Friday, May 30, 2008


For six years I was an elementary school music teacher. I was passionate about music education at the elementary level and I was damn good at it, too. I studied the Kodal.y method and did copious amounts of research about folk music and childhood development. I was going to change the world or at least the world's opinion about classroom music. After my first year of teaching in H.ingham, MA I moved to South Florida with my then boyfriend. I loved the Haitian kids. They would giggle when I tried to speak Creole and taught me songs that I should have recorded. I felt like I was answering a higher calling by teaching a population that was poor and probably would never have the chance for music education outside of school. That's why I got into teaching - to help children learn to explore! When my five year relationship with D ended, I found no reason to stay in South Florida. I left in the middle of the year to save my own sanity and took a job in Houston. Although I grew up in the A.ustin area, I never really spent any time in Houston. A good friend lived there and I needed a place to go where I could lick my wounds and be single again. I found a small inner city school that badly needed a music teacher.

The three years I taught at JWJ would challenge me immensely. There was a homeless shelter that supplied a quarter of our children as well as a neighborhood of crack houses. In my insulated, liberal upbringing I had only heard about people who lived in this kind of abject poverty. I never actually met them. There were kids that I would never want to see again, and there were kids that I still wonder about to this day. I learned Spanish after I realized that my Pre-K music class had only one semi-English speaking child and I learned raunchy jump rope rhymes from the sassy 5th grade girls, which I did record this time.

In the middle of these learning experiences were some very negative ones. It was clear from the beginning that I was treated as an outsider. I thought that after they got to know me, they would understand that I only wanted to teach and do good things for the kids. I did not truly understand how these communities experienced life and how those experiences shaped their views of people. When No C.hild L.eft B.ehind was launched in earnest it put a lot of pressure on already struggling schools financially and academically. (I'm not trying to start a debate here. That is just how it happened.) The whole tone changed. It was viewed, at least in this community, as an assault on inner city schools. Things became difficult and I found myself liking my job less and less. The stress and the feeling that my presence there wasn't doing anybody any good made me decide to leave the profession. I radomly chose HR as a new profession because I thought it would be a smooth transition from teaching. I enrolled as a Graduate student, got a new job in an office and never looked back.

The other day a friend told me that JWJ is closing. They have been closing schools in H.ouston with low enrollment and the neighborhood was being overrun by one bedroom, trendy condos. It was only a matter of time. Most days I don't miss teaching. No matter how crazy my life is now, it does not compare to the stress and exhaustion of teaching. Sometimes, though, I think about how it felt to teach and to shape minds. There were days when I really loved it. There were days when you saw the light bulbs go on and learning was so fun and meaningful. Hearing about the closing was bittersweet. I went to the school's website and found a poem written by one of my choir kids. It was haunting and I wanted to share it with you:


Where can you find the blessing?

When the trees stop whispering and the wind stops roaring

And everything around you is one big fight

And your mother is not here to say I love you, my child

But when mother was here she always told me

You will be mighty and sorrowful

But there will be joy in the morning

That's why I wonder:

Are blessings really free between you and me?

"When everything around you is one big fight." Haven't you felt like that before? I have. I still think of myself as a teacher and in my quest to figure out who I am now, it still defines me. Even though I left on a negative note, I still consider my time as an educator as a blessing.

Have you ever made a big career change? Why did you do it and did it change the way you see yourself?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I survived my first week back at work. I felt really good until Friday when I realized I had a blocked duct in my right breast and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. The blocked duct I was able to fix without antibiotics, but the exhaustion is another matter. When I took Luke to daycare this morning I gave him a big kiss and handed him over to Miss Monica. She walked away and his little face watched me leave from over her shoulder. It was heartbreaking.

I have been feeling really disconnected lately. Three months ago I was a totally different person and now that I am back at work and interacting with adults, I realize that I miss the social part of my life. I also realized that I am not sure how I am supposed to feel or behave now that I am a parent.

I am very grateful for what I have. I have a loving husband and a beautiful son. I have a job and daycare that is less than a mile from where I live. I have parents that are close enough to come and babysit on weekends if we need help. I have so many blessing in my life. I can't figure out why I feel so restless.

I know that there are mommy groups out there, but I just don't feel like I have a lot in common with the mom's in this area. I like talking about organic food and politics - usually the liberal side. Houston is not known for either one of those things so it's been hard finding someone who I can relate to who also has a child close to Luke's age. I do have friends that have small children and they are wonderful people. The thing is, their kids can play with each other and Luke just isn't very interactive, yet. I have invited myself over a few times, but I feel badly doing that and it is awkward.

All of this is compounded by the fact that M still works on the house every weekend and we rarely go out and do anything as a family. I know that 3 month olds don't care where they are necessarily, but it's nice to get out and not be by yourself with a baby. I know other families go out with their babies because when I was trying to get pregnant they were EVERYWHERE.

One of my best friends is moving away soon and I realized that when she leaves I won't have that special "go to" person to talk to or meet for coffee, anymore. I know that it is my responsibility to go out there and meet people and that sitting at home feeling sorry for myself isn't going to help anything. I was concentrating so much on wanting to be a mom that I didn't realize I was supposed to be learning how to socialize as one, too. It just feels a little lonely, sometimes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Going Back

Once upon a time in a hot and humid kingdom there lived a princess who wanted a baby more than anything in the world. One wonderful day her wish came true and she had a beautiful baby boy. For three months the princess cared for her new little baby every day until one night she went to bed a princess and woke up a working mom.....

Yesterday I woke up before 6am, but not to feed Luke. It was time to return to the workforce. I could tell you that I cried all morning and watched the clock until 5pm, but that wouldn't be true. Everything went very smoothly. I dropped Luke off at daycare where he seemed very happy. I visited him at lunch and gave him a bottle. Then, M picked him up at 4:15pm and they were waiting for me when I got home a little after five. He wasn't damaged or sullen. He was the same happy baby as always.

I never really saw myself as a stay at home mom. It's another one of the many things that I never really understood before it happened to me. There is no clear cut feeling about being a working mother. Just as there is no one emotion I feel about my son. When I look at Luke I feel overwhelming love, fear, hope and fierce protectiveness. When I think about going back to work, I feel sad, excited, hopeful and scared. It's as if two different me's are fighting with each other. Logical me insists on working. There are safer cars to be bought, a bigger house to move into, and a good college to pay for. Providing is loving, too, after all. Emotional me sees every moment during the day that can never be repeated. Every milestone, every smile that I might have seen might now be experienced by someone else. Will he take his first steps towards me or his teacher? After wanting this so badly, how can I just walk away for eight hours a day, five days a week?

I don't have the answer and I can't tell you which part of me might ultimately win. We do need a new car and a bigger house with a yard that is big enough for a swing set. Logical Kate will be reminding Emotional Kate of this every minute of every day, I'm sure. In the mean time I wait for 11:15 to come around so that I can go to daycare and try to catch some of those moments that seem to be going by so quickly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

That Day

It's That Day. I know that so many feel very bittersweet about Mother's Day. I have to admit, I always thought of it as being for my mother. I didn't dare think about it in terms of myself.

When I got pregnant I always imagined a room full of flowers and some sort of huge celebration for my first Mother's Day. It's been quiet, and I have to admit I like that. My parents came into town, my mother brought me flowers. M is going to make a little piece of artwork for me with Luke footprints that I can take to work. The biggest miracle is that the temperature is mild and the humidity is low enough for us to have the windows open.

I have a family and a deep sense of gratitude that grows every day. A room full of flowers and a huge celebration seem to pale in comparison to that. I have everything I need.

Here is Luke in his baptism gown. It was worn by M and was made out of his mother's wedding dress. Love the bonnet!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's Been A Long Time.....

We made it back from Illinois and brought with us a nasty cold. I say nasty because it has been at least three years since I have had a cold. I have forgotten how much they suck Usually, my freakishly strong immune system laughs them off, but I think being sleep deprived has weakened everything. It has settled in my chest and so I go to my allergist tomorrow for some help. Having asthma and breastfeeding make my options for medications sort of tricky. To top it all off, I broke the breast pump. Well, I can still pump one side at a time, but I had to order a replacement part. The good news is that Luke has not shown any signs of getting the cold. Let's hope it stays that way.

Motherhood has been exhausting, although the happy and glad to do it kind of exhausting. Being sick and still having to be a mom? That has been really hard. I guess it sounds stupid to say that. Duh, right? M has been a tremendous help. Once again, my heart goes out to single mothers. I couldn't survive without my husband's help. Last night as I was warming up a bottle with a pounding headache, the fact that I don't get to rest and take a break from Luke just because I am sick really hit me. Every day I have little realizations like this. There are hundreds of little things that remind me that I really do get to keep this child because he is mine. I think that it still feels like a dream that I might wake up from any second.

There are many new Braces Bunch members and I am excited to start reading all of their posts. I have some cards of my own to send out, too. I will have a better post about our trip with some pictures as soon as I get some medicine. Sweet, beautiful medicine!