All Aboard the Polar Express

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My family did something really fun over Thanksgiving weekend this year. My family of 4 (my husband, myself, and our six-year-old twins) went with my sister’s family (my sister, her husband, and their two-year-old twins) rode the Polar Express train ride in Elbe, Washington near Mt. Rainier.

The cost isn’t cheap, but my sister and I had talked about going back in August (tickets sell out early!) so we were able to pay for it separately from all of the costs that come up at Christmas time, which was helpful. And the experience was worth it. The staff works hard to make the entire time on the train really special. They play Christmas music, read the story of The Polar Express, and everyone gets hot chocolate and a cookie. Two of the staff members in our car spent a lot of time interacting with the kids. They asked my kids what they want for Christmas, and they invited them to come out and dance in the aisle during a couple of the Christmas songs. They also pass out song booklets so that everyone can sing along, which my girls really loved.

Santa also comes onto the train, which everyone really enjoyed.
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This was a really fun activity to start off the Christmas season. We enjoyed spending time with my sister and her family, so it was special to get to do it together. My kids have said they would love to do this every year. I’m not sure I can completely commit to that, but it was definitely worth it to make it happen this year!

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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 one moment when I very strongly felt like I AM on the right path and I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.  This is what inspired me to write, so I want to describe it.

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.

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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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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Rest and time

I know I didn’t succeed in posting twice this past week, so I figured I would at least post once.

Since it’s the beginning of the year, I’ve been seeing a lot of people post about their goals and their words or themes for the year. I have been wanting to think about this, but I never seem to have time to just contemplate. Not that I have time right now. I’m staring at a stack of essays that I STILL haven’t finished, and am not likely to finish tonight. However, thinking of that, has led me to this.

There are two words I’m considering as far as being my focus for 2014. I can’t really accomplish one without the other, though, so I may end up having to work with both. The first word I thought of is rest. The second one is time.

I have been tired since my girls were born. And before that, I was tired because I was pregnant. And before that, I was pretty much always tired for one reason or another. And yes, some of it was unavoidable. I was in my first years of teaching, and I was the adviser for the school newspaper. This meant I was usually working 60-80 hours a week. However busy I was, though, my poor time-management always exacerbated my stress. I have NEVER been good about getting things done without some serious procrastination beforehand. This goes way back to middle school when I would come home, watch TV for two or three hours, and then be up until 10 or 11:00 every night doing homework. I’d always manage to get my work done, and it was always on time, but there were usually several wasted hours in the process.

These bad habits stayed with me throughout high school and even into college. I almost never started my homework on a Friday night or a Saturday morning. Nearly every essay I ever wrote, I was working on until about 5 minutes before it was due. My culminating project for my methods course was a 4 week unit plan, and I still remember (and shudder just thinking about) staying up the entire night before it was due, frantically finishing it up between classes on the day it was due, and then finally turning it in about 15 minutes before the final deadline. I can still remember coming home after turning it in that day, falling asleep around 4 p.m., and sleeping clear through until Saturday morning.

With that project and others, part of the problem was me wanting to make it PERFECT and fiddling with it until the last minute. But I definitely should have started it earlier, and worked on it more regularly, so that I didn’t need to work on it for 24 hours straight before turning it in. And sadly, I can’t even say that that experience taught me an important lesson. I still struggled with procrastination throughout student teaching and even now. Since the girls were born, I’ve really tried to get a little work done every night, but there are some nights when I am just too exhausted, and I don’t do anything. And there are some nights I sit in front of the computer, or on facebook, (or typing a blog!) when I should really just stop it and get to work.

Most nights I am lucky to get 5-6 hours of sleep. We get the girls to bed around 8. Lately they haven’t been going to sleep until 9. And then I have from 9 until I can’t stay awake anymore to do any remaining chores, exercise if I’m going to that day, and get work done. I typically sleep midnight – 5 a.m. And this just isn’t cutting it anymore. I don’t think I ever feel more miserable than when I first wake up in the morning. Getting out of bed feels like torture. And I have to wonder if I could change my whole perspective on life if I could just get a little more sleep. I see what happens to my girls when they don’t sleep enough. They get clumsy, easily frustrated, easily upset, and they just start (figuratively) falling apart. It makes sense if that is also happening to me at some level, due to constant sleep-deprivation. I feel like maybe my life would be a lot better if I could just get some more rest.

But how do I make time for more sleep when I don’t have enough time to get my work done as it is? This is where time has to come in as well. If I were to honestly assess my use of free time over a week, could I find more time to get done the things I need to? If I could actually dedicate two or three hours EVERY night of doing work for school, could I get caught up and then possibly ahead to open up more time for sleep? It’s worth trying.

All of this is easier said then done, though. I’m trying to train for a 15K race right now, which requires at least an hour of exercise six days a week, and more like 2 hours on long-run days. I have essays to grade in three classes still that I’ve had since Christmas break. And I know that when I string together a week or so of literally no free time for myself, I start to feel like I’m losing my mind. I need to really think this through and come up with a plan if I’m actually going to make any real changes. And to do this I need time. But I want to try. I’ve been able to make real changes in other areas of my life: fitness, nutrition, cooking our own food. I would LOVE it if in 2014 I can make some changes in this area too.

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