Literary Circles

You guys, I prefer to write in coffee shops or other public places where the bustle and noise help me zoom in and get less distracted that I would at my desk on a lunch break or in my house with dinner cooking. Coffee shop times have been few and far between this summer and I’m finding myself with lots to say but no reasonable place to get started.

We got the school supply list last week and along with the usual Montessori things (don’t forget your slippers and mug), we also have some fun and random things like, Three Colors of Acrylic Paint, Your Child’s Choice of Colors and Library Card. Which are great and lost. Also, asking my child to choose three colors will be a herculean effort as her mother and I try to corral her while she extols the virtues of Cadmium versus Pyrrole Orange.

Speaking of herculean efforts, we will also be trying to explain to RR the value of a Literary Circle and of books themselves as more than just vehicles for visual art. These small book discussion groups feature books that look good to me but are, at a glance, possibly torture. I imagine that, for RR, torture in the Montessori tradition involves book clubs. So, because she is no help at all in choosing her torture devices, I put them here in case one of you has read one and thinks a rising 4th graders with a large vocabulary but slow reading speed might find it at all interesting:

Brown Girl Dreaming
Hello, Universe
Inside Out and Back Again
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
Joesephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine (also in Brazen!)
Babe Didrickson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion
Merci Suarez Changes Gears
Hurricane ForceL In the Path of America’s Deadliest Storms (this one is out)
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life
The Five Ancestors: Snake
Savvy
The Night Diary
When You Reach Me
Turtle in Paradise
The Seven Tales of Trinket
The Heart of Everything That Is

Any recommendations welcome!

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The Artist at School

Back to school involves choosing a historical character to represent, doing some research, and getting ready to write a report to present to the lower grades. Since RR is wholly uninterested in the task, I suggested we look at Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, a very excellent graphic novel, which joins the recent canon of Books About Women Who Changed Things. I love it for its inclusion of little known women and international figures. And of course, the story of Annette Kellerman, the first mermaid. So there I was, Brazen in hand, suggesting Nellie Bly (because she’s awesome) and I was informed with a substantial eye-roll that Georgia O’Keefe was not in that book.

Oh, I see. I was supposed to have read her mind and understood that she could not consider any other historical figure because Georgia. O’Keefe. Duh.

Is this what 12 will be like? Because I need my own eye-roll for that.

The Artist at Work

RR submitted a painting to competition last weekend and won. No burying the lede there! It was the local county fair so competition in the junior oils set wasn’t terribly steep but I’m pretty sure she’d have won regardless. She amazes me with her talent for oil painting.

She was a little nervous, I think, but certain she would win something. I’m not surprised. When she dropped it off, adults came from across the room to tell her they admired it. This is how RR’s life goes. If it’s not the paintings, it’s the freckles, if it’s not the freckles, it’s her manners, if it isn’t that, well, it’s always something.

I don’t remember getting a lot of compliments as a kid and so I let her eat them up. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. Of course, I question whether we’re doing it right but with this one, she’ll have other challenges (hi there, multiplication!), so let’s let her have this.

And it’s a good thing to have!

Hoo Boy

Want to be shocked that we’ve known each other so long? RR turned nine on Tuesday. NINE. I’m grappling with complicated feelings about it, more than any other birthday, because she’s right on the edge of Big Girl and is about to tumble headlong into Pre-Teen.

It doesn’t seem right, how can nine be almost pre-teen? How can my baby be almost a pre-teen? How can it be she wants both a phone and a doll? Both a floaty for the pool and a face mask with cucumbers for her eyes? She got all of those things (yes, I’m that mom who gave her nine-year-old a phone and I’m ruining it for all the other moms, I know, but at least it’s wifi only) but she hasn’t put the doll down for more than a minute and is ducking into her new play tent (also designed for the younger set, I think) every chance she gets.

My mom is in town for THREE weeks and I don’t think she realizes that she’s unlikely to see RR when they are at home alone together because the privacy that tent offers is way more enticing than a grandma. Today she came out of her room bearing the slinky we got and bounced it while checking her texts. I don’t know what to do with this person who is so much of the cusp of a new stage. I don’t know what to do with my own complicated emotions. I guess we’ll just keep on living here in this moment of transition and appreciate the in-betweenness of it all before it gets whisked away.

4th Grade

Believe me, I know. Fourth already? There’s nothing like the passing of another birthday for your child that makes you reckon with the passing of time. Her ninth birthday is looming and I can’t count the number of people who have said “I can’t believe it, nine already? She was just a baby!” Don’t I know it.

I have lots of things to say about fourth grade but this post is really about the passing of years and the ending of third, in particular. RR attends a Montessori school and the children are grouped into classrooms spanning three grades. She has progressed in the same classroom since she was 5, with the same teacher, and the same children. This year’s crop of first graders has been a particularly enjoyable experience for RR, who is young for her age and happily plays with and teaches the smaller set.

Her teacher has been a compassionate, attentive, kind, funny person who has taken RR’s same traits and helped them flourish. She’s one of the most calm and thoughtful people I’ve met and I know for certain that we can thank her for helping RR’s personal space bubble evolve, nurturing her drawing skills, ensuring she could read and write beautifully, and teaching her to channel her frustration at learning new facts into curiosity and enjoyment. You guys, Montessori has been the right choice for RR since the beginning. I’m sure you know how it feels to just know you’ve made some parenting decision solidly right.

But today it ends, friends. Today is the day she rises up to fourth grade. The last day of school. The last day in this classroom with this teacher. I’m not great with lasts as a general rule but I’m a wreck. Somehow this artificial moment makes me feel like my little girl is gone, replaced by the person who has been glimmering in the distance. I’m thrilled with that person’s confidence and maturity, I’m not so thrilled to be saying goodbye to my baby.

I know, I know. You’re right, of course. You always are. This IS artificial. She’s still the same person. It’s a ceremony is all, a last day, a bookmark. But I’m a cryer, happy or not, and I’m an emotional disaster. I need all your tips to keep from crying. Cause I have a day to get through and no real confidence I can get through it in one piece.

Actually, NO

This is how I feel about my body acting like an asshole. I’ve mostly gotten over quirks I can’t do anything about. We’re not at war, I’m not bemoaning my brain chemistry, I’ve tried to internalize that there is not a normal. My naive hope that my body and I had reached peaceful relations has come to an end as I find myself suddenly under siege. Perimenopause. What the actual fuck. WordPress doesn’t even recognize it as a word, that’s how lame it is.

I went to the doctor. I know! I went willingly. Why, I asked? Why this particular bullshit? Why now? Why do I itch? Why am I waking up at night shivering? And don’t even start me on hot flashes. What are these things? I mean, I don’t have enough strong language for a hot flash. Estrogen dominance, she said. But, and I respect this, she had profane feelings about hot flashes, too. The commiseration was nice.

I work in a place with plenty of women 5-15 years older than I am and a fair number wield cardigans and fans. I refuse, friends, to fan myself in a meeting. But if this is any sort of warning bell, I fear the first pre-meeting/class flash. And I’m angry. Mad as a hornet, I said to the doctor. She said, it’s no use, it’s not helpful. She’s probably right but it makes me feel better to rage around like the running of the bulls for a bit.

It’s not grief over the end of child-bearing years, though I suppose that’s a pretty common thing, it’s absolute frustration that I have no control over this phenomenon without some sort of medication. Or, of course, the advice for anything wrong with you – more greens, less refined sugar, more exercise, more sleep, less stress. Are you kidding me? I need the refined sugar to deal with the broccoli and cauliflower.

Mad as a hornet. And not a damn thing I can do to stop it.

Am I Doing This Wrong?

I have no idea if I’m doing this parenting thing right. As far as I can tell, there’s not a commonly agreed upon metric beyond the basic ‘do no harm, no, seriously‘. I can also tell that this is a common insecurity held frequently by people doing a damn good job. I look at you all as paragons of parenting or paragons of good advice, or both. Perhaps you have advice or speculation?

Things I have worried about of late:
1. Not encouraging RR to be on the swim team (stick-to-itive-ness)
2. Not insisting she learn to swim AND breathe (survival)
3. Not taking her to practice riding her bike (practice is important if you want to do something well)
4. Not buying her oil paints and a guitar (it’s worth it to nourish your hobbies)
5. Letting her watch too many YouTube videos (live life in person)
6. Not having more playdates (social life is also important)

Now, I know no one is perfect. I did bake cupcakes with her this weekend, Debra played stuffed animals with her, we didn’t make her run errands, we played with her in the pool, hell, we TOOK her to the pool which, given my current body image, was a feat. Still, she says she’s lonely and she still watched too many videos and didn’t ride her bike. This is a lack of follow-through on my part and what is that teaching her? If we continue on this path, it becomes a downward spiral so let’s not.

How do you let it all happen without worrying? How do you handle it when your child says she’s lonely but doesn’t have particularly close friends? How do you insist she leave the cool house to practice a skill she doesn’t see a need to learn? It’s useless, this worrying, but here we are. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better.