Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Friday, July 31, 2009


I've been in Portland for a week and a half and I'm all fired up!

I came primarily to give ND time with her grandparents and to get a change of scenery for myself, but after spending time with so many wonderful Portland friends, I feel driven towards my roots again.

I know that I don't have time for ANYTHING during the year, and yet I want to be an activist... even if just subtle things here and there. Through my time in NJ, I've slipped gradually away from some of my environmental awareness as well as other things. I know I can't do it all. A teacher and mother already does a LOT to try and correct the world. But here are things I've done already or seen and want to do more of:

-Just rejoined the mailing list for

-Took the time to actually read an email and click on a link in order to sign a petition inside

-I want to continue to try to actually read all those emails that come in... at least one a week?

-When I met one friend, it was an insanely record breaking hot day at about 105 Farenheit. We needed a place to go and she took me to an indoor play space that was created by a large group of families. It's like a co-op. Everyone has a role and the place is in beautiful shape, and no one has trouble swapping toys. What cooperation! What commitment! What responsibility! What an alternative to consumerism or spending too much just to get out of the heat! What community! It made me wonder if anything like that is possible where I live, and I unfortunately concluded that it's far more than I can take on, but...

-It got me thinking about recycling and use of materials, sharing rather than everyone buying their own. At our school there is a secretary in charge of supplies. I want to have a chat with her about how we can allow teachers to re-use supplies by having a place we can leave them for one another in some sort of accessible way.

-I want to find one new way to save water.

-I want to find one new way to save energy.

-I want to read one book on food. I'm a little scared to take on The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm afraid I'll feel helpless for what I can actually do... I already buy into the school meal plan for lunches because it saves me tons of time and gives me more rounded meals even if they're not organic, fair trade, or any of that wonderful stuff, but I think I'll read it anyway and...

-I want to talk to the appropriate administrator at our school about food waste. Is there a way for teachers to take food home at the end of the day?

-I want to keep being mindful about what I buy... really thinking through my clothing purchases and donating to FINCA or Yad Eliezer when I don't buy fair trade or used, to offset my use of products created by exploited workers.

-Most importantly, I want to keep these issues far enough in front of my head to prioritize a dialogue within my classroom and in my everyday interactions. I can lead by example. Particularly in a classroom, when I show the kids, for example, where we wash our hands for lunch, I can also throw in a civics lesson about waste. If I think it through just a little more carefully I can get it across to at least some of the kids without any more time used than I would have already.

This is all about being a responsible citizen.

This is about doing my part.

Some people think I'm "out there" and a little crazy, but it's absolutely necessary if we're going to be responsible citizens in this world, especially in this wealthy part of the world.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Portland Poetry Reading

I did it. 

In a certain way it wasn't a big deal. Some friends and family (about 16 people in all) came together to hear me read from my book. No big deal.

In another sense, I poured out my heart and soul on the page, exposed my vulnerability and then presented it all publicly and tried to sell it. 

Either way, everyone was smiling.

How are you supposed to feel after that?

To begin, I'm a little tipsy as my friend took me after for a beer (that I did deserve). I also feel relieved and a little proud.

I definitely have accomplished something. I've written good poetry on and off over a period of about 12 years. I've collected it together. I've arranged it. I've revised it (how many times?). I've printed it up in a book, advertised to a limited audience and now sold 10 copies. 

On the other  hand, I have not proven a thing.

If Billy Collins or some other amazing poet told me I was good, I would be ecstatic.

But then, just like now, I would go on with my life and all the feelings of uncertainty and insecurity would be just the same.

I am here in this moment, and it's a little special. 

Hello, moment.

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Friday, July 17, 2009


Wednesday we went to the Nature Center and learned about tadpoles and frogs. The class is an hour long and, at the end, we went to the dock with the teacher to catch tadpoles with a net. It was so much fun we stayed an extra half hour, and when the teacher had to go back to work in the building, we went for a long walk together. It was a lovely day.

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Potty Training

There's this 3-day potty training method some friends of mine tried and liked. The idea is that you quit diapers and pull-ups cold turkey and help your child get used to not wetting the new underwear. It's intense, requires stopping everything else you're doing for 3 days and is supposed to be full-proof.

Yesterday began the first 3-day block I will have for awhile, so we tried it.

There were ways in which it was fun at first. You've seen what I've written previously about trying to live in the moment and get more out of everyday experiences without having to run around for fun, or about focusing on activities more directly with ND...

Well, we spent a good part of the morning in the yard. Together we hand washed with a washboard a bunch of special delicate clothes that had been piling up. That was really good for her, and fun. We swept the deck which has been very dirty from some work we had done recently. We fed the birds. We drew with chalk and we mowed the lawn. (We have a manual mower that is quiet and safe enough to use when she's around, and she pushes her own toy mower.) We also, sadly, found a dead bluejay in the yard. I had to explain about death. ND kept asking what it's doing, and I explained that the way this works is that it will not ever do anything again. She thought I called it a Dad bird.

Throughout, whenever she had an accident I explained about trying to go potty first to keep it dry. But as the day wore on, both inside the house and out, I learned that she's just not able to tell me when she's about to need to use the toilet. And I could see the pressure was starting to get to her.

I felt so odd about the experience... frustrated mainly, I think, for pushing her in the first place than for the fact that it wasn't working. I thought the things the article had said had made sense, but I prefer parenting from instinct and from my heart than from what I read. Reading puts info. in my head which is where I second-guess myself and stop believing in what I usually return to as "what's right."

The article I read tells you to throw out all the diapers so you can't "give up" and use them as a crutch. But I didn't do that. I was planning to donate them, so I had just put them in U's car trunk. But while ND was sleeping I found one that had been left behind. When she got up from her nap I changed her into it and I decided to pretend the day never happened. I'm not even going to talk about it with her unless she brings it up.

I'm not sure what approach to use now. I'd love to see if I can teach her to do this without any kind of treats. It strikes me as weird in many ways. In fact, at the end of yesterday we went for a walk to Walgreen's and I bought her a present just to cheer us up -- a flower windmill for the yard. A comfort rather than a reward. I think I'm not going to mention potty for awhile and see if she chooses to use it on her own, and just talk her through it. Ask her if she wants to try underwear some days and not give her a hard time.

My concern is that I'll be inconsistent. It will be harder when school starts again and diapers simply become more convenient again as we rush everywhere. But I also don't see a rush.

And have I mentioned we're going on an airplane next week? Glad we're not dealing with this there.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer State Of Mind

As a teacher who lives with the perpetual gift of empty summers, I've had to learn how to view them in the right way. In the past I've actually produced a lot of anxiety about using them right because they're just so precious.

I've thought of using them as a time for lofty projects, for catching up on things, for adventures, for massive amounts of fun that I don't normally have.

They're now more for me about a change in lifestyle... a lifestyle that permits me:
• to bike to the store for groceries with my daughter
• to make challah on Fridays, also with my daughter
• to write a little more often
• to stay up and get up a little later
• to spend a little more time on yoga
• to clean up after myself just a little better (mainly clearing the dining room table every time I use it and to get the dishes done)
• to live at a "living" pace, doing things one at a time

In this particular year I had hoped -- ever ambitious -- to clean every room in our house thoroughly, but it's not working with ND around. And a friend pointed out to me just how unrealistic that was.

I started this post on Sunday and today it's Tuesday, and dishes are piled in the sink... but I'm calm and happy and feel the time has been right. It's just nice not to rush so much.

I enjoyed this same feeling during last Pesach break, and I hoped I could bring the relaxation into the school year. I found that I could not. It's just not realistic.

But that's one more thing I'm not going to worry about.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009


ND is impressing me with her communication skills in so many ways recently.

1. We made challah yesterday. I let her braid two little ones. She explained it to her Dad during Shabbat dinner and talked about "putting it in the middle in the middle in the middle" and twisted her arms to show the process of braiding the strands.

2. We went to the neighbor's today. They have a 3-year old who is her friend and a 1-year old about whom she is often cautious. The baby tends to grab toys she wants, and she is intimidated by it. But today at the neighbors she was walking with him up the driveway, communicating with him as best as she could. Then she got worried and ran over to me to tell me he might go into the street. I was proud of her for being more adventurous with him, but also for watching out for him.

3. The older brother was later riding the tricycle down the driveway (away from the street) but too fast and almost ran into her. I went over to him to explain that he almost hit her and that he needs to slow down and make sure the way is clear. She joined the conversation to say she might have cried.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Lines and Circles

Sometimes time moves as in a line... beginning to end, with a list of destinations along the way. You check off your accomplishments as you go.

Sometimes it moves in a circle. You do the same routine again and again... get up in the morning, do dishes, eat etc.

I tend to favor the line. It feels more productive. I get to start new things. I'm always moving onto something new and exciting both in my personal life and at work.

But then I tend to forget to do things like schedule in time to eat. Yes, I eat, but I don't schedule it. And I don't clean up after myself. And in school, routines I set for the kids fall by the wayside as I introduce new and exciting projects.

One of my major goals both this summer and next school year is to live more in the circle.

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Had a short but fun trip to Boston, appropriately during the 4th of July Weekend. We stayed with good friends in Waltham, MA and had a little time on Friday for sight-seeing.

What I really wanted to do was the Boston Duck Tours in an amphibious vehicle. Between poor planning and bad timing, it didn't work out, but I don't mind too much. I also really wanted to walk on the Freedom Trail. We did manage to do quite a bit of that on Friday, although not all of it. I was hoping to visit Paul Revere's house and that there was a lot I didn't know about a lot of the sites until afterwards. (We just read the signs. We didn't take a formal tour.) But it was really cool nonetheless and I'm hoping to come back again another time.

Some of the cool things on the Freedom Trail included seeing some famous graves, including that of Mother Goose! I also liked the Old State House which overlooked the site of the Boston Massacre.

On Sunday we managed to go on the Swan Boats and walked back on a long stretch that included statues of many famous people. I was happy to get some photos of the ONE monument I found the whole trip about women.

I would have liked to do more, but it all felt quite good. Can't do it all in just a weekend, especially with a 4 hour drive each way.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Full-Time Mommy

It's with a sense of combined excitement and humility that I begin my summer as a full-time mom.

Yesterday was ND's last day of day care for the summer. I spent the day doing many things including finishing cleaning the living side (not the laundry side) of our basement, going for a bike ride by myself, dealing with some paperwork, etc.

The key, I think, to making this work for me, is going to be staying active. Today we've had a busy day already. As I write this, ND is napping.

Here she is this morning before we got into our day. She slept in this shirt that U. brought her from Sweden. (That's another story.)

This morning we went so a megillah Shiur (a class) taught by the parent of a child I used to teach. She's been inviting me for some time to come, and this was the first time I could. It was fabulous and ND was relatively cooperative during it. I'll need to bring different toys next time as she colored on the hardwood floor with he crayons.

We then met U. for lunch. And afterwards went to the Tenafly Nature Center for a Little Naturalists class where we learned about dragonflies.

In a few minutes we're off to the chiropractor, and tonight I'm going to a one-time dance class. She's already upset that I might be going somewhere without her tonight, but I think we'll just have to make it happen. She's been very clingy lately, but when I leave her with U. she gets over my absence quickly.

Tomorrow, though, nothing planned yet. Probably a trip to the lake with some friends. But I'm not sure.

I've got a lot to think about to make sure this works... I need to feel my time is being used meaningfully and I have to be willing to slow myself down. I need to be present with her and not try to do too many things that are tricky to do when she's around. It will be a dance, this living side by side through every minute.

I always thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom, but I'm not. I'm a busy person who does best under pressure and wishing to slow down, rather than slowed down and wishing to be busy.

But again, so far, we're having fun.

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