Thinking about 2016

Siren and Immy on their last day of school of 2016

img_2610For reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on, 2016 was challenging.  Parenting-wise, age 5 has been great.  The girls started school, and it is so neat to watch them grow and learn.  So I can’t think of any parenting aspects, specifically, that made it a difficult year.

Maybe the biggest factor is that I STILL can’t run.  After kind of sort of but mostly not running in 2015, I did nearly zero running in 2016.  (I say “nearly zero” because there has been the occasional game of tag or just general running after the girls that most parents are probably familiar with.) Starting in March of 2015, I basically stopped running.  But I kind of cheated to help the girls practice for and then run a one-mile fun run in August.  And I kind of cheated to train with the girls and run a Turkey Trot 5K in November. In February of 2016, I finally FINALLY saw a podiatrist. He fitted me with orthotics, gave me a “sling” to put my foot in at night, and now I ONLY wear supportive athletic shoes, even to work and to church.  All of this has helped, a lot, but I am STILL not pain free, and therefore I have not been able to resume running.  This has resulted in some weight gain and in my overall crankiness.  Running was a big part of my stress relief and just being able to feel “even.” I do my best to exercise outside of running.  Most weeks I do Jillian at least three days a week, and I try to walk for at least 30 minutes two or three other days during the week. During the summer I also rode my bike and went on some hikes.  These just don’t seem to have the same mood-boosting effects of running, though, and definitely not the same calorie burn.

So on this first day of 2017, I’m really hoping that this will be the year I can start running again, and start losing weight again, and start feeling more like myself again.

However, 2016 wasn’t all bad.  Specifically I can think of two moments when I very strongly felt like I AM on the right path and I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.  These two experiences are what inspired me to write, so I want to describe these.

The first one occurred last spring.  In my AP classes, we read the book An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina.  It is about the genocide in Rwanda. This is the one carry-over unit that I have from my Holocaust Literature class that I used to teach.  This book is not commonly used in an AP class, but I continue to teach it because I believe that the content, the history, the connections to the Holocaust, and the issue of genocide in general is so important.  We finish the book a little before the AP Test, and then after the test, we usually watch the film Hotel Rwanda.  I have done this with my students for a few years now, so I’m not sure why THIS year it had such an impact on me, but I had a moment while watching the film when I realized that genocide is the issue that I care about and can educate about.  I just felt so grateful that I have the AP class and the opportunity to teach this and to continue to educate students about it.

The second time occurred at the end of August, right as school was starting. Tragically, a 2015 graduate of our school died in a car accident.  This deeply affected many of our current and former students.  The night of the accident, community members organized a vigil for his family and friends. I asked a few of our staff members if they were going, and they said they were unable to attend.  I really wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to go or not.  If it was meant to be a place for the student’s friends, I didn’t want to be the strange adult there who didn’t belong. But as I thought about it, I thought that ultimately, if I were the parent and this vigil was for my child, I would want to see the lives he had touched, and I would want to know that the adults who had been part of his life cared about him and thought he was a good person, so I went.  There were a couple of other staff members there, a counselor, the football coach, but I think that was it.  The crowd was mainly the friends of this student, but I am still really glad that I was there.  The group walked from the meeting location to this student’s parent’s house, and on the way, I saw the student’s older brother.  He had also been one of my students and had graduated in 2015. I saw him ahead of me in the crowd.  At one point he looked back and stopped walking.  The crowd continued to go forward around him.  When I reached him, he held out his arm and gave me a hug, and he told me that he really appreciated me being there that night.  I told him that our whole school was thinking of him when we heard the news, and to let us know if we could help in anyway.

At that moment, in the middle of such a supportive community, I felt like I was in exactly the right place.  There is such little comfort we can offer to others when they are hurting over a death, but I felt like everyone being there in that moment made a difference.  Maybe only a small difference, but still an important difference, and I was so glad to be a part of it.

So while there are things I am struggling with, I am feeling content in knowing that for now, I am in the right place.  I am hopeful that in 2017 I can continue on in the right direction, hopefully RUNNING in the right direction.


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Starting Over… Again

I have found myself in this exact place so many times, it’s incredibly frustrating.  I’ve struggled with how to write about this, but I feel like it’s finally time to at least write SOMETHING.  This post is much less about parenting and more about what I’m going through. So if you’re mostly just interested in the kid updates, skip this one.

At some point in 2014, things just started to go badly for me.  It’s hard to say what happened first.  The girls’ bedtime went from bad to worse.  They turned three in April, and they STILL weren’t potty trained. My classes from that school year that had been pretty good, suddenly seemed to lose their minds and became incredibly difficult to manage. I was glad to get through that school year and make it to summer.

Only during summer, things didn’t seem to get better.  I trained for a half-marathon that year, the same race I had trained for the year before, only I struggled through training.  My times weren’t as good, and running didn’t feel as good.  And then I started having trouble with my foot.

That fall, bedtime for the girls was still bad.  It was hard to get sleep, and hard to find time to exercise.  One of my classes at school was completely crazy, and that made me feel horrible about work.  I took two months completely off from running, which made it difficult to exercise consistently.  When my foot started feeling better, I started running again, but then my foot would start to hurt again, and I would have to stop.  I also got sick for about 4 weeks right before Christmas, and then got sick several more times throughout the beginning of 2015.  It just seemed like nothing went smoothly.

Meanwhile, as all of this was happening, my weight gradually began creeping back up.  I had been so excited and proud of being able to lose weight after the girls were born, and of being below my pre-pregnancy weight for more than a year.  I felt like I finally had the healthy-eating and exercising thing down.  Unfortunately, this was totally disrupted by not getting enough sleep, not finding time to exercise, and especially by not being able to run.

Around the time the girls turned 4, things started to get a little better.  The girls gave up napping for the most part, which made the weekends kind of tough, but they started going to bed earlier at night.  I still ended the school year not exercising and feeling more exhausted than ever, but I got there.

Summer was a blur.  It started with the girls being sick, Will leaving two different times to travel for conferences, and me trying to manage everything here without him.  We took a two week trip to Montana at the end of July through the beginning of August, and then it was time to get back to work.

I didn’t run for most of the summer.  The girls did a mile fun run at the beginning of August, so I ran a tiny bit with them to help them practice. But I never ran more than one mile, and even that was with frequent walking breaks.  However, there was no improvement in my foot.  After their run, I stopped running completely, and I still didn’t see any improvement in my foot.

At the beginning of the school year, I was finally able to get back to exercising regularly.  I would wake up around 4:15 a.m. and alternate between doing Jillian workouts and walking on the treadmill.  I was able to do this 6 days a week from when school started through winter break.  I didn’t lose any weight during this time, but I was at least maintaining.

For some reason, I haven’t been able to get back to this since winter break.  I’ve managed to put together a couple of 6 workout weeks again, but not consistently.  I also got sick at least two times since January, and one of them was a cold that hung on for awhile.  I also finally FINALLY made an appointment with a podiatrist, and I saw him for the first time in early February.  I now have $400 orthotics that insurance does NOT cover, but they are making a difference.  I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to run again.  I have another appointment in the beginning of April, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to start again soon.  I just feel like I HAVE to do something.

Basically since Christmas, the scale has slowly been creeping up.  I’m up 10 pounds from where I was a year ago.  My clothes are all tight, I don’t feel good about myself, and I’m just wondering what it’s finally going to take for me to get on track again.  My eating isn’t out of control.  I avoid sweets for the most part.  I still count calories and log every meal.  My problem is that without consistent exercise, it’s really hard for me to maintain the weight I want to be at, or even the weight 10 pounds over where I want to be at.  I would either have to give up chai tea or walnuts, and as far as food goes, I’m so tired of giving things up.  I really limit sweets.  I gave up Diet Coke and very rarely have any other kind of soda.  I gave up ice cream because I suddenly started having a really weird reaction to it.  We are still using the Fresh 20 meal plan and are making really healthy dinners most nights of the week. It would be really hard for me to get more restrictive with my diet at this point.

The hardest thing is feeling like I failed.  I was exactly where I wanted to be, and then as soon as the obstacles started getting in the way, I let that set me back.  I get so tired of feeling like EVERYTHING is a struggle.  And I’m more tired than I can ever remember being.  As a parent, age 4 has been much easier than age 3. The girls are starting to do more things on their own. I can get a few minutes to get things done throughout the day.  But I’m so tired, and everything feels so hard.  Especially when the alarm goes off at 4:00.  The last two mornings I’ve heard the alarm, felt absolutely incapable of getting out of bed, and then shut it off.

So this is where I’m at, two days before turning 35.  I want to get my weight back on track. I want to be exercising regularly again. And I really, really want to be able to run again. I’m hoping I can find the focus, motivation, and discipline to get back to it.  Back in January, I had set a goal to lose 5 pounds before I turned 35.  I not only did NOT meet that goal, I will most likely be up a pound or two from then.  It just sucks.  So I’m really hoping that the rest of the school year can go better for me than January – March has been.  I’m going to set another goal, from whatever weight I’m at when I weigh in tomorrow, to lose 5 pounds by the end of the school year. And my goal, again, will be to start exercising six days a week again, because I know that I do the best when I’m consistent.  Here’s hoping age 35 is when I get back on track, again.

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Well, it’s May

I’m so out of the habit of writing that I’m struggling with how to start.

It’s nearing the end of the school year:  3 weeks to go.  My students are in the middle of SBAC testing, which is a giant process and has been stressful for me.  So things at work are busy, like they usually are, I suppose.

The girls turned 4 in April. I haven’t updated their baby books since they turned about a year old. This makes me sad because it’s something that I really wanted to do (and still want to do) but I never seem to have time to do it.

Instead of getting into a tangent on parenting failures, though, I wanted to take a minute to write about some of the good things.  On Memorial Day this past Monday, we all stayed home and spent time together as a family, and it was a really nice day.

I had stayed up late grading the night before, so Will got up with the girls and got them breakfast.  I think I got up around 9 after Siren came into my room for the second time.  Imogen bought me sunflower seeds for my birthday in March, and I had told the girls we could plant them on Memorial Day, so they were really excited.

We all went out to the yard, which was so not garden-ready.  The girls helped Will and I pull weeds, pick out rocks, and dig holes for the seeds.  We spent two hours outside working before we were finally ready to put the seeds in.  The girls were awesome. They didn’t fight or complain, and they were excited to help out however they could.  Hopefully at least some of our flowers will grow, so they will have evidence of their hard work.

Days like that make me feel so grateful for my family.  I’m excited that the girls are getting to an age when we can all enjoy experiences together.  I worry a lot about being so consumed with work and the busyness of daily life that I’ll look back on these times and wish I would have appreciated them more.  It’s nice to be able to have a day when I can take that time to just enjoy being a family.

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Trying to write again

I went most of 2014 without posting here. The reasons are complicated. The first one being that my girls still don’t go to bed at night. They have good nights and bad nights. We’ve tried them in separate rooms and still in one room together. We’ve tried stickers and check ins and crying it out and everything I can think of. The bottom line is that they hate going to sleep, I hate bedtime, and it takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to get them to go to bed at night. When I used to write regularly, it was after they went to sleep at night. Since they are always up so late, I pretty much stopped posting.

The other major reason was that 2014 was just a difficult year in general. While we had no major crisis, things just felt hard. I feel weird even trying to talk about it because compared to the struggles that I know other people are going through, we don’t have any room to complain. Will and I are both employed. We’re able to afford our house payment, our cars, and generally keep up with our bills. The girls are healthy. We are healthy. We have SO SO MUCH to be grateful for. At the same time, I don’t think NOT talking about the struggles has done me any good. Writing is such a part of who I am and how I process things. I’ve still been writing, just not in a way that I’ve wanted to put out to the general public.

So I’m struggling with what’s okay to share, what’s better not to share, and how to try to post here regularly again. I want to keep a record of those funny parenting moments. I’m hoping I can find a way to make this work again. I won’t make any promises at this point, but one of my goals for 2015 is to try.

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Efforts to sleep

I know it’s only been a few days, and I’m STILL not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep at night, but I HAVE made an effort to get more sleep this week, but I haven’t noticed that it’s made a big difference.  Maybe it’s because I’m so far behind that adding another 30 minutes to an hour each night isn’t going to make a huge difference.  I don’t know. I just know that I’m even more behind on work than usual, still sick, not exercising, and I don’t know what to do about all of it.

It’s frustrating to me that I haven’t been able to follow through on any of my goals this year. I want so much to be exercising regularly, in the morning, to be making progress in running, to be writing regularly and looking for a way to do it even more regularly, to be caught up (enough) with my school work that I’m not feeling completely overwhelmed.  There is just not enough time in the day for me to be able to make this happen right now, so I’m not sure what to do about it.  It feels too scary and too sad to say, “Okay, I’m just not going to work on my goals right now.”  At the same time, it’s incredibly frustrating to WANT to make progress on them and then not to be able to.

In the area of nighttime with the girls, we are at least making some progress on that.  Instead of crying it out, which we weren’t having a lot of success with, we are trying a different Ferber technique.  When we put the girls to bed, I tell them that I’ll come check on them every X number of minutes until they fall asleep.  Siren still cried a little the first night.  Actually, both of them did.  But I started by checking on them every 3 minutes.  It only took a few times of me coming back into the room for the girls to realize that I WOULD keep coming back. Then Imogen went right to sleep.  Siren took a little longer.  The second and third nights were better.  I was able to come back in every 5 minutes instead of 3, and they fell asleep within 30 minutes of lying down.  We hit a set back the 4th night. Siren fell asleep, I stopped coming into her room, but then she woke up a few minutes after that and was upset.  She didn’t fall asleep for good until around 10:00.  The next night she didn’t fall asleep until 10:00 either.  Tonight went well again.  I was able to go into the room every 6 minutes. I started around 8:10, and the girls were both asleep by 8:50.  Siren has still been waking up during the night, but Will usually hears her first, picks her up, and then is able to lay her down again after a minute.  Most of the time she goes right back to sleep.  

So while things are much improved, we still have a way to go.  It is also extremely limiting to have to go into the girls’ room every few minutes for up to an hour every night, but it’s preferable to do this than to have them be agitated and upset and not going to sleep for an hour (or longer) anyway. I’m also hopeful that I”ll be able to extend the time periods to longer than 6 minutes after a few more days.  Fingers crossed.

I have 6 weeks of school, uninterrupted by any holidays, and unlikely to be interrupted by inclement weather, before spring break.  During this time we also have our state testing for English AND spring conferences.  AND the girls’ birthday is the first weekend of my spring break, so it won’t get relaxing until after that. This is just a stressful time, and I’m having a hard time trying to feel any excitement or enthusiasm for it. I also know I’m not likely to get a ton of sleep due to the zero breaks in the schedule, which is causing me to feel a certain amount of dread.  I wish I could feel more positive about things.  After all, I do know how lucky I am that Will and I are both employed, the girls are healthy, our house is standing, we have two working vehicles (3 if you count the one we need to sell), and we pretty much have enough money for the things we need. I KNOW we are blessed. It’s just hard not to feel stressed when I think about everything I need to do and how little time there is to get it done.

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recommitting to sleep

There is so much I would like to write about including our upcoming race, a new attempt at sleep-training for the girls, and the fact that I’m sick, again, but I don’t have enough time.  It’s already 10:30, and because of my recent decision to try to prioritize sleeping, I need to be heading for bed now.

So that is what I want to write about, briefly, recommitting to sleep.  Maybe recommit isn’t the right word because I’m not sure I’ve ever fully committed to sleep in the first place. I have NEVER gotten enough sleep. Not since middle school, anyway.  In high school and college, I realized that to do the amount of homework that had to get done, I would never have any social life if I didn’t sacrifice some sleep.  Not that I was ever out enjoying an especially active social life, but I used to try to see my friends more than once or twice a year like I do now.  The sleep deprivation didn’t bother me too much because I could usually “catch-up” (even though the experts say that you can’t) on weekends or during periods of less activity, such as during the summer, on holidays, and over breaks. 

Then I began teaching, and again, I was frequently severely sleep-deprived. I got into the habit of coming home Friday afternoons, going to bed around 4 or 5 p.m., and then sleeping until the next day.  This wasn’t the ideal system, but I managed to function.

Fast forward to life with children.  There is no catching up on the weekends because those girls are up and raring to go at 5 or 6 a.m. I can’t ever go to bed early because I always have work to do for school. And if I’m trying to get any kind of exercise at all, that sucks up any potential “free” time or time for extra sleep that I might have had.  But after 2.5 years of living this way, it’s starting to take its toll.

I recently read in an article that stated that for new moms, the effects of sleep-deprivation can present themselves with the same symptoms as postpartum depression. I’m wondering if this is still true a couple of years down the road.  Can a lack of sleep cause the same symptoms as depression?  Please don’t take this too seriously. I don’t think I’m struggling with depression.  But there are days when I just struggle. Having to wake up every morning is probably the worst feeling, physically and mentally, that I go through all day.  Lately I’m very easily irritated, prone to crying, and am just all-around cranky a lot of the time.  I think this is largely due to my lack of sleep.  For awhile I’ve been trying to just recognize this, and have been doing some things to attempt to consciously put myself in a better mood, but I’m beginning to realize the futility in all of this, and I’m thinking it’s time to go right to the source of the problem and try to get more sleep.

This is especially frustrating because this contradicts other goals I have set for myself this year.  I really wanted to increase my running and make progress on my speed. I wanted to increase my writing and start trying to figure out how I could possibly work more writing into my professional life. I wanted to clean up my house and organize my office.  But I’m beginning to think that all of these goals need to take a backseat to sleep, at least for a little while, to see if it helps. I don’t want to be a cranky mother.  I don’t want to lose my patience every day. I don’t want to snap at my kids and then regret it. I don’t want to feel like crying every time I have to wake up.

In light of this, I need to stop here and go to bed. I’ll try to revisit this idea soon.

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What are you usually doing from 8-10 p.m.?

One of my goals for 2014 is to be grateful more and to complain less, so I’ve really been trying.  This one, though, I just can’t help.  It’s been going through my head for awhile, and I’ve got to get it out.

 I get incredibly, perhaps irrationally, irritated any time I hear people make snide remarks about “all the time” that teachers get “off.”  I hear it about Christmas vacation and spring break. Must be nice. I wish I had the whole week off.  I hear it all summer long. Most of us still have to WORK during the summer.  And lately I’ve heard it when school has been canceled for snow. I wish I just got a day off any time it snowed.

These comments rub me the wrong way for several reasons, but mostly because of the insinuation that the person complaining is working harder than I am, or at least more hours than I am, when I know this simply isn’t true. I work a lot. A LOT. Saying, “I work a lot” is an incredible understatement. I am at school every weekday from 7 a.m. through 4 p.m., and many days even later.  For anyone who wants to say that teachers don’t work a full day, please come check the parking lot at my school.  Several teachers leave at 2:45 when our contract day is officially over, but most of us are still at school, trying to get ready for the next day.

Once I get home, I imagine I am doing what most working parents are doing: picking up the kids, fixing dinner, helping the girls eat dinner, getting the daycare bag ready for tomorrow, giving baths, brushing teeth, reading stories, walking the dog. If I’m incredibly lucky, the girls are in bed at 8.  Most nights it is later, sometimes much later, until they are actually asleep.

Now, let me ask all of the non-teachers out there.  When your kids are finally in bed, what do you do every night?  Relax? Sit on the couch and watch TV? Read Facebook and Twitter or play games on your phone? Talk to your spouse? Or even do chores like dishes or laundry?  This “leisure” time doesn’t exist for me.  Almost every night, regardless of whether it’s a weeknight or a weekend, from 8 – 10 p.m. I am either grading papers or planning for the next day.  Most weekends it’s more like 8-11 or midnight. This wasn’t always true before we had kids. I had a lot more flexibility then.  But since it is currently my only time I can sit and work, mostly uninterrupted, I am getting as much done for school as I possibly can during these 14 hours every week.

 Let’s do the math.  School typically runs 40 weeks out of the year. This means most weeks I am working 40 hours (7-4 every weekday) plus 14 hours in the evenings (8-10 p.m. every stinking night) to equal 54 hours a week.  If we times this by 40 weeks, that equals 2,160 hours per year.  If we say a person working a “regular” full-time job works 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, that equals 2,000 hours per year. So let’s say I skip an evening or two, or 10, I AM STILL WORKING WAY MORE FREAKING HOURS THAN YOU ARE, SO STOP MAKING YOUR CUTTING REMARKS ABOUT HOW MY DAYS OFF MUST BE SO “NICE.”

This doesn’t account for the two weeks every summer I spend cleaning up my classroom and then getting it ready to go in the fall. This doesn’t account for the extra trainings I go to most summers. This doesn’t account for the time I spend reading the novels we study in class, or the weekends I have my girls stay with their relatives so I can do a 16-hour grading “marathon,” or the fact that if we DO get school canceled for snow, I spend a lot of that time grading, and then we make up the school day later in the year.

Yes, it’s “nice” to have the summer “off,” but I feel like it is hard-earned compensation for the time I give up during the rest of the year.  It makes me angry that people resent teachers for this time. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty because I can FINALLY get 8 hours of sleep in a night for 8 weeks. (I don’t count all 10 because I’m actually working the first and last week of the summer, remember.)

So if you find yourself feeling jealous of me (or another teacher in your life) on a snow day, remember that I will be working a day to make up for it in June. Remember that while you (probably) have time in the evening to do something that you would like to do, I am reading an essay, or writing discussion questions, or emailing parents, and if for some rare exception I’m not, that I deserve to have a life too.

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