I was tired, I could sleep AND feed without too much worry.

It was maybe the third night in the hospital (we got 5 when all was said and done, since he was born in the evening) when Owen woke up for a bit. Since he was awake, I thought, Woo hoo! Let’s do this feeding thing! and I set us both up: me on my side, pillow under my outstretched leg, him on his side, facing me.

He wasn’t interested in eating though – he just stared up at me, like he had known me forever. It was a moment I’ll never forget; his dark eyes looking straight at me as I talked to him.

And in the weeks to come, when I was overwhelmed with sleep deprivation and his fussiness and sleep issues and feeding schedule, when I felt like a fraud and a fake as a mother, that moment – the one where he knew me – was the one that grounded me.

It was the start of our bond, you see.

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The past two days have been rough ones; I have more work to do than I have time for. I am in heavy mileage for marathon training, and I am sneaking runs in. I am stressed out and tired, and stealing time for work and running. I worked late on Monday night and then again last night, stealing time at 8pm for a run along the Charles. And I missed bedtime both nights.

Tonight, though, I was home for his bedtime.

We always lay down next to Owen on his bed when we read stories. And we’ll generally lay with him for a few minutes once we turn out the light. Usually he’s talking; asking questions and talking about his day and coming up with stories. I can’t tell you how many times a night I have to tell him that it’s time for sleeping, that we can talk more in the morning, that it’s time to rest and close his eyes.

Tonight, though, he was tired from a long day of kindergarten, his after school program, and then swim lessons tonight. So when I turned off the light, I came back to the bed and lay down on my side, my head propped on his pillow, facing him.

He rolled towards me, cradling Bear, and tucked his hands and head into my neck. I wrapped my arms around him and he closed his eyes; he was asleep within minutes.

I had a sudden memory of that night in the hospital; his dark eyes staring up at me, the weight of him so very slight in my arms.

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He announced that he learned a new song today, at school. Putting his hands behind his back, he sang, Trick or Treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat! If you don’t, I don’t care, I’ll pull down your underwear!

He won’t let me help buckle him into his booster seat anymore – OR unbuckle himself. He does it himself now.

Since starting kindergarten, when he wakes up in the morning, he gets himself dressed before he comes downstairs.

He gets on the bus confidently, saying good morning! to his bus driver, then sits and waves at me through the window.

At swim class, he jumps in without hesitation. He swims underwater as much as he can; showing off for me, for his teachers.

He rides his bike as fast as he can, puts his own helmet on himself, and warns me as he’s riding to Stay on the sidewalk, Mommy! It’s not safe to walk in the road!

He has learned the pledge of allegiance for school and practices it as much as possible.

_____________________________

I remember the day he was born as if it were, in fact, yesterday. I remember what I was wearing; the feel of the spring air, still cold, but warming in the sun. I remember the full moon that rose outside our hospital window. How light he was in the carseat when we were finally on our way home; how it felt like there was nothing in there. The incredulity I felt that we were actually leaving the hospital with a real, live baby – OUR baby. Our son.

I love the age where he is at now; love his curiosity and sports-mindedness and imagination. I can’t WAIT for him to learn how to read and write and do math. I very much look forward to watching him grow and change; I look forward to watching him turn into the man he will be someday.

It’s just that I can’t wrap my brain around the flow of time. I blinked, and the slight weight of my infant in my arms turned into this boy, this kindergartener. And I’m going to blink again and it’s going to be this teenager, then Jeff and I will be dancing at his wedding.

So, yeah. Tonight I’m feeling nostalgic. For the teeny baby of mine.

040karenlooksdownonowensm

Who is no longer a baby.

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One Week.

Dear Owen:

One week from today, you’re going to climb up the stairs onto the big yellow school bus and head to your first day of kindergarten.

I am so excited to start this journey with you.

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn that the letters you know make words. And you’ll learn how to decipher those words into meaning.

All of a sudden, the world is going to open up to you: the world is full of letters and words and meanings.

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn how to make new friends; maybe the same ones you’ve been friends with since you were 6 months old, but maybe new friends, too. Like the boy up the road who will be at the bus stop with us every day.

Or maybe even a GIRL; you can be friends with girls, too, did you know that?

In kindergarten, you’re going to learn how to remember your schedule; the days you need to take the bus home and the days you’ll stay at school until your daddy or I pick you up.

Don’t worry – I have a plan to help you keep track, thanks to our next door neighbor. Just check your lunchbox every day: the magnet with the picture of our house means you get to take the bus home. The magnet with the picture of school means you are staying there until we pick you up.

In kindergarten, you begin what I hope will be a love of learning for the rest of your life.

There are so many things I hope for you.

I hope you fall in love with learning like your daddy and I did.

I hope your teacher recognizes your deep curiosity of the world and helps us foster it.

I hope you stay safe.

I hope you make friends easily, and play fun games at recess, and jump and run and get dirty.

I hope your father and I can ease these next few weeks of transition for you to make it easier.

I hope that you want to share your day with us at dinner, telling us stories about your day and what you’ve learned.

I hope you know how proud of you I am, how excited I am to start this next chapter of your life, and how much I love you.

And I hope you know that when I blink back tears as I wave goodbye to you as you board that bus, it’s because I’m happy. A little sad, too – when you’re a parent, it’s sometimes hard to let go. Not very long ago, you were so little and vulnerable and helpless.

But I know you’re ready, and you’re going to rock kindergarten.

Love always,

Mommy

Time and Tide.

Last week, I found myself looking for an alternative to copious amounts of TV, Wii, and other “quiet time so Mommy and Daddy could work during the weeklong daycare shutdown” activities.

I stumbled upon Baseball Camp, which is run by our school district’s baseball coach. And lucky for me, they still had spots open.

I’d like to take credit for Owen’s baseball obsession – being a decent softball player myself – but unfortunately I can’t. He picked up baseball on his own; asking us from the moment we got him his first baseball glove if we’d play with him. Last summer I stopped pitching wiffle balls to him because he kept hitting me (which stings!).

So this year, we signed him up for tee ball, which was HEAVEN. Our kid, who hung back and never joined in for soccer and swim lessons, ran off willingly – happily, even! – to play baseball with complete strangers.

I figured he’d do fine at Baseball Camp. My biggest worry was that it would feed into his obsession and we’d never be able to do ANYTHING that didn’t have to do with baseball.

(Actually, no, that’s not true. My biggest worry was that he’d get stung by a bee and someone I didn’t know would have to administer his epipen.)

On Monday, we showed up at the Little League fields, paid our fee, handed over his labeled epipen, and filled out paperwork for the nurse that is onsite daily.

When the director blew his whistle, my not-so-little boy ran off to join the rest of the Big Boys for baseball camp.

Just like that, he was a Big Boy.

When I called my best friend on the way home, I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing.

___________________________

I am really excited about kindergarten this year, probably more excited than Owen is.

I have vivid memories of learning how to read. The day I realized there were words to read everywhere! was the most magical day of my life.

From that moment on, I read everything I could find: the cereal box. The toothpaste tube (seriously, the directions on the Crest tube of toothpaste? “Directions: Start from the bottom and squeeze as you go up.” WTF does that even MEAN? I puzzled over that for years). Mail. Magazines. My dad’s books. I took 6 books from the school library every week during library period. During the summer, I read even more books.

Even as an adult, reading is still magic. I don’t read as much as I’d like, nor can I push off sleep to finish a book the way I want to. But reading makes me happy.

And I can’t WAIT for Owen to be literate. To go to the library every week and take out more books, to read together every night books that have more words than pictures.

I think he’ll love it, too. Because he said to me, not too long ago: Mommy, I love books. Because they can teach you things you don’t know!

I cannot wait to see him learn his letters, put words together, and see his reaction when he realizes that there’s a whole new world that’s open to him.

___________________________

I didn’t expect to be so… emotional about that first dropoff at Baseball Camp.

But this summer I’ve seen him growing up – right in front of my eyes.

And one night, literally as he was falling asleep at a much-too-late bedtime, protesting, “but I’m not tired…!” I realized that all I see is Boy now. Not baby. Not toddler. Not even preschooler.

He’s my boy. Sometimes not so little, either.

Which is weird. Because seriously, wasn’t he just born yesterday? Where did 5 and a half years of my life go? How is it possible that he’s even OLD enough for baseball camp and reading and kindergarten and riding the bus?

When did that HAPPEN?

But time and tide, it seems, waits for no mother.

More on Balance.

Owen and I took a road trip last week to visit my sister and other assorted friends and family. And, like most things, conversations turned to work and career and balancing all of it, especially as parents of young children. Even my retired aunt and uncle talked about how hard they thought balancing parenting and work is for everyone now (especially with the DC traffic – holy crap I do NOT know how people sit in that traffic day in and day out!).

In the context of these conversations, I found myself talking with everyone about the positives of my working experience. And it struck me one afternoon: I actually kind of LIKE my job.

It’s true: I don’t love being an accountant.

But I do love my current work SITUATION.

Because it’s flexible. I have one client through the rest of the year. Which means I can structure my work weeks the way I want them. I have been working 2 days a week in July, a few hours here and there from home, and therefore haven’t been stuck in the car for three hours a day, 4 days a week.

I am able to take a week off, like last week, at sort of a moment’s notice. Without needing to apply for vacation time.

I love that about my job. I love that I am in charge of when and how the day to day tasks get done.

Of course, there’s times I am needed onsite, and days where I have my work reviewed and come away shaking my head and feeling like a loser and a failure. And the mornings where I have a 9am meeting and therefore HAVE to get on the road at 7:15 at the LATEST because otherwise I’d be too late and miss it.

And then there are the days where the sheer drudgery of doing a job I don’t love makes me loathe to do anything at all. Where I spend the hour and a half drive home cycling through a list of careers and wondering if any of them might actually make me happy.

In 2005, Steve Jobs spoke at a Stanford commencement, and he uttered a quote which I have not been able to let go since I first heard it maybe 5 years ago. This is what he said:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Find something you love to do.

For years now, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about what kind of career might make me happy. If you added up all the time and energy I’ve spent on it, it probably adds up to weeks of my life of thinking about what my ideal career would be.

All that time spent ruminating – and I’m no closer to an answer.

I’m 37 years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

I’ve been trash talking being an accountant now, for, what, 10 years? I don’t love it. I don’t like talking about it with people, because they assume I’m good at math (and trust me, I’m NOT. I rely heavily on my calculator!) and am one of those “finance people” who has no personality or communication skills.

And there is always a part of me, deep inside, that wants to cry to these people who think I’m great at math and don’t have a personality or communication skills: But I love to write! And read! I was an English major and I played the clarinet and I have actually cried from the beauty of a piece of music!

The fact is, I AM an accountant. An accountant who blogs and reads and cries when she hears beautiful music.

I envy the Steve Jobs of the world; the people who knew exactly what they were meant to do and do it every day with passion. One of my best friends in college was like that: she knew from the moment she graduated high school that she was going to be a landscape architect. And damn if she doesn’t own her landscape architect business now. She loves what she does, and I often wish I had a career I could focus on with similar passion.

I don’t. But I don’t HATE my profession, either. In fact, I love it right now: Love it for the flexibility, for the freedom to work as little or as much as I want to. I love that I can work from home without having to explain myself. I love that the quality of my work is what’s judged, not the time I spend in the office. I love that it changes and moves and I have to stay on top of changes and figure stuff out on my own.

I love that I can take a week and do a road trip with my fast-maturing 5 year old in the summer before he starts school. I love that I can take him to dentist appointment and swim lessons and have family dinners ready and be able to run miles without having to worry about fitting it all in. I love that when he’s sick (or I am, since I have strep), I can adjust my schedule and not worry about long term career effects.

And you know. Maybe it’s GOOD that I don’t love my job. Because this way, I can be around for my family and run and cook and travel and do things I enjoy, instead of having a single-minded focus on my career, my passion.

And I’m now starting to wonder if my definition of “doing great work” has been too limited. Maybe doing great work, for me, means making sure that Jeff, Owen, and I have dinner together nearly every night. Maybe it means that I keep myself healthy and fit and mentally clear by running long distances. Maybe it’s about having the space and time to blog regularly, cook healthy meals, raise a happy child and have a happy marriage and life.

Maybe that’s enough, and I can stop wasting my energy on trying to figure out the career which Steve Jobs said I should find.