Wednesday, December 30, 2009

book chat - winter break edition, vol.2

I have been reading my ass off. Here's a quick run down:

1. Escape to West Berlin by Maurine Dahlberg (I know, I know, it wasn't on my big list of ten, but it was hiding under my bed and begged to be read.) - This book was great, but it made me realize that I'm an idiot. Escape to West Berlin is historical fiction set days before the Communists put the barrier between East and West Berlin. I know NOTHING about this time period. So, during the holiday parties I attended I somehow worked "Can you believe the situation in BERLIN!" into the conversation. Yes, I'm embarrassing. Thanks for nothing public education.

2. Earthquake Terror by Peg Kehret (not on the list, this one was hiding under a pile of papers) My students love her books, so I wanted to read one. Very suspenseful survivalist fiction. I love a good wilderness story.

3. Piper Reed, Navy Brat - Not bad! Even vaguely feminist. Nice!

4. Anastasia's Chosen Career - I love re-reading books that I enjoyed as a kid. Even as a young girl I knew the Krupniks were cool. These books are really 1980's snooty. For the love of god, Woody Allen is mentioned. Woody Allen! Even a shiny new cover couldn't make my kids interested in these. They may get weeded to my house. (I’m kidding, of course. These are the jokes, people!)

5. The Giver - I love that Lois Lowry can write silly fluff like the Anastasia books and then go on to write something as provocative as The Giver. It deserves its own blog post. Grown-ups love this book, but unlike a lot of kid’s books that grown-ups love, kids would also enjoy reading it.

I started Kira-Kira last night. It's moving kind of slow so far. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 28, 2009

baby's first christmas

Three days before Christmas I went to get Ramona from her bed and immediately felt the heat rising off her.  Thus began my week of fever fighting.  Ramona's first seven months were fortunately illness free, but it couldn't last, eventually all kids get sick.  It was a mystery illness, no accompanying symptoms to go with the high fever.  Our doctor, to my horror, began to suspect meningitis.  Thank goodness it wasn't that, it was nothing, but it was a rough three days of baby tending.  Christmas was on hold.  Family parties cancelled. 

But, Christmas miracle style, Ramona woke up healthy and happy on Christmas morning and had a lovely day.  She opened presents, hugged dollies, dug through stockings. Family members have filled our house with Way Too Many Toys.

Ramona's three days of fever were like traveling back in a time machine.  Back to our maternity leave.  Back to momma tunnel vision.  Back to a baby that always seemed to be asleep, but at the same time always needed me.  But also, back to the sweetness of a baby who wanted to cuddle and nurse all the time. 

This week Ramona and I are enjoying her health.  We are playing with her piles of toys.  We are getting out to see friends and family.  But most importantly, we are paying attention to each other.

On New Year's Day Ramona will be 8 months old.  It seems amazing to me.  She is amazing to me. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from Nova

"It is not good enough to just tolerate other religions, we should Embrace other religions."- words from His Holiness Dalai Lama

This is what is in my heart today. The deep, magical power of the Christmas Story. A story so moving, so magical, that it leads this Buddhist to devote a month to it and turn her life upside down. Sure, I do it because I'm a mainstream American, but there is something else there. The true meaning of Christmas, the Nativity, the Holy Family, that leads us to this special place.

The best practice I have even been given from the Christian perspective was given to me by a Baptist church elder. This church was very progressive and had created a labyrinth to use for prayer. A labyrinth is not a maze, it's not to get lost in, it's to find yourself in. It's a meditation.

Start at the beginning of the labyrinth and as you walk, imagine yourself as one of the wise men. As one of the men seeking the Baby Jesus. As you walk, think about all the hope and possibility that you hold in your heart. When you get to the center, let Jesus into your heart. Think of the joy that all who beheld this Christ child's birth witnessed. That the world would be different because he was alive. Witness it for yourself. As you walk back home, carry that love in your heart. Carry it with you always.

Merry Christmas dear ones, God Bless you, each and every one,


Monday, December 21, 2009

book chat - winter break edition

Today is the first official day of my winter break from school. Before leaving on Friday I went through the shelves and randomly chose ten books to read while on break. I probably won't get all ten read, but I'm going to try. I was really hoping my new books would come before we left for break because I'm dying to read Kate DiCamillo's new book The Magician's Elephant. It didn't come, but it's ok because I've got plenty to read.

Here's what I have in my bag:

Summer Ball (2007) by Mike Lupica - I've recently bought a bunch of his books because Lupica seems like an author the boys should be really into. They haven't been going over very big, so I'm going to read one and see why.

Starting with Alice (2002) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - We have a bunch of these Alice books in the library, but no one ever checks them out. A classmate in library school once mentioned to me that she thought they were really inappropriate.

The Giver (1993) by Lois Lowry - Adults go crazy for this modern classic. I am looking forward to reading it.

Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost! (2006) by Cornelia Funke - Same reason as the Lupica book. I bought a bunch of them and no one's checking them out. I want to see if I can figure out why.

Elijah of Buxton (2007) by Christopher Paul Curtis - Newbery Honor book and November Junior Library Guild selection.

Phineas L. MacGuire Erupts! (2006) by Frances O'Roark Dowell - KC3 honor book, which is a Kansas City Library award for books for third graders. I'm trying to read them all, even if it kills me. They haven't been that great this year.

Double Identity (2005) by Margaret Peterson Haddix - This is an author I am interested in. She is going to be writing the final 39 Clues book, and the kids are crazy about everything she writes. I think she might be kind of like Koontz for kids.

Anastasia's Chosen Career (1987) by Lois Lowry - I loved the Anastasia books as a kid. We are doing a major weeding of old books in the library and I'm trying to decide which of the old books to re-order (we judge books by covers, that's just the way it is).

kira-kira (2004) by Cynthia Kadohata - Newbery Winner from 2005 and it looks right up my alley.

Piper Reed: Navy Brat (2007) by Kimberly Willis Holt - Another 2009-2010 KC3 honor book.

Next Monday I will let you know how I'm doing. I hope I'm not too embarrassed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dharma LIVE! from the Bradfield house

My mother gave me a little present in honor of taking refuge vows. A tiny, pocket Dhammapada. (Non-Buddhist friends, it's like a book of Psalms.) Poetry, wisdom, truths to be unraveled.

It has already begun to work its wonder in my life.

Yesterday I trudged home with groceries to make dinner. When I got home I discovered that Brian had an important personal project that he needed to give his attention to, so the entire evening was my responsibility. The baby, dinner, picking up, all of it without help. As always, early evening is my difficult time. It has been since the beginning of my career as a mother. I have a lot of anxiety about dealing with the evening.

When I walked in the door I began to do one thing at a time. One of these things was changing my clothes. As I sat on the bed I picked up my tiny Dhammapada, opened it and read this: "Every man do his own work". It only took a few seconds to read it, and it meant nothing to me. Nothing.

I carried on with the evening, my chores, Ramona. As I did these things Brian sat on the couch and did nothing. Nothing to help me with my burden anyway. As I began to cook dinner, quickly, because it was time to nurse the baby, I felt the anger building. And building. I tried to shove it down. All the while thinking "Every man do his own work.....hmmmm.....every man do his own work". And also trying to not shout "Asshat....get in here and HELP ME!!!!".

Then I thought, "Would Brian helping change anything about how I feel? Would it take the anxiety away? Would it REALLY decrease my load?" The answer was No. And then I thought, I'm just going to do my own work. BINGO!!!!! I'm going to do my own work! I'm going to get done what I can. I'm going to do my own work and Brian can do his own work, whatever that happens to be. And then the anger went away for real and there was no self control needed. Nobody got called an "asshat" and nobody had to apologize.

Practice = Peace. This time, anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

monday book chat - non-fiction, can you believe it?!

I hardly ever read or write about non-fiction. I should, I really should, but I don't. However, today I'm writing about Vinnie and Abraham by Dawn FitzGerald.

Vinnie and Abraham is a biography about the American sculptor, Vinnie Ream. When she was just 16 years old President Lincoln agreed to sit for her so that she could sculpt him. He did this because she was prodigious and also because of their common backgrounds. After his death, she fought to be given the commission for the statue of Lincoln that would be displayed in the Capitol rotunda. Despite the controversy of hiring a women for such an important job, she was given the commission. She was chosen for her ability to sculpt Lincoln as he really was; kind, gentle, and with a distinct air of sadness.

While reading this to my students I had to stop several times to explain the deep inequity that women endured in this country during Vinnie Ream's lifetime.

As a first grade teacher I never taught the history of women. I taught about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, but no women. And now as a librarian I have still failed to educate my students about the history of the suffrage movement and the more recent women's movement. This year I'm going to be on the lookout for well written biographies about women, books about the suffrage movement, and books that my young future feminists would enjoy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It all began two years ago with a Box 'o World Religion Lectures. It was not a spiritual journey, it was academic. I couldn't deny that a lot of it sounded nuts to me. Friends, it still sounds pretty nuts to me. But it wasn't the celestial Buddhas that made this feel right for me. It was the simple teachings of suffering, attachment, nothing, and compassion that fit inside my heart. The story of the Buddha's middle path.

Today I made my vow to follow the Buddhist path. I don't know how I will be doing this. After all I have learned, I still don't know what I've gotten myself into.

Was it magic? No. Do I feel like I changed when Lama Chuck snapped his fingers? No. I'm the same old Nova. I'm the Nova that is worried that her baby isn't really asleep for the night. I'm the Nova with the broken down practice. While I was sitting on my cushion I looked around and I thought "I bet these people have shrines, I bet these people don't conduct their practice on their bathroom floor". Mothers, isn't the bathroom the only safe place sometimes? Brian knows I can't hear the baby in there, it's like going to the other world. It's a place of privacy. But still, I practice on my bathroom floor!

But I practice with a beginner's heart. My mind is an open pot. So, there's that.

I took the vow because it isn't a question of "am I going to follow the path or not", because I already have been. I don't know what kind of mother I would be without the dharma. I don't need to know, because it's always been there for me. A place of shelter, a place of protection. A place of Refuge. So, I took the vow today, but I had already taken refuge. No need for cold feet.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

what you missed

Here's a quick recap of the week. All would have been blog-worthy.

Wednesday - Baby and Mama's first snow day. Ramona and I had a lovely day. We got nothing done, but we wore two layers of jammies and (sshhh....we watched tv a little).

Thursday - Got cold feet. Then put the darn socks on and shut up. Tomorrow I'm taking the plunge. Realize I will be taking it again and again. Here's to all of us that are daring to unwrap ourselves.

Friday - Became sick. Took the whole day off and sent baby to day care. I spent the whole day sleeping. Sometimes I would wake in starts because I thought I heard Ramona cry. The day was weird......good weird.

Saturday - Still sick, but determined to carry on. Took Ramona to see SANTA. She put her head back and stared into his face. We got her off his lap right before she pulled the glasses and beard off the poor guy. I hope she stays like this forever. Loving, daring, ready to look Santa straight into the face with no fear. Sometimes I can't believe she came from me. Then Brian and I took her Christmas shopping. For the first time we put her in the front of the cart and she had a ball. She was smiling and kicking her feet and acted like we were in some kind of holiday baby parade. Sheesh....I love that girl, I love that girl, I love that girl.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Chiaroscuro means the arrangement of light and dark, darkness and light together. He is also a main character in the novel that my book club is reading, The Tale of Despereaux.

This word and this character has resonated in my heart. I am also an arrangement of light and dark. We all are.

Our author, Kate DiCamillo, asks us in many different ways, is life about light or is it about suffering? Which one, reader, which one?

My book club members think I'm nuts for cherishing this light and dark character. Children are like this, they really are pretty light. Here I am, the adult, and I cling to my dark places.

On a side note, a member of my book club noted that he thought it was interesting that DiCamillo didn't start writing until she was 29. He thought she got kind of a late start(!). He also doesn't think coffee is a very healthy breakfast. a 29 year old coffee drinker I have been given more to think about than just books.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

a rabbit named samsara

Moments ago I finished reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and I'm a little fearful that I might be about to engage in the book blogger equivalent of drunk dialing. This book made me cry. More than any book I've read this year, this one has gotten the biggest emotional response from me.

It's a simple story about a toy rabbit that becomes lost and found, lost and found, lost and found. He lives a doll's life, which means that he has many lives. In the beginning he is a vain, cold little rabbit, but he learns to listen to the stories around him and he learns to love.

I think this book has gotten me in my heart today, because I have been looking for a way back to the dharma. It is easy to draw the comparisons between Edward and Samsara. Edward becomes tired of each new life, of weathering each new loss. He is broken down, giving up, until a friend tells him "You disappoint me. If you have no intention of loving or being loved the journey is pointless."

Yes, loving, yes, that is the point.

Monday, November 30, 2009

a little book chat, plus some extra noodling

I'm still a little fuzzy from our long holiday weekend. We really like to follow a consistent path; Ramona, Brian and I. Being away from home for all those days really threw us for a loop.
Ramona had so much fun, more fun than I thought a 7 month old baby really could be expected to have. She totally got the idea of it being a holiday and she really lived it up. She is going to LOVE Christmas. Ramona was so wild by Saturday night that I had to finally give in and let her sleep with us.
My house feels like a disaster, my blog neglected, bills unpaid......on and on it goes. Glad to be home and glad to begin the process of putting it all back together again.

So, for the sake of normalcy and coming back to daily life, I'm going to do my (new) Monday night routine of chatting about the books.

I want to talk about Pam Munoz Ryan. She is my new favorite author. I have written about Paint the Wind several times. A few weeks ago I read Becoming Naomi Leon. I don't think it is as epic as Paint the Wind. (After Ryan wrote that one she probably sat back and thought "Well....that's the best I can do.") I bet a lot of my students would relate to Naomi's story. She's a young girl, living a perfectly fine life with her great grandmother and little brother in a close knit trailer park. Everything is going great until her train wreck mother comes into the picture and starts messing things up. Many of Ryan's protagonists are Latinas and in the story Naomi travels to Mexico to escape her mother. While there, she gains a new confidence from reconnecting with her family and learning the honored family tradition of carving.

On a side note, every book I have read by Pam Munoz Ryan gives a little shout-out to breastfeeding, which just delights me. It's unheard of to mention something like that in a book for 4th and 5th grade students. I like to think there is no such thing as "girl books" or "boy books", but who am I kidding, Ryan's books are meant for young girls to enjoy. I think it's sweet and appropriate how Ryan will put a mother nursing her baby in the story as scenery. No big woop, just a mama and a baby. She describes this just as lyrically as she does a tipped over pot, tortillas cooking on a grill or a wild desert flower.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Book Talk - The Unfinished Angel

You know you are reading a nice book when you immediately think of all the people you want to buy it for. You also know you are reading a nice book when you start reading it aloud even though you are all by yourself.

On Friday we got a box of new books and on top was The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech. (She also wrote Walk Two Moons.) I had other important things to read, but I couldn't help myself. I had it finished by Sunday afternoon.

It is about a little angel that lives in the Swiss Mountains. The angel speaks very cutely. I didn't find it especially funny, but very endearing. The angel talks a lot about swishing in the peoples heads and shining warm beams down to them. Then a little girl, Zola, shows up and can see the angel. She has lots of ideas about what angels do and it perplexes our angle. "How is she knowing what angels are doing? I am the angel! I missed some teachings I believe". Zola discovers a problem that she would very much like the angel to solve and the two set out together to make things right.

This is a tiny book. It's like a novella. The characters are not too deep and we don't get much back story, but it is a dear little book.

thankful for the very large things, too

I am very thankful for my home. It is a modest, cookie cutter split level, but I am thankful to have it.

Two summers ago, when I was newly pregnant with Ramona, Brian and I decided to buy our first home. At the same time, my mom was ready to move into a smaller place and simplify her life. It wasn't glamorous or new, but I bought my mom's house. It was a favor that we both did for each other and now I live in my childhood home, with my new little family. I give Ramona a bath in the same bathroom that I got ready for prom in. Charming, no?

It isn't a dream house, but we can afford it and isn't that really the makings of a true dream?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankful for the small things...

...the small, five pound things with wet noses and very awful breath.

Okay, it may seem trivial, but I'm thankful for my dog.

Seven years ago I got a dog as a college graduation present from my mom. I picked out a tiny Yorkshire terrier and named her Sophie. (Aren't all yorkies named Sophie?) I proceeded to spoil the hell out of this tiny, neurotic little dog.

I fretted a lot about what was going to happen with Sophie when Ramona was born. I worried that my spoiled, crazy dog was going to attack my small baby girl.

I did not even consider for a second that Sophie would be the greatest joy in Ramona's life. Yesterday I actually got Sophie out of her kennel especially to help me entertain the baby. I have to stand on my head to get a laugh out of Ramona, but all Sophie has to do is walk by.

So far, Sophie has shown herself to be gentle and tolerant of Ramona. She has adjusted her behavior to match our new expectations. She even lays at my feet when I rock Ramona and never asks to sit in my lap when Ramona is curled up there. She seems to take pleasure in guarding her family.

That Marley doesn't have a thing on Sophie. She is from that place where really good dogs are made. Bless her little doggy heart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

thankful, round two

Next on my thankful list: Ramona's babysitter.

This makes me nervous. You know how when you proudly declare that your baby sleeps through the night, never cries anymore, eats everything you serve her....and then, what do you know, you end up eating the mud? Well, it makes me nervous to declare victory at any turn.

But, in honor of the coming holiday, I'm going to go there.

We really like Ramona's babysitter. She is a good, honest, caring, sweet person. Because of her, Brian and I are carrying on with our lives very much like before Ramona was born. Sometimes I hate being a working mom, sometimes I feel a huge relief when I'm driving off to just depends on the day. But I know that I would not feel this bouncy ambivalence if I didn't honestly feel safe with who we had chosen.

I am thankful that I have a safe and caring person to care for my child while I am at work.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the First day of Thanksgiving.....

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is only since being a teacher that it became my favorite holiday. My first year as a teacher I was a hopeless mess. I didn't enjoy teaching that first year until November. By then I finally got my class under control and began to enjoy teaching. It just so happened that it was while teaching about pilgrims, turkeys, and the first thanksgiving (real or fictitious,whatever) that teaching got my heart. I associate this holiday with taking a giant breath and releasing.

I also love the nice break we teachers get, the time with family, and enjoying a holiday with food, but no gifts.

In honor of this holiday, and this very fortunate life I'm living I am going to write about something I am thankful for every day until the BIG DAY.


I am thankful for books. I am thankful that I get to base my livelihood on their existence. I'm thankful that they make up a big part of the Ego that is Nova. Read from a musty library page or from an electronic device, whatever, I'm deeply thankful for the stories.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review - Walk Two Moons

sheesh.....I totally need more structure. I haven't blogged in a week, and not because I didn't have stuff to say. So, introducing....Monday Night Book Review! Darn it people, I'm going to keep picking nights until one works.

I'm reviewing an old book tonight. Copyright 1994. A few weeks ago a teacher friend suggested I read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. He said it was my kind of book, and that it was "winsome". It must be my kind of book, because there is a mom in it and SPOILER ALERT....SPOILER ALERT....

she dies. I alert you that it's a spoiler, because the best thing about this book is the really wonderful plot twist, and I've just ruined it big time. But, how can I resist telling you about another sick/dying/dead mom? Seriously, what is the deal, children's literature? I guess moms are pretty much huge in the life of a child. What is more heartbreaking than a motherless child? Well, they are definitely children's literature gold. It seems like most of the books that I've read during my quest this year have been about a sick or dying mother.

What? My quest, you ask? Nova, you are on a quest?

Oh, why yes I am. (I have a 6 month old child, I am really really good at carrying on both sides of a conversation.) At the beginning of this school year I took a vow to stop reading all grown up books. I haven't read a book of adult fiction since Ramona was born. No matter how tempting, I'm just not going to do it. Last year, even though I was a school librarian, I didn't crack a book in my very own library. I just went about my own personal reading goals with no concern at all for the books at school. But then Ramona came and my mind got very fuzzy. The chapter book fiction of my 4th and 5th graders have become the only game in town for me. Seriously, I'm a reading maniac. I will go back to reading adult fiction, maybe. Right now, I'm just reading my way through the shelves of my library.

But, back to Walk Two Moons.....The story is about a grieving girl, who is on a cross country trip with her wacky grandparents to bring her mother back home. Our girl, Sal, tells a story about a new friend, a girl named Phoebe. She spends the entire trip telling the story of Phoebe, and for a good reason: "Beneath Phoebe's story was another one. Mine."

Shon, you are right, this book was totally winsome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This is the season of change.

We are now vacuuming every night, because we can't keep Ramona on a blanket and we have realized that if we don't keep the floor picked up she is going to eat a paperclip! Last night when we were working on dinner, she rolled into the kitchen to see what we were up to. It seems like it's time to start baby proofing. Not just thinking about it, but really doing it.

Where is her baby-ness going?

But, you know, the people I really don't recognize anymore is Brian and me. Who are these people?? Who are these people who care about someone besides themselves? Who are these people that clean their house and try really hard to cook dinner?

I don't write much about Brian. Really, who wants to hear about another woman's amazing husband? And when he is a god-awful horrible selfish buttface miscreant, it's against the rules to air our problems out on the internet. So, it makes it kind of hard to write about him.

However, here are some things I've been really wanting to say about Brian:

1. His love and devotion to Ramona is startling to me. I have always thought Brian was pretty selfish and honestly, not really very interested in family. He's always been more about friends. I never get tired of admiring Ramona and her father.

2. He is very helpful around the house. He is kind of like Rainman. Once he settles into a routine you can pretty much count on him to take joy in carrying it out day after day. Brian was telling me about an article he read that said a large percentage of women with full time jobs are also responsible for most of the house work and child care stuff. It isn't this way in our house. Of course, there are LOTS of jobs that I do with Ramona that Brian is clueless about. I'm nursing her, so there is that. Also, I do her laundry, give her baths, clip her nails, get her dressed in the morning......the list goes on.....but, Brian really does the lion's share of the housework. And, to be fair, I kind of keep these little things with Ramona to myself, because I like doing them.

3. I'm going to tread very carefully on this one, very very carefully. He is enduring the change in our relationship with a lot of good humor. One of my favorite movies is Before Sunrise, and I also really like the sequel. In Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke's character talks about how he and his wife aren't affectionate anymore and it feels like they run a day care center together. When you watch this in your early 20's you pity poor Ethan Hawke. Now, I see the whole thing differently. Ethan should have stayed true to his wife and been patient. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I am feeling the shortness of my life lately. Ramona is growing so fast. She will be a little girl, and then a grown girl. And, there we will be, Brian and Nova. Maybe we will go to France?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Help! People are judging us!

Do you watch Modern Family? I watched it the other night and there is a scene where the dads get the baby locked in the car and one of the dads shouts "Help! Our baby is locked in the car and people are judging us!!". I found this incredibility funny.

And it struck a nerve. It feels like there has been a lot of stuff in the news about being a good parent. Stuff about shouting and spanking, stuff like "news flash: OMG, TV isn't going to make your baby smart!".

A blogger that I follow with a devotion that makes my husband tease me (he says "Nova, what would KMM do??") called for a break in the madness.

I was too overwhelmed by life to add my voice to the comments, but I was relieved to hear it. I was glad to hear someone say, Lay Off The Parents.

Here's my bit. I had/have some post partum depression. When I came home from the hospital my anxiety was crushing. It hurt to be that afraid. What was I afraid of you ask? Was I afraid I was going to be a bad mom? Nope. Was I afraid that my life was over? Nope.

I was afraid my baby was going to die and I would never be happy again. Before we left the hospital we were given STACKS of DVDs to watch. SIDS! Shaken Baby Syndrome! Infant Suffocation! Because I'm a crazy rule follower and a desperate people pleaser I was very susceptible to the propaganda. I became very sleep deprived from staring into her bassinet. And when she was about 3 weeks old, I said to myself "I am not going to be able to keep her alive with my eyes, it's time to relax a bit".

Why did those nurses that cared so lovingly for Ramona and me put that kind of fear in me? Couldn't they see that I was a careful person that wasn't going to do anything stupid with my dear baby? They did it because they are worried about the tons of parents out there that have the parental capabilities of a sock drawer.

I'm a teacher, believe me, I see some actual bad parenting. It really wouldn't hurt for some of these people to read a book or take a class.

But sheesh, I think most of us are doing a good job. It goes back to the middle path. A little learning and research is ok, but it's pretty easy to OD on the stuff. But where is that line? How do you know when you've had enough?

Middle path is wisdom and wisdom ain't easy, folks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

of mice and mamas

~The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry

Walk into my house. You will see that I left the coffee maker on (sorry, Brian, I know that scares you). You will find that I left my coat, and Ramona's, on the chair. There are various poopy baby items, half heartedly washed out, all over the bathroom. Clothes are spilling out of the dryer. The baby tub is still full of not clean water. Destroying my home was not the plan for the morning.

I am in the middle of parent teacher conferences and I'm spending a lot of time away from Ramona. So, instead of getting to work very early like I usually do, my plan was to get there on time and spend time playing with Ramona.

The trouble started with us sleeping in. I have a No Alarm Clock policy. If Ramona is going to sleep in, by god, I am too. So, instead of using our time to play, we slept. Whatever. Sleep is good too. Anyway, it's becoming scary late, and I still have her playing on the floor and I'm finishing getting everything together when I hear her poop. This actually doesn't surprise me, it's a daily occurrence. It's sort of like "ok, everyone use the restroom one last time before we go!!".

My acceptance of the last minute diaper change switched to panic when I discovered we were dealing with a full scale blow out.

Ramona ended up in the tub and the look on her face cracked me up "mama! I'm in the tub!! Look, you accidentally put me in the tub!!! Ha!!".

The rest of the morning was like some scene out of an 80's movie about how hard it is to be a mom, or a dad trying to be a mom. It was nuts.

Best laid plans....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

dinner theater

We are a bit cooking challenged, so when Brian cooked something new and adventurous (pumpkin pasta) it was impressive. We sit at the actual dinner table, with Ramona sitting in her high chair playing toys. A few minutes into dinner, Ramona did the seemingly impossible. In front of our eyes, she began SPEAKING! She moved her mouth and made a consonant/vowel babble sound for the first time. It sounded something like -Baaabaaabbaaaabaaa. It was amazing and beautiful.

Forks dropped....dinner was forgotten, because of baby's first babble.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Report: The Penderwicks

This weekend I finished reading The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks is a chapter book that a fourth or fifth grade student (most likely a girl) would enjoy.

I read a lot of books for kids and I hardly blog about any of them. I only really want to blog about books that I have loved. Or books that have left me with thoughts that I care to write about. The Penderwicks is worth reading and writing about. This book feels like a classic. But it's not, not yet anyway. (not that awards matter much, but it won the National Book Award in 2005.)

In The Penderwicks, Birdsall borrows story elements from Little Women. There are four sisters, all very different, but fiercely loyal to each other. There is only one parent in the picture, although in this story we have a father instead of a mother. When the youngest was only 2 weeks old, Mrs. Penderwick dies from cancer (Internet, do I need to point this out again? What have we noticed about moms in books???) And although it isn't exact, Birdsall is too good of a writer to straight out copy, there are similarities between the March girls and the Penderwick girls. The oldest, Rosalind Penderwick, is maternal like Meg, Skye Penderwick is like Jo in more ways that I can count, Jane Penderwick is artistic and sweet like Beth, and Batty Penderwick is the quintessential baby of the family, just like little Amy was for the March sisters. They even have a cute little sister society called MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters), where they swear to not tell dad what they are up to, unless they think someone is going to do something really awful.

The book is just darling. And best of all, it's a series! I am now reading The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. I can't report on it, because I just began, but something tells me I'm not done writing about the Penderwick Girls.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

nice and easy

I'm not the mom I thought I would be.

I was someone who liked research, discipline, and being consistent to the point of being inflexible. Ask the first graders I used to teach. They will tell you.

I read a lot of books about how to train babies before Ramona came. And sometimes I sneak onto the internet for advice and beg friends for baby lessons. But, I hardly EVER follow it. We all do this I think. We all re-invent motherhood for every baby that appears in our nest.

I have found that I like to take it nice and easy when it comes to Ramona. Recently I let some of my mothering indiscretions slip around some much revered mother friends. Women that I have been mentored by in my career and personal life since I left college. When I admitted my uncertainty about using the "cry it out method" I could feel their disapproval. I felt ashamed, but also rebellious. I came home and said to Brian, "I'm not ready, Ramona isn't ready, I'm going to go get that girl every time she cries!". Now, when I get up to get Ramona at night, I don't feel tired and unhappy, I feel like I'm eating candy for dinner. Chocolate cake for breakfast!

But their advice crept in and I've been making adjustments. I've been dealing with Ramona's napping problems, and I've been teaching her to be comforted by stuff that is not The Boob. But it's been slow. S-L-O-W. And there has been a little crying, but not a lot. This is working for me and it's working for Ramona. So, for now, it's nice and easy, but also slow and steady.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

home sweet saturday

I am having the happiest day in quite awhile. It's Saturday and we have nothing planned. I have spent the day enjoying Ramona and enjoying my home. I get a lot of pleasure doing house work type stuff on Saturday. These same chores on Wednesdays fill me with dread and grumpiness. Having the time to attend to these tasks that have been staring at me and mocking me during the work week is a relief.

I used to think a lot about who has it hardest; the working mom, the stay at home mom, the work from home mom, the part time work mom. Who has the crappy end of the stick? Thanks to the internet I know this is a silly line of thinking. Moms have it hard. Reading the daily accounts of moms everywhere is an unbelievable relief to me. Recently I was reading about the guilt that a stay at home mom has to deal with. Another mom wrote about the economic hardships of having one income. A friend was telling me that she has been working six days a week and that she misses her little girl dearly.

Bless every mom who is telling her story, because I live on these words.

Today, I am having a day of rest and organization. I am indulging in laundry and the dirty diapers I always miss. I am catching up on my writing. I am playing with my Ramona. Monday I will be back to my job that is wringing my heart out. But I won't feel sorry, because I am thankful for this job. I am thankful for the money. I am thankful for the work I do and the grownups conversation I get to enjoy. I am thankful for the exact life that I am living.

I am dedicating the merit of this day to a fellow dharma student who took her own life on Thursday. I can't imagine the sadness she must have been carrying in her heart. My practice this week is to do tonglen for her and for her two young children. This week, pray for mothers, please.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haunted House/Spooky Samsara

There is this being called the hungry ghost. It's sort of a character in Tibetan Buddhism. This is supposedly an outcome of unfortunate rebirth.

I have been a hungry ghost. When I feel like punishing my husband with my sadness, when I can't engage my child because my face is flat, when I would rather be hungry than eat; I am a hungry ghost.

Last night, I scooped my baby up and we went to the bedroom and we played. We sang, danced, and bounced. We talked to our toys. She found mama's face had come back, and the ghost in me was chased off.

Every moment I am learning that it's never fixed for good. I will never clean my house and have it stay clean. The laundry will be done and undone. My marriage will not relocate to that place where it is permanently good. I will be reborn over and over again. Some mornings reborn with my Buddha nature shining through, then the next second reborn into a hungry ghost.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I don't have a Masters degree. I have an almost Masters degree.
I had a personal renaissance when I began graduate school that I look back on fondly, but the culmination of the program was writing a thesis. I love writing, but I don't love writing this thesis. This probably means I picked the wrong topic, but there is nothing I can do about this now. It's something like, Teaching Information Literacy to Young Children Using Research Based Early Childhood Principals. I have written one chapter and collected the research. I have two more chapters to write. I don't actually believe that I will EVER do this. I turned in the chapter a few weeks before Ramona was born and the plan was to not think about it again until I went back to work in the fall. Here it is October and I dread looking at my university e-mail. I dread turning my attention back to this darn paper.

My attention is directed at my family and my work. I am already a librarian and I don't believe that writing this paper will make me better at my work. Finishing up my Masters will give me a hardly noticeable pay raise. As a working mom I have very little time at home with my baby. When I get home, everything stops and I play with her, feed her, care for her, love her. When she goes to bed I spend time resting and being with my husband. I don't want to write this paper.

I feel overwhelmed by the stupidity of getting this close to getting a Masters degree and then wimping out. It is insane to spend all that money and get that close and not finish the degree. It would be one thing if I was half finished. But I'm not, I'm about 20 pages (and some long edits) away from being done.

Just write the paper, you say??? Oh really, so simple. Why didn't I think of that??

It is so simple. So very simple. Write the paper....write the paper....write the paper.

This is the last time I will speak of this until I actually buckle down and get started with the writing. If you don't hear about it again, it's because I'm a massive loser.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Book Review - Llama Llama Red Pajama

Last year I bought Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney for the library. It's a cute book, but definitely more appropriate for babies and toddlers. I'm not going to pretend that Ramona really has preference when it comes to books and music, but I love reading this fun, sweet book to her.

And more than that, I love "playing" this book with Ramona. "Ramona, no more of this llama drama, please be patient for your mama!" "Mama kisses baby's hair, Mama Llama goes downstairs." I find myself saying the rhymes of this book constantly.

On a side note though, what is with Mama Llama's clothes? She wears a dress with a ruffly collar, an apron, and pearls! Is this what Anna Dewdney thinks mamas look like? I love that the characters are llamas. What animal is sweeter or cuter? But I wish the llama mama was wearing a sweat shirt or perhaps a nursing tank.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Night's Alright for....going to bed at 8.

What happened last night, you ask?? What happened to Friday Night Book Review??
This is what happened:
Ramona was asleep by 8:20, I left her room, walked across the hall, got in my own bed and went to sleep. I woke at midnight to have a bowl of cereal and then I went back to bed.
I feel like a million bucks today. When Ramona woke at 6 I wanted to wake up too. We bounced, we sang, we made coffee. I cleaned the kitchen!!
Last Friday night I was just as tired, but I tried to hammer out a review anyway, and It went something like this "Book sucked, I'm tired, sorry, goodnight".
I think I will have to pick a different time to do book reviews. Maybe I will just review when I feel like it. We will see...I really like structure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

small, but growing

This morning I recalled some advice from a friend. The advice is 6 months old:

Nova: "My practice is small, but it's growing. However, I'm not a Tantra kind of person. A teacher said to my class "these modern times call for strong magic, Tantra gives us that", and that makes sense. But I still don't think it's for me. I don't know where to go next. I feel like I need a teacher, but I don't think I'm in the right place. But what other place is there?"

Nova's Friend: "Take Refuge Vows, Consider Your Heart, Practice. Then see what happens."

I didn't know what to do with that 6 months ago. This morning, maybe I do.
My commitment is small, but it's growing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Never Apologize

I made a pretty big clerical mess in the library this week and it took many people to help straighten it out. I sent e-mails requesting help, along with apologies
One of my fellow librarians wrote this back to me, "Never Apologize". She said it simply, with no anger. Never Apologize. It warmed my heart. It gave me the ability to face my mountain of work, rising hostility, and the feelings of inadequacy.

So, for the rest of this week, I'm not apologizing. If that doesn't work....I'm going to resort to a well timed, "SUCK IT, MONKEYS!" (Thank you Liz Lemon)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Ida B

Ida B...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan: This is a book about a spunky little gal that talks to apple trees and communes with nature. Things are going great in her life until her mother gets cancer (see, I told you... sick, dying, and dead mothers are a major theme in children's lit). While her mother struggles to get well, her family has to quit homeschooling Ida and has to sell some of the land they own and apple trees are cut down in order to pay medical bills (btw......No public option! Are you kidding me?!). Ida hardens her heart and becomes a pretty mean person for awhile. The story is kind of pathetic (not in a good way).

I was planning on using this book as an excuse to write about homeschooling, but Ramona is teething and she cried all evening. I'm too tired to make a coherent statement.

Put down the blog, Nova. Go to bed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I knew I was good for something!

My school is “remaking” itself into a more high achieving learning environment and part of this has been a lot of serious study of ourselves. It has been pretty painful. I feel like I’ve been asked a million times what my strengths are. I could go on and on about my weaknesses, but lately I feel like I have no strengths.

Yesterday I was behind the bookcase in my office, pumping the milk, and I was thinking about things I could do to keep Ramona (and me) sleeping longer at night when I realized that I really like solving problems. It’s what I love best about kids. With kids you can begin anew each day. You can influence their environment! You can give them more attention, you can remove that negative stimulus, you can do 20 minutes of alphabet flash cards, you can put them in a different place in the crib! You can fix them!

This is what I loved about teaching first grade. There were many Fridays when I went home feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to go on, that if the kids kept not learning, talking over me, throwing chairs…..whatever…I was done with teaching. What always happened was that over the weekend I came up with a brand new system and Monday morning went about fixing the problems of the room. I feel the same way about Ramona. I feel like I get kids. I know when to apply the pressure, I know when to stick to my high expectations, I also know when to let go, and I know how to love. This filled me with a moment's delight. My strength is that I try hard and that I love kids, my strength is that I know when to let go and love.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

meanwhile...back at the baby

Today I noticed that while I've been busy slugging it out with this god awful month, Ramona has grown a lot. While I gossiped and lamented with fellow grownups, let my driver's licence expire,watched my car break down, and got sick, Ramona has grown another month older.

She has begun to eat solids, she can roll around on the floor, turn herself on her tummy in her crib, and sit up without help. She grabs things with her hands! She splashes and swims in the bathtub!

She did this all with sweet, diligent practice. Calmly ignoring her crazy mom.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - The House in the Night

So......tonight I'm going to talk about The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson (Illustrated by Beth Krommes). This picture book was the Caldecott Winner last year and the pictures are obviously wonderful, but the illustrations are not the only great thing about The House in the Night.

It's like a traditional poem with a cumulative pattern. Here is the key to the the house burns a light....In the light rests a bed.....and so on. In the beginning, Swanson simply references concrete objects, but as the pattern grows the objects are less literal and more lyrical:

On that bed waits a book.
In that book flies a bird.
In that bird breathes a song...
all about the starry dark.

Read this to your children. They will want to hear it again and again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

this lower form of UN-happiness

It was brought to my attention by my mother that this family happiness that I've been experiencing is very nice, but that in a Buddhist sense, it's a lower form of happiness. It's not as low as the happiness of excess (you know, sex, drugs, rock and roll), but it is still a happiness that is rooted in attachment. That it's not an enlightened happiness and that it exists only when things are "working".

Goodness, she's right. For about the last two weeks nothing has been working and I have not been happy. I really think it all goes back to two Fridays ago when I listened to a "demotivational" speech. By coincidence, it's all been bad since. I think I'm going to write a book called Nova and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad MONTH.

There is the matter of my expired drivers licence (gosh darn it people, I GET IT, don't write about illegal actions on the internet, I GET IT, I GET IT. But it's really taken a toll on me and it's FIXED so I'm going to talk about it), and then work being very stressful, and then me getting sick, and Ramona and the not sleeping at night thing.

I feel so far away from my family. I feel like a bad mom. I feel like a bad wife. I feel like a bad teacher. And I also feel like a big, fat whiner.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ramona and her father

I'm feeling a little under the weather. I'm not sure if this is a little thing, or something that is turning into a big thing, but this has caused me to do something I have not done in the 4 months of my daughter's life. I took the evening off.

Since my Ramona is nursing, I did that part, but I left everything else to her dad. All the playing, entertaining, holding...he even gave her a bath.

I just laid around. I rested and read. I also noticed. I noticed something that I had been suspecting for the last week or so. Ramona is a daddy's girl. My first clue was when I picked her up from daycare last week. This is usually Brian's job, but he was working late. Our daycare person had told me before that she loves seeing how happy Ramona gets when Brian shows up. So, she made a huge deal announcing my arrival...."Ramona, GUESS WHO's HERE....It's your mama!!" Despite the nice intro, I didn't get the excited face. She was very busy looking at the carpet.

This is a new development. For the first three months of her life I was IT. I was the only one that could soothe her when she was super fussy, the smell of me calmed her immediately. I found it absolutely exhausting and it was hard to hear my husband say "I think she hates me."

So, let's hear it for Ramona and her father. Thank god.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Not a Box!

Sometimes I get to the end of a lesson in the library and I've run out of steam, patience, or stuff to do. When I taught first grade everything was paced differently. It was like marathon running, where as teaching in the library is like sprinting.

This week during a kindergarten lesson (dear god, kindergarten teachers should get paid more than the rest of us) I just gave up. I had about 10 minutes left and was tired of doing what I had planned for them. I grabbed Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and we had a ball with that silly thing. I love books that encourage shouting, like the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. It just cracks me up when little kids get indignant about the antics of line drawn characters.
In the book, a bunny pretends to do fun stuff with a box and the kids get to shout at the book to make guesses about what the bunny is pretending.
This is how it works:
Librarian : Why are you sitting in a box?........... Oh, it's not a box?
Kids: It's a SPACESHIP!!!!

The illustrations are very plain, quite like a cardboard box. It's a fun, easy book. Now I just need to go buy Not a Stick.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

when wednesdays attack!

Yesterday was a bad day. Sometimes tragically funny.....mostly just god awful.

Stupid things happened, along with lots of little tiny things that have been piling up. Also, I have a lot more work to do than time to do it and people are sad/mad at me all the time.

Rather than go on and on about all the things, I'm just going to provide a snap shot of yesterday's crap fest.

I owe T Mobile a phone. I've been absent minded and busy. No kidding, they have been calling me at least 10 times a day. It's demoralizing.

Other things happened too, things I really shouldn't write about on the internets....the whole day was not good. I was so busy holding the pieces together I didn't get to eat lunch or pump the milk!

Today wasn't that much better. It was a mess, minus the hilarity. I stayed a few minutes late today and made a Covey's Quadrant.
My plan is to do one thing at a time and get it done, or not. I'm going to use the weekend to cuddle my baby and get my milk supply back up. And above all, not indulge in the drama of everything going wrong.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Artemisia Revisited

On Friday, a student came to the library to discuss the book, Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan.
She said Artemisia was her favorite character because she was "wild and free". I told her that my heart broke when Artemisia's baby was found out in the wilderness, dead.

Then to my surprise, the student said "I didn't really get the point of the foal, and nether did my friends". This completely floored me. "What do you mean you didn't get the point of the baby horse??"
But I realized, that a 10 year old girl is wild and free too. And isn't that wonderful.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No Child Left Behind

I've been a teacher for seven years. I became a teacher during the Bush administration and No Child Left Behind education reform is all I know. By the time I got my first job as a first grade teacher, educators had decided to quit fighting it and make the best of NCLB. Some good things have come from this very flawed legislation. Attention was given to sub groups that in the past may have been ignored. Hard working teachers found a way to work harder. We decided not to worry about the political aspects, we would teach the kids and let someone else worry about 2014.

Ah....2014. This is the magical year that 100% of students will become proficient in reading and math. As we get closer to 2014 the standards have been raising dramatically. The school in which I teach has entered this school year having not make the goal for the last two years. This is when things start to become scary. The pressure is being applied. We are like the Kansas City Royals. We have lost, we keep losing, our moral is low, we are losing faith. And it's only September.

Last week when our president was set to address the students of this nation plenty of people, some without children in the district, called our Central Office outraged that we were going to allow the students to hear the address. Suddenly everyone was political. But why is it that no one has called to express outrage that the Kansas City Star has released that our schools are Failing? Doesn't that bother people? They should either be outraged about their failing schools, or outraged that their schools are being held to impossible standards. But one cares.

The best thing about this country is that education is available to everyone, and it's the best there is to be had. We will educate you no matter what. If you don't speak English, if you have disabilities, goodness....we'll even educate you if you try to burn the darn building down. Bless this institution and protect it. And fight for it's good name.

Now, I'm going to do my job and I'm going to love it. I'm going to let other's worry about the blame and the praise (thank you, Karen). But I'm going to stop being so complacent about this destructive piece of legislation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - 39 Clues

I have a lofty goal as a modern mother. I am hoping to keep Ramona away from Harry Potter.........until she is ready to hear the books and be able to comprehend the story. It will break my heart if she watches some Harry Potter movie on TV at someone's house and the story will be spoiled for her. Sure, the movies are fine, I've watched them.....but they are just movies. I think for the magic of the story to hit your heart, you have to not know about it before you read. It ruins it if you already know this ordinary boy turns into The Harry Potter. I want this for Ramona. I imagine us cuddled in a chair and me opening the book and reliving the magic with her. Oh friends, let me have my fantasy.

Now, this brings us to 39 Clues. It's nothing compared to Harry. But the premise reminds me of what I like about the story of Harry Potter. Ordinary kids finding the secret to who they really are and then living a totally new life. This is a theme I very much enjoy. I think most people like to imagine that their real selves have yet to be reviled.

Also, 39 Clues has fun gimmicks. Each book is written by a different author that specializes in action, adventure, and mystery. There is also an online gaming and trading card element that I'm not interested in, but I can see how it would appeal to kids with money to spend and lots of Internet time. However, the books are able to stand on their own.

I'm not going to go too much into the plot, and it's pretty much all plot. Two tweens, Dan and Amy Cahill, set out to win a dangerous and mysterious contest/deadly scavenger hunt posed by their deceased grandmother.

I am ambivalent about this series. It's fun, I like the books, but it's like a Dean Koontz primer. In my adult life as a book snob, I would have nothing to do with Dean Koontz or anything Koontz-like. Then why am I ok with this for kids???

My mom used to get onto me for spending all my money and reading time on Babysitter's Club books because she didn't think they were worth reading. I loved these books so much and read them like crazy. I learned to be entertained by books and I learned to be a fluent reader with that crappy series. I outgrew them and went on to much more substantial books. This is all part of becoming a reader. Some of my 39 Clues readers will never move on, and some of them will. If I can at least get them to read something, then we have something to work with.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

she shines pretty darn bright - aka Buddha Nature

In class, we were once asked to explain the difference between unattachment and indifference. I couldn't do it. I knew I wanted there to be a difference, but I just didn't understand. Now I know. Ramona is delightfully unattached. I drop her off at daycare. She smiles, I leave, she smiles some more. She holds something soft and wonderful in her hands, it goes away, she moves on. Does she love stuff? Oh yes, very much so. But she doesn't know how to hold on.

Every morning after I feed Ramona she puts her head back and stares at the room like she has never seen it before. This morning I gave her a big kiss on her softie baby cheek. She gave me this lovely happy/surprised look. Like she had never had a kiss in her life and it quite delighted her. "mommy, did you make that up?! Kissing!!" If I ever doubted that the purpose of life is to be happy, I believe it now.

This makes up for the fact that we have backtracked a bit in the quest to sleep through the night. Ramona has devoted her nights to diligently practicing turning over. She's doing it in her sleep and then waking herself up. This bugs me, but it has also inspired me. I wish I felt so driven to practice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Lucky

This week I was delighted to run across Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (yes, I'm surprised by the books I find in my very small library, yes, sometimes I'm not the greatest librarian). I had read The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron in 2007, but had no idea there was a sequel (once again, I'm not the greatest at my job. Sometime remind me to tell you about a picture book that I'm going to write about myself called The Librarian that Couldn't Find Anything).

The Higher Power of Lucky is an example of my favorite style of children's fiction. It's deep and quirky. Realistic fiction without being all that realistic. I was so excited to read the sequel and review it for Friday Night Book Review, but instead I reread Higher Power and have only just begun Lucky Breaks.

Lucky is a little girl living out in the middle of the desert in a small town/large trailer park called Hard Pan. Her mother has died (btw....what's with dead moms and children's lit?) and is being fostered by her absent father's first wife. One of the noteworthy things about this book is that the word scrotum is on the first page. Because this book was the Newbery winner, a lot was made over the word being on the first page. The loveliness of the story was a bit overshadowed by the drama.

I haven't finished reading Lucky Breaks, but I will say that it is just as lovely as The Higher Power of Lucky. Lucky's new mom says that grown ups have more candles on their cakes because they have more wishes. And when Lucky feels lonely for her first mom, she imagines sitting on the edge of her mother's green chair and thinks about how she used to breathe with her. So nice.

Now, I'm off to finish the book and start working on a will. Moms are dropping like flies apparently.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

dog abuser

A teaching from the book Words of my Perfect Teacher (paraphrased by myself, who is far from perfect): Do not cause the suffering of someone that you hold authority over. It is especially important for you to be kind to those in a position lower than yourself. You’s bad karma to treat others badly. Period.

This brings us to our current dog/friend drama. Brian and I were sent a very condescending forward about treating your dogs well and the friend that sent it added this little note: “thought of you when I read this….dog abusers”. I was outraged. A texting war ensued. I believe I won when I called her a friend abuser.

Seriously people, if you are friends of new parents, do what you can for them. Love them, support them, and coo over their baby.

But also, if you are a very dear friend, call them on their shit. We have been treating our dog badly. I have been ignoring dear small Sophie, and treating her like an un-family member.

I’ve been hard on her to protect my baby……my responsibilities have me overwhelmed……we are fragile right now........ None of that matters when it comes to the karmic baggage I’m carrying around. And like all the endings of my posts…..I resolve to do better…..I resolve to do better…..I resolve to do better.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

on the other side now

I taught first grade before I became a school librarian. I've had to tell parents things that are hard to hear....I'm going to leave it at that. Wouldn't want to get "dooced" (to lose one's job because of one's website).

I'm on the other side now. It was reported to us that Ramona had a sad, sad day at daycare. I took it very personally. I want my baby to be happy all day and the guilt that I had been secretly saving tumbled all over me. I defensively said to my husband, "She doesn't act like that at home!". PEOPLE, I SAID THAT. As a teacher, this is something that I heard from parents a lot, and I always thought it was ridiculous. But it's true, and I should have known that. A child is like a grown up in the way that they behave differently, with different people and places.

Being a mom has made me softer. More compassionate.

I think now of the nights that I've ruined with my dreaded teacher phone calls. Maybe I wouldn't change anything if I had it to do over, but I would have more compassion in my voice this time around.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Oh, Brother!

This week I read Oh, Brother! by Nikki Grimes to my third graders. It's a story told through twenty poems about a blended family coming together. It goes down so smooth you hardly realize you are reading poetry (sorry poets!).

It really hit my kids right in their hearts. The story of a family coming together. The empty feeling in your heart when your mom and dad aren't a family anymore, the desperate greed you feel when you have to share what feels unsharable. And then the joy when you find something whole where you used to have something broken.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ramona and her mother

Welcome to the new blog. My best friend, Nicole Parigo, whipped this up for me today. She also took the photograph.

I renamed my blog. My baby was named with Little Miss Quimby in mind, so it seems natural to name my blog after her as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

professional help

My Ramona is a breastfed baby. Sunday night I realized I was down to three frozen bags of milk after dipping into my reserves all week because I just wasn't pumping enough milk at work. I cried and felt disappointed. I was failing working motherhood.

I’m proud of the milk I give her. And I need to cut that shit out. I am reminded of a Buddhist story where the monk’s head is neither turned by blame or praise. There is my baby, there is the milk, and sometimes there will be the formula. I prefer to nurse her and I prefer that she drink breast milk. And we will take it one day at a time. I'm not going to have my head turned by this. I will not feel pride for feeding her breast milk, neither will I feel blame for feeding her formula. I will feed my baby, I'll love her and we will grow.

.....However, I met with a lactation consultant. She gave me some good ideas and a kick ass breast pump to try. All is good in novaland.
Never underestimate the power of professional help. Be it a priest or a lactation consultant. We need teachers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

stfu Victor Hugo

victor hugo - definition of heaven - "a place where parents are always young and children are always little".

Yes, stfu indeed, Victor Hugo. Tonight I feel certain that a quote like this could only come from a man. He probably thought this up while he was smoking his pipe or whatever by a fire while Mrs. Hugo was up breastfeeding baby Hugo for the 26th time that day.
Ramona is taking the catnap approach to sleeping tonight. It is nearly midnight and she has been up twice since nine. Heaven is a place where your baby knows mommy needs to play internets undisturbed.

I'm thinking about going to sleep, so I can maybe "not hear her" next time she wakes up.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

trust it

When Ramona was 3 weeks old I e-mailed Karen Maezen Miller.
I was full of anxiety, depressed and very sweaty. I told her about what a mess of a mother I was. To my great surprise, she wrote back and said this: "When we are a mess,we no longer have a choice but to trust the way". Trusting the way. But what does that MEAN??? I'm so attached to the plan I need to have it surgically removed from my brain.
Part of the plan was that I would go back to work this week. I have a good feeling about the person I have chosen to care for Ramona. She seems to be kind, gentle and compassionate. When I drop Ramona off I actually feel a rightness with the world. I feel proud to be a working mom.Now here's the tough part. Nothing works the way it did. The schedule that we naturally and comfortably fell into is gone. She takes 2 hours to get to sleep at night, and wakes up during the night again. I have no idea when she will be hungry. Knowing me, I should be freaking out. I should be calling and e-mailing friends with kids for advice. I should be, but I'm not! Friends, I'm not. I'm trusting the way. I'm going to keep feeding my baby and I'm going to keep coaxing her to sleep. I know it's going to happen and for the first time in my life I don't need someone to talk me into trusting the way. Because I honestly do.

Friday, July 31, 2009

nova in real life

As a librarian, I am called to cite my sources. This post is completely inspired by Brandy Roth.

Roth, B. (2009). The Mysterious Mrs. B Roth. retrieved from Internet on July, 31 2009. (that's the geekiest thing I've done in quite awhile.)

Brandy wrote out the five priorities in her life and it inspired me to think about mine. I began to list the important roles in my life. Wife, mother, librarian, learner, spiritual practitioner......and then oh, my house(!), I should also be a home manager....oh! and also my family, being a sister, daughter, and aunt! I thought of nine important areas to focus on. Having nine is NOT prioritizing. It's the opposite of balance. I've decided to choose four. That seems manageable, right? So here it is. Thanks Mrs. B. Roth.

I am the wife of Brian. I am completely frank with Brian about everything. This is good and bad for the marriage. I hurt his feelings. I treat him like he might possibly not have feelings. My mom has told me that Dr. Phill (yes, I'm going there) says that marriage is a branch above a raging river. No matter how bad that branch can be, at least it isn't in the raging river. This is a darn bleak picture, but I find it comforting for some reason. Point just don't let go of that branch. What Brian needs from me is friendship. He needs kindness and compassion. I show more consideration to co-workers than my own husband. Above all, I should be giving him the best of me, instead I usually give him the worst of what my raggedy soul can dish up.

Dearest Ramona, while writing this I can say that I have never done you wrong. You are three months old and I have mothered you like it's the only thing in my life. I've spent 45 minutes happily pumping milk that you guzzle down in 10 minutes and then spit up. I can say that I've never messed up, I've been a good mother to you. Ramona, that is about to end. Any minute now I'm going to start falling down on the job. I'm going to make mistakes, I'm going to feel guilty. However, I can promise that despite everything else on this list, being your mother is the most important thing I am.

Spiritual Practitioner:
Last winter I read something about commitment on a Starbucks coffee cup. I felt like it might be a sign that it was time to commit to Buddhism. I've still not done this. My mom dove right in, but I've held back. It's not because I don't believe in the eight hot hells or celestial Buddhas. It's because I'm lazy. It's because rather than sit on the cushion and empty my mind, I watch my TV, I feed my baby, I eat cheetos........anything. I write this. But I don't sit on the cushion. Rather than taking refuge, I continue to drown in my attachments. I know studying the dharma and engaging in a real daily practice is the right path for me.

I've been on maternity leave for 3 months and it's time to go back to work. The real world begins now. I've said so many times to people over the last year that I want to keep working. This is my career, I have an almost masters degree, I love my work. I'm not sure if this is true, I really might just need the money. I want to re-commit to librarianship. I would not say that my first year of being a librarian was that successful. I can do better this year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I am a horrible meditator. I struggle very much to sit still. I love the idea of it, but actually being still and emptying my mind gives me panic attacks. I know a lot of things, I know Buddhists mediate. I know that "meditation is not suppose to hurt, life hurts, meditation is a relief from hurt".

Once while meditating with a sanga (group) my foot fell asleep. I tried to ignore it, but I began to really lose my foot. And with it my mind. I reached down to touch my foot and, honest to god, I thought I was touching someone else's foot. It scared me silly and I began to worry that I might actually never get feeling back in my foot. At this point there was NO meditation happening. It's just me pretending to mediate and trying not to bother others. I was so scared that I was going to lose my foot that I began to sweat and feel sick to my stomach. Sitting still sent me into such a panic that every time I sat on the cushion I would feel ill.

My most recent meditative experience was pretty typical for me. I spent most of the session not actually emptying my mind, but just trying not to jump out of my skin. However that evening I had a moment of dharma clarity. Buddhist teachers always say to be gentle with yourself. Your mind is a toddler running out to a dangerous street. Calmly and patiently keep bringing your toddler-mind back to nothing. My moment of clarity came from watching Ramona toss back and forth, banging her head from side to side. Despite being very tired, she fought sleep. I kept patting her until she gave up, let go and fell asleep. She needed patience and love to get to sleep. I am the same way. Putting my child to sleep is my practice.
"Your life is your practice." - Karen Mazen Miller
Yes, Nova, this life.

too long for twitter

I keep wanting to write more....more than just tweets....I want to explain it all a bit better.