1. (in some Christian beliefs) the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ’s coming.
2. a West Indian dance in which the dancer bends backward to pass under a horizontal bar that is progressively lowered to a position just above the ground.
3. an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition; a state of neglect or oblivion.

I wish I were talking about #2, at like a party or something. But I’m not.

Right now, I am in an uncertain period. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for my dreams to come true. Not even that. Just for something to change. I know I haven’t been waiting forever, but it feels that way. I am living in a house I don’t want to live in. It’s small–comfortable for right now, but not to live in long-term–with short ceilings, leftover paint from the previous owners that I just can’t seem to cover, dead grass, a broken fence in the backyard, a desk and bookcases in the dining room because a baby took over the office, and other little treats. We were given notice last year that our mortgage is being raised because of sinkhole coverage and we were told recently not to plan on leaving any time soon unless we have thousands of dollars to GIVE the potential buyers at the closing. Well, swell. I love hearing that my house isn’t even worth the measly amount of money we paid for it. I love knowing that I can’t move on with my life because of our beloved economy. Every day, more and more, I wish we had been smart and rented.

The thought of staying in this house 3-5 more years, in this neighborhood, in this town, makes me want to cry. I’m not saying I want to up and move to Hawaii. I just want to see something different. I want to live on a street where people take care of their lawns. I don’t want to hear stray cats mewing at night. I don’t want to walk my son in the stroller and see hubcaps on someone’s lawn with a misspelled FOR SALE sign. I want to own or rent a house I’m proud of. I want to have people over. I want a pool for Will to learn how to swim.

Now I that I re-read this, I feel like I sound like a jerk saying I want over and over again. But I shouldn’t be sorry, because it’s the truth.

I never saw myself teaching at a public high school in New Port Richey and raising my son here, so it’s hard to stomach. Which brings me to my next point: my job.

Let’s just go ahead and admit it: the school system isn’t what it should be. Understatement of the century. I love my students, I really do. I care about their physical, emotional and academic well-being. They are what can make my day go very right or very wrong. I can usually come into a class, hear a student say something funny or watch while a struggling student finally “gets it” and that’s enough for me to forget about the politics and the lack of pay, appreciation and benefits. But lately, it’s just not enough. 

I want to get my Master’s degree. I miss being in school. Logistically and financially, I just don’t see it happening any time soon. Which means I’m stuck, a 25-year-old with an education degree. Who wants an education degree? A school. 

Idon’twanttoworkataschoolanymore. I want to be free, to be with my son more often. I want time to write, to really seek an agent and finally get published (I promised myself I would be published before 30–even that dream is looking grim). I want time to see my son learn and explore, instead of teaching other people’s sons how to pass standardized tests.

Everyone has to make sacrifices in life. My husband and I decided that financially, it would be best if he got his Master’s first. But I’m jealous. I just get to sit around while he furthers his education and has the prospects of other jobs. I want to look forward to what I do each day. I want to love what I do. I want to be an example to my son.

There go the I wants again. 

Thing is, what I want isn’t really top priority anymore. And I’m okay with that. And the only reason I’m okay with that is because of Will. 

I am so thankful that God gave me that little boy on April 23, 2011. Even when I didn’t know if I wanted him. Even when I didn’t think I could handle him. He is what gets me through the day, because now I don’t have to find meaning in my position at a difficult job. I don’t have to find meaning in my short stories, and whether or not a publishing company enjoys reading them. I don’t have to find meaning in my education or ambitions. 

That’s why I usually refer to him as the wish I never wished for, because even though I wished for so many other things, someone bigger than me knew he was everything I ever needed to come true. 

And when I look in his beautiful brown eyes, see his long eyelashes flutter, and get a big open-mouthed kiss as he smiles, limbo doesn’t feel too bad.


Let Nature Be Your Teacher

I’m currently reading the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, and it has been a real eye-opener.

Normally, I do not pride myself in being “outdoorsy.” I don’t hike, camp, fish, ride bikes, or anything of the like. I’ve never been an athletic person. I don’t like spiders, so I steer clear of the woods. I hate the Florida heat so from about May to September, you’ll normally find me inside, cranking the air conditioning. If I want to run or exercise, I typically do it in a controlled setting, or attend a class at my gym for motivational purposes.

That being said, I really do love nature. I always found solace sitting by the rippling lakes near my private university my first year away from home. I would write some poetry or just listen to the birds chirp and realize how small I was in the scheme of such a big world. I like lying on a blanket or on the grass at the park looking up at the shapes the clouds make. I enjoy taking walks with my little boy in the stroller when the weather is temperate. I’m not a huge fan of going to the beach to swim in the Gulf of Mexico, I don’t like getting sand in places it doesn’t belong, and I hate sunburn, but I adore the beach at sunset, walking along the shoreline, feeling the wet sand between my toes and watching crabs sneak into their little holes.

I want my son to grow up to love nature, to learn from nature. I don’t want him sitting in front of the television, playing video games, eating potato chips and thinking everything in life comes with wood floors and central air. In Last Child in the Woods, Louv discusses the sobering fact that in the United States as well as many countries (developed and underdeveloped), children are growing up indoors more and more often. He also includes research supporting the theory that nature-deficit disorder, a phrase he has coined which is not actually a diagnosis, contributes to physical and mental illness in children and adults. I can totally see his viewpoint.

When I’m surrounded by the quietness of nature, or when I hear ocean waves crash, when I see the pinks and oranges light up the morning sky on my way to work, something inside of me awakens. It sounds cheesy, but it’s totally true. Nature does something to you. And I believe nature can heal the mind and body. It can teach.

As I continue to read this book and reflect on its contents, I want to promise myself something: my son will spend time outdoors. I may even have to conquer my fear of spiders so I can climb a tree with him someday. (Side note: this day will probably be sooner than I think, because although William is nine months old, he seems to think he is Spiderman these days, climbing the stroller, the playpen, the entertainment center, and various other items he shouldn’t be climbing.)

So far, as a working mom, I have made time on my evenings, weekends, and vacations to spend a lot of time with William. I have talked to him, played with him, watched him learn, and let him explore. Because he was so little in the summertime, we spent most of our time inside, watching Major League Baseball and playing on his playmat. I made an effort to take him on walks in the stroller, but he didn’t react to much except to squint when the sun was in his eyes. But when fall came, and he was five months old, and since winter has come, he’s been so much more alert, more mobile, more alive. In his short lifetime, we have exposed him to nature in various ways:

1. We took him swimming. (Side note: Someone told me after the fact that a baby should be six months old when he goes in the pool for the first time and that the water had to be 84 degrees… He was five weeks old, the water was cold, and he survived.) 

2. We take him for walks around the neighborhood on a daily basis. He loves to sit up and look over the stroller like a big boy 🙂

3. We hung a swing from the tree in our front yard and pushed him while he laughed 🙂

4. I sat him in the sand at the beach, let him grab the sand, smush it between his fingers, and even put a shovel to his mouth. The first time, he didn’t know what to do and his face was one of amazement. You can see that picture in an earlier post.

5. I also held his hands and let him walk barefoot in the cold water. You can tell from the pictures that he has been to the beach over and over again this fall and winter. Sometimes, I have to love Florida for that. 

5. We’ve taken him to multiple local parks where he could play on the playground and crawl in the grass.

6. We took him to the zoo to see wild animals in captivity and to the aquarium, where he loved standing up against the glass and seeing the sharks swim.

7. We brought him to the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs and walked the St. Pete pier on New Year’s Eve where he could watch the boats float by.

I know it’s going to be difficult when the summer comes and rears its ugly Florida head and the humidity reaches 110%, but I want to make it my goal to spend time with Will in nature at least once a week, or whenever he wants as he grows up. I want him to run, play, get dirty, breathe the fresh air, and use his imagination.

Sweet, sweet three-day weekend

I never appreciated weekends as much as I do now that I’m a working mom.

This weekend, my husband, my son and I got to spend some quality time together. We took Will to the Florida Aquarium for the first time. Jimmy and I get in free because we’re teachers, which is a plus since Will’s attention span is… well, that of an almost nine-month-old. He was enamored of the penguin, enjoyed crawling up to the glass at each of the fish exhibits, and he and Daddy loved watching the sharks!

When we got home from the aquarium, we let Will play with his bath toys in some colored water and then we gave him shaving cream for the first time. The first thing he did was squish it between the fingers on both hands and then grab his feet!

Because we got Martin Luther King Day off, we had even more time to spend with Will. A Monday I don’t have to get up at 5:30 AND I get to be with my son? Bonus! After we snuggled long into the morning, I took Will to see Gamma and to the park while handy Daddy made a sensory board. He used great ideas we saw on the Play at Home Mom blog. So thankful for people like the mothers on this site who share such meaningful ideas for helping kids learn through play.

Will loved the jingling bells, the push lights, and the bead maze. He also decided to take a mouthful of the plastic tubing! Lots of good stuff going on… back to work tomorrow!