Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wait, I Thought You Were A Music Major? Part I

I mentioned in this post that I have a degree in music and then I talked in this post about the dashed dreams of a lucrative career, among other things, so you must being thinking this does not compute. Nobody majors in music expecting a lucrative career. And I surely did not.

I graduated in December so I didn't intend to actively look for a job until after I got married the following June. Dave found a job in a nearby county at the midterm and I moved back home. Dave's job wasn't a great situation and definitely not a long term place to be, but sufficed for gaining experience and making his resume more attractive for better jobs later. We got married and I fully intended to find a job as a band director somewhere.

It just so happened that a job opened up in the same county where Dave was working. The job was supposed to be a travelling job between two middle schools. Half the day would be at one school teaching band to 5-8 graders and the other half of the day would be at the other middle school doing the same. It wasn't ideal, but these were small schools and splitting the day between them was doable. I applied for the job and got an interview.

This interview was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. It began as a normal interview where they ask me questions and I answer them, but then over the course of the conversation it became clear that their job requirements were quite a bit different than what they had advertised. After they secured my interview, they had apparently talked to the high school band director, who was also the chorus teacher, and she saw an opportunity to create a better position for herself. She wanted to dump the high school band and only do chorus. The position for which I was interviewing was now going to be a travelling position between three middle schools bands and the high school band. This information was never clearly presented to me and I had to piece together what was going on from my questions and the conversations between the interviewers of which there were four or five. Four bands at four different schools with marching band on top of it was a lot of responsibility for a new graduate with no experience and it scared me. Even though it was at least double the work of the original job description, the pay would be exactly the same, under 20K a year. But worse than the change in job expectations was that they expected me to unconditionally accept the job on the spot. No, they didn't expect me to accept on the spot because they never asked me if I wanted the job. Acceptance was a foregone conclusion. They began immediately filling out paperwork during the course of the interview and then when they finished talking to me, when you would normally expect to exchange pleasantries and leave, they walked me over to the personnel secretary and walked away. I am now alone with the secretary who asks for my identification and my address and lists the forms I need to bring back to her. I am standing there stunned. What just happened here?

I return to my car where Dave has been waiting for me wondering what was taking so long. I promptly meltdown. Over the next 24 hours, I basically have an existential crisis. I said I wanted to be a band director, but this job completely frightens me. It is so much responsibility and I know there would be zero support from the school. I would have to do it all, all the time, for four schools! I had no confidence I could do it or that I even wanted to do it. I looked at the challenge and only wanted to run away. After a long and late discussion, Dave tells me that if this isn't the job I want to take, it was okay with him if I call and decline it.

The next day I called and told them I would not be accepting the job. The man I spoke to was not happy and I got a lecture about professionalism or something which was particularly galling considering the nature of the interview the previous day. How dare I not allow them to railroad me into an overwhelming job in terrible working conditions!  This position was a job for two or perhaps three people and they expected that the new college graduate with no experience would be desperate enough to take it and they could fill all these openings on the cheap. They thought wrong.

It soon became clear that Dave was going to reap the ire of their discontent with me and we decided we needed to get out of Crazyville.

Here's Part II.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Altar Serving for Girls

Yesterday was the annual altar server training meeting for the young people at our parish and it was also the first year Grace was eligible to be an altar server. She, of course, asked to be able to serve. I have a somewhat dim view of her being an altar server but it isn't strong enough for me to disallow it. There are two reasons I would prefer her not to serve.

The first reason is that I was a server as a child in the 80s. I was an adult before I knew that permission for girls to be servers was not granted until long after my serving career was over. I was used as a pawn in someone else's political manipulations and it does not set well with me. That feeling carries over into my views on my daughters' participation which, perhaps, is unfair of me.

I also don't want the feelings of resentment that developed in me over time to develop in them. At my parish growing up, they had a very hard time getting and retaining altar servers for whatever reason. There would be a schedule published, the scheduled servers would not show up, and the deacon would search the church looking for someone to fill in. There was a stretch where I think I served every Sunday for two straight months unscheduled. It got to the point where I would actively hide from the deacon because I got so tired of it. I resented the heck out of it. Why did I have to do it week after week? Never claimed to be holy. I grumbled about it, my sister tolerated, and my brother was in all out rebellion over it.

The second reason is that there is a long tradition of boy altar servers and due to the psychology of boys, the presence of girls on the altar tends to discourage boys from doing it. I don't want my girls contributing to a vicious cycle in the same way that I did. My concern here is not terribly strong, but it does make me hesitate.

In the end, I asked Grace why she wanted to serve. If she could give me a coherent reason beyond just wanting to do it, I would bring her in spite of my concerns, but she could not. We have a lot going on at the house right now so we decided not to add another complication to life right now. We told her that she could go to the next training which I think will be in six months. Hopefully life will have settled down by then, but probably not.

So how do you handle daughters who want to serve on the altar?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marian's Words

Marian is not quite sixteen months old and she has been the most vocal baby we have ever had. Grace started with words at around nine months, which is early, but her vocabulary was pretty limited. Olivia didn't speak until age two. Sam's language development was average. Marian's language amazes me. So here is the list of words that she regularly says. This list is limited to what I could think of in the past couple of hours. I may add to it as I think of more.

here go
Wee-a  (Olivia)
Gayce  (Grace)
Hi, good girl
appy dia (This is an expression for being happy.)
kee-kaat  (kitty cat)
fee (three)
high five
ee-tah  (Cheetah)
May-yayn (Marian)
fower  (flower)
mouw  (meow)
E-I-E  (e-i-e-i-o)
all gone
muk (milk)
moey (guacamole)
I see
bye bye
night night
all right

Saturday, September 27, 2014

GFLN Week 4 Sept 27th

Joining in again with Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea for Guilt Free Learning Notes.

Sunday, Sept 21st

A long awaited day: Grace got her cat. Grace has been asking for a cat since she was in Kindergarten. We told her she was too young then and she had to wait. We had another baby and she had to wait. We had to psych ourselves up for it and she had to wait. Finally the day arrived. Introducing Lucia the cat:

Dave and I had a cat for years whom we loved, but she had a kidney disease that required a cheap, but consistent treatment of subcutaneous fluids. Over time, the costs add up plus the vet and the litter box and all the other things, so after she died, we decided to wait until a child was old enough to do most of the work before getting another cat. And we hope this new cat won't cost as much as the previous cat.

But cat is what happened all day. I'm not sure who was more stressed out by the children stalking the cat all day, me or the cat. I think probably me. I can't wait for the new to wear off after a few days because the hovering is driving me crazy.

Monday, Sept 22nd

After I got home from work, but before supper, Olivia and I read a shark book from school. She squealed her discontent with the pictures every time we turned the page. I asked her if she had picked the book out herself. She answered sheepishly that she had but didn't look in it before choosing it.

Olivia had guidance where she watched two videos but couldn't tell us what they were about. After awhile she decided they were about self control. After they watched the videos, they had to draw and write while listening to music. She immediately announced one of the songs was "Let It Go." The irony was too rich to keep from laughing. After encouraging self-control, the teacher played "Let It Go." Hello? Grace had PE, I think.

During supper, Marian started putting food down her shirt for reasons that only toddlers know. Grace, highly amused by this antic, immediately started recounting a scene out of  "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" in which Fudge is told to eat his food or wear it and ends up dumping food all over himself. She read this book in third grade so she proved that it is indeed possible for a third grade child to read and discuss books.

After supper, Marian had a monstrous dirty diaper that required some assistance in keeping her distracted while I cleaned her up. Olivia came in and launched into this dialog: "What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favorite color?" I swear she hasn't seen the whole movie. Really.

I signed two agendas, examined a progress report, and checked some math homework.

Tuesday, Sept 23rd

The girls had cross-country practice today. Grace had guidance and watched the same videos that Olivia had watched the day before, but she did not get "Let It Go" afterwards. Poor Grace. Olivia had technology class, but instead of having class, they watched videos because some third grade child had to finish a test on the computer so they weren't allowed in the lab. Mixed feelings about this. Why are they taking tests on computers? That's stupid. Why is one child's need to take a test allowed to derail an entirely different class's schedule. However, it's technology class. Who cares?

Grace had a substitute teacher and got fussed at in class for having the temerity to look at the ceiling while she thought about her work instead of staring at her paper. She was very offended. She got a lecture about staying on task and how that teacher was trying to get her ready for fifth grade. As if the sub has anything to do with that. Apparently some boy jumped to her defense and she tried to show her she was doing her work, but to no avail. We laughed about it and told Grace not to worry about it. Some subs are just like that. Grace really hates to be thought of as not doing her work. Olivia has had this sub in the past too and doesn't like her either so they exchanged terrible sub stories. 

I read "Smokey the Fireman" by Richard Scarry to Sam and Sam sat with a pile of books "reading" to himself. The book he paid the most attention to was "Not Your Typical Dragon" by Dan Bar-el. He somehow managed to empty most of the bookcase.

Grace read "The Sword and The Stone" out of a Disney storybook to have something to put down on her reading log. She also finished writing her first post on her cheetah blog so she is officially published. We shall see how often she puts new stuff up. She stayed up way past her bedtime reading something. I'm not sure what she was reading since we were more concerned with her turning out the light.

I signed two agendas, examined a different progress report, and checked some math homework.

Wednesday, Sept 24th

The girls had their first cross country race of the season. The race is a mile course set through a local school's campus. They both did well and finished in the middle of the pack. Olivia ran really hard, but I think Grace set too slow a pace for herself. She is the queen of pacing. Since the course is just set off by flags and cones, the spectators can get close and follow the runners around the track. Dave was running around with the video camera. I had Marian in the carrier and Sam by the hand and we staked out spots along the route. The girls would run by, we would cheer and then hurriedly move to the next convenient spot along the route. Since the girls are in two different age groups with different races, we did this twice. I can't say I ran a mile, but I did haul myself around quite a bit in the hot sun and was very tired from the effort.

We decided to eat supper at Chik-fil-a. Not much conversation there. I learned Grace had art class and is still working on her pancakes and Olivia had PE, maybe? Mostly we ate in silence. On the ride home, I frantically filled out two Girl Scout fundraising forms, wrote a check, and filled out two Girl Scout health forms for us to drop off on the way home since the girls had to miss their meeting due to the race.

At home I tried to read three newsletters that came from school and check some more math homework, but I couldn't make my eyes focus. I signed two agendas and worked on getting everyone in bed as soon as possible. Grace was very excited about getting comments on her blog post so I did let her respond before shooing her to bed. There was also some "discussion" about the reading log and not getting the opportunity to read for twenty minutes. Just go to bed and make it up tomorrow!

Thursday, Sept 25th

I got home from work to be greeted by Sam who was very excited about the apple seed he had planted. He explained when it was big enough, he would transplant it out of the cup and into a pot.  I am also happy to learn that the coveted plastic monkeys are now in the house. Olivia is pleased as punch. These things are cheap, cheap, cheap and will be broken within the week.

Note the lens cap for approximate sizing of the coveted monkeys

At supper we discussed European vacations and suppertime in Rome because, hey, we live vicariously! Grace had technology class and Olivia had library. She checked out the Magic Tree House book "Twister on Tuesday." I immediately told Grace not to read it because she has a fear of storms and we don't need to encourage it.

Grace is working on two digit by two digit multiplication in math enrichment and she is feeling unsure about the algorithm. Well she said she didn't know what to do so I asked her to work a problem so I could see where she had trouble. She didn't have any trouble so I think she just wanted someone to watch her work and make sure it was right. We worked a few problems together and I showed her the trick about moving the number over if the bottom number ends in zero. I also showed her that lining up her columns works better and eliminates any confusion about what to add together. So we had a nice little math lesson.

I meant to read the shark book with Olivia again, but she went outside to play for a few minutes after supper and I completely forgot about it by the time she was back in the house. While I was picking up before bed, Sam found a book that had large letters on it and wanted to practice naming letters. He was pretty sure the words said "The Columbus Zoo," but alas, it only said "The Zoo Book." He is getting decent at the letters. I would have to drill him to see how many he knows, but I'll guess it's about half.

Marian has started pointing at letters on shirts and trying to say something about them. I won't say she is naming the letters because she is not, but she is recognizing the letters are something that have names. Grace had this same behaviour as a young toddler and could name most of the letters by age two. Just saying, here we go again.

Signed one agenda, learned that I apparently forgot to sign one of the agendas yesterday even though I could swear I did, looked at the circle of shame where my initials were not and saw where Dave signed yesterday's and today's, and signed the reading log even though it is incomplete.

Friday, Sept 26th

Supper was dominated by me going on and on about a conversation at work that greatly disturbed me that I ramble on about here too. The reason I mention it now is because it was funny to hear the girls chime in. Grace, who is always looking for affirmation, did her best to argue my points and show outrage on my behalf. Olivia, who has always been a bit more independent, was getting frustrated and saying, "They have their own brains. They can make their own decisions." In and amongst the parenting philosophy discussion, the girls were arguing over the casting in the next movie they make with the Darwin children. Grace was telling Olivia she had to play the youngest girl and Olivia objected saying she didn't want to be the youngest again. Grace said Olivia had to be the youngest unless she could convince the youngest Darwin girl to do it. And thus they argued for a long while.

Around bedtime I told Grace I was listening to "The Odyssey" in the car and gave a very brief plot overview. She wanted to know when it was written and then tried to remember which Native American groups were prominent at the same time. We then discussed what A.D meant and whether or not Jesus was born in the year 0 (no).

Signed two agendas and Olivia exchanged the shark book for something else.

Saturday, Sept 27th

Marian woke up this morning and promptly threw up all over me. She is puny and running fever, but the vomit seems to have been a one-off event. The other children are being incredibly whiny. We watched a football game and then spent a couple of hours at my sister's while my parents were there babysitting. And that's it. Football and playing with cousins are educational too.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Parenting Babies

Parenting babies is a strangely controversial topic. I don't have a ton of experience with it except that I have four babies. My babies are my babies which means they may or may not act like other babies therefore I don't claim expertise. I am expert on my babies, but other babies can be a mystery. I think parents have wide latitude in raising their babies. Not everything that works with one baby will work with another. Not everything that works for one parent will work for another. All babies need to eat, all babies need to be held, all babies need to be changed, all babies need to be comforted. Some more than others. This is all true and yet it seems there should be some standard of morality with raising a young baby beyond just keeping the baby alive for the day.  But this minimum standard of behavior doesn't really seem to have wide acceptance.

I have many examples of behavior I just don't understand. I don't want to say I judge the people who choose to do these things because I can't even understand the thought process. Perhaps I should own that I love babies. Infanthood is one of my favorite phases. The contentment I feel holding an infant is almost unrivaled. So my lack of understanding may be based in this preference. I realize this.

The third rail of mothering is breastfeeding. There are lots of barriers to a successful nursing relationship. Supply, latch, demand. I get it. But what I don't understand is if a mother has an established breastfeeding relationship and her baby is younger than six months and everything is going well, why would you wean to formula? Why do most people think this is just fine? Isn't there a moral obligation to provide the best nutrition you can? If you have to wean because you aren't producing enough milk or the baby isn't gaining enough weigh or the latch is excruciating and not getting better or you have a psychological revulsion to nursing or you have D-MER or pumping at work is difficult to schedule or your let down doesn't respond well to the pump, no one could or should blame you for weaning. But what if your reason for weaning is "Eh, this is a drag and I'm tired of it." Isn't that wrong even if nursing isn't your favorite thing to do? And yet the general consensus is that it isn't wrong, just a personal preference. I am just perplexed. I would feel horribly guilty if my baby was denied the nutrition established especially for him just because I didn't want to bother anymore. But I like nursing so maybe my vision is colored.

Another thing I don't understand is letting babies cry. Now sometimes the baby cries and there is nothing that can be done. You have tried everything and he is not settling and crying is just what's going to happen right now. And sometimes you come to your wit's end and you just have to walk away for a few minutes because you just can't deal anymore right now. And sometimes there is something that has to happen and the baby starts to cry and you can't get there right away. And sometimes there is an intense psychological need for the parent to get uninterrupted sleep to due complications with depression or illness. This is all just life but not what I am talking about. I am talking about the premeditated decision to let a young infant scream his head off because you have arbitrarily decided his privilege to bother your sleep at night is over at 3 months old. Why is this okay? Why are more people not horrified and repulsed by this attitude? But they aren't since regular people don't feel any gumption in freely discussing it without hesitation. But I like holding babies so maybe I don't understand the desire to be free from it.

I'm rambling here, but I was disturbed by a conversation I had today. More than disagreement with certain parenting decisions, I am baffled by the choices some parents make. I guess what I am saying is that some people choose to parent in a way that I would not choose, but I don't thing they are wrong for choosing it. Then there are decisions that I don't understand how they even come to be.

Update 9-27-14

Alright I'm back on this again because I just can't stop thinking about it. It occurred to me that others might react with horror and revulsion that I have a full time job and still leave my infants. Still others might react with horror and revulsion that I usually co-sleep with those infants. So I guess my confusion is if there are aspects of parenting an infant where everyone agrees there are better choices than others and you are capable of the better choice, why wouldn't you? But lots of people don't. By capable I mean all the requirements listed above, not just the bare biological ability to produce milk.

Update 9-29-14

I have finally figured out why this topic bothers me so much. Our entire culture revolves around the idea that children have no claims if an adult decides it is inconvenient. The decision to formula feed or let a young baby cry it out, when made solely for the convenience of the adults involved, is heartbreaking to me. I am baffled when people whom I thought would put the best interests of their children first instead make their own convenience the top priority.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Olivia's Birth Story or Just Because the Doctor Says Birth is Imminent Doesn't Mean Birth is Imminent

This story begins on October 23, 2007, at my 35 week appointment. The doctor I was scheduled to see was not my regular OB, but one of the other doctors in her practice since you never know who will be on call when labor starts. I was getting my Strep B test and a first cervix check. I was reclined on the table and the doctor began her exam. The tone in her voice changed and she sounded surprised and excitable. "You are already 3cm dilated and the baby's head is right there!" Um, okay. What does that mean? "You are going to have this baby sooner rather than later."

Commence freak out. The list of things not ready was quite long. The crib, the clothes, the name. We had a yard sale that upcoming Saturday and a vacation scheduled the weekend after that. Having a baby wasn't in my near term plans. In a rush we get the crib moved into our bedroom, start looking for the baby clothes, and drilling names. The crib was easy, the names fairly straight-forward, but the clothes could not be located. We had moved into our house in April and I thought surely I would get enough boxes unpacked to find the baby clothes by November. I thought wrong.

I successfully make it through the yard sale but still cannot find the baby clothes. I get to work on Monday and share my despair. They generously throw me an impromptu baby shower that same week to bestow on me some baby clothes and I am grateful. But I still wonder where all those previous clothes have gone.

I make it to my next appointment at 36 weeks and see still another doctor in the practice. She confirms the other doctor's opinion that labor is imminent. I ask if it is okay if I go on our planned vacation this coming weekend. She strongly advises that I not leave town. I am disappointed. We were going to take a long weekend with my parents and siblings to Fall Creek Falls right at the peak of fall color. Dave and I discuss it and decide it would be best to stay close to home since our insurance would not cover the hospital closest to the park and, given my previous delivery, the likelihood of making it back to Nashville if I were in labor was not high. I tell my parents we can't go and my mother, in her nervousness, cancels the whole vacation. Sorry, yall.

It is now November. My official due date is Thanksgiving Day on November 22, my real due date is November 24, and Grace was born at 38.5 weeks. I am prepared for birth at any moment. I have warned my boss and co-workers that the doctor is expecting the baby any time. Every twinge is examined. The constant question in my mind is, "Is this labor starting?"

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 37 week appointment with my regular doctor. She says I am now dilated to 3.5 and am well effaced. I am nervous because I really want to get to 38 weeks so baby has plenty of time to cook.

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 38 week appointment. Now I am ready and relaxed. We have hit the milestone I have been waiting for. I am 4cm. My doctor asks if I want to be induced. No. I want the pregnancy to continue for as long as necessary. She gives me strict instructions that, based on my previous delivery, I need to go to the hospital as soon as I think I am in labor. I am a little anxious. Labor was imminent three weeks ago. It's really imminent now.

Every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

I get to my 39 week appointment. I am 5cm dilated. It is Thanksgiving week. My doctor asks if I want to be induced. No, and I really, really don't want to be in the hospital over Thanksgiving. I would miss the food and be cared for by people who couldn't get out of working on Thanksgiving. I was not looking forward to it. I was a little apprehensive so the doctor who would be on call over the weekend came to talk to me and reassured me that he would much rather deliver my baby than be stuck all weekend with his extended family. Not sure what that says about him or his family, but it made me feel like I wasn't imposing on him, anyway.

My doctor understands I am not thrilled about delivering over Thanksgiving weekend so she does not push for an immediate induction. She reiterates the instructions about not dallying if I think I am in labor over the long weekend and then strongly recommends that I schedule an induction for the following week if labor does not start spontaneously beforehand. She is concerned about a very precipitous labor and honestly, so am I. I consent to schedule, but I am not very happy about it. If I do not have the baby first, I am scheduled to be at the hospital for induction on November 27th at 7am.

And every day I go to work. Every day I expect labor to start. Every day someone at work asks when I'm going to have the baby.

Thanksgiving comes and goes and coincidentally my neighbor, who was not due until the middle of December, gives birth on Thanksgiving Day.

Here I am not in labor on Thanksgiving Day
I show up to work on Monday and nobody can believe it, least of all, me. It has been five long weeks of expectant waiting where just about every moment has been scrutinized for signs of labor that did not come. Labor was supposed to be imminent a month ago. I cancelled a rare vacation because I was supposed to have a baby. Instead I spent a month stressed out and waiting. I go to bed that night hoping labor will start on its own. It doesn't.

The morning of November 27th and 40 weeks and three days of pregnancy comes, but I'm not in a hurry to get to the hospital. I know traffic will be bad and I am not looking forward to induction. I am nervous about the pitocin and if I will be able to handle the pain which is supposed to be so much worse with it.

We had talked to Grace about what would happen when I go to the hospital. My in-laws were coming over and after some amount of time, they would take her over to their house. They arrive in the morning and we go into Grace's room to tell her good-bye. I ask her if she remembers what is happening. She says, "Grandma, Dee-da come over and you go to the ospital" Then she bursts into tears. Sigh. And on that note, we leave.

The traffic is bad as expected and we slowly make our way into town. On the way we decide to finalize our name choices: Olivia Rose if it's a girl, and Samuel David if it's a boy. For the entire pregnancy I thought I was having a boy. Convinced, I'm not sure why, until the night before the scheduled induction when I sat thinking about the pregnancy and how people always say that girl pregnancies and boy pregnancies are completely different and how that is funny since this pregnancy has been almost exactly like Grace's except this is a boy. Oh wait. If it has been exactly the same...maybe I'm having a girl? Yes. I think this is a girl. It dawned on me at the last possible moment.

We arrive at the hospital and make our way to Labor and Delivery. This is so anti-climatic and I feel a little defeated. I am brought to my room and it is well after 8am, so I'm late. Who cares? The nurses set me up with the IV and the blood pressure cuff and the belts and the monitors. The nurse exclaims that I am having a contraction. "Can't you feel that?" No. They get everything set up and then we wait on my doctor to arrive.

My doctor comes into the room and says, "You're here. I was wondering if you were going to come." Yes I came. She wants to do one last exam before we get this show on the road. Six centimeters. She tells me she is going to attend to a few things and then come back and break my water. I use this opportunity to take my trusty Pepcid. She comes back, explains the process, shows me a horrible crochet needle looking thing, and then does the deed. She turns on the pitocin to its lowest setting and then we wait for something to happen. It's 9am. I am not sure how I am going to react to the pitocin, but I am pretty determined to go natural since we are expecting a fast labor.

My parents had come to the hospital to keep us company during labor. Now that everything had been squared away, they came into my room. We chatted about whatever and waited for the contractions to start. Fairly soon they did. Hello, back labor, old friend. Daddy liked watching the machines because the machines are where the action is, obviously. He kept up with the timing, but I didn't pay attention and don't remember now.

I found that I could bear the contractions pretty well as long as I was sitting straight up in bed and not reclining at all. The problem with that position is the monitor belts slide down out of place and the machines cannot pick up the readings. Thus began a game with the nurse. I would sit as straight as possible, letting the belts slide. The nurse would come into the room and explain the monitors were not picking up any readings and tell me to lie back. I would slightly recline so the readings would transmit. The nurse would leave the room. I would then sit as straight as possible again. We replayed this scene several times. My mother thought I was being belligerent. I was just trying to stay comfortable.

The contractions are becoming stronger and closer together. I decide I want to go to the bathroom and my parents decide that I am uncomfortable enough that visiting hours should be suspended. It is around 10am.

They exit to the waiting room and I am disconnected from all the machines. I make my way into the bathroom and sit down on the toilet. This feels so much better. I am not attached to machines and my hips feel open as I sit. I don't really want to get back up. I sit there for awhile and the nurse becomes concerned, "You better not deliver that baby on that toilet! You need to get back in the bed!" Sigh. My temporary escape has ended. I shuffle back to the bed to be reconnected and the contractions are in earnest now. One after another after another. I sit as tall as I can in bed and my feet are involuntarily shaking as I move through transition. My nurse recognizes what is happening and tells me I will be ready to push soon and to tell her when I feel the urge.

These contractions still hurt like crazy, but I am in a much better place mentally than last time. I know I am almost done. I know it will not last forever. I know that I can do it. Honestly these contractions with pitocin don't feel much different than the ones without it. I am not sure if it is because I have a low dose or if it is because my body crashes itself into labor as if I were on pitocin. Whatever it is, I am relieved there is not a level of pain beyond what I had previously experienced.

Finally the pushing instinct washes over me and I tell the nurse. She immediately preps the room and comes to my side. My doctor takes her place at the foot of the bed with the resident who will actually deliver the baby. We had discussed it previously and I don't mind and, in some ways, I feel obligated to show it is possible to birth without anesthesia.

I again am instructed to take a semi-reclined position where all the pressure is on my hips. I hate this position. The nurse takes one leg and Dave takes the other and the nurse begins counting for me to push on demand. I immediately ignore that nonsense. I feel experienced and am hoping to redeem my reputation as a bad pusher. I look at the clock. It is about 1020. I think to myself that I need to hold back a little so Grace, who was born at 10:31, won't have to share a birth time as well as a birthday number, the 27th, with the new baby.

When the urge strikes, I push and feel the baby move. Then I push again. OUCH! The baby descends. I am not a bad pusher anymore, but the feeling is agony. I don't remember it hurting this badly when Grace was born. I feel like I am going to split wide open. I panic and pull back from the pain. I completely lose the urge to push. I am laying there through a few contractions, waiting for something to happen. I just want this to go away. I am shocked because I thought I had been through this before, but this feels a thousand times worse than when Grace was born. The baby is just about crowning and I am not pushing nearly hard enough because it just hurts so much.

The nurse sees what is going on and she leans down towards me and says, "You can do this. You are almost finished. You cannot pull back from the pain. You have to push through the pain and then you will be done"

I think to myself, "Push through the pain." I have to calm myself and wait for the urge to push to return. I tell the doctor that my urge to push is gone. The doctor ups the pitocin. I'm not sure that makes a difference. I just need to calm down. After another few minutes, I try again. I push and every last ounce of my being wants to pull back, but I resist. I feel like I am being torn asunder, but I push anyway. And then all of a sudden the head is out and then the shoulders and then it's over. It's a girl! Time of birth: 10:44am. She is crying loudly. They take her and clean her up and weigh her. 7lbs, 8oz and 18in. The same length as Grace, but over a pound heavier. Total time of labor from rupture to birth: One hour and 45 minutes.

While they are cleaning her up, I deliver the placenta and ask the resident to explain the placenta to me. I figure growing that thing made me horribly sick for months so I wanted to see it. I'm pretty sure Dave and the resident thought I was nuts, but she explained form and function to my satisfaction. After the placenta, I had to get stitched, a 2nd degree tear right where the OB from Grace's delivery had cut, but no new episiotomy since this OB keeps up with the research. Later I figure out the reason Olivia's crowning was so shocking to me is because I had been numbed during Grace's. Sigh.

Finally all the business had been attended and they bring me Olivia. I hold her and attempt to latch her on to nurse. She's an absolute pro and I feel experienced and confident.

After a few minutes, my parents come in to visit. Baby is admired and passed around the room. After what seems like a very short amount of time, the nurse announces it is time for me to get ready to move to recovery. When Grace was born, everything happened in one room so being moved from room to room was a new experience. Everyone leaves and the nurse helps me with the glamorous postbirth business and then I am wheeled out of the room before 11:45. I feel like we are being rushed and it doesn't make me happy. I know they want the room open for the next patient who might need it, but I also feel like since I only used it for a handful of hours, much less than the average, they should be a little more lenient on the schedule. But no, so we are off and Olivia is brought to the nursery while I get situated in the new room.

We get to the new room and I expect Baby soon after, but she is not coming. After some short amount of time, I send Dave to investigate why she hasn't been brought to my room yet. He returns and tells me everything is fine, but they gave her a bath and her temperature dropped so they will not release her from the nursery until her temperature normalizes. I immediately send Dave back to the nursery to keep her company and to take a picture so I can look at her. He leaves and comes back fairly quickly. I expect that this means the baby is being brought to the room. No, he just wants to show me the pictures. I look and send him back. Olivia is wide awake in these pictures and I don't want her to be by herself.

Olivia under the blasted heat lamp

I am as anxious as I can be and feel like I am crawling the walls. I know that she is safe and all is well, but I want her! I want to hold her and nurse her and talk to her and she is down the hall under a heat lamp. Dave returns. "Are they bringing her?" "Not yet." "Go back." We repeat this process over and over.

Compounding my anxiousness is the fact that Grace is still not at the hospital. After her sister was born, we called to announce the news and request her presence, but they hadn't arrived yet. For whatever reason, there were a hundred reasons why they kept getting delayed. I was stuck in this hospital room with neither of my babies and I was going out of my mind, alert and agitated.

And this is how I spent Olivia's first afternoon. Waiting for one baby to be released from custody over a stupid bath and waiting for the other baby to get to the hospital because her grandparents were not in a hurry to get there. It was not a fun day. I wasn't alone; my parents were there and I think my brother visited, but I was not a happy camper.

Finally, finally, the nursery deigns to allow the baby to see her mother at about four in the afternoon. Of course, by that point, Olivia was sound asleep. I was grateful to finally have her and disappointed she was asleep. All that magical newborn alertness was lost in service to an unnecessary bath.

They kept her under that stupid lamp for FOUR hours. If it was me now instead of me then, I would have demanded they release her to me since, by mere coincidence, my body temperature is the exact temperature they were trying to raise her's to, but I was compliant and simmered in my juices all day long instead.

Soon after Olivia was back in my room, Grace finally arrived with her grandparents at around 5pm. Just in time for the two year old to be hungry for supper so she stayed less than an hour. Maybe 30-45 minutes, if I recall correctly. Why Grace was kept away all day and brought to visit just in time for the witching hour, I will never understand, but we did have a few minutes together. Grace immediately adored her sister and was very proud to be a big sister.

After five weeks of expecting labor at any moment, a reluctant induction, a pretty quick delivery, and an afternoon of waiting, we were finally all together.

N.B: The missing baby clothes were located in the middle of December underneath a bunch of Christmas ornaments because that is a totally logical place to store baby clothes.

Things That Annoy Me #1

Everyone loves a good gripe, right? Well, maybe. I do though that's probably a character flaw. I figured, why not start a series? I promise not to get bogged down in my own pet peeves, but when things pop up that are too long to explain on ye ole FB, I can grumble about it here. Thus Things That Annoy Me #1:

We got our Open Enrollment information at work yesterday. This is where they tell how much our premiums for insurance are going up next year. This is always kind of a thorny subject because the hospital is self-insured. They make a big deal about the increasing cost of health care and the need for premium increases, but then say they aren't making enough money for us to get raises. So the money goes where exactly? They take it out of one pocket and put it in the other. Anyway....

So a few years ago they decided to soften the blow of the 'no raise/premium increase' combo by putting the premiums on a tiered system where your cost is related to your salary. The lowest paid employees also pay the least in premiums. I am somewhat agnostic about this system. You are theoretically buying the same product so it seems you should pay the same price, but there is also an argument to be made for lessening the burden for lower paid employees by those who can better afford it and also the likelihood that the higher paid employees are older and thus using more health care services and offsetting more of what they actually use. Overall my feeling about these tiers is meh.

Here is what annoys me:  The differences in premiums are such as to be meaningless lip service.

Let us do some math. I will only use the type of insurance that I have in the examples because I know it best. We choose a non-smoking family plan that has an individual deductible of $1750 in this hospital's network and a $2200 individual deductible in the national network. (I'll ignore the out of network coverage.) The maximum family deductible is $3250 in the hospital network and $4400 in the national network. After the deductible is hit, the coinsurance is 10% in the hospital network and 30% in the national network. On to the analysis....

There are five salary tiers that determine your premium. I will ignore the bottom tier because the lowest salary is $0 and it is hard to make comparisons. The bottom tier extends from $0 to $49999.99.

The next tier is for salaries from $50000 to $99999.99.  Lucky me, this is the tier for which I qualify. Barely. The cost of the family plan in this tier is $282 a month. As a percentage of salary for the lowest earner on the tier that is ~6.8% of the monthly gross income.

The next tier up is for salaries from $100000 to $149999.99. The cost of the same plan is $310 a month. So the lowest earner on this tier gets twice as much salary but only pays $28 more in premium. As a percentage of gross monthly income, the lowest earner on this tier pays 3.7% of salary towards premiums.

Let's jump to the top tier. The lowest salary on the top tier is $200000. The family premium on this tier is $385 a month. As a percentage of gross monthly salary, the lowest earner on this tier pays a whooping 2.3% of salary for insurance premiums. If the person on this level had to pay 6.8% of his salary like the people on tier 2, his premiums would be $1133 a month. If the person on tier 2 only paid 2.3% of his salary, his premiums would be $96 a month.

Now I am not suggesting that the percentages be kept even all the way up the tiers. What I am suggesting is that the people who make these decisions, who coincidentally all fall into the highest tier, are making empty statements about sharing the load while making sure it doesn't really bite them. They pat themselves on the back for their generosity while barely noticing the premium they pay. And that annoys me! If they were really concerned about alleviating the burden of premiums on the lower paid employees, the differences in premiums would amount to more than a daily Starbucks habit. I'd rather everyone pay the same amount across the board than be subjected to this preening. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

GFLN Week 3 Sept 20th

Linking up with Melanie's Learning Notes again. I am totally stealing Entropy's title! I write most of these when I am at work which means I don't have access to pictures to make it more inviting. Sorry!

Sunday, Sept 14th.

The girls have Sunday School after Mass on Sunday mornings and we live too far away to merit going home and back so our weekly visit to the grocery store happens while they are in class. While trying to amuse Sam when waiting at the deli counter, we look in the fresh food case and I ask him to name the ingredients of the various dishes that are displayed. One of the salads had chickpeas in it so I told him hummus was made with chickpeas. He was quite pleased with this new piece of knowledge since he loves hummus.

It was a big reading day with Olivia since that got ignored for most of last week. She read me a school book on butterflies and then three Bob books. I was not really paying attention to the last Bob book so I have no idea if she read it correctly or not, but the three books I was tuned in for went pretty well. I noticed in Mass this morning, she was word tracking in the missalette with her finger. Her reading is coming along.

At bedtime Grace announced that since animals do not have consciences, they all go to heaven when they die. I had to tell her that no, we actually don't know what happens to animals when they die, but we can trust God to do what is best for them, whatever that happens to be. This answer satisfied her, but she is such an animal lover, it worries me if anyone tells her differently from either end of the spectrum.

We successfully got them in bed earlier tonight, thanks to skipping supper after a huge meal at the parish picnic. Or so we thought. About fifteen minutes after the lights were supposed to be out, Grace bursts from her bedroom upset because she has forgotten about the reading log. She wants to go downstairs and work on her reading log. No. Go to bed. Much crying. I discovered furtive work happening several times until I just went to bed myself pretty sure she was going to try to work on it as soon as I left.

Reading logs drive me batty. Grace reads plenty of books. She comprehends what she reads quite well. But we will spill much blood, sweat, and tears trying to appropriately document these facts.

Got to write two checks and fill out two forms for the girls to get their school sweatshirts for the year. They aren't terribly expensive except I will put money down right now Olivia wears hers once and only once. She will wear it to school one day and see that everyone else has one too and will never wear it again. I can foresee this, but how can I deny buying her one when her sister is getting one?

Monday, Sept 15th

After all the reading log drama, Grace had to walk laps for five minutes of her recess because she forgot to ask one of us to sign it. Oh yay, more to sign.

At school Grace had technology class where she took reading tests. Olivia had guidance class which she does not like. Guidance class is the school system's pathetic excuse for moral education. Of course, we can't call it moral education and can't refer to anything that might reinforce why moral education is necessary. All this means is that guidance class is filled with pablum about bullying and respect and "be nice because it's nice to be nice." If you think I'm kidding about the "Be Nice" bit, the next county over has a whole program around the concept. I'm sure it will be a raging success. I am pretty sure nobody likes guidance class, not even the guidance teacher.

Everyone all around, adults included, were in generally grumpy moods so not much conversation at supper. Read one school newsletter and signed two agendas.

For the past few weeks, Grace has been pestering us to help her build a website for cheetahs. At first we thought she wanted to learn how to code and we kept pushing her off because that's pretty intensive. It's been years since I coded a website from scratch so I would have to study up before showing her. Dave codes pretty regularly but doesn't really want to sit with her and take ALL the time it would take to teach it to her. He has got a lot going on right now. Then inspiration struck! Since we have been in blog creation mode, perhaps a blog is more what she is looking for. Grace is now the proud owner of Grace for Cheetahs. Go visit and see if she has written anything yet. I used this opportunity to talk about what one may and may not share openly here on the World Wide Web.

Tuesday, Sept 16th

The girls had cross-country practice again, so hot, tired, and sweaty girls. I keep catching myself calling the practices rehearsals which just sounds wrong, but is what I am accustomed to calling these after-school phenomena. 

Impromptu meeting in a parking lot with my parents to get our 18m box of baby clothes from them since the weather is getting cooler and Marian needs some pants. My parents graciously let us store our tubs of children's clothing in their attic because they have the room and we don't. They were on their way out of state and were passing near our area right at suppertime. So supper was late and the evening disjointed and not much discussion was had.

Grace had PE and spent time learning about themes in reading. Olivia had technology class. Yay. After supper Sam helped clear the table and empty and reload the dishwasher. A very helpful boy.

Olivia is driving me nuts with her desire for the latest cheap gimmick prize from the school fundraiser. The thing I hate about fundraising is that the very organizations we are supposed to entrust our children's best interests manipulate those same children into a greedy lather over cheap trinkets in order to make a few bucks. I find the whole process revolting. I am pressured into buying products I don't need at prices I would never normally pay while my children are affirmed in their greed and end up with one more piece of trash to leave on the floor.

Read one letter from cross-country, signed two agendas, and finally looked at the school fundraising packet. Have mercy on me.

 Wednesday, Sept 17th

I got home just in time for some blow up that made me worry the evening was going to be a grumpy slog, but cooler heads prevailed and we had a pretty good evening.

Olivia had PE and Grace had library where she checked out the cheetah book again for the umpteenth time.

During supper we reminisced about our old Honda CR-V which we had to trade in for the van when Sam came along because carseats. The CR-V was a manual and we discussed what makes a manual transmission different than an automatic. Lots of explanation about the stick and the third pedal. We were surprised to hear how much Sam pays attention to what we do when we are driving. He could describe it very well. I guess his carseat location gives him a good view.

After supper, Grace taught me a new hand clapping game which she could perform herself and to a wall, but got flustered when I was her partner. I tried to practice with Olivia too, but her coordination is not quite there. It was silly and fun and thankfully not the words I learned in elementary school.

When the silliness subsided, Olivia read me the butterfly book again and another Bob book.

Signed two agendas and a packet of work, checked Grace's math homework, and listened to Olivia talk about fundraising all night long.

Thursday, Sept 18th

Olivia woke up this morning talking about fundraising. How long, O Lord? Grace woke up with a bad cough so she stayed home. After work, I had a church function to attend all evening so I left the crew to themselves tonight. All in bed when I got home. Signed one agenda.

Friday, Sept 19th

A day for ranging conversations. At supper we discussed France and cheese, inspired by bearing discussing the cheese section of a French grocery story, and whether or not France was in Italy (no). After supper we went out to run some errands and discussed school things in the car. Olivia had art today. She finished her lizard from the other day and started drawing a sunflower which she will paint next time she has art class. Grace, who had technology, talked about her last art class.

Grace: We are learning about a guy who was famous for creating popular art so we are drawing popular foods.
Me: A guy who is famous for popular art? Andy Warhol?
Grace: Yes! That's him. He made popular art.

I laughed. Doesn't that just sum up modern educational philosophy! Fourth graders are studying Andy Warhol.

After the art conversation, Grace talked about the Native Americans she is learning about. Now I am not up on my ancient Native cultures, but I think she is learning about ancient people and not relatively modern ones. Here is how the tangent started:

Grace: Is there a country in Asia that speaks English?
Me: There are people in Asia who do speak English, but no, English is not the official language of any country in Asia that I know of.
Grace: So how did the Indians speak English when the pilgrims got here?

This touched off a conversation to clarify what she was asking, about how English did not exist when people crossed the land bridge into North America, and how most natives actually did not speak English. She was trying to square in her mind exactly how it came to be that when the Pilgrims came to North America, there were people there who spoke English. When we got home, I looked for something on Squanto. I thought I remembered Melanie putting something up about him once a few years ago, but came up empty. Must have been someone else. Maybe another blog or maybe she wrote about not Squanto. Anyway, I settled for this little write-up. Grace read it and seemed satisfied.

I signed nothing.

Saturday, Sept 20th

First thing this morning, we found that someone went out early today to watch the implosion of the ruined bridge from the big wreck about a month ago and posted the video on the local FB page.

We watched this video probably ten times. First we talked about implosion and dynamite and chain reactions. Then we talked about safety precautions. Finally we talked about the difference in the speed of light and the speed of sound and counted the time delay between seeing the explosion and hearing it. (About 3 seconds, if you are curious) Marian was sitting in my lap and every time we heard the boom, she jumped. It was funny. She wasn't upset and it didn't seem to scare her, but she startled every time.

At breakfast, Grace was back on the Native Americans. I forget exactly how it came up, but eventually we were talking about how culture and civilization cannot develop without a steady and dependable supply of food and people were nomads until agriculture was invented. "Agriculture was invented?!" she exclaimed. So we talked about how people had learn how to plant and grow and maintain a water source and only after that did people start to settle down into fixed locations.

At lunch, they are were begging for tea, but were being served water. I quipped they could think of their water as a tea of hydrogen and oxygen. They were not impressed, but I drew them a water molecule which looks like Mickey Mouse and they were amused. Grace wanted to know that since the sun is made of hydrogen, if water is created by the sun shining on the oxygen in the air. No. We talked about the sun and radiation and the three states of matter. Dave started talking about Mr Wizard and an experiment in creating water by putting a spark to a balloon filled with hydrogen. I intended to find them a video to watch, but they ran outside and I typed this up instead.

So that's pretty much our week.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Extenuating circumstances

Elizabeth Duffy published a piece about finding the middle ground between the noxious Prosperity Gospel and forever playing the martyr in order to be miserable for God:
Barring serious illness or extenuating circumstances, times of extreme difficulty with normal life should be temporary.
 If they are not temporary, it could be time to wonder if we’re setting traps for ourselves or creating a life of soft controversy because joy seems untrustworthy, or undeserved, or we have past associations with fun and sin, or maybe we just don’t feel good about feeling good when there’s so much suffering in the world.
Extenuating circumstances. How do you discern if you have them? What is extreme difficulty? What is temporary? 

For several years now I have been haunted by an enduring sadness. That's not to say I am sad all the time, but it doesn't take much scratching under the surface to find it. Depression runs in my family so I have thoroughly questioned myself to search for symptoms of that illness, but no, I don't think I am depressed, just sad.

I started my career, fresh out of graduate school, at about the same time I became a mother. This was not an accident. The decision for me to work was made because my potential career was much more lucrative and because I do not know how to cook very well. That's it. No grand statements about "having it all" or overriding feminist philosophies or really any deep thought. Only that I could make more money and not cook at the same time.

I began this journey of career and motherhood and it was hard. Physically hard. Mentally hard. More challenging than I had ever imagined. Being pregnant and working was dreadful. Having a newborn and working was maybe worse. But I managed. I missed my babies, but they were with their Daddy so I never worried about them. I was working because I could make more money and we would be financially sound. I also wouldn't have to touch raw meat. I liked my job and it suited me. I busted my rear in the beginning knowing the money would come, the opportunities would open, and I would provide for my family.

After awhile it became apparent that my job was a dead end. The expected payday never came. I got rave reviews and few raises. I was denied promotions, never given any new job responsibilities, but was told I was a vital member of the team. I was shunted to an obsolete system which had no concrete transferable skills with which I could run to another company. I had lots of recognition as a dependable and steady worker and not a lot else. A new job meant another entry level position. This is not how the script was supposed to play out.

At the same time, my attitude toward the vocation of motherhood was undergoing a radical change. The wisdom of protecting the mother as she protects the child shone like a light in my ever-reasonable mind. I was running myself ragged for rewards that were not coming. And then my oldest started school.

This was the touchpoint of a crisis. It became very obvious to me that swooping in at suppertime for an hour or two of company with my family was not enough for me. I've always laughed at the notion of "quality time" because it seemed such an absurd notion. Children need and demand quantity in addition to quality, but there I was with "quality time" being the only option. I wanted to be highly involved in her school and her education and the truth was I didn't have time. Everyday was a whirlwind of events and I could barely grasp what was happening in her life. I also wanted to sit and rock my baby.

These two distinct strands in my life suddenly began to make sense together. My job was not panning out and I wanted to be home anyway. It is hard to describe the thought process without it sounding like sour grapes so just believe me when I say it wasn't. All at once I could see the blessing of being denied these promotions and raises because it made it easier to walk away from work. I wanted to come home, there was not much holding me to work, and the gap in income was not as great as it might have been. I could even learn to cook.

That was three years ago.

For whatever reason or set of reasons, this simple reordering of our employment arrangement has not been so simple. I thought it would be the work of a few months or maybe a whole year, but that has not turned out to be the case. I mourn for what I have missed, for what I am currently missing, for what I will miss. I do not remember the infancy of my second child. Memory is closely tied to sleep and I was severely sleep deprived. I search for a tangible memory and find an 18 month hole. This fact stabs me.

What is extreme difficulty? Over these years I have discovered that my acceptance of this situation depends a lot on the seasons. In the spring and summer, I am usually hopeful and accepting. The possibility of change is palpable. The work is not so daunting, the commute not so deadening, and I vow that I can endure for as long as it takes. In the fall and winter, I struggle with despair. It seems like this will never end. Nothing will ever change. I cry driving into work more times than I care to recall. My mood is as dark as the weather. I struggle with anger that this has been so unsolvable.

What is temporary? Over the course of a lifetime, three years is temporary even if it feels long while living it. I hope for the day when I can look back and point at this time and say, "It was temporary." But when does it cease to be temporary? What if it isn't temporary? I can't bear to think it. Even in this "temporary" time, my children continue to grow and I am not home.

What are extenuating circumstances? From a modern perspective this angst is absurd. My life is completely normal. Mothers work everyday. Society encourages mothers to work. You go, girl. A mother at home is wasting her potential or "has never worked a day in her life," right? The idea that there is something unusual about my situation is not true. There are millions of mothers all around the country doing exactly what I am doing every day: leaving their children and driving to work. Many of these women are in far worse situations than I am. How arrogant and expectant for me not to be satisfied. I have a stable marriage, four wonderful and healthy children, and a job that allows us to live comfortably even if there is not much left for extras. The list of people who would change places with me is quite long, but I can't help but feel there is something deeply wrong here and the sadness remains.
...and her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy.  --Jane Austen
What is God's Will in all this? I have no idea. Surely there is more intended in this situation than for me to play the starring role in a cautionary tale. It seems that if I were meant to fully live out my vocation at home, the job situation would not be so impenetrable. It also seems that if I were meant to continue working, there would be some kind of encouragement in my employment: a raise, increased responsibility, something. The truth is I don't want that kind of encouragement. If I am supposed to work, it would also seem that my yearning to be home would soften and lessen. If anything, my longing is stronger now than it was at the beginning. Three years is definitely not a phase. To be given this desire to live this vocation full time but only be allowed to fulfill its duties poorly, part-time, and incompletely is agony. I cry out to be rescued. I am supposed to want what God wants, but the truth is I want to be home, beg for my way, and find cold comfort in the notion of sacrificing my children's childhood.

I cling to hope even when it tastes bitter. When a new opportunity arises, I tell myself not to get excited, not to daydream about the future, not to get ahead of the process, but even with these internal precautions, I am devastated all over again when it doesn't work out. I hope in spite of myself.

Even amongst all this sadness, there is still joy and blessing to be found. The clarity of mind and purpose this period of waiting has brought is a tremendous blessing. The space I have had to ponder about vocation and faith, beauty and truth is nothing but blessing. The time I have been given to develop friendships in this strange purgatory is blessing again.
When people wonder why God allows suffering, I think the answer is so much about God’s knowledge of joy. That somehow, strangely, the relief and shock of being rescued from something is greater and more wonderful than never having been in trouble at all. We want never to be in trouble, but God knows that by us being in trouble, being in the way of perishing, and then him snatching us out and setting us on dry ground in safety, we will have seen who he is where we couldn't have before.  --Anne Kennedy
I am awaiting rescue, confident it is coming, doubting it will ever get here. I am ready to learn how to cook.

(Slightly edited 9-20-14)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waking in the Dark

I am not a morning person. My current situation in life requires that I be a morning person. This is difficult.

The short story is that between my job and my home is a nasty snarl of construction that can stretch my 43 minute drive sans traffic into an hour and a half nightmare. If there is some major complication, it is not unheard of for people to take 3 hours getting into town. Since working from home to avoid this daily grind has been disallowed, the best solution is to go into work as early as possible in order to leave as early as possible in order to avoid the worst of it.

Sometimes my situation is such that I can not leave early, i.e. pregnancy, newborn, chronic sleep-deprivation. The punishment is harsh, up to three hours of driving a day, but unavoidable. The key is to know when necessity has ended and habit or laziness has set in.

Since the beginning of 2014, I have made a project of consistently getting to work by 7. This required that I 1) get up earlier than I had been and 2) figure out exactly when I need to leave home to get to work by 7. It is not a linear equation. I have not been completely successful, but have modified my habits enough to see a real return on my time and avoid most of the misery.

In the winter and spring it was difficult, but there was energy is having a new goal and I was unconsciously helped by the increasing daylight. Although it was dark in the morning, the sun would show itself more each day and it seemed to support me in reaching my goals. The summer came with its glorious light. I could push my bedtime later into the night and not pay the consequence in the morning. Whenever the alarm sounded, there was my friend, the sun, shining in my window. Getting up and going was not hard. I wasn't quite getting to work when I wanted, but the schedule was immanently acceptable.

Now the fall is coming. The mornings are dark again. My bedtime is still at its easy summer time. Getting up is hard, and I hit snooze more than I should. My arrival times at work have drifted in the wrong direction. It is still not as terrible as before, but the schedule has ceased to be acceptable.

I know what I need to do but am lacking the motivation and enthusiasm to do it. I do not want to fall back into old habits, and yet find myself staying up late anyway, hitting snooze anyway, going back to sleep anyway. I am waiting for my mental desires to overcome my feelings of inertia.  It will happen. Eventually.

I have to wake in the dark. The sun is withdrawing its support and I have to rely on an act of my will. There is no other option right now. I need to accept this fact. The long, dark winter is coming and I still have to go to work. This is difficult.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Sisterhood

While scrolling down the timeline on FB, I ran across this little gem of an article.  In sum to save you the trouble, the author is tired of talking to men about feminism. She tires of men not immediately buying into the version of reality in her head. She fancies herself an activist, but is tired of having to convince. Um, okay. Here is what makes me want to talk about this: it seems she is arguing that all would be well if it weren't for those pesky men and their unreasonable questioning. Men are the sole source of the troubles. Patriarchy! I look around my office and laugh.

Of course, there are men who minimize and dismiss women simply because they are women. I have even experienced it. There was the time I took Recording class which was overwhelmingly male. The end of semester project was to record and produce a class CD.  The two women in the class were assigned the tasks of creating the cover art and the playlist. Do not mistake creating the playlist as meaning to choose what was to be recorded. No. Creating the playlist meant typing out the pieces on a pretty piece of paper that would fit in a CD case. This was not a semester aberration. The women in Recording always were assigned these tasks.  My student teaching adviser once told me I needed to do something different with my hair because I was too "sensual" to stand in front of a class. Gross! For the record my hair looks much the same now as it did then. Frizzy, perhaps. Sensual? Not really. I was not the only woman to receive this advice. So, you know, it happens.

But I look around my office and consider my career trajectory, I am stating the truth when I say the oppression I have experienced in the workplace has come at the hands of other women.

I was overdue for a promotion several years ago. My paperwork stalled up the required chain of command because upper management had been subjected to a pay freeze for the year and the person who had to approve my promotion was angry about it. In a snit she declared, "If I'm not getting a raise, nobody is." This declaration was made when I was eight months pregnant.

When I requested that I be allowed to work from home regularly in light of the horrendous construction traffic I had to endure daily, the complete compatibility of my job with remote log-in, and the precedent set by one of my coworkers (male) who worked from home everyday, I was told by my female supervisor it would not be "fair." "If you work from home, other people will want to work from home."

I learned that my job title was in line for a market raise that would adjust our salaries closer to the going market rate. This was going to be a ten thousand dollar raise. We were finally going to be able to stop scraping by and put money in the savings account. Weeks before the raise was set to take effect, my female supervisor told me she had reviewed everyone's job duties in light of our job descriptions and she decided my actual job duties were better described by a different job title. Good-bye raise. It was nice fantasizing about you. Somehow I had held this job for over six years without anyone noticing this "problem." I was the only person in my job group to have a title change. This change was implemented when I was seven months pregnant.

The primary sin of my career has been to gestate in public repeatedly. Every nasty or insensitive comment I have ever received at work about pregnancy or childbirth or motherhood has come from a woman. A man would never dare to say these things even if he thought it. Every career setback I have ever experienced, whether reasonable or unreasonable, has come from the decision a woman made.

Much ink is spilled over the problem of women in the workplace. Why does a pay gap exist? Why are more women not in upper management positions? These problems are almost always framed from the perspective of the striving woman and the oppressing man. How come nobody seems to notice the members of the sisterhood kicking the other women off the ladder?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Learning Notes: Linkup for the Week of Sept 7-13

Sunday, Sept 7th

We had an anniversary dinner for my parents' 40th anniversary at Buca di Beppo at the Pope table. If you are unfamiliar, it is a big table in a room that has a bust of the current pope in the center of the lazy Susan that makes up the middle of the table. I am not sure how educational this is, but there were lots of pictures of Popes and churches so, at least, I was entertained.

Right about bedtime, I remembered the girls had school pictures scheduled for Monday. Copious tears from Grace since the shirt she wanted to wear was in the laundry. She went to bed sulking because it wasn't fair. I went downstairs and filled out two sets of paperwork for pictures and wrote two overpriced checks for pictures yet taken that will probably be poor at best. But how do you not buy the school picture?

Monday, Sept 8th

The girls were picked up from school early for doctor appointments. Grace was wearing her preferred shirt that she pulled out of the dirty laundry. They got their physical release forms for cross-country filled out and everyone got a flu shot. Dave says getting a flu shot is apparently the equivalent of getting shot in the leg with an arrow if you are a child. There was much fussing and whining and I got a close up view of how mass hysteria begin. One child would be fine and then another child would moan about how terribly her leg hurt and then the previously fine child would fall to the ground, unable to move due to the terrible pain. I know that shots can hurt and be sore, but this was ridiculous. So all talk of school and educational things took a backseat to discussing the horribleness of flu shots. This is also a banner day: the birthday of the blog!

Tuesday, Sept 9th

Found out in an email in the morning that tomorrow is Burger King night for Grace's class. I loathe Burger King night. You are expected to spend the evening at Burger King collecting receipts from the customers and the teacher gets a percentage from what is collected. The children have a grand time. They love seeing their classmates out and about and pestering the customers for their receipts. There are many things I'd rather be doing and many things I'd rather be eating.

The girls had cross-country practice this afternoon. Lots of cranky children appropriate to their level of tiredness.

Olivia had library today and checked out a Magic Tree House book "Hour of the Olympics." Grace had technology class. Insert rant here.

Grace is having to do a book report on "Phineas L Macguire Gets Slimed" for reading enrichment. She did not choose this book; it was assigned to her. The enrichment period is supposed to give the students more individualized instruction to help with their weaker areas of reading. Since Grace is fairly advanced for her age, she gets to do book reports. I quail. She doesn't seem to mind yet. They both apparently played a lot of computer games today.

Today I read two school emails, two school newletters, one school note about an upcoming fundraiser, one information page about the electronic school record account I need to create, signed two agendas, and discussed with Grace what book of appropriate length she might read for her book log. She is supposed to log 40 books over the course of the school year which means she is choosing books by length instead of worth. Yay.

Read "Firefighters to the Rescue" to Sam. He likes it because firefighters. I don't particularly like it because the verse is disjointed and almost rhymes but doesn't and has no consistent meter. It basically sounds ugly.

Wednesday, Sept 10th

Girl Scout Meeting after school. We are allowing the girls to be Girl Scouts again. Sigh. The sacrifices we make. Last year was a hot mess where the larger troop got caught between warring adults and they split the troop. The year was mostly a loss so I feel somewhat obligated to let the girls try again. Honestly, troop drama aside, I have been less than impressed with the Girl Scouts. I just can't shake the feeling it is all a marketing ruse to get little girls and their families to support the lifestyles of the people in the larger organization. It is all fundraisers and money. And true to form the meeting consisted of filling out paperwork for a new fundraiser.

Both girls had PE today. Olivia read "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats to herself. I think it was more perusing than actual reading. She also studied apples. Signed two agendas. Avoided looking at the Girl Scout fundraiser packet.

Burger King night. Yay. I got to talk to Grace's math teacher who said she was a great math student. The rest of the evening was spent trying to keep Sam from throwing himself in front of a car in the drive-thru.

Thursday, Sept 11th

The girls had cross country again. Olivia had library again, but kept the same book since she had just had library on Tuesday. Grace was supposed to have library too, but instead they went to a school wide assembly for another FUNDRAISER! Not much talk today because mastitis snuck up on me. Signed one agenda.

Friday, Sept 12th

A lazy day for me since I stayed home from work. The girls got home from school and started working on Olivia's math homework. Grace would read her the instructions and Olivia would complete the work. They didn't even argue or anything. Overheard: "That's not a box; that's a hexagon." The work consisted of counting and drawing the specified number of whatever. "Philip sees 8 starts in the sky. Finish drawing the stars Philip sees."

Olivia gets a monthly homework calendar with work to complete for each day, but it isn't actually due until the end of the month. We boom and bust on the homework which distresses Olivia a little bit. She wants to complete the work on the day it appears on the calendar. Since she cannot work independently yet, doing her homework requires someone to sit there and handhold her through the work. That's awfully hard to do every night somewhere between 7 and 8. Mostly she will do a week's worth of homework in a long sitting and then go another week without touching it.

Both girls had art today. I think art is Olivia's favorite class. She drew a lizard. Grace's class did pop art and had to draw a favorite food. Grace chose breakfast and drew pancakes, eggs, sausage, and bacon, but was upset because she forgot the orange juice.

At supper we had an impromptu talk about Fibonacci sequence that was inspired by the spirals swirling in Dave's beer. After supper with an assist from GeekLady, we watched this little movie on the sequence.

Signed two agendas and a homework page. Read one note from cross country and am resolutely avoiding looking through the large packet that came home with the latest school fundraiser. Anyone want to buy a magazine?

Saturday, Sept 13th

At breakfast this morning, Grace announced she wanted to make cheetah cookies for the parish picnic tomorrow. I said no. Decorating cookies is not on my to-do list. But, in a fit of strange enthusiasm, I told her she could look through the recipe books and pick something that wasn't so complicated. She decided on Apricot Spice Bars. While I showered, she read out the ingredients and Dave told her if we had it in the house. If we didn't, she wrote it on our shopping list. After I was ready to go, we went shopping.

Grace and I go to the store with Marian, who screams for nearly the entire visit, and quickly discover that we need a little more information. The recipe calls for cardamon or you can substitute ground cloves. We walk to the spice area and the first jar of cardamon I spy is SIXTEEN DOLLARS! Well. Maybe cloves will work just as well, coming in at a little over $5. Then I spot another jar of cardamon in a different brand for $8. So is it worth the extra three dollars to get the cardamon or will the cloves be fine? What exactly is cardamon? I have no idea, but I know who will. Out comes the cell phone to call my MIL. Graces talks to Grandma to learn the difference between cardamon and cloves. She gets a brief lesson and we are assured that the cloves will be just fine. The rest of the shopping proceeds without incident.

When it is time to make the bars, we decide to double the recipe so we have a brief discussion on multiplying and reducing fractions. I am told repeatedly that this is not fraction class. I tell her she has to understand in order to correctly execute the recipe. She acquiesces. After I am sure she understands why 1/4 is 1/8 doubled, we begin assembling the ingredients. She reads out the ingredient and the measure and then doubles it. We take turns measuring out each ingredient. I am impressed with how she uses the scrapping edge on the baking powder to level out her teaspoon. She certainly didn't learn that from me. She also knows how to sift. Cooking with Grandma has paid dividends. We carefully combine everything including two room temperature eggs, taking a minute to examine the texture of the egg whites before lightly beating them.

We popped the bars in the oven and then made a glaze to go on top. The recipe called for 2-3 teaspoons of orange juice and a half cup of sifted powdered sugar. I misread the teaspoon and put 2 tablespoons of juice into our powdered sugar. I explained to Grace that since this was just a glaze, the exact measurement didn't really matter and we could just add more powdered sugar until it looked right. The bars baked and now we are waiting for them to cool to try them and see how they turned out.

Since I don't do a lot in the kitchen, I am always surprised by how educational cooking is. In other news, a box turtle was found in the yard which was duly stared at and Olivia was eating the seeds of a passionfruit she found in the yard. They learn early what is edible and what is not.

Thanks to Melanie for hosting!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Paradox of Music Lessons

Since Dave and I both graduated from college with Bachelor of Music degrees, we always assumed that, of course, our children would have music lessons from an early age. In my pre-child mind's eye, each child would begin piano lessons at age six or seven and progress onward from there. In reality, this just hasn't happened. I feel mildly guilty about this state of affairs. Of course, it helps that only one child is really old enough for individual instrument lessons.

The crux of the issue is the cost of the lessons. The sad fact is we could probably scrimp and afford to have one child in lessons. Two children in lessons is out of the question. We will eventually have four children in need of lessons. There is a local studio that offers lessons for $94 a month. It adds up quick.

So for awhile, I had the thought that I would give them beginning piano lessons myself. Piano is not my major instrument and, the piano proficiency required to graduate aside, I am not a piano player. I am a hack at best. When I say hack, I don't mean what people say when they can basically play but it isn't performance level. I mean slowly, badly, painfully while looking at my fingers hack. Tempo: Largo. But I do know enough for beginning piano.

There isn't enough room in our house for a piano so we bought a keyboard and put it in the only place it would fit, the corner of my bedroom. In front of the keyboard is a pile of the girls' work from school and actually accessing the keyboard is difficult. Cleaning up the pile has been on a low priority for a long time. Over a year. Possibly two. Until that pile is cleaned, I don't really see a way for me to either give a lesson or for them to take a lesson. Logistics are troublesome.

The interesting paradox with the music lessons is that same studio approached me looking for a clarinet teacher. They were willing to pay me $12 a lesson. I have a college degree in clarinet; my expertise is worth more than $12. I am not willing to work for that amount. I find it mildly insulting. High school kids can command $10 a lesson. I declined the offer. It is not worth the trouble for such a piddling amount of money.

The irony is I cannot afford to pay what would be necessary for me to be willing to give lessons. I cannot afford myself. I want my children to have music lessons and I also want music professionals to be given the financial consideration they deserve in light of their qualifications. These ideas are mutually exclusive at my house. Maybe I'll get that pile cleaned up soon.