The summer solstice was 2 days ago

Tracing my finger lightly around Henry’s chin, cheeks, and forehead and down his nose and across his lips, he giggles and I remember doing this with my Nanny. It is a silly little game and, at the time, I thought it was the most luxurious thing to get your face tickled endlessly. And it is. I used to think, how did my Nanny have the stamina to tickle my face for what seemed like hours while I  laid in her lap and laughed and relaxed. Then sitting there with Henry and Owen, it dawned on me. Here I was with her endless stamina to tickle their little faces because I love them so darn much and they were clearly enjoying the little “spa” treatment and because I was SO DARN tired from the day, days, and weeks of the past month that I would have tickled those peanut faces for the whole day if it meant I too could rest a little.

Exactly 30 days ago, we packed up the family and went to LA to join in my father’s retirement flight from Unite Airlines. After working for 35 years in aviation, it was time to hang up his wings. The FAA regulates that at 65 years old, captains and co-pilots must step down from the flight deck and this legislation pained my father. A truly passionate and gifted captain, he was not exactly ready spiritually to comply. We spent a few days in SoCal with family celebrating this momentous event. As a chief pilot said to my father, “The sign of a great career in this industry is an uneventful one, thank you for for having a great career.” While there together as a family, we tackled jet lag, a desire to really go all out and all in for this special lifetime event, and a spectrum of emotions as we watched our dad come in to LAX for the last time at the helm and prepare for his return to his base in EWR. The morning of, our dad saw a number of friends in the terminal who came to shake his hand and clap him on the back. He boarded the plane and took control of the ship for 5 hours. The landing greased into New York and he received a round of applause not only from the passengers who each shook his hand but also when he came up out of the jetway. More family came to celebrate and it was a really good time.  It was such a beautiful and incredibly proud moment for him and for us. One day, and not in the proverbial way, my dad and I will have to sit down and write his stories of flight down. I imagine something titled “Confessions from the Flight Deck,” in which we curate his hilarious tales from 35,000 feet because my dad was not only the epitome of professionalism in flight but also a character and a truly a humorous raconteur!

Once we got back to Boston, it was time to close out the school year. The last week and a half of school is obviously incredibly exciting because summer vacation is so close BUT standing in between a teacher and a much needed break is a mountain of grading, a pile of finals, a heap of comments to write, and way too many meetings to sit through. The workload always feels insurmountable and the pressure of the final due dates makes me grow “Bertha.” Who is Bertha? Well she is more of a what. Bertha is my shoulder knot. David has often commented after an encounter with Bertha that I have a lump of cement in my shoulder blade. Every end of the school year, I sit at my desk with clamped shoulders while grading furiously. This position and those stress levels form Bertha who causes me literal sleepless nights and takes away my ability to turn my head from side to side. As the graduates of the class of 2018 threw their caps off, some tears fell down my cheeks, and I pushed “submit” on all the grades and finals, only then can Bertha slowly dissipate.  Goodbye Bertha, goodbye this school year, and hello to the next 11 weeks!

And then summer started!

10 days into summer and this feels like such a good one. Obviously summer vacation is always a good thing and time off with family is truly a gift that this profession gives in exchange for the high stakes and demands of the academic year. Jessie, Avery, and Smith arrived minutes after my final faculty meeting and stayed with us for 5 days. My underlining goal of their visit: Convince them that one day they should move to Boston because the city rocks, the people rock, and because we love them so much and just wish we had more family closer. Of course, leaving beautiful SoCal (or Florida for David’s side of the family) makes moving north a bit of a hard sell. Neither of our families’ current locations have snow or what I like to call wintry wonderlands, but Boston does have us and you can’t find that anywhere else, right? In wanting to show them the best of Boston we bit off a lot: Fenway Park, duck boats, Boston visits, Strawberry picking, late nights, 6 bottles of wine, lots of eating, even more snacking, and even more laughing making it hard to  say good-bye to them. It almost felt like we just live together now.

After teary goodbyes, the boys and I headed into our first 4 days of “Mom is at home season!” This year a bucket list of fun and breezy summer activities will guide our time. And we already ticked off two items: a trip to the Roger Williams zoo and a morning at the lake. The beauty of this year’s summer bucket list is that it is short. Potentially only 10 line items but most of them will definitely be repeated especially if they involve the oceanside. So stay posted because now that I have returned to this page, I am planning on documenting more effectively this summer’s shenanigans and my next pottery class starts in two weeks so there will be more updates from the “artist’s” studio as well as some really cool new pieces I am trimming and glazing right now.

But back to face tracing. Sometimes when you do a lot in a short amount of time or when you are transitioning from the fast-paced, routine-based school year into summer you need a little buffer time to slow down, kick your feet up, and trace your babies’ faces. Maybe if I do this I can commit to memory their lines and curves more deeply and slow down this season.

With Open Arms

This morning the commute marked the last 40 minute long journey of my ninth year of teaching! And with Journey on my mind, I cannot help but think of that great 80s band. While I won’t stop believing that summer is really, finally, beautifully hear, it is their song “Open Arms” that is playing on repeat this morning. An odd choice you might at first think, but then when you realize the destination is summer vacation, an almost 11 week hiatus from the daily grinding commute, endless e-mails, piles of grading, and consuming lesson planning, there can be no doubt that I am charging into summer with these words on my lips:

So now I come to you
With open arms
Nothing to hide
Believe what I say
So here I am
With open arms
Hoping you’ll see
What your love means to me
Open arms

Do you hear Steve Perry too? And then the school threw 8 hours of training on Canvas at us this morning and summer vacation could not start fast enough! Each summer I worry about what we will do to cherish the time, it would be so much more fun too if David was home everyday. But with Labor Day’s inevitable return, I am going to just try to soak it up, recharge, and check my attitude both for the sun-soaked happenings of summer and for a positive restart for the 2018-2019 school year.

You can find me in the sand until then!

Day 1-2

I am not going to lie, the flight from Boston to Beijing was long. Being on the twelve and a half hour flight gave me a lot of perspective on what my father does every week when he takes his passengers from Boston to Hong Kong. By the end of the flight I was feeling light-headed and a touch nauseous from the lack of sleep on board. Never someone to sleep easily sitting up, I might have snuck in an hour or two of shut eye. When we landed and I stepped off the plane, I felt like a traveler getting off of a boat with legs shaky but moving. Walking around every two hours felt like a funny ritual but it helped break up the night into day into night travel. Hainan airline served two meals which were very tasty: a tilapia for meal one and some chicken fried rice with dumplings prior to landing. I measured time by movies. The silver lining to hours of television was that I had not had that kind of solo time since the boys! Twelve hours to just watch romantic comedies was in some ways luxurious. I watched: Florence Foster Jenkins, About time, 500 days of summer and the notebook. So yes those generally sappy rom coms had me hidden crying in my row each time because movie love is so beautiful and I was all triggered up missing my soulmate, David. When the wheels touched down we spent at least an hour making our way through customs and immigration. While the signs were clearly different and it was obvious in many ways we were in a new country, in many other ways it visually looked like Logan airport. Once we collected our bags, we hopped on to a bus and drove an hour to the hotel and passed out sick with travel weariness.

High: I sat in an aisle seat with the middle seat empty. This gave me not only some extra leg room but one chaperone to my front and one to my back meant funny little check-one with them along the way too and a nice balance of solo time.

Low: Definitely saying goodbye to David and the boys. I wish we were adventuring together.

Laugh: We made it though customs and were connecting with our local guide for about five/ten minutes and as we started to head for the bus, a student left his bag behind and just started walking away carrying nothing. Another student shouted, “hey your bag!” The student rushed back and grabbed for the bag of the student who announced the issue, “this is my bag, yours is over here.” I tried not to laugh and then remembered “uh oh we are responsible for these kids.” #dayonefail

Day 2: Really our first day in Beijing

Have you ever woken up in a dark hotel room completely confused as to where you are? That was definitely how I felt waking up in Beijing. But once I got my bearings, I got myself ready and thought multiple times “wow I am literally in China,” got dressed, had too much for breakfast (which was an assortment of American standards like bacon and eggs and Chinese standards like congee and dumplings), and grabbed a Starbucks. Stepping outside of the Penta hotel felt a little like I was in NYC. Big tall sky scrapers and neon signs turned off or down for morning, people waking up and heading out for their days. Starbucks had a pink blossom latte which was a delightful, I checked out a local grocery store with Dave and bought a little candy for my babies back home, and we headed for the first adventure the temple of heaven.

When we arrived, we went over to the retiree playground first to walk around, get some fresh air and watch hundreds of 65+ members of Chinese societies do their morning exercise. It was astounding!!! This whole playground was teeming with retirees bending, stretching and moving around on all sorts of fitness/playground equipment! It was simultaneously quaint and strange. I mean strange in the sense that there is no comparison in the states and I doubt any of my grandparents could have been as limber as the men and women we saw! Legs up alongside their heads, hacky sack tournaments, chin ups, dancing, and all sorts of feats of strength. Our students joined in and it was amazing listening to them practice their Chinese with the group. We laughed so so much!! It was so playful and the Beaver kids even picked up some new dance moves.

Walking into the square of the temple of heaven was startlingly! I just have not seen any architectural comparison. It was so beautiful to see the wide open square and towering structure and the details of it all were captivating. You could easily get lost in the beautiful Ming designed space. The corners of the side structures were adorned with elegant guardians denoting the importance of the building. It was hard to leave but so fun to have been. From this very tranquil setting we headed to the Pearl market, which is a bargainer’s dream as vendors sell their “real” bags and shoes to susceptible tourists. It was all fun though and the kids stocked up some sneakers, bags, sunglasses, and adorable stuffed animals. I was feeling a little unsettled in the tummy while there and found myself face-to-face with a squatty potty! With thirty minutes to spare before the kids regrouped from the market, I sat down outside the market with our local guide, Martin, and just look at the city life driving and walking by. We talked about daily life, his family, and the smog. The smog was not as bad today as sometimes. On the smog index it was a 283. Without context, I am not sure if this is really good or bad. We had some blue skies in the morning but they turned thicker and hazier by afternoon. I swear I could “feel” it in my chest but maybe that was psychosomatic?

Our lunch was amazing! We arrived and everything was set up for us. We each had giant bowls of noodles with veggies and a delicious fermented bean sauce. There was sliced potatoes, spicy cabbage, and different preparations of pork and chicken. We left massively full and sleepy but it was time for the forbidden city! We walked alongside Tiananmen Square on our way toward the imperial residence. The square is the largest public square in the world donned with the symbols of the Chinese communist party. We were not able to walk through because the government officials were meeting and security was strict and very visible. But the space was vast, imposing, and beautiful to see first hand. I thought a lot about free speech and what that means and who gets to define its limits.

Once through the gates, the forbidden city illicited all of the “oooooo” and “aaaahhhs” you could imagine! It is stunning in scope and detail and so vastly different from the architecture of European cities I have visited. Yet the function of demonstrating the importance of the emperor as a divine right ruler is universal. We walked through courtyard after courtyard. And I loved learning about the male and female lions that flanked the entrances. The male stands on an orb and the female is tickling her cub. Did you know that? It was so cute! After going through the private residence of the emperor and his concubines, we ended in the gardens. Trees marked with red labels were over 300 years old!! It was a lovely space with imposing rock formations, architecture, water features, and lush plant life. I could have sat in there even longer.

We ended our night with Peking duck and so much more food!! The duck was delicious and eaten in a pancake with scallions and cucumbers. It tasted rich and fresh. And we tried something called fried milk. It was like a dessert in sweetness but served at the main meal time. It was light and flaky sort of like a churro in shape but when you bite into it it has a sweet milk the consistency of pudding inside. It was delicious and surprising and the kids were so full and tired that they fell asleep on the bus and lights were out in the hotel by nine.

High: definitely the retiree park! It was all so cute and welcoming and so different and awesome.

Low: we struggled a bit today with having kids come back to our meet up spots on time. We gave a little speech about safety and will be tightening that up!

Laugh: I love BJ! These shirts were everywhere in the pearl market and I naively was so confused by them. Was this supposed to be sexually charged and provocative? Nope it was I love Beijing!! Also a student told the most hilarious story about a trip he took with our school and an awkward occurrence and I died laughing! I had tears streaming down my face but you will need to ask me to find out.

Great feat of strength

Tonight the GOAT, Tom Brady, takes to the field for yet another run for a Super Bowl win. While the game may be exciting, the commercials are known to create a Twitter trend too. A few years ago, I think it was Budweiser, had a series called “unsung heroes.” This thirty seconds praised random people for silly and what might at first seem like insignificant talents. However they were true feats of strength like the bathroom user who replaces the toilet paper roll or the individual brave enough to take that last bite of the appetizer before the waiter removes the plate.

On Thursday, I had my greatest moment! While I might have been in labor for 17 hours with Henry only to push out his chunky 9lb 12oz body and then headed back for another baby born naturally almost on route 9 because he was so fast and intense, Thursday trumps both of these moments in stick-to-it-ness and mind control! My co-worker is baking beautiful artisan breads and on Thursday morning while I sat in the faculty room for my prep, this kind coworker gifted me half a loaf. The feat of strength then commenced!

I sat beside that loaf of bread a mere twelve inches from my nose for two hours!!! I made multiple attempts to unwrap it from its cellophane but just before I peeled a layer, I stopped myself. Let’s all just agree that there might not be a better smell than bread. No matter what the grocery store smells like as soon as you hit the bakery aisle don’t you smile? Is that just me? Clearly a fresh loaf is my trigger. But at 3:25 on the fateful day, I walked to the car with the loaf intact proud that I resisted its temptations and prepared to share my sacrificed loaf with the family!

The beginning of the wait update

So here we are day 5,929 of our great baby wait. At least that is how it feels sometimes. Throughout this pregnancy our medical team has pumped me up with hopes of an early delivery: we will have to induce you for the baby’s size, we will have to monitor you for your thyroid, we will have to induce you for fears of shoulder dystocia, we will have to monitor your sugar levels. All these little “red flags” that were tacked onto my appointments gave me the hope that perhaps this time, my baby would come early instead of weeks late. But, this little dude is quite comfortable and each concern sheds away with each passing day. From “let’s just get you to 35 weeks,” we are now hearing, “you can go all the way to 42 weeks!” And, yes I am delighted. I am thankful that we are healthy and that our complication risks are minimizing. I am thrilled that throughout the long months of gestation this little guy and my body got stronger and more adaptable.

BUT, I am SO ready to meet him. Henry and David talk about the little one all the time, and play in his room, and read books about the baby arriving. We have EVERYTHING ready to go from crib to carseat to clothes to burp cloths, to that dreaded double stroller. And now we wait. My new feeling is that instead of an April baby, this little dude is holding out for May, haha. So what am I doing to avoid the painful staring at my belly?

The potty training chronicles are on-going and have been an oddly welcomed distraction!  Henry is doing really well with it too. Almost all of his activities make it to the bathroom and he is getting better and better at telling us. It is really sweet to put him in “big boy undies” and see him playing downstairs and having so much fun. I no longer see him as a “ticking time bomb” waiting to ruin my couch! This weekend to keep our minds busy we are planning to head downtown for a little visit to the North End and some touristy sight-seeing because WHO KNOWS when we will be able to do that again once the new member joins us and on Sunday I am going to my first fitness conference with my fellow coach Nikki. It feels like this mix of teaching, mothering, and coaching is just what I need in life these days. I am busy, and motivated, and feeling strong and healthy (although definitely achy by night fall, I cannot lie that this belly is a burden by the end of the day!). David always has hobbies to keep him busy and to keep him from spinning his wheels. When I was pregnant with Henry it was the summer and I felt very lonely just waiting for Henry to arrive and eventually  I felt crazed. But this time, while the wait isn’t fun (because come on little guy don’t you want to meet earth-side already!?!?!) it is much much more manageable with everything that fills my life and day and I am so thankful to feel like I have real ownership over my day.

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Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

Parent-Teacher Conferences leave me zapped. It is not that they are horrible experiences, in fact, I quite enjoy them. In some ways, I even look forward to them each trimester. But what is so challenging about them is the pace and duration. From 8AM-6PM in 15 minute increments, parents come in to talk about their student. Each meeting is great and it is fun getting to meet the family of the child you see so often in your classroom. By the end of the day though, you cannot help but be tired and a little achy from all that sitting and talking. As result, all I want to do is stuff my face with snacks and lay down on the couch all night with the TV. And preferably fall asleep by 8PM. This term though I got ahead of myself in a good way.

The night before conferences, I decided to cook Friday’s dinner so that when I came home bleary-eyed and famished my dinner was ready for me! These quinoa and black bean burgers were delicious and I was so thankful to my previous self for cooking them up for myself!

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2 cups or 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1. In a small sauce pan, toast the quinoa in olive oil for a few minutes. Add a cup of water and a pinch of salt, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Put the black beans, cooked quinoa, panko bread crumbs, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and tomato paste into a mixing bowl. Mix everything together with your hands until it’s evenly mixed.

3. Preheat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Divide the burger mixture into four equal pieces. Pat into burger patties.

4. Pour olive oil into the pan. Cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side, until they are a deep brown.

5. Serve with your favorite toppings: Honey mustard, arugula, avocado slice, cheese, go for it and be creative

going back to school

Tomorrow I go back to school officially. Thankfully it is not a full day of school jammed with classes and new students and new lessons.  That will wait until Tuesday. Rather tomorrow is a day to set up my classroom briefly, meet with a few parents of my advisory, and leave Henry at home for the first time for more than just a Pure Barre Class. Family and friends have asked how am I feeling about this and to be honest I am incredibly conflicted.

Half of me is excited and ready to return. I love being a teacher. Each day the students challenge me to think, grow, and learn and in return I get to work closely with them as they question the world around them and discover history. My co-workers are inspiring men and women who are passionate about their careers, the students, and about having a good time too. It truly is a wonderful place to work and a wonderful place to return to each Fall. Having had my mother here this week, I have been able to prepare lessons, set up class websites, check e-mails, start class blogs, review faculty documents, review class lists, and generally feel “ready” for the first day of school. This has helped keep the typical back to school anxiety dreams away! Professionally, I feel fulfilled in my job which makes going back to it exciting.  I have also spent time tracking Henry’s sleep/wake time and feel good about the schedule I am leaving behind for Mema.  This was a major step is feeling ready to return. Whenever you look up baby schedules (even one that is baby led and flexible) it follows the typical work day of 9AM-5PM which is not the schedule of the working teacher. This new baby schedule for the teaching parent that we have created at least lets me feel as though when I leave Henry’s grandma will have a sense of when to expect certain cues from Henry in order to have as smooth a day as possible (and, I know this is ideal).

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At the same time, this year is so different. The other half of me is drawn inward to my home and family. Henry has turned out to be such a wonderful and amazing addition to our lives. I am afraid that if someone asks me “How are you doing?” on that first day, I will be too fragile to answer without bursting into tears. I know I want to return to work, but I also wish I could just stay home (at the same time!) and raise and love my son full-time. Two feelings I am most conflicted with about leaving Henry are: I don’t want to miss ANYTHING and I want Henry to be more than just okay when I am away. It is not healthy to be the only one to provide Henry with all of his needs, I know. It is important for him to meet others and be cared for by others.  But the idea of missing BIG chunks of his day hurts my heart so much. He grows and changes so much even in a day and I just feel like I am going to be missing out. Oddly, I also feel like I am going to be replaced. For the last 8 weeks, I have been there for everything even if I was just watching David parent, I was still physically there. Now I won’t be there AND someone else will be. What if I no longer can read my son or what if he prefers the care, cuddles, and love of my mom over me?  I am so lucky that my mom, Henry’s mema, will be with him but I still have this silly worry. As I write this, I can see the selfishness of these feelings but I cannot swipe them away. I selfishly want to be home with my baby boy and simultaneously want to be at school teaching and working. Part of me wonders if I had had more time and support in this dynamic if I would feel better prepared to return but our timing wasn’t perfect. And, part of me wonders if anyone would notice if I just tucked him in my backpack and brought him with me!

Tomorrow morning I will probably cry all the way to school but then will be so happy to see my co-workers who have for years shared some much of themselves with me. I feel more emotional now than I did any day of my pregnancy! I just hope that when I come home tomorrow, Henry will have had a good day home with Mema and David and the decision to return to work will feel more and more right as the hours turn into days, weeks, and months back at school.