Alternative Models of Schooling/Raising Children


I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a woman. Also about what it means to have trouble and to solve a problem, on one’s own, with a partner, in the company of friends, in community. Last night I heard a story from a young man with lots of troubles. Also with a young wife for whom he hopes to be a strong man, the person he wants to be, his words. This reminded me of my younger brother, who’s had his share of troubles, and who often comes back to this source of strength, his duty to provide for his wife and young son. Both men want to be the one to make the home, to earn the money, to keep the ship steady. I was reminded again of my own sorting out of what it means to be a strong woman, of what it means to make a home and to provide for my own family, with a partner or without. There’s a lot of glue in the world, holding us all together. Sometimes the glue feels like most of what we’ve got. What amazes me is how folks do hold up, continue to go on. When things are really bad most of us don’t give up.

Sometimes we do, but those stories seem to be the exception. This summer I heard one about a friend’s elderly father, who seemed to have worn out from years of hard knocks, decided he was done, stopped eating and drinking. Two weeks later he was gone. For many years before that he’d taken care of his failing wife. When his own health began to fail, his daughter and her family stepped in, moved the two close to where they could look after them, and at that point, the man let go. Maybe it was that he could stop living once he knew someone else was there to look after his wife. While I was telling my daughter the story, thinking how sad this end of life had been, she surprised me again as she often does, reminded me how lucky those two were to have the love they had, how lucky the now demented wife had been cared for by this man, how lucky the man had loved her so deeply he provided the care he did, even in the limited life they lived.

This morning I read on HONY about a young Vietnamese woman who was taken in by a man one night. He found her sleeping with her son in a construction site, abandoned by her husband. He took her home, saying she shouldn’t have to live that way, looked after her and her son. As she said, after a few months a romantic connection developed. The two were pictured above the words, she on a motorcycle, he standing beside.

This morning I’m home on my own. It’s been a weird stretch. My kids and I and my guy are all out of our rhythm, summer vacation into fall, Spain to home a transition that’s been a lot rockier than expected for me and my guy, sorting out life apart and together a problem we’ve been working on too long, feels hard to go on. Haven’t given up, but it makes me think about strong women, strong men, home, family, solving problems, if and when we can.

So, today I make Gypsy Soup, my balm for what ails. I chop and sautee, stir, smell, taste, clean out the fridge, anticipate the weekend with my kids, a weekend plan that’s been in progress way too long, not settled yet, but Gypsy Soup worthy for the moment. The soup is good for lunch and calming no matter what the weekend brings. While I cook and wash the clothes, I also fight rats. Yes, the fine institution of WFDC has a family of rodents residing in the compost bin, now frolicking on the side yard, to and from the street. Yesterday a mom called to report a sighting after drop off. In the afternoon when I was in the yard with the kids, I saw one hopping from sidewalk to bin. Then Liana saw it or another, atop the nearby pile of bricks. The suspicion had been there, food disappearing from the compost bin, tunnels there that made us discuss a plan. Now the sightings have confirmed it’s rats not possums, as I had sort of hoped, I’ve called my pest control folks, who have given me the same advice we came up with ourselves, stop using the bin, get one that is rodent proof. The problem is dealing with the nest. So, today, I lifted the top off the bin, thinking I’d expose the rats’ home to light. I put mothballs from Liana’s home and ammonia from mine into the holes the rats have chewed in the wood platform to tunnel under the bin. Once upon a time a family of skunks made a similar show, parading out the babies at pickup time on the front walk, returning boldly to their nest beneath the trash can platform. My then husband and I researched getting rid of skunks, discovered the ammonia and moth ball trick, and it worked. The mama’s next parade was out of the nest through the yard, onto a new home. So far the rats seem more intrepid. Seems they are digging a hole in the platform under the second bin, which I thought might be less accessible. After I mistakenly dumped more compost in the second bin, and discovered that hole, I poured more ammonia there. Next step is either a new off the ground fancy bin or metal under the ones we’ve got. Haven’t gotten there. More research, more fun.

Sometimes I tell myself I wasn’t raised to deal with rats. My grandfather tended the barn while my grandma cooked and cleaned and grew the food. Maybe she did the mice in the house and he did the ones in the barn. That isn’t the picture in my head. My mom has had two husbands, neighborhood men, brothers, now a boyfriend and a son in her life who’ve helped with various chores. Still she deals with rodents, poisoning the mice and woodchucks, probably other critters I can’t think of now. I’ve dealt with mice at home and in Ashfield, but I’m a poison gal. When the mice come round live, I’m not so brave. When it’s time to trap them I look for a man.

We’ve had squirrels in the ceiling of the third floor. Seems they may have returned. Over the years we’ve had fleas, lice, grain moths, dead things under the porch, pets with creepy problems, floods, massive snow. Torrent after torrent of these critters and overwhelming situations have come to test us. Each time they do, I wonder if I’m strong enough, who I can count on to help. Each time I make it through, knowing I’m a little bit tougher than the troubles. I’m a lot like the young guy last night and my brother. They fight for their wives and homes. I fight for my world. We do what we can, men, women, children, to keep things working as best as we can.

Now it’s time for smaller problems, those within my sphere of less fear, finishing the laundry, paying bills, writing up new contracts, tidying the house. Then onto the easier part of the day, nap time in the day care and evening with my kids..perhaps replacing the gate latch in there, too. No steam for yard work again today. Soon the weeds in the drive will die, the hedges will stop growing, the leaves and then the snow will fall..season by season I’m tested. Most times I pass. Sometimes I fail. Still standing, trying to feel proud:)

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This morning I wake up with womanly worries. Turns out the person I thought was bringing paper goods for the party of 60 to 80 people is bringing plastic forks. Good thing my woman brain woke up in the fives to worry about the party, checked the evite comments, and reread that one about the forks. Good thing my not so perfect woman gave up groceries as planned yesterday for more time with my daughter shopping for second hand clothes. Cute jeans and sweater for her, no food for us yesterday, still time this afternoon to buy the paper goods along with this week’s groceries for the day care and home, and the party miscellaneous, to put it all away, along with my kids, to gather the sports equipment, the folding table, trash bags, like a man, and to decorate the cakes, remember to put together a card, like a woman, squeezed around the Quaker Meeting I hope to attend this morning, like a person on my own, and before the party begins at 4.

My early morning woman brain also remembered my kids’ question at dinner on Friday, about when their passports expire. My daughter’s passport memory is her dad’s car full of stuff for the move to a new home, parked outside the Post Office where we all met up, both parents, all three kids in the same place at the same time, just as we were coming apart. I hadn’t remembered. When I checked this morning, I discovered the kids’ passports expire August 29, 2015, which means my daughter’s is valid for her trip to Australia and back with her grandma this winter. Which reminded me of another womanly thing, to find out whether she needs a special letter to travel out of the country as a minor without her parents, which she does. Again her dad and I will do our legal duty so my gal can do her trip. I write this all in a group e-mail to my ex, to his wife, to our kids, to his mom, as much so I don’t forget as to inform the others.

After that, I check my blog stats and find someone’s been reading a piece I wrote on Disney Princesses, and I wonder who it might be, realize that putting myself out there as a struggling feminist isn’t new, and is something I might need to write about now. It’s not just this one early morning that I wrestle the good woman/bad woman, single woman/should be partnered demons.

It should be no surprise to me that being a feminist, while it’s something I deep down am and know, isn’t always easy.

It would be nicer to have a man around, I tell myself when there is too much snow, when I’m hosting a party involving moving furniture and hauling trash, when the hedges are too tall, my lawn unkempt, when I’m too tired to make the dinner and do the dishes on my own, at tax time, when I apply for my son’s financial aid, when I pay the bills, when I look at the air conditioners in the windows as the temperatures are dropping, or the lack of them in the spring when things are heating up. I’d like a man to help me with those things, be a back up with his strong arms and spatial skills, superior earning power and math brain.

Turns out, often its just me, and while I can’t always do all those things alone, I can sometimes find help, from other women, children, and also men. Other times I discover even men can’t do the things I suspect I can’t do because I’m a woman or wish I had a man here to do for me. My guy can’t paint, due to his asthma. He’s not real fond of yard work, any more than I am, maybe less. My plumbing and carpentry and electrical skills are sub par for a traditional man, decent enough for the average woman. When I talk to my friend Michael about this he tells me even he has to learn by trial and error for many projects he tackles around the house. This makes me think it might be more an issue of orientation or expectation or confidence than a lack of innate training or upbringing as a male that keeps me from fixing a faucet or installing a new light, while imagining that he can do it all. Other times he pays folks to do the work he can’t do or won’t. I have to remind myself this is ok, as in my growing up, men and women did much more of the work around the house than we do now, hardly paying for a cleaner or a home repair if it was something they could do themselves. It’s not just that I’m a woman that’s keeping me from doing these manly things. It’s not doing manly things that makes me a strong woman.

Living as a single mom, unmarried at 47, after five years of living on my own and dating men who live far away, I often think my life would be easier if I did things in a more traditional feminine way, found a guy to marry me, to do the work I’m not doing, whether due to lack of time or expertise or preference or energy or money or just plain neglect. I think it would be easier to travel as a mate, to sign the taxes jointly, to have a shared bank account, to raise the kids with a partner in my home, even to have a man to wash my car, as though anyone in our house has ever done that, girl, boy, woman, man. It was the clue I got that my ex-husband was dating, the car washing thing. My then small gal questioned her dad for cleaning his car. What’s going on? she wondered. His first evidence of trying to impress another woman was there for her to see, and came to me as she told me about her day and I wondered, too, and then she revealed the dating, searing a hole in my heart, probably as much because he hadn’t cleaned the cars we owned together as because he was going on a date, and because I felt like I had turned my daughter into a spy. And probably because I wasn’t that Disney Princess. I didn’t win that race. I wasn’t the one rescued by the knight in shining armor who cleans the car and pays the bills and shovels the walk and cares for the kids. That time around, that’s not my fate, at least not in the way Disney lays it out for us lost souls looking for a myth or mate. (In reading this two days later I think to edit the sentence above about no one in our house ever cleaning the car. For two or three years after her dad and I split up, part of our summer vacation was devoted to cleaning the van, my daughter leading the way and doing much if the work, her grandma and I sometimes pitching in. Seems important to add that here. It was a fine gift which got us through those years with a van much cleaner than it would have been. )

The whole time I was married we wished for a wife, for someone to stay home and look after the kids while we both worked full time, to tidy the house that was often untidy, to vacuum and dust and shine, to buy the groceries and cook the meals we bought and cooked between us, often with some debate as to the fairness of our division. We wished for a woman to take some of the traditional roles so neither of us would have to, and so we wouldn’t have to fight about how we shared the work or didn’t. Now, in my post-marriage, five years of separation and divorce, I’ve become the man/woman, and he has a wife, who like me, works long hours and isn’t any more traditional than I was. We share paid cleaners, who often do our houses on the same day, one before the other, he does some groceries for their household, others he and his wife buy together, divisions I learn from my children as we discuss house chores over dinner Friday night, more spying, or learning from each other? I do shopping with my daughter for our home, and my sons do dishes and take out trash and my gal folds clothes, and everyone is cared for in the mish/mosh man/woman girl/boy way we’ve figured out in 2014, with a boyfriend thrown into my household every other weekend or so, and me not here most weekends the kids are with their dad. On those weekends the cat is in charge, here on her own to look after things, and my day care partner Liana looks after the trash and recycling my son and I do on our weeks here and I am a partner to my boyfriend in his home, which is run for a single man and hardly has a chore for me to do, folks paid to clean and do the yard and fix most things that need fixing. We get to play, to hear music, to eat out and take walks and visit friends and family and hike and swim. Where is the woman or the man in that, in the life nearly sans chores? In that life we took my van for repairs at the local Honda dealer many Mondays until on Mother’s Day weekend we bought my sporty new Impreza, boyfriend beside me talking with the sales guy, me stepping up to pay the bill, so I could hand off the mini-van to my son, starting adult life.

It’s a fine mess I’m in at 47, preparing for 48, in terms of being a feminist and holding it all together. I’d like for my kids to see me as the woman who can do it all, and then I wouldn’t. That would be a set up, for both the girl and boys. Near 10 last night, after watching New Girl with my gal, I texted my guy who is not here this weekend, to say good-night. He had fallen asleep early, texted back had I done my party chores? No, I was most certainly not done with my party chores, who did he think I was, Super Woman?

Turns out I am and I am not, Super Woman, that is. I do cook a nice meal most days and nights the kids are here. Yesterday we ate frittata for brunch, falafel and rice from a box, salad, and homemade tzatziki and tahini dip for dinner. I do the shop. I make sure my kids have clothes, that the critters move out of the compost bin (with help from a day care parent and Jen). I get stuff fixed when it needs fixing, mostly. I let the yard go, except when I don’t, and most times now when I do yard work it’s with my gal. I shovel snow. The kids and the man help. Sometimes friends help, too. Other times I pay. I pay and I pay and I pay for the things I can’t do as a woman, as a person, as a single working parent, as someone who would rather read and write and shop than pound a nail or scrape paint or trim the hedges in fancy shapes. I’m lazy sometimes, and tired, and I’m not a real great man, which for some reason is how I rate myself as a lousy feminist, sometimes, in my head when I can’t get past not wanting to shovel the snow.

And now it would be fine if I could go back to sleep for an hour, but I’m wound up and it might be a good morning for chores, even if I got too little sleep and the day is long and I have to be ready for the party at 4. We’ll see.

The house is chilly. I check the thermostat and find it’s 65. While someone on Facebook copped to turning on the heat for the first time ever in September, I use the oven today for heat. I resist the urge to wear a sweater, three quarter sleeve t-shirt and jeans, ballet flats, instead of short sleeve t, skirt, and sandals as far as I’ll go to acknowledge fall is in the air.

This morning I woke just after 6 feeling close to death, a dramatization, but the pain was bad. I had one of those migraines I used to get, sick headaches a good name for them..four hours later, I couldn’t imagine getting through the day, nausea, sensitivity to light, cold, movement, touch all laying me low on a day I hoped to get my act together, cook, shop, plan for a big party we’re having tomorrow, hang with my kids. Thank the good lord for Excedrin Migraine and a boyfriend who knows his medicine. I followed the useless early morning tylenol with a midmorning heavy dose, and soon was on to greener pastures, making frittata for the kids and me, first time since before Spain, chosen over Spanish Tortilla, which my daughter requested early in the week, mostly because the thought of the runny eggs in the ones we had in Spain came too close to triggering the nausea I still felt, and because of the abundance of frittata ingredients in our house, spinach from my gal’s stash for green smoothies, potatoes from the farmers market on our vacation, heirloom tomatoes on sale at the store, likely the last we’ll see this year, broccoli I cooked earlier in the week, leftover in the fridge, eggs, cheese, onions, garlic scapes pesto left from early summer, and herbs from the porch, still out there til temps drop a little lower and they have to come in or freeze. My kids and I enjoyed the frittata at the kitchen table, along with chunks of melon and conversation about the tastiness or lack of it with melon, this one particularly nice.

Moments like that confirm the research connecting family dinners with children’s success in life.

After I clean up from the frittata, its time to scour the cupboards for the ingredients for flourless chocolate cake, the treat I’ll offer at tomorrow’s retirement party for Alice, better than the sheet cake I think I ought to get, because it’s traditional, not because it’s great, and better for Alice, who goes gluten free. The batter in the bowl is soothing, as the veggies and eggs were sustaining. The chocolate in the cupboards is the good stuff, as the recipe requests. I have eggs, butter, vanilla, sugar, and that is all I need, plus the heart pan and paper to line it and the oven to bake it and the bowls and microwave and whisk, all the stuff we take for granted in homes that are used to baking in first world USA.

This week there’ve been critters in the compost. Two of four day care teachers have been sick. Babies have cried through much of nap time, unable to settle themselves to sleep. Kids have punched and fussed and spilled their milk. Paradise isn’t all perfect, even here in the first world USA West Family Day Care universe I love. I’ve missed my guy, gone since Monday after ten days together in Spain, gone this weekend to fight climate change on the streets of New York City, large world problem I haven’t got strength to fight, prefer to fight right here in Somerville with locally grown veggies, compost, and holding off on oil heat. Small things add up, my philosophy of midlife, when energy for protests and large scale movements is scarce.

Been a full week, Spain/Somerville, holiday/work, couple/single mom with kids. Transitions are tough, no matter our age. Whenever I feel one big-time, as I have this week, I gain empathy for the kids in our care, and their parents, some of whom feel the transitions every day with tears and tantrums. Not many do, but those who do really struggle, and it’s good to gain perspective.

Last Saturday I was in Spain. I woke near in the back bedroom of our friends house, after a late night at the circus in Avila, had breakfast on the patio, fresh figs from their tree the highlight of that meal, followed by fresh almonds taken from another tree and smashed open with a rock. We walked the dog in the country, picked blackberries, shopped in the local grocery, with Pulpo right out front, brand names and products we don’t have here mixed with plenty that we do, for a salad lunch we made in the friends’ small kitchen, enjoyed in the dining room with their son, before heading off to Avila for more circus festival, and dinner with the friends who introduced us a year and a half ago, a world away from Spain.

Now I’m back, here on the red couch with the white cat, son off to Improv Class, gal upstairs in her room. Home is a happy place to be, more so now I’ve made the transition back, a bit rocky midweek, settling down now, thanks to time, Excedrin, cooking, cake.

Tomorrow will be the biggest party I’ve hosted in awhile, over sixty expected for potluck in the park, to celebrate Alice and her many years working with children, who turned 70 last week. The first cake is on the counter, the second will be soon. Shortly my daughter and I will do the shopping, for day care and home groceries, plus raspberries to turn into sauce to top the cake. Low key Saturday is just what the doctor ordered, surprising me once again midday as the gift that keeps on giving, time in a quiet house with a cat and the couch and the keyboard and a small story and plans for things to come.

Forgot to say John Prine was also part of the medicine. The man does restore my spirits, almost had me dancing while I baked.

Here is the recipe for the flourless chocolate cake, tried and true for several birthday parties so far, new for a retirement bash, at least for me. Any thoughts on decorating it to rival the usual grocery store sheet cake?

http://bakingbites.com/2011/04/classic-flourless-chocolate-cake/

And for frittata, its more procedure and ingredients than recipe, but here is a rough idea, in case you’d like to try and haven’t yet:

Chop some vegetables and slice some cheese and beat some eggs and preheat the oven to broil before you begin to cook.

Today I used 8 eggs, for three of us, plus leftovers.

In the medium, nonstick frying pan, I sautéed one onion in some olive oil til soft. Next in were chunks of red potatoes, then after they were nearly cooked, chopped broccoli, tomatoes, leftover corn, and garlic scape pesto (could have used chopped garlic in the beginning, but this is easier and was on hand). When all that heated through, I tossed in some salt and pepper, some fresh, chopped basil and parsley from the porch, and a few chopped leaves of spinach.

Over that I poured the eggs, beaten with some milk, and spread slices of cheddar cheese. I cooked that a few minutes til the eggs at the edge began to set, then put it under the broiler, not too close, until the eggs puffed, the cheese melted, and I could see some golden brown.

I let it cool a few minutes, then cut and served the wedges with chunks of cantaloupe melon, more fresh ground pepper and salt, yum.

I’d share a John Prine song, but none in particular stand out. Try The Missing Years album if you just want a great collection. In this day and age, that ought to be a decent lead.

Today I’m in my kitchen. The dishwasher is running, already full after less than twenty four hours at home. Last night we ate homemade soup with salad, bread, and cheese, left in our kitchen by Liana as a welcome home gift. Today I’m here, making albondigas, meatballs in three stripes, regular, sans gluten and lactose, and vegetarian, for the ones I love. Tonight, as I hoped, my two kids and one gal will join me for dinner. Richard’s gone home, after over two weeks away, Somerville, France, Spain, Somerville. The house is quiet, save the noisy “quiet partner” dishwasher, misnamed from the beginning, noisiest machine ever, but a sound that is familiar, here in this house these twenty some years with me, noising it up.

Frances the cat was lonesome I believe. She tore small holes in the living room upholstery, left twisted strands of fur on the ottoman, coatings of white fur on several chairs. When we first arrived, she stayed on her belly under the dining room table for awhile, til I called to her, gave her some love with the comb. Then after dinner, as I waited for the bread machine to do its thing, she came to visit on the couch, more petting, more love.

I took quite a lot of pictures while in Spain, even while in the air returning home. I didn’t write much at all, something small day one in the notebook I brought thinking I’d write more. I didn’t read much either, in spite of traveling with my usual pile of books. I came home with a new book I love, which I read for an hour or so at the end of the flight. It’s from an exhibit on playgrounds which we visited at the Museo Reina Sofia, museum we could see from the bedroom window of our apartment in Madrid.

The right stuff found us this trip. I feel like I’ve been away and I’m happy to be back, letting it all soak in.

Once upon a time I thought I had been born in the wrong time and place. I should have been a hippy. I should have been born in a country whose diet was based on rice. I should have stayed in New York City and taught in a progressive public school when progressive public schools existed. Thoughts like that have captured my imagination and stuck. These days I’m accepting child of the world status, learning to take in the times and places when things were different, wondering when things might feel right again, when children and the right to play will have the respect they deserve, when rich and poor won’t live such different lives, when shiny and well-loved will take their proper places, when the artists’ and farmers’ and mothers’ and elders’ voices will be heard. All that occupies a mind on vacation in Spain in 2014, a place of economic crises, class divides, great art, a circus festival in a walled city and a new school on the edge of the view, sun streaming in through newly installed windows on extra shiny toys, color and white and wood and sand and stone each taking their place in the child’s world with bureaucracy, anger, love.

I don’t think I’m ready yet to make sense of what I took in in a way you’ll understand. I’ll share some photos soon. That may help. Or not. We stayed with fine people, were hosted by another in a lovely air b and b. We walked the streets and parks and even el campo, sat in our friends’ patios, shared meals in cafes, visited more exhibitions of art in one week than I have since I visited Paris and Barcelona nearly thirty years ago, drove between Madrid and Torrelodones, Moralzarzar, Segovia, Avila, and back, rode subways and trains and cars, walked miles over stone and concrete, dirt and tiled floors, cooked a little bit but mostly ate out or were fed.

So today, its a good day for home, for cooking for my kids and man, for washing dishes and clothes, for paying bills and depositing checks, for unpacking if I’m ambitious, for writing a few minutes here, for a short walk around the neighborhood, later for dinner and a grocery shop, maybe television before bed. As always for me, it’s great to get away and it’s great to come back home. Hugging my kids and my guy feels good no matter where we are, but at home it feels just right.

Here is a link to the Reina Sofia exhibit, Playgrounds: Reinventing the Square, which includes a podcast, video, and description of the book I bought, as well as a little explanation of the exhibit that I loved. Lucky me to see it just before it left:

http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/exhibitions/playgrounds

And here, at the request of my daughter, at long last, is the recipe for tofu albondigas, just for you, or anyone you know who likes tofu in a meatball. So far, all of us do:)

Start with:

1 pound tofu, mashed with a fork in a medium bowl

Add:

Two eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs (I make my own by putting stale bread in the blender. Good bread a bonus)
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon minced parsley (we are out, so meatballs won’t get cooked until after I run to the store:()
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix together with a fork. Preheat broiler. Roll meatballs and place on broiling pan. Broil until lightly brown, flip, broil other side. Serve with favorite tomato sauce and pasta. Currently my gal loves rice pasta, but whatever you like will do. Tofu meatballs are also pretty good on their own, sort of a falafel sized piece of protein with a yummy cheesy garlic taste.

If you are a meat lover, you can make the same meatballs with meat! Instead of the pound of tofu, use 3/4 pound ground beef and 1/4 pound ground pork.

If you are lactose intolerant, use lactaid. If you are gluten free, make bread crumbs of your favorite gluten free bread. For my guy, I do both, and the meatballs are equally delicious. Yum. I can hardly wait til dinner. It’s been awhile since I cooked a real meal.

Yesterday was a day to get ready. Vacation ended Sunday. My kids and I returned Sunday afternoon and evening, back from a Hingham wedding for me, following two weeks wandering New England, from Dad’s for my boy, after hiking in New Hampshire, two days on the Cape earlier in the week, Ashfield the week before that, from a week of Maine camping, preceded by a week in Ashfield, before that a week at summer camp for my gal. Sunday evening I made a nice dinner, and that was about it..Can’t even remember what else I might have done. My suitcase is still in the tv room downstairs, unopened.

Yesterday the day care reopened after two weeks of vacation. Anne began her work with us. The day care kids came back, some older ones here just for a day or week. Everyone seemed happy to be back, save the youngest one at first, but even she adjusted. From start to finish yesterday I was doing transition tasks, updating files, schedules, contracts, sorting out tuition, policies, bills, making sure Anne knew the lay of the land, while she and Liana were the teachers with the kids. My boy was off to work, his older brother started classes at college, my gal and I made it as far as the bank up the street before turning back on our errand mission, due to heat and exhaustion and ennui.

Near bedtime, I realized my boy, nineteen, starting his junior year, had moved his own stuff from summer sublet to college dorm apartment, had started classes and semester without a bit of help from me or his dad, not even a call or text from me. Made me feel sort of lousy on one hand, that I hadn’t been more helpful. Also made me realize how far a kid can come in two years, from living at home and having his mom help him organize his stuff and drive him to college, full of angst, to doing it on his own, without a word.

Today my gal is off to babysit across town. She’ll babysit closer to home the two days after that. My son will be off to work in Framingham, at school, where he’s worked most days this summer when he hasn’t been away. I’ll be back to work downstairs with children and Liana, still getting ready for fall, also enjoying the last days of summer. 

The heat caught me off guard yesterday. Over vacation we had an electrician here, updating and installing outlets, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing broken fixtures, redoing the kitchen lighting. He removed a ceiling fan in the kitchen that was heavy when I took it to the curb on my brother’s advice, so the metal collectors could have it next. They carefully removed the fan blades from the motor, laid them in a pile on the curb. I picked up the fan blades and brought them to the day care, to be bases for wood sculptures down the road. Last night I made dinner in the hot kitchen, broiler on for tofu balls, stove cranking for pots of pasta, sauce, and broccoli. By the time my daughter was working on the dishes after the dinner we ate on the porch, she was bemoaning our long lost friend, the ceiling fan. It was ugly, we both agreed. We’re hotter now, and a little bit of regret set in. Out with the old, in with the new, always a challenge.

Time to rise and shine and shower and wake the kids. Feels almost like school is starting, but for my kids this week it’s work, not school. Next week the day care shifts to our school year schedule. The following week my own kids return to school. That week I’ll be in Spain. Hard decision for me, that trip. Not yet used to so much traveling without my kids, or to not being around this time of year. Still a mom and a teacher, and most of those will be close to home and school this month.

Haven’t written in awhile. Needed to get back in the swing. Not flowing out of me as it did for a long while. This fall will be the sixth anniversary of this blog, started when I thought I’d be starting a small school, before the Charter School attempts, before my year at SVS, before divorce, before my oldest went to college, before my youngest two went off to SVS. A lot has changed in six years. A whole lot. Funny thing is I’m just starting to find a new normal. As different as things are, they’re beginning to feel right again, day care and family holding together just fine after lots of changes, kids and I all doing well, new guy a fine fit, if far away in Western Mass sometimes, house not tumbling down, bank accounts holding up, Ashfield place still shared, travel and new clothes and dinners out and house projects not eliminated from our lives, though all done with greater care on a budget held up more by one than two. Out with the old, in with the new, keeping some parts for the next project, letting others go.

Tonight the house is quiet. The sun shines in the windows as it does this time of night. Later tonight my daughter will be home from a week away at camp. At some point this evening my son will return from a week at his dad’s. Tomorrow, if all goes well, my oldest one will be here for a quick visit, home for a weekend to see friends heading off to college, and us.

All this week I’ve been here on my own, since Richard left before work on Tuesday. There hasn’t been much quiet, work and work and work, sleep and sleep and sleep. I’ve filled a last minute vacancy left by a family moving to DC, helped the new hire finish more bureaucratic nonsense so she can start working after our vacation, applied for life insurance to take over where a soon to be discontinued policy leaves off. Somehow that’s filled the hours between waking up and going to sleep, four days running. Now I’m tired.

All week long we said hello and good-bye in spades, interviewing and visiting with prospective families, saying good-bye to families leaving for new homes, and our summer sub leaving for vacation and for college. Somehow in the midst of it, my own hellos and good-byes have barely been triggered.

Each morning for the last eight days, minus today, I’ve written “morning pages” in a red bound journal, an assignment named by the author of a book called The Artist’s way. This hasn’t left much time for writing on this blog. That’s ok. For a long while now I’ve wondered if I could write a journal. Morning pages aren’t that. They are for me and no one else, and in that way they are what I wanted the journal to be. It takes energy to make that a priority. Today I didn’t have it. Wrote my daughter, wrote prospective families, wrote some friends, nothing left for me. The good news is the morning pages feel darn good, and maybe over vacation I’ll write more.

For two weeks I’ll be on vacation, time at home this weekend with my kids, all three, first time here since June, time in Western Mass this week, with kids and housemates there and Richard. Then home again next weekend, with my gal, and when she is off camping with her friends, and her brothers are off on their ways, I’ll be with Richard in Little Compton, playing at the beach, then that weekend in Hingham for a wedding with his friends and kids.

Tonight he’s cooking for a crowd, salad from farm stands and markets, pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil, dessert of peach cloufouti. He tells me about the menu and the ingredients over the phone last night, in an e-mail this morning, tonight while he’s making salad, and I am jealous of the food, of the company, of time in his kitchen and his home. At the same time, I’m tired from a long and busy week, also eager for time with my kids in my home. There isn’t a way around it just now. Moving won’t solve it for me or for him. Not now, not for awhile.

Half the day care families have or are moving this year, to new apartments, new houses, new towns, new states and regions of the country. As Jen said while we were celebrating the movers, everyone’s moving but us. She must have seen that brought emotion, because after that she said sorry. It’s loaded, the idea of moving, never mind the act.

So, for tonight I’m staying put. Here on the red couch in the living room sun is good. Tomorrow I’ll go to the store. Later tonight I’ll retrieve my gal from her ride landing her across town. Sunday we’ll go to Ashfield, then home again, the beach vacation, then wedding, then back for a week of summer day care, then on to fall, day care reopens with new schedules for kids, my own kids start the week after that, when I might be in Spain if my luck doesn’t run out. Another adventure I’m keeping on the down low until I’m in the all clear. More on that if I get the clearance and the nerve.

For now I’m writing nonsense just to be writing. It’s been awhile and I haven’t known what to say or when to say it. It’s like that some times, living through the slow and busy spots without a lot of time to write it out. Maybe now I’m on the other side things will begin to flow. We shall see, as my mother used to say, or so I think I might remember. We shall see.

Today I have a full day at home on my own. My children and I returned last night after days and weeks apart, after long drives, traffic, a scene that required more of us than expected. This morning when I woke shortly after 6 the scene replayed and I got up to start the day, to cover the brand new outlets installed in the day care while we were away, to drag the trash and recycling accumulated from the last week of day care to the curb, to put our kitchen together, to drink a cup of tea and answer e-mail, to install a new to us air conditioner in the day care window above the outlet the electrician installed just for it.

As the kids were about to leave the house the rain began. I searched out raincoats from the pegs and basement and sent them off and then the rain began in earnest. It came down hard and fast and when I looked outside, there was a flood and then there were my children driving through it in our new car. I screamed as I had last night during the scene I won’t describe here, this time at my son, who couldn’t hear me through closed doors and hard rain, but soon they were through the flood and parked in front of the house. Later they were back on the road and the house was quiet upstairs, full of kids and day care teachers below. 

More desk work all morning, and laundry, and now I’m restless as can be. Time for ratatouille, first batch of summer, inspired by my favorite table at the Northampton farmers’ market this weekend, offering baskets of ripe tomatoes, mixed peppers, french squash, small potatoes. It’s cooler and less humid than it was when I woke up, though the storms are predicted to return. I’m listening to Krista Tippet interview a young artist for On Being, feeling good to be up from the table where I worked a long while, hoping the batch of ratatouille will be a good one, if a bit small, that it will be a fine meal for my kids and me tonight, second dinner of the week, last week we’ll be together at home for awhile, planning to make the most of it, fridge full of local produce, blueberries, veggies, eggs, mind less full of plans for cooking than of hopes for meals together, conversation, companionship, kindness, family in my home.

Here is a photo of the flood on our street, along with a link to the Krista Tippet pod cast with Dario Robletto, and if I am ambitious, the recipe from Moosewood for Ratatouille, should you be hungry, too.

I’m not able to cut and paste the recipe, but if you google Moosewood and ratatouille, you’ll be all set:)

And now I can’t do the photo, either..but here is a link to the podcast! I’m technologically challenged today. Time to go back to the chopping board, hands on learning where I’m at. Well, even the podcast link won’t copy..ugh..maybe later it will. Google Dario Robletto On Being and you’ll be all set:)

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