Seamless transitions for happy campers

The benefit of blogging for almost five years is the perspective you have on the way you have lived your life. When I started Rogue Cheerios, I was one year away from finishing my PhD and struggling how to be a mother and scholar. I felt like am imposter in both spheres. And summer was like proof positive of all my anxieties and insecurities.

Summer has always presented a unique challenge for our family. When the girls were very little, in the summer I was a part-time parent. I always felt a little unsteady in that role at first but by the end of the summer, I found a balance between scholarship and sunshine and I managed the guilt I felt when I felt my focus was misplaced. When I shifted into a new role two years ago that required me to work full-time, year-round, I struggled again with the added burden of managing childcare and summer arrangements for the girls. And yet, I feel lucky that we have options because I know summer care for children is a struggle for so many families.

And here we are. School ended and the next day summer began. Whereas in past years, we were scrambling to find care for after camp, this year, we have all of our plans firmed up. Our children will attend a summer camp staffed largely by the same kids who work at their after-school program. The transition is so smooth, I can hardly tell it has happened.

On their first morning of camp, I kissed two little girls, hair tied back in pigtails, ready for the day. And eight hours later, two bright-cheeked little kiddos bounced down the steps of the bus. They went swimming and built sand castles and captured the flag.

They are growing quickly. They have changed even in the span of a few days. It feels like I just thanked my village for their help with preschool and now we’re squarely finished with kindergarten.

We lament rough transitions and we rarely laud the smooth ones. Either way, I am always astonished at the trajectory of these transitions. They are swift and unrelenting, like a train running down a hill.

It’s happening. These little girls are growing faster than I ever imagined.

And now it’s time for summer.

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May Update

May is a month of birthdays and celebrations around these parts. My birthday, my husband’s birthday and then my father-in-law’s birthday. The girls are playing softball like every free moment. And there was the dance recital. Plus two lost teeth. A surprise leak in the basement that turned out to be more than a quick fix.

I kept my head above water mostly. And had a load of fun.

Here’s where things stand after five months:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: 19! That’s at least 4x a week. Pulled a muscle in my back during the last week of the month but I’m back in business.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Slipped a little this month. We had two visits from the tooth fairy and our Friday night Shabbat dinners haven’t been less consistent.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: So I managed to accomplish 1 out of 4 opportunities. I brought flowers for the girls’ Hebrew School teachers on their last day of religious school for the year.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week:

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: We are CRUSHING IT in the library department. This is my most favorite development. My girls have fallen into a routine where we hit the library every other week and they have been devouring every book that crosses their paths.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Nope. Lots of regular exercise but no yoga.
  • Read 2 books: Big movement in the reading department this month!
    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
    • The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
  • Write 2 blog posts: I wrote one blog essay and have two in the works.
  • Choose outside: The weather is turning so we have been outdoors more often just because. I’ve been at nearly all of the girls’ softball games.
  • 1 date night: Two!! Two date nights this month. We had a super night out to celebrate David’s birthday plus a day date in New York City to see Hamilton. We snagged tickets over nine months ago!

Some other great stuff that happened this month:

  • External writing projects: Working on book chapter due July 1st
  • Beyond Prof Webinar: Very excited about this webinar I hosted in the middle of the month on the Stage of the Job Search Process. It is my second year contributing to the Beyond Prof online conference and I am so happy to could be a part of it.

Gotta get some movement on:

  • Kitchen savings
  • Guitar lessons
  • Run (like a race or something)
  • Podcasting oral histories

On to June!

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Thank you (and also Happy Mother’s Day)

Let’s face it: all of my best efforts to do something nice for all of the mothers in my life isn’t happening. I had lots of plans. I didn’t get you a card or finish that mass email or drum up a nostalgic photo of my mom and me.

So if I forget to say it, Happy Mother’s Day.

Seriously, though, Happy Mother’s Day. I know that you know that I hate Mother’s Day. I know many people think I hate Mother’s Day because I am without my own mom in my life, but it’s more than that. And even though, I have written about this day, as time passes and my girls keep doing nice things for Mother’s Day, I’m softening.

Beyond benefiting from the spoils of the day, I know some pretty incredible mothers. I can count many brilliant mothers in my village and the age of social media keeps me connected to a virtual village of mothers from all across ages and stages of my life.

And while Happy Mother’s Day is fine, I should really be saying: Thank you.

Thank you times a million.

Thank you for listening with and without judgement as I have troubled through a parenting triumph or fail.

Thank you for the all knowing look of empathy as I peeled my little daughters off the floor of the library or the supermarket when life was just too much and the injustices too great for them to bear.

Thank you for sharing a laugh at the hilarity or the absurdity of something my kids did. There are so many stressful, demoralizing moments that sharing the funny times is the ultimate treat.

Thank you for that extra diaper, baby wipe, pair of undies, sunscreen, band aid, lollipop, cookie, or tissue that prevented me from getting covered with blood, sweat and tears. I’d like to think I planned ahead, but alas, I often haven’t.

Thanks for talking me off the ledge I was on when it felt like tantrums would never end or that they’d never eat food or sleep or treat each other (or us) with love and respect.  And thanks in advance for every future ledge I’ll need talking off of when I discover any manner of new realities with my girls.

Thank you to the moms I know without their moms in their life–whether for now or forever. You are always available to listen, to cry, to hug. And thanks to the moms of moms I know who mother me from the sidelines. Everyone in a while, I need someone’s mom to help me along.

Thanks for reminding me that without my sanity, health and strength, I’d be useless to everyone.

I hope that I have done these things for you in return. Restored sanity, offered a spare something, and helped you prioritize you.

This whole parenting thing is not for the faint of heart. I love watching your kids grow up in person and from afar and I love being a part of their journey. And I am so glad that whatever the universe had planned for me, that it brought us together.

So, thank you, for all of the aforementioned stuff and for helping me become the parent I am. I would be useless without you (and my husband, of course).

And, of course, Happy Mother’s Day.

No, really. I mean it this time.

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April Update

Blink. Or rather, don’t blink. You will miss the whole month. That’s generally how I feel about time. Time moves so fast. I try and pay attention to the small moments, and it still feels fast.

After slogging through March, I was determined to make this month count. And count it did….

Here’s where things stand after four months:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: CHECK. 17 total visits.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Yes! I was a day or so late a few times but I stayed on top of it. And we had one trip to the toy store to use our allowance money–it was awesome! The girls are proud of their savings and they have given to tzedakah without hesitation every week.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: Time to reframe this goal. I am not sure what I meant when I committed to an act of kindness. I think I hoped I would leave flowers anonymously for my friends or send them things in the mail or surprise them at work. Just typing up what I thought I would do, I see the inherent impracticality. Plus it makes acts of kindness lumped together with consumption and transactions and that was not my intent. In April, I tried to pay attention to what was happening in my friends’ lives (marriage challenges, success and stress at work, general life challenges) and stay in touch about what was happening, checking in and lending support from afar. Does this count as a direct act of kindness? I’m not entirely sure.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: I lost track of the reading this month. Truly, I think I read lots of news articles but nothing full length. So…NOT EXACTLY.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: Logged at least one trip to the library with the girls and we are still swimming in books. The girls remarked that our library time is on Saturday mornings so I think we’re on our way to having them regard the library as a regular feature of our lives.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Huzzah! Finally made it to one class. I have been watching the class schedule for a nearby studio and plan to try it out soon.
  • Read 2 books: Big movement in the reading department this month!
    • Raising the Floor by Andy Stern
    • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
    • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Write 2 blog posts: YES! Two posts! The urge to write is coming back the more writing I do. I was in a writing rut for much of 2016. It is so satisfying to process lots of feelings as I did in these two essays. Read more:
  • Choose outside: YES! No hikes but spent a lot of time outside as soon as the weather turned sunny. Anxious for spring and summer…
  • Savings: No movement on this yet.
  • 1 date night: We did have dinner our with friends–does this count? I didn’t initiate any date nights which means we didn’t have any.

Other goals:

  • Got back to Duolingo after a two month hiatus. Still working through the beginning of basic French but have to commit to regular engagement.
  • Made my second blood donation on the last day of the month!

May is a month of birthdays and celebrations and hopefully sunshine. And productivity….

 

 

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Passover minus the struggle

Passover came and went this year. We were in it for every moment of the holiday but we didn’t struggle. It simply passed through.

Passover is my favorite holiday and for some reason this year, I was thinking about all of the ways I love the holiday, how it makes me feel, what it makes me remember. I have been doing lots of reflecting lately, communing with old memories, thinking about the passage of time. Passover makes me feel small, thinking about the time spent at my grandmother’s dining room table, and it makes me feel cared for, watching my parents extend hospitality to our family, regularly setting a table for twenty or more and making extra room for last minute guests.

In present day, the week had a few high moments mixed with mostly mundane days. It was a week of juggling family and work. Our girls were on school vacation and I was managing a major work deadline and our backup childcare is a Jewish institution (who was also closed half the week). We were running from one place to the next, constantly pleading with the girls to let us get some work done, and squeezing in the Seders even when our plans were foiled.

It was a reminder that I’m in a phase of life where I have little control over what happens tomorrow. After a month of midnight vomiting, spiked fevers, and one strep diagnosis, I didn’t put much stock in making plans one day in advance. Making Seder plans weeks in advance? Hilarious! In the end, a last minute fever at our house and croup at my sister’s house completely derailed our joint celebration. It was strange and adult to call things off on account of sickness but as I told my sister, “Some years, you do what you need to do.”

Stranger than the adjustment of plans, I kept sitting with this idea that we have entered a phase of life where the people managing the ceremonies and rituals are the people raising the littlest children. For my sister and me, this is certainly the case. I don’t remember how and when this happened when I was growing up, but there was a time when we spent most holidays with my father’s parents and then a time when we hosted my mother’s family. I don’t think there was a definitive moment when my grandmother decided she capitulated the host role, but slowly over time, hosting became more difficult and eventually she moved to our hometown and was done with it.

I had this moment during Passover where all of the memories of the holiday wove themselves together and all of the hopes for the future flashed before my eyes. I held them both together in the same moment and it was a beautiful thing to consider–the idea that we celebrate this holiday as part of a long continuum of people who have performed rituals and kept traditions.

In keeping traditions this year, I was proud of my girls who were remarkably composed for the entire week. It was a week of teachable moments: describing the dietary restrictions and patiently explaining how different families have different rules about the holiday. Abstention is a difficult concept for children to understand. They almost never questioned rituals or complained, and they seemed to understand that in observing the holiday, we were carving a Passover and non-Passover time of the year.

And on Monday night, we decided to end our holiday. If it was over in Israel, we were ready, too. The girls picked the meal: fresh pasta and red sauce and a delicious loaf of bread to celebrate the end of a holiday week.

I think about the blessing my dear rabbi friend once invoked at the end of Passover–though we often say next year in Jerusalem, I am simply thinking ahead to next year, where my girls will be, where my family will be, and I can’t wait to assemble people and show them hospitality in celebration of freedom.

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She would have been 70….

Back in February I bought my daughters each a pink hyacinth plant. When my mother was alive, she did the same for me all through my twenties. She was obsessed with spring flowers because their arrival on the scene coincided with her birthday at the end of March. As crocuses poked out of the ground, she would treat herself to pink tulips and make sure we had a sign of spring blooming on our kitchen counters.

She died a few weeks before we closed on our first house. Every subsequent year, I became a little more obsessed with planting new bulbs, expanding the reach of the spring flowers in the beds that flanked the front steps. These bravest of little flowers mystify me every year with their ability, despite challenging odds, to return. They know what to do, they simply push, move up, towards the sun.

She has been gone for ten years.

She would have been 70, she would have been 70. Those words have been swirling all month, and as her birthday approached in late March, words organized themselves into a sentence. And in the quiet moments of the last few days, that sentence has run in a loop through my mind.

I cannot bend my mind around the way the time space continuum has tricked me into believing so much time and hardly any time has passed. When you lose someone suddenly and before their time, you have to marshal all of the memories you ever had and then imagine all of the memories you might have had, and hold those together in a coherent story because the physical relationship with that person is over.

I have had a decade to unpack how I feel about this loss. When I realize how much time has passed, my next instinct is to mourn her loss all over again. To drudge up the lost time and the foregone connections and the things I’ll never know because so much of my life hadn’t happened yet so I didn’t bother to ask about hers.

I have worked tirelessly to reframe my mother’s death in my mind. I refuse to wish she was here or to bemoan the things she’ll never see because that doesn’t change the fact that she’s gone. And honestly, it makes me sad. Of course, I wish she was here. But her presence would defy logic because she’s gone. That won’t change.

I draw no strength from feeling low. I have tried to focus on the things about my mom did for me to make me into me. And while we may have bickered or disagreed about some things, she did some incredible things to build me into the person I am today. I don’t know if she had a personal philosophy but she has helped me build mine.

“You and your sister are the most important things I have ever done in my life,” she told us ad nauseum as children. Until I became a mother, I had no idea what she meant. And years ago, I admitted that one deep regret I harbor around her death is not being able to tell her how much knowing that meant to me. I look at my own girls and think about how she looked at us, and sometimes I feel like it’s her eyes seeing them and not mine. And I am so relieved to know that she saw us the way I see them.

“When you enter a room, you make an impression,” she told me once. She could have been giving me generalized life advice–as moms are wont to do–but I always thought she meant that I was someone who could make others see me. When I was younger, I was self-conscious about my height. Knowing that people saw me, I wanted to hide worrying I stuck out in all the wrong ways. I’m older now, and I wear my height fine. Whenever I am about to enter a new space, I invoke her words, straighten my shoulders, and enter with purpose.

“Being a mom is lonely sometimes so be sure to make friends,” she told me once when I was younger. She loved being married but I know she loved the relationships she had with a small group of women. She met many of my friends over the years, and she adored them. I have followed her advice and added to my village since them. She would love the women I have found as a mother. They are sharp and smart and supportive and loving and I know those new friends would have loved her, too.

“You and your sister just have to work it out,” she told us over and over again when I am sure she fielded call after call mediating territory between the two of us. When we lost her, we lost our mediator and it took us some time, but she would be immeasurably proud of the team she raised. My sister and I had to have a long talk several years ago. I remember pacing the floor, tracing the floorboards with my bare toes, laying out hurt feelings and frustrations and worries. And we agreed that we’re taking our family forward because we’re a team. And to this day, we can bicker and even argue but we work it out because that’s what she told us to do.

“You are relentless,” she admitted many times, often sighing deeply at how exhausting I was being. I have only begun as a woman of almost forty to embrace my Type-A tendencies. I imagine as a little girl, a brooding adolescent, and a driven young adult, that I was an exhausting force. I know now how much I expect from myself and from the people around me and to be in that orbit is surely taxing to others. She never gave up on me, even when I was simply too much to take.

“Life is not fair,” was her most common refrain. It wasn’t fair when her life ended and there have been countless injustices, great and small suffered since. And yet, that’s it. There’s nothing left to argue.

She would have been 70. And all I want is for her to know I’m okay.

I’m better than okay.

To know that somewhere, someone loved you–even if you have love in your life. To know that someone valued you even before you could love them back. To know exactly how someone perceived you and that you had nothing unsaid between you.

I am indebted to her.

*****

We live in a different house now. It took me a year to find our spring flowers, and without them to mark the coming of spring, I felt a little lost. I could not find the right place to put bulbs in the ground and got lazy last year after I picked up spring flowers at a garden show. It seems I neglected a whole pot of bulbs.

Last weekend, my husband, in closing things down for winter, called out to me in the house, “Rachel, you have a whole bucket of bulbs here. They’re sprouting.” Though I had finally picked a spot in the yard for them to live, I never put them to bed at the end of last season.

Sprouting, growing, even without soil around them, without the cushion of something familiar or comfortable. It was remarkable.

They are relentless.

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The March 2017 Update

The whole world had a stomach bug for months all winter. But not the Weiner household. And I knew our day would come: I just didn’t know our day would be almost a whole month.

I’m being a little dramatic. March was a long time, though. We had snow days, snow delays, and so many sick days. More kiddos vomited more times in one month than we have seen in their entire lives.

But now it’s April. The first quarter of the year is OVER!

Here’s where things stand after three months:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: CHECK. 16 total visits.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Mostly CHECK. I prepped envelopes for the first two months of the year so I was less organized in March. I missed one week and had to double up the last two weeks after I ran out of singles. I did get to see the girls use their saved allowance money to buy something new and it was awesome. It’s taking a few weeks but the payoff on this allowance endeavor is happening.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: NOPE. It’s not that I’m not a kind person. I just can’t get my act together.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: NOT EXACTLY. I did read two articles from a Sunday NYT Magazine. So that’s something.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: We went to the library for the How To Festival this month. Because of visits in January and February, we are swimming in library books.
  • 2 Yoga classes: No progress here. Motivation growing to get this off the ground in April.
  • Read 2 books: 1/2 accomplished! I am constantly reading and finished March by Geraldine Brooks this month. If only reading half of several books counted for one whole manuscripts. Sadly, no.
  • Write 2 blog posts: YES! Two posts–one essay squeaking in under the wire on the last day of the month. Read more:
  • Choose outside: NOPE. It was too snowy and yucky.
  • Savings: No movement on this yet.
  • 1 date night: YES! Husband and I went to a few events together, including the school auction and a wine tasting event. Not the same as a romantic dinner but better than nothing.

Other goals:

Need to get moving on some long-term goals like the guitar playing and the language learning.

April, April, April….

 

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