Sunday, September 26, 2010

One eventful work week

MONDAY
On Mondays my mom watches Sophie and Michael, and when I came home from work she said she hadn't seen Sophie so moody in her entire five-month life.  And Sophie stayed that way, alternating between grumpily crying to be held and hanging out contentedly, for most of the night.  Mike and I attributed that to teething, getting over the first little cold she and Michael shared, and her just being a baby--literally.

TUESDAY
On Tuesday the daycare left a message on my cell phone that Sophie had a low fever and a light rash.  After talking to her caregiver, a nurse at the pediatrician's office, and her daddy, I arranged for Mike to take her in to the doctor midday.

Sophie was diagnosed with a virus (a cold, really), and Mike was told to just keep her home and to keep an eye on her for the rest of the day.  He brought Michael home at that point as well, and I stayed at work for a teacher's meeting, taking over baby duty (and doodie) once home so Mike could be available for a conference call that evening. 

Sophie slept uncharacterisically on my chest for hours, raising her head periodically to cry a tired and miserable cry for her pesky pacifier.  Michael also slept off the last of his cold in a Rock and Play Sleeper next to us, both waking up happily just before their last feeding of the night.  I read Sophie and Michael a story before bed, and they were both full of sweet smiles and coos.  Cuddling did us all some good.

WEDNESDAY


Michael fingerpainting an apple at the child care center
(sent to us in the daily email).

Two great achievements occured on Wednesday.  One, I worked it out with the daycare to have them hold off on feeding the babies their afternoon bottles for as long as possible so I could try to pick them up and feed them myself.  This routine is working on the days my mom is with Sophie and Michael, and it saves me from pumping a second time at work.  And we did it!  I left work as soon as I'm contractually allowed (instead of staying to pump), picked up my buds, and fed them at home.  I even had time to do the unloading routine beforehand.

Let me describe the second achievement this way.  Next Wednesday we will all leave from a dusty, dirty home and return to a clean one.  I even negotiated for a better deal than we were initially quoted for this bi-weekly cleaning service.  Wednesday rocked!

THURSDAY
My mom is a church music director and had a funeral to play on Thursday morning, so we arranged for Mike's mom to watch the babies instead.  I called home on my prep hour to be sure all was going well, and it was.  Gail brought her best friend Carol along, and they were having a great day.

After the call I started pumping as I always do, with my nursing cover over me in my empty classroom with the door closed and locked.  In the first few weeks I even hung a sign saying, "Do not enter.  Testing in progress," to further prevent any intrusions.  Had I done that on this particular day, I still don't think I would have prevented what transpired next.

I heard what any teacher would know to be a fight in the hallway.  This was not during passing time, so it wasn't accompanied by the chaos of a big audience, but I heard banging into lockers, a slap, and a girl yell "Oh, my God!"  Entangled in tubes and cords and with bottles of milk dangling from me, I knew I couldn't get to the commotion quickly enough, so I sent out an urgent email to the administrators and the office secretaries.   It said, "I believe I just heard a fight outside of my classroom.  I couldn't go out there."

Moments later there was a knock.  "Sorry, I can't come to the door," I answered.  Another knock.  Again, "Sorry, I can't come to the door."  I realized at this point that I should have just said what I was doing in my email.  I consider all three administrators to be friends, but only the school principal is female.  I knew the odds weren't good that it would be she who would soon be in my room.  I heard keys, the handle jiggling, more keys, and the door opened.  It was one of the dudes, of course.  He looked confused, I told him I was pumping, he apologized, and sent in the principal.  I told her what I heard, she also apologized, and I told her I was fine, totally covered, just sorry if I embarrassed anyone else.

Throughout the rest of the day I learned that the administrators frantically searched the halls, unsure if I was in my English classroom or the one where I teach art, and they thought for sure I was being held hostage in my room when I didn't open the door...oh, the times in which we live.  After looking at camera footage from the halls and seeing nothing distinguishable as a fight, my bosses are certain the stress of juggling twins and my job is getting to me. 

In all seriousness, I know what I heard.  I wish I was wrong, but I'm worried about those mystery students...

FRIDAY
I was out the next day with the school administrators and some other teachers to do some school improvement work, and I think all awkwardness from the pumping event has been dealt with.  In fact, despite everyone's attempts to be mature, I'm counting on some good jokes to come from this over beers one day.

This meeting, however, took place offsite at a college.  I stepped out mid-morning to pump in my car and all was great until I realized, because this meeting was catered by the college, that I didn't have my insulated lunch bag to store the milk in.  My solution was to get a plastic shopping bag from the college bookstore (just steps from our conference room), but I instead found a $5 insulated bag to buy.  Mainly I just didn't want anyone to go into the conference room fridge for a pop and discover a bottle of my bodily fluids starting back at them, so I put the bottle in this bag inside the refrigerator.  Remarkably, I even remembered to take it home.

Feeding the babies after picking them up from daycare worked out again, and I spent the evening on my own with them.  Mike was invited to dinner with his bosses and the company's president, and we're in favor of that kind of thing.  We all went to bed early and appreciated the end of one eventful work week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spending the currency of time and energy

I am very sensitive to clutter.  Not so much that I believe I have OCD, but I have to admit I understand the anxiety those who have it feel.  Dishes on a countertop or clothes on the floor are just irritations when there are empty dishwashers and laundry hampers in the world.  I've carried this philosophy into my classroom and have rarely left for home in the past with ungraded papers on my desk or let students leave strips of notebook paper fringe on their work or on the floor.

But, like so many things, this side of my personality has changed a bit since the twins arrived.  My love for systems, routines, and order certainly has helped to keep our home functional and organized even with the large amount of  baby gear that cycles through its 1200 square feet.  Still, there is an aesthetically unappealing baby bottle drying rack on my once bare--beautifully bare--kitchen counter.  Clothes pile up on my side of the bed since my own laundry hamper still lives in the babies' closet (it used to be my "extra" closet), and I choose not to open that sqeaky door while Sophie and Michael sleep.  I'm relieved that necessity seems to prevent my old clutter-induced tension from developing in instances such as these.



While I still feel compelled to immediately remedy any jumbled junk drawer that crosses my path, I now see my time and energy as a sort of limited currency to dole out each day.  Ideally, I want the majority of it to go toward my interactions with my babies, but it's not always that simple.

I've committed to give myself to my work to enhance the lifestyle I can share with my family, and if I'm going to be gone from Michael and Sophie for so many hours a day, I'm certainly not going to spend that time being intentionally mediocre. So for every task I face at work I ask myself if it's worth it. Can those papers wait to be graded until tomorrow? Will straightening the textbooks on my shelf make me a better teacher? If a task has no bearing on my effectiveness at work, then I'm going to save that energy for my babies.

Work is also inherently different this year.  In addition to tenth grade English, I'm teaching art for three periods. This is after teaching English exclusively for nine years, never intending to put that other certification to use (I just liked being an art student myself).  Despite my reluctance, a recent retirement and a state graduation requirement of a half credit of fine arts has put that certification of mine more in demand.

One of my art courses is currently engaged in an Op Art paper weaving project that I was assigned in my 2-D design class in college.  It's an exploration of line, how varying the widths of the paper makes parts of the final piece visually advance or recede, and it requires a lot of paper cutting. This results in piles of cut paper and many, many strips landing on the floor. Remarkably, I don't care much. Like the stickler I've always been, I make each class clean up around their work spaces and warn that I'll keep them after the bell if they don't do so thoroughly. The difference is I probably won't, especially seventh period.  Pushing my students to take pride in their environment is important to me, but I also have pumping to do and babies to get to.  I just have to hope the students never test me on what I know in my heart is now an empty threat.

I also have to determine the worth of tasks outside of work.  The most taxing part of my day is when I get home with the babies on their daycare days.  I enter the door with a work bag, a diaper bag, my lunch bag, my pump bag, and two babies in carseats.  I debate everyday whether or not to just leave the loaded bags on the kitchen table until I've played with Sophie and Michael and put them down for their last nap.  But everyday upon entering the door I immediately unload the bags of pumped milk, dirty dishes, bottles, soiled clothes, daily sheets, and pump parts.  I put the dishes in the washer, pump parts in soapy water, the daily care sheets in a binder, the diaper bag on the back of the nursery door, clothes in the hamper.  I change into sweats, use the bathroom, get the mail, grab a snack, refill my water, and get the babies on the floor finally for some truly in-the-moment mommy time.  Remarkably, Sophie and Michael have hung out contentedly in those car seats for the ten minutes or so that this routine takes.  Like going back to work, part of me feels guilty for taking this time away from the babies, but without a to-do list hanging over me, I feel freed to give all of my stored up and remaining time and energy to Sophie and Michael.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Last year over Labor Day weekend, Mike and I let our families know that in 2010 there would also be a Labor Day at the end of April.

That was our clever way of sharing the news that we were expecting a baby.  Yes, one baby.  The rest of the news came to all of us in November.

This year, in the three week dramafest that I've created out of returning to work (one week to practice working, one week at work without students, and this coming week the first with students), I decided I didn't want to divide up our extended free time too much.  Aside from him spending most of Sunday golfing with his dad, Mike and I have spent the weekend as a family.  Who needs a cabin up north when you can sit around, eat too much, and complain about the weather at home? 

I was home on Friday and spent it like I have most days since the babies were born--feeding, changing, rocking, playing, reading, and just generally soaking in as much babiness as possible.

On Saturday Mike and I took advantage of the blank slate before us and spontaneously took Sophie and Michael to the Toldedo Zoo.  Neither (well, none) of us had been there before and honestly expected a little more.  All I've ever heard of the Toldedo Zoo is that it's way better than the Detroit Zoo, but we didn't find it to be so far superior.  Perhaps we're especially sentimental about the Detroit Zoo as it was the location of our first quintessential family outing on Mike's first Father's Day.  I'll admit that there's nothing at Detroit's that compares to Toledo's aquarium, seeing hippos underwater is pretty cool, and there was more to see in their reptile exhibit including a crocodile, but overall we like the set-up of "our zoo" better.  Our polar bear exhibit is way cooler, even without a full-sized stuffed one to take pictures with....like this one in Toledo:



After the zoo we intended to take the babies to Lone Star Steakhouse, the restaurant where Mike and I worked and met each other, but the remaining two locations even somewhat near home have also closed (the one we actually worked at became a Panera years ago).  We ended up at a Cracker Barrell just up the road from the second closed Lone Star we attempted to eat at.  This was our first time eating out with the babies NOT on a patio, and we loved the car seat adapter contraptions they put over the chairs for the babies to rest in.  Both babies were ready for naps and needed some comforting before we finished our meals (Mike even walked Sophie around outside), but overall they were very easy-going on our day-long outing.

Now, let it be known that Sophie was very quiet for her first four and a half months of life, "speaking" primarly in breathy Marilyn Monroe style syllables.  From this point on, I don't think that's going to be the case.  She recently found her strong voice, and her tales are as charming as Michael's (see the video below of one of my first "chats" with Michael a few months ago).

  video
Instead of barbecuing at home on Monday, Mike and I invited our families out to Cheeburger Cheeburger for dinner on Sunday, and Sophie entertained us with her spirited ooohs, ahhhs, and squeals. 


Michael chose to cuddle up under a baby blanket with his Grammie while Sophie took the spotlight on this occasion.


As predicted, Sophie was sound asleep by the time we got home (a ten minute drive, tops).  I should have filmed a little video of her when I took her out of the car.  She looked up, smiled at me and the camera with the same child-star enthusiasm she showed us through dinner, and dropped her head back down like this in exhaustion several times in a row.


Today Mike and I are spending the day at home.  He went for a run, is working on his laundry, and will be making some chili for us to feed on for the next few days.  I've just been focused on the babies, enjoyed catching up on Mad Men with Mike, Sophie, and Michael lounging with me, and now I'm doing stuff for work.  Clearly.  Ok, here I go.  Any second.  Ready, set....almost.

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