When A Sandwich is Hard

The Celiac journey is something we are quickly figuring out. Six months in to this reality we do gluten free. Our friends do gluten free play dates. We never leave the house without food and water bottles. I haven’t lost an Oo water bottle in six months, because I can’t, because we have to keep her safe. Our house is gluten free. We even are slowly mastering gluten free baking, and my colleagues would admit that our GF cookies are freaking delicious.

Navigating the world is hard. We can’t ever grab a “quick bite.” We can’t ever be without her water bottles. We can’t ever ad-hoc dinner plans… or lunch plans… That’s hard… It is hard to be out in the world, and know that no place is safe to eat for your four year old.

Well… we had a win today, and it basically made me weep. The rumor on the Celiac boards was that Jersey Mike’s had trained their employees on how to be Celiac safe… and several parents were commenting that they were super impressed with their local Jersey Mike’s.

On a payday Friday, after a very long week, and a random day off of school… I just had to go see if we could really eat at Jersey Mike’s.

I immediately told the sandwich maker behind the counter that my daughter had Celiac. He cleaned the slicer several times, with a clean cloth every time. He retrieved the well sealed Udi’s gluten free sub roll. He washed his hands twice, and used new gloves. He cut her gluten free bread with a new knife from the sterilizer, and laid out clean paper. He washed the entire counter that sandwiches are made on… when I mentioned we needed fresh mayo and a new utensil for her sandwich, he informed me that they have different condiments for gluten free, and pulled out a squeeze bottle that never touched the bread…. They are serious about gluten free, and the risks of cross contamination. I was sooo impressed, and basically ready to cry with joy because when you live a life where a sandwich is hard someone making you a gluten free sandwich with kindness is a gift. When I said she needed her own bag, they gladly provided her with one. When I asked for cup further down the stack, they said of course….

Salami with American Cheese

All of the staff was ridiculous kind. They enjoyed being helpful. As we were leaving, I took a picture of Oo… because sandwich shop and Celiac is a pretty epic moment.

The manager and a female worker watched the exchange, and they said “glad we could help you enjoy this.”

It mattered. It is important.

They provided equity for a tiny human who needs more care for her to enjoy a sandwich. They did it with kindness and compassion. They bought a customer for life.

Today, a quick lunch, and a sandwich wasn’t hard. It was just a regular Friday lunch after a busy week, that I really wanted to treat with subs. The subs were delicious.

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New Years & Finding Resolution

I have some feels about the New Year….. It feels like change is suppose to happen, but we adapt to new normals with every season and semester like most New Englanders, and families with growing tiny humans. I’m not seeking change. (Sigh, wow, it took a lot of years to get here.) I live the life we built, and most moments of it… I love the shit out of it.

On Resolutions….

I’m not going to exercise more or less… I’m not planning some insane diet. I have no notions that I’m going to save a gazzillion dollars by giving up Sixbucks. These things just do not fit right now. I have spent some time thinking about what I need and want in this new year, and what we all need and want in this new year, and here are my two ideas that I hope will guide my next year.

The first is a fairly traditional resolution. I want to read more. I’m an avid reader, and complete the entire NYTs almost everyday however, I rarely read a novel. I want to read more fiction simply for the love of a great story.

The second idea is a little more messy, and isn’t quite fully formed in measurable parameters… 

I’m going to love the shit out of my life. I’m hoping to make choices to love it more. I’m going to make time to love the shit out of this gorgeous, ordinary, and beautiful life I get to live.

I plan on spending the year loving the shit out of this life, and all the people I get to share it with. I organized books yesterday, and realized how many stories I haven’t shared with Oo yet…. I want to share those stories with her because she’s my favorite (I have lots of favorites), and I will love the shit out of sharing these moments with her. I want to identify, and make happen all of the things that help us all love this life. We use a simple phrase in our family, “does it bring you joy?” If it does, then do you my friend.. do you. #findjoy

img-1554-e1514789948871.jpg
My joyful circus…

My resolution is to remember what I already own, what I already adore, what already brings me joy, what I already hold, what I’m already good at, and love the shit out of all of it. #lovealwayswins 

So This is a Thing 

I’m bad at feeding at myself.

My children eat curated meals of Whole Foods, while I scrutinize ingredients…

It must be organic.

It must be nitrate free, 

Hormone free, 

Grown in a certified fairy village, 

And gluten free…

I’m bad at feeding myself.

Their food must be joyful, and let’s only talk about nutrition….

Never mention when something might only taste good…

Never mention when it’s bad for you.

Never mention when it’s joyful.

Never mention…. 

Never provide that paradigm.

They are girls. 

The world is going to fuck up their relationships with food. 

It’s going to torture joy.

I’ll spend $50/bag at Whole Paycheck for your favorite. 

Your favorite fairy imported, gluten free substitute…

I’m bad at feeding myself.

I love the way a real tomato will drip juices down my chin, but no one eats tomatoes here…

And I love the way cauliflower tastes with roasted with garlic… 

And I love the way chocolate mixes with salt…

And I love real coffee.

Caffeine is terrible they say…. 

I’m bad at feeding myself.  

The experts say fat is terrible.

The experts say sugar is terrible.

The experts say calories are terrible

The experts say…

The experts say eating is terrible… 

They are young women. 

They will learn how to order a salad. 

Bacon never tasted so good. 

And I’m bad at feeding at myself.

Is it gluten free? 

The Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… 

It was fine.

It was perfectly scripted. I am friends with a real live college math professor, and he knows things, like all about impartial differentiation. And he gave me books, and he helped me triumph my first problem set. He said I was fine, because theoretically I knew what the math was trying to achieve, and that I just didn’t know the rules. He said just learn the rules. Done and done. #learntherules #econ 

It was perfectly scripted. My sweet fourth grader left for fourth grade. She had a terrible day. A new teacher, new rules, new classroom, it was all awful. She’s nine… and I spent an hour convincing her to “trust the process and respect the journey.” This hour was spent after work (with tiniest in tow), after learning Calc, and after going to night class an hour away…. all the great shifts… all the great learning. 

For the first time in many years, today I suffered with crippling anxiety. The kind that leaves you feeling like you spent the day crying, but you didn’t actually shed a tear. The kind where you can’t have coffee. The kind where you can’t eat, because you will just vomit. The kind that physically tightens your chest. The kind that makes you feel like you are on the brink of straight panic…. The kind that makes you want to check out. 

I didn’t. I put on masacara, my favorite heels, threw Oo in her best twirl dress… and we did it. Barely, but we did it. I got my shit together. #getupdressupshowup

The day was perfectly scripted. I saw my favorite people. We had an epic snuggle session when I got home. It was a ninety minute check in about how hard change and new is. 

I had to push through the final leg of the journey; I was about to leave during the break of my night class. (He doesn’t take attendance twice.)  And then I got this text….  “Breathe, maintain presence where you are. You are smart and capable….” So I did. I even participated in the discussion.  

Real life crippling anxiety.

I spent the break laying on a bench in downtown Hartford… breathing… or trying to…  I anticipated my work at home… because I knew there was some serious feels. 

I guess the whole point is that change is hard. Calculus is hard. Fourth grade is hard. New teachers are hard. New is hard. And sometimes new is terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad. 

Anticipatory Agitation 

My brilliant and dear friend coined the title of these feels. I take zero credit for this epic alliteration.

“Anticipatory agitation” is waiting for the big shifts we know are arriving. The waiting is agitating, because we are anticipating the change that isn’t actually real yet. Academics, educators, and care givers of school aged children (I’m all three of these things) feel the anticipation of the new school year. It is so close, and we feel the chaos in our bones long before it begins. I can’t do anything about these changes right now, but I’m already anticipating the work and the trials of transition. 

Professionally, once again, I’ll do more with less. I have more students, a smaller budget, bigger goals, and higher institutional expectations. Riddle me that. The equation is fairly insane, but I’ll get up, dress up, and show up for my students. Four years in, and I’m finally beginning to feel like I know what I’m doing. #slideone

I’m almost done with graduate school (three classes will complete a decade as a student in higher ed). I have capstone work to complete that is currently a woeful pile of notes, and a single shakey research question at best. 

Personally, and I’ve saved the best and worst for last, this fall is the season when all of the tiny humans will attend school. I have no more babies at home, or part time at home, or hanging out with grandparents and friends a few days a week…. They will all go to school Monday through Friday – 8:30 am – 3:00 pm. I’m having some serious anticipatory agitation about real full time school for all of my littles.

Go live and learn your best life, sweet love.

For nine years I’ve parceled out necessary childcare around part time schedules, and family. For nine years there was at least one tiny human home, at least one day during the work week. For nine years I could be called upon to help my full-time working friends, and take on an extra tiny human as needed. For nine years I was my own resource, and I exhausted every creative measure in my arsenal to get it all done, because a tiny human was always there. For nine years the “work week” didn’t really belong to me. I was always a mama during all, many, and some of these hours. 

For nine years I packed backpacks and water bottles and took toddlers everywhere I could find that would bring them joy… on any random Tuesday or Friday. We went to the beach. I would nap in the afternoon, while they napped, because the mental load of the tiniest humans is exhausting… and it was a long time ago everyone stopped napping. I would shower, and change into clean yoga pants. I would find friends to raise my tiny humans with, and we would find empty playgrounds on Monday’s at 1:00 pm. We went to Broadway on a Wednesday. We took tiny human music class on Tuesday’s at 11:00 am. We shared a gazzillion story hours at every local library in the region. I drank coffee and ate bagels every Friday morning with the sweetest group of mamas I know. For nine years I built our community, and that was my work. On rainy days we watched movies, baked, and crafted. For nine years there was some part of the work week that was carved out for mothering, and only mothering. These past nine years are the times I will look back on, and I will know it was our best lives.

My sweetest littlest tiny human is going to school, and her 8:30-3:00 doesn’t belong to me anymore. I’m having anticipatory agitation about this loss. 

I’m sharing her with the world. (The smallest world we could manufacture at our tiny local Montessori school.) I’m sharing her best hours because it’s time for her to learn how to be her best self. She’s ready. I thought I was too, but it turns out there’s a lot of agitation about these feels. A Montessori education trains tiny humans to thrive in independence. She will learn that…. I’m anticipating the loss of these hours. She’ll excel. She’ll kick ass at being a school girl. It’s in her blood. We are a family of school girls. 

I really cannot even begin to express the sheer amount of privilege I own that gifted me all of these years home, semi-home, and home again, and home most of the time…. I love these tiny humans with my entire being, and I hope I did them justice during their youngest years. It continues to be my most important work. 

My anticipatory agitation is losing them, and losing all of the hours where we only built love and security during the work week. Friday’s at the zoo will no longer be our game plan. I will no longer own their rainy days. They all now have different work… I can only hope that my work stays with them. 

The anticipation of our different work makes me proud of these lovely tiny humans, and I’m already anxiously anticipating the nostalgia of the years they only belonged home. My mama heart is mourning the loss of the most epic chapter of my short life. Schooling is going to capture her heart (it’s already her favorite), and I will miss them. I’m agitated by change. 

It’s time for them to go be awesome, and I anticipate nothing short of amazing for these school girls. 

Giving Them to a World I Don’t Trust

I had one of those evenings where everyone eats dinner, and uses kind words. We laughed, we read stories… we loved. Our summer was more than a little chaotic, and as change is on the horizon, I know I am slowly giving more of them to the world, and less of them will be at home. There will be no babies at home this year. Everyone is going to school this year, and our world right now is a ridiculously treacherous place, and I’m afraid. 

I haven’t wrapped my head around the white supremacist rallly and violence in #Charlottesville. In the days post the election I walked around in a fog. I am terrified with how to raise girls in this nation. I feel threatened, abused, and beatened to a pulp by the realities unfolding in front of me. 

Today a young student of color sat in my office, and the student was filling out paperwork that asked him to explain why they weren’t successful in the past. The student wrote “I was afraid, I was afraid I was too stupid to pass.” Yeah, read that twice. This student is kind, respectful, and has resources to be successful, yet this student is afraid. I asked “do you still feel afraid?” The student responded “If you were me, wouldn’t you be?”

Yes. 

When he “grabbed my pussy” I was afraid. When he denounced Planned Parenthood I was afraid. When he existed as a leader against women I was afraid. 

So, yes, strong smart student, I’m afraid too. 

I have to send my babies into this nation. I have to educate in this nation. I have to learn in this nation.

 If we remain silent we are providing consent. Explain the first admendment, and how it doesn’t protect violence. Explain to your children the love in your home needs to be carried everywhere. Yell. Shout. Donate if you can. Stand up. Use your platforms. 

This is my Post Bedtime space, and tonight I looked lovingly at my sweet tiny humans, and realized I needed to share my story, my work, to speak out against this insanity, this racism, this hatred. 

Transitions Are Hard 

There’s transition in the air. I feel it in my bones. It’s like watching the crest of the wave you are eagerly waiting to ride to shore. Our ride will be long, and hopefully as fun as crashing New England ocean waves. 

Everyone goes to school this September. There are no more babies at home. I’m going to write more about those feels, but not yet, because I’m not ready. This mama heart isn’t ready, yet. I have three weeks. 

We finalized our OT schedule for the school year. They are signed up for fancy ballet and private music lessons. (These things bring me great joy.) Their physical forms have been returned to school. I ordered my own text books, confirmed my funding, and plan on using my wit to bypass the riddiculous parking arrangements of UConn in Hartford. 

There is an insatiable insanity that forms around the beginning of a new academic year. I have spent a decade on the academic calendar, and the beginning never fails to sweep me up in its promise, potential, unwavering demand and high expectation.

There’s a transition on the horizon. Transitions are super hard. It’s a statement I make often. I desperately try to respect the delicate nature of change. The beginning of an academic year leaves little time for this; intellectual pursuit, and teaching and learning are calling us away from the stillness of summer. From ballet slippers to the delicious smell of new textbooks, we set forth at the end of August with the promise of changing lives, and learning all the great new things. 

New is hard. Transitions are hard. A new academic year is on the horizon… and my whole life is about to look different. I’ll finish grad school this year, and there are no more babies at home. 

Be kind, fall. We have a lot to learn. 

Schooling: Why it holds my soul, and why I’ll protect my tiny humans from my own experience, because it’s super important. 

I had a mix of public and catholic education. I attended several school districts. I can count on one hand how many successful schooling experiences I had in my k-12 years. I repeated second grade because I started kindergarten at 4, and moved districts, and I was “too young” to enter third grade in the new district. I didn’t finish 12th grade. 

Mean boys at every institution bullied me. I remember their names, and the ripped dresses, broken thermos, and the sexual assault. School was hard for me. 
I remember my sixth grade science teacher telling me the only thing I would need to learn was “would you like fries with that.” (I was attending a public school in an affluent suburb of Boston.) 
I remember my Physics teacher in high school telling me I was too pretty to worry about grades.

 I remember my Geometry teacher telling me I would ace the art based assignment and not to worry, because math was hard for girls. 

I remember my assistant principal encouraging me to leave school, and changing my bus pass to miss standardized exams.

I also remember a beloved freshman English teacher calling my house after I walked out of his class. I remember the kindest art instructor who opened his classroom durning lunch for the students who needed a space that was different from the cafeteria. I remember the theater director who told me “you’re good kid, you’re good.” I remember the choral director who told me I was a valuable part of the accapella group. I remember my eighth grade band director, who made me first chair for flute. 
When schooling and I finally came to a peace agreement, I still heard shitty things. The English teacher that taught me how to write refused to write a letter of recommendation. The financial aid office was straight up mean. I was told I didn’t have the writing chops to pursue secondary higher ed. I heard “you were accepted based on your demographic profile” – aka poor. I was still navigating. I graduated cum laude. I went on to do graduate work, and produce published quantitave research, but math is hard for girls. (Fucking kill me, and prove it.) I now sit on actual committees that seek my research skills. 
I have student taught and subbed in the highest needs districts in our state. I only come across extremely dedicated teachers and administrators. I have written grants for them, and I believe in them. I want to be clear that this is not rant against public education, because we desperately need our schools to thrive, and the dedicated professionals within those schools work tirelessly for positive outcomes.
We can only draw on our own experiences, and the few things we have learned to make decisions about our families. I was a super smart kid, and no one ever gave me a chance in my K-12 years to be that. 
I’m a public educator, and a high needs advisor. I serve students who the system failed, and they are from every “good” and “bad” district. They share my story. They share that momen – that moment when you believe everyone in the instutition believes you will accomplish nothing. I still barely trust the system. 
My own educational path draws me again to my decisions for my family, and all I know is we need an institution that celebrates them…..I have zero idea of our future. What I do know, is I will undo my own story. My sweet babies will only know they are capable of anything they want to learn whatever inspires them. 

Because education changed my life. And I’m determined to give the power of education to my tiny humans. Because my story tells me it’s important. 

When I picked up my big from summer camp at her school this week she told me “it’s simply wonderful.” And when I drop off the tinest, she tells me it’s her best. And that’s all I know.

Because she led the line today

We sacrifice for their schooling, because I know the power of teachers. We sacrifice for their schooling because they are thriving, and they will undo my story. Because education is the most powerful gift you can give, because no one can take it away. 

Today she lead the line in from outside time. Her tiny little self lead the line, and at this school I know everyone will provide the space for them to thrive. 

The Mental Load, Quitting Bedtime, and Visbly Carrying in Our Own Snacks at The Movies. 

A brilliant illustrator and author recently depicted what the primary parent “mental load” is on a daily basis. While I do not live all of these depictions, I live many of them. 

The mental load of rebuilding the health and well being of a child is as exhausting as teaching the newest tiny humans how to nurse. Oo doesn’t have hunger cues. (Common Celiac problem.) She also has low muscle tone in her core due to malnutrition, so it physically hurts her to sit upright for long periods of time. (This explains why she always asks to sit on our laps to eat.) She prefers to stand to eat, which also makes sense now that we have some answers. 

When she gets hangry close to a meal, I spend a lot of mental energy encouraging healthy foods. I also need to be aware of her fiber intake for good digestive health. I also can’t offer her a thousand options, because she will have to navigate this world without them. And still during all of this great negotiation I  have a hangry unreasonable tiny human, who is just mad. I spend more of the mental load keeping her calm enough to eat. I spend my own mental load navigating land mines.

I have to teach her to sit (aka stand) and eat food, again. I have to teach her that when her body feels angry, it’s because she is hungry. Then I have to tell her that only the foods in her lunchbox (when we are out) are available. I’m now spending a lot of my days talking about calm bodies. I spend a lot of my metal load keeping bodies calm, because car seat straps, and wet bathing suits are hard for an SPD tiny. 

She has a physical next week, and we need a weight gain. She also had blood in her stool yesterday, and the GI nurse basically said welcome to Celiac. So, I’m learning, and it’s a lot of my mental load. 

You can stop reading at any point, but apparently I have a lot of topics to cover. 

I quit bedtime, again. This mental load is to huge for one person. I’m focusing on the healthiest foods, screen free living (although we went to the movies, failing) during oppressive humidity, running her new found energy, keeping her calm for camp at school camp (another new), and making sure her days are perfecto, while practicing all the great OT. #slideone parentening. I can’t do bedtime. So she currently gets to lay on my lap after teeth brushing and stories. She falls asleep in 7 minutes or less, I’m calling it a win. 

Sleeping sweet human.

She still remembers. She tells me everyday “I didn’t scream today.” I want to say sorry. I want to apologize for her feeling like complete garbage all of the time. I have already apologized for all the yelling. I worry about the impact of unhealthy first years. I worry about how our struggles will affect her future. 

I walk a daily battle field desperately trying to figure out what is reasonable, and what is Celiac and SPD.

Oo proudly carried her own candy into the movies today. The poor teenager at the counter tried to stop us, and I just said she has Celiac. The teenager let us pass without issue. Then she had a meltdown about movie popcorn. 

I challenge a world, the whole Catholic Church, and family that struggle with this reality so therefore dismiss it as untrue. As a result, I’m left with the mental load.