Rainy Days

It’s raining in fabulous Southern California, and I couldn’t be happier.  I have heard of something called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that makes people really depressed in the rain, but I simply do not understand.  When it rains and it is gloomy outside, my soul comes alive.  Perhaps it’s because we get so little rain here in So. Cal, and that is what produces my love for the gloom.  I feel like we get a giant bath over the dry brown hillsides, the streets smell divine and are cleared of (some) of the litter, the sound of the drops dancing on every surface they touch, and also, not having to wash my car is another really rad perk.

But! Perhaps the reason I love the rain so well, is because it brings memories.  Glorious memories.  As I stated somewhere else before, I was home schooled, and didn’t set foot in a classroom until I was 16 at the local community college.  Many of my neighbors and friends (yes! Home schooled kids have friends!) hated rainy rays.  It meant dressing in a bunch of layers, putting on a tacky vinyl raincoat, rainboots, walking in the rain to school, trying to keep the backpack dry, missing out on recess outside, lugging an umbrella with them, and being cold and damp after you got to school.  When they’d come home, their parents told them to stay inside and do homework and watch TV, elsewise catch their death of cold from being in the rain.

My experience with rain on school days were divine.  Unlike some homeschoolers, we had to be up and dressed, including shoes and socks, when we came to the dining table to start our normal school day.  There was none of this stay in your pajamas, do your school whenever you want to, slouch on the couch while you complete your lessons.  We had scheduled times that we did our schoolwork in, broke for lunch, resumed, and had time allotted for homework after household chores.  We didn’t get to sleep in and do school whenever and however we wanted.  School was a real deal!  But rainy days… those were different altogether.  If I woke up to the sound of rain in the side yard outside my childhood room, I knew it would be a special day.

On school mornings, my mom usually made hot cereal.  Friday’s were eggs, but the other days of the week were Zoom, Cream of Wheat, Maltomeal, or Oatmeal.  Cold cereal was a treat for when we went camping, so I didn’t get cheerios or Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs.  Rainy days, were usually the same hot cereal and wheat toast, but sometimes, mama would make apple crisp, or something extra cozy.  We would get to stay in our jammies many times on rainy days.  Pink sweats and “scuffie socks” were the school uniform for the day.  After cleaning up from breakfast, we didn’t have to sit at the kitchen table to do our work as we normally did.  Mama would set up TV trays in the living room, or we’d sit on the floor and use the coffee table as our desk.  She’d put on Vivaldi, Chopin, or George Winston to listen to.  As we’d work on Math, Language, Science, Bible, and History, mama would be making a big pot of sopa (That is Spanish for soup).  She’d chop carrots, celery, chicken, and whatever else was about to go bad in the fridge if we didn’t eat it and throw it in the big pot.  She’d light the fire in the fireplace, and open the shades of the big window in the living room so we could watch the rain while we did our work.  (Usually, these shades stayed drawn during school hours, because homeschooling was still quite new, even frowned upon, and my mom didn’t want to cause trouble if someone was walking by and saw all of us girls at home during school hours.)

Mama would bring over big mugs of hot cocoa, or cocoa coffee (no wonder I love mochas, she was mixing hot cocoa and coffee for me in 2nd grade), and we’d sip the burning liquid giddily as we learned about the digestive system, pilgrims and long division.  It never really gets terribly cold here, because, hey, its Southern Cali, but my sisters and I would put blankets on our laps, and cuddle as we read from our school books.  The normal annoyances and sisterly squabbles seemed to be at rest on rainy days, as the excitement of breaking from the typical routine was exciting enough to keep our pestering at bay.

At 12:15, it would be lunch time and we’d shuffle into the kitchen on that ghastly 70’s tile (and later that fake green marble laminate that scratched when you’d sweep it), and sit at the kitchen table, which didn’t have to be cleared of tons of books on these days, since they were strewn across the living room floor.  Mama would have just turned off the noodles for the sopa (mushy, huge swollen elbow macaroni noodles cooked in tomato sauce and water), and we’d serve of bowls of the noodles, and pour Mom’s Soup Surprise over the top.  We’d squeeze some lemon juice (I always used a whole half a lemon in mine, and the girls would ask if I wanted soup with my lemonade), and top it with shredded cabbage, crumbled stale tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and my mom’s amazing chile.  She’d heat up corn tortillas, and we’d roll them up into tight little straws, and tear off pieces to dip in the sopa.  That washed down with a glass of cold milk, “One cup each, milk is expensive!”  After finishing lunch, we’d complete our remaining subjects for the day, and then came the really fun part.

My mama never kept us from playing in the dirt or making mud pies, so of course, she was also that rad mom that let her kids play in the rain.  Now, we couldn’t go into the front yard to play until after the local schools were out of session, once again, to keep people from calling Child Protective Services on our family for us not being in school on a school day.  But once the bell rang at the local elementary school, I was free to play if I had completed my schoolwork and chores for the day.  If I happened to have hand-me-down rainboots or a rain coat, I’d don that over my clothes, and run outside into the col-de-sac I grew up on.  If I didn’t have rainboots or a proper raincoat, I went out in my shoes and clothes.  My mom never complained about us getting soaked to the bone, or ruining our clothes, and often even if I went out into the rain with a coat, umbrella, and boots, I’d discard them and lay on the driveway getting soaked, making my hair stringy, and wiggling my bare toes as the drops kissed them (which she did not like, by the way, shoes were always worn for outside play, and indeed even in the house).

After sufficient puddle stomping, rain dancing, and Gene Kelley impersonations, my toes and fingers would be icy cold, and I’d come in, strip my clothes, hang them over the laundry bins (“Don’t put them in!  It’ll get everything else all mildewy!  Hang your wet things over the side of the bins!”) and jump into a nice hot shower.  The water would scorch my cold little body and I’d breathe in the steam as I thawed.  Sweats would go back on, and we’d wait for papa to get home to have leftover soup, since my mom usually made enough to last a month.  A successful rainy day had been completed.

So, even though I am not going traipsing out barefoot in the rain today (though I actually do that on occasion still), and I am not listening to Vivaldi while I learn how to diagram a sentence, and I have no fireplace in our little home, I love this rainy day.  And I can’t wait for rainy days when I have my own little brood to homeschool.  I hope I can make it as awesome as my mama made it for my sisters and I.

of skulls, skalliwags, and babies

I didn’t grow up in a family that glorified death.  We had a realistic view of death, and death was a real part of our lives and my growing up.  I remember seeing my first casket as a very young child.  My Great Aunt Doris’ husband had died, and I was being held by my papa as we walked past the casket.  I saw many open caskets as a kid and a teen.  We went to a lot of funerals.  We went to a lot of wakes.  The reasoning is three-fold I suppose.  Part of this had to do with being a part of a very large family, particularly on my mother’s side.  We had a lot of extended family, and when you know a lot of people, there are going to be a larger amount of people dying in your environment.  Another part of this had to do with being a pastor’s kid.  My dad performed a lot of weddings, services, and indeed, funerals.  The last reason why I have been to so many funerals, was because my parent’s always told my sisters and I,  that if you are available, and you knew the person or the family of the person who died, you should do everything you can to attend their funeral.

My mother, who is perhaps where I get a bit of my morbidity (Sorry for ratting you out mom, but a woman who channels Morticia Addams, is just not the norm for most moms! Haha!), talked about death a lot.  However, she would be the first to tell you that her reasoning for talking about, and even longing for it sometimes, is not based in morbidity, rather in a desire to go home to Heaven.  She talks about brain tumors less and less since having grandkids, and talks more of the perfection of God’s timing in all things, even so she never made death seem scary.  It was always talked about as a homecoming, because of her faith, she has something to look forward to when that last breath escapes her lungs, and she gets to say goodbye to back pain, housework, and the things of this world, to meet her Maker.

Death is not a scary thing to me, really.  Now the PROCESS of dying?  That is another thing altogether.  I am terrified of dying in my sleep, I think that you must be in a horrible state of panic if you are sleeping peacefully and then you can’t wake up as your soul departs and your body fights to stay alive.  I’d rather be shot in the head in my sleep, or something nice like that.  Don’t even know it’s coming, and BAM!  You’re in Gloryland!  But that’s a topic for another day.

Why do I bring all this up, and what does it have to do with anything, particularly relating to kids?  Well, as many of you know, I am expecting a baby boy come March.  As I have been picking out décor, and drooling over baby clothes, as so many first time moms do, I am drawn to all things black, red, skull, and pirate related.  I have had a long love affair with accessories and décor in that vein, and even my wedding had a pirate flair.  I wore a red, black, and white dress for goodness sakes.  Being a So. Cal kid, and spending a lot of time at Disneyland, my favorite ride has always been Pirates.  Peter Ustinov in Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost?  One of my first (of many) old man crushes.  My room as a young adult woman was not plastered with Brad Pitt or chic design.  It had (and has!) rich colors, maps, way too big prints of old art in gaudy ornate frames, a ship’s wheel, and candelabras.  I listen to a lot of metal, and like both my parents, I dress primarily in black.  I love scary movies and books, and Dia de los Muertos art is some of my favorite.

Naturally, when preparing to dress and adorn a baby, my eye is drawn to tiny skulls, little pirate boots, stripey baby clothes, big krakens, leather jackets, and Jolly Rodger baby blankets.  I think baby blue is an abomination to my son’s masculinity, and pastels are anything but stimulating for his surroundings.  I have come under some scrutiny for such likes, and my husband, whose tastes are FAR different from mine, and I have had no few talks on the matter of love for such “dark” things.  As baby showers are planned for me (I am so thankful for such loving women in my life!) the big topic seems to be “Are pirate crossbones acceptable for a baby shower!?”

I must ask a question to those who think that other décor for baby is acceptable.  Noah’s Ark?  Oh my gosh.  Man becomes exceedingly sinful, God decides to destroy the entire planet and kill everyone but 8 people and a couple of each animal, then those 8 people and countless smelly animals have to stay in a boat for over a year.  Let’s make a nursery theme for Junior about God’s judgement on the earth! YAY!  Okay, another, how about safari.  You wanna talk about scary??  Lions eat people.  I mean not every day, but they can.  And elephants?  Some of the most dangerous animals to come face to face with if you are in the African wilderness.  Let’s not even talk about monkeys.  Holy cow, those things are scary. Fairy tales?  Have you ever read the real Snow White or Goldilocks?  Terrifying.  Fairies or mermaids?  Those chicks are dangerous!   And how about clowns?  Let’s put it this way, the sight of clowns has been known to send me into tears and dry heaving.

I do know that pirates were bad guys.  I don’t think we should glorify death.  I don’t want my child to be morbid… okay, maybe a little.  I don’t want my child turning into a Satanist.  I don’t want him to be a self-absorbed emo kid.  I know full well that I could expose him to all the things I love, and strap him to a chair at age 12 (because as much as I love Tim Burton, my kids aren’t allowed to watch him til they are older) and make him watch Nightmare Before Christmas, and cry with me when Jack ruins Christmas, take him on Pirates 3 times every time we go to DL, and read him lots of Grimm’s fairy tales while we listen to Rachmaninoff, and he might still turn into a preppy kid who likes to play golf.

Fact of the matter is, when you are a baby, you have to wear whatever your parents put you in, you are at their mercy for style (Which is why my mom and I made him a ridiculous looking bunny hat, which will make him look so incredibly stupid and cute), and he can’t say anything about it.  There is a fine line, and I don’t want to cross it if the other side of that line is glorifying evil and death.  I don’t want the little man to be afraid of his surroundings.  I want him to have bright and cheery surroundings, and to be surrounded by love and happy people.  I want to be half as good of a mother as my own mama was, and give him lots of attention and teach him about everything from our faith to morality, cars to music, character to the dangers of women (hehe!).  I want to teach him about death and life, pain and joy, suffering, and merrymaking.  I want him to know and love the Lord has his father and I do.  I just don’t think that putting him in a black t-shirt, jeans, a little Jolly Rodger bib, and black converse is going to keep that from happening.

So, if you disagree, that’s okay.  I don’t mind.  If you’d rather get him a pair of ducky slippers than a vampire teeth pacifier (thank you, Uncle Ronald!) then I will be more than grateful.  Every person has their own convictions to follow, liberties and limitations, but as long as we are united in the important things, that’s what matters.  I can’t wait for him to experience the diversity in the personalities, culture differences, and surroundings in which he will be raised!

a day in the life

I’ve worked at a few preschools throughout the years.  I had recently been hired at a school called… well, let’s call it Kiddie Korral.  Yes, that’s a good name for  it.  Anyways, I had been working for a financial firm for about 3.5 years after my last preschool stint, thinking that a bigger income would make me happier, but although it made me able to afford nicer things, I definitely wasn’t happier.  I decided to go back to working with kiddos and take a 45% paycut.  It was insane, but I knew I needed to work with little ones.

Anyways, so I get this job at Kiddie Korral.  It had been a long time since I’d worked in a preschool, and when I interviewed with the director at that time I could tell she was a little dodgy, but I figured it was worth it to be back in Preschool.  Now, the last time I had worked in a preschool, I was 19, young, stupid, rebellious, so going into a new school in a new stage of my life, I knew I would approach this job differently.

Working in a preschool was a pretty strange career path for me.  See, I was homeschooled.  My dad worked, didn’t make a lot of money, but he felt that my mom should be home with my sisters and I.  Money was tight for them, I am sure, but we never missed a meal.  (Thanks to my mama’s frugality.  She knows how to stretch a meal!)  My mom is not a college graduate, a teacher, nor did she have any extensive training on how to school her three daughters, but she did it.  I had my mama and my sisters every day, all day.  I never went to public school to sit in a classroom, let alone preschool all day in my early childhood years.   My first time setting foot in a classroom was Mr. Shaack’s math class at a Community College at 16.  This whole concept of rallying a bunch of little ones in the same age group and shoving them in a room with 2 women is an entirely foreign concept to me.  But for now, I digress.

So my first week, was a lot of reconditioning, readjusting, and reprogramming my mind.  While some teachers told kids to stop crying because mommy had to go to work, I would sit and hold those little ones and try and hide my tears along with them.   It was culture shock.  I was out of my element.  I had second thoughts about having taken the job after the first week.  What had I gotten myself into??

And then came my second week.  Something tremendous happened.  I want you to picture this scene.  20 preschoolers.  2 teachers.  Lunch time has just finished and it’s time to get all the kids down for their way too long nap so that teachers can go to lunch.  We call all the kids in to wash their hands, and within 8 minutes one kid had pooped his pants.  It was diarrhea. 3 little boys are peeing all over the floor and each other in the boy’s bathroom.  One little girl is hogging up the girl’s bathroom because she’s constipated.  Meanwhile, another little girl left the water running after stuffing the sink with paper towels.  There are 2 little girls dipping paper towels into the sink water and washing each other’s bodies, clothing, and the walls with the water.  Oh, and little “Sally” wet her pants… for the 3rd time that day.  Once I sprayed poopy boy down with the hose outside and got him dressed, the boy’s bathroom floor had been bleached and mopped (and those 3 boys wiped down with wipes), Little Miss Constipated had been relieved, the girl’s sink had been unstopped and that floor mopped, and the bathing beauties and Sally were in clean dry clothes, I sat down on the floor in a heap next to one of the kid’s napping mats.  I took a 45% pay cut for THIS?  I began whimpering quietly as I sat in there alone with 20 snoring, dirty faced, wood chip sock filled 3 year olds.

I felt exhausted and a failure. Where were those piles of account paperwork I hated so much at the financial firm?  Where was my comfy desk chair and widescreen monitor with access to youtube and my favorite blogs?  Where were those high heels and slacks I hated to wear every day?  This was for the birds.  And ew! Was that poop on my Converse?!

I looked down at the little boy I had sat next to.  He was the hardest kid to deal with in the class, had already had a write up or 2 that day, and was full of energy.  He opened his brown eyes, looked up at me quizzically as I dried my face, and wiped the raccoon eyes away from my dripping mascara.  He picked up my hand lying next to him, and kissed it.  “I love you Miss Rachel.  You’re my favorite teacher.”  He held my hand, and closed his eyes again to sleep.

Ah.  So this is why I was there.  I couldn’t remember a better feeling.  I was the luckiest woman alive.  I knew that I was where I was supposed to be, and that experienced changed my outlook on my job.  I wasn’t just a child wrangler (though that was a large part of the job in an overcrowded school), I was loved, and I had 20 little souls to care for, love, and influence.

That was one of the best days of my life.  Poop and all.

another blog

Oh goodness, no! Not another homemaker starting a blog! There are too many! I can’t take it!

It seems like there is a correlation between the time a woman stops working, and when she starts a blog. I have worked for a long time. I started babysitting at the age of eleven, got my first “real job” at 15 (Sandwich Artists Represent!), and now, just a couple of months shy of 26, I have retired from the working world. Not that housewives don’t work. Goodness, my mom works harder than anyone I know. It’s just different… and quiet. I have only been out of the workforce for 3 weeks, and I am already dying of the quiet that surrounds my life!

I am not a homemaker because my husband makes a lot of money, and we have a chunk of dough sitting in the bank to live off of, because we certainly don’t. Frankly, we aren’t real sure how we will make it on one income just yet, but I have a baby boy on the way, due in March, and my husband and I are committed to giving our son the attention he deserves. We believe that only mama can give that specialized attention, and so here I am.

However, as the baby is not here yet, I am going a little stir crazy. There are plenty of tasks to keep me busy here in our tiny garage apartment, but due to some pregnancy symptoms (read: extreme everything pain! Haha), I can only scrub a toilet so long without having to sit for a rest. So instead of sitting in front of the computer and pinning or facebooking, or watching hours of A Baby Story on TLC, I figured I should write to keep my brain going. (But don’t worry pinterest, I’ll not leave you!) If I am the only one who reads this, that’s okay too, it’ll keep me company to read myself to myself while I sit here on the couch by myself.

I guess the point of this blog is multi-faceted. I have been wanting to do this for a while. I have been working with kids on and off as long as I have worked. Whether in day camps, after school programs, preschool, or as a nanny, I have been overjoyed, frustrated, happy and discouraged with the business of working with children. William Ross Wallace wrote a poem praising women for their maternal role, and although I have yet to be a mother, I have enjoyed being in a nurturing and maternal role as I have worked with a children. I have also been struck with the awesome responsibility it is to influence young minds and souls for the hours each day I have spent with little ones. So this will be about kids, mothers, fathers, teachers, and probably about other things that are in my day to day experiences.

Let’s see if I will keep this up after the baby comes… or if I even keep it up before the baby comes. I never said I was disciplined.