Friday, December 28

Blog Dark

School's out,
Holiday shopping.

Cookies, pictures,
Present wrapping.

Boys running,
Toys playing.

Doctor's office,
Project making.

Family visiting,
Friends talking.

Who am I kidding?
Blog dark.

Happy New Year. I'll greet you then.

Wednesday, December 19

Dancing Baby

Sometimes, I wish I could see what you are doing. I feel those little kicking feet and grabbing hands, the spinning and dancing. I can see your movements as I rest my hands on my abdomen, and they bounce up and down. When you are moving, I dare not use my belly as a book-rest, as the words will not stay in place.

Sometimes your head causes me to feel lop-sided, off-center. Sometimes, it is difficult to breathe. Then I gently caress your precious skull, nudge it out of the way so I am more comfortable. Sometimes you let me stay in comfort for a while before returning to your previous cozy position.

I don't remember feeling so much when your brothers were babies. Perhaps I was less attentive then, or perhaps my body was simply less worn down by the work of time and chasing two boys. There are other things that I don't remember: early contractions, not painful, but the odd sensation of an involuntary hug for my little boy, and those ailments that were probably the victims of selective memory: lower back pain, aching joints, too-frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Too, I sometimes feel over-sized and over-stuffed, ready to bring you into this world, although by the numbers you still have seven or eight weeks left in the warm confines of my womb. I am convinced, through my hazy memory, that I didn't feel this full with my previous babies until much closer to their due dates.

It is partly this feeling of fullness, partly stories related to me by friends and strangers alike, partly the abundance of feeling, and partly a dream last spring about a baby girl that leave me with a little fantasy, despite multiple early ultrasounds witnessing to the contrary, that I am carrying both a boy and a girl. I try to enjoy this fantasy for what it is, and take no expectations from it.

I wonder if you will arrive early, if the hospital is really baby-friendly, if labor will again be induced, if I will avoid anesthesia or drugs, and if you, like your brothers, will come quickly. But your birth will be what it will be, when you are ready.

Harboring expectations would not be fair to you, my dancing baby boy, who, like your brothers, reminds me to look at the world with new eyes.

Saturday, December 15

Front Porch

(not raw, but half-baked)

A bird serenades me
the warm sun caresses my skin
an airplane drones its path from here to there
parrots cackle.

The buzz of a large insect catches my attention
When I open my eyes I discover instead
a hummingbird has come to visit the bird of paradise.

Cars hum along their concrete path,
not knowing I am here.

A bit of music wafts on the breeze.

Leaves, brown and dry
rustle on their limbs before
fluttering to the ground.

Wind chimes tinkle and
the rope clangs
against the flagpole
across the street.

An old man rattles past
pushing a walker
his leg bound
in a large bandage.

Mysterious specks of light
(dust, pollen, rain?)
drop from the trees
to the ground.

Baby rolls over
tells me to sit up straight
and breathe.

Flower stalks waver in the wind.

Cars drone on,
the road rumbling with their passing.

The breeze tickles my toes and
cools my cheek.

And the serenade is back.

Live now with me baby
soon you will know these wonders on your own.

Linked to Wrapped Emotions, The Gift of Every Minute.
This moment was a gift to me this week.

Precious time alone

AD has taken the boys to "climb to the top of the mountain", so I have some time to myself today.

What to do?

The house is a disaster, packages strewn about from the Inventor's birthday, floor needs vacuuming, kitchen needs cleaning, laundry needs to be done, and the Painter suggested that I go to the grocery store while they are hiking, because we are all out of juice boxes (not out of juice, mind you, or milk, or water, but those juice boxes are a critical part of the Painter's kindergarten routine). And AD just asked me to check if we have any film for our old 35 mm cameras, and to see if they work, since I've been wanting to take some photographs to celebrate my gravid state.

Or, I could have a shower, or -imagine- even a bath.

Or, I could catch up on blog reading, and respond to your comments.

Or, I could dig out the Christmas decorations, now that Hanukkah is over, and do something that I do love - decorating.

But the sun on the porch is beckoning me just now, so I think, for a while, I will just go sit.

Thursday, December 13

Taste of the Future

I experimented with working from home today. I have been telecommuting two days a week for more than a month, but usually work from AD's office, while D watches the boys at home. Now that D is gone, I thought I would try working from home so that AD could also get some grading done ... and so that I don't have to lug this anvil of a computer up the stairs at the office.

The verdict is ... (as many of you probably already know) that it is very difficult to concentrate for any span of time on work while also watching the boys.

Today wasn't an ordinary day, as we had the Inventor's three year check-up this morning, but still, I am reminded of the difficulties. Whereas it doesn't take a lot of mental energy to fold the laundry while the boys are playing, and that and similar tasks are easy to pause and return to later, trying to figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing, concentrating on an analysis, or even thinking through a response to an email is much more difficult with the constant buzz and interruptions of life and children. (They are currently happily occupied, playing with geo-mag's, but I am sure that the minute I try to concentrate, the calm will turn to chaos.)

But today was a good trial for me in another way. I found myself tidying up this morning (nesting perhaps), and thinking that I would rather do that than my work.

That's right. Right now cleaning the house (and setting a nice centerpiece on the table) is more interesting to me than work.

I guess I'm moving in the right direction.

Happy Birthday, Dreamer

You are beautiful and amazing.

Born in Colorado three years (and three days) ago, you have become quite the traveler, following mommy and daddy on our gypsy-path to three cities and two states, as we searched for a place to work, and a place to wait.

And, you will follow us again, as we search for a place to call home.

You have learned so much in such a short time.

But we have also learned from you.

Life is messy, but that is part of the fun.

Tuesday, December 11

Ready or not ...

... change is happening.

What's happening?

For more on the details, check out AD's post.

What else?

I had at first thought my OB was being over-cautious, when suggesting I take off work at week 30 or 32. Now I understand her advice. The last few days, back pain has left me uncomfortable while I am sitting, and nearly crippled when I get up. Probably just the effects of too much exertion coupled with too much sitting in the car over the weekend, but it makes me glad I will soon be able to avoid the commuting, walking, chair-sitting, and stress that are by-products of my job.

Last but not least ...

Although a corner of my mind remains unwilling to admit that the 20th will be my last day of work, not just for 4 months, but for quite a while beyond, we have started admitting our plans to our family.

Come about April, we will move to the land adjacent to the south-west corner of Lake Michigan, although the exact location has yet to be determined. For obvious reasons, AD's mom, who lives near Boston was visibly upset by this news, while my parents, who live near Chicago, were delighted to hear it (even when we inadvertently may have given them the impression we expect on-call gratis baby-sitting services from them on a regular basis).

The two primary factors in moving to that part of the country as opposed to another are the cost of living, and, more importantly, family density. In addition to my parents, we will be within a few hours drive of my three surviving grandparents (who aren't getting any younger), a half-dozen aunts & uncles, my brother & sister-in-law who are working on adopting some cousins for our brood, and a smattering of my cousins and their families. I miss seeing my family on a regular basis, and I am excited that we will be nearer to them soon. Home is where the heart is ... and my heart is with my family.

My Mother's Life

This spilled from my mind last week ... and now I have edited enough.

There was a time in my life when I feared becoming my mother. It's not that I didn't love her or appreciate her loving mothering. But, I saw her as a failure, as someone who had given up on her budding career before it ever went anywhere and became "just a housewife".

When Mom started college she wanted to be a doctor. She graduated with honors, with a BS in the sciences. At the time, though, she was engaged to my father and decided not to continue her education. She applied for a few industry jobs, but with an engagement ring on her finger, she was subject to the kind of discrimination that we, thankfully, don't see much today. The story I heard about one company's attitude was: "What if your husband gets transferred? We don't want the trouble of finding someone new then." Although she was very qualified, they didn't hire her. (And 37 years later, my father works for the same company and was never transferred far enough to consider moving the household.)

Those rejections were a good excuse to get started on a family. I was born 10 months after Mom & Dad were married. She substitute taught while pregnant with me, and didn't return to work until a few years after my brother (two years younger) was in school. That's about 8 years of being "just a mom". When she went back, it was to a teacher's assistant position: not a career I considered worth aspiring to when I was a young woman, but something that allowed her to be home when her children were.

I always thought Mom had given up on her dreams. But, in the light of my own experiences, I see that if she had really wanted to pursue becoming a doctor, had wanted to pursue a job in industry, she probably could have done so. Mom is not a much of a fighter, and it would have been difficult ... but I think that if she really wanted to pursue these career choices, then she would have kept at it longer, tried harder. Perhaps she thought that some day she would return to her dreams of a career, or maybe she didn't. But ultimately, that wasn't her choice.

When she became a teaching assistant, a lowly "teacher's aide", Mom achieved many things I imagine she wanted. Time enough for family, to raise two beautiful self-confident children who could dream of astronomical careers, time enough for religion, time enough for personal pursuits, and a job where she could work with kids and help people. Although her work was not at the top of society's standards for success, she was respected, and used her mind. She taught Sunday school, and became superintendent of Sunday school for the church. She became president of the church. She was active with her sorority, and held various leadership positions. She read, a lot, and shared her love of reading with me. She sang in the church choir. She has done many wonderful, worthwhile things with her life, even without an ambitious career.

When I was younger, it was hard for me to accept my mother's choices. The conflict I feel about leaving my career now leads me to believe that it is still difficult for me to accept, especially from myself. How can I, that young girl that dreamed of the stars, accept that my career is no longer important to me, that it's okay to let it go? The path is right in front of me.

In the past, I have feared becoming my mother. But I am no longer afraid. With the haze of fear removed from my eyes, I recognize what a wonderful role model she has been for me. And I see that she still has much to teach me. I will live, and love, and move in new directions.

Thanks, Mom.

Monday, December 3


Now that I know when I'll be taking off work, I am feeling a lot of (self-induced) pressure to leave things in the best state I can for those who will take over for me. Even before the 20th, there are deadlines, and oh-so-much to do. So while I have lots of ideas for new posts, they'll have to wait until I feel more caught up. One thing at a time, step by step, I'll get there.

Sunday, December 2

My book picks for kids

In response to Bella's question (#7), here are some of my favorite picture books for 3-6 year olds.
  • The Umbrella, by Jan Brett. I love this book, which was given to us as a gift several years ago. The vibrant depictions of the cloud forest and its denizens beautifully illustrate a cute story that I don't mind reading again and again. As an added bonus, the story introduces the reader to simple Spanish phrases courtesy of a tiny green tree frog. Read it. You won't regret you did.

  • Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Whimsical illustrations of a small orchestra (and some attending animals) accompany delightful rhythmic verse about different musical instruments. We received this book and the next few while participating in the Brighter Vision Learning Adventures program.

  • How Will We Get to the Beach? by Brigitte Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet. As the cover so aptly states, this is a "guessing-game story" in which the reader is encouraged to help remember everything that the protagonist Roxanne and her baby want to take to the beach. Colorful illustrations. Originally translated from German. Although we have the English hardcover, it is apparently also available in a Spanish/English bilingual edition.

  • I love you Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, illustraed by Cyd Moore. A sweet story with colorful illustrations about the depths of a mother's love for her imaginative child. Little did I know there's a whole series of "Stinky Face" books. Check it out at Amazon.
The Inventor (turning 3 next week) just woke up to confirm that these are some of his favorite books, too. Along with half the bookshelf, I suspect. :)

The Painter's current favorite is Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel. The story steps through the alphabet four times exploring funny foods and crazy kitty capers. I find it to be longer than I have patience for, but it apparently well tickles the five-year-old funny bone.

Good morning everyone!

Saturday, December 1

Happy Birthday to Me

Thirty-six years ago today, I was born. In honor of my birthday, I am participating in the LTMD Group writing project. It has taken me all week to come up with these rules or I might have posted sooner. But, better late than never ...

The Law According to Me
or, "10 Eclectic Rules to Live by in the order that they occurred to me"

1. Stop & smell the roses. Although it may be cliche, this is one of my favorites. I love roses. I love the fragrance of roses. I try to always stop and smell the roses (and lavender and rosemary, etc.) and in so doing, remember to appreciate the beauty in life.

2. The minivan is not a mini Cooper. It's always bigger than you think it is. Corollary: it's not any cooler with those scratches on the bumpers.

4. Communicate, part I. No one can read your mind. For that matter, no one can read my mind. So if you have something to say, just say it.

3. Communicate, part II. Yelling is not talking. Whining is not talking. One "very" is enough. I can't understand when you talk with your mouth full. I can't translate meow-ish or woof-ish or Painter-ish or Inventor-ish. If you want mommy to answer you, then please speak calmly in English.

5. Make love not war. This one is tough to manage even in the microcosm of our own household, but as the benefits are great, it is worth trying.

6. Take time to reflect. Really. If I did this more often, writing down ten rules to live by might come more easily.

7. Write. In your blog or your journal, or in letters to friends, or a poem. Writing helps me connect with my emotions, to understand my feelings; I get lost much more easily when I neglect to write.

8. Turn off the TV. This is second nature in our household by now. We have a wonderful wide-screen flat-panel TV that gets, on average, an hour of use each day. Poor thing probably feels neglected.

9. Get out of the house. There are always things to do around the house, but you'll be happier if you get out and away from the usual distractions.

10. Celebrate life. On your birthday and everyday. Celebrations don't need to be extravagant to be beautiful. Life is a wonderful journey. See rule #1.

Wednesday, November 28

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Time Compresses

At my OB appointment yesterday, I asked my doctor when she thought I should go on maternity leave. I had been planning on 38 weeks, as that is what I did for the first, and it seems to be some kind of standard. I was thinking (hoping?) that she would say I should go out a few weeks earlier, but her response floored me. "How about 30 weeks?" Um, that's just two weeks from now (different due date than I used for my countdown). "Well, how about 32 weeks then, but if you feel like you need to take off sooner, just do it, and we'll make the leave retroactive." Um, okay ...

Well, that certainly puts a new frame on things!

I told my boss this morning that I would be going on leave before the end of the year, that my last day would be December 20. What I didn't have the courage to say yet is that I won't be coming back.

AD and I talked about my reluctance to make my decision final last night. I told him I am scared to do so, but I don't know why. (Does it really matter why? Will naming my fears make them go away?) But when he posed the question, "why would you go back?", all I could come up with is how much work there is still to do on these projects, and my sense of obligation to those projects and to the people involved.

But I also have obligations to my family, and most importantly, to myself.

As the doctor said, "the work will always be there." My boss will find someone to take over while I am on leave, whether I have finished 2 or 5 or 28 things on my to do list before then. And once someone else is handling the work, I'm sure they can capably continue to do so when I don't come back.

Tuesday, November 27

Finally Finished (about books)

Over the long holiday weekend, I finally had the time, leisure, and will to finish reading Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. When I started the book, in April, I thought that it was well written and engaging, relating interesting stories about the 26th president that I had either not known, or not remembered from high school history class. But by the end of the 500-odd pages of prose, I was struggling to finish, and came to the conclusion that the text was several hundred pages too long. If I hadn't realized, about 2 weeks ago, that the last two hundred pages of the volume were end notes, I might have finally given up, and given the book back to its owner without finishing. That says a lot, as I normally hate to leave something unfinished. (Other books that I have found difficult or uninspiring after a while just end up back on my shelf, put aside for a later date.)

After that tome that Teddy himself might have enjoyed, just as, by all accounts, he enjoyed a chewing through a thick slab of meat at the dinner table, I opted for these 450 pages of cotton candy, which I finished in less than 24 hours. An entertaining yarn, if you know about the dragons of Pern, but confusing, and not worth figuring out, as AD tells me, for the uninitiated. Nonetheless, for me, Dragons Blood by Todd McCaffrey was just the perfect antidote to give my mind a break before continuing through my reading list.

Monday, November 26

What Madeleine Albright Told Me

Last spring, AD started working with a career coach. After about a month, as part of the process, the coach asked to have a joint session with me. He asked me to name three people I admire, who could serve as role models for my life. I named my mother and father, and he suggested that I name the third person from outside my family. Quick, the first person that comes to your mind. ("The first thing that comes to your mind" seemed to be one of his favorite phrases.)

Me: Okay. Madeleine Albright.

Why I thought of Madeleine Albright, I don't really know. In fact, I don't really know much about her, at all, except that she was the first woman who held the position of U.S. Secretary of State. I also imagine that she is a strong woman, and I have heard that she attained this powerful position after raising a family.

So then the coach asked me another on-the-spot question of the sort I'd rather avoid: "If you could talk to Madeleine Albright right now, what would she tell you?" (Quick, the first thing that comes to your mind.)

Me: "You don't have to choose."

Coach: "What don't you want to choose?"

Me: "Between work and my family."


(In response to your comments on my previous post.)

Decisions have always been difficult for me. When I took this job (only a little more than a year ago), I thought about it for nearly a month before deciding not to take it, and subsequently changing my mind in light of a change in circumstances. Now, I've been deliberating on the choice to leave the same job for more than six months. I feel sometimes like I am a daisy being picked "now she loves her job, now she doesn't, now she stays at work, now she quits."

I have made my choice, but it is very difficult for me to admit that. Perhaps I am waiting for circumstances to change, or for February, or for the last reservations to fall away. Perhaps I am still waiting for certainty.

I know that I am following my heart. I know that when I choose to leave, I can also choose to return. I know that nothing is forever. But living with that knowledge and accepting it is a daily challenge for me.

Sunday, November 25

I repeat myself

Am I doing a dis-service to myself and society by choosing to opt-out of the full-time workforce? Am I really choosing to do so, or is my choice so constrained by societal norms that I don't even see it?

What are my constraints? The commute that makes it impractical to stop home and see the boys during the day. Available, but limited telecommuting. My energy, which waxes and wanes on a random schedule because of the pregnancy hormones. Then, there's a a household to run. Oh, I'm by no means doing this alone, but there are some details which seem to busy me more frequently, as mom, than anyone else in the house: Holidays are coming - what gifts should we get? When should we have our celebrations? What should we eat? When should we get the groceries? The Inventor's 3-year checkup needs to be scheduled. So do dentist appointments for the boys. And we need to get things for the school food drive.

More insidiously, I wonder if things are being done the way I would do them, if I were at home. How have we gone through so many paper towels and so much laundry detergent in the past few months? Are the boys getting adequate stimulation while I am at work? Is the Inventor learning his letters? Is the Painter getting enough intellectual challenges to supplement kindergarten (which is socially, but not mentally challenging for this one)? Are the boys missing out because D doesn't drive and can't take them as many places as I think I would? Fortunately I don't wonder about these things too much. But I suppose they do affect my thinking when I consider whether I would rather work or stay home.

But beyond the constraints, I think taking some time off to be "just a mom" is my excuse to be me. Societally, raising kids is generally seen as an accepted (although under-compensated) alternative to working, whereas quitting to "find oneself" is seen in a much less favorable light. I say "societally" but these attitudes are apparently well-ingrained in my mind, as well.

Still, I repeat myself. I have twice before left my career with no intention to return. Once was several years before the Painter was born, and once when he was not quite one-year old. I have some idea what it will be like to be home with the boys, although three will certainly be different than one. And I also know that just as I left twice before, I returned twice before. I repeat myself.

I fear that rather than finding new paths, I will lose myself in mothering as much or more than I am lost right now. I fear that I will regret leaving my job at a place others only dream of working. I fear that my mind will atrophy. I fear that leaving my income now will limit our lifestyle and future choices. I fear that moving closer to family, I will miss the mild winters in this part of the country.

But does any of that really matter? I am drawn right now towards freedom and away from the daily grind. I am drawn towards the beauty that my boys bring to my life. I am drawn to the connections of family. I am drawn to explore my dreams, to create, to live consciously. I choose now to listen to my thoughts and dreams and inspirations, and when the opportunity arises, take incremental steps to make them come true.

It's okay that I repeat myself. I have done what seemed right at the moment and I will continue to do so.

Monday, November 19

Today ...

... is a day for working, despite the long garbled post I've been trying to untangle for more than a week. Maybe I'll be able to finish it over the holiday weekend. ;)

Thursday, November 15


Thanks to Mika, I have been tagged for my very first meme. That's some kind of milestone, isn't it?

A. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning.
B. Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves.
C. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
Without further ado:

1. I wake up most mornings without an alarm. Unless you count the sound of the Painter jumping off his bunk. Or the pitter patter of the Inventor's feet. Or the cats scratching at the carpet.

2. When I drink coffee, I drink it fru-fru. With milk, or cream, and chocolate or vanilla or almond syrup and, when it comes from a bona fide coffee establishment, whipped cream on top, too.

3. Reading other people's blogs is quickly becoming an addictive habit. Have you posted something new yet? How about now?

4. Being late. Punctuality just isn't that important to me, although I make an effort for the sake of those around me. I'm amazed that we've actually managed to drop the Painter off at kindergarten on-time most days.

5. Procrastinating. I think most of my previous posts about habits relate somehow to procrastination. Sometimes there just seem to be so many better things to do than what it is I am supposed to be doing. Or, it will surely take a long time to do that, so there's no point in getting started right now. Or ...

... maybe I'll finish this meme later.

Tagging Lilian. You can use some more material for GloBloPoMo, right?

Updated to correct the spelling of Lilian's name. Sorry 'bout that!

Monday, November 12

From the mouths of babes ...

At the breakfast table Saturday morning, as A.D. and I explain to D. the subtle difference between "commercial" and "advertisement".

Inventor: "Daddy, commercials are shows we don't want to watch."

Thursday, November 8

Blog Stew

Where do you keep your links until you get around to blogging that idea that is brewing in your head?

Some of the things I write about just need to come out for my sanity. But sometimes they roll around in my mind for a while, brewing and stewing. I read an interesting article, and think that I want to address it, but feel that the post is not ready to spring forth full-formed from my mind. And then I see another post on a related topic. Ok, great, more fodder for the mill. But ... where do I keep this list of articles and links until I am ready to use them? Right now I have a half million (or a half dozen) tabs open in Firefox, so I can keep doing other things without losing reference to or intention to write about the articles I found so interesting. I could bookmark the articles, but I fear I'd never find them, since my bookmarks run off the page. (Well, Ok, I COULD organize the bookmarks but isn't that a little bit like organizing the junk drawer?)

Any tips for the bloggy neophyte?

Wednesday, November 7

Beautiful Boys

Despite my frustrations and imperfect momminess, we have two beautiful boys.

The Painter is exhibiting a delightful curiosity. Last night during his bath, he asked,

"How can the water stay in the tub or go out of the tub just if we touch this button?" To which I responded with a mechanical explanation of the mechanism. "How can the water just come out of the pipes?" More explanation, including the sewer line and water treatment. "How do they get the pee out of the water?"

Later, "How can we feel when we need to pee?" "I don't know, honey."

It's a mystical world at 5 years old, isn't it?


This morning, the Inventor climbed in bed with us. He snuggled quietly for a little while, and then announced "Dis is my middle finner," holding the middle finger of one hand with some grasping fingers from the other hand. "Dere are two finners on dis side and two finners on dis side." There sure are. How did you get so smart?

Next, he said something not quite comprehensible to my still sleepy mind, while holding his index finger. I said "that's your pointer finger." The Inventor corrected me, "No da's my mommy finner. Dis is my pointer finner" (grabbing the third finger on the same hand) "an dis is my daddy finner an dis is my [Painter] finner." Oh. I learn something new every day.

Bad Mommy Moment

An exchange between me and the Painter.

Me: Ok, time to get your shoes and your sweater on so we can go to school.

Subtext: We are already running late.

Realization, as he looks in the closet for his shoes. They are on the porch covered in dog crap.

No problem, he can wear some other shoes today.

Me: I just remembered, your shoes are on the porch because you stepped in dog poop. Why don't you wear your Buzz Lightyear shoes or these neat boots instead.

Show the Painter two slightly small pairs of shoes that he has barely worn.

Painter: Those boots aren't neat, they're just brown.

Frustration, because he said he liked them in the store.

Me: Well, I like them, but how about your Buzz Lightyear shoes then.

Painter: I don't like Buzz Lightyear.

Ditto on the frustration.

Me: Well, your Curious George shoes have dog poop on them, so you have to pick a different pair.

Painter: You can just clean them mommy.

I don't want to clean them. I have my work clothes on, and I don't want to get them all wet and dirty. And I have to get to work because I have a morning deadline, and I did things I wanted to do instead of finishing the work last night. And we're already late, so I don't have time to clean them.

Me: I can't clean them right now. They'd be all wet and then your feet would be all wet and cold.

Painter: That's okay for me.

I go outside and look at the shoes. They're not really dirty, they just stink.

Me: No, you need to pick a different pair.

Painter: No, you can just clean them.


AARGH! Why can't he just cooperate.

Well, you can see where this is going. The situation didn't improve any when A.D. came to support my position, or when I offered the even smaller pair of shoes that the Painter wore all the time before getting his new ones. I'll spare you the rest of the ugly details. Suffice it to say, things got worse, not better, and A.D. and I both left the house with the Painter in time-out, and without taking him to school, leaving D. to clean up the psychic mess.

Mistake #1: Assuming that ANY change is no big deal to the Painter when it is not of his own making.

Mistake #2: Going by hearsay. The shoes weren't really that bad, and in retrospect probably could have been cleaned sufficiently by running around on the dewy grass.

Mistake #3: Mis-judging who needed a time-out. If I had listened to my own subtext in the moment, I might have been able to put it aside and come up with some perspective. What's important, my work deadline? my clothes? or my son?

Update: The teacher says, next time, to bring him in bare feet.

Tuesday, November 6

On better days, I notice the world

I stop to inhale the perfumed fragrance of lavender roses outside the office.

I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

I look up and with my eyes I trace the barely discernible outline of the mountains through the thick haze.

I hear big band jazz playing at the store, and my feet start to move in time.

I bring back a beautifully contrasting bouquet of red roses and miniature purple and yellow iris.

I feel hunger rumbling in my stomach and savor my lunch.

I feel the baby moving in my belly and I :)

Sunday, November 4

Housework and Hormones

I've been furiously running around the house today, trying to clean things up, trying to organize and hide the clutter that prevails with three two boys leaving a mess all the time, and one very helpful au pair moving it to anywhere there appears to be space. Actually, running around is something of an exaggeration, since I haven't had much energy today. I'm only six months pregnant (approximately) but today and yesterday I feel like I am ready to give birth. Or at least ready to be done with being pregnant. The crazy hormones have me feeling like I'm riding a roller coaster -- right now I am sliding down, down, down.

The truth is, we have a lot of things, but the house isn't in as much a state of clutter as is my mind.

and I had a long conversation last night (date night, courtesy of D.). We discussed such things as why it doesn't really make sense to budget right now although I worry about finances and health care costs after I leave work, how long A.D. will continue to apply for new faculty positions, and where we really want to move if interesting post or a hypothetical one like it does not work out. Among the issues raised in this last part of the discussion was whether we should consider career options for me (in my current career) as part of our move. I said, I don't wish to consider them. I no longer enjoy my work, and I can't see wanting to come back to it anytime soon.

And then these doubts begin to plague my mind again. Why do I not enjoy my work now, when a year ago it was fine, and 1.5 years ago I was having a pretty good time? Is it just the pregnancy hormones? To which Articulate astutely asked, "What do you want right now? Do you want certainty?" Well, maybe. Although I know in my mind that nothing in life is certain, perhaps my heart still hungers for it.

Finding no certainty, I think I'll eat chocolate.

Friday, November 2

My Inner Demons

  • "I don't know ..."
  • "I don't like ..."
  • "I should really ..."
  • "What if ...?"
  • "How can I ...?"
  • "I shouldn't ..."
  • "How did it get to be this late?"
  • "I didn't ..."
  • "But ..."
  • "I can't ..."
  • "I'm wasting time."

They multiply, these demons. One begets another and then another. Without moving a leg, I run from them to distraction and try to hide away, but they follow me, because they are me, and in distraction they multiply some more. They tie me to my seat without any rope because that is where "I am supposed to" be.

Today, all I really want to do is cry.

When I do, perhaps the storm will pass and I will at last be still.


The kitty ghost turned into a regular ghost, and the finishing touches were courtesy of D.

The Inventor is in a state of perpetual motion, so it's difficult to catch him in a pose which not only shows off his costume, but also what a cutie he really is.

Halloween cookie creation was Monday's entertainment.

Thursday, November 1

Lucky I only fear the worst

These scary stories and Lillian's Very Bad News have me thinking about how lucky I am.

I have a job that pays the bills (even though rent is $2000/month) and subsidizes health care premiums for the whole family. We can afford quality child care (and I highly recommend the au pair program as an affordable means of child care, especially if you have more than one child needing care). Although there is no paid maternity leave, I am eligible for short-term disability pay for approximately the first six weeks after the baby is born, and I live in one of the very few states with paid family leave.

Nonetheless, I am contemplating leaving all of this behind. No - I have decided to leave, although I give myself permission to change my mind. I am afraid of what may await me when I leave my career behind, both personally and financially. But I am also drawn to spend more time with my boys, so that I can learn again the lesson that Articulate Dad and I used to practice, "Live each day as though it were your first, with the wide-open, wondering eyes of a child."

Articulate has recently applied for a very interesting interdisciplinary academic post, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will work out. Of course, I want it to work out because it could be very personally rewarding and satisfying for A.D. But I also have selfish motivations in that it would ease my fears, and make it easier to explain why I am leaving work. But what if he doesn't get the position? Is it irresponsible of me (us) to leave my job, this source of stability and security?

I want the freedom to choose my life, but I fear that my choices will not yield the results I expect, that I may end up in a scary story of my own making.

I would do better to remember that security is an illusion, and that all things in life are temporary. In the recent California fires, all we suffered was some bad air quality, but certainly a lot of people learned a lesson in the impermanence of all things.

Fear is a part of life. But I can let go of my fear, and trust that everything will turn out all right.

Thursday, October 25


I spent two days at home to recuperate, but didn't end up doing much resting on either one. I did take some time for myself on Monday, listening to an article about Opting Out from North Carolina public radio. I particularly liked a comment from one of the callers, Anna, who had left her high-powered career in Boston to move to North Carolina where her husband pursued his dream to be a school teacher and she stay home with their child. In Boston, he had been a stay-at-home dad while she worked, but then she decided to "opt out" of her career, and they opted into a different lifestyle in which, she recounts, "I've never been happier and I've never been poorer in my whole life."

That kind of testimonial is important for me to hear. As much as we all know that money can't buy happiness, I certainly have reservations about leaving work, partly because of the (somewhat irrational) fear of not having enough money.

Now here's my picking and choosing mind at work again. Just because money can't buy happiness, does that mean I'll be happier with less of it? More to the point, will I be happier if I leave work than if I stay?

The answer to that question can, in part, be found in the two days I was just at home. As I mentioned, I didn't actually spend much time resting while at home. In addition to listening to other women talk about being poor and happy, enjoying some time to myself, enjoying some time with my boys, and doing some work, I did something just a little bit creative. I figured out, all on my own, without a sewing machine, how to convert some of A.D.'s old T-shirt's into Halloween costumes for the boys. While the "kitty ghost", for the Painter, still needs a little work, the Inventor's pumpkin costume turned out pretty cute. (Pictures coming soon.)

Thinking about that simple, creative, loving act, making Halloween costumes for the boys, makes me smile.

Monday, October 22

A Day Off

Not exactly a chatauqua ...

I am under the weather today, having finally caught the cold that has transited the rest of the family. The funny thing is, I keep thinking, not of resting, like I should in order to recuperate, but of all the things I might be able to get done today. You see, it's Monday, so our au pair D is on the job, entertaining the boys, and I have some time to myself. Since I actually managed to finish the laundry over the weekend, I have only non-routine tasks pestering my mind. I have a package to box up and send to a friend in Denver, need to visit the craft store to get some felt for making Halloween costumes out of some old shirts before the Halloween party at the library on Wednesday evening, need to pick up some groceries (especially a lot of tissues!) ... etc. But first, I'll take some time to collect my thoughts, which are sometimes hard to find amidst all the clutter in my head. And maybe then, I'll take a nap. :)

Thursday, October 18

Holding out until February

My due date is in February, and I've been planning to work until then. Financially, it makes a lot of sense, since I would not only earn 3-4 more months of regular income, but also be eligible for 6-10 weeks of disability pay plus 6 weeks of paid family leave from the state. That's 3-4 months of paychecks from the state, without having to do one lick of engineering work (we all know that having a newborn at home is also a lot of work). And, health insurance is undoubtedly cheaper while working than if I was paying COBRA.

All that said, it sure is hard to stay focused on the job these days. Sure, part of me says, "well, now that I've made the decision to leave, I ought to do a bang-up job, and get everything finished and in order before I go." But ... I've never been very disciplined. Having made the decision to go (tentatively, arduously, and over the course of months), I'm already mentally & emotionally on my way. My physical self is here at work, but it doesn't accomplish much without the rest of me.

Exploring New Cities (Virtually)

"After explaining themselves to befuddled family and friends, they packed up and moved across the country."

Having decided to do the same, it is nice to know we are not alone. The "explaining ... to befuddled family and friends" is one of the things that makes it difficult to go. Not only do we have our own fear of how we will sustain ourselves to deal with, but also the fear that no one else will understand.

I have added some lists to the sidebar: what we are looking for in a place to live, and possibilities we are currently considering. I put them in the sidebar so I can look at them often, edit as needed, and feel like we are making progress in this endeavor. In steering a new course for our lives, it is more productive to set our sights on our destination than focus on why we're leaving this place we've started from.

Articulate thinks it may be more difficult to live near family than elsewhere, because, in seeing family more often, we will have that much more explaining to do. But I think that if we are confident in our course it won't matter how often we are interrogated. As with the same kinds of questions from our children, we can explain until we run out of patience, and continue nonetheless to do what we feel is best.

Tuesday, October 16

Guilt (part 2)

This guilt has more to do with keeping my job than leaving it.

I feel incredibly guilty for blogging and wandering the internet as much as I do during the day when I am supposed to be working. This, of course, only serves to, on the one hand, convince me that I don't really like what I am supposed to be doing, and, on the other hand, make me feel bad about working so that I like it even less. I'm sure this guilt is a good part of the reason that I feel emotionally numb by the end of the day.

I don't want to feel numb. I want to live!


Once the flood gates open ...
... you get to hear about all the things that have been stewing in my brain for the past week.

One of the things that makes it difficult for me to say I will leave my job is guilt. This guilt comes in several forms.

I feel guilty that by leaving, I will be treating the people I work with badly, when I have been treated so well. I know my coworkers are very busy, and my boss is looking to expand the department, and people in my field are in pretty high demand right now, so if I leave, won't I be leaving them in a lurch? If I analyze this guilt, I realize how irrational it is. First, I am making assumptions about how much I am needed and how much I will be missed that are probably somewhat exaggerated. Secondly, I have been treated well and well-compensated for the work I have done, and will do until I leave. That compensation is not for future work, work that I can leave for some other engineer who wishes to be well-compensated. I am sure I am not paid any better than my peers for what I do, so I shouldn't sell myself short by feeling an obligation to the company because of my current compensation. People, my boss in particular, may feel disappointed that I am leaving, but I need to remember that disappointment is unavoidable in life, sometimes, and disappointment is not injury. I am not treating someone badly by disappointing them. (If I tried to avoid disappointment at home I might feed my boys sweets all day and give them anything they asked for. Would this be in their best interests and "treating them well"? Absolutely not!)

Another kind of guilt I feel about leaving work is what Articulate has likened to survivors guilt. Why should I be able to take off from work, to leave the "daily grind" when so many people need to work to make ends meet? Isn't it somehow wrong for me to leave? Irrational, I know, but present nonetheless.

Then there is the financial guilt. I feel that by leaving work I put our future financial well-being at risk. We will be drawing down savings instead of increasing them. This goes against the practical German-heritage Midwest no-nonsense upbringing I had. How can I possibly take off work indefinitely and still expect to have money left for my children's college education and our old age, not to mention any emergencies that come along? But, I must remember, I'm not in this alone. As A.D. reminds me, he intends to make his business profitable, and maybe a lack of my income will help to motivate him towards success. Besides, I am an intelligent and capable person. While I may not be able to earn as much money in another line of work as I do currently, I am sure I can bring in some income if it becomes necessary. And, I might even figure out how to make money doing something I enjoy, if I stop spending so much of my time doing something that I don't.

Love-Hate Relationship

It's becoming clear to me that I don't really have a love-hate relationship with my work so much as I have an apathetic relationship to my work. I like the pay, the adult interaction, the recognition from co-workers and my boss, that I feel competent and respected. The work mostly bores me. The projects are cool, but they don't drive me. Nothing about the work seems to really excite my passions, although they used to, when I first started this career. Now ... my passions lie elsewhere.

This became more clear to me last week, while I listened to a news report about a road-rage drag-racing incident, in which some innocent bystanders in a parked car were struck, and a 5-year-old boy killed. Of course, this hit very close to home, because the Painter is 5 years old. I thought to myself, "Life is too precious to waste doing something I don't want to be doing." And, "We need to get out of this place." Not that bad things only happen here - I know they can happen anywhere - but why stay in a place we don't really like, when the only thing keeping us here is a job I don't really like?

Thursday, October 11


Why do I always find myself shopping? I often don't even end up buying anything, as I finally come to the conclusion that I don't really need any of the things I've been browsing, and if I did, why would I want to pay shipping for them from online - I might be better off going to the store - where I will probably not find what I want, and head back to the internet. I can spend hours in a similar pursuit, looking for a place to visit for a long weekend, but coming to the conclusion that it costs a lot to go somewhere even for the weekend, so maybe I'd rather save that money for a real trip later, that I probably also won't plan.

It's as if I am casting about, looking for what it is that I really want, hoping that I'll come across it in my random searching. But somehow, I doubt that I'll find it online, or in a store. The answer to that question has to come from within. And the only way I will find the answer, is by stopping these escapist activities, and being present to the thoughts that cross my mind.

To be fair ...

Our current locale does have some redeeming qualities.

1. Citrus trees in the backyard
2. Ornamental trees and shrubs flowering virtually all year long
3. Only an hour from the beach (used to be closer)
4. Mountains practically out the back door (subject to smog)
5. Lots of cultural opportunities (if you don't mind the traffic and crowds)
6. Long growing season (bring your own water)
7. No shrug-your-shoulders-up-to-your-ears-to-keep-warm- even-with-scarf-hat-and-coat cold weather

Reasons to Love Hate this Place

I mean, of course, the tangle of freeways in the midst of which we live.

1. Traffic
2. Sprawl
3. Crowds
4. Smog
5. Housing costs
6. Summer heat waves
7. No insulation
8. Too many chain restaurants
9. Too few sidewalks
10. No snow

Monday, October 8


Not sure if I have any readers yet, but here's some news if I do:

My husband is Articulate Dad. I'm getting tired of referring to "my husband" and "my five-year old", etc., so I will adopt A.D.'s names for us all. In other words, I am RocketMom (a.k.a. Rocket), our five-year old son is the Painter, and our 2.5 year old son is the Inventor. Look for the new (old) pseudonyms in upcoming posts.

Remember This

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, October 7

Weekly Ritual

It's Sunday again. Almost time to go back to work. Where did the weekend go? I suppose I had better do some laundry so that I have something to wear this week that fits. At least it's only a four-day week, as I am on a 9/80 schedule. What should I do on Friday, my day off?

[To do list starts streaming through my head.]

No school on Friday, either. Maybe we should all go on a trip? I've been thinking about that for some time, but haven't yet planned anything. Plenty of promising locations within a few hours drive ... but then, it can be such a hassle to travel with the family. And who has energy to plan anything? I'd say we could just pack up a tent and go - find somewhere ... but I've become convinced that there are perpetual crowds everywhere in this part of the state, and without reservations we won't probably find anywhere to stay.


Again it boils down to the question: What do I really want?

Saturday, October 6


I've loved the word, and the concept, of chautauqua ever since I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance more than 10 years ago. To me, there is something very romantic about the idea of escaping into the wilderness on my own, to face my bewildering thoughts head-on, with no distractions, to empty my mind and, I imagine, return feeling centered, refreshed, and with a renewed understanding of who I am and what is important to me.

I just discovered that chautauqua doesn't, generally speaking, mean what I thought it meant - Merriam-Webster online defines it as ": any of various traveling shows and local assemblies that flourished in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays, and that were modeled after activities at the Chautauqua Institution of western New York." I suppose, in ZAMM, Robert Pirsig (the author) was referring to meeting with & learning about yourself?

Perhaps what I crave is meditation, more than chautauqua, but the word isn't nearly as interesting. I think it's time I scheduled a chautauqua (of the ZAMM variety) for myself.

What do I want?

If posed the question in some drastic hypothetical form, such as "If you knew you only had five years to live, what would you do now?" or "If you just won the lottery and you knew you never had to worry about money again, what would you do?", I invariably answer that I would quit my job. But the rational part of my self argues that these questions do not represent my reality, and I should make my life decisions based on the current facts of my life.

Okay. So here are the facts of my life: I generally spend one to one and a half hours commuting each workday, so that I can sit in front of a computer all day, accomplish far less than I am capable of, and feel guilty that I didn't do more. Why do I sit in front of a computer all day if I am not accomplishing anything? Guilt, I suppose. Getting stuck. Avoiding thinking about the issues that keep me where I ostensibly do not want to be. On the weekends, I steal as much time for myself as possible, and otherwise go with the flow. The boys want to make a fort in the family room? Ok. They want to watch a DVD? Ok. My husband wants to talk? Ok. We need something from the grocery store? Ok (but better if I can go by myself!)

If I quit my job, take the proverbial off-ramp, what would I be doing? Staying home with the boys, probably. At least, that is the default response, since someone needs to watch them. But ... it's not my family that I am thinking about all day while I am trying to (not) work. What do I think about? Whether or not I should keep my job, work part-time, or quit altogether after the baby is born; what books I would read if I had the time; where we should live; connecting with other people.

Connecting. Last night we went to local synagogue, had a nice time meeting people, feeling a part of a community. It makes me think twice for the hundredth time about whether we should leave our current locale. I feel very isolated here, but how can I make connections if we keep moving every year or two? How odd, then, that I sit around and think about connecting with people, reading about other people, lurking, instead of actually calling up a friend or inviting someone to lunch. And if connecting with people is what I really want, how is quitting work going to help?

And how does blogging help me connect with my 5-yr-old, who obviously wants my attention right now?

Saturday, September 29

My Work World

I work at a highly respected institution in my field. People are valued here. I am well-compensated and have oodles of training opportunities. I am good at what I do. My boss likes me. My co-workers value my opinion. My schedule is somewhat flexible, and I hope soon to start telecommuting two days a week. Oh, there are the usual headaches and bureaucracy, but, if polled, I'd bet most of the people here would say they love their work.

I'm not one of them.

It's not that I don't find my work interesting, sometimes, or that I don't feel appreciated. It's not that there isn't enough work, since the department keeps adding people and there is still too much to do. In fact, practitioners of my subfield, let's just call it analysis, are in demand across the country. But, while I always like the ego-boost of accomplishing things, and particularly of doling out advice based on analysis and experience, I'm easily distracted from my work.

You see, there's my email, and my gmail, including my groups. There's Mamasource, and Mojomom (and all the wonderful things I've learned about from her). Then there's the news (mostly cnn), and Sperling's BestPlaces, which provides details for my fantasies about all the places I'd rather live than where we are. Throw in a little office conversation, returning of voice mails (which smells of work, but is really another avoidance technique), and requisite trips downstairs to the women's room, and you might wonder how I get any work done at all. (Now, of course, I can add blogging to my list of distractions.)

I've always been a procrastinator (last time I sent holiday cards was in 2004, I think), so it's possible that setting aggressive deadlines on a regular basis could help me focus a bit more. In fact, I think I'll try that, if I remember on Monday. But the truth of the matter is, well, I'm bored. I'm reminded of my high school years, in which I read novels during class, at least for a while, until my teachers explained that I was setting a bad example for the other students. At work, the end products are beneficial to science, our understanding of the planet, and ultimately for humankind. But ... what I do so often feels like drudgery.

So what would I rather be doing?

(With nods to I, Robot)
is the right question.

Thursday, September 27

Hello world

I've been thinking for some time about setting up a blog, in which to ruminate about my current life choices. There are so many possibilities, so many paths to choose from, and it seems I change my mind on a daily basis. Perhaps blogging will help me clarify what is really important, and which direction to take. Or, at least, I may find the company of others wandering through the woods.