Thursday, June 28, 2007

A paucity of certainty

I used to think the problem with my life (if one's life could be reduced to a singular problem) was that I had no choices. I was stuck in an office, doing work I didn't enjoy, and there was seemingly no way out. All I wanted was to be home, and I couldn't find my way there. Yup, I concluded. No choices.

Time and therapy changed all that. I soon came to realize just how many choices I did have. So many choices.

And so I made those choices. I came home. I took some jobs and gave up others. And today, well...frankly, today I'm equally miserable, just in an entirely different way. I'm home, but there is so much work to be done that I might was well not be. I spend so much time watching my kids, wanting to spend time with them, and yet knowing I can't, because there's always work, more work. Instead of being holed up in an office, I'm holed up at home. Where the end of the work day never comes. Where I find myself yelling at the kids to leave me alone, because there's pressure building up on me, pressure to get stuff done. Plus, there's that ever-present concept to battle--the one that says that because I work from home, I'm goofing off. When, in reality, it's the opposite. When I was office-bound, I used to spend hours chatting away with my coworkers, talking about movies and kids and weekend plans, gossiping about hirings and firings and our bosses' foibles. Doing everything but meeting my deadlines or getting work done. Now? If I spend ten minutes sitting with N watching TV, or doing Em's hair, or even putting in some laundry, I feel guilty. I may run errands for an hour or two during the daytime, but then I'm up until midnight, one, two am, catching up, getting ahead. Making sure nobody can accuse me of not pulling my weight. And then still having those accusations come.

The pressure is intense. The urge to quit, to walk away, to move on, is equally intense of late. I don't like the way I'm being treated; I don't like the direction things are going in. But at the same time, there are benefits about to kick in. And I still believe in the project, and when I'm not made to feel inadequate, I enjoy the editing I'm doing.

And so, once again, it's time to make a choice. But this time, rather than feeling hemmed in, I'm feeling confused. There are too many choices, way too many variables. And there's no clear-cut path. Should I go back into an office environment, where I know I'll be resentful and angry, but where I also know there will be considerably more stability? Should I hang on here, knowing that the money is not-quite-adequate, but better than I could do on a purely freelance basis--knowing that there's a chance my job could disappear any day now in favor of an office-based worker who can put in that all-important face time? Can we live on this salary? Can we live on this salary plus the freelance work I'm managing to pull in? Should I make choices based on the status quo, or will one of Baroy's many leads actually pan out one of these days soon? (He's trying so hard; he's getting so close. It's just been a long time since 'close' meant 'there'. Not his fault, but a fact of our life.)

If I knew what the future held, maybe it would be clearer. Can we really survive on not-quite-adequate? Is it actually adequate? Or is it actually inadequate? What cuts can we make in the budget to make it definitely adequate? Will it be worth those cuts? Will I continue to be miserable, watching my kids wanting me and not being able to be with them? Would I be more or less miserable in an office, not watching but knowing my kids wanting me and still not being able to be there with them? Would I then realize that I'm currently able to be with them more than I think? Will they suffer by my not being physically there, even if I have to be emotionally remote? Or would they be better off not having me tantalizingly in sight yet unavailable?

If only I had some certainly--even just a little certainty--about what would be the best course of action, maybe I wouldn't feel so frozen in confusion. If only I knew what to do, maybe I could do something. I can't believe that I'm complaining about having too many choices and yet...I am. Or, rather, I'm kvetching about it. I know it could be worse--I could truly BE without options, like I once thought I was--but that doesn't stop me from looking the choice-horse in the mouth. Whatever that means.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

POP! goes the ego

"You know who I'm making this picture for, Mommy? You. Because you are the best Mommy in the whole wide world ever."


"Except sometimes you're not."


"Sometimes you're mean. Sometimes you're really mean."

Sunday, June 24, 2007


I went, this morning, to a talk at temple about ethical wills. I went mostly because it was being co-sponsored by the Religious School PTA, and I'm the new PTA President. But I also went because I wondered if my will--the one I haven't yet signed or printed out, yes, that's the one I mean--was 'ethical.'

Somewhere out there, someone who knows what an ethical will is is laughing at me. And rightfully so.

Turns out, an ethical will is actually nothing more (or less) than a record or statement of your beliefs and values, a letter to the people you will be leaving behind, letting them know what you believed in, what you would like them to learn from your life, what your life was about, that sort of thing. As the woman who presented the topic to us wrote, "It is a personal reflection of your philosophies on life, the moral to your story, or specific hopes and ideals that you would like to share with future generations about yourself, [hopes and ideals] that you would like to endure."

There were some really heartwrenching examples shared, and some funny ones, too. And then she had us do some freewriting, to start our own ethical wills from prompts she'd printed out. Because I am unlikely to ever put together an official ethical will (see above; still don't have a legal one, for crying out loud!) and because in so many ways this IS my ethical will, this blog, this journal where I put my hopes and fears and thoughts, I'll just reprint here what I wrote in those few moments this morning. (Note: Because this was a temple-sponsored talk, the focus was on so-called "Jewish ethical wills," and especially those that focused on faith and/or Jewish ideals. Hence the focus in the following paragraph.)

Em, N, this is for you:

The experience that most changed my life was...becoming a mother. It changed it in obvious ways--now I am responsible for the two of you and your safety and health and for how you grow as human beings--and it changed it in less obvious ways. As a mother, I have met new people--usually also mothers or fathers--who have become so very important to me. As a mother, I've found faith for what may be the first time in my life, because I wanted you guys to be brought up in a Jewish household and--even more importantly--amidst a Jewish community, or at least a community that has Judaism as an option. And so, in some very direct ways, being a mother has brought me closer to God and to other people, and has made me who I am today.

Friday, June 22, 2007

On a hot summer afternoon, my children lie down for a nap together...

For Jeanie

So, maybe before I offered to change colors on this blog, I should have checked to see if I have the technological ability (think barely one step above Amish, and you have my technological ability) to change colors on this blog. Which, apparently, I don't.

But...BUT...The good news is that Jeanie likes the green. But then mentioned she likes purple, too! So, look! See? I changed the title and links, etc., to purple, but kept the background green (like I had a choice). I think it looks lovely now. Don't you? (Say you do. I'm sensitive about these things.)

Thanks, Jeanie!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

California Cookie

For the last day of school, Em's teacher asked the kids to bring in a California Cookie. They've been studying California all year (let's not even get into the fact that this is the first year they're doing serious Social Studies, and they START with California history, instead of US or World history. US comes next year, World is the sixth grade curriculum. Isn't that just totally ass-backwards?) and have made several topographical maps, including a clay version of California. Don't ask me where I found the energy and give-a-shit-ness to whip up a batch of cookie dough and then brainstorm ways to make mountains (candy hearts left over from Valentines Day, turned upside down--those are supposed to be the Sierra Nevadas up there, but they got nibbled on before I took the photo, so they're not quite a full range), deserts (white frosting with yellow food coloring), valleys (white frosting sprinkled with green mint candies left over from Christmas, smashed up with a mortar and pestle...and did Em ever have fun doing that!), and smaller mountain ranges (white frosting sprinkled with red mint candy-cane-like candies also left over from Christmas and smashed less completely withe mortar and pestle) and such. (I know; there's too much desert. Sue me. I didn't have the energy to come up with a different way to denote beach or to intersperse desert and valleys and such, so it's...well...a vague approximation of California topography. A vague and incorrect approximation.)

If staying up until 10 last night with Em finishing this did-I-mention-it-was-totally-optional project doesn't get me a Mom of the Month award, following that up by spending the entire day in N's kindergarten class pulling artwork off the walls and distributing it to the kids (with occasional forays down to Em's fourth grade class to help out with some last-minute report-card distribution and copy-machine runs during their end-of-year party) should clinch it for me. Well, it should either clinch Mom of the Month or a prescription for some pretty serious psychopharmaceuticals, since anyone who does all of that and then shows up for a three-hour general membership meeting at her synagogue that night (I had to be there; I'm PTA president for next year, did I mention that?) must be thoroughly insane. Which I am. So there you go.

(Psst. Don't tell anyone. But making that cookie was the most fun I've had in weeks.)

For the record: When they announced N's name for his Teacher's Choice Award ("And for finding the courage inside of him...N Confused...") he grabbed my hand and said, "NO! I'm too scared!" Baroy had to walk/drag him up there, and then--just as he'd done back in February (I think it was) when he got the Student of the Month award for his class--he stood in line and hid behind the certificate until all the names had been called. (I'll post both photos as soon as I get them from Baroy; no danger of any pedophile id'ing him from a photo of his shirt sticking out underneath an award certificate!) Watching him, I leaned over to his teacher, next to whom I was standing, and said, "You shouldn't have given him an award for courage. You should have given him an award for being able to physically define the word 'irony' in an academic setting."

She laughed very hard.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Somewhere over the rainbow

N's debut as calendar monitor last week did not go unnoticed by his teacher. Here's a note that Baroy sent to his brothers this afternoon, after picking N up at school and talking with Ms. F, his teacher:

It's taken N all year to be able to get up in class and be the "Calendar Monitor," which he finally did last week. When I picked him up today his teacher said that she was going to give him the "Teacher's Choice Award" at the monthly assembly this Wednesday on the last day of school. She said he's going to get it for "Finding his courage." I assume once she gives him the award, she'll then be climbing into a hot air balloon piloted by the school's wizard, um, principal, and flying back to Kansas.

He cracks me up, my husband.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Our Celebrity Judge Makes Good!

My brother-in-law--the one who judged the "give TC a new name" contest--has a book coming out soon, real soon, like in four days soon. It's a young adult book, which I read way back when it was a novel aimed at adults, and it was really good even then. Word has it it's only gotten better...and if Publisher's Weekly's starred review of it, which just came out, is any indication, word is right.

Check it out: His review is the twelfth one down, the only starred review of the bunch; the book is called Nacky Patcher and the Curse of the Dry-Land Boats, in case you didn't already click on the Amazon link above.

Yay, J! Now we just have to wait for the review copies of my OTHER brother-in-law's young-adult book, which is coming out next spring. And let's not even get into what all four of these boys have written and published in the past...Let's just say it's no wonder I feel just the teensiest bit underaccomplished in this family, what with just two measly not-selling-like-hotcakes nonfiction titles to my name.

(Phew. I thought for a second there I was going to write this whole post sounding all chipper and supportive and proud of J; thank goodness the real, bitter, self-centered me came through at the last minute, huh?)

Friday, June 15, 2007

We Have a Winner

I think I'll let our Celebrity Judge tell you about it himself:

There's much to admire in all of these entries. I shall disqualify Tender Capon because, a) it came from an interested party and, b) it sounds vaguely sexual, which is not at all the way that particular interested party should be thinking about his sister-in-law. I think I must disqualify Tangy Crudite also, because of the interested-party exclusion and because crudite, strictly speaking, should not be tangy, unless it has spoiled slightly and begun the slow fermenting process that is particularly common in such fleshy, high-water-content vegetables as peppers and cucumbers. But that's nothing to name a blog after. Teensy Cantloupe has appeal, but in a litigous culture such as ours, I fear it would attract a lawsuit from whichever party now owns the Tiny Coconut trademark, the argument being that any new name with identical initials that refers to both size and vegetable matter is too close. I also like Terrifyingly Creative, mostly because I think it does describe TC herself, but I fear that might seem immodest to readers.

So, all that said, I like (both for the sweetly befuddled state it describes and for the hopeful promise that that condition is transient):

Temporarily Confused

So, Jeanie, what color do you want this blog to be?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Calendar Boy

Every week in kindergarten, one of the kids gets to be Calendar Monitor. That is the person who stands up at the front of the class, leads them in the Pledge of Allegiance, does the days-of-the-week song, helps them tally the weather...there are about ten different jobs. It's the thing EVERY kid wants to do. Except N, who has spent the entire year insisting he was too shy to get up in front of the class. Wouldn't do it, even with a partner. Just wouldn't. So, meantime, every other kid in the class has had at least two turns, including April, who came from Korea just a couple of months ago and knows about 10 words of English.

Getting N up to do calendar was his teacher's last goal for him for the year. This is the second-to-last week or school, the last full week. The last chance. So, last Friday, Ms. F informs Noah it's to be his turn on Monday. N worries about it all weekend. We promise to buy him a water gun (the boy LOVES guns...I try not to think about what that means) if he does calendar. Ms. F lets him choose a buddy to help him through calendar. And still, on Monday, it takes 35 minutes...*35* get him to finally whisper "Put your right hand over your heart," and after that, his partner has to do the rest, though he deigned to at least stand up front while the partner went through the paces.

But then, Tuesday, a breakthrough: At first he was refusing to even stand up in the front ("I'm too scared," he kept saying), so Ms. F told him they would wait to do calendar until AFTER computer lab, so maybe he'd be a little more settled into the day and less scared. And he did it! And as with All Things N, once he was over that hurdle, he was over it. He got his water gun that afternoon, and has been soaking my house every since.

Today was my day to work in his classroom, and he practically swaggered up to the front of the room to lead the Pledge. And when he surveyed his kingdom, he noticed that a couple of kids hadn't yet made it to their assigned places. "Excuse me," he said, in a loud voice. "I can't get started until everyone is on the rug, you know." Bwah!

If all this isn't proof positive of the Power of The Cute, nothing is. I mean, really. How else can you explain him getting away with holding up a class of 17 kids for more than half an hour trying to get up the nerve to whisper seven words? If he weren't so cute, he'd have had his little butt kicked halfway to Utah by now...if not by his teacher, then by me.

But in all seriousness: Yes, I recognize what a huge step this was. Especially considering that, not two months ago, we were having to give him daily rewards to induce him simply to sit on the rug with the rest of the kids and not hide behind the bookcase during calendar time, or insist on sitting on Ms. F's lap, or whatever.

Still I'm not satisfied. I mean, the kid drives me nuts! How can I possibly reconcile all of that tsuris with what he did today? Which was, in a word, to spend the entire day on stage. Today was the school talent show; he and Em and Em's friend C did a dance to I Just Can't Wait to Be King, with N in a furry mane crawling around the stage roaring. They did three performances--two during the day, one this evening at the PTA meeting. PLUS, N's class did their Kindergarten Chorus performance of about seven songs for all the kindy parents in the middle of all that. And did he have any trouble? Not at all. (OK, he held his ears during one song when he knew his friends were supposed to scream at the end, but otherwise, nope. No problem at all.)

So let's review: It took ten months for him to stand up in front of 16 kids he spends 5+ hours a day with and lead them through a classroom ritual. It took ten seconds for him to get up in front of a couple hundred kids and adults, only a few of whom he knows, and roar like a lion.

Can you see why raising this chid is making me crazier than I already am?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Some quick updates, while we await the judge's decision

My legs, they are not so restless any more. I'm assuming it was the GABA I'd been taking, which wasn't really helping as much as it was tranquilizing me. That, or it was just coincidence. In any case, I can deal with the mild restlessness, especially since the major restlessness made me do some research, and I now have some exercises, etc., that I can use when it gets bothersome. It hasn't stopped me from sleeping in a week, though. So that's good.

The 5HTP I've been taking totally rocks in terms of picking up where the antidepressants left off. It also seems to work almost precisely like any SSRI in terms of side effects as well--in other words, I'm hungry all the time and I haven't lost a single pound, damnit. But I haven't tried to bite one of my children's heads off in a single, bloody motion since I've been taking it, so that's an improvement.

My dad, after holding eerily steady for a while--actually, after seeming to get significantly BETTER after our not-so-wonderful visit with him--is now reportedly on a downswing. Totally to be expected. But Em had begun to hope that she might get to see him when we head to NY at the end of July for her always-eagerly-awaited Month With Grandma and Pop-Pop (my stepdad). And now it's looking, again, like even if he's still alive, he might not really be visitable. But, like I told her, we'll just have to wait and see. I did my thing, said my goodbyes. I'm OK. But she feels like she needs to see him one more time (for a total of, what? six times in her life?) before he dies. I'm not sure I'm really rooting for that, to be honest. I'm not sure it would be such a good thing for her.

School doesn't end until next Wednesday, but that's soon enough for me. Although we don't officially get to find out our kids' placements for next year until the morning school starts (great for the principal, who doesn't get bombarded with "but I wanted my kid in anoooooooooother class" whining, but hell on us parents, who have no idea how to prepare our anxious kids for the next school year), I have exactly the info I need on both my kids, so I'm good. Em will be in whichever of the two fifth-grade classes her friend C *isn't* in--not only at parent request, but at VERY STRONG teacher recommendation. Phew. C is a really great kid, and she and Em are really close, but she's intense and dramatic and the word overbearing doesn't even begin to describe how she is with Em. Em's teacher absolutely despised the way the two of them were together this year, and says that the only way for Em to shine is for her to get out from under C's influence. And so it will be.

As for N, he'll be in the K-1 split class next year, also due to both parent request and teacher recommendation. Due to declining enrollment, our already-small school will likely only have one full first-grade class, and then a K-1 split class and a 1-2 split class. Deciding which one to put N in was difficult--and not entirely my choice to make, to be honest--but ultimately, I think this is the best choice for him. The 1-2 split is out--there couldn't be anything worse for him than to put him into a class where half the kids are kids he won't know and who are more advanced (especially socially) than he is. The first-grade-only class would have been OK, but just that: OK. The K-1 split has several advantages: It has the teacher who I think will be best for him out of the three teachers who will likely have these classes next year. It will have kindy kids, who don't really have their footing in school yet, and so if N is still struggling a little that way, he won't stand out as much. And the kindy kids leave an hour before the first-graders do each day, which means that for an hour a day, N will be in a class of between 8 and 12 kids rather than a class of 20 kids.

All of these things are subject to shifts that occur over the summer (if enough kids move into the district, for instance, they may go from a K-1 split to a second full first-grade class or something), but for now, I'm happy with the choices...for both my kids.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Celebrity Judge

I am pleased to announce that I have procured the services of a Famous Writer (who also happens to be my brother-in-law, who also happens to be the one who gave me The Name I Can No Longer Use) to select the winning new-name-for-TC from amongst your entries.

For everyone's edification, here is what we have so far:

From Jeanie: Temporarily Confused

From Debra: TParsnips Clinic (give it up, Deb); Tiny's (free) Clinic; Therapeutic Community

From Ambre: Teensy Cantaloupe; Timid Cucumber; Tantruming Celebrity; Tingling Cuticles; Thinking Crazy; Tremedously Cute; Terrifyingly Creative; Ticklish Clairvoyant; Trustworthy Communication (all those who thinks Ambre has too much time on her hands, raise your hand)

From Herself: Trepidation Central

From Famous Writer Judge (who really shouldn't be allowed to come up with entries if he's judging them, but...): Tender Capon

From TC (yes, that would be me, another person who really shouldn't be allowed to come up with entries): Tangy Crudite

Anyone else? C'mon, you know you want to decide what color this blog should be. (Yeah, I know. Lame prize. But I'm poor, people. I got nothin' else to give!)

T plus C equals...

Paula suggested a contest to help me decide what TC should stand for now (and managed to piss off my mom in the process by calling me conceited...hee!). Consider said contest instituted. Winner gets to choose the color of the blog, since apparently Rich is upset about it being green. It's not easy being green, you know, Rich...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Welcome, Friends

Thanks for coming to join me from The Blog That Must Not Be Named. Please ignore all the unpacked boxes and screwed-up links. Have a seat. Make yourselves at home. (And, Rich, would you put that casserole in the fridge for me? Thanks.)