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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As we struggle to recoup from lost wages, and additional ever mounting medical expenses, and even more expensive groceries, I have had my own privilege on my mind. It’s been a nagging (and at times gut sinking) thing to wear. We want to all believe we earned our privilege, but likely we didn’t. Our privilege was assigned to us at birth by the class, race, and gender written on our birth certificates.
I am a white, over educated, cis-gendered female who is married to a white cis-gendered man. That’s a lot of privilege in one sentence. We also own our home.
I came from soup kitchen poverty, from food stamps, from spotty health care, unstable housing, and an immigrant “bootstrapping” mama, who in today’s political climate could not have accomplished what she did.
Today, we live a barely middle class existence that is soaking wet in privilege.
What privilege looks like when you tiny human is sick.
Privilege looks like this.
I was provided enough time home with my tiny humans during their early years to know them better than I know myself.
The confidence to know something is beyond toddler behavior.
The ability to have a comfortable and flexible job to leave work at any time for doctors appointments.
The ability to pick your pediatrician.
I own a reliable car to drive to every appointment, and they are all over the state.
I speak the same language as our physician.
I have the education to know how to speak their ‘expertise’ language (so much privilege in owning an education).
I have the ability to pay for co-pay after co-pay. (Kinda… it’s a lot, but access to credit is a privilege.)
We have employer provided health insurance.
I have a cell phone to make endless phone calls.
I have access to the Internet to Google every number I need to call.
I have been trained at a top tier institution how to research to find all of the information I need.
My dad is a lawyer, and could quickly dictate the lines we needed to use to navigate health insurance.
I have been trained on how to coordinate large projects and implement change. (more education privilege)
I am white, speak English, and own nice clothes, which means providers listen to me, and I’ve been trained to be professional.
I know how to advocate. (education privilege)
I can access any grocery store I want to, because I own a car.
I can (for the most part) buy whatever we need at that grocery store.
I do not need help buying food.
I have an amazing support system.
There are two actively involved parents in my home.
I doubt this list even scratches the surface at the amount of privilege I own. I sometimes get angry at the traces of poverty left on my skin. They are present in terrible teeth, student debt, and a lack of any real savings. They are present in the absences of a realiable white collar network to tap into for opputtunities. I do still sometimes get angry at my own poverty, history or not.
Yet, I’ve worn my privilege loud through this Celiac journey. I have never been afraid to get angry to find care for my daughter. I’ve never been afraid to ask for help. I have been more informed than physicians at most apppointments, because I can read and research. That is an anstonishing amount of privilege.
I’m owning all my privilege, or trying to. Truthfully I share this journey to hopefully help even one soul find what they need.
Next steps are to figure out how to provide our local food pantry with safe food options for children in need.
She now chats in the car. We have full conversations about whatever is on her mind, and there is no screaming about car seat straps, or getting in the car, or life in general. My goodness, I soak in her calm. I love hearing her words.
I listened as she poetically described her dreams, her friends, and her favorite lake days. I get that for a lot of parents this may seem so normal, but Oo only screamed at us before, everytime we put her in the car she yelled. To listen to her chatter is blissfully obnoxious.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
I read a lot. When her behaviors became super challenging, I employed every technique the experts told me worked. They work now. They didn’t before… it was terrible. It didn’t matter how dedicated to the cause I was… breathing was hard. Now I reminder her to practice “calm bodies” and she does! And we all find peace.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
She has more energy than we know what to do with. She’s now non-stop, and the world is hers. We are naturally exhausted. We went from constantly over tired tiny human (due to anemia) to a child that hates bedtime. It’s a welcomed change, alibet exhausting.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
A part of our new normal is figuring out her energy levels – insane I might add, but she’s running with the dog, and swimming in the lake she was afraid of. Tonight she found conflict with her BFF. But she was so damn rational about the entire conflict.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
I spent endless hours worrying about how much attention and touch she had in a day, because I believed them to correlate directly with how our day would go. Now, she just says “I need a snuggle.” And then after she plays.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
I wish I could accurately explain what it is like to watch a tiny human struggle with life. How you believe you have to navigate life for them, because everything is a challenge. How I was so scared for her at every moment. How I worried. How she woke up struggling, and went to bed exhausted beyond belief. I wish I could explain what it is like to watch a tiny body not thrive. How I wish I could explain what apologizing for her felt like. How I felt the worst guilt, that I did it all wrong… that I loved this sweet baby wrong.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
I noticed today that the pink circles around her eyes caused by malnutrition were gone. I noticed that she ran until bedtime. I noticed that she rationally accepted bedtime.
She doesn’t hurt anymore.
This diagnosis sucks, but I’m so grateful for treatment. We have planned the most epic gluten free 4th picnic. She will swim. She will eat. She will play. She will thrive.
She doesn’t hurt anymore. #beyondceliac #celiacawaerness #letthembelittle
It sounds ridiculous to shout from rooftops that my tiniest human sat for dinner tonight, and even ate food. She actually hung out with us, when food was involved, and relished in giddy happiness that we were soo stupidly delighted she decided to join us. (Previously she was invited and always opted out.)
When I said goodnight today, she told me I didn’t even scream at her today…. (enter all the great guilt). I didn’t. This sweet tiny human had a great day, and so did I. (They correlate, shocking I know.) We are healing.
I wish I could accurately articulate what’s it like to not be able to function when your baby is sick. I didn’t pay a single bill over the past 6 weeks, and it wasn’t because we couldn’t pay them, but I didn’t even have the strength to “submit payment.” (FYI – when you actually get your shit together, just call them, and they are all super kind, and waive late fees. The world understands, sometimes.) I just couldn’t process life with a sick baby.
She’s healing. She’s thriving. #gf4lyfe let’s do that.
A long time ago we said Oo had “Disney” in her eyes. She saw blue birds when we saw rain. She was our Queen of The Fairies. (Oonagh in Gaelic means Queen of The Faires.) What breaks my mama heart is we lost this fairy to fucking Celiac, but we are getting her back. She’s growing stronger every gluten free day…. I’m so ready for this sweet fairy, and I’m so ready for her to feel “Disney” happiness again.
I wish I was talented enough to write about when you get your best tiny human back. I wish I could articulate what it’s been like to love her… all of the moments that her pain left me feeling helpless… I wish I could hug every mother whose baby struggles… and say “I know.”
We are healing. We have gluten free bagles and muffins.
I’m a mama, and I have had so many bad days. And I saw my Disney baby today reclaim her love for life …… and it makes me weep.
She’s basically the most awesome. She loves her siblings and friends. She loves to climb, play, run, jump, skip, and swing. I need to make sure she always loves these things. Her Disney sparkle is an added bonus.