Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Things We Do For Love

Five months, two days out. And some days, the Cesarean section is still firmly on my mind.

I think there are a few different types of people out there. To some, having a C-section is sort of like getting a cavity filled. No huge deal, it's done every day, blah blah blah. To others, of course a vaginal birth is ideal, but good old technology is always there to lend a helpful hand, so get over it. As always, there remains that ever-present refrain:

"At least you have a healthy baby."
Of course I do. I grew her myself. I prepped my body for one whole year pre-conception. I ate organic produce and milk, took prenatals, ran and did Pilate's. I read, did research, and listened to my instincts. During pregnancy, I ate organically, took prenatals, did Pre-natal Yoga, did research, and listened to my body. The big difference is- we did not choose a hospital birth. Not for us, and sure as hell not for our baby. Not at first. A huge difference in our eventual C-section was that it wasn't programmed out by doctors, our labor wasn't on the clock, and together, in the dark bathroom of the green room at the birth center, Mr. Clarateaches and I both made the gut-wrenching decision to choose something we absolutely did not want, in order to make sure that tiny, wrinkly little girl was okay.
One persistently asynclintic head later, one ambulance ride later, one hoarse command-fest to the entire OR staff later... my abdominal skin, muscles, peritoneal cavity, and uterus were sliced open and my little girl was pulled out of me. My incredible surgeon, God forever bless her, took a lot of time stitching everything separately so that a VBAC is a huge probability in the future. I think she realized, as I was shouting (in my laryngitis voice) at the surgeons, anesthesiologist, nurses and techs all of my "Do Not Consents," that even though I was a first time mom, I had clearly done some research. She saw my heartache, and she was what she is supposed to be- a doctor. Not a medical business practitioner, she was a true, good old fashioned service provider. She did no harm.
Laying on the OR table, with my arms stretched out to my sides (and blissfully, not tied down), in my darkest moments, I tried to imagine what Mr. Clarateaches was going to do by himself with a baby. Surely I was dying- this had to be the way dying feels. It feels like your world is upside down and everything you worked so hard for was shaken and blended and poured onto the ground and stomped on. As the doctors worked, I mentally wrote my will.
Then, she was there.
With my nose. And my forehead. And my cleft chin. What an odd thing for a girl to have. There was the bump on the side of her head where she originally crowned, so many hours ago, when I left the birth center. Death vanished. I had a job to do. Even though I had made this choice for her, I still remained firm and unmoving about everything else we had decided: no over the top meds for me, we were breastfeeding and she was not leaving our room without one of us, and no one was injecting her with a single, solitary substance. Each and every shift of nurses made sure to mention to me that they don't give out medals to C-section recovering moms who only take Tylenol 3 and breastfeed their baby over the layers of incisions. They had obviously never failed their child on her first birth-day before.
The next several weeks were not pretty. Baby Blues is a song about eye color, not the name of what I went through- not even close. They need to rename it- maybe call it Dark Time. Nothing Time.
Five months out, though, I can safely say I'm fine. I'm good. In fact, some days I feel great. The new me actually believes in her body again. Most importantly, I look at the way Mr. Clarateaches and I are forming our family, and feel blessed. I'll always mourn my C-section. That has nothing to do with my little Gianna, though. The best part is that the C-section gets further and further behind me every day, while my girl grows and thrives.

Monday, December 17, 2007

These Dreams Go on When I Close My Eyes

4:06 Am. Darkness. And then, from somewhere to my left...

"Tsssst. Thhhhhht. Tsssth." Rustle, rustle. "Ah Da? Ah dadadadat." Then, in Batman fashion, KABAM! White fireworks as a little fist punches the air, seeking an audience, and landing precisely on my eyeball.

Sigh. All it took was one early morning of thunder, lightening, snow plows, and snow to totally convince the Little Nipper that we all wake up at 4 now. There was little more to do than lay quietly, and hope she'd soon go to sleep. I was also able to ruminate on the fun of sleeplessness. I don't know how mothers who work outside of the home do it, other than they must trade off with their spouse and probably not breastfeed all night. (Ha- you thought I'd get through a post without breasts. In a Chris Griffin voice I say to you, "Boobies!") For those single, working, nursing moms, I totally bow down and kiss your feet.

This isn't college anymore- sleepless nights don't mean I get to down a Red Bull the next day and wander about, all wide-awake and with a cute belly showing anymore. Or, that one memorable Biology exam that I stayed awake all night studying for, drinking an entire six-pack of one liter Mountain Dews, to have the professor come up to me mid-exam very concerned that I hadn't blinked in the previous 45 minutes. Sigh. Nope, these are the days where I have to plan my caffeine carefully, as it zips like lightening to the child, who is more than willing to then spend the day all wide-awake, and with a cute belly showing.

Sleepless, but the day must go on. Go on, it does, and usually consists of more than one occasion of staring at the calendar, wondering which day it is. Or, standing in the kitchen for ten minutes, searching high and low for the lid to a raisin canister, to find it in the other hand when I reach the point of despair and try to fashion a new one from plastic wrap. Very often, the day ends with the baby finally going to sleep as I sit in my dark bedroom, Mr. Clarateaches sleeping blissfully unaware that the most hilarious local news at 11 is happening on the muted, closed-captioned TV. Hilarious laughter is very hard to do without waking up a baby.

Fortune smiled on me- by 5:20, my little babbling bambina fell back to sleep and I was able to catch 25 more minutes of sleep before Mr. Clarateaches' alarm clock went off. Time for a new day... where the heck am I?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chomp, Chomp

Let's go backwards in time to the four month well baby visit on Nov 16th:

Me: "I think she's teething. She drools, chews on her hands, and is irritable sometimes."

Physician's Assistant: "Nah... She's too young."

Fast forward to the week after Thanksgiving. What's that, there on the bottom gums? A tooth? No.

Two teeth! There on the lower jaw are two of the sharpest things on the planet. What's better is that she's decided that Christmastime seems like the perfect time to start anew with some more teeth.

We all have our methods for dealing. I like the Hyland's route- it's easy and natural and Gianna likes it a lot better than the teething gel, which burns like a mo-fo (I tried it on my own gums- yeeeowch!) When the times get tough, good old Infant Tylenol does the trick, albeit in a less crunchy (but much more direct) way.

Mr. Clarateaches likes the Jim Beam method. He fills up his shot glass, generously douses the sprout (who LOVES whiskey and happily licks it off her gums- good grief, who knew?) and then shoots the rest down and heads happily to sleep, while I spend the night feeding a slightly buzzed baby.

Gianna has decided that she needs to chew fabric, and will also only suck her thumb after carefully maneuvering her sleeve or a blanket over it. It's like a moth attack, but whatever works.

Alas, this also means she can do some serious damage to me now. She bit me in her sleep a few days ago, and I almost passed out trying not to scream (I didn't want to wake her up, and I'm so sleep deprived, a wildebeest could have torn off a limb and I wouldn't have woken her up). Last night though, she was crabby and potentially sprouting a new tooth (or God help me, new teeth) and she bit me HARD. I screamed like I'd been shot, and the look of anguish on her face broke my heart. We both cried, and then when we pulled ourselves together, we went ahead and put an earring into the little hole she made.

She clearly has no idea that Mommy has feelings of her very own, and won't know this for a while, so I feel bad. We're going with the "stop nursing when it happens, and eventually she'll equate biting=stop nursing immediately" and that'll be the end of it. I've heard some random goofballery about poking or thumping or flicking babies when they bite, but it sounds like a quest for more ways to need to comfort a hurting baby. Or ignore a hurting baby, which is more sad.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yup, still on this

I just wanted to post some further information. I belong to a message board for Christian mothers who parent naturally and gently, and Mary Anaya has recently joined. She asked that those who are blogging about this post addresses (including a new one which I will post below, as well as her quote along with it) and most importantly, her request that people PRAY for her and her family, and those who are fighting this situation right now.

Please remember, this has nothing to do with whether you believe the genetic test should be done or not- this has everything to do with armed men coming into an American citizen's home and kidnapping her newborn, over a test that indicates diseases that all together, have a 0.16% chance of happening. That's sixteen hundredths of one percent.

When I was still teaching outside of Chicago, I had one of the roughest, most high-needs classroom in the school. I distinctly recall having to contact DCFS on so many sad situations in my class. Two in particular stand out- both because nothing was done about it. One was when Limited English made allegations against a family member that they "hit (him) with one of those things you hang shirts on," (his words to me) and later Little Cutie Boy, whose 22 year old brother hit him on the face on the way to school, and he came into my classroom with blood from his forehead to his chin. DCFS told me that as neither was life-threatening, they had no time to do anything about it. Yet somehow, a Nebraska Court spent how many tax dollars prosecuting (persecuting?) a family for not allowing their son's heel to be cut and his blood spread on dots on an index card.

Here's the DCA's address:
Nicole Goaley
Deputy County Attorney
Juvenile Division
(I imagine she can be reached at the same Supreme Court address as posted in the last post).

From Mary- "She is the one who made the decision to seize custody and refused to dismiss the case until the test results came back. None of the previous county attorneys prosecuted us and she had the power to dismiss the case from the beginning. She had indicated initially to our lawyer that she was powerless to dismiss the case until after the hearing before the judge. However, we later learned that was not true. Even though our lawyer asked her to move the case out of juvenile to district court like it stated in the statute, she refused. That meant our lawyer could not present legal arguments and Joel was held as a hostage. "

Please write. Please write, and if not a NE citizen, at least write and explain that the nation is watching, and this is unacceptable. If for whatever reason you cannot write (and if I can type a letter one handed while nursing and burping my baby, who is scratching me and gnawing on my shoulder, well...) please pray.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Regarding previous blog

For everyone who wants to get off their rears and take some action (with letters; let's not get dramatic), here are important addresses:

Judge Elizabeth Crnkovich
Suite 600
Hall of Justice1701
Farnam Street
Omaha NE 68183

And here are her superiors. Hathor, the lovely "cowgoddess" (bear with me here) has suggested writing to them, and copying the letter to the dishonorable Judge Crnkovich as well.

Nebraska Judicial Council
Administrative Office of the Courts
1445 K Street1213 State Capitol
P. O. Box 98910
Lincoln, NE 68509-8910
Phone: 402-471-3730
Fax: 402-471-2197

Commission on Judicial Qualifications
ATTN: Secretary
Nebraska Supreme Court
PO Box 98910
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
Please mail in an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL

If you have any kinds of feelings of outrage about this, particularly that the judge ordered the baby out of the courthouse, when it was crying to be fed by his mother, and demanded that the distraught mother continue her testimony, write a letter. It takes very little time, a stamp, and will hopefully, en masse, have an effect. Let's get this sorry excuse for a judge disbarred!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This is what nightmares are made of...

Seriously, chilling to my core. Brief synopsis: a couple birthed their ninth child in the state of Nebraska, which has a rigid rule regarding blood testing of newborns for rare genetic diseases. This couple declined the test, and their five week old was forcibly removed from his nursing mother to foster care for 5 and a half days. The social workers were ordered to give the baby formula.

Get this: if for some reason this small baby did have one of the diseases (PKU) that the test was looking for, formula would have killed him.

The social workers and foster mother, fortunately, took pity on mom and baby (hey how about that, the system actually worked in that respect) and called the mother every few hours to come and feed her son on the sly, as the visits were technically unauthorized.

Here is a link to the blog of this family's attorney, and the segment that appeared on Rush Limbaugh.

Here are a few links to the people who can make the change that NEEDS to be made, for the sake of babies and families in this state (directly taken from a message board that the mother posted to:)

"For 2 legislative sessions, State Senator Synowiecki has proposed exemption legislation. The 2nd time we had high hopes. We had more people testifying in favor of the bill than against, signed testimonies of the trauma the screening had caused other parents, and a petition signed by over 100 people. There were only a couple of testimonies from the state against the bill. However, it was killed in the health and human services committee and never made it to the floor for a vote. Here are e-mails for the committee:";;;;;;;

Think of the choices you make every day, not even necessarily parenting choices. What if, one day, one of those choices turns into this type of nightmare for your family?

When we had G in a hospital in Lansing, we were harassed every day of our five day stay over our decision to forgo the antibacterial eye drops, the Vitamin K injection, and the Hepatitis B vaccination. We had nurses, residents, and finally the doctors themselves coming into our room scratching their heads and wondering about our reasoning. We have our reasons- mainly, that there is so little risk of G needing any of the above, that the risks involved with injecting or dripping her with any of it outweigh the benefits. Above all, I AM THE MOTHER, AND I SAID SO. The blood test that is described in Nebraska law is also demanded by MI law, and we did allow this. However, had we decided to decline consent, our rights as parents should be respected.

Please write to these government officials.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One Year Later

One year ago today, I POAS (To those of you not up on your conception lingo, that means "peed on a stick." Ewww.) and received the happiest sight ever (unless you happen to be the head cheerleader)- a bright pink line! I screamed and yelled and danced with the dog, who to this day wonders why we never do things like that anymore. I tell her that when she quits digging under the compost, we'll talk.

Clever me- I wrote little poems and stuck them all over the house, and had Mr. Clarateaches go on a hunt for clues. He happened to have worked from midnight until 8 AM that morning, deep in the engineering lair, doing something fun with engines, so he was exhausted. But, hunt he did, and when he at last came upon the positive pregnancy test, he turned to me and said in his most romantic voice....

"Does this still have pee on it?"

Babies are fun. Apparently, everyone thinks my baby is public property, which is why I want to carry a firearm. I settle for carrying her in a sling, usually her Moby wrap. This, according to my fellow crunchies, will stop people from using their gross, never-washed-after-the-bathroom, always-in-their-noses, petting-strange-dogs-hands. What it really does is turn us into an elaborate spectacle, as people don't usually see anyone wearing a baby 'round these parts. The name of the game for some people is to be as hands-off with their sprouts as possible, but by God, I wanted this bambina for so long, she gets to be my baby kangaroo.

This will be the post of many run-ons.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the masses of the great unwashed who wish to touch my child. Or, who wish to offer me crackhead parenting advice.

On one occasion, in my favorite little gourmet and produce store, a woman who probably could have been a linebacker beelined right over to me. She did the usual, "Oh, what a cute baby," but then sealed her fate by touching my arm sympathetically and asking me in a hushed tone usually reserved for fatal diseases, "Um, isn't she a little small for her age?" I stared at this lady Leviathan and said, "No, she's pretty normal."

On another, I was in a mega-grocery with La Bambina in her wrap, who had fallen asleep sometime in the coffee aisle. I was at the cashier, trying to watch the teenager scanning my groceries so that she didn't do something silly like chuck four pounds of apples on top of squishy things, or put the five pound bag of potatoes and gallon of cider in the same bag so that it hilariously smashes to the parking lot later (ahem- I'm looking at right at you, cashier of today). A woman was behind me with her teenage daughter who was a "Spoiled Brat" if you believe the glitter on her rear. "Spoiled Brat" blathered into her cell phone to someone about the gala time that they all were going to have tonight when mom and dad drove them to the R rated movie. The mother stared at me and my peacefully sleeping girl (Not a "Spoiled Brat") and said, "That looks uncomfortable."
Ever ready to convert others to babywearing, I started to describe all of the reasons why the Moby was very comfortable, how it distributed the baby's weight to my entire body and held her in the middle. She interrupted me. "No, I mean, the baby's not comfortable in that."

Beg your effing pardon? I looked down at my angel, peacefully sleeping and sucking on her lower lip. She couldn't have been more comfortable. "Hmmm," was my response, and I turned my back to her completely to focus on the credit card reader. In NY, that would be a signal for the woman to mind her own beeswax if she knew what was good for her, but in MI it seems to mean "keep right on talking."

"I always put them right there, right in the cart. Got 'em used to it," she said wistfully, hearkening back to the days of "Spoiled Brat's" youth. "Where's her shoes?"

I looked at G's little socked feet. "No shoes yet," I said. "Her feet are growing too fast to keep up, and besides, she's not walking."

The woman shook her head. "Tsk, tsk. I always put shoes on their feet, got 'em used to it."

Why was I talking to this person? I turned my back again, and waited for the cashier to finish. The woman behind me gave me the once over. "Looks like you got your shape back real quick, huh?" OH MY LORD.

I turned and loudly said, "Yup, she sucked all the pregnancy weight right off me." I almost squirted her in the eye with some breastmilk, but I think that's what Mr. Clarateaches was talking about when he said that sometimes my interactions with strangers go "too far." The woman stared at me, mouth agape for a few beats. The cashier smirked and handed me a receipt. The woman regained herself long enough to say to the cashier (whispering when she talked about the actual breast), "Oh breastfeeding. I breastfed my girls too, you know. Not too long though, got to get 'em used to..." I walked away at that point. No use wasting a good strangle on this hopeless woman.

My little girl- one year ago today, you were the size of a lentil, and making me sick all day long and only able to eat Ramen and lemonade. Today you are busting out of the 3-6 month clothing and making sure I don't accidentally get more than 5 hours of sleep in any 24 hour period. My sweet girl!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeding Frenzy

Growth spurt time! Gianna is eating like, well, Animal. In both quantity, and demeanor- and she has one heck of a nursing blister to show for it! Her favorite method is to roll her eyes back in her head, give a battle cry, latch on like a shark, and flail her arms wildly for the first five minutes or so, grunting like a little pig. Then, as milk-intoxication hits, she relaxes into her food coma and, eyes-closed, uses her little nails to happily scratch me for the remainder of the feeding. It's nothing like the misty, extra goopy photos of mothers calmly nursing their little tame nurselings. These are the Baby X Games. Thank God- I'd otherwise be bored to tears!

More later- let the games begin!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Clara Plans, Dog Laughs

Quite recently, I found myself home alone for a week and a half while Mr. Clarateaches went on an all-expenses paid trip to Engineer Land to do God-knows-what. He tried to tell me, but the brain fog rolled in.

For the most part we functioned pretty well. Until the day the newly super-charged Lab/Border Collie became a Real Dog. Perhaps it was her new high-protein dog food. At any rate, Lola managed to catch one of the chipmunks that have been darting around. It must have been asleep at the wheel, because Lola can't even catch a squirrel, and the chipmunks are faster than the squirrels. So, she tossed it about, and shook its little lifeless body and pranced back and forth in front of the rest of the Neighborhood Dog Choir. They, of course, seethed with jealousy.

Amused, I promptly forgot all about it until the next evening, when Lola decided that the scent of decomposing chipmunk was too alluring to deny herself any longer. She rolled around happily in it when I sent her outside for what I thought was her last potty break of the night. Seems she didn't think I had quite enough to do. One whiff of her, and I sent her back outside while I worked on Gianna's bedtime routine. This typically looks like: Bath, Massage, Nurse and rock to music, Sleep for 30 minutes, Wake up to nurse again, and out by 11. I originally planned on scouring the dog during the half-hour rest.

Not this night. Gianna laughed and pinwheeled her arms and was very much awake. Lola mournfully barked at the door. However, as I learned when teaching, there is always a Plan B. So I plunked my little ten-week old party animal in her Neglect-O-Matic and went to fetch the dog. Lola happily trotted up the stairs until it dawned on her that a bath was in her future. She went into Passive Resistance Mode, ignoring my commands to get into the bath, pretending to be invisible by crouching flat on the floor and looking away from me, and finally laying on her bed while panting happily at me, saying, "Get in the bed? Okay!" I finally dragged her and her bed into the bathroom, while she quietly hummed, "We Shall Overcome." It took another few minutes to hoist her front paws into the tub. I shoved against the rest of her 70 pound body while telling her how FREAKING SERIOUS I was.

Gianna contemplated this new, odd addition to her bedtime routine while practicing her newest trick of cramming both hands into her mouth. She was becoming more awake as the clock ticked on. I scrubbed the stink-hound until she smelled more like an organic oatmeal and aloe covered rotten chipmunk. One hour later (and one scrub of the hair-covered tub later), the dog was completely taken care of. Gianna needed another hour after that to calm down from the insanity. After about a mile worth of pacing the floor in the light of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on mute, she was finally out.

Too bad I was now wide awake. I think I have a new idea for a reality show.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Babies Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood, TOO!

Gianna had her first Nurse-Out today! More than 96 sites nationwide participated, and if the turnout was anything like the one in the Metro Detroit area, that means thousands of nursing mommies!

She, of course, chose to represent by sleeping in the Hotsling the whole time. I had the fun of holding a sign (I chose "Human Milk for Human Babies") and chanting. The Madison Heights Applebees was really accomodating, and handed out ice water. No idea what was on the paper they handed to the news guy with their "official statement" from Corporate Headquarters, but I'm sure it had something along the lines of, "We respect state laws that protect a mother's rights, blah blah blah..." Well, that's fantastic. Now make it a Corporate-wide law, make sure staff are all appropriately trained, and for Pete's sake, please do not humiliate a mother who is nursing her 7 month old to the point of tears. No, babies probably do NOT want to eat with something over their head- do you? Nope, babies also do NOT want to eat in the restroom, while someone in the next stall is depositing their "Ultimate Trio" to make room for dessert. Would you?

And as I always told my kindergartners, "You are the boss of your own bodies. No one else's." In other words, if you don't like to see a woman feeding her baby the very best way possible, simply turn your head and look at something else. Like, turn your head and look at some things that people don't seem to bitch much about, which means they must be so much more pleasant- the guy chewing with his mouth open. Or the slightly Rubenesque teenage girls with their low-rise jeans and halters squishing their bellies into a nice little fat belt. Or the lady loudly lambasting her children. Or any of the things I do not like to see while eating or shopping or plain old anywhere.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Mama Land

Well, SHE is here! Gianna Maria was born on July 18, 2007 at 1:30 AM.

My peaceful, natural birth center birth turned into an ambulance ride to a hospital in the state's capital after 18 hours of labor and more than five hours of pushing. The C-section that followed was something that we chose after all options were used up. Lesson one in motherhood, I suppose- plans often just do not pan out.

Am I sad that, instead of photos of Gianna being peacefully birthed in the birthing tubs, we have a few photos of me immediately post-op? Even sadder that the hands that guided her into our world weren't mine or her fathers, but of two eager surgical residents? Definitely. I have a five inch long angry purple grimace slashed across my lower abdomen that will fade to white in time, but never go away. I still hear the sounds of the retractors cranking my body open, and smell the surgical smells, and feel my body being thumped about while they crammed my organs back in after Gianna was born. I still feel guilty that the "What if" thoughts keep going through my mind- even if my little girl decided to tilt her head to the side at the last minute, preventing her from exiting the way we had hoped. Guiltier that we have a healthy, beautiful, clever little girl who grows by leaps and bounds, and I still have this sadness. I should be grateful, right?

Another C-section mama very aptly told me that an unplanned C-section and a healthy baby are sort of like finding out you've won the lottery while watching your house burn to the ground. Well put. I love my girl, and am happy she's safe and here, but frankly, people were touching my guts. While I look forward to a glorious VBAC with my next child someday, I still feel invaded and bruised. We made the choice we had to make- the tough one. Motherhood lesson- the tough, crappy decision that sucks sometimes is the best one to make. It's still okay to be sad about the crap part of it. It doesn't take away any of the joy or beauty or thankfulness for the new life.

A provincial turn of events- two weeks after Gianna was born, her dad found this, which helped me tremendously. I have never really been big into the saints, but this was a comfort. A bit scary, as in "How the heck does life have these sorts of coincidences?" but still a comfort.

Gianna is now six weeks old- she's about ten lbs, 23 inches long, and has such cute chubby cheeks! Breastmilk is pure magic. She smiles and is starting to make noises when she sees us. Pooping requires lots of grunting and drama, which never fails to bring her dad to hysterical laughter.

We're completely in love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


We're done!

Graduation went well. The Pastor's Wife couldn't get my cd to work (that we've used all year long without a hitch) for the program, but my kids are awesome about being flexible, and they sang without music. H2O (who hates any kind of attention whatsoever) wanted to bail before we hit the stage, so I promised him two icy cold packets of Capri Sun if he could just go up on the stage and pretend. He managed to get halfway through the program, and then couldn't take it anymore- he methodically removed the cap, then the silk sash, and then lost the gown. All three items were thoroughly stepped on and smushed into the stage. I have to say, after the whole "graduation costume" idiocy, I was pretty triumphant.

The Idiocy: On an ordinary day, in an ordinary school, Kindergarten teachers generally help students create paper caps that the students can decorate. It's child-produced, and means something special to the student. All my kids loved theirs last year, and their parents were completely tickled over them. This year, in the land of the cult, the Admin decided to order some expensive silk caps and gowns and have silk sashes made with 2007 sewed onto them. And offer the sashes for $5 apiece! The sashes did not cost $30 in materials, I can tell ya that much (one of the kindergarten moms offered to sew them). I was asked my opinion, and as usual, when it didn't match theirs, was totally disregarded. Throughout the program (which I kept down to a brisk 15 minutes), the sashes and caps fell off repeatedly. None of the kids wanted to put on the gowns, particularly the boys, until I started calling them "graduation capes."

Hilarious moment- I was presented by the staff with what my husband and I can only call "Sad Little Whore Flowers:" for $3.99 apparently one can buy daisies and chrysanthemums that are painted bright blue and purple, and sparkled with glitter. When the presenting staff member ceremoniously handed them over to me, for one long horrible second I was frozen solid at the sight of such a thing. I sorted myself out pretty quickly, and instantly became covered in glitter when I took them.

Lessons Learned-

1)Never ever EVER again take a job with a cult. As satisfying as it may be to cross out "Work for a cult" on life's list of things to do before I die, it pretty much almost made me completely lose my faith, and my mind.

2) A little dash of "the crazy eye" can save your life. I recommend that everyone become proficient in silently staring at someone in such a way that your eyes contract to pinpoints. Especially when people start to try to convince you that "It'll be okay to talk to these prospective parents about kindergarten, but they don't know you won't be here, soooo... don't tell them, m'kay?" Let me tell ya- a few seconds into "the crazy eye," and they become edgy and uncomfortable and back away slowly, saying, "Well, maybe I'll just talk to them. That's okay, never mind."

3) Create a gathering of the parents long before the end of the school year. It took me until 13 days before school was over to discover that no two families were paying the same amount of tuition. And not a single parent could tell me what exactly they were paying for.

The last two years of working with the kindergarten crowd has been quite an experience. I look forward to returning to it again- just not now. At this point in time, I know that I can be my child's best teacher. In about 4 weeks, we will be putting this to the test. Little Baby Teaches will be arriving sometime between the end of June and mid-July. I haven't decided yet if I will continue this blog, or start another one... in the meantime, peace and blessings to all of you who have read this insanity for the past two-ish years.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What Would YOU Do For a Klondike Bar?

January 2, 2007- Upon returning to work after Christmas break, the main site director greeted me with the frenetic news that I could order $300 of supplies for my classroom. The catch was that I needed to order them TODAY, as the order was going out the next morning.

Three hundred WHOLE dollars, you say? Hot diggity day-um. I didn't know whether to cartwheel or do the Snoopy dance. Or whether I should think about the thousands of dollars in tuition that my students' parents spent in total, and the fact that this was the very first time I was approached with this chance to order supplies.

After careful consideration and the realization that the Almighty Pastor's Wife decreed to the parents at kindergarten orientation that their 4 year-olds would in fact be "fluent readers" by June (as she is not a teacher, and in no way has had any literacy training beyond Google, she has no clue what this means), I knew what to do. So, I ordered plain, two-sided whiteboards and three sets of leveled readers for Guided Reading Groups.

February- No word on the stuff. Site director says that the bill had yet to be approved by the home office.

March- Ya kidding?

April- I was greeted with the excited news that the supplies had arrived. Not that it mattered in terms of half my students, I had bootlegged some other readers and supplies to make a fairly passable Guided Reading format, but hey. I look at the stuff and see-

- Lined, one-sided whiteboards
- An alphabet puzzle (For kids ages 2 and up! According to the box)
- A toy kit for growing and viewing roots
- Story wands that inquire about plot and character
- Beach balls that inquire the same

Well, fuck me silly. I asked the director about the location of the leveled readers, and received a rambling answer that included a shipping special, a doctor's appointment, a sick child, and as usual for either director, blame that the other one was prodding for results. My poker face held, and my pregnancy hormones did not cause me to reach out and strangle-lift her over my head. I mentally reminded myself that this freckled-faced poppet of a director before me was a good year younger than my younger sister, and had no single clue at all.

C'mon, guy from That 70's Show, will you just pop out from behind the giant drum set which is front and center in the sanctuary, scream that I've been "Punked," and let my life continue?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mice and Things

The one thing I always HAVE to do, when I taught preschool and now kindergarten for the second year in a row, is to have a Leo Lionni theme. There is just something about that collage style of illustration, and vocab-rich writing of the dearly departed Lionni that just makes me feel all school-y.

So this week, instead of the Reading Group Gulag, we've been kicking back with an assortment of Leo Lionni titles, and doing some fun projects to go along with them. Yesterday, we read Frederick. This classic fable is of a little mouse who doesn't help gather food for the winter, but has other gifts for his mice friends when the winter days are long, cold, and dark.

I wanted my kids to hear a few messages from this story. One was that words are important! Lately, some of my kids have inexplicably returned to whining. Whining is at the very top of my list of things I will not tolerate, no way, no how. You can certainly chatter nonsense to me all day long, you can forget to raise your hand to speak a billion times a day, but whining will absolutely turn me into the Wicked Witch of the MidWest. I also wanted them to hear the "everyone has a special gift" message, and I wanted them to see an example of a habitat.

So, some things they noticed about the book, right away:

H2O- "That mouse over there, (gesturing) he's glaring at those ants."

Very Young Boy- "I read this book. He's not glaring at the ants. He's just tired."

H2O- (glaring) "He's glaring, see? Right there. You're not looking at the right mouse."

I started reading the book, stopping at a few enticing vocabulary words and letting them guess what they mean. I'll have to look at the book to jog my memory, but it's always fun to see what they think a word means. After talking about the stone wall where the mice lived, I stopped and said, "I see a mouse habitat! Did anyone else hear it?"

Confused Girl: "Mouse! It's a mouse!"

Me: "CG, my question was- where is the mouse's habitat? Where do they-"

Confused Girl: "Berry! Ant! Habitat! I know, Mrs. Clarateaches, Habitat- it's their habitat."

We finished the story, and my kids were still a bit confused. They didn't understand why Frederick didn't go ahead and help gather the food if he was going to eat it. H2O was very worried about their drink situation. Serious Girl and Very Young Boy both seemed to understand, but the rest of the kids were more concerned about the prospects of real mice somewhere out in the snow starving.

On a serious note- there really is something to pulling books and expressing an interest in them. When I brought out the five Lionni titles on Monday and set them up along the front wall of the room, I explained that they are very special books to me, and I wanted to share them. I once read a literacy theorist's quote that teachers simply by reading a book can "bless" a book for a child, and spark a desire to explore for themselves. This entire week I have had the books out on display during the day, and the majority of the kids have made a beeline for the books as soon as they have some time to kill. The most popular ones to be snapped up are the books we have already read (and therefore, blessed).

Read to your children. There, my PSA for the day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Counting Down

After Easter Break, there will only be 38 days left to go in the strangest job I have ever held. This is including the summer spent working at a bakery from 2-10 AM with a sociopathic midget, and the holiday helper job at Pier 1 where my manager insisted I allow a woman to charge up a storm on her senile, wheelchair-bound mother's credit card. Even after the credit company flagged the transaction and I ended up on the phone simultaneously with the FBI and the credit company. Ah, those warm Christmas memories of giving a physical description of a senile, wheelchair bound woman to the FBI whilst my manager, eyes all aglow, hisses in my ear that she is NOT going to lose this sale, as it would bring our totals for the night at an all time high.

Yes, this has been one doozy of a job. Not because of the kids, to be sure- my students are perfect in every way. No, this year has truly been unique in that I've never been hired by con artists before. Let's just highlight by summing up what was said at hire, and what has been discovered over time:

At hire: "You'll have about a dozen students."
Reality: Five students, until late October. Then the walls really started to bulge out as the sixth was added.

At hire: "Main Director has created schools before for corporations."
Reality: It seems I am the only one in the building with a teaching certificate for this state. In fact, it seems I am the only one with a bachelor's degree in the building, save another staff member from another country.

I could go on and on, but that will have to wait until I extract myself from the uber-intense, syrupy-sweet, Gothardesque-fake-smiling, money-grubbing claws of this place. In the meantime, some more silliness from the super fantastic students of mine!

As one might suspect, my current gestational state is a large topic these days. While they know I am planning on somehow acquiring a baby in the summer, some seem to have no idea where it is. H2O asks me on a near daily basis, "Is your baby in the baby room?" while Theological Boy (who gained a baby brother last summer, and seems to know quite a bit about the process) yells out, "It's in her UTERUS!" So in the meantime, little bobbly heads ricochet off my belly on a daily basis, and still half the kids look around and wonder aloud, "Where will you get your baby from?"

Yesterday we were exploring the world of subtraction. Very Young Boy kept eyeballing my rather large belly and raised his hand.

Me: "Yes?"
Very Young Boy: "Um... um... My dad is really fat. Like this (holds hands in front of belly). He has a really fat belly."

The toy horses have also been very busy in the small toy area. Apparently it was plastic equine orgy night some odd months ago (what the hell is the gestation of a horse, anyhow?) because each and every one of them is birthing, every day. Thanks to the extreme detail of Theological Boy's birth knowledge (he may have been present at his brother's birth), the toy horses are guided through the loud and vocal pushing stage each day by six very intense midwives. Each birth of the same miniature plastic red horse is greeted with cheers, tears, and the passing around of cigars.

I decline, obviously, as I currently cannot partake.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


So, now that I'm getting much bigger, I'm getting myself up off the floor much like someone who is balancing a glass plate on her head. I have to lean back, brace myself sideways, push up off the ground with my arms, carefully walk my arms up my legs and then I'm there (whew!)

The hilarious part- this is now exactly how each and every member of my classroom is standing up from the rug! Ah, my minions...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

H2O- future OB-GYN

I just love my unconventional students. Nothing against the boring ones that turn in their homework and stand in line and tuck in their shirts- I just wish they would climb a cabinet or develop a perseveration every once in a blue moon.

So, another H2O story.

At the end of a hairy day shortly after school resumed in January, I lined up the rugrats at the door for dismissal and their daily pep-talk.

Me: "Listen up, folks! Tomorrow is a NEW day. A day where I will not give the same direction to six different children regarding tipping in your chairs- if I tell Very Young Boy that he may not tilt in his chair, then by golly Confused Girl, don't stare directly at me while tipping in your chair. You know what I'll say."

Confused Girl: "Mrs. Clarateaches, I like your shirt. And your hair."

Me: "Thank you, CG- but please tell me what I just said about tipping in your chair."

Confused Girl: "Mrs. Clarateaches, how come you said 'your chair'?"

During this dizzying exchange, H2O, who was the line leader for the week, was busily patting my belly as though he had a small fire to put out. His head was tilted to one side, and he was smiling and nodding slowly like he was involved with an engaging conversation with my belly button. This would have been disconcerting without the Amelia Bedelia pattering of Confused Girl, but together the effect was really quite something.

Me: "H2O, why in the name of all that is holy are you manhandling me?"

H2O: *great big grin* "I'm petting your baby!"

Hooooooo boy.

How the heck did he know?

That's right, readers. I am currently gestating. Clarateaches Jr. will arrive sometime mid-July, and is currently at 16 weeks. That means he/she/ dear God them? is the size of a large avocado right now. At the time of H2O's mysterious voodoo though, I wasn't really showing, and had no real intentions of telling the class until it was fairly obvious.

The line exploded.

Theological Boy: "Nuh-uhhh, No she's not..."

Super Girl: "Can I see it?"

Confused Girl: "Baby Jesus?"

So, I told them that sometime after we closed shop for the summer, I would be having a baby. And ever since then, I've been fielding questions about when I'm going to bring my baby in. I keep telling them to just wait until I'm large enough to take someone out with one turn of my belly. After all, they're about that height.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Baby Steps

One of my tasks at this school is to teach five year olds how to pray. This involves just a few basic things- asking forgiveness of sins, giving thanks for blessings, and prayer requests.

An excerpt from today, Day 81 of the school year:

Super Girl and Theological Boy take the stage. They tussle for a few moments about who has to go first, and Super Girl caves first.

Super Girl: "Ok everybody- fold your hands... close your eyes... (shoots a glare to Very Young Boy, who is trying to squint so his eyes remain open)... bow your heads. Dear God, thanks for giving us sins. Um... (looks at me)"

Me: (stage whisper) "Thanks for blessings..."

Super Girl: "Oh yeah! Thanks for lessons, and thanks for my friend, and I'm going to her house today! Did I tell you that Mrs. Clarateaches? We're going to play Barbies-"

Me: "Super Girl, tell it to God. We're praying."

Super Girl: "Oh yeah!"

This goes on and on, until it's Theological Boy's turn. TB takes a different approach to prayer. He sees this time as his own personal time to air grievances, and publicly denounce his peers' sins while they are required to stay silent.

Theological Boy: "Dear Lord, give us our sins. God, tell H2O to eat his lunch so he isn't crabby at the end of the day. Tell Confused Girl that she's not making right choices when she keeps on picking on H2O. And she keeps smacking me with her hair, God. That's pretty bad. And tell Super Girl to chew with her mouth shut-"

Me: "AHEM."

Theological Boy: "What? Well, it's gross. We're trying to eat." (sighs) "Anyway God, make them make right choices."

TB then makes his way back to his seat, while his peers form alliances against him.

There is some happy news for the day- I gave my 19 weeks notice! They seemed bummed, but didn't seem too surprised. Upward and onward, my friends. Just four days shy of five months to go, and it will all be a dream...