Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Balancing act

The school year is in full-swing we're making the transition from a care-free and virtually 'timeless' summer to a life seemingly dominated by the rotating hands on the clock, but not without some minor revolts (mainly from the oldest and youngest members of our household!).  Each school year brings the opportunity to set goals, and I am not one to forego such an opportunity. 

There are plenty of *little* goals that I've set...being more thorough in my lesson plans, making more effective use of the little planning time I do get, communicating more with parents by way of the 'just because' phone calls I have left by the wayside since having little ones running (and shouting) around the house.  There are also goals I've set for myself in 'mom world', 'wife world', 'friend world', and the other 'worlds' in which I dabble.  But the overarching theme for these 'mini goals' centers around one word:


Seeking balance amongst all the various roles that I play has always been this just-out-of-reach dream that keeps me awake at night (in addition to the occasional *surprise* from a baby girl who likes to keep me on my toes).  With the re-introduction of the role 'out of the home working mommy of 3' finding its way back into my life, there are times when I fear the number of plates I have spinning in the air will outweigh the 8+ years of waitressing experience I rely on to keep things going (I also rely on this same experience to make dinner set up and clean up a far more efficient experience ;)

School days begin at 5:00 am (earlier if Raegan decides...), and wind down sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 pm.  The amount of work that I can accomplish in that window of hours can astonish (and exhaust) me as I sit back and think of it.  The fact that teachers are *on* is an exhausting and overwhelming concept in and of itself.  Add mommyhood and a household to run, friendships and relationships to maintain, along with the odds and ends of life...and you're left with very little time (if any) for yourself.  There's a new movie that I saw advertised this weekend called "I Don't Know How She Does It", that pretty much is the epitomical mantra of women--all women--mommies or not, working from home, away from home, and every combo in between...all women balance. 

My focus has shifted from not just 'balancing', but to achieving a more purposeful balance.  The pockets of time that I am blessed with each and every day to spend with my kids, my husband, my colleagues, my class of students, my friends...all are deserving a better *me*, a more present *me*. 

Too often it becomes easy to allow the clock to dominate our world, and of course there are times when it is absolutely necessary to 'live and die' by the ominous ticking, but in those (few) times of my day when the time doesn't necessarily matter, I've been working on focusing my energies in a more positive way--focusing more on being 'present'--rather than focusing on what's to come. 

Sounds like common sense, right?  It really is.  Each day, each moment, is a gift from God, so why not live it with a purpose, live it with appreciation for what it is. 

Reflecting on the mommy I have been, and comparing it with the mommy I strive to be, I find two varying schools of thought.  Every mommy has those moments of 'idealistic vs. realistic'.  I think the Realistic mommy showed her face far more in the past than the Idealistic.  Realistic mommy is a necessary side of motherhood, but if left unbalanced can rear her not-so-nice head and do some pretty regrettable things.  Snarky comments, being 'too busy' too often, discovering that 'shhh, mommy's on the phone' is in your repitoire a little too much, punishing without listening to the whole story, and generally exhibiting the idea of 'because I said so' are just a few examples of the downside of Realistic mommy.

Realistic mommy lives in the real world of motherhood.  The 'trenches' of mommyhood can be a scary, dirty, noisy, and lonely place.  Realistic mommy sees the practical side, responds with the quick-and-fast solution, and often times thinks about it afterwards.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Realistic mommy has a negative connotation--she definitely is a necessary side of the multi-faceted mommy coin. 

But what mommy-to-be didn't spend those blissful months of pregnancy envisioning what kind of mommy they'll be, catching mommies in action at the grocery store making on-the-fly (and often times not-so-great) parenting decisions and thinking to themselves (or verbalizing to their husbands) "we will never do that when we're parents".  I know I did. 

Enter children.  Enter reality.  As the years passed and the madness grew to a level that at times is far greater than I ever imagined for Randy and me...Realisitic mommy began to rear the less attractive side of her gray-haired and crow's feet speckled head--and far too often for my liking.

I spent a lot of time this summer gaining better perspective on my role as a mommy of 3, a working mommy of 3, and most especially a balanced working mommy of 3.  That leads me Idealistic mommy.  Idealistic mommy is the mommy you read about in the parenting magazines.  The mommy who creates decoupaged catepillars from old magazines and egg cartons while simultaneously vacuuming, makes homemade scented and edible play-doh, bakes fresh cookies three times a week, folds and hangs laundry the minute it exits the dryer (every.single.time.), and is basically the mom that Realisitic mommy loves to hate. 

But Idealistic mommy also realizes that Realistic mommy is validated in her decision to use apps on her iPhone to distract the kids so she can get just 5 minutes to use the bathroom without company, to set the clocks an hour ahead so you're only 15 short minutes from bedtime because your kindergartener can now tell time, and to offer to pay your daughter a dollar for each day she doesn't wet her pull-up (only after deciding to do this does Realistic mommy do the math; thus realizing single Pull-ups cost half that and therefore she's losing even more money--refer back to those on-the-fly decisions that are commonplace in Realisitic mommy's world).  And if  you're wondering?  Guilty.  On all three charges--and many more for that matter!

But I want to be better.  I want to be a mommy who appreciates the present, rather than reacts from it.  I want to be a mommy who is focused and balanced in her daily activities, who slows down and even stops from time to time to smell the roses.  I want to be the mommy who knows that yes, the 'to-do' list is a mile long and 'oh crap we just ran out of milk and I so don't feel like putting all three of them into the car for just a gallon of milk so I'll let them have soda for dinner', but is able to smile through it and cope.  I don't want to react.  Life happens, regardless of what you do, and it's the positive outlook, the ability to smile through it all, and be grateful for the small and insignificant 'woe-is-me-first-world problems'. 

My balance last week (and this) came in the form of my children (shocker, I know).  Last year, I'd get home from work and immediately begin the preparation for bedtime routine.  Dinner on the stove, cleaning up messes, de-cluttering, planning and stressing about the day yet to come.  Too often, I didn't sit.  I didn't play.  I didn't realize that bedtime was hours away, and my kids were craving attention from the one person who was busying herself with less important things.

Sure, things come up.  Phone calls happen.  Laundry needs to be switched.  Mail needs to be read and paperwork for school signed.  But it's the prioritizing and balancing and idealizing the present that is what I'm working on.  Notice I said working.  A work-in-progress, probably never to be perfected.  In the past, just saying that statement would have sent me into a mini panic attack, a tizzy, and possibly elevated my typically low blood pressure.  But it's ok.  The goal of 'perfection' is a non-entity.  "Balance" is my new mantra.

Bugga's into her oatmeal (I swear, don't let the face fool you!)

Dude is into his dinosaurs (and it's written alllll over his face!)

Princess is into be a mini-mommy (yet more inspiration for a more balanced mommy)

Legos dominate our after-school play

Baby sis looks on...

Snuggles from daddy (in our house, that's slightly better than snuggles from mommy)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's no crying in kindergarten

Gavin absolutely L.O.V.E.D. kindergarten.  The smile on his face when I picked him up this afternoon was from ear to ear and he talked non-stop the entire way to pick up his sisters (must get that gift of gab from him momma!)  Rewind to earlier this morning...

We arrived at BASE (the before and after school program), and walked into the cafeteria.  There weren't too many kids there, as I'm sure many mommies and daddies were going in to work a little late so they could see their kids off on their first day of school.  My heart wrenched at my inability to do so as well, but as a teacher, it's kind of hard to see him off into his classroom while I'm also supposed to be in my own classroom welcoming my new group of little darlings at the exact same time.  I had to accept the fact that my 'ideal plan' did not go as planned, and we went with the 'new normal'. 

I walked into the school prepared with my phone (for pictures), and two tissues (the perfect amount, as I could *hide* them in the palm of my hand--more would be too obvious, however necessary they may be!).  He hung up his backpack and lunchbox and turned toward me.  There were mere seconds until I would be turning to leave him behind.  My heart was heavy, my head was replaying little snippets of his life from day one, and my eyes were glistening with tears (from behind my sunglasses--no need to be *too* obvious).  Clearly Gavin had to recognize the magnitude of this moment in his life thus far.  I know, he'll have many more milestones, most of which are 'bigger' than kindergarten, but for now, he's five.  His life consists of not much in the whole scheme of things.  His biggest milestones have been walking, talking, learning to pee standing up, and becoming a big brother (twice). 

Didn't he feel the overwhelming mix of happy/sad that filled the air?  Didn't he want to cling to me for just a moment, to make me feel as though he was fearful he'd be lost without me?  Didn't he know that the first day of kindergarten is a pretty big deal in the life of a five year old and his uber emotional mommy? 

No.  He did not.  He simply looked up at me, glanced back at the table full of Legos, and looked up at me again, with eyes that clearly conveyed the message, "see ya later, mom!".  No hug, no kiss, no cling.  I couldn't even get a picture!  He was too embarassed, and in a split-second (and I really mean split-second) decision, I figured it would be better to send him off to kindergarten excited than to be angry at me for trying to capture his first moments in BASE for all eternity. 

Forlorn, I simply gave my baby boy a high five and prepared to send him on his way.  Then, in another split-second decision (or, most likely just out of habit), I leaned over and kissed his sweet little forehead, and told him I loved him.  He sort of tried to back away a little, but I think he sensed my whirlwind of emotions and gave in.  I looked at his little face once final time, and turned away, grabbing the tissue from my hand.  I really, really wanted to look back.  I wanted to watch as he went over to the table with the Legos and made a connection with the kids who were already constructing their plastic brick cars and swords. 

But I couldn't.  I knew if I turned and watched him from the window, as though he were an exhibit at the Denver Zoo, they might have to peel me off the window, and I'd be late for work.  Instead, I sobbed quietly, tears streamed down my face, and I drove off to work.  I knew that my *saving grace* from this teary-eyed mess that I'd become was the *ahem* 'sanctity' (?) of my classroom that would soon be filled with 28 fresh little faces staring up at me with saucer-wide eyes just waiting for me to stop talking so they can ask what time they'll eat lunch and when they'll have gym.  Thankfully, this being my 9th year of teaching, I knew pretty much what to expect and the rest of the day,albeit extrememly busy, went by relatively painfully (my feet are re-adjusting to heels, my throat is strained from giving directions and answering a million and six questions all day), and while Gavin was on my mind, my high-strung emotions were a thing of the past.

Then, this evening at dinner, Gavin was struggling with his burrito.  Not in the way where the ingredients spilled all over his lap and the surrounding floor as in the usual, but in the way where he couldn't bite down and chew it correctly.  He told us that his tooth hurt and had twisted today while he was at school. 

Really?!  My baby boy starts kindergarten and has his first loose tooth on the same day?  I absolutely, completely just *forgot* that this happened!  I guess I sort of remembered, but I didn't make the association that my son was approaching the age where it happened! 

So, after some discussion and reminders about the Tooth Fairy (or Tooth Berry, as Brynn calls her), Gavin is pretty on-board with the concept of losing teeth.  Me?  Not ready for all these milestones to hit at the same time.  If time doesn't slow down, my next post will be about him shaving!

so excited for school!

because Gavin cannot be the only one in the spotlight!

3 by 9th year of teaching...and 1st year as a teacher/mommy of a school-aged kid!

my oldest and my youngest

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The night before school...

'Twas the night before kindergarten, and I just packed his lunch.
A sandwich, an apple, and some crackers to munch.
Gavin's all nestled and snug in his bed,
I tucked him in tight, placed a kiss on his head.
I smiled and gave him an extra-big squeeze,
My eyes filled with tears and he said, "mom...geeze!"
It's hard to believe that he's ready for school,
Wasn't is just yesterday I was wiping his drool?
I know he'll still need me for all sorts of things,
But he's growing up and is spreading his wings.
He picked out his backpack and lunchbox to boot,
"This is what's cool, mom", he said.  When did he become so astute?
A whole batch of friends, he's certain to make,
There's reading and writing and math tests to take.
Long gone are the days of playtime and naps,
He'll add and subtract and learn to read maps.
And before you know it, he'll be smarter than me,
"You're don't know what you're talking about, mom, don't you see?"
But for now I'll enjoy my sweet little boy,
Who still needs his mommy and his Eeyore stuffed toy.
I know we've raised him well during these first five years,
But that doesn't mean that I won't shed some tears.
As the morning approaches when I leave him at the door,
My heart is so heavy, that it drags on the floor.
He told me tonight, "don't cry mom, it's ok"
He's excited and can't wait to start the school day.
The first five years have flown by far too fast,
But I know that tomorrow, he'll have such a blast.
So, my sweet Gavin, as you begin this next phase,
Know that mommy loves you in so many ways.

Good luck, buddy! You'll be amazing!

Five years ago...seems like the blink of an eye