Archives for category: productivity

It’s raining.

Anyone living anywhere near Colorado knows how precious that is right now. There have been fires all over the state, all over the region, for the last month, and no rain. 350 homes gone right outside of Colorado Springs, in a canyon I had planned to hike soon. Homes lost in Fort Collins, near a hike Chad and I did four years ago. Smoke and haze obscuring the mountains from our view, a non-sight that is utterly disturbing to any Coloradan, since the mountains are … right … there.

But it’s coming down, and it’s not just an afternoon shower, either. Streaks of water, barely any angle to their trajectory, just down, down, down, into the ground and along the gutters. I swear lightning almost struck my house just minutes ago, and the sound was terrifying and ohso welcome. Even better that E miraculously slept through it.

There were moments where I thought about dancing for the rain, and I definitely prayed for it. And it came, in its own darn time, but I am so thankful.

Life is kind of awash right now, as well. My high school psychology teacher was training to be a Jungian analyst, and I will never forget her lecturing us about dreams having to do with water. Emotion — water is emotion. I feel like I’ve been soldiering on, that Chad has been soldiering on, through the heat and through the desert, looking for something that we need, though neither of us knows just what that is. We’re both a little numb from the work and from the uncertainty of it all, I think. When will rain come?

Personally, I’m lost in the decision about whether or not to go back to work. I’ve been meaning to resign but I can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself cruising the job postings late at night. And my desperation to find little ways to contribute to the household budget — baby-sitting Blaise, contracting myself as a teacher for MDPL, writing little articles for medical websites …. All of it feels so inadequate.

Working, though, especially as a full-time teacher — that’s more than adequate. That’s almost martyrdom. And E! Where would she be all day? With whom, doing what? I want to be with her. But I want to contribute to the larger world, as well. But will I really be contributing anything at all if we’re all just tons more stressed out while I work? My mom says that if she could do it all over again, she would have found a way to stay home with us, whatever it took. Erg.

While it’s raining, while E is still sleeping, I’ll just sit in the emotions of it all, letting it wash over me, through me, before me.

Advertisements

So much has been happening lately, I can’t keep up with it. This is a rambling post. I’ll try to put some pictures in to break it up. Did I mention that Elinor is full-on walking? Yep. It’s awesome and exhausting.

Iza, my dear kitty, has diabetes. It’s totally treatable and we caught it early (when they start peeing like crazy, something’s bad. Thank goodness she’s so particular about her litter box), but it’s a significant expense. We changed her diet and are monitoring her ketones, but haven’t yet started insulin. It’s like we’re holding our breath to see if things will work themselves out, which sometimes happens, but is rare ….

Elinor and I took a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, with my mom’s family. My grandma turns 80 this year and it’s her and my grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted one big family hurrah. I’m impressed, because we did get the entire family down there — except for Chad. This first year of work at the firm precluded any week-long vacations for him. So El and I walked into the Gulf of Mexico, and El loved it even more than I did. She’s a beach baby, loving the water and the waves. And she had such an amazing time with her cousins, both Peyton and Harper (babies everywhere!) but also Spencer’s awesome step-children, Tyler and Maddie. It was a good week, though I missed Chad like crazy and have vowed never to take another vacation without him. Pictures to come — we forgot our camera (!) and are relying on grandparents and aunts. They’ll supply soon.

And then Chad’s big bad firm did some computer upgrades, shutting down their whole system for Memorial Day weekend, which meant he COULD take a short vacation. To Kenyon it was, then, for my 10th-year reunion. I had debated going due to the timing and expense, but Monica and Rhoda and Marc were going to be there, and I so wanted to see them …. Brittany and Joe, Chad’s sister and basically brother-in-law, drove up from Oxford, Ohio, and joined us for a day and a half, and Jeff drove up from Pittsburgh with Sarah and little Emmett, and we spent a nice afternoon with Juan DePascuale, whom Chad worked with one summer at St. Olaf, and then we drove to cute, perfect Hudson, Ohio, to spend one night with Matt and Monte and their little ones, Finn and Willa, two good friends of Chad’s from his college days. It was a packed vacation, but a good one. Oh yeah — and Kenyon!

El and Em love the dog on Middle path ….

Monica and Rhoda look normal — parenthood makes for goofy posing. Ah, kids.

All of this to say that it’s been an expensive spring. We’re doing OK, but we have a fair amount of debt and it bothers Chad. He’s vowed to work at the firm five years or so just so that we can manage that debt down and have some more freedom, but that’s still a hefty goal. We constantly debate the weight of that goal’s importance, especially compared to Chad’s health and El’s time with Chad. And my time with Chad!

And my first day in Florida, my school district called to say that they were denying my request for one more year of unpaid maternity leave since they were closing my school and had reduced my position. It’s a little weird, and they sure could have told me much earlier, but that means that I either need to resign or find a job in the district by August. This was not in the plan — but that means more money?

MDPL is swinging along, too, with paid opportunities to run some contract work, and I miss teaching a whole bunch.

A friend from college offered me some contract work writing for online sources ….

Let’s take a break on those uncomfortable but imposing chairs in Nu Pi Kappa. And yes, there was a current Kenyon student napping while El ravaged the room.

My head is aswirl with options for our lives. I’ve begun babysitting Blaise, Erin’s awesome 2-year-old, once a week, and I’ve dedicated all of those earnings to paying for our two mega-vacations. But I could go back to work. I could contract with MDPL. I could write for some online sources. We could make some more money, meet those debt goals earlier, and maybe have some freedom sooner, together. But in the meantime, that means finding and paying for childcare for El, which is a whole ‘nother headache.

Who am I, and how important are these cash flows compared to being here for Elinor and making sure that Chad’s quality of life meets some basic standards?

Going back to Kenyon didn’t help clarify any of this. Education came up everywhere, and I do feel so committed to those causes and to that mission. The Amanda from Kenyon days is different from the Amanda now, too, and living with both of them was strange. I feel so much more ME now than I did then, but my life is strangely larger and more sprawling now, too, way less focused and way less constrained.

El was ready for long conversations in Peirce as she waited for high-quality local foodstuffs.

I don’t know what to do. My crunchy Mama podcast that I love (Mama Natural Show 43) just reported on study that found that stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) have significantly higher levels of depression than other moms, most likely due to isolation, aimlessness, and a lack of feeling any accomplishments. I don’t think isolation is a big issue for me (thank God for my family and some good friends), but I suffer from aimlessness like you wouldn’t believe (she’s sleeping?! What to do first? clean? yoga? eat? sleep? make stuff? MDPL? aieee!), and that lack of accomplishing anything (another load of laundry left, another load of dishes, and El’s crying yet again …. rinse, repeat) drives me mad.

But I love being with El.

All of this just to get some of the things in me head, outta there and somewhere else. I will figure it out. We will figure it out.

I think I am just desperate for creative outlets. That, or obsessed with wool. Perhaps both.

But when Janice was out here, we both bought needle felting kits at the local craft store. I made a tiny little owl for Elinor, which she loved, and was taken with the whole process. Since wool, super-fiber that it is, naturally clings to itself, if you poke a barbed needle into shaped wool thousands of times, the whole thing felts and takes that shape, albeit a tad bit smaller. But that means that you can sculpt wool into almost any shape you want, and that means safe, fun, cute toys for babies. Or for adults — I made Chad an anatomically correct heart (from another kit I shared with Janice) for Valentine’s Day, as well as a weird little bird.

I can’t find the owl, the heart, or the bird, of course, but I just made some toys for my niece and nephew, whose birthdays are approaching. I think I might try to make sets for all new babies — they’re so easy to hold and so safe and fun to chew on ….

Harper’s panda:

Peyton’s sea turtle:

I suck at housekeeping. I’m not even really that clean. I am perfectly content to have clutter and even little dustbunnies running around. Every once in awhile, usually late at night or while procrastinating on some important project, I will get a cleaning urge and just clean the heck out of everything (or at least one specific area). And I do try to keep the grossness out of things, in general — I do maintain the kitchen and bathroom reasonably well.

But it’s just not a priority to me. I like to say that I have other, more important priorities (Elinor! making food! reading! showering! brushing my teeth! watching the second season of _Glee_!), but more often than not, I’m just lazy. I know this about myself.

Chad knew it, to an extent, before we married, but now he knows just how far that extends. I would say that it is one of the largest stresses on our marriage, to be honest (though most days it’s not a huge thing — he does love me, despite my failings). But it is a stress, because Chad is affected by his environment greatly. Things need to be ordered, and in their place, and pleasant for him to function at the level he prefers.

I respect this. But I suck at keeping the house there, and though I am a bit neater and prioritize cleaning because I live with and love him, I have a continual sense of needing to do more. Chad is actually pretty understanding about most of it, and most of my guilt is self-inflicted, but it is there.

Anyway, once in awhile Chad pleads with me to make one specific area of the house a nice one, replete with organization and pleasant light. We have this nice, unheated sunroom on the western side of our house. Chad has made half of it his work-out area. A NordicTrack sits there, along with weights and yoga mat. Plants separate his half from my half, which is a staging area (so many parts of my house bear this name …). Elinor’s carseat lives there when she’s not inhabiting it, and so do random clothesline things, bookshelves that need to be incorporated into our house and MDPL’s space, cat toys, the diaper bag, bags from the Tattered Cover, and, recently, bags from my mother’s basement that contain that last remnants of my childhood.

Oh, and reigning over all of that is the meoda-setla.

Let me write a eulogy for the meoda-setla.

The meoda-setla was a gift from Christine Breiner to me, the last week of my first year of college. I had just discovered that I was going to be an RA in Gund, the weird but desperately proud non-smoking dorm, and Christine, a cross-country-running senior, had been the RA in the room I would have there prior to me. The room was essentially a double single — a huge room, big enough for two, perhaps the largest single on campus, though it was in Gund. (And I am not knocking Gund — I loved Gund desperately. But it was never the happening place, you know?)

Anyway, the meoda-setla is an armchair chaise longue. It’s a cute, overstuffed armchair whose seat extends three feet out so that you can rest your legs on it. Even when I received it from Christine, it had seen better days. Its upholstery was a drab grey, after having originally been white or cream with embroidered flowers on it. I was taking History of the English Language with Professor Klein at the time, and we were reading things on Old English. A meoda-setla is a mead bench in Beowulf’s time, and the sweetness of that idea, paired with the extreme functionality, led to my christening of that chair.

I put it in the western facing corner of my sweet-ass double single, the largest single on campus, under the window. At one point Monica and I had a contraband kitten living on it for a little while. I spent hundreds of hours on that thing that year, and I stored it in the basement of another house the next year while I was in England, then retrieved it when I moved into a Woodland apartment with Monica, Celia, and Maggie. It sat in the corner, again, and I have vivid memories of reading _The Golden Compass_ and literary theory on it in the afternoons, as well as SOBBING on it right after watching _Donnie Darko_ for the very first time.

After graduation, I couldn’t bear to part with it. Mark was kind enough to help me pack his truck around the thing, which barely fit in the bed of that full-sized truck. It went with me to my parent’s house. Then to my apartment in Golden, then to the house in Arvada, then back to my parent’s basement while I moved to Nashville for grad school, and then back up the rickety stairs into the apartment Emily and I shared. It moved to 560 Delaware, the first place I bought, and that’s where Chad began to plot revenge upon the meoda-setla.

Honestly, it was the cat’s fault. Since the meoda-setla had, as I said before, seen much better days, the felt-y stuff that was stapled under the base, hiding the creaky springs, had come apart in some places. Iza managed to worm her way up onto the felt, and then that was all over. Iza always loved that chair, anyway, but when we got Alex, the meoda-setla became the cat chair du jour, every jour, and though I slept in it for eight hours straight the day I got the swine flu, I couldn’t spend that much time in it anymore, once I discovered that I had asthma and that it was cat-induced.

So the meoda-setla became just the cat chair, and it is large, and 560 Delaware was small, and Chad begged me to get rid of it. We have had numerous loud discussions about the meoda-setla, and that’s pretty much as bad as it gets in our house. But I clung to the history of the thing, always saying that it just needed to be reupholstered, and that someday I would get to it. It really is a unique chair. I once went online to find something like it, and I don’t know if anything like it exists. So I should reupholster it ….

Yeah, right.

When we moved here the meoda-setla went to the sunroom, off the beaten path. The cats still love it, to the point that we just cover it with a blanket so that I can occasionally wash the blanket and save our house from cat hair and dirt and Iza’s dingleberries while still allowing the cats to sleep on it. But Chad still hates it, and it still takes up a lot of room, and I never sit in it because of the cats and because, despite my being OK with a little dirt, even I am offended by its complete shabbiness.

But I still refused to get rid of it for a long time, due to that history I mentioned, until after Elinor was born. Then something clicked in me, and I realized that it is just a chair, and dingy one at that. I will probably never have the time or the money to reupholster it, and I do love my husband. I acknowledge my failings as a housekeeper; perhaps I could concede the point and give up this one item as a sacrifice for his happiness. It’s obviously taken me a long time to accept this idea, but accept it I have.

I tried to Freecycle it. Freecycle is a service where you post free stuff for people to pick up if they can use it (often very random shit — from coupons for formula to old keyboards to old beds — I got my clothesline from Freecycle). I thought for sure someone would want it. To wit, my ad:

“An old, slightly ratty but lovely chaise longue armchair (an armchair with a seat long enough for your legs). The most comfortable seat in the world, but well loved by us and our cats — if I had the money and room in the house, I would reupholster it, but for now it is just covered by a long blanket. You will need a pickup truck or long bed to pick it up.”

No one wanted it.

So today I called our trash service. For $15, they will take it away. I made an appointment for next Tuesday.

I am having second thoughts. But it is just a chair. I wish I weren’t so attached to the chair, and the memories, and some vague idea of the part of me that the chair might represent.

I am still wondering about reupholstering. Perhaps I could save up.

I forgot my password to WorPress. That means something.

I should be writing more. I’m fully aware of that. But things have been busy, and Elinor just doesn’t seem to sleep as much during the day, and every moment Chad is home I would rather spend with him …. Ugggh.

Used to be that I would dread the 45 minutes it takes to put Elinor to sleep at night. I would think about the TV I could be watching with mu husband. I would think about the writing I could be doing. I would think about the dishes that need to be done. I would stare off into the dark and count the rocks of the glider, willing Elinor to fall asleep.

Every day I would pray that I would get some time to myself, bargaining with God (if she sleeps, I will make sure we get to church this week; if she sleeps, I will do the dishes with pleasure, not dread ….). I would do everything possible to make sure that she slept.

And it was miserable, and I complained more than necessary to Chad and others.

But something switched. I am pretty sure it was when Chad and I had to decide whether or not to extend my maternity leave or not. I had been itching for some more adult contact, and perhaps working was the best way. Chad wasn’t sure if he liked his job or not, so I began making plans for child care, thinking about options. I even researched what teaching jobs were currently available, and then was so frustrated with the thought of my manic teaching schedule again, that I began researching NON-teaching jobs. A 9-to-5 job would be so much nicer, and so many seem to pay more than teaching, anyway.

But the more I researched, the more I freaked out. The thought of dropping her off somewhere just hurt. The time spent nursing her to sleep now felt precious, not a chore. The naps were not as essential as they had seemed before, especially if I could just stay up late to catch up on things and then sleep in with her. Every moment just seemed to be a gift, and I hoped that we were providing Elinor with a gift, too.

So when Chad felt a little more comfortable with his work, and I was secure that options might still be available if I needed them, I extended the maternity leave.

And I accepted that my job is with Elinor, now, and the time for myself will come. I might not be exercising or writing or even getting my MDPL work done these days, but I am so lucky to be at home with the little Mook.

It’s good.

Well, this is our third snowstorm of the year, but it was the first time I truly took Elinor out into it, partially because I didn’t have snow gear for her before, and partially because our busy schedule of nursing, eating solids, trying to get her to nap, and changing diapers precluded it beforehand.

Anyway, we got five inches last night (on top of five on Thursday, too!), and I had to shovel the driveway.

First we suited up.

Then we tried the carseat as a safe location.

That lasted for about 10 minutes. So I began to get creative.

A tarp!

That only lasted five minutes.

But I am a tenacious mom when it comes to finishing my chores (when I actually start them, that is). So —

She was happy there for probably another 10, which was enough for me to finish the driveway.

Here I made the mistake — I thought that she’d be game for really hanging out in the snow, like the true Colorado baby that she is ….

Whoops.

(But she just napped for 2.5 hours!)

It’s been awhile. I blame the NaNoWriMo stuff. Here’s a chart of my writing, words per day:

It’s been a lot, especially because it’s been a busy month. Elinor’s waking up every three hours or so at night (she finally went four hours last night!), we went to visit Jo, Peyton, and Harper in Albuquerque, and daylight savings time is not fun at all with babies. Plus El got her first tooth, and I’m sure the next one is working its way up. And have I ever mentioned that my baby hates to nap?

All this to say that finding the time to write 1667 words a day is kind of difficult., especially with that napping /sleeping situation.

Tonight El was pretty tired, but I knew Chad would be home within a half hour …. So I delayed bedtime, playing with her on the changing table, reading two books, etc. He came home, he loved her and she loved him, and then I nursed her to sleep, per our usual routine. She went down in 25 minutes, not bad — but then she was up.

And so I went upstairs and rocked her. She wasn’t interested in more milk; she was interested in telling me everything about the world. For 25 more minutes, we rocked and she talked. She’s at the “ba ba ba ya ah ma da” stage. She just talked, and I rocked, and she talked, and I rocked, and then she finally finally fell asleep.

Often I am a little frustrated when she won’t go down. But tonight was special, I guess, because I just listened to her talk and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else, doing anything else, in the whole world.

It was nice procrastination for NaNoWriMo, too.

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 (http://www.nanowrimo.org/), 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.

I am happiest when busiest. I know this about myself.

Today, not really in the right order:

1. I took a shower (you might not think this is an accomplishment, but it is). I had to take an extra-long one, too, since Elinor’s stuffy nose needed the warm steam. [sigh]

2. I ate breakfast AND lunch.

3. I registered a boatload of kids for MDPL’s next workshop. Speaking of workshops, this is Elinor and me at the last one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. I wrote all the emails I’ve been meaning to write for MDPL. This has taken me a week to do, so I am happy.

5. I made vegan carrot cherry breakfast cookies (see recipe). I would highly recommend these. The best thing about vegan things: you can eat the unbaked batter and not have that niggling worry about the possibility of salmonella hanging over your head. No eggs? It’s VEGAN!! And coconut oil is wicked cool. So is millet.

6. I made kale chips (see recipe). This cooking blog is my new favorite thing, by the way. I love Joy the Baker.

7. I made broccoli with sausage and grapes (recipe is in my favorite cookbook ever, _How to Cook Everything_ by Mark Bittman — no linkage).

8. I did *most* of the dishes.

9. I baked carraway rye bread in my bread machine and, for the first time ever, it rose PERFECTLY.

10. Elinor and I spend significant amounts of time nursing, of course.

11. I folded the laundry.

12. Elinor and I took all of the above-mentioned baked and cooked goods to Chad, who is working late. Elinor had a lot of fun in the board room that we commandeered for thirty minutes. (I do not know why the spacing is so whack and I wish I knew more html….):

First there must be bouncing.

And you tell me these are the best chairs you have?

Well, I won't stand for it.

I guess I could learn to live with it.

Hey -- they pay for your dinner?

This place is awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. I ate dinner!

14. I worked on sleep training a little with Elinor — it took me five visits back to her crib after I put her down to get her to sleep. Not bad for the sad stuffy baby.

15. I watched _I Am Trying to Break Your Heart_, the documentary about Wilco, since I am excited about their new album, weirdly enough (I don’t own the last two of them …). Though I watched the documentary half-heartedly. Not because it was bad — I wish I had been more focused — but because …

16. I transcribed the MDPL stories from the last workshop (easier said than done, thanks to horrendous handwriting — and I used to teach middle school! I think I’m pretty hot stuff when it comes to interpreting kids’ handwriting, but I was bested).

17. I set the design for the last MDPL workshop booklet.

18. I began to clean out the front foyer closet. It is still in disarray. Oh well.

19. I searched, unsuccessfully, for the backpack I want to take to New York.

20. I took ten books back to the library.

It feels good to be productive. I needed a day like today. Now I should go to beeeeeeeeeeeeed.

Since Elinor’s birth, I’ve been reading like a maniac, which I love. I read while I nurse, mostly, which is often. When Elinor is finicky and doesn’t want to nurse, I sometimes miss my reading time. But that’s OK.

BUT I just finished a book and it has me all riled up: _Born to Love_ by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. My Goodreads.com review:

“I have a bias toward things that deal with empathy — it’s a very Christian (and generally religious) concept, and I stand by it. This book was great b/c it approaches empathy from a scientific perspective, using biological, sociological, economic, medical, and psychological studies to state that 1) empathy is biologically rooted in our bodies through our stress response (or the mediation of that response) and 2) that empathy must be triggered by our social relationships, most often in early childhood. There is much more to this book, but it is a quick, easy read and it kept making me harangue Chad about all of the interesting, great, and terrifying facts and theories that it brought up. Especially useful for a young parent like myself, but also for anyone who gives a damn. I would compare this to _Outliers_ by Malcolm Gladwell, though it was much more research- and experience-based (Perry is a renowned child psychologist). Highly recommended and it makes me want to work to change the world for better. Huzzah!”

Anyway, I was indeed haranguing Chad about the book, and three things really got to me. I will go in order from least important to me at this time, to most important.

1) Part of the reason I love our neighborhood is because it really is in a zone where a bunch of different classes could interact. We are solidly middle class, but down the block are some skeezy apartments and down the other way are some bona fide mansions. [NB – skeezy is a made-up word for my lower-income neighbors, while bona fide is a fancy foreign word — ohhh, language!] _Born for Love_ advocates more social interaction in our lives, period, as that triggers and allows for empathy. But the authors also stress more social interactions with people not “like” us, be that due to race, economics, political leanings, etc. They advocate this because, though we do biologically benefit from our tendency towards being empathic, we also rely upon our dear old “us versus them” tendency, as well. The more we interact with others who seem to be “them,” the less they will seem like “them” and the more they will seem like “us.” I’ve seen the need for this in the kids I teach, and I see it in my own life. I wish that there were more options for the folks in our neighborhood to interact more.

1b) The polarization of our political scene stems from this, as well. I hang out with more Republicans than most of my fellow Liberal friends, just because of my family ties, but the more we did associate with people from the other party, the less we might be at each other’s throats, which seems to be very important for this country right now …..

Which leads me to:

2) I went to grad school for teaching because of the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) schools, which are charter schools (run by small groups for a purpose, run with public funds, accountable to their own charter, but not to much else). All through grad school I advocated for Choice in schools, which would mean that students have the ability to choose from more schools based upon specific ideas, like ELOB, or Math & Science, or the Arts, instead of just attending their neighborhood school. I thought this was a good idea since people seem to benefit from choice in their lives and control.

But then I taught in a public school, which also happened to be one of the worst public schools in our state. And now Choice to me is scary. Not only does it allow us to self-select into our own safe little groups, but it takes away chances for us to interact with those unlike us. This could easily lead to less empathy, according to Bruce and Szalavitz. And I agree with them. My school’s neighborhood was being gentrified and is probably at least 40% white, but our school, the local neighborhood school, is 95% minority. All of the white families have “choiced” their kids out of the local neighborhood school, which is the modern-day, politically correct equivalent of white flight, in my mind. Have it both ways — live in the city, but benefit from upper-middle-class education since you have the time, resources, and know-how to work the system and get your kid out of there, while the parents who lack the know-how, the transportation to get their kids to other schools, or the ability to even care about their kids’ education, send them to our school, which becomes, quite thoroughly, segregated by class, which so often correlates to race. Choice is segregating our schools by necessity and correlation. No wonder kids are lacking empathy.

I could (and should) say much more about this. Someday. It is complicated greatly in my own life by our own neighborhood, because Choice is an option here and our local elementary school is, truly, the worst elementary school in our district b/c parents like me choice their kids out of it. And Chad’s former boss was eloquent: “I don’t vote with my kids.” I do want to ensure Elinor has a great education. But I also want her to be empathic and exposed to different lives, and I worry about losing that if I choice her outta here. I am torn. And she is only five months old!

Which leads me to:

3) Chad began work at the high-falutin’ law firm this past week, and I was torn apart about it. He’s already working his ass off for me and Elinor, which allows me to stay home with her. I have been incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and staying home with Elinor is not all creamcakes and lollipops — it IS work. But it is work that I am privileged to enjoy. But, needless to say, I was feeling guilty about being able to stay home with her. Most of my friends cannot afford to do so, and I worry whether it make me less committed to my career and the rest of the world to do so. Since I worry so rarely about anything …..

This book actually made me more comfortable with the choice to stay home with Elinor, especially this first year. Empathy is triggered, according to the authors and their impressively noted studies, by consistent attachment to a primary caregiver, be that person a mom, dad, grandparent, or daycare provider, especially during the first year of life. But all babies benefit from as much individual attention as they can get, as their stress responses will be appropriately managed and empathy developed with that consistency and reassurance. I really, really wish I lived in Iceland, where all parents receive NINE MONTHS of parental leave, at 80% of their salaries, to be split however they wish between parents. (Chad: “You really are becoming a little socialist, aren’t you?” And YES — care for new mothers and babies in our capitalist society SUCKS. My school would not be in its current straits if we provided for those kids from the start.) But I live here, where the reality is that either Chad works so I can stay home with her, or we search for day care and spend most of my salary on it. I am really, really glad that I get to stay home with her, and hopefully I don’t stress her out too much.

Whew. I highly recommend this book. I love it when books get me all riled up, staying up late into the night typing up rants on my blog.