Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tired, MAKE IT WORK, Current Class Project

I want to blog about something, but I am so tired.

I have not written something coherent for a whole week, and my brain knows it's time to write... it's just that all of my brain power is focused on- well, surviving the day: remembering to bring all my breast pump parts to work, devoting loads of energy to my darling students. dragging myself in my precious free time at work to my pumping room, sitting down with a sigh- and taking what amounts to my only alone time of the day. I actually like my pumping time for that reason. For ten minutes I can just relax and look at my iPhone while producing some antibody-filled milk for the babe, who is now a toddler, I think, since he is walking and saying a few words: dog, more, and duck. (Sounds like "Doh, muh, deh.")

I had my parents here the past few days for the baby's second first birthday party. They gave me a nap or two, but I also wanted to hang out with them and get a few things done around the house, so I remain pretty much as exhausted as I've been for the past 1.5 weeks. I just can't seem to catch up on my sleep. I used to say, "It's much harder to be a stay at home mom! At least you get a break at work!" But I'm finding that to do an excellent job at work, you really can't get that much of a break, and the break you DO get- and the relished adult contact- is probably not going to be sleep. Working mom hood and stay at home mom hood both have their very hard parts, and both have their rewarding parts... in either situation, you gotta MAKE IT WORK! Love ya, Tim Gunn. Sometimes when I am teaching I like to pretend I am Tim Gunn. Not really, but I love his interactions with the Project Runway contestants. He comes in, frowns at their work, gives a hedged compliment or warning, and then shouts, "MAKE IT WORK!" That's kind of my attitude with my students, too.

My students totally rock this year. I've got some characters. I wish I could write more about them. I need to write the stories down for a future book, I guess.

Well, that's about all I can come up with today. I'm going to be writing some pieces for my students, on the topic of babies, so I'll try to share those on this site. We're making mini-magazines (each student makes their own about whatever they want), and in the years I feel inspired, I make my own magazine, too. I made one my first year of teaching, I made one the year I got married (3 years ago!), and I made a mini-mini one 2 years ago. For some reason, I always decide to make a mini-mag when I am busiest. I think it's because when I'm busiest, I'm learning the most and have the most to say. This year I'm going to have a baby-themed mag. I'm going to teach my students about baby-wearing, the Nosefrida nasal aspirator, and flying on planes with a baby. I'm also going to include a quiz on caring for babies, and if you get a high score on it, you qualify to be a baby-sitter for me.

Oooh I'm really excited for this project. My students have already written their editorial and are starting their games (2 of the 10 required pieces for the project), so I myself am a tad behind. Maybe I'll bring my laptop to work and try to get some writing done. I like to model for them that I'm actually a writer, so....
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm That Crazy, Anal Teacher

So, today on a field trip, I made the students stop doing that thing where they make a signal to make truck drivers honk. They were pumping their fists and shouting, "Honk! Honk! Honk!"

I whipped my head around and said, "No! I'm not in the mood to hear all that shouting!" I turned back again to the book I was reading about readers workshop, and a few minutes later they started doing it again. I whipped my head around. "Absolutely not!" I snarled. "If we get into an accident, it is NOT going to be because I let you guys be loud."
I realize that sounds a little crazy, but we were on a busy highway that is full of tractor trailers. I don't trust other drivers. I've lived in this area far too long and know of too many deadly accidents in the area. Forget it.

Plus, I was picturing all those kids as a bus full of someone else's babies. If it were my baby on that field trip, I'd want the teachers to have the bus be an orderly environment where the driver can concentrate, not a bus full of screaming banshees who are standing up in their seats and distracting the driver and possibly obstructing his view...
I also did not want the horns of a truck to scare the crap out of a) our driver or b) another car on the road. I just cannot tolerate unsafe environments that involve children.

I went back to reading my book, and- I was shocked- a few kids starting doing it again. (They aren't my usual students, so they don't know that if I say to do something, I truly mean it and I will ride their butt until they do it, whether it is cleaning out their binder, stopping talking, or adding more to their paper.) I whipped my head around: "What did I just say? It is a SAFETY issue. If my baby were on this bus, I would not want it to be full of screaming kids. You are TOO LOUD. Sit back and relax."
I realized my baby comment might have sounded weird to them, so when we got back to the school, I tried to explain that I see them as former babies that I need to watch over and that horns are for warning, not entertainment... yeah, they looked at me like I was an idiot, but you know what, I got to read about 43 pages in my book because the whole bus was well-behaved, safe, and as quiet as a bus full of 46 pre-teens can be.

It was a decent day. The play we saw was really good, and the students were awesome during it.

Oh- and I know I said in my title that I was anal, but I was less anal than usual. I let them draw in the steam on the windows, and I even let them put their legs in the aisle. (Usually I say that's a safety issue and make them keep their bodies fully in their seat so they don't fly down the aisle in case of a sudden stop.) I also let them- well, that's all I pretty much let them do.
I didn't let them sing, play those hand clapping song games, or let them kneel on the seats and turn around and talk to the people behind them. That last thing is a safety issue in case of a sudden stop. It's just too chaotic if you let them act like a bus is a playground. No thank you. Field trips are draining enough without getting your ears blasted for 25 minutes with songs, games, shouting and screaming to and from the destination.

I know I sound anal and mean from this story, but I do it because I care- I'm this anal because I want them to be safe. I feel a tremendous responsibility to be the kids' caretakers when they are away from their parents. It's my job to keep them safe both physically and emotionally, and ya know, if I have to act a little kooky to reassure myself that I'm doing that, well, I'm alright with that.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Married a Child Model

You'd never guess it, but my husband was a child model.

(This is a photo of me trying to make him take a photo with me with the background in my computer camera. I'm holding his hands and waving them. That's a roller coaster in the fake background.)

I'm not saying he's not a good-looking guy.
I'm saying, the man hates having his picture taken. And, I'm saying, he sometimes looks awful in photos because he's making a pained grimace that he thinks passes as a smile.

He was in catalog and print ads from ages, oh, 4-8 in the NYC area. Underoos. He modeled Underoos. And now, he's the grumpiest person you can imagine in front of the camera. I look at that smiling 6 year old and wonder who the heck that is, because the person who will jump through hoops- with a smile- is gone. I can usually make him jump, using my teacher tactics of direct orders and stare down, and talking loud, and not backing down (like when I wanted him to get me two cookies last night), but this is why I end up with grimaces in lots of photos. He'll do what I ask, since a family photo is a reasonable request, but he'll do it with a look on his face that only an introverted husband can make.

(That's him in the bottom right of this catalog ad. Look at that bowl cut! So late 70's!)

I think that's why I'm so surprised he was a child model- he is ultimately an introvert. I guess he only did the ads because his mom dragged him to auditions. In many ways, I often find us replaying that same scenario... a woman trying to make a very cute guy smile for photos in which he has no interest.

Me: Do I have your permission to post the photo of you as a child model?
Husband: (pause) I am not a subject for entertainment, information, or any other data.

Do you see what I mean about him being an introvert? Click here to read full entry.

Monday, March 8, 2010

WSJ Talking Crap About Breastfeeding

I just read a really irritating post in the Wall Street Journal blog about parenting. The post is called "The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding." I had to reread the post a couple of times to figure out why it bugged me.

It starts, "Returning to the office after maternity leave isn’t easy, adding to the adjustment: To pump or not to pump. I’m not doing it. Before I came back to work this week, I decided that I would continue to nurse my daughter in the mornings only.

I’m well aware that breast milk is considered the optimal food for babies. That’s why I happily nursed for the past six months. But working moms may face stiff penalties for breastfeeding, a price that I’m not sure my family can afford. My job’s irregular schedule makes it impractical to pump milk at work. And given that my husband and I have financial goals, such as saving for retirement and a healthy portion of our daughter’s education costs, I don’t want to quit or downshift my career to accommodate a regular pumping or breastfeeding schedule.

There is a negative effect of breastfeeding on women’s employment status, says Phyllis Rippeyoung, assistant professor of sociology at Acadia University and co-author of a working paper about the economic consequences of breastfeeding. “In terms of long-term earnings, women who breastfeed less than six months have similar income trajectories to those who never breastfeed, but those who breastfeed for six months or longer have far steeper declines in income, mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting,” Ms. Rippeyoung says.

It just seems to me that the premise of this article is wrong- many moms CAN work pumping into their schedule, and many of them left comments stating so. I had another problem with the article- I felt it was giving false information about the nature of breastfeeding. Here is what I wrote- I was comment #139.

Two quotes in this article really bother me, because they are FALSE.

1. “
For moms who have pain when the baby latches on, there are helpful professionals, but they demand a professional rate. A recent article in The New York Times described a certified lactation consultant who charges $200.
The lactation consultants at my local hospital in Stamford CT provide FREE services in phone or in person to ANYONE who calls them. They also offer a mother’s group every week to anyone who wants to come. It bothers me to see something FALSE written in WSJ. The Stamford Hospital LCs, at no cost, have helped me breastfeed successfully for almost a year, and helped me figure out the best way to pump at work.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chime In: Baby Registries, the Right Stuff

Friends of ours are due with a baby in five weeks. Last night I was pondering what to get them off their registry.

This morning I was sitting in my baby's room with him after he woke up, remembering the time in which I was planning for him. That room smelled different, felt different, meant something different.

I remember the feeling of trying to make sure I had all the right stuff. Turns out you don't need that much stuff- actually, I have loved my stuff, it's just hard to know what the best stuff is going to be for your baby or your lifestyle. I'll clarify: I love stuff. Lately, I love our Phil and Ted's metoo chair because we go out to eat a lot. I'm also on the hunt for a mei tai, because although the ERGO baby carrier has been one of our very best purchases, I don't like the ERGO for back carry, and he's getting too heavy to wear on my front.

Anyway. That was such a fun time in life, getting ready for the baby. It's weird that I'll never feel that feeling again. Even if I have another baby, that preparation time will never quite feel the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If second babies felt that momentous, adding a second one might feel overwhelming! Fortunately after the first one gets to be oh, 7 months or so, ya feel like a pro.

It is so fun to look at other people's registries. It's a window onto their life, or planned life. You can see if it looks they are planning to breastfeed. You can see if they chose a superfancy stroller or a practical one. You can see what some of their ideas and plans are by what books they ask for. You can see that they know about swaddling, and you're happy about that. When looking at someone else's registry, you can't help but think, "I remember I thought I needed that!" or "Dear God, why haven't they registered for an ERGO?" Seeing some of the items brings you back to a time when you also had no idea what to expect.

I'm glad I enjoyed that time in my life. I really immersed myself in that time- researching online, talking to friends, going to baby stores, reading baby blogs... it was awesome. I had such a blast getting ready for my baby. My BFF and I picked out paint colors and painted the nursery walls with the help of another friend and my husband (I supervised). I found a cool print on eBay and got it professionally framed.

What's awesome is that our baby far exceeded my expectations of what my baby was going to be like! He was easier, more fun, and cuter. Some of the stuff really came in handy- the towels, the butt cream, the thermometers, the blankets, the clothes, the toys, the swaddles- but the focus very quickly goes off the stuff and onto the baby, who mostly just needs to be fed, clothed, and kept warm those first few weeks- oh- and safely carried around to all those doctor appointments.

I guess the stuff is how we make ourselves feel ready for the baby. I don't mean that in a judgy way. It's fun to spend the last few weeks getting ready. But sometimes baby gear feels like an arsenal against THE BABY- a disruptive creature who you have to use tools to contain. I think I'm going to view my stuff a little differently next time- more as a way to have fun with my baby rather than as methods to deal with a mysterious, difficult creature.

Although maybe it went so well with him because I had all the right stuff because I researched so much? Who knows. Maybe I was, am, and always will be clueless, playing it all by ear. Maybe I know nothing. It's possible! What I do know is that every baby is different, every parent different, every life different, so people will always need or want different things for their babies. Before you are a parent yourself, and the parent of your particular baby, you can never know what you'll need. Once you are a parent, you realize how much is out of your control. It's so much easier once you accept that and just go with the flow. At least that's my philosophy. I'm not sure how else a working parent could survive.

Note: I'm not bashing my friends' registry- theirs is quite sensible and actually makes them look like they know what they are doing. And my girlfriend who just had a baby a month ago- well, her registry had all the cool gear that it took me months to realize I wanted. She was smart enough to put the metoo chair and the ERGO on her registry, whereas I bought mine myself!
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Build-a-Bear Manhattan: Actually, Not Lame!

Before you have kids, you can't believe you'd ever want to do anything as lame as go to the "Build-a-Bear" or American Girl doll store. (I only know about that second thing because my friend Kevin, Dad of two, has blogged about it.)

When my sister was here last week with her 3 kids, 6, 4, and 2, she suggested an impromptu trip into the city (New York City, that is) to see our sister's apartment. To give the kids something kiddish to do, we'd first swing by Build-a-Bear. This sounded horrible to me. I pictured a crowded place full of screaming kids... but I admit, I felt the pull of the bear. My baby's first birthday is coming up, and I envisioned myself buying him a really painstakingly built bear, crafted with fine accessories which I imagined were part of a complex part of assembling a bear. I grew more enthusiastic about Build-a-Bear.

The nine of us- me, my baby, my parents, my sisters, my middle sister's 3 kids- drove in two cars to the commuter train station. We managed to get ourselves onto a train and an hour later were in Manhattan, hiking a few cold blocks to the BAB store in midtown.

Although I had fun at Build-a-Bear (the baby slept through most of it), I was let down by the "building" process. The assemblage, which I pictured more like Santa's toy shop with tools and crafting of the bear's attributes, only involves you pressing the pedal on the machine that puts the stuffing in the bear (so you can decide the bear's firmness or floppiness) and picking out its outfit. The store should really be named "Stuff and Dress a Bear." See photo above of me and the sleeping baby stuffing his bear.

Still, I had fun watching my niece and nephews get their bears- rather, the two olders chose dinosaurs- and I did get a pretty cute Jedi Knight bear. The store wasn't that crowded, surprisingly, for a Sunday. No kids were acting obnoxious, although their parents were sort of loud.

The only really bad thing about the store is the deafening cowbell they ring, right at the front door by the checkout area, to announce yet another kid's birthday. I did not appreciate an ear-shattering COWBELL right next to my baby's head. That's actually pretty idiotic of the Build-a-Bear people.

I admit, I'd go to the Build-a-Bear place again. I'm not even sure why. Maybe because although it's about buying stuff, the options are limited. That's good for kids. It's a better (albeit pricier) option than having to choose from an entire toy store. I think that's why the kids in the store were so well-behaved: it was a controlled purchasing experience. The other good thing was that I felt the toys were fairly priced- not cheap- but not exorbitant. 16 bucks for the bear, same for the clothes. No, not cheap, but I expected double the price.

And being able to do Manhattan with kids is pretty priceless! We walked a bunch of blocks to my sister's apartment and the kids did great. There was some complaining near the end, but truth be told, pounding the pavement was tiring, and it was very cold!

Here's my sis, her kids, and my Dad at 30 Rock.

I am really looking forward to my next trip into the city with the baby. It is so easy just to put him in the ERGO and wear him around. However, I wore the baby for about 4 hours straight on BuildaBear day, and my hips were really tired the next day. For a long day in the city, it's best to bring the stroller. That's what I did last month when the baby and I took the train in along to see my sister's new apartment. I put him in the stroller, cozied up in the BundleMe, and put the plastic over that because it was very cold. He fell asleep and I was able to walk briskly to my sister's. Walking that much with 20 pounds on my hips is just not doable any more. This is why I need to buy a mai tei, so I can stick the baby on my back, rather than trying to wear him on my front in the ERGO. I hate the ERGO for back carry.
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