Monday, May 27, 2013

Morning Run

It was a relatively unphotogenic week around here with the exception of this series: Clementine Eats an Avocado.

Not pictured: clean up. I had forgotten how messy babies are when they start to eat table food. On a related note, I am finding the dog to be more useful around the house than ever before.

Also not pictured: I became obsessed with the idea of making chocolate pudding this week and had two very unphotogenic pudding disasters. I burned the first batch and then undercooked it on the second try. (Probably because my kitchen helpers were shrieking "MOM! Don't burn it!" with every swirl of the whisk. But who's pointing fingers?) At least the second disaster was edible- it was more like a cold chocolate soup, which is quite tasty but definitely not pudding. I will try again today because I am persistent when it comes to chocolate.

And then I took the camera outside for a pop of color. 

Again, not pictured: an evening of tears and tantrums and angry words and hurt feelings, of punches and kicks and ugly words. A missed opportunity to join our friends at the arcade for beer and pinball because Brent and I sat exasperated at the dinner table amid total chaos and decided that there was no way to save the evening except to put everybody to bed.

And then I woke up this morning ready to run. I haven't felt the urge to run in a very long time, despite the many kind words of encouragement and invitations from my running friends. My body has to want it and until this morning, it didn't.

I dug my running shoes out from a shoe pile in the garage and the dog went nuts. We set off into the rain and my legs felt heavy and tired. I know that if I can make it past the one mile mark I will start to feel better. I know that if I can run for the next week, I will be a runner again. And so I ignore the small spread of pain that threatens to envelop my knee and distract myself by the beauty of a rainy morning. I rarely notice the clean smell of fresh rain or the reflection of the clouds in the puddles when I am stuck inside wondering how I will keep my house-bound children occupied, but out on a run I am able to see it all through a different lens. I have missed that.

Running lets me work through the things that cloud up my mind. When I run I often get an out-of-body type experience, where it feels like I'm hovering above my moving frame. Maybe this is runners high? I am often reminded of my children's births while I run because I experienced a similar out-of-body floatiness when both Jack and Sawyer were born. For some reason this did not happen with Clementine. I was right there and in the moment during her birth and it might be because my body and I had reached an agreement. I trusted my body and my body trusted me.

As I ran this morning I contemplated this trust. And I thought of my friend who will birth her baby tomorrow and bring to the world a child who I will know and love. A child who will play with my children and whose birthday parties I will attend. A child who will sit in my classroom one day and call me Mrs. Ross. I will watch him grow and remind him that I held him when he was newly born. He will send us a graduation announcement. I will dance at his wedding.

Lu and I arrive at the intersection that determines the length of our run. If I go straight we run 4.5 miles. If I turn right we run 2. Lu pulls me forward because even though it's been over a year since we've run the longer loop, dogs don't forget running routes. I am tempted to follow, but my knee throbs and I remember that my body and I have also agreed to be kind to one another.

So we turn down a familiar street whose uneven sidewalk makes my feet dance. I know where the icy spots are on winter morning runs and which houses have easily accessible garbage cans for poop bags. The residents of this street are rarely out when I run by, but their manicured lawns and sedans suggest retirement. I round a curve and see an ambulance pull silently to a stop outside a house. I lower my eyes and pass by as a paramedic slowly lowers a stretcher to the ground.

A gust of wind pushes me from behind. I stretch my shoulders back, raise my chin, shake the cramp from my knee and fly through the misty grey morning back to the people who wait for me at home.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


On Friday afternoon I came home and washed and packed away my pump parts for the weekend, just like I always do. Then I realized that having only four weeks left of school means that I might be done pumping in a month! I know a lot of people who have emotional attachments to nursing, and maybe I'll shed a sentimental tear when Clementine stops, but for now I can say with certainty that I HATE PUMPING.

Now, to be fair, I have to say that for me breastfeeding has been relatively easy. I have an oversupply, which everyone says is the problem to have (I'm thinking having no problem is the way to go), but the one good thing about having way too much milk for your baby to handle is that you can pump pretty quickly. (There are lots of bad things about oversupply: choking your baby, for one. Excessive spit up, upset newborn tummy, too much foremilk/not enough hindmilk, soaking through nursing pads, blah blah blah, etc. etc.)

Pumping quickly is a good thing when you are on a teacher's schedule. I barely have time to get my work done, let alone spend big chunks of time attached to the wall of the staff bathroom. So by now I've got it down to about five minutes- I'm in and out in a flash. I crank that thing up to full speed and if somebody needs me they just yell in through the door over the sound of the vacuum. I make phone calls, catch up on texts, and grade papers. Just kidding about the grading, I am not that dexterous. Yet.

(Yes, I pump in a bathroom. And yes, I know that sounds totally gross. But it is a clean bathroom albeit a poorly ventilated bathroom, but that's another story... I did try pumping in my classroom once many years ago, and a male teacher came looking for me, used his key to enter the room despite my cries of "I'm pumping! I'm pumping!" and proceeded to talk to me about a student while I attempted some sense of decency by swiveling my chair to face the wall. "Oh, I don't mind. I have kids," he said, completely oblivious to my shock/disgust/horror.)

I used to spend a lot of time washing the pump parts and sterilizing those tubes and such. These days I am content with a warm water rinse and life is much easier. Clementine will have a super immune system after ingesting residual middle school germs during her infancy. I am still using the same pump that I bought six years ago to use with Jack. I am pretty sure the warranty is long voided and it threatens to die from time to time (I have to rattle the cord around and thwack it a few times on the countertop and that usually kick starts the motor.)

But the whole thing does kind of bog me down. I guess because it's just one more piece of luggage to remember on my way out the door every morning, one more thing that I have to squeeze into my busy day at work, and one of the more poignant reminders that I'm not home with my baby during the day. My body is trained to respond to this artificial suction pump in the same way that it responds to my daughter. This makes me kind of sad. Some people get the milk letdown when they hear a baby cry. Mine lets down when I hear any mechanical sucking sound.

So for those five minutes when I sit and attempt to relax while hooking myself up to the pump, I let myself miss my baby. I let myself feel sad about being at work and attached to a bathroom wall instead of home cuddling and nursing my baby.

I know a lot of people who work and I know a lot who stay home. I have friends who work part time and I have friends who work overtime. I don't even want to weigh in on the working parent/stay at home parent debate because I think we are all just doing whatever it takes to raise our families and preserve our sanity. And to preserve my sanity right now, it's helpful for me to remember that I have four weeks left.

Because there's a lot going on at home that I don't want to miss...

Four more weeks. Let's hope my pump can make it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

We're So Pretty

Looking back at recent entries here I noticed a big problem. There are hardly any pictures of me. And it's not just a new phenomenon. If my goal for the past six years has been to document our family life with this blog, it would seem that I am failing, because I am very much present in each of these photo worthy moments and yet you rarely see me.

While it's true that I am the photographer in the family, I am also the one who scrutinizes the photos, finding faults with the rejects and storing them in file folders that will never again see the light of day. And I've noticed that the pictures of me almost always end up there.

I don't consider myself to be a vain person. I like to take care of myself, sure, but I don't obsess over looks and I certainly don't spend a lot of time primping or preening. So why do I have such a hard time appreciating pictures of myself?

I started this blog because I wanted my kids to be able to remember their childhood. And I guess in the deepest and darkest corners of my mind, I wanted an archive of this in case Brent and I aren't around to tell them about it someday. Morbid, perhaps, but honest.

I've realized lately that I'm not telling the whole story, because I am here too. And I've also realized that some of my favorite photos of my mom are the candid shots, the ones that would never make it into a scrapbook or a photo album. The silly ones. The laughing or mid sentence once. The pictures that captured an expression that I remember so well. Those are the ones that tell the real story.

Ever since he started kindergarten, Jack has become much more self-aware. He stands before the mirror on school days trying, usually unsuccessfully, to flatten his his hair. "I just hate my curls, Mom," he complains, with genuine distress. "I want my hair to be like everybody else's."

Fuck that.

I was photographing a party for one of my friend's kids. "Just make sure I'm not in any of the pictures," she requested.

Fuck that.

I overheard two ladies shopping the thrift store aisles next to me. "I wish I could wear shorts." "Oh, so do I. But my legs would scare people." And then they laughed.

Fuck that.

I pass back the school pictures to my classes. Some kids glance at their photos and put them away, while others cringe and flip the packets over before anyone else can see. One kid gets up and throws his into the garbage.

Fuck that.

I compliment a friend on a truly beautiful photo she has put online. She argues with me. "Maybe it's not so much that I don't like my face," she eventually acquiesces, "but that I'm just tired of looking at it after all these years." 

Huh. That kind of makes sense. Maybe I don't like pictures of me because I have looked like me for so long. Maybe I'm just kind of sick of looking at me. Huh.

But as I face the overwhelming task of raising my children in a society where it's perfectly acceptable, if not expected, to put yourself down, I wonder how I can help them be the kids who don't throw their school pictures in the garbage.

I guess I can start by handing the camera to Brent. I guess I can tell him that for Mother's Day, I'd really like some pictures of me with the kids. And then I guess I can accept my perceived imperfections and move the fuck on because my kids love me even if my teeth are crooked.  

And so you will see that I made an appearance in this week's photo line up. That in between Jack eating the world's biggest donut and Brent bathing the dog, I found the time to hand over that camera.

And for Mother's Day, I got my wish. We spent the afternoon at Agrarian Ales playing horseshoes, drinking beer, tossing beanbags, and letting our dog and kids run wild.

There I was, right in the middle of it all. And that's the real story.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


It always happens to me at this time of the year. The grey dawn interrupts my morning sleep and my mind begins racing before I can even get out of bed. I feel twisted around and pulled in every different direction while my name is called, echoing off the walls, bouncing up from the floor. Mom! Mrs. Ross! Cassadie! Somebody always needs something.

This working mom thing goes okay but only for so long. About this time of the year it all falls apart for me. Work gets super busy. I came into my classroom last week to find two parents waiting for me while my phone rang and someone else was paging me over the intercom. Some people will say that it's good to be needed. I say it's also good to relax.

My fuse gets short. I find it nearly impossible to keep from rolling my eyes when the third kid in a row asks me the same tedious question. Will we be turning this in? How much is this worth? There are parties to plan and fundraisers to sponsor and research projects to grade. Soccer games and swimming lessons. Playdates and birthday parties and- oh shit- did I really forget to buy a present? It's tomorrow? Did I even remember to RSVP?

I am juggling as fast as I can, knowing that it's only a matter of time before I drop one of these balls. Before I miss an appointment, forget someone's big and important something, miss a payment, lose an application, before I let somebody down.

There are people I love who never hear from me. I've just been so busy, you know how it goes. There are voices that I miss hearing on the other end of the phone. People who I think about it those fleeting moments when nobody calls my name. People I miss. People I love.  I don't want to remember that I was busy. I just need to let it all spin for awhile. To ride it out the way I do every year. To smile, breathe, and go slowly.

Sometimes I feel an obligation to blog. Losing my mom and the connection to my own childhood compels me to document my kids' lives. But sometimes I get caught up in trying to compartmentalize our experiences into neat and tidy narratives. Sometimes there is no theme, sometimes there are just pictures.

And perhaps there is a motorcycle. "Dad! You are so awesome on that motorcycle, Dad!"

It is all awesome. Especially when I remember to breathe.