Sunday, October 14, 2012

if I had my druthers...

I love a good beach trip and you've seen the posts - we do them a lot. But the one last week was a little different.

We headed to Pawley's Island in South Carolina. Sunshine, warm ocean and natural beauty everywhere. The pier on the back of the house stretches out to a shallow inlet, tall with grasses. Snails are pasted to the reeds like postage stamps. Sand bars peak out of the water as the tide ebbs and flows. A sliver of metallic blue-gray ocean whooshes beyond the creak of porch floor boards and worn-in rockers at the front of the house.

With the first scoop of our net, E and I catch tiny shrimp. As we reach into the water to pick up shells, prickly legs retract inside them. The egrets, brown pelicans, herons and kingfishers are everywhere. I even spot a lizard basking in the sand.

Because of the changing season, we are struck by the monarchs using the coast as a highway to migrate South. In one moment I stop to count 17 butterflies flit past. There is a steady stream of orange traffic all day.

The wild beauty on Pawley's is amazing.

I hope it stays this way.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

sunny day at Cylburn

We had a great visit at the Cylburn Arboretum last week. Although the gardens are more manicured than the wild things I grow and love, they are home to all kinds of creatures. It was fun to watch E try to catch butterflies, touch the flowers and taste peppers from the garden. He also loved spending time with his little buddy!



Saturday, September 15, 2012

first day jitters

Two huge first days this week: my son's first day of a drop off school program and the my own preschool's opening with the most families we've ever enrolled.

I couldn't be in two places at 9 a.m. Monday morning (surprising, right?) so I had to iron out the hiccups at work in order to focus on my son. Easier said than done. The two weeks leading up to Monday were brutal on all fronts.

Despite my halo of crazy, can I just say that our son is amazing? For all the worry my husband and I had about him being left on his own, he surprised us both. There was a brief look of concern and a "where's mommy?" as a few more children entered the room when it was time to say good-bye. I told him, "I'm right here. I'm SO PROUD of you! I love you!" and my eyes filled with tears. That was my sign to get out of there fast. Daddy reassured him he'd be back to pick him up and we waved good-bye. Off we went.

Given the fact that there's only five kids in his class with two teachers, and that school only runs for a couple hours, the logical part of my brain knew he would be just fine. And he was! The best part was how proud he was of himself. "I is so proud."

I have to trust that these new experiences will have just as much value and positive effect as what we've tried to provide. But letting go is scary! Except for close family, he's never been dropped anywhere before. He stays with our sitter when we work, but even that is like staying with family since she's been with him for nearly two years. It was a total crap shoot as to how he would react to being left on his own. I know the tears may still come once he adjusts after a couple of weeks, but for now I couldn't be more relieved.

Then, still wiping my tears, I shifted gears onto my preschool's big first day. By the time I arrived I could hear the children singing and there were no parents in sight. Could it be that things went that smoothly? Thanks to the amazing teaching and admin staff, everything went off without a hitch!

The week ended on a high note when E returned back to school and still walked right in like he owned the place. I stood there dumbstruck, trying to take it all in. My baby has grown into a little boy. Already! I is so proud!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

oh cheese

Those little wooden animals just didn't want to fit inside the the barn. "Oh jeeze! They keep falling out!" I joke. Pause. Then out of no where, unbridled laughter. "Oh cheese!" he squeals and giggles. "Oh cheese!" Don't you just love their sweet, pure laugh?

The school year is barreling closer and I'm wresting again with major mommy guilt. Say what you will about how adaptable kids are, I get it, but that doesn't take away the aches and pangs of guilt I feel most days I'm away from him.

Yes, there are days that I don't feel that ache. And then I feel guilty about that, too.

Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about my work and how much I love my job. Before having children I was always the last one out the door, staying until it was dark outside knowing full well I'd never recover all that overtime. I didn't care - there was just so much to do. I was (and still am) hyper-motivated about innovating programs and teaching. Especially as it pertains to getting messy.

Now that I've built an incredible program, brick by brick (or more accurately leaf by leaf), that same ambition grows. In fact, it's insatiable.

Given the work that I do as an educator, I feel proud. Proud of the profound and lasting effects my work has on students, families and other educators. My work also plays a great role in my own child's life when he enters our nature preschool next year. This is more than just a job. It is how I define myself and how I share my values with the community. I have an amazing career that goes beyond punching a clock, collecting a paycheck and racing like a bat out of hell when it's five.

There you have the dynamic. When I'm not with E or thinking about spending time with him and my husband, then I'm obsessing (and dreaming) about work.

With the on-going reminder of the graduate coursework I put on the shelf nine years ago, and then revisiting the idea again last fall, I continue to struggle with my work family balance. I long to further my career so that my reach goes beyond the one program I've created. I want my reach to be national. International. And I'm not far off from achieving those goals. The more I work with educators, the greater impact my vision will have.

So I'm longing to complete my Masters coursework, once and for all. Well, until I go on to pursue my Doctorate.

And then I'll go back as a feisty little old lady and get that MFA in painting.

Did I mention I completed those three painting commissions? They are finally out the door! But I digress...

The point is, I always want to thinking long term. I have a lot of career left! But this fight in me to do more with my career is always tempered with the guilt and struggle of more time away from my son. In this case, it's only three hours of class. But it's an intense three hours on top of a day away from him at work first. And that three hours means more childcare or juggling with my husband on top of our crazy opposite schedules.

How do you put the brakes on a career at the exact moment in time when momentum is at its greatest? How do you explain that urgency to people around you that can't recognize the power and potential of this ambition? How do you justify or reconcile more demands of mommy's time with an overworked husband and a toddler at home?

Ah the demands of a modern mommy. Oh cheese.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

beach baby

I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that my baby isn't a baby anymore. From the flip flops, to the undies, to the toddler bed - it's more than I can stand!

Luckily he loves mommy's "millions of kisses!" and let's me refer to him as a "baby panda" sometimes. He is such a little cutie!

Here are some pics of my beach baby from the weekend. He insisted that he needed to wear his sunglasses!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

yucky boy

"I is a yucky boy."

"Yes, you ARE a lucky boy. You live in America! It took a lot of hard work to make America our country. And do you know what? Today is America's birthday!"

"She is not here? Mare-ka is not here today."

"Well sweetie, America isn't a person, it's the place where we live. We live in America. We love America, that's why we have a special party and light our sparklers."

"It's Mare-ka's happy burf-day!"

Not sure how else I could have explained the idea of country or the 4th of July to my two-and-a-half year old. But thinking about it now, I don't know that I needed to.

Much of what shapes my love of America is centered around childhood memories like these: eating watermelon, lighting sparklers, smelling food on the grill, climbing trees, and catching fire flies. I never realized how these memories are inseparable from the freedom, peace, and safety we enjoy America.

Just like people, America isn't perfect and there's always more work to do. I hope my boy will learn that he can make a difference. He can make our world an even better place. His ideas and dreams matter. And they can come part, because he is an American.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

from dreamland, with yuv

The weather has been sunny and sweltering but generally that doesn't keep us from getting outside. E's even learning how to fend off the "skeeters" by swatting. And thanks to Gram, he just can't stay away from that Cozy Coupe. Boy, he loves that thing.
Unfortunately we've been battling with a high fever for two days now and it's definitely slowed my little guy down. His temp was up to 104 at the doctor's office today! "I'm not fee-wing my best" he repeats in the sweetest voice you ever heard. Would you believe that on our car ride home from the doctor's office, after she swabbed his throat for Strep, he still said "we had very much fun today". Talk about a good sport!

So, here's the cutest thing that I just have to share: I decided to rock him tonight and skip our usual routine because he could hardly keep his eyes open. I snuggled and rocked him in his dimly dusk-lit room until he was deeply snoring. I admit, I kept rocking anyway trying to savor the baby love. Eventually I gently lowered him into his bed making sure to tuck him in with his crocheted blue blankie.

I stroked his flush cheek and his little glassy eyes popped open. He sweetly said, "we fu-got to read books" followed up with "we fu-got to send yuv". It was all I could do to keep from crying and laughing all at once. "Send yuv to Aunt Doy-ya" was what he wanted to say. ('Sending love' is our way of showing gratitude and concern for those we love each night.)

I continued to rub his hair and listen to his angel voice. "There's a lion. The lion not going to hurt you. Lion might kiss you". He was referring to a baby toy still hanging from his bed. I have never seen more of a cherub face as I did tonight. I have never heard more innocent, precious words fall from anyone's mouth. All I could think of is how much love I have for this incredible little boy.

Which is what brings me to his favorite books. We skipped them tonight, but I hope he'll be well enough to hit the books tomorrow night! He's upgraded his faves from the 1.0 to the 2.5 version. (I'm talking age here people.) Here are some of the best:

Where's Spot? by Eric Hill
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen
I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt

And some lesser known favorites:

The Barn Owls
by Tony Johnston
to be like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson
Mouse in a Meadow by John Himmelman
On the Seashore by Anna Milbourne and Erica-Jane Waters

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

fast times

It's been a whirlwind of work/family juggling this last month. I don't even know where to begin!

Let's start with the year-end celebration of my Nature Preschool in May. The final festivities felt like we were throwing a giant wedding! All went off without a hitch - even the weather cooperated - and the children had a joyful day to celebrate with loved ones.

We said good-bye to diapers Memorial Day weekend.

Fast forward two weeks to the first annual Nature Preschool Conference on June 8-9, 2012. It was a huge success! We had nearly 100 attendees from across the country and a wonderful keynote speaker, author/educator David Sobel. Marty Watson from the Dodge Nature Preschool in MN and Stephanie Bozzo's crew from the Audubon Nature Preschool in MD presented insightful perspectives on how they approach nature-based learning. I've never been more nervous, or felt more relieved, after presenting and learning from this amazing group of conference participants. I'm already making plans for next year's big conference on June 7-8, 2013 at Irvine Nature Center!

Did I mention that I booked a trip to Rehoboth and we left the day after the conference?

So, yes, crazy busy, just how I like it.

The boy is doing BEAUTIFULLY with potty training. I read "Diaper Free Before Three" by Jill Lekovic and the minute I put it down I thought, yep. Let's take this bull by the horns and dive in. Day 1 was the most difficult but we stuck to our guns! We used a pull-up on the first day at his nap and then at bed, but my clever husband said "that's confusing - if we're going to do undies we should get rid of the diapers altogether". How smart he is! On Day 2 we were totally undied up.

For your amusement, this is Day 1 of potty training.
I believe there were 9 wardrobe changes all told.
But smooth sailing from Day 2 forward!
Rehoboth Beach was a great get-away for all of us. I really wanted to re-connect with E after being pulled in so many directions for work. He loved the beach (once he took his hands off his ears). He's highly sensitive to sounds so the crashing waves, laughing children, squawking gulls, and boats took a couple of days to get used to. Thank goodness summer is here!

Monday, May 14, 2012

my world (no offense, hubs)

He's everything I'd ever hoped he'd be: happy, playful, sensitive, clever, creative, curious, and sincere. Did I mention he's adorable just like his daddy? He's also willing to get dirty making art projects, likes to dig in the yard by my side, dance with me, and eat my cooking - with minimal complaints. He always gives me some sugar or a hug exactly when I need it.
What's not to love? I'm the happiest mama bird around.

Friday, May 11, 2012

play date at West Shore Park in the Harbor

The fabulous creator of (cool)progeny hosts play dates and mom's only nights in and around Baltimore. We went to her recent play date downtown and had a blast! Be sure to visit her site and check out the great calendar listing of activities for kids under the age of five. She's got some (cool) guest bloggers AHEM as well!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!
Our little guy at 15 months, February 2011.