Bath Day

Now? Now?

Can we now?

Lay the towels across the ground

Two in the shower,

one on the side

Two hands hold while four hands scrub

Oh no-

escape!

Don’t shake, shake, shake!

too late, oh well

back in the tub

A final rinse to wash the suds

Out again

water flying

grab a towel and get to drying

open the door

a quick dash, gone

doggy bath at last is done

Let’s Go

“Sing the song, Mom! Make Waffles sing the song!” my twins begged as they put on their jackets ands shoes.

Waffles wasn’t an intentional pandemic puppy. He was 11 weeks old when we got him on Christmas Eve 2019, so he was about 5 months old when the pandemic began last March. Sometimes I think I was crazy for adding a puppy to our house that was already too small for a family of five with three loud, active kids. Most of the time, though, I’m glad the kids and I put in all the hours of begging and convincing it took to get my husband on board with getting a dog.

One of the biggest benefits of having a dog while we’re all working and learning from home is that is gets the girls and I outside to walk him several times a day, regardless of the weather.

“Let’s take Waffles for a walk,” I announce. “Get your shoes and jackets!”

I never cease to be amazed at how long it takes my 6-year-olds to put on their slip-on shoes and jackets. In the time it takes me to go to the bathroom, get on my own shoes and jacket, check my pockets for treats and poop bags, and get Waffles’ harness on, the girls might have on A shoe…maybe. Too many walks got off on the wrong foot as a result of my feelings of frustration. One day, in a moment of ingenuity, Waffles started “singing” to the girls (to the tune of Let It Be by the Beatles):

Let’s go,

let’s go,

why are you-u so-o slow?

I want to go outside now

let’s go!

I-I have to go poo,

why don’t you put on your shoe?

I want to go out outside now

let’s go.

The girls giggled and hurried up, begging me to have Waffles keep singing as we walked. So now, when I start to get frustrated at how long it’s taking for us to get out the door, instead of nagging I have Waffles sing.

Kindergarten Spelling

What the…I thought, momentarily startled when I looked over my twins’ shoulders and saw they had written ASS on the page of their 100th Day Book. Lately, in a sign of their growing confidence in themselves as writers, they no longer ask me to help them stretch out the words as they write. Luckily, between the letters they sound out and the pictures they draw, I can usually read what they have written. My alarm subsided and I laughed to myself as I read the whole page: I would NOT like to have 100 ants.

Child Authors

“Mom, can we write more on my story?”

The words coming out of my nine-year-old’s mouth are like music to my writerly heart. I have always loved writing. As a child, I filled Lisa Frank notebooks with stories that I came up with about things like riding horses in prestigious show rings, fostering a snow leopard cub, or holiday stories like Why Santa Wears Red. My “novels” almost always featured a 17-year-old girl as the main character. As a late elementary/early middle school kid, I distinctly remember thinking that 17 was the perfect age.

When my son was in first grade, he was inspired to start writing his own stories by one of the Fly Guy books where Buzz has to write a story for homework. He churned a whole series of books about “The Talking Scorpion,” a few titles about an adventurous fish, and many other stand-alone books that we bound with sparkly washi tape. Last spring, shortly after everything shut down, he started writing his first chapter book called The Kids That Carry On. This summer he worked on various comics, including one about the dogs on our block who had a secret superhero dog society working together to defend the block from evil cats. His current story is a retelling of the epic Pokémon adventure that he and his twin sisters play out together with their Lego Pokémon figures. They have spent hours in the backyard and the treehouse taking their Pokémon on journeys and competing in Pokémon battles and performances. He makes notes at the bottom of the document so that he doesn’t forget what they act out each day.

The amazing thing is that my son is a reluctant writer when it comes to writing assignments. He also has terrible spelling, and for the past year has work with the occupational therapist at his school on his handwriting skills (he recently “graduated”-hooray!). But give him a computer with speech-to-text, or a parent willing to type while he talks, as well as the freedom to choose his own topic, and he will write up a storm. It reminds me as a teacher that all children have stories to tell and can love to write, as long as we find the right writing environment for them.

Multitasking

Multitasking-the art of doing multiple things at once.

Tonight I am pushing my multitasking skills to the limit. The third hour of a union debate drones on in the earbud in my right ear while my dog pulls at his leash, trying to sniff out any tasty morsels hiding in the plants as we walk. My phone vibrates with incoming texts from colleagues sharing tips on where and how to get a vaccine since our governor announced today that all school staff are immediately eligible, and my fingers fumble to type responses while holding a leash, unable to use voice-to-text since I’m listening to the union meeting on my phone’s Zoom app.

I realize P, one of my 6-year-old twins, is talking to me.

“What?” I ask.

“Mommy, you’re not listening very well tonight,” she scolds me.

I feel simultaneously guilty, frustrated, and annoyed-not at my daughter, but at the way the night is going. “I know,” I tell her. “I’m not doing anything very well tonight.” I hate multitasking!

Last Year/This Year

Last year, March 1 fell on a Sunday and I totally forgot to start writing for the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. This year, I set an alarm on my work and personal calendars to make sure that I didn’t forget.

Last year, I didn’t end up writing on March 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, either, because I was busy visiting my parents, volunteering at my twin daughters’ preschool, and playing hookie from my own school in order to take my kids on an overnight trip to an indoor waterpark with friends. This year, my parents no longer live close by, all the schools in our area are still fully remote, and the thought of visiting an indoor water park with hundreds of strangers gives me the creeps.

Last year, I didn’t even write on March 5th because I ended up taking another day off of work to take care of my girls so that their usual care-takers, my in-laws (both in their 70’s) could stay home as recommended by health officials. This year, I’m still home with my 6-year-old twins, plus my 9-year-old son, and my 38-year-old husband, and my 1 year old dog – trying to balance being a full-time mom, wife and a teacher from home in a pandemic.

Last year, the world as we knew it was turned upside down in March. Life was uncertain and tumultuous, at home and at school. I wanted to write to document the unprecedented times we were living through, but it was all I could do to make it through the day. Writing just didn’t happen. But this year, one year into living the “new normal,” I’m determined to write. I need that little bit of normalcy and routine back in my life, even if it’s only for a month.

Hybrid Headache

I opened the agenda for my weekly coach/admin meeting and saw the 6-letter word that I’ve come to dread: hybrid. My mantra since last summer has been, “I’ll worry about that when it happens.” Well, now it’s happening and I can’t pretend it’s something in the distant future. It’s all I’ve heard about since we returned from winter break. March 1st. Less than 6 weeks away. So much to figure out between now and then, but so many decisions depend on the decisions of others…

How many families will opt to send their children back in person?

How many teachers will request accommodations to work remotely?

Is it safe?

We do know that class rosters are going to get shuffled around. Teachers are going to get shuffled, not only between grade levels but possibly between schools. Big transitions for so late in the school year. Big impact on teacher workload and student learning.

How much learning will be lost in this transition?

How much more will be gained with in-person classes for 2 hours/day?

Will it be safe?

I have a feeling that there are going to be some big feelings between teachers who take the risk to return in-person and those who choose to work remotely or take leave. I’ve requested to work remotely. It’s the best decision for my family circumstances, but I feel like I’m letting my school down.

What will this mean for our close-knit staff?

Will my colleagues doubt my dedication?

Will everyone be safe?

I take a deep breath and prepare for the conversation that I don’t want to have. I tell myself to pretend that it is the right time to return, that the positivity rate of our school community isn’t almost 30%, that all school staff will have access to the vaccine before we go back. I will help make plans to keep our students and staff safe and optimize learning through the transition to socially distanced teaching and learning. But I wish I didn’t have to.

I have a hybrid headache.

Holy Imbecile

“Hey Google!” I heard my 6-year-old twins chorus upstairs when they were supposed to be in math class on their iPads. “Play Mariah Carey’s Oh, Santa!”

Christmas songs can be heard in my house far into January and beyond. My girls, who love to sing anyways, especially love to belt out their favorite Christmas songs, both classic and contemporary. This year they fell in love with Mariah Carey after watching the very glittery Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, proudly letting me know, “We’re her biggest fans!” On top of learning new Christmas songs, the musical gave me the opportunity to explain the meaning of new vocabulary words like “diva” and “cleavage”–thank you Mariah!

Their incessant singing drives my husband and son crazy, but I love to sing along. Growing up, songs were not something to passively listen to, but something to actively join in on. My mom and I sang along with the radio, CD, comercials, musicals…if it had a tune, we joined in (probably driving my dad and brother crazy, but I never noticed). Every once in a while, though, I find myself just listening to the girls as they sing, noticing the words that they don’t quite get right:

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Connor and Cupid and Donald and Blitzen…”

But my favorite original rendition by far was Silent Night:

“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright,

Round yon virgin mother and child,

Holy Imbecile, tender and mild…”

Sometimes the only thing to do is laugh and join them!

The Perfect 2020 Tree

“That’s the saddest tree ever,” my 9-year-old son commented at dinner.

“No it’s not, it’s perfect,” my husband replied.

I turned around to look at the Christmas tree that, for me, has come to symbolize this crazy year. It all started at the beginning of the month, when I decided that the best way to get a Christmas tree in a pandemic would be to cut one down in the national forest. The part of the forest we found ourselves in was full of trees, but not the kind that look like Christmas trees. We ended up with a little hemlock pine that the kids deemed “perfect!” It was about the same height as we usually get, but with long, thin branches that I knew would only support the lightest ornaments. It wasn’t the tree I had pictured us finding, but since the kids loved it, so did I.

When we decorated it the next day, the sparse branches held only a fraction of our usual decorations. The top was even flimsier than the branches. No matter how many ways I tried, the star would not stay upright. We decided a leaning star was okay this year. When we plugged in the lights and stepped back, the sight was not our typical Christmas tree, but it was sparkly and festive and we decided it was perfect for this year.

Two weeks later, the needles started to drop at an alarming rate. Despite cutting several inches off the bottom when we arrived home, it never drank water, and the branches were completely dry. I was seriously worried that there wouldn’t be any needles left by Christmas! I didn’t have to worry for long. Half the needles fell off when a stuffed animal went flying into the tree. Later, an angry family member pulled on a branch and sent a green blizzard falling to the ground. I considered going to buy a new tree, but the kids wanted to keep this one. So we stuck with it, and opened our presents under its bare branches on Christmas morning, as joyful as ever, despite the less-than-perfect backdrop. Sort of like life has been in 2020.

I turned back to my son and smiled. “Daddy’s right, it’s the perfect pandemic Christmas tree! But we’ll take it down tomorrow.”

Daylight Savings Morning

The clock said 8:08 when I opened my eyes this morning-a miracle!  Normally I’m elated when my five-year-old twins sleep past seven.  Plus, I hadn’t changed the clocks the night before for daylight savings, so it was actually 9:08 a.m.  I’m not sure I’ve ever slept past 9:00 since becoming a mother of three!

As usual, they were awake before my eight-year-old son, so the girls picked out some books for me to read to them in bed (my strategy for keeping them quiet while my son and husband sleep longer).

One twin, A, snuggled up to my right arm, while the other, P, put her head on my left shoulder.  As I started to read, a third head nuzzled its way up to my pillow-Waffles, our Christmas puppy.  We had made it partway through our stack of books when I heard footsteps from the room next door.  Moments later C burst into my room, jumped on the bed, and dove under the covers next to his sister.

I smiled as I remembered the bedtime book I read to the girls the night before, “10 in the Bed.” We were half way there!