Archives for category: dreams

I’ve been grumpy a good portion of the last two weeks. Elinor has been less grumpy than I have been; I don’t understand how a little baby can survive on less sleep than a 31-year-old mom.

I think the following is a universal parent experience: you listen to parent educators warn you about never shaking the baby, and you turn to your partner with eyebrows raised, certain that you will never even think about doing such a thing. But there comes a day when the baby has made a whiny, grumbling, high-pitched noise nearly continuously for most of the day, indicative of extreme fatigue, and you will do everything in your power to help the baby sleep, but sleep will not come, and you yourself will wish to make such a noise, and instead you will cry out in frustration and make your baby cry, and then you will comfort said babe, and then the babe will whine again, and you will set the babe down in her crib and walk away because you have an overwhelming urge to shake that baby and make her tell you what she needs and wants.

Because all you want to do is provide her with what she needs and wants.

But after leaving the baby in her crib for five minutes, and praying to God that she will sleep, and calling your sister in Albuquerque, and whining to her, and then going back to the baby, and walking with her, and bouncing her on your lap while shielding her from the computer screen as you desperately search for emails that remind you that you are an intelligent, functioning adult, only to read about what you consider to be a corporate takeover of the school board election, you feel your blood boiling in your capillaries. And you call your friend Erin who still gets to vote in Denver, ruing your decision to live in the ‘burbs, to lecture her on who she should vote for, and you rant and work yourself into a relative frenzy over the school board election, and as your rant subsides you realize that, though irked and dismayed by the school board election, you are really just exhausted, and very very very tired of that whining noise that your baby is making.

That was last Tuesday.

Since then, life has been a little better. It is good to rant, and to have many people graciously willing to listen to your rants. But yesterday, though Elinor was in a fantastic mood, she wasn’t sleeping again. And instead of obsessing over the school board election (results are in; corporations win, again), instead you obsess over whether or not you will have to go back to work so that your husband will not have to work those corporate hours for a corporate law firm anymore. And you spend too much time cruising CANPO’s job postings as your baby bounces in her bouncy swing, and you are now dismayed that, though possessing a MEd, five years experience in a classroom, and many competent life skills, on paper you are not qualified for most jobs. And teaching takes up as much time as a corporate law job, and your baby should have at least one parent around for dinner time consistently, and you are worried that you have wasted your life.

And then your friend Janice sends you a link to NaNoWriMo (, and as you rant to your mom about not being qualified for 9-5 jobs that pay more than teaching, she tells you to write, and when your husband comes home, grumpy from his corporate day, he tells you to write. And you want to yell at all of them, but instead you finally get the baby down again at 11, and instead of curling up next to your husband’s lovely furnace-y and sleepy body, you sit down, sign up for National Novel Writing Month, and write two pages of what you are sure will be a crap novel.

At least you didn’t shake the baby.

Excerpted from an email to my friend Nicole:

“And way more important, probably, I have decided to go to NYC. I agree with everything that you said about me and nurturing who I am — but I was still so anxious and worried, and every time I looked at Elinor or Chad I felt guilty about what they would go through. I had wanted to just get another ticket for Chad to come, but the price was too high and the times were bad for him (he didn’t think he could miss all of Monday for work, which made sense, this being his third week there). So then I decided to just go with as short a time-frame as possible, leaving Elinor with Chad Sat. night and then begging my mom to watch her Sun. night so Chad could actually function at work on Monday. As it stands, I fly out Sat. around noon and return Mon. before noon, so it will be a whirlwind ….

“BUT THEN! my friend Janice read the blog entry and called. She has a free airline ticket and we had planned for her to use it to visit me and Elinor sometime this fall, but she thought it would be fun to go to NYC and take Monday off. I warned her about my non-bottle-taking baby and she is still willing to try it; our plan now is for her to bring E to me in between some of my events so that I can nurse her, and then she and Janice will explore Central Park and other touristy things that neither of them have done yet. I think that I will be able to swing getting Janice out to Colorado in the near future, as well — those tickets won’t be as evil and limited as Chad’s would have been to NYC.

“I feel comfortable with this plan — I’m actually really excited to see Janice. All of the other plans were grating on me. I think that it would have been OK to leave Elinor here, cold turkey, but it would have been very hard on Elinor, Chad, and my mom — and on me. I wish the trip had occurred a month earlier or that I had just known about it a month earlier, because I would have worked with E on the bottle and possibly started her on solids earlier. But the timing was just off — less than two weeks notice, Chad is still new and proving himself at work, and I had planned on waiting a full six months before starting E on those solids, about which I am really excited. In light of all that, I think that this will be the best option — though I have a feeling that traveling with an infant will be a completely new adventure, as well.

“Ugggh. It has been a rollercoaster of a week and now Elinor has her first cold and was up until 12:30 last night, between her weird almost-teething and her stuffy nose. I think I’m emotionally DONE for awhile.

“But I promise you I will take pictures. And yes, it is way more fun to take pictures of Elinor than almost anything else. So I will take pics of her in NYC and I will take pics of me and Matt Damon, if I get to meet him. :)”

And I will. I doubt Matt Damon will be there, but I can hope.

So, I am in a movie. It’s called _American Teacher_.

Four years ago, before my second year of teaching, I went to SF for an 826 conference. There I met (briefly and inconsequentially, I thought) Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari, the founders of 826. The conference was good and obviously affected me, since I helped create MDPL after that. But I thought my connection to those two was the fleeting kind.

Later that summer, Ninive connected me with Vanessa Roth, who contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to do a video diary of my first weeks of school. Vanessa was going to direct a film to help with the book Ninive and Eggers co-authored, _Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and the Small Salaries of America’s Teachers_. They wanted to do a documentary using footage of real teachers, prepping and working and spending their own money on teaching. I thought that it was a cool idea, so for three weeks I borrowed my parents’ video camera and kept a video diary of what was probably my most difficult weeks of teaching, ever. I sent the footage to them that year, and never really heard back from them about it. I was on the email list for their project (The Teacher Salary Project) but thought they’d decided against using my footage, which was fine with me.

Fast-forward, literally, three years. I’ve just come home from the hospital with Elinor. She is asleep and I finally decide to check my email. Holy shit! There is an email from Dave Eggers. Not only did they decide to use my footage, but they are finishing the editing of their film and want to provide follow-up information about my life and my footage. I respond. I am emailing Dave Eggers!

I had really just let the whole thing drop in my mind; it felt surreal to have it be a reality again. But then, as Elinor slept those first weeks, I was able to view the rough cuts of the film and see myself in it. It was so long ago and was painful to watch my younger self go through that. I play a minor role in the final film; a film crew followed four different teachers around to make the bulk of the film. But I am there, and I am mentioned in a review. If you watch the trailer, I am in it, grading papers at the foot of my old meoda-setla (and yes, that’s me talking about how it’s “never enough” — it’s at 1:28, in case you get bored). I still haven’t seen the final version. I hope they give me a copy.

Then, last week Ninive emailed me and the other teachers featured in the film. NBC is sponsoring an Education Town Hall and a premiere of the film September 25, and are willing to fly us out there and foot our hotel bills. How amazing! What an opportunity!

But what to do about Elinor? What to do about the little girl who still refuses to take a bottle? What to do about the mom who wants to be with her all the time, but simultaneously does not want to let go of her own dreams, as well?

First option: take Elinor. But I will need a helper. NBC cannot pay for that helper’s ticket, though the hotel room won’t cost any more. Chad has just started his new job and could come if we kept the schedule tight, but tickets this late in the game are pretty high. And the cost will only go up when we get there — finding transportation with car seats, getting her stuff out there, coming back to the hotel to nurse her. And how will she react to such a short flight and weird experience? I can’t take her to the events, so Chad would just be hanging out with the crying baby for a day in NYC. Which might be OK.

Final thought about this option: expensive and stressful for all involved.

Second option: Go without her. She still doesn’t take a bottle, I’ve never been apart for her more than six hours, and it’s hard to imagine doing this trip without her. It’s hard to imagine how Chad or anyone brave enough to help him will survive this bottle-refusing child, too. It’s hard to imagine me, running back to the hotel to pump. The pain!

Final thought about this option: pragmatic for me, guilt-ridden for me, difficult for Elinor’s caretakers, difficult for Elinor.

Third option: Don’t go. I am a mom now and that entails some sacrifices. I’m sure I will be my socially awkward self there, and even if Chad could go, I don’t have plus-one rights at these events, so he’s be on his own in NYC and I’d be on my own all over the place.

Final thought about this option: missing an opportunity, full of self-sacrifice, easier for Elinor and caretakers.

Here’s the deal, though. If I don’t go, I think I will probably regret it. And kids all over the world spend hours and hours apart from their parents, every day, and I’ve just been a lucky one. So if I fly out there Saturday and return late Sunday night or Monday morning, I will only be gone a total of 36-48 hours. My baby will be fine, right? My husband will be alive, right? *I* will be OK, right?

Chad says it is an adventure, and though mothering is an adventure in and of itself, he thinks I need to nurture me, as well. And when else am I going to get a free ticket and hotel room in NYC, plus going to cool events about a subject which makes me passionate? Did I mention that Mirah, that crazy folksy chick on all my mixes, did some music for the film? Did I mention that???

I am having a hard time making this decision, and time is running out due to the airline ticket situation …. I think I’ve decided to go, but need reassurance that it is OK to go. Aieee. Is it OK to go? Will 48 hours of misery for Elinor and her caretakers make 48 hours of guilt but amazing opportunities for me final even out into a good decision? I need to reassure myself. Thoughts?

The last two summers, I have, almost single-handedly, planned and run MDPL’s two week-long summer camps. It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Nevertheless, I couldn’t do that this year. Another board member took on the challenge and is doing quite well with it.

I still wanted to be there for some of it. I thought that Elinor and I would drop by around 9 this morning, when things got started, see the kids, and then head home. I didn’t think that would be too stressful of a day for the munchkin, though I know that’s hard to determine. My dilemma these days is being aware of what is too much — and too little — for a creature who is only 104 days old (!), and balancing that with my increasing need to feel productive, whatever the heck that is.

But last night I had horrible dreams. I was running all over town for MDPL — and then running from and fighting bad guys, which always happens in my dreams — and I would leave Elinor in her carseat, then get sidetracked and realize it had been 15 or 30 or 60 minutes. Once I was just picking up an item and the bad guys tried to keep me there, even though I was TRYING to get back to my baby. To top it all off, at one of the MDPL sites a mother (ahem) was upset and threatening to sue MDPL, and all I wanted was to get back to Elinor. Her little face in her carseat, chewing on her monkey toy, was so vivid.

Nevertheless, this morning I was hesitant.

7:45 Elinor and I wake up. She nurses and falls back asleep. Standard. I eat and dress.

8:45 Elinor wakes up. I feed her a little and then sit her in her poop chair as I finish loading the car. [N.B. Her poop chair is a little bouncer seat. The angle is just right so that, if we time it well, she poops while sitting there. It’s magical, in a way, especially if you are waiting for the next inevitable diaper change so that, hopefully, the baby will not sit in her poop for long. Ahhhhh.]

9:00 Finished, I go to Elinor to change her diaper. We are a little late, but no biggie. We are on infant-time.

9:02 Holy crap, literally. There is poop all over — on the diaper cover, running up her back, down her legs. Oh no! She flails, and poop is now on her onesie and all over her hands and feet. She laughs and gives me a huge grin. I laugh, but in trying to control the situation, there is poop on my hands, as well.

9:05 I give up.

9:12 Elinor is in her bathtub. Sometimes that’s the best cleaning remedy. She needed one, anyway.

9:18 Drying off in her cute towel.

9:23 New diaper.

9:26 Hungry again — nursing again.

9:37 Dressing the baby in cute Hawaiian outfit.

9:39 Oh! She is so cute! I succumb and play with her feet and kiss her cheeks.

9:42 Grab the diaper bag. Grab the baby. Car keys? Water bottle? Blanket for baby? Sunglasses? Change for parking meter?

9:44 Run back inside for blanket.

9:54 Arrive at campus. There is construction! I cannot park where I thought I would park! Grumble and grumble, get the baby into the baby carrier and cover her face from the Colorado sun — she grumbles but then seems to like looking at things. Sun shade up. Grab diaper bag and bag of games for summer camp.

9:58 Walk half a block, only to realize I forgot to pay the meter. Under-breath curses. I am beginning to sweat through the carrier, and I can feel Elinor’s warm little body, too.

10:01 The parking pay-thingy is broken. I grumble, Elinor grumbles and squeaks, and we walk to the next one, then back to the car, then back to the path to the writing center. It is a grumbly morning for us.

10:12 Arrive at summer camp. The kids love Elinor’s hair. Who doesn’t? We hang out, Elinor cries, we hang out in the hall, we hang out with the kids, we change a diaper, we leave the games. Elinor was happy once out of the carrier and once her sweat (my sweat?) had dried from all of that walking — and then I had to put her right back in the carrier. She is a little trooper.

11:04 In car. Elinor doesn’t like her carseat but consents to gum her monkey.

11:14 Great parking space at the library. Drop off books, pick up books, library woman loves Elinor and hopes her eyes stay blue. “Such an exotic combination!” I love people who love my baby.

11:28 Home again, jiggety-jig-jig. Nursing!

Was that too much for the little one? She grumbled and cried some, but her eyes were big and observant as we walked, and met lovely teenaged writers, and walked through the library. At home she nursed like crazy and slept a little. She’s sleeping now as I eat my coconut shrimp (a little salty — the soy sauce was over the top). I can’t tell. *I* was stressed. I’m sure she’s attuned to me enough to get stressed out, too. Perhaps if I just calmed down about her little body in the heat, and looked at my sweat on her as another cooling agent …. It wasn’t enough time in the real world for my normal-person-brain, but it was plenty of time for my mom-brain.

The catch: the more we venture forth, the easier it will be. But getting to that point … ouch. Poop all over.