Monday, March 28, 2011


Maria Montessori based her life's work on observation.  She was a scientist and physician first and foremost.  When she was assigned to find out what was "wrong" with the children in the government projects of the San Lorenzo district in Rome, she discovered through her observation that the only thing wrong was the environment and the lack of guidance from a prepared adult.  She offered practical life lessons (sweeping, preparing food, flower arranging) and the once-destructive children began to maintain their environment.  The children even began to bring to their apartments a small flower arrangement.  The parents of these "problem children" took notice and asked Dr. Montessori if she would teach them to read.  She was not trained to be an educator, but told the parents that she would try it.  She saw in the children a need to work with their hands, a need for order, a need for respect, and a need for self-control, which brought about the activities of practical life, and she began to observe the children to discover their innate abilities in academic subjects, developing a holistic curriculum that is now celebrated across the globe.

Over the past week I have been working on my student teaching in a Montessori classroom, and I am so often reminded of how natural school can be for children in a carefully prepared environment with the assistance of thoughtfully prepared adults.  I've observed conflicts resolved, spills cleaned, gentle encouragement in academic areas, genuine concern for hurt feelings, loads of hard work on subjects as varied as buttoning one's own shirt (3 yr old) to tireless work with the addition strip board (5 yr old).  Not only have I observed these things, but I've observed them happening without the intervention of adults.  There is certainly intervention by adults happening in the environment at times, but I've noticed each of those things in the daily independent or group work of the children.  These things are discussed in training, but many of them struck me as utopian and unlikely.  I could not have asked for a better opportunity to peek into the daily life of one classroom and to work one-on-one with these children who are making the theory a reality for me.  My mind is enlightened and my heart is filled when I am in the company of such beautiful and underestimated beings who are flourishing in their daily work and play.  I am grateful and humbled.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ex Cathedra

To speak Ex Cathedra is to speak with authority derived from one's position; it literally translates to "from the chair".  When the city's mayor speaks about matters involving city employees, she is assumed to be speaking ex cathedra by all of the citizens who hear her speak.  As Mayor Parker continues to bully my husband and two other firefighters who were suspended on false allegations of writing or allowing a racial slur to be submitted in a patient record, the citizens believe that she must be speaking based on factual evidence relating to the matter.

Truth be told, that unless she has read it in the last two weeks, she has not read the arbitrator's ruling, nor has she read the transcript of the arbitration hearing.  She admitted this to the union president in a meeting with him.  The Chief responsible for the firing said 25 times in the hearing that he "cannot honestly say that any of the three did it" (and 24 other variations of that phrase... 25 times!!  I'm stupefied by that!).  The city's legal staff admitted that they have no evidence to prove that any of the men are guilty of writing or allowing the phrase to be entered.  The investigator admitted that he did not investigate any other possibilities, repeating throughout the hearing "I don't know, I didn't look into that."  To speak with authority on a matter such as this, a matter that has ruined the good names of three men with a permanent shadow of doubt, one would hope that the speaker has done at least the minimum of research on the matter or that she understands the gravity of her claims.

The only conclusion I can muster about why she would speak publicly against these men, is that there is no consequence to her.  She does not have to back up her claims with her own money, and instead spends taxpayer dollars to continue bullying us (even during a major budget crisis in our city with layoffs left and right).  It seems that she is avoiding direct communication with us (after many e-mails from many of us) because she is too cowardly to stand by her own word.  I am still happy to meet and discuss this with her, and have even mentioned my willingness in each of the e-mails I've sent.  I also find the phrase that was in the patient record to be terribly unprofessional and in poor taste - I wish the author would stop being a coward and admit to it.  I'll also say that I find it in poor taste to uphold an assumption that is found to be inaccurate especially if it is a matter of selfish image bolstering.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Musings on Motherhood

I drank one too many caffeinated beverages tonight, and I am now sitting awake stalking the Facebook newsfeed... I'm hitting refresh every 3 seconds... I can feel my blood running in my veins.  The upside:  I'm clearly "over" my caffeine addiction if I feel this way after only 2 sodas.

In an attempt to keep things fresh and funky.  Funky fresh, if you will.  I plan to start typing here more often, even if it means it is totally rambly, ranty, ridiculous, raucous, rumpus, r-words!  This evening while stalking facebook catching up with friends, I found myself reminiscing about the early days of motherhood, and felt I should share those thoughts with a broader audience (ahem, 200+ pageviews a month for the past 6 months!  Blog visited from 4 continents last month... cah-ray-zee)

In the early days of motherhood...

  • I thought my brain was going to explode from sleep deprivation and sensory overload and that my heart was going to explode because I couldn't sleep because I just wanted to stay up and love Dominic with my whole self while fully awake.
  • I sometimes went to IKEA just to have some human interaction beyond interaction with a fully dependent baby - sometimes ordering and eating a 50 cent hot dog felt like the most thrilling part of my day.
  • Some days I could not stop myself from crying because I was so happy.  I worried Ryan alot in the first weeks, because I was happy to the point of crying a lot.
  • There were times that I just wanted to sleep another 5 minutes (but that was nothing new for me... I've had those times since I was born!).
  • I am still overwhelmed by how helpful Ryan is with baby duties.
  • Single parents amaze me, and they deserve to be on the front of every issue of TIME magazine.  Period.  I cannot even fathom the sacrifice it takes to be a single mother, and at the same time I have a pretty good idea. 
  • Ryan's love for our sons is a constant reminder that I married the right man.  I knew he'd be a great daddy before we were married, but he has exceeded that expectation since we became parents.
  • I totally forgot about the misery that was my pregnancies and turned all of that nauseous energy into snuggly-kissy energy.
As things started getting normal...
  • I was surprised by how natural motherhood was and continues to be.  I'll admit that I did very little reading about "how to be a mom," the reading I did seemed totally crazy.  
  • I learned within a couple hours of giving birth that sometimes doctors and nurses are just plain nuts.  "You want me to wake my sleeping baby to feed him?  Don't you think he'll wake up when he is hungry?  I've heard that they are born with a drive to live... which seems to indicate that they will not starve themselves... I'll wake him up if he goes 6 hours without eating or stirring, otherwise, I'm going to have to ask you to leave my room if you think waking a sleeping baby is a good idea." (that was a thought that I conveyed by smiling and nodding at the nurses and doctors who gave that type of INSANE advice... you know, since my child was healthy at birth... had he been in the NICU, I might have had a little compassion for those doctors and nurses)  Sometimes doctors and nurses are still nuts, and I will confide here that my children are fine, grow normally, are developing on a normal course, and I have never woken them up to feed them... they let me know when they are hungry.
  • What?  How did I ever get peed on in those first weeks?  Changing diapers is so fast and easy!
  • I started to wonder why people were shocked that I was ALREADY getting out of the house.
  • The baby's own unfolding captivated me; I realized that providing a safe and appropriate environment is all they need!  (and a booby when they're hungry)
  • The Babies'R'Us gift registry list looked more like a hilarious joke than a list of necessities... a swing, bouncer, bumbo, exersaucer, AND playmat?  Haha, that still kind of tickles me.  We have a playmat.  Only a playmat.  Sometimes we use a bouncer or swing at my parents' house, but they are hardly necessities.  Sometimes I think a cardboard box would have been just as effective as a playmat... save your money and avoid the pressure to succumb to all of those money draining "necessities"... remember, BRU is in the business of making money off of your insecurity about being a parent (particularly in the registry department).  I'll try to stop telling you what to do now.
  • I started giving "mom advice" totally unsolicited, which helped me to feel a little more empathetic to the moms who gave me that unsolicited advice, and made me feel hopeful that my friends will forgive me for "being an expert"... at everything.  Really, though, sorry; I will practice biting my tongue.
  • Some suggestions were hard to try, but turned out to be the best suggestions ever.  Being firm about limits, for instance, was one of the hardest things to try, but became a source of great confidence and happiness.  "no, the scooter does not go in the pool"
When I became a mother to another...
  • WHAT?!  NO!  I HATE BEING PREGNANT!  THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!  AWW... WE'RE HAVING ANOTHER BABY!  I LOVE OUR BABIES!...followed by sobbing, and inability to drink my milk tea.  (All the while, Ryan smiling like a kid on Christmas... again... and his reaction was the right reaction... again... my hormones always seem to get the better of me in that moment)
  • I was thankful that the saved baby clothes had not yet made it up to the attic, and (still am) baffled that our receiving blankets, burp cloths, and some nice diapering supplies are completely vanished.
  • One was suddenly quite simple and quite hard at the same time (perhaps because it was actually no longer just one).
  • Diaper changes were shockingly simple.  How did I EVER get peed on with Dominic?
  • Why was I worried that Dominic would suddenly morph into a nightmare of a child?  He always has been laid back, and remains to this day a very easy-going child.  He has an occasional tantrum (do not get me wrong, he HAS. HIS. TANTRUMS.), but I think that is because he is two, not because I have two.
  • I discovered that it IS possible for my love to increase 100-fold, again.  There is nothing as captivating as the velvety skin of a newborn baby.  Oh, those first moments are the most precious moments of my life (at the birth of both of my sons).
  • The miracle that is giving birth still totally boggles my mind.  At the same time that I totally amaze myself that I did that, I totally refuse to believe that it is even possible that I did that... did that really happen?!
That is all for now, and the caffeine has started to wear off, so I will not be editing this for spelling and grammar errors (if you catch one, comment, and I'll fix it... your cooperation and assistance is appreciated).  What are some of your thoughts on parenthood?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Getting Real...

I'm getting real(ly) tired of the current mayor in our city.  She is vindictive, malicious, relentless, self-righteous, hateful, and I could go on for days with this list and my vocabulary.

We found out today (maybe yesterday?) that the city is definitely appealing the arbitrator's decision to  compensate the wrongly accused firefighters with all of their back-pay for the 6 months they were not allowed to work.  Despite agreeing to the appeal by an independent arbitrator, agreeing to the specific arbitrator used for the hearing, and conceding to some degree that this was the "due process," the city is now having a tantrum that the ruling was against them (and even though that was their own fault for shoddy investigating, and preemptive judgement of these men).

So all those goals from my last posts are on hold again.  It is looking like the back-pay will be included in their paychecks this Friday, but we've been advised not to "spend it all in one place" so-to-speak.

Now to REALLY GET REAL:  In the past weeks and months I've heard of so many people and families that need our prayers (or thoughts, or healing vibes, or whatever you want to call it).  I will warn you now that I have cried a lot about what I'm about to type, and that if you are not in the mood to hear about suffering, it is time to stop reading this post.

A blogger who I follow daily recently lost her baby; because her blog is about pregnancy/birth, I'd been following her through her pregnancy.  This has had me in tears regularly lately.

A mother of two young children (4 yrs and 1yr) found that she has a major tumor in her brain.  She was operated on today, if I recall correctly, and I've not heard any updates.

I found out via another blog that a mother and her 15-month-old son were killed in a car accident, along with the driver of another vehicle in Troy, Alabama, leaving the husband/father alone to grieve.

In the past few months I've heard of not one but THREE families whose homes burned to the ground.  One of those moms witnessed her older daughters leading her younger children down the stairs with their hands over their faces and out of the burning house.  That image will stick with me for the rest of my life.  While none of those families lost any loved ones, all of their worldly possessions were destroyed.

Another blogger whom I follow daily has spent the last few months preparing for the birth of her second son who she found out has a serious heart condition.  She's delivered and he's already had his first surgery in the first day of his life, but there is still a long road ahead for his recovery and the repair of his tiny body.

Four Houston families (maybe 5) are mourning the deaths of their babies (under 3-years-old) who were killed as the result of a negligent home-daycare owner who has now fled the country to escape punishment for her negligence.  Two or three other families have babies who nearly died in the same fire.  The City of Houston is now playing another blame game about whose fault it is that the woman was allowed to flee the country.

I've learned in recent months that several friends (or friends of friends or friends of bloggers) are struggling with infertility or difficulties in adopting.  This in combination with the current outcry that Planned Parenthood is being wronged by cuts to its federal financial support sickens me to my core.  (I am a proponent of healthcare for the poor and affordable women's healthcare.  I understand  that 2/3 of Planned Parenthood's services are exactly that kind of beneficial care, but the fact that 1/3 of its services are abortion and that my money to some degree has supported that sends my body into the "fight or flight response" and makes me ache for the families who are struggling to have a child of their own)

These things fill my heart with sorrow, and lead me to a place of meditation on suffering, family, joy, thanksgiving, and mortality.  I hope that this lenten season I will have the courage to offer up my sufferings for these families.  I pray for fortitude and the understanding that this too shall pass, and that my suffering is small compared to the suffering of others and the suffering of Christ.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So much...

It has been a long time, and it CRACKS ME UP that my previous post was about setting goals, and it then turned into a dump list of everything I can imagine that I might do at some point before I die...

After six months of holding my dixie cup up to the waterfall, I have to say, "enough!!"  Some may already know (if you are a friend on facebook), while other lurkers (readers in Japan and in Russia?!) may not be aware, but Ryan and two fellow Houston firefighters were exonerated and reinstated last Thursday by the ruling of an independent arbitrator after 6 months of an indefinite suspension and nearly a year of investigation by the City of Houston for a racial slur that was published in a patient record.  None of the men wrote it, the signature on the record did not match any of their handwriting, and the slur was entered up to a full hour before they even left for the call that the record (...well...) recorded.

Despite the utter lack of evidence and proof of guilt, these three men (and their families) were indefinitely suspended in what we can only imagine was a politically motivated slaughter - by the city government that will not stop talking about how important it is to END discrimination in our city's government, no less.  These men were considered guilty until called innocent by an independent source who reviewed the same facts of the case as those who declared them guilty in September.  Ryan worked four separate jobs over the past six months, in that time we delivered our second son, we have a mortgage payment, a couple small debts that we had projected to pay off by the end of 2010, and all the necessities that a family has in the budget each month (food, clothing for the fast-growing toddler, utilities, car maintenance, let's not forget the HOLIDAYS!).  It has been stressful, to say the least.

WE MADE IT THROUGH IT, but not without the help of countless friends and strangers who lifted us up when we felt our lowest.  Truly, my dixie cup has long been overflowing with the grace, prayers, financial support, childcare support, flexibility, and compassion of others (some whom I have never met).  The support has been truly overwhelming.  Our marriage and family were put to the test, and to say that the past months were difficult would be the understatement of my lifetime.  God is so good.  We look forward to talking about this obstacle with our sons as a lesson of doing what is right no matter the cost.  I married a man of integrity, and I could not be more proud or more faithful to someone who cares for me and our children the way he does.

It is time to look ahead, though.

1.  Ryan will receive his full back-pay, and we will finally be DEBT FREE!!  Our foundation repair loan and relatively small credit card debt will soon be paid.  We've discussed paying off our small mortgage to free up that much money every month for other projects and savings.  I am still a little shell-shocked by all the blessings we received!  We made it through this ordeal without incurring any debt (beyond the debt we were already paying off before the suspension).  We're kind of HUGE fans of Dave Ramsey.  There were only a few weeks that Ryan was truly without work during this trial, and we have discovered newfound resourcefulness and frugality in this mess.

2.  SAVINGS will begin now.  Our goal will be to put aside six months of "emergency fund" in preparation for any future curve balls.  The credit card is not a savings account, and we have lived without it since July.  Thank you Dave Ramsey for this advice, did I already mention Dave?  Sorry for the redundancy.

3.  Eating NATURALLY!  We will return to our previous commitment to eating only organic or consciously grown produce, dairy, and meat.  We rarely eat meat at home (in fact, I cannot remember the last time we even had meat in our house... August?  When we are eating meat it is the only option available, and we try to eat it moderately.  We're FLEXITARIANS)  Throughout this mess, one area that I refused to compromise was the dairy we offer Dominic - that kid would eat his body weight in cereal daily if we'd let him. Because of the hormones, antibiotics, unnatural diets and disgusting living conditions of conventional dairy cows we simply would not settle for less than organic in that department (perhaps not all conventional dairy cows live that way, but how can you even begin to research which hundred cows provided the gallon of milk in the fridge?).  Moving forward I intend to research local dairies with free-range grass-fed cows to see about buying raw milk directly (I noticed a while back that our organic milk smells like corn... interesting, yes... surprising, no).  I am looking forward to visiting the farmer's market this weekend for the first time in far too long!

3.2  Gardening and becoming a little bit more self-sufficient... this is totally experimental this season using the square-foot garden method and a bevy of resources I found over at the Grocery Shrink in the month of February.  We built our raised bed last weekend, filled it yesterday afternoon, and planted it yesterday evening with Dominic.  We planted broccoli, carrots, summer squash, peppers, spinach, snap peas, and green beans.  Ryan and I have already discussed building a few more beds to plant more peppers and try some HGTs (there ain't nothin' in the world that I like better).

4.  HOME IMPROVEMENT!!  (with Tim the Toolman Taylor!... I couldn't resist)  That want list is SO LONG.  We've wanted to refresh our home's exterior for nearly two years now since the foundation repair (actually, we've talked about it since we first laid eyes on our house three years ago).  Pressure washing, painting, and landscaping might be at the top of my wishlist today... the honor of the top of the home improvement wish-list changes daily.  Other HUGE projects that vie for that honor include: moving the washer (out of the kitchen) to the garage next to the dryer, creating a utility room in the garage, renovating our two small bathrooms, renovating our kitchen (the washer necessarily has to move first... or maybe we'll enclose a utility room in the kitchen... oh the options!), replacing doorknobs throughout the house (we have 3 drastically different knobs within 3 sq. ft. of each other).

5.  R & R.  Ryan mentioned the possibility of a vacation to decompress from the stress of the last year (even the stuff before the suspension... remember when I broke my wrist?!  This time last year I was writing left-handed because my right wing was totally useless).  We go back and forth as to whether we'll do this before or after the goals up above; while I TOTALLY MISS ITALY, I think it is impractical to take a trip like that right now with two little guys - although if some family members went at the same time it might be more manageable (May 1st JPII will be beatified... cough... mom... cough... Aunchele...).  I have to calm myself down.  Not a day passes that I do not think about Italy; next to Ryan, it is the love of my life, so just thinking about Italy sometimes turns into surfing for cheap airfare and browsing hostel websites...