Throwing in the towel #SOL23 18/31

March Break is almost over and I’m still so tired my eyes ache. I’m not ready to go back. The EduKnitNight chat is full of “you can do it” messages as we gear up for the certain chaos of the return to school on Monday. 

“Gently suggesting that we all take space for ourselves – even if just for 20 minutes – today or tomorrow. To help us through the week with a little reserve.”
“Breathe, know that you are enough, be kind to yourself.”
“Messy and underprepared is not a sin.”

There’s a post in there somewhere, but I can’t quite find it. I text my sisters for ideas & they immediately list hilarious moments from our past – the time B put ketchup on her ice cream, the time we hid our exchange student’s speedo before we went to the beach, the time my sister broke her arm (which is funny because we were wearing towels around our necks and jumping off blue armchairs, spinning around and yelling, “Wonder Woman” when it happened). Soon we are talking about my nephews’ upcoming birthday, and…

I still don’t know what to write. I want to write about the concert Andre and I heard on Thursday or the play we saw last night. I want to write something funny about… something… but instead here I am, writing about not writing and laughing at myself because I have been participating in this challenge for six years and I think I have written some version of this post every year and every year I’ve felt badly about it. 

I think about Elisabeth saying once, probably my first year, that this isn’t so much a writing challenge as a publishing challenge, that part of this month is about knowing that some days I’m going to write things that aren’t great and I still have to hit publish because it’s ok for some things to be mediocre. 

And, once again, I have written something – which is better than nothing – and now it’s time for dinner and conversation with my friend. “Messy and underprepared is not a sin” I whisper under my breath. In a moment I’ll post this, heave myself out of this beanbag nest and tomorrow, I’ll write again.

Civilization VI #SOL23 16/31

I have spent all day – and I mean the entire day – playing a game. I started last night, went to bed much later than I intended, woke up & was vaguely friendly to my family (who then went out for the day – skiing 😆) and, after they left, started again.

It has been glorious. My mind has been completely engaged in planning a civilization, sending out settlers, city planning, diplomacy and more. I haven’t thought about school at all – heck, I even forgot to write a post this morning and I certainly haven’t started commenting. Instead, I’ve been Eleanor of Aquitaine, carefully building up my cultural and religious influence as I slowly gain power. I’ve fished and farmed and fought (as little as possible of that last; I maintain a big enough army that people don’t really want to attack me). I settled near Halong Bay and constructed Chichen Itza and the Colossus and the Hagia Sofia and more. Cervantes grew up in my empire, as did Rumi, and their writings have made us all very happy.

I’ve played for so long that my brain is seeing hexagons (the tile shape in the game) everywhere. Now, my family has returned and I’ve baked another batch of blondies (thanks to fellow blogger Arjeha who shared the recipe two days ago – because my children ate *the entire pan* yesterday) and I’m going to go for a walk even though the weather remains stubbornly cold and gray. Soon after that I’ll have to put on something other than sweatpants because we’re going out. Sigh.

Nevermind. In Eleanor’s world, I’m building a theater and an aqueduct. The closest volcano has gone extinct and I’ve circumnavigated the globe. I’m fairly certain that another Vietnamese city will soon ask to join my empire because of my amazing culture.

I’m a reader, and I get easily lost in a good book, but if you ever have a need to forget the real world for a few (ok, a lot of) hours, do I ever have a good game for you. (It’s Civ VI – if you didn’t notice that in the title😉.)

The day after Pi Day #SOL23 15/31

These days, it feels like everyone knows about March 14, Pi Day. I know we didn’t do this when I was younger, but now it’s a thing, so I thought about making some sort of pie yesterday, but skipped it because it’s March Break and I didn’t feel like it.

This morning, I came downstairs to find this (it was on my phone, but I needed my phone for the picture):

I’ll admit, it took me a minute. At first, I thought my husband might be referring to one of our new favourite things which a younger colleague recently shared when I was all steamed up: Cave Johnson Lemons

(Really, you should listen. It’s hilarious.)

But… no, I wasn’t quick enough. Here’s our conversation.

I’m pretty sure (but not 100% sure) that the final picture is from the internet and not from his office, but one can never tell: apparently, in our house, we skip Pi Day and go straight for the Ides of March.

What if? #SOL23 14/31

The first time I remember saying that I wanted to be a teacher was when we were living in California and had friends over for dinner. We were in the dining room because there were too many of us for the kitchen table, and I think a few of us kids were seated in a row on one side. One after another, we responded to some adult who had asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The boy from next door said he was going to be a pilot, like his dad. My youngest sister, who must have been four, declared her intent to be a garbageman. I said I was going to be a teacher. Both of us were met with scoffing laughter, in my case because, “you’re too smart to be a teacher.” 

For years, I assumed that everyone wanted to be a teacher, kind of like lots of little kids want to be construction workers or, like my sister, garbagemen, and then they got over it at some point. I just couldn’t seem to get over it. I nurtured my secret desire while telling well-meaning adults that I planned to be a lawyer or, later, a diplomat. Meanwhile, teaching leaked through my every crack: I taught swim lessons and coached swim teams; I volunteered as a tutor; I nannied. Even though I attended a college that had no education major, I took a course that involved an internship, and convinced the prof to let me work in a third grade classroom; then I took a language acquisition course, then a children’s literature course. None of these were in my major. 

When I finally accepted an overseas teaching position, I packed a stack of graduate school applications, already printed. I started filling them in after my first day in the classroom; I’d sent them all by the end of my second week.

Teaching is who I am; I am as likely to tell a stranger that I am a teacher as that I am a mother. In fact, I can’t imagine someone knowing me and not knowing that I teach, but lately I’ve been wondering… what if I weren’t a teacher? What might I be?

The serious options:

  • A lawyer – I deeply admire my friends who work for justice and equity through the law.
  • An editor – I have been blessed (?) with a brain that sees spelling and grammatical errors quickly and easily, and I’m pretty good at straightening out complicated sentences.
  • A librarian – I had no idea about all the cool things librarians could do. My librarian friends curate art, help with tech, do research for Parliamentarians, and much, much, more. 
  • A nonprofit worker of some sort – which is what I did between college and teaching. I worked for the Red Cross and for a small nonprofit that worked with some UN agencies. It was kind of cool.
  • A psychologist – which, in some ways, isn’t that different from being a teacher.

The wilder options:

  • An actress – obviously (she pirouettes and takes a bow)
  • A former swim champion turned coach – ideally a champion with some medals or something
  • An organizer (one of those people you call to come help you get your house sorted out) – because I am *much* better at organizing other people than myself.
  • A midwife or a doula – in fact, ever since having my first child with a doula alongside me, I’ve imagined doing this, maybe after I retire. What a thrill to help someone bring life into the world!
  • And, in the realm of the completely impossible, a dancer or acrobat – I have precisely zero ability to do this, but every time I attend the ballet or watch Cirque de Soleil, I dream of being able to move my body like that. So impressive.

I’m sure there’s more I’ll remember after I publish this; it’s kind of fun to think about who else I could be. What about you? If you weren’t you, what would you do?

The Day Two Blues #SOL23 12/31

March Break officially started Friday at 3:25. Not that I was counting. (I was counting.) Today is officially day two of nine, and I am in the middle of the day-two blues. 

Friday night we ordered takeout and didn’t tell the children to get off the internet and stayed up too late reading our books. Yesterday I was all, “yay for March Break” and “I slept in” and “let’s just sit around and do puzzles all morning” and “sure, I’d love to take a long walk” and “everyone can forage for dinner.” We watched a movie on Netflix; then we watched several episodes of a show we enjoy because why not? 

Today is day two. I woke early and was thrown off by the time change, even though I knew it was coming. All day, I’ve been less certain of my sloth. I’m not sure if I like the book I started yesterday, I couldn’t quite decide if I should take a nap for so long that it got too late for a nap. I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether today should be a “get it done” day (so things aren’t hanging over me for the rest of break) or a “just kick back” day (because it’s day two). It’s 5:45 now, so it’s actually been a “talk about doing things but don’t do them” sort of day. Not my favourite.

Today, social media is full of photos of friends who’ve arrived at their beach vacations and friends who’ve already hit the ski slopes. Around here, Andre managed to shovel a path to the back shed and I went wild and crazy by taking *two* walks and folding the laundry. No, we did not post pictures.

Today I’ve been staring down the list of things I thought I’d get done during this break and realizing, as I often do, that I may have been a little overly ambitious. Today I’m feeling the full fatigue of the last few weeks. I’m fizzling out. Today, I’ve got the day-two blues. 

So I’ve set out a puzzle and pulled out my knitting. I’ve snuggled into the couch and stayed in my sweats.  I’m choosing some movies and chatting with friends. I’m letting go of (some of the) lists and allowing myself to feel at loose ends. Tomorrow is day three, and there’s no such thing as the day-three blues because it doesn’t rhyme. I can live with that.

Literature made me do it #SOL23 9/31

Look. I’ve slept through my alarm, so my husband has to wake me up, and this morning’s shower is non-negotiable, so in I go even though I am already running late. As I wash my hair I mentally review my closet and select the navy and white sundress even though it is March and still cold because I know I can layer the light gray cardigan over top and no one will be any the wiser. 

I am out of the shower, face cream on, hair combed, mascara on and down the stairs for breakfast in under five minutes. Andre has made me a smoothie – he really is the best – but I have to wait for the water to heat for tea. Breathe. Crossword. The water boils and I pour it over the tea, gulp a little more smoothie, run up the stairs to wake the boys then back down the stairs to stop the tea steeping then back up the stairs to finish getting ready.

Black leggings are obviously a no – the dress is navy. I dig for gray leggings. Nope. The only available tights are also black. I search again for the gray leggings while my brain again mentally scans my closet. Ah, there are the leggings! I dry my hair then brush my teeth, wishing – not for the first time – that I were ambidextrous, a skill I imagine using mostly to do things like dry my hair and brush my teeth at the same time. Superpowers, I think, would be wasted on me.

Ok. Ready. Just socks.


What the heck kind of socks am I going to wear with gray leggings and a navy dress? Gray. I need gray. There are no gray socks in the drawer. I have white – that’s a no – brown, black. I stare at the socks. In the caverns of my mind I hear my stepsister, Jamie, saying, “I’d go with the _______ pair. ______ goes with everything.” I have no idea whether she said “brown” or “black.” ARGH.

Um… Ok, focus on shoes instead. Which shoes will I wear? I slip on a brown pair, then catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror- nope. I grab a navy pair – but with which socks? Precious seconds slip by. Andre walks into the bedroom and stares at me, barefoot, with multiple pairs of socks on the bed and several pair of shoes on the floor. He looks perplexed. “What are you doing?” I explain my conundrum and he suggests solving it with brown boots. Perfect! I zip them up. Not perfect. They look…wrong.

My carpool buddy will be here any minute. I have not had any tea. I need to be ready about three minutes ago. I still haven’t made my lunch. I stare at the sock drawer as if gray socks might magically appear. I remember that I threw out my last pair a few weeks ago – holes. My carpool buddy arrives downstairs. Suddenly, the solution is obvious: Shakespeare socks. I’m an English teacher! Sure, they don’t match, but they say “To be or not to be” so I can claim literature and no one will be the wiser. Precisely no shoes (probably in the world) go with a navy dress, dark gray leggings and blue-ish Hamlet socks with white skulls and green crowns, so I throw on some navy slides, rush down the stairs, toss a bit of tea down my throat, grab my lunch and run out the door.

No one commented all day long, but I’m pretty sure it was one of the more unusual outfits I have worn in a while. Whatever. March Break starts in under 24 hours. And tomorrow I’m wearing jeans.

Not a soccer mom #SOL23 6/31

Confession: I am a terrible soccer mom. I was a little shocked to discover this about myself, but it’s true nonetheless. I didn’t start out this way. I played soccer growing up. My dad coached; my mom watched; my sisters played – it was a family thing. So, when the kids were little, I dutifully signed them up for soccer and volunteered to help coach their teams, but eventually, I realized that I was more interested in the game than they were. Evidence:

Yes, that is my (younger) child. Yes, he is *inside* the ball bag. No, he did not want to play.

So, the kids stopped playing on teams and I stopped coaching. Life went on.

Both kids are pretty athletic (as I am not), and my older child never stopped playing the game with buddies, but he didn’t join a team again until this year. Then, he made the high school team, too. Suddenly, I have an app on my phone and there are uniforms and practices and games and tournaments and so so many emails. I know that this is part and parcel of youth sports, but it turns out, I’m a terrible soccer mom. Evidence:

I ignore a lot of the emails.

The app made me crazy, too, so I made my partner download it.

Which means I really should read the emails.

We are often late to practice. Sometimes it is my fault.

I do not know the names of all the boys on the team. (In fairness to me, my child does not like it when I ask him things like the names of the boys on the team, so I stopped.)

I definitely do not know the parents of the boys on the team.

I often take walks during the outdoor games. 

I often do crosswords during the indoor games.

I accidentally missed today’s semi-final because I was walking (In my defense, my son is injured and was not playing AND I had been told the game was starting later AND I didn’t know that the playoff games were shorter. Which I probably should have known. But whatever.)

The truth is that I’m a little surprised that I don’t want to be more involved, but I don’t. Maybe it’s because he didn’t play for so long or because when he started again this year, he asked me not to watch while he got used to playing again. Mostly, though, it’s because it’s his thing, not mine. One way or another, I’m not really a soccer mom, and I’m making my peace with that.

Video Game Poetry #SOL23 4/31

I have spent much of the morning in the same room as Mr 12, who is deep in a video game with a bunch of his friends. At first I was annoyed – it’s hard to write with someone talking loudly right by me – then inspiration struck: somewhere on Twitter, people are turning their bedmate’s sleep talking into Insta-style poetry. Here, very lightly edited, is the poetry of 12-year-old gamers. (Apologies for the curse-words. I promise he mostly curses in video-game play.)

Try to remember

Last night, I went into Mr. 12’s bedroom to give him a kiss goodnight and found this

That is a trash can balanced on the edge of his bed. Naturally, I asked him if he wanted me to put it on the floor. “No!” he sat up. “It’s for my memory.”

Pardon? I must have looked at him funny because he answered my unspoken question.

“You know, like Dad does.”

I was still confused. As far as I know, my partner has never placed a plastic garbage can precariously close to the edge of our bed in honour of his memory.

“Like the clothespin.”

That little tidbit was no help at all. I wondered if perhaps he was sleep-talking.

He sighed, “You know how Dad does weird things so he doesn’t forget something else? This is to remind me that I owe D money and I have to bring it tomorrow.”

Ah-ha! Andre has recently been using a memory technique where he does one thing to help him remember to do another. So we have a blue clothespin on our dishwasher detergent to remind him to… something. He’s also trying to create new habits by placing something we want to remember near something we already use. So, this is happening in our kitchen

And, while parents hear the platitude that “your children are watching you” so often that it is banal, I realized that somehow I had begun to think that my preteen and teen were, in fact, no longer watching us at all. Turns out, I was wrong in the best of ways.

But I still don’t know what the clothespin helps us remember.

Who is Charlie?

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting to sleep. I finish reading, turn off my light and close my eyes… then some rebellious part of my brain hears “PARTY!” and gleefully begins to list all of the things I need to do. These wild worry-happy neurons are willing to let pretty much anything in:

  • things I should have completed but haven’t
  • things I need to do for school
  • things I need to do for my family
  • things I need to do in the morning
  • things I need to do before I die
  • things I don’t really need to do but, you know, I might as well add to the list

Any self-respecting 50-year-old working-parent-brain knows how to handle an unplanned fret-festival: paper. I live by the mantra on the paper is out of my head, and I keep a pencil and post-it notes next to my bed. I like using the little ones because they imply that my lists are somehow manageable. I also like to pretend that I won’t fill up three or four or five…

Things usually look more manageable in the morning, even if sticky notes litter the cover of my book. But Monday, I woke up to this:

Um, y’all… I don’t know anyone named Charlie. And who is the questionable person who goes with Charlie? What activities do they need? Was I planning them? Do I need to plan them? I have no idea.

I spent Monday dutifully crossing off most of the things on this list, but Charlie lingers. What does Charlie need? Who is Charlie? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that my list-making brain was playing a practical joke on me. I suppose the only solution is to go upstairs and read for a while and see what I put on tonight’s list… Maybe I’ll wake up with things for Charlie to do.