Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Things that are workin

-- Keeping my yoga mat/yoga book out for most of the day. Instead of thinking "I must have a precious 30-45 minutes of quiet alone time to practice!" I've adjusted/gotten real with my current life. If I don't just jump in and yogify whenever I can, it'll never happen. And as soon as I make real space and time for it (even if it's in 5-10 minute chunks and Bea is crawling all over me), I notice such a shift in my life. Yoga is magic.

-- I threw a fluffy stuffed animal into Bea's crib and it's totally helping her sleep. She used to have this creepy faceless SIDS-free lovey and she was all giiiiirl, this means nothing to me. So now that she's 12+ months, I changed it up and who knew? Instead of hellish long, long fall asleep times at nap (she's always gone down easy at bedtime) she just settles in wide awake and talks to her fluff and then zzzz.

-- Professional bra fitting. After I weaned Bea, I treated myself (that's the wrong word, as a well-fitting super necessary garment isn't really a treat, but) and it's made all the difference in how clothes fit me, how I carry myself, in seeing parts of my body I forgot existed (hello, upper ribcage!) Victoria's Secret knows nothing nothing. You've gots to go to a specialist who makes you get all naked (okay I kept my pants on) and really, really figures out your deal. It feels strange and weird, but she was like "you've had two kids?!" and so then I loved her and made her adopt me.

-- I bought Herbal Essences shampoo at CVS last week and it makes me feel like 1997 and that's okay with me. Although 1997 was kind of an emo time for me, I also had these L.E.I. jeans from JC Penney that I still dream about.

-- I'm reading my 4th nun memoir. I LOVE NUN MEMOIRS.

And that, trusty followers, is what's workin for me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh, nothing

I have blogger's block and so I'm just going to write down a bunch of things more appropriate to Twitter without thinking so that yay! I'll have blogged:

-- Sometimes when I'm feeling like ah woe divorce remarriage someday traditional American dream huh? I think about the Brady Bunch and how they're still referenced as some dreamy dream team and look! Remarriage and stepkids trippin' all over each other, love it.

-- Unstoppable Kimmy Schmidt, I'm 4 episodes deep. I like it. Maybe I'll love it. For now, the theme song is living on my brain waves.

-- Bea is an animal. She climbs everything, gets into everything, "THIS?!" "THAT?!" "SISSY?!" All her words are in reference to wanting something so hard she spies up high and she's got this crazy hand movement that goes with it, like an agent in a high school play who wants his money gimme gimme gimme. Okay, but it doesn't matter because she is truly and insanely the most delicious human. Nature's plan with that one = make her look and smell and feel like everything good on earth so that I won't run away down the BQE yelling byyyyeee!, abandoning her in the highchair while she has a nervous breakdown because she can't eat my Trader Joe's daffodils.

-- I'm on a Judge John Hodgman binge. Used to be so meh about him and now I'm yay, plus Jesse Thorn has been/will always be my spirit animal.

-- I forget what kinds of shoes people wear in spring.

-- I cleaned out my car and I cleaned out my refrigerator (I even took out all the drawers and scrubbed them) (things you can do when Grammy camp is in session for the week) and I think it's going to make me sleep better tonight.

-- Every night, always, I think I'm seeing mice running across the floor. They're not, but after so many swarmings at so many different places, it's some kind of protective/assumptive PTSD. Remember when I killed that giant rat in my pantry with a frying pan? I think there might be something wrong with me.

-- Should I get bangs? I'm kidding. But will ask you earnestly in probably 8-11 months. I wonder if you could somehow search that phrase across all the blogs in the history of blogs how many times you'd find it.

-- Tonight Harper said to me, as she put on her pajamas, "Mom? Sometimes you have to hold in your gas and then...it just disappears! INTO THIN BUM! ...You know, like thin air?"

Monday, March 16, 2015


It's finally getting warm up in here.

After Bea woke up from her second nap (woe woe woe shall be me the day she's down to one), Harper and I took turns bouncing on Rody to make her laugh and then opened the window because whew -- heat on full blast and sweat was dripping. We heard some squeals and yells and all three peered out the window to see our little dead end circle filled with kids! on bikes! and scooters! without mittens! It's rare that Harper is so quick to run outside and join in, but this time she was on it.

Threw Bea in the (Craigstlist!) Bugaboo (hid that thing all winter long in the closet, then remembered it and er, hello it's an awesome chariot of fire) and some sweatshirts and shoes and helmet and zip zip down the elevator!

Five other kids and their respective caretakers (nannies, grandmas) were out there, zooming and bumping and generally blissing out. I couldn't believe it was 4:30 and warm enough to stand in my cardigan, Bea hatless and munching on a TJ's cereal bar while she watched the big kids.

One woman, about 70, was watching her granddaughter bike. She's been living in Brooklyn Heights for 50 years, since she moved here to be a secretary and lived in a boarding house with a girlfriend -- two meals a day, maid service and a cute room for $99 a month. Sold! She pointed up to the apartment she lived in to raise her two kids and how back then they'd just send them down the elevator to this same dead end to play in a huge gang all afternoon. "I don't know. They just kinda all watched each other."

Let's not get too weepy here, but I did have a Grinch heart growing two sizes moment when I pictured back to the 60s, the same circle filled with kids looking out at the ferry boats and sun setting behind Manhattan. Squealing at their bare hands, kick the can and bikes, running back up the same stairs for dinner and tubs and baths. I love city life for all this -- the rhythms and the routines, the forced community and shared histories.

I make friends much easier here, find people are quicker to share their story and offer a hand or a phone number or a playdate. It feels like we're living in a different calendar, where kids run across the hall for playdates and all the neighbs know each other and hug each other in the elevator after holidays apart. I tell them my story without hesitation and they accept it with a look of understanding and acceptance. It's the city, dear -- it's all happened here before and it'll all happen again. And so it goes. Back up the stairs for dinner and tubs and baths.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Waldorf, the good parts

Alright, I promise this is it. Bea's going to be attending a play-based (and also Jewish?) preschool next year, so all talk of wool and kale and beeswax will gracefully fade away into oblivion...(to be replaced with latke talk.) 

So the good stuff.

-- I think being immersed in the Waldorf method made me a better parent. Parent evenings, articles left in my mailbox, moms chatting on the playground.... Waldorf ideas surrounded and enveloped me. And though I often felt like yelling STOP THAT (oh, hey, like when Bea was chewing on my hair once and more than one person told me it was a mineral deficiency), some of the ideas (especially the ones put forth by the actual teachers) were so golden. They included:

a) Your kid doesn't need you to be their playmate all the live long day. They need a clean house, a warm environment, fun and simple toys, and a loving/firm/gentle guide. Constantly providing projects and ideas and games and on and on and on actually limits their creativity and imagination, while conveniently driving you mad. Make sure to go back and forth (they call these in and out breaths, but whatev) between closeness (reading a book or building a tower or sharing a hug) and a bit of separateness (carry on your chores and keep them close, but playing independently.) 

I'm able to get a ton more done this way around the house (apartment) because I'm not feeling guilty that I'm supposed to be a one woman preschool circus. And what they promised me is true -- if I'm not just reading a magazine or typing on my phone (kids hate that, of course) but doing real work (dishes or laundry or sweeping), they will find something else to do. It's almost magical. This morning was a perfect example. Harper was whining and whining "what can we doooooo?" and I just said "Well, I super need to vacuum, so that's what I'll be doing!" and off I went. I vacuumed and swept and tidied and lo and behold, she stayed near me for a bit and then wandered off to her room and started reading and piddling around with her blocks and scarves. It even works with Bea! Unless she is incredibly tired or crabby from teething, if I'm quite obviously doing housework, she'll find her own groove with board books or coloring or just following me around with her own "cleaning." Magic!

b) If your kid is dressed very, very warmly they will enjoy playing outside in almost all weather. And by warmly I mean VERY WARMLY. Not an L.L. Bean parka and some mittens and a hat. I'm talking thick, wool long underwear and multiple clothing layers over those and then the parka and a scarf and a face warmer and on and on and on. It feels excessive, it's a huge pain, but man does it work. I never really liked playing outside in the winter as a kid because I just wasn't fully warm enough -- I think most kids aren't. So now I'm focused on buying/maintaining quality gear and really suiting up before setting out. And life is smoother and we can extend outdoor time even on the grossest of days. (Sometimes this only means 10 minutes of fresh air, but 10 is better than 0!)

c) Keep your toys to a minimum. Keep things easily reachable. Buy things that can be used in many different ways by different ages. 

d) Do the art project with your kid sometimes. Make a cup of tea, sit down, and paint with watercolors, too. When they see you doing your own artwork it sparks so much fun chatter and makes them dive even deeper into their own piece. I was doing this much more before Bea was born, but I'm trying to get back into it again. Harper just loves it when we're creating together. (Even though I am, quite literally, the worst visual artist on God's green earth.) 

-- The focus on fantasy and ritual. There are fairies and puppet shows and dances and all sorts of things that, at first glance, sort of weirded me out. Were they going to tell my kid anti-science things? ("Gnomes make the grass grow!") But they didn't. They just instilled in her an excitement and enchantment that fully belongs in the world of preschool. Tiny treasures are sent home, crazy festivals with homemade lanterns, oranges left in shoes by St. Nick....  I could never pull this stuff off, not without feeling kind of loony, but it feels so cool and fun and different. And the kids love it.

-- Incredible attention to detail and beauty. The food is delicious (everyday a warm and homemade/organic snack) and the plates and cups and napkins and everything are soft to the touch and lovingly organized by the teachers. There are candles with every meal, hot tea on the playground, calendula ointment on chapped cheeks. Everything smells good and looks cozy and soft and inviting. It still makes me tear up to imagine her classroom, to smell the apple crisp and the beeswax candles burning. There's a focus on care and living in the moment, stepping outside of real life, that is -- forgive the word -- precious. 

Bea is crying from her nap, so I'm going to wrap this up. Or I'll never finish! 

So. Overall, I think Waldorf is a win for preschool. (Not for upper levels -- no. No.) I think it's warm and loving, gentle and magical. No academics, no iPads, no pressure. You'll learn a lot as a parent and your kid will have super unique experiences. I do think there's a rigidity and a judgmental vibe that can sour some of the experiences, and I think schools that combine a few different methodologies often better nail it, but if you find the right Waldorf school it'll be a positive experience for you. (If you've got pretty crunchy leanings! I think that goes without saying...) We had lovely, wise, and gracious teachers who treated Harper with such respect and love. I'll never forget it. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My last (okay second to last) Waldorf thoughts

A few people have expressed interest in a bit of a Waldorf review. Of course it's obvious from some of my writings that I didn't have a wholly positive, total rainbow experience during our two years there. But it's more complicated than my irreverent mumblings and I do want to talk about the experience in earnest.


First off, I think -- as with any commentary on educational philosophies -- there's a big difference and important separation between a school philosophy and the actual school that's carrying out that philosophy. So, I think, some of my complaints and negative experiences had to do with the actual fancy Connecticut town (omg I wrote Connecticult by accident just then and I love that so much) Waldorf school we attended. Not just the Waldorf way. I'll try here to write about Waldorf as a whole and not the school specifically, though I'm sure I won't do this perfectly.

I'm beat from this weekend, so I'm going to do two separate posts. To end on a positive note, I'll start with the negative stuff.

Critical thoughts:

-- For 6 months last year, we had a tenant at our house who was a teacher at a Waldorf elementary school. She was way into it. But had some interesting thoughts about what the school could do to broaden their horizons and move forward with the times. Though I generally found her bananas, I liked her line of thinking here. For example, there is a huge (and hugely specific) emphasis on wool. Wool wool wool! Felting it and knitting with it and, I don't know, rolling around in a bathtub in it. All fine and good when you live in Germany or New England, but what if you live in Louisiana? Or West Africa? Do you really want to make wool shite all the live long day? I see no reason for the rigidity around things like this, when really the reason behind the use of wool in the first place is: natural materials that feel good in a child's hand, that keep them warm and comfortable, that connect them to nature. 

-- I don't agree with their official stance on literacy. I think waiting until first or second or third grade to learn how to read (and to discuss letters and to even be-read to) is unnecessary. What a world of stories and literature the kids are missing when they're not "supposed" to hear Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, The Snowy Day, or the delights of Amelia Bedelia. If you have books in the house they're supposed to be filled with beautiful, simple pictures and open ended story telling is encouraged. That's cool and there's room for that, but I'm also way into traditional children's literature. I don't want worksheets pushed in preschool, but this is not that.

-- Heavily unrealistic expectations for parenting in the modern world. I'll get to what I love that they encourage and how it changed my parenting and my view of childhood, but I think the Waldorf standards are borderline impossible to maintain if you also want to create children that can function in the greater world, in a normal way, happily. 
A perfect example of this issue was a photocopied article placed in all the parents' mailboxes. It was written by a famous Waldorf lady and talked about how to be present for our children and how to create a rhythm for the day. There were some nice takeaways, but I got very hung up on this idea (and I'm paraphrasing): "When the afternoon is long and the children are crabby, resist the urge to mail it in and turn on some music for dancing. Try to find other ways to pass the time."
Dude. Duuuude. If by 4:30 I've only resorted to music and not Nick Jr. plus handfuls of goldfish and juiceboxes thrown on the floor, I feel like a f*&$ing saint. Sharing music and dancing with kids are, like, gold medal parenting moments and not something to feel guilty about. I mean obviously. 

-- If it's too cold out, let the kids go inside. Even if it's above 20 degrees and they're dressed warmly, it's okay to yield. If it's pouring out and it's raw and dark... just let the kids go inside and play with the gnome dolls. Some of them are three years old! It's not a labor camp in war torn wherever. Lighten up, Francis. 

-- Some people would put this on the pros list, but not this girl. I guess should put this in a "neutral" column, but anyway. There is MUCH parental involvement required and expected. This isn't a drop-your-kid-at-the-door-and-bolt-to-Dunks situation. There are soup swaps and bake offs and knitting circles and kale salad exchanges. It's pretty much constant and very integral to the workings of the school. I knew this, sort of, going in and should have stayed away because -- know thyself. But it was hard to imagine just how much the school is expected to be part of your life until you're enrolled and rolling. It's legit and it's so much. 

That's it for now. I think. My thumbs up thoughts coming soon.