Sunday, September 05, 2010

Back to the Ballet

A few weeks ago, I was in total shavasana bliss at the end of yoga class--centered, peaceful, full of gratitude for the world--when the woman on the next mat over turns to me and asks, "Kelly?"

A bit perplexed, I answered, "Um, yeah, my daughter's name is Kelly."

"No, no--Donna Kelly--that's your name, isn't it?" I nodded, and the woman smiled. "Hon, don't you remember me?"

I searched her face. I'd noticed her before--partially because she was extremely flexible, despite being in her 50's, and partially because she always brought our yoga teacher fresh vegetables from her garden. But I just couldn't place her.

"'s Miss Kaye."

My heart almost jumped out of my chest as I lunged for her and grabbed her into a huge embrace. "Miss Kaye!?! I've missed you SO MUCH!!!"

As a little girl, I LOVED to dance. I would raid my grandmother's scarf drawer, arrange myself into some 4-year-old version of Salome, and flit up and down her driveway for hours on end (much to her neighbors' amusement, I'm sure). When I turned 6, my parents wisely decided to channel my energies into a more focused outlet--dance class--but they couldn't afford a standard dance studio (with all the recital nonsense that went along with it.) So they signed me up for tap and ballet at the Y.

Every Saturday, I'd line up at the barre with twenty other little girls--our jellybean bellies proudly displayed in our Danskins--and dutifully follow our teacher, Miss Kaye. Miss Kaye was all business in her severe bun and ripped tights, but I absolutely adored her.

Of course, being the early 80s, my classmates eventually jumped ship for gymnastics...until I was literally the only student left. Miss Kaye continuted to teach the Advanced class for another few years. She even had me over to her house one day when I finally got my pointe shoes, teaching me how to sew the ribbons on. And she managed to find some performance opportunities for me as well, as a "guest artist" in her friend's dance studio recital.

She moved, but we kept in touch through letters for years. But even after the letters stopped, I still kept her in my heart as a teacher who completely believed in me--and someone I tried to emulate with my own students. I never forgot her.

I also never forgot my love of dance--particularly ballet. I went on to dance in musicals for years, but it was just never the same. Whenever I saw a picture of Degas' "Little Dancer," tears would sting my eyes. Whenever I watched ballerinas perform, my own legs would ache as I mentally did the steps along with them.

When the time passed for me to actually be able to take ballet again, I turned to yoga. I actually took my first class at the same Y I had danced in, so many years ago.

And here I was, at a yoga studio in Broomall, sitting next to my dear Miss Kaye. It was miraculous.

And amazingly coincidental...because I'm about to return to ballet for the first time in twenty years! Back in the spring, I took Kelly to a "Mommy & Me" class at The Creative Living Room. One of the mommies, a former ballerina with the NYC Ballet, mentioned that she was teaching an ADULT ballet class in the fall! ADULT BALLET! Woo-hoo! So I signed up, bought myself a pair of ballet slippers (that was fun--being the only adult buying for herself in a sea of 7 year olds...), convinced my sister and a few girlfriends to join me, and here we go!

I'm nervous but SUPER excited. Letting ballet get away from me has always been one of my biggest regrets, and it's not often that you get to relive a childhood passion.

Much less meet a childhood idol. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Live Free or Die!

So goes the motto of New Hampshire, birthplace of TJ's goddaddy, and more recently the destination of our first post-Kelly getaway. NR's good friend from college (finally!) got married, in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony at The Fells (see above).

It was a beautiful weekend for so many reasons. One, it was just heaven to get away for a night. I love my kiddies like a lioness, but I sure love my hub, too, so escaping every now and then is a very good thing. Two, his friend has had quite the rocky road to romance--not for lack of options, but just finding the right one to spend forever with took a while. Well, he certainly met his match in his bride, and it was a fantastic celebration of two strong-willed, adventurous, altruistic individuals coming together. Three, a slew of Nick's old college buds were there (whom he never gets to see, as almost all of them are scattered along the West Coast), so he got a healthy dose of male-bonding and stogie-smoking.

It was so breathtaking up there that we decided to pack up the kiddies in a few weeks and head to Maine. Although we're breaking the trip up with a stopover in Connecticut, it's still probably a ridiculous undertaking. But when you're young and poor, I guess you make questionable vacation choices. (Exhibit A: when I was about 8 months old, my parents decided to take me to Canada! And CAMP along the way! What in holy hell were they smoking?)

So stay tuned for some interesting post-vacay updates. ;D

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Remembering "Norf"

In the midst of high school graduations this week, there is one school whose ceremonies I'm following with a particular sadness.

Northeast Catholic High School for Boys (or, as commonly referred to by locals, "Norf"), was where I initially cut my teeth as a teacher. And boy, was it a baptism by fire.

As I worked on my English education degree at St. Joseph's University, I had a hazy idea of who and where I would teach. Probably some idyllic private school on a bucolic campus...coaching my young charges (class size no more than 10, please) to write sonnets under an old willow tree as we drank deep from the well of literature. My students would be enraptured by my knowledge, my vintage clothes, my general coolness. I'd never raise my voice, or argue, or split hairs over a grade point. It would be a mutual admiration society for all.

Well, St. Joe's had other plans for me.

I received my student teaching assignment in the mail over Christmas break senior year: "Northeast Catholic High School: Cooperating Teacher, Joe Salvatore." A quick look at the map told me that North was at least an hour away by car or SEPTA. There were a number of high schools within twenty minutes of my house; wasn't there a closer option?

The answer was no--unless I wanted to teach in public school.

So off I trekked on the el every morning, landing bleary-eyed at the Erie-Torresdale stop. I'd follow the boys in their black sweaters to the stately old school, trudge up the steps, and make my way down to Joe Salvatore's classroom. It was a recipe for disaster. Here I was, barely 21, assigned to teach juniors and seniors in their second semester. These hulking boys were 2nd and 3rd track, which in 1998 meant they were generally not considering college. Most of them already had jobs lined up at their dad's auto body shop, or were planning to attend trade school. Not only that, Joe--or "Sal," as the guys barked at him in the halls--was a young, cool, beloved teacher. They were NOT thrilled with the idea of little Miss Kelly coming in and trying to teach them about analogies for SATs they would never take.

The first few weeks were hell. The principal, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, would rave about the "Salesian gentlemen" of North, but I had yet to meet one. Instead, I dealt with obscene gestures (and drawings on the back of tests), gaseous emissions (I dreaded the classes who came in after lunch), multiple double entendres, and eye-rolls/guffaws galore at my futile attempts. On more than one occasion, I entered the room to find all the windows open...which I found harmless, until Sal gently reminded me, "Donna, what happens to girls when they get cold?" Ai yi...

My classroom management was a joke. I'd clap my hands, bleat "settle down, settle down," and occasionally lose my temper. Lesson planning wasn't much better. Something that I was sure would take 40 minutes would be done in 5, leaving me to tread water until the bell rang while the guys shuffled restlessly.

After a particularly awful day (one which my supervising professor had visited, and left after a less-than-glowing review), I broke down. Sal tried his best to pick me up. "Kid, you're brand new at this. I can guarantee you'll be a master in a few years. Don't sweat it." He then started a practice of bringing me a Wawa coffee every Friday for surviving the week.

I needed to design a unit plan for my student teaching class, so we agreed that with my background in theater, Pygmalion would be a good choice. I started the unit with an exercise in stereotypes, which sparked a lively discussion about accents (being from Northeast Philly, the home of a distinctly horrifying if admittedly charming dialect, the boys loved this.) As we started reading and discussing the play and my comfort level grew, the boys slowly warmed up and began to humor me. They started turning in halfway decent work; I was able to appreciate their comedic timing (such as the day Peter went up to give a presentation, trailed by a dryer sheet stuck to his pant leg. "Hey Pete," Ryan called. "I see you have a little 'Bounce' in your step today!") Sal would often joke that I was the Eliza to his Henry Higgins--there was hope for me yet. And by the time my supervisor came for his final visit, he admitted that I made him miss teaching high school. "Would you accept a position at North if one was available?" I surprised both Sal and myself when I blurted out, "Oh, definitely." I had fallen in love with "Norf."

On my last day, Sal surprised me with a party--complete with donuts, Sinatra on the stero (I'd admitted my love for Frankie during class once), and an official North Catholic sweatshirt. After the dismissal bell, he turned to me, shook my hand, and quoted from the musical version of the play we'd just finished: "Kid, I've grown accustomed to your face. By George, you did it, Eliza!"

A few boys stopped by to say goodbye and wish me luck. We chatted for a while, and then I excused myself to run and catch the el.

But as I made my way down the main hall for the last time, my eyes started burning. Another teacher stopped me to ask if I was okay. "Ed, I just never--expected to actually like them. These guys were the best." He smiled and agreed, "North guys are pretty awesome." I then ran to the bathroom and had a good cry for several minutes.

These days, where I teach is a far cry from "Norf." I've finally reached that undergrad fantasy--small classes, idyllic setting, bucolic campus, and angelic students. But I still remember my North boys with the deep fondness.

I've often said that no education class can sufficiently prepare you for teaching except the actual student teaching experience. I am forever indebted to the boys of North Catholic for making me a teacher--the hard way. My "Salesian gentlemen" will always be in my heart.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Best. Baby. Ever.

Seriously. This little girl is unbelievable.

I remember babies like this. When I had Teege, I attended a new moms' group in Hoboken. Most of us showed up with dark circles under our eyes, milk stains on our shirts, juggling screaming newborns for 45 minutes to calm them down for what would turn out to be a 5-minute nap, if we were lucky.

But there were those token few moms who breezed in, looking remarkably put together, cradling sweet little angels on their laps. When asked to share their highs and lows of motherhood with the group, they would wax blissfully about what a magical, wonderful time this was, how much they were enjoying their cherub, blah blah blah...all while said cherub would either sleep peacefully or smile at anyone who looked in their direction.

The rest of us would glare. Bitterly.

Well, I now have one of those cherubs. Kelly is an absolute sweetheart. She cries for maybe 5 minutes a day, total--and only when she really, really needs something. The rest of the time she's napping, or giggling at me, or just checking out the world around her.

This makes my imminent return to work very tough to swallow.

At the end of June, I start teaching part-time for six weeks at a local theater. Then I'll have most of August off, and return full-time in September.

I guess this makes me feel good. I remember counseling a little boy at camp once, telling him that homesickness was a good thing--it meant that home was a pretty great place to be. I suppose that my not wanting to go back to work means that mommyhood is agreeing with me more and more. With Teege, my world was so topsy-turvy, I was ready to just start work again and get my life in order. I felt kind of guilty that I didn't really want to stay home. It had nothing to do with him...I just longed for a semblance of order. I also didn't really feel like a mommy yet. The concept was still so foreign to me.

(Interesting question for my parent friends...when was the moment you first REALLY felt like a parent? NR and I discussed this the other day. Interestingly, both of us answered that it took a scary injury for our little guy to submerge us completely into the parent 'hood. And this was after he was a year old!)

With Kelly, things are much calmer, and...I feel so much more confident. Even times when I'm home alone with both kids, there isn't this panic and fear that I always felt the first time around.

I know things will work out when I do start working again. Thankfully I have a pretty low-stress job, supportive co-workers, an awesome parenting partner in NR, and a terrific daycare lined up.

But after a day like this one, just snuggling with Miss Kelly and reveling in her sweet little smiles, I can't help but long for more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brought to you by Kleenex

One of the great perks of maternity leave is the blessing to become a couch potato. When you have a newborn sleeping snugly in your arms, and the stress of work but a distant memory, you have full authority to watch whatever the hell you want. Don't get me wrong, I've been reading a ton as well--but sometimes you just gotta turn the brain off and nourish it with mental junk food.

So I've been loading up my DVR with all kinds of crap that I wouldn't normally watch: multiple Lifetime movies, "Chelsea Lately," "Slings and Arrows" (a cancelled Canadian series from the early '00s about a Shakespearean troupe), "Arrested Development" (catching up just a few years too late), and "16 and Pregnant"/"Teen Mom." Those last two are doozies, and should be required viewing for anyone who's hit puberty.

The other morning I watched Catelynn's story. Catelynn is a chipmunk of a gal from Michigan who, with the support of her adorable boyfriend Tyler, decides to give up their baby daughter for adoption. The poor kids realize what a crappy hand they've been dealt in life (unstable mom, jailbird dad), and unselfishly realize they want better for their child. So they choose a fantastic couple to adopt "Carly," and bide their time until the birth.

I sat on the couch, holding my baby girl, sobbing hysterically as Catelynn gave birth and tearfully handed the baby over to the radiant adoptive mom. It takes a lot for me to cry at a movie or television show (anything during pregnancy doesn't count), so this was quite a weepfest.

It started me thinking on what exactly provokes my tears when it comes to entertainment. There are certain scenes from certain movies that get me, no matter how many times I've seen them. Here are a few...

"To Sir With Love": Sidney Poitier's character endures a tour of duty teaching at a crappy English public school. He's decided to leave and take an engineering job, despite some significant successes, and the kids surprise him with a going-away gift. Overcome by the gesture, he goes up to his classroom, where he's accosted by two brats who inform him he'll be teaching them next term.

As they run out, "Sir" stands up, pulls out the letter of employment, and tears it to pieces. He picks up a flower from his desk, pops it in his buttonhole, and returns to the farewell party and his students.

"The Bridges of Madison County": After a torrid 3-day affair, Iowa housewife Francesca decides to NOT skip town with a hunky photog, Robert. About a week later, she's in the car with her husband when she spies Robert's pickup in front of them. The light turns green, but he doesn't turn...waiting for her to maybe, just maybe, jump out of her car and escape with him. She grabs the door handle...but can't do it. After an endless pause, he pulls away. She lets go.

"The Notebook": I absolutely refused to read the book, and hated 95% of this movie. I thought it was a complete cheesefest, horribly written, overacted, you name it.

But man...when the nursing home aide comes into Ally's room at the end, to find her and Noah wrapped in each other's arms...if you don't lose it at this scene, you're officially heartless.

"Juno": I first saw this delightful little gem as a new mom. I knew something was up with creepy Jason Bateman from the get-go, so I was thrilled when sweet Jennifer Garner got her little bambino at the end. But that birth montage set to "Sea of Love"..."He was never ours, he was always hers"...oooh, boy. I've already decided that if Teege ever gets married, that is the song we will use for our mother/son dance. He has no say. Sorry.

"Friday Night Lights": One of the best "inspirational teacher" movies ever, if a rather unconventional one. ( much as I love Mr. Keating in "Dead Poets Society," WHAT DOES HE ACTUALLY TEACH!?) The worst part of being a teacher, for me, is letting go of your students at the end of the year. When Coach takes the names off the roster, reflects on each player, and slowly tosses them away...holy cow. Emotional train wreck.

So which scenes turn you into a mess of snot and tears every time?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

She's Here!

It's a Girl! Kelly Genevieve was born on March 5, 2010 at 7:13 p.m.

The Labor Story...

On March 3, I went to the ob for my weekly checkup. I was huge. I was sore. I was bored out of my mind after two weeks of maternity leave.

And I was freaked out, because just the day before I'd been to the hospital for an ultrasound. The tech informed me that Baby Romero was eight pounds...fourteen ounces. Yeeouch!

So after my exam, my doctor pulled me up to a sitting position and said, "So how do we feel about induction?" I had really been against it--I just wanted labor to start naturally (since I'd always planned on epidural, maybe it was, it's bad enough I'm getting drugs to help with the pain, do I really need drugs to induce labor as well?)

I was also afraid that it would cause unnecessary stress. TJ was a pretty fussy baby, and I was always convinced that it was due to my 36-hour-labor. I so desparately wanted to bring this next baby into the world as peacefully as possible.

But the doctor talked me through it. The baby was nice and big, and was only going to get bigger. I was very close to my due date. But what finally sold me was this--he said this way, there would be no surprises. I could drop TJ off at my parents the next night and get him settled, then head on over to the hospital where they would start me on drugs. I would sleep for a few hours, and hopefully have the baby by morning. Best of all, if everything went well, we'd all be home in time to celebrate TJ's 3rd birthday on the 9th.

Sounded good to me!

So after conferring with my hub and mi madre, I went home, did some laundry, cleaned the house, and finished packing. It was SO nice knowing that Friday was the day! The next night, Nick and I took TJ out to dinner--our last dinner as a trio--and then spent some time with my family. We calmly drove out to the hospital (so different from the first time, where I silently cursed poor Nick every time he drove over a bump), checked in, and met with our adorable labor nurse, Amy. By 9 o'clock, I was all settled into the delivery suite, eating popsicles, watching "The Office" (oh irony of ironies, it was the delivery episode!), and waiting for the drug to kick in. I couldn't believe how relaxed everything was.

By midnight, contractions were in full swing, which meant I wouldn't even need the pitocin. I got my epidural (oh sweet pharmaceuticals, how I love thee), and just rested for the next few hours while they periodically checked on me. Around 6, Dr. Laveran examined me and said "Well, you're fully dilated--ready to start pushing?"

Oh crap. This was when they turned off my epidural with TJ--so I would "know when to push." I steeled myself and asked Amy, "So, are you turning off the epidural now?"

She laughed. "Why would we do that? I'll tell you when to push!"

Did she ever. After only 45 minutes of pushing (where, honest to God, I felt no pain--just pressure), out popped the bambino. I looked down to see what he/she was, but the umbilical cord was blocking the important part. Nick yelled out, "She's a girl!"

I almost fell off the table. I was CONVINCED that she was a boy; I'd mentally prepared myself for another boy. But a GIRL!?

Yup, a beautiful, happy, sweet-natured, mellow little girl. We now have "the millionaire's family." Very rich indeed. :)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Veggie Bombs (or how parenting makes you a big fat liar)

All right. I fold.

When I first heard about Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" method several years ago (pre-kids), I smugly thought, "What the hell? Why doesn't she just teach her kids to eat veggies the old-fashioned way?"

Chalk this up to the many other preconceptions I had about parenting. SO much easier said than done.

We started out right with the Teege. Strictly breast milk for the first four months, slowly introduced (organic) formula, offered him every baby veggie food imaginable (which he happily accepted). Once he started eating "big people" food, we found that he loved fruit--esp. bananas, berries, and apples. "Ah," we thought, "what healthy eating habits we've instilled in our brilliant offspring!"

Then His Highness started developing PREFERENCES. No matter how many times we offered veggies with dinner, they were roundly refused. For a time we would just give him something else for dinner, but quickly realized that was going to be a slippery slope (and NR kept having flashbacks of his own mother bellowing to her picky charges, "I AM NOT A SHORT-ORDER COOK!"). So we continued to offer whatever we were eating, but started working out a bartering system ("If you eat one more piece of chicken/strawberry/please God anything besides macaroni, then you can have another biscuit.")

Well, when we met with our pediatrician last week, she set us straight--that while we thought we were calling the shots, clearly it was the other way around. Just keep offering "your" food, she encouraged--don't force him to clean his plate, but make it clear that there are no other options. She also suggested the Jessie Seinfeld method--pureeing veggies into sauces, just to allay our fears that the child was turning into a giant chicken nugget.

So I come downstairs the other night to find NR commandeering the Cuisinart, blending up a steamed veggie medley, which he then froze into "veggie bombs." He mixed some in with our spaghetti sauce the other day, and darnit if Teege didn't gobble it right up.

Is this teaching him how to eat veggies? Absolutely not. I get it. And we'll continue to offer real veggies with dinner (which will continue to be ignored until one magical day when our backs are turned.) But in the meantime, I know that he's getting some of the nutritional benefits.

This is just one example of many parenting philosophies we formally dissed and now embrace. I used to roll my eyes at the wild child lashing out at a harried mom in the supermarket ("Ha! Clearly she has zero control over this miscreant! I, however, will be a beacon of calm with my future angel.") Riiiight.

I certainly still judge parents--who doesn't? And as a teacher, it's almost impossible not to (although not necessarily right.)

It goes both ways. For example, there are those who think NR and I are nuts for our anti-spanking policy. We certainly weren't raised in hippy-dippy families where discipline didn't exist. We both got spanked; we both survived. We just don't want to hit our own kids. We're not expecting medals for it.

So what does that mean? It means a LOT of continual communication/agreement between the two of us as partners. A lot of research into which methods we think will work, and which won't. A lot of creativity (if I start the "1, 2, 3" warning, I'd better have an actual consequence--and firmness to follow through--by the time I get to 3.) The knowledge that although he's not yet 3, Teege certainly understands a lot more than he lets on (including how to charm the paint off the walls.) A lot of patience when dealing with the supertantrums and requisite time-out chair (thank God for yoga--seriously!)

And a LOT of humility in knowing that we'll screw up--a lot. So in the meantime, it's veggie bombs and time-out chairs. :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Confessions of a (Sorta) Mean Girl

When I was in 5th grade, my best friend was a sweet little Indian girl who lived around the corner. We'll call her Sadie. Sadie sat behind me in school, and we were both on the quiet, bookish side. We rode bikes, played Barbies, ran through the sprinkler, and even tolerated her younger brother. When she spent the summer in India visiting her family, we exchanged letters and postcards the whole time. While our classmates were starting to "date" and go to dances, Sadie and I were perfectly content to just be ten. We even wore those silly "Best Friend" necklaces that fit together.

Until Catelyn moved in across the street.

Catelyn was "cool." She had older sisters who let us hang out in their room while they dyed their hair, listened to Metallica, and gossiped about boy drama. We snuck their V.C. Andrews novels, and were both horrified and fascinated by what we read. I slept over one night, and we stayed up to watch Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (which still gives me nightmares to this day.)

Eventually, Catelyn started making comments about Sadie. "She's so dorky." (Well, so was I--for an idea of my wardrobe at the time, see Dawn Wiener in "Welcome to the Dollhouse.) "Has she ever kissed a boy?" (Irrelevant, since neither of us had, nor were in any rush to.) "Her house always smells." (It smelled delicious to me, of curry and cumin and exotic spices that certainly never graced my own Irish kitchen at home.)

But at the tender age of 10--and too heavily influenced by books like "Sweet Valley High" which dictated some sort of expected adolescent pecking order--I started to buy into Catelyn's comments. When I planned the guest list for my 11th birthday party, I left Sadie off in order to placate Catelyn.

Sadie biked over to my house one afternoon in a panic. "Are you having a birthday party this year?" I quickly denied it. "I heard that you were, and you didn't invite me because you don't want to be friends anymore." She dissolved into tears, and I wrapped my arms around my sweet friend, begging her to come anyway. But we both knew it was beyond repair.

We wound up at the same high school together, several years later, but never progressed beyond a cordial "hey" in the hallways.

As time went on (I switched schools, Catelyn moved, and our friendship dissolved), I can't say my friendship skills progressed. When things got sticky (i.e. there was a disagreement, a difference of opinion/interest, a general annoyance), I simply extricated myself from the relationship and moved on. I became way too judgemental--instead of accepting my friends as they were, I professed exasperation (as I got older, I would write them off as being "too high maintenance.") I prided myself on what I thought was strength of character (I remember announcing to one poor girl, when I was about 14, that nobody liked her and thought she was annoying--thinking, somehow, that I was helping her!?! My old roommate loved this story and would always quote it at random, "NOBODY LIKES YOU!" But I can't say it was my finest hour.)

Looking back, I think I was terrified that someone would hurt me the way that I'd hurt Sadie. (Oh, and I had my comeuppance--in 7th grade, I was booted out of the "popular" crowd for a spell, and spent several lunch periods in the bathroom.) It was easier to turn away or brush someone off than work at the friendship.

WORK at the friendship. See, I didn't realize that it was just that--work. I thought that friends were just accessories to cement you into a certain social group, or cheerleaders to pick you up when you were down.

Now, at the ripe old age of 33 (and a teacher at a girls' school), I am extremely sensitive to this topic. I cringe when I hear of girls being cruel, rejecting each other, or grinding the gossip mill.

I've also reaped what I've sown. I have a few old friends that I keep in regular contact with (and through the magic of Facebook, I've reconnected with many people that I've truly missed), and I love meeting new people and developing new friendships. Yet I can't help thinking of all the times I failed as a friend throughout my adolescence, and the toll that has taken.

And then my thoughts turn to Sadie, and what would have happened if Catelyn had never disrupted our little world.

As my Teege gets older, and the birth of Baby #2 approaches, I ponder (and worry) how to teach them the value of true friendship--and the concerted effort required to make it work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

tick tick tick tick...

NR says when he looks at me these days, he sees the clock from "60 Minutes" ticking away. Thanks, honey. ;)

I was SURE I was going into labor last week. Sleepless nights, nausea, general misery. It was also my last week of work before maternity leave (which officially starts today!), and I was in pain by the end of each day (not just uncomfortable, in PAIN.) I am blessed to teach on a beautiful campus, but that beautiful campus was literally kicking my butt!

So while emotionally, it was very hard to say goodbye to my students (and a job which I really enjoy), physically I was MORE than ready. And I know it will be bittersweet when I return in September.

I remember returning to work after TJ was born. He was six months old, and attending a really wonderful daycare, so I had nothing to worry about. But there I was, standing in front of my new students, wearing an actual outfit (not my previous uniform of shorts, flip-flops, unkempt hair and a nursing tank top), waxing poetic about Tennessee Williams or somesuch...and feeling like something was missing.

Oh, right. My little sidekick wasn't there.

It hit me harder than giving birth. I recall wondering how my body would respond once the baby was actually in my arms instead of my stomach. Would I...I don't know...mourn the detachment? Well, no--because now I could hold him and actually see his little face (even when he was screaming, he was still pretty freakin' cute).

But now, I couldn't even see that. Sure, I had a picture on my desk, but that was a poor substitute for the little man who had just started smiling, sitting up on his own, and developing a personality. (The now almost 3-year-old little man who just this morning declared that I was a mommy monkey, he was a baby monkey, and Daddy was a T-Rex. Of course.)

Three years later, I've adapted. I love being a mommy, and I also love my job. I wouldn't want to give up either. I love the great discussions with my students, the moments they surprise me with a brilliant essay or project, conversations with colleagues I respect and admire, and the purpose I feel every morning.

But I also love hiding out in dinosaur caves, drawing with sidewalk chalk on the back deck, mixing up granola bar batter, and even reading 10,000 stories before bedtime with the Teege.

I thank God every day that I have a job which affords this precious gift of time. Sure, we both sacrifice as teachers. Combined, we make a lot less than many of our friends earn individually. So we live in a tiny house and don't take fancy vacations (or really, any vacations--visiting the in-laws in L.A. is it. Not that one can really complain about L.A.!) We have a luxury that many don't--peace--and I will never, ever give that up.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"It's gonna come out..."

So says my almost-3-year-old about the almost-done-cooking baby sibling! (Of course, he follows this up with "It's gonna go back?" Sorry to disappoint, my young is indeed gonna come out, and your life will be forever altered!)
(BTW, the above is my current profile pic on's "doppelganger week," and I've had to guffaw at some of the celebrities people claim they look like. Being that the only celebrity I've ever been compared to is Sandra Bernhard, I opted for Juno--at least our bellies are doppelgangers these days!)

As I approach the due date (March 8, but I swear this kid is coming early--there is simply NO ROOM left in the Inn Utero Romero), I'm feeling a mix of emotions: excitement, fear, joy, anxiety, exhaustion (is that an emotion or more a physical state?), and guilt. None of these are new, and thankfully (surprisingly), stress is not in the mix this time.

In February '07, I was going through a helluva time. We had recently decided to uproot our lives in JC/NYC and move/buy a house/find jobs down in PA...while raising an infant. Instead of focusing on the joy of welcoming our first child, I was completely preoccupied with what I was "giving up"--friends, security, the feeling of being established, and the totally selfish lifestyle of kid-free couplehood.

This time, however, we are settled in our home, jobs, and starting to really put down some roots. Our little man is happy as a clam, my family is nearby, and suburban life fits us like a snug glove.

And the guilt that I feel is of a different sort this time. Before, I felt guilty for thinking that this baby was "making us" change everything. In retrospect, he saved us--forcing us to grow up and slow down.

Now, I simply feel guilty that I won't have as much time and attention to pour over our little guy. But I tell myself that it's all good--it's time for a sibling, and honestly, he probably won't mind that Mommy is no longer up in his face all the time!

So I'm just enjoying these next few weeks as best I can--going to prenatal yoga with my cuz-in-law, cherishing the last few classes with my students, and loving these last few moments as just a trio with my boys.