One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

March 21, 2014

Springtime

It’s almost spring. There is more light now, some warmth, and less aversion to leaving the house. I’ve shed the leggings I habitually wear under my pants and stroll now through the neighbourhood with my legs feeling bare and free under my jeans. I skip hats and scarves and I squint, rodent-like, at the sun as the girls and I walk to school in the morning. When we walk home in the afternoon, we choose the sides of the street with more sun and sing back to the chickadees, “spring’s heeeere! spring’s heeeeere!” Hannah tries to scale the shrinking snowbank mountain ranges as she’s done all winter, and her legs sink knee-deep into the weakening snowpack.

I’m in the middle of a big project. One that another programmer had quoted and begun but could not complete, so it was offered to me as a medium sized project, but has turned out to be a huge sized project.

It is nearly demoralizingly huge. In January, I had sat down and analyzed my schedule and concluded that my ideal workweek needed to be limited to 25 hours a week in order to let me be a focused mom during after school hours. Any more than that and I am essentially working over time, struggling to program at the same time as helping with homework and fetching snacks and starting supper. I burn out, fight with my kids and feel miserable about my home life.

But then this project came along, pitched to me as a crisis. And I have a hero complex, and so I’ve been working an average of 32 hours a week on it. In addition to that, I have been maintaining other clients and doing the kind of admin that freelancers don’t recognize as real work. It comes to 40-50 hours a week plus 20 hours of caring for & fighting with my kids.

I am quite, quite burnt out.

It has been seven weeks of this. Working weekends to try to catch up. Some nights up until 5 in order to hit a deadline for the client of the client. Quite burnt out.

Did I tell you that last spring I had decided to quit freelance programming in favour of writing a book that has been on my mind forever to write? Well I did that. I spent the summer letting myself just read and ruminate and didn’t push myself to accomplish anything since I had three kids at home plus dance performances in July and still some clients’ projects to finish. And when September came, I started, in earnest, working on my book outline.

And so from September to December, I wrote outlines, I did world building, I composed tiny bits of prose to feel out the emotional parts. But for the last year, there’s been a lot of budget cuts at the University, where Ian works. And in December, the latest report on which departments should be cut and restructured was due out. And so, after some Christmas-time deep discussion about risks, we concluded that the smart thing for me to do is to return to freelancing and make sure we have a safety net built up in the event that his department does get cut.

So I have been working accordingly. My book has been back-burnered for three months now. It’s not too terrible a hardship since I do love programming too. And it’s good to have a trade that is in high demand right now.

While I need to do a better job of vetting my projects to prevent this problem of being stretched too thin and burning out and not setting reasonable limits, I am blessed in so many ways. Ian has been immeasurably supportive – cooking most of the meals for the kids, bringing food to me at my desk when I’m working through supper, and even doing content insertion for me after the kids are in bed. The kids have been, overall, very sweet. Friends have been very supportive. I have many, many lovely supports in my life.

Just that what I need right now is a goddamn holiday.

October 23, 2013

Speech

Today was day eight of this flu. My body has nearly fought it off two or three times, but it keeps coming back worse. Today my body made noises like it was thinking maybe this should become a bout of bronchitis.

I was out for an hour-long meeting with a homeopath student friend so she could give me opinions about my health, but it involved a lot of talking and coughing and coming home exhausted and having more coughing fits and then fighting with all the kids. I spent some time on the couch feeling sorry for myself and then, having to go upstairs on some errand, found the kids still up. After a round of, “are you on your way back to bed? Everything all right?” we managed to sort things out something like this:

Me (poking my head into Ethan’s room): “If I ask if we can talk about that fight are you going to say something rude to me?”

Ethan: “Probably.”

Me: “Okay… I just-”

Ethan: “But it’s only because if I’m not mad at you I won’t cry and then I’d just cry later like at school.”

Me: “You don’t want to talk to me because you don’t want to cry?”

Ethan: “No, I would rather cry now and if I’m not mad at you I won’t cry.”

Me: “…Is this some kind of teenager logic because it makes no sense to me.”

Ethan: “Well I can’t cry for no reason.”

Me: “Oh yes you can. That’s the privilege of being a teenager. I cried over everything when I was a teenager. Like if I thought I was going to make spaghetti for lunch and then there was no spaghetti – I could cry over that. Why are you laughing? It’s true.”

Ethan: “Oh, I KNOW it’s true. That’s actually WHY I’m laughing.”

Me: “… So can I explain something to you about that fight?”

Ethan: “Sure.”

Me: “You may not like it, because it’s not actually about making peace or making you feel better. It’s about me…”

Ethan: “Okay.”

Me: “Sometimes you’re hard on me. Sometimes you’re very, very hard on me. Which is fine; it’s very natural and normal. But it feels profoundly unfair that when I ask you to go to bed and explain that I’m taking a hard line on it because I’m exhausted and sick and need some space that you know it’s because having you nearby is frequently hard on me, but your response is to get offended that my peaceful time doesn’t involve you and then be really hard on me.”

Ethan: “Uh, is this some kind of twisted adult logic? Because it makes no sense to me.”

Me: “Haha. Touch√©.”

Ethan: “No but really. You’re going to have to bring it down to my level. Hey! Do you know what bread is in latin?”

Me: “what?”

Ethan: “Panus.”

Me: “Hahaha. Wait, is Hannah crying?”

Hannah (poking her head out of her bedroom door): “I stubbed my toe when I was getting up to see you.”

Me: “Here, let me give you a hug. Sheesh. Is there anyone here who hasn’t been crying tonight?”

Rachel (poking her head out of her bedroom door): “I haven’t!”

Me: “Oh, I thought you’d been crying when I yelled at you about the hummus.”

Rachel: “Nope. I just went away with my head down.”

Me: “Well, I did want to let you know that I know I overreacted.”

Rachel: “Okay.”

Me: “I was just going over it with Ian after you went to bed. I’ll figure out why it pushed my buttons so badly and then you and I can discuss and figure out how we can have these conversations about food in the future without it getting so charged.”

Rachel: “Okay, cool.”

Me: “Are you good now, Hannah?”

Hannah: “Yep.”

Me: “Okay, good night.”

Hannah: “Good night.”

Rachel: “Good night.”

Ethan: “So this reminds me, when I was in math class-”

Me: “So about my needing some downtime-”

Ethan: “today, this girl who sits in front of me was saying-”

Me: “And apparently you’re going to be home with me all day tomorrow, so goodn-”

Ethan: “Okay, what I really want to know is, who fixed Edgar?”

Me: “Maybe he fixed himself. Goodnight.”

Ethan: “Edgar! Did you fix yourself? Who taught you to stitch? Who taught you?”

Me: “Uh-huh. Goodnight.”

Ethan: “I wish he could tell me. Maybe if he had a mouth.”

Me: “I guess you’ll have to stitch him a mouth. I love you. Goodnight.”

Ethan: “Love you too. Goodnight.”

October 2, 2013

A flock of birds

You know when you watch a flock of birds at dusk, the way they get wheeling and diving and yet never seem to run into each other? What a marvel of grace and perfect syncrony it looks like from the outside.

It seems obvious that there are nuances that the birds are aware of that the rest of us aren’t. That there is probably a moment where one bird senses the wing-draft of a nearby bird and corrects, trusting that the next bird over will do the same, until that micro-correction has rippled its way throughout the flock. The same way that when you hit the brakes for a child who ran out into traffic, you just have to trust that the cars behind you will catch your change and, likewise, correct.

I’m thinking of flocks of birds today because I had that kind of morning: a coffee and knitting visit with some other neighbourhood moms that went just a few minutes too long, and another mom with visitors in town who needed an emergency lunch-time kid pick-up, the car we were in belonging to the parent who needed to pick up more kids than she had carseats for,¬† and being two minutes late. There were ten chaotic minutes of swooping and diving – trying to call the school, fielding another call, children taking off in the wrong direction, trying to let parents know which child was where.

But this happens quite often, and in spite of the chaos it always seems to work out. Each child gets to where they need to go, the cars get dropped off where they need to be. If a child goes astray, they are known by all the other moms and someone makes sure they stay put or get walked home. We still finish with smiles and laughs – actually more so than on days when it all goes seamlessly. And at the end of today’s flocking, as we passed on the street saying, “you got your kid? Good. I was just trying to find you to let you know that kid is home with her mom and your car’s parked around the corner. Have a nice afternoon,” slipping her child a gluten-free vegan chickpea blondie, saying, “I won’t be offended if you don’t like it”, and getting a big, sweet smile from her as she bit into it and declared, “This is nice.”

I’ve had kids in the school system for nine years now. But I was always removed from the school by my work and daycares, which necessitates a regimented routine with no room for anything to go wrong – with daycare workers counting heads at each transition, children punished for wandering off and a misplaced kid being a calamity with kids punished swiftly lest the parents think to punish the daycare and your work counting the minutes you were gone dealing with calamities.

So it’s really cool to find that after a year of just doing drop-offs and pick-ups, there’s now this amazingly cool group of kids that I can count on to cheer Hannah up on a bad day, to give me hugs and cheer me up on a bad day, to wave to me across the playground, give me high-fives in the hallway, come to me if they’re hurt or need help getting home, and appreciate my baking. And there’s this amazingly cool group of parents that I can count on to jolly Hannah out of a bad mood when I’m too close to the situation, to give me hugs on a bad day, wave to me across the playground, give my kids high-fives in the hallway, help my children if they’re hurt or lost, and appreciate my baking.

Being part of a community is awesome.

September 10, 2013

Weird Days

I’ve been asked whether I had ditched my blog or started a new one. Nope, nope. I just had the crazy-busiest summer, with the kids home and four projects on the go.

Now that everyone is back in school and slowly (or doubtfully) starting to adjust to the new routine, I thought I’d come reacquaint myself with blogging. Perusing my drafts I found this post that I’d started and never posted back in June. I like what it documents, so I’m just going to publish this one and I’ll get writing proper again in the next week.

 


 

Today’s been one of those weird days.

To start with, the context for today is weird. I’ve been working like crazy, I have three projects on the go right now, all of which need to launch ASAP. Then, right at the apex of these projects, I dropped everything and went to the lake for four days with my extended family – which was great, but surreal in the way that sudden vacays that you’re too busy to spend any time anticipating are. You’re all, “so busy so busy so busy BAMMMM! Vacation!”

Came back from vacation and walked in the door to emails about things that needed to get posted right away. Then three days passed and I hadn’t even put away our lake stuff or done post-lake laundry and suddenly everyone in my family was heading out the next day and we needed to clean up in order to have everyone over for their goodbye suppers.

As we were heading out to the lake, I said to Ian, “that’s it. I’m ready to stop taking on new freelance projects. I have things to write and I’m done with filling my life up on obligations to other people and never pursuing the things that really matter to me.”

He’s an easy sell. For the last five years, every time I start pondering, “maybe it’s time I go back to school and-” he says, “I thought you wanted to write.”

But so anyhow I came back from the lake saying to myself, “as soon as these projects are done, I’m for real taking the summer off this year (not like last year) and I’m going to get writing.” But then I had an email from a client on a project from a few months ago saying, “could you please, please take on some of these things. Really need to get this and this done.” And I replied, “I’m so, so busy. But I could probably give you my Saturday and Sunday and see how much we can get done and then we can strategize Sunday night on how much is left of your project.”

I took a break from work to go have coffee on Broadway with a friend. We tried out the new coffeeshop. Strolled around finding all the stores closed. Stopped at an outdoor-wear shop to try on hiking boots for her, but instead bought a jacket for me, then bought some smoked salmon at the artisan food market, split a gluten-free cupcake from the cupcake place and wandered back to my house in perfect Canadian-June weather.

I fought with the kids this afternoon (“I can’t give your social life any thought right now. I’m in the middle of working. WAIT don’t you dare respond to my reasonable request for a moment by stomping around the house and calling me a jerk.”)

I phoned the client to review the work that remained, and ended up promising a bunch more work. And kicking myself so much as I got off the phone. So now you have four projects before you can start writing? You suck.

Ian and the kids were all upstairs, coping with their sunday afternoon, but it didn’t seem to be going so pleasantly. Ethan had a sore throat, Rachel was still puffy-eyed from the aftermath of fights and discipline, Ian was trying to help her clean up her room as part of her discipline, but also get Hannah ready for a bath and bed.

“I’m going to the store for sugar and whatever we need for the week. And I should probably bring back gummy worms for all the kids?” I told them.

At the store, everyone smiled hard at me. Boys tried to flirt with me. The cashier kept our chat going as I packed everything up to go and finished with, “And I’ll see you around, right?” At home, the kids acted incredulous about the gummy worms. “How many can I have?” “I don’t know. A few? Some? Enough? It’s your bag.” “The whole bag?!”

“Yeah, seriously. The whole bag.”