Author Archive

Umbrellas

You want to know why I have kids? Why it all feels worthwhile despite the extremely challenging days I have home with these three young men? Here’s an example.

I took my younger 2 boys to the botanical gardens yesterday after kindergarten drop-off. (The actual truth is that I took them first to the six-pack shop because long solo parenting stints make me crave a nice wheat beer)

In the children’s market room at the gardens, an employee was leading a craft where the kiddos made little umbrellas from coffee filters and pipe cleaners. I make a point, always, not to take over my kids’ art projects and even though it’s hard to “let” them create something that seems gnarled and uneven, I want them to feel proud that what they made is theirs alone.

So, I protected my wee Felix as the employee tried to direct his umbrella decorating. He wanted pink and purple streaks just on one side and he wanted to add the orange sticker holding the package of markers closed. And then he was ready for his umbrella handle and oh! The joy on that boy’s face as he showed me his completed tissue umbrella.

I carry it so warmly in my heart.

As we made our way through the building, we noticed it began raining outside. I told Felix to put up his hood, because we’d have to make a run for it to the van. “Oh!” he said, “I can use my umbrella to keep us dry!”

And he meant it with every ounce of his toddler soul! He meant it!

And he held up that tissue-paper-pipe-cleaner umbrella to keep us dry as the three of us dashed through the rain, and he wept when he saw the rain had streaked his marker drawings, and I held him and told him I thought it looks so much more beautiful now that the rain broke it in a little bit.

tissue paper umbrella

Posted by on April 17th, 2015 No Comments

Dispatches from A Mom Among Minions: 19 to Go

If you didn’t already know this, my husband works for an event management company that produces the Pittsburgh marathon, which takes place in 19 days. That means, for the month of April, I’m a solo parent. From the minute my 3 boys wake up at 5am until around 7pm, I’m awake and solely in charge of these three spit-fires. In addition to the day-to-day stuff, I’m also solely responsible for any crises that pop up, like when the door falls off the minivan or we run out of eggs.

Here’s how my day went today.

7am I scramble the remaining 6 eggs, knowing our family ordinarily consumes 8 eggs at breakfast. The children protest the lack of additional eggs. I forget we have a pound of bacon in the fridge and do not cook that.

745am Miles is, by some miracle/defiance of physics, still asleep. His ride arrives in one hour and we need to wake him from sleep, which kills a large part of my soul.

830am The older children manage to wake the baby from his nap (obviously, dairy farmers nap by 8am) with their thunderous stomping and piercing shrieks. This sends me into a fit of rage and I say horrible things to them.

1030am Felix has talked me into buying chocolate bark thins at Costco and this is a fantastic idea. Everyone agrees. We also buy a Ponyo DVD, which we agree to watch in the van in the parking lot while I nurse Oren and we eat chocolate bark thins. A train goes past, which Felix finds delightful. Things are looking up!

1130am While playing with the neighbors, Felix asks, “Can I pee out here?” and I have to ask them if it’s ok for him to pee in their shrubbery, which he does.

1215pm Back in our house, I’m nursing Oren when Felix shouts, “My poop is on the floor now.” Upon walking upstairs, I discover a softball-sized turd on the ground NEXT TO the toilet and I slide tackle him out of the way as he’s about to stomp it into the tile. I am not fast enough to move it before baby Oren starts to pat it as he crawls in to see what the fuss is about.

115pm Both boys are asleep! I run downstairs and put away the groceries. I see that we weren’t actually out of olive oil. We now have 3 gallons of olive oil, in fact. I eat more bark thins and watch the Game of Thrones premier.

315pm I have to wake Felix from his nap, which kills off more pieces of my soul, because we have to go get Miles to soccer. In the minivan, I tell Felix I’m a soccer mom now, terminology that makes him upset. “YOU’RE JUST MOM!” he screams.

4pm Other parents validate what I’m seeing, which is that Miles is really, really good at soccer! I delight in them telling me this, even as Felix drowns bugs in a puddle along the sidelines.

530pm I say, “boys, why is Oren covered in glitter?” and Miles says, “That’s hard to explain.” I sign and take all three of them up to the bathtub.

630pm I call Corey and tell him I can’t do it anymore, that he has to come home because Felix has ground a dinner roll into the carpet. I give the older children melatonin and pray for a wheat beer to appear in my refrigerator. Which reminds me of the drive-through beer distributer in Sharsburg, where I’ll certainly take the children (and their new Ponyo DVD) tomorrow afternoon.

7pm Corey comes in the door along with our friend. These other grownups take the children to begin bedtime and I sneak to the basement to row a 3k. I should go to bed, but instead I sit and grumble about the ad choices Amazon has decided to send to my Kindle.

Posted by on April 14th, 2015 2 Comments

Loving on Public Montessori!

My kids go to the public Montessori school here in Pittsburgh. I’m frequently reminded why I love this method of instruction, and recently, we had one of those days where I just swelled with good feelings about school. Miles has challenges with the self-starting piece and does struggle to focus at school, but there is so much else about this type of education that works well for us that I just know this is the right place for our family right now.

The last Friday of every month, the school does something called “Marvelous Montessori Mornings,” where families can come to school and see what kids are working on in their classrooms. I try to get a sitter for the younger boys sometimes so Miles can show me some of his really tricky math stuff (he knows how to cube numbers…like exponents!). I also try to bring everyone along sometimes so Miles can show his brothers what he’s been working on.

This past time was particularly special because we got our letter that Felix has a place at school starting in the fall and we’re pretty sure he’ll have Miles’ teacher. So Miles got to give him a tour of what will soon be his classroom!

Miles was so peaceful and gentle showing his brother which works might be appropriate. Felix, normally so rough with materials at home, could just tell the rules were different at school and handled the works carefully. While Miles showed me some of the stages of seed growth, Felix separated eggs into baskets using a tiny spoon. And Oren crawled around on the floor.

Felix chose a work where he laid a gold ribbon on the carpet and Miles showed him how to walk along the ribbon, carefully and slowly controlling his body. It was so nice to see them all working together.

Miles’ teacher then commented that she wished schools would put siblings together, because she’s seen those interactions be really beautiful. I sort of snorted and laughed as hard as I could, because I know that when it’s good, it’s really good. But when the boys aren’t getting along? And they have access to screwdrivers and nails and school scissors? Dear God! Look out.

Today I have to pick Miles up early for a doctor’s appointment. Even though he’s been on spring break for 9 days and his last day of school was a half day, he knew which “day” it is in the cycle and told me where I can find him at 2:30pm. I checked with his teacher just to be safe, and sure enough he was right. Obviously!

Posted by on April 6th, 2015 2 Comments

Long Tank Tops: The Struggle is Real

Forgive this utterly first-world problem and allow me to tell you, it’s hard to find a long tank top.

This is a Target maternity tank. Look at the length on that sucker! I still wear it. It’s even longer when it’s not stretched out by a baby.

I’m a short lady with a large bosom, and most shirts either ride up or billow out, mandating a long base layer for me to avoid a breeze on my midriff. Before having kids, I could get away with a standard tank top, barely.

When I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the Long Maternity Tank, and I love it. I still have 2 of those tanks, hard worn and threadbare over the past 6 years.

Yesterday, I polled Facebook to see where other people get long tanks, because I want to replace my maternity tanks. I’m done having babies, after all, but I still need a long base layer!

I was taken aback to see 78 comments on a thread about tank tops. Seventy-eight! People feel strongly about tank tops, as do I.

Many women who are long-torsoed seek long tanks. Many women who are large-busted seek long tanks. Many women just want one because nobody really wants her postpartum stomach flapping around in the spring air. But the tanks are hard to find.

The vetted results of my Facebook research, for which I must mention I am not compensated in any way:

–Target sells long, soft maternity tanks that women wear well past maternity.

Old Navy still sells their long maternity tanks, and they’re currently on sale for $8! Again, non-pregnant women are wearing them daily.

Old Navy has a “tall” line available online only, and many women who are not tall rely on these tanks and general tops to actually cover the midriff.

–Costco sells long camis. I define a tank as having wide straps and a cami as having spaghetti straps. I’m bountiful in the shoulder region, so when I wear a cami I look like a trussed pork loin. Other people feel excited about these camis.

(I should mention that some of the Costco camis have a shelf bra and some do not. Some women love a shelf bra. Some, like me, find it hits our bust mid-nipple and looks/feels ridiculous.)

American Eagle and H&M have some long tanks amidst their regular clothes

So there you have it. You, reader, are not the only person who needs a long base layer and who can’t find one of adequate length. But, solutions exist! I went with the Old Navy maternity tanks on sale. I’ll be sure to update when my order arrives.

Posted by on April 1st, 2015 No Comments

Rise

I have a few friends who sit down in late December and meditate on a theme for the coming year, and then make it so. I gave it some thought, and landed upon RISE.

I realize it’s the wrong time of year for setting intentions for the coming year. Everyone is coming out of hibernation, nobody seems super contemplative in spring. I share this now because I’m feeling good about the rising I’m doing so far.

2014 was a challenging year for me. Corey’s new job meant increased responsibilities for both of us, we added a new baby to the equation, and his arrival was tumultuous. I struggled with a number of interpersonal relationships in 2014 and had to shepherd Miles through a lot of obstacles at school.

When I was pregnant with Oren, I thought a lot about the Phoenix, this great bird who triumphantly flies up from the ashes. When I asked my cousin to paint a Phoenix on my belly, I was thinking at the time that my birth could be my chance for triumph, that the baby was the one who would rise from the fire.

I think, generally, 2014 was a long trial for me and this year I want to rise. I want to feel like myself again!

To that end, things have been looking up professionally. I had another essay accepted for publication and I’m excited to share that with you. I have a piece coming out in Dame magazine that I researched for a long time and began to write this winter, my first assignment after “maternity leave.”

Today, a friend asked me to run the relay portion of the Pittsburgh marathon. My initial reaction was to say no! No! Are you crazy? Not because running 6 miles seems daunting, but because training while solo parenting sure does. The family members of the marathon staff don’t really get to enjoy this great sporting event…except when we do!

I asked Corey what he thought, told him my big concerns about milk logistics for my will-be-8-month-old baby. He thought I should do it, and he’s right. I registered for the relay team and went on a bike ride today. My first step to rise up from the state of poor health my body’s been in for awhile.

Surely I know it’s amazing that my body grew a human body and has produced food to sustain that body. Basically, my body has kept Oren alive since November 2013. Not even basically. It has, and that takes a toll, especially since he arrived Earthside via hasty surgery. So now I’m motivated to rebuild and rise.

It’s easy enough for me to hold this perspective and feel excited, because my older sons are with their grandparents for spring break and I’m only in charge of one child this week. It’s been a nice reminder that I can still do all the things I used to do before there were intense, competing demands on my time. This week-long break from my big boys has let the other slivers of my self rise up to the surface, too. (also, I’ve gotten some sleep)

Who knows if I’ll get a chance to check back in. I’ll be busy training and working and parenting, and that’s just what I want to be doing! Still to come: fostering more authentic relationships with friends and maybe even going on a date with my husband.

Posted by on March 30th, 2015 2 Comments

On Childcare and Chilly Air

I’m starting to whine a bit now about the winter, even though I promised I’d have a good attitude about it until March 1. I really didn’t think we would have 8 days of school disruption in the second half of the month, though! It’s been expensive and annoying.

Schools have been closing not for snow, but for sub-zero temperatures. Children can’t stand out and wait for the bus in sub-zero temperatures, and the under-funded bus companies don’t (apparently?) have the right types of fuel or additives to prevent the engines from freezing.

Part of the problem is also that we live in a district where many of the children live in poverty and they don’t have the right clothing to enable them to stand at the bus stop in such weather. That’s a heartbreaking topic for another day.

My children are fortunate. We have heat in the cold snap. We have coats. What I do not have is childcare for Miles when school is closed on my work days or time to make up the missed days, since I only work part-time and all the other seconds of my life are filled with the very-big needs of very-small kiddos.

The younger kids can go to daycare no matter what is going on outside, because the daycare is in the basement of the caregiver’s home. F—- just has to scoot down her steps and she’s at work, so if we can drive or walk the kids there, they are taken care of!

Sometimes, a school cancellation means there is space for Miles at daycare, and off he goes with his brothers. Usually, he’s home with me watching too much television and building Legos while I try to work. Today was one such day. [I began writing this post 30 days ago and was so interrupted that I'm only getting to finish it now, at the end of March!]

I’m not sure what other working families do on such days. My kiddo is pretty big and wonderful right now as an almost-six-year-old. But he’s still a kid! It’s unrealistic of me to expect him to leave me alone an entire work day. We signed up for a Lego lending library subscription this winter. It’s like Netflix for Lego. Miles really only likes assembling the kits, so he doesn’t mind that he can’t mix them with his others to play. He builds them and sends them back, and this is perfect for about 45 minutes of distraction on days like this.

And yet I need to work!

So, despite the sub-zero temperatures, I hauled him to the grocery store and deposited him in the childcare there, where I get 2 hours to shop…or sit up front in the cafe with my laptop and try to cobble together some work time. Oof! I’m ready for this not to be something I worry about anymore.

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 No Comments

Mapping Out Mommy

map

This morning, I sneaked off to use the bathroom by myself, a rare occurrence. Usually, I have to take one of the kids in with me (Felix) so the others stay alive. Otherwise, the older two hit each other with heavy objects or else Felix gets too excited in his love for Oren and tries to smother him. Today, though, I thought I might risk a private moment.

Almost as soon as I closed the door, I heard it begin. “Where’s Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?!?!?!”

Miles quickly decided things were serious and said, “Let’s make a map to where she might be.” They were mounting the stairs with crayons and paper by the time I washed hands. A map! In the instant it took me to pee alone, they decided they needed such a serious intervention.

I know, because I remind myself every day, that these days are fleeting. I look at Miles while he sleeps. He’s no longer a baby. He’s barely a little kid–such a big man, with fashion preferences and the ability to read “inside my brain.” (“All I have to do is move my eyes around,” he says, not even moving his lips while he works his way through Roald Dahl)

One of these days, I’ll blink and they will be grownups. I know that.

But man! It is really. Really. HARD to be everything to these three young people, who depend on me so fiercely that my brief timeout warranted emergency cartography.

Living far from family as we do means that one of us needs to be able to put the kids first, to be present to meet these great, big needs. It feels right to us that I should be that person, especially as my body is producing the food that sustains the smallest of our babies. I know this, and we chose this and mindfully came to this decision. But days like today, I really feel the challenge, like I’m the one who needs a map to find myself. What this winter has taught us is that between inevitable illness and weather-related school disruption, it makes most sense if I don’t try to work next January and February.

Because this winter, I tried something crazy and signed a big contract for a writing project I find very meaningful…with a February 28 deadline. We fooled ourselves into thinking that even if schools were delayed sometimes, I would be able to work around our boys and chip away at my deadline. I’ve had some stressful weekends and late nights as a result!

Today we are fortunate, because school closure aligned with a cancellation at daycare and there was room for all three Lev lads. Soon after they abandoned their search party, the boys bustled out the door with Corey. It feels like all the molecules of the entire house just exhaled.

Soon, I know, I’ll feel sad about this empty, silent space. Today, I’m grateful for the quiet time to work. And to use the bathroom by myself.

Posted by on February 16th, 2015 2 Comments

I Found You a Cow

cow

I recently took on a fun project-narrative gig at a local private school. They have a neat program that puts students in the community and they have hired me to write about some of these projects and partnerships. Fun!

I went to the school to interview one of the science teachers about his project. I stood in the hallway, accepted his firm handshake, and was about to ask if I had permission to record.

Suddenly, another employee swooped in, breathless, excited. “I found you a cow,” said the man.

“Oh, man, I forgot to tell you! I also found a cow. I just need to go out there myself to catch the manure.”

I freaking love shit like this. Ha! Shit!

As it turns out, the science teacher is doing some sort of biology unit wherein the students will analyze manure. But, urban-based private schools (wonderful that they are) have limited access to fields and cows and their dung. So this other dude, the school’s community outreach guy, has been on the hunt for a cow whose dung the science teacher can have.

Meanwhile, the science teacher reached out to his own social network, found a farm outside the city, and gets to skip a board retreat this weekend in order to stand behind the cow, patiently awaiting a bowel movement. Last I spoke with him, he was contemplating taking a trash bag to avoid any skin contact, but I asked whether a plastic bin might be a better choice.

As I left our interview, I implored, begged him to email me with a follow-up about his manure mission.

This. This is why I love being a writer.

UPDATE: I heard back from the teacher, who tells me he used a shovel into a Tupperware and then transferred into a 5-gallon bucket. Whew! Now I know.

Posted by on January 29th, 2015 No Comments

Eau d’Oven Cleaner

Have you read the “Default Parent” article that’s been circulating? I read it and boy, does it resonate. I’m the default parent and sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed by that. This week is a good example.

Even though my mother was here visiting for 4 days and got iced in and stuck here for a 5th day, even after all that around-the-clock extra help, my laundry and work load have gotten out of hand and the dishes heap to the ceiling and still the children need help with homework and bag packing and and and and.

Yesterday was this super tight day where a lot of dominoes needed to stand up or else the whole structure would fall down. In order to get the ingredients to bake Miles’ half-birthday celebration treat for school, I needed to get to Target before it was time to pick him up from the school bus…which meant I needed to get Felix to sleep so he would wake up.

Add in timing of baby nursing and I was actually running up the aisles with my boys in the cart so I would make it home before the bus.

There, sweating as I put away eggs and cupcake liners–had to be polka dot–I knew something bad would happen. I had to cook dinner while supervising homework while nursing the baby while also preventing Felix from destroying our house while also getting bottles and packed lunch ready for daycare in the morning. I had to do all those things in a tight half-hour window because I also had to take Miles to a class at 6pm.

Why couldn’t Corey do any of those other items? Because he’s not the default parent. He doesn’t even know some of those things exist.

Today, I’m spending the day working from home to the stench of the auto-cleaning oven because the 1-hour pot pies I tried to slam in the oven overflowed and filled the house with smoke somewhere in between word problems and “stop hitting the television screen with a metal truck!”

Logical-Katy knows that Wednesdays are freaking crazy and logical Katy would never have stuck in the Target trip or the dinner cooking. But actual-Katy still can’t quite get the timing down for parenting 3 boys in such intense ages. Planning ahead doesn’t happen, beyond recognizing that I was out of eggs and cupcake liners.

Of course, I recognize that I could have purchased some pre-made cupcakes and in my desire to please my first-born son, I made things a hell of a lot harder on myself. I feel so often that I don’t have enough love to go around right now, that my arms are always full holding one crying child while the other two plead with me to do something else important. So when my big boy requests “yogurt cupcakes just like Fletcher had with polka-dot wrappers,” I try too hard to make it happen.

Next Wednesday, I’d like to think I can order a pizza and forget about it, but that will require making sure I have cash on hand for the tip.

Posted by on January 15th, 2015 1 Comment

What I Found Behind the Sectional Sofa as I Searched for the Roku Remote

  • not a puzzle piece as suspected, but a moldy pretzel crisp entombed in a rubber band
  • a toy backhoe loader
  • a Camelbak cup containing a solidified, gelatinous substance
  • the back cover from an issue of National Geographic Kids featuring a lion cub
  • wooden beads shaped like hearts
  • many crumbs
  • a smooshed penny featuring a flamingo, from the aviary
  • a paper plate, apparently unused
  • several green Duplo blocks
  • a reading light utterly covered in masking tape
  • the Roku remote

Posted by on December 17th, 2014 No Comments