Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Snow day updates


Hey, gang.  Yes, I am still here.  ETA Yes, I started this on the blizzard day and now things are melting and I still not editing it to any kind of a reasonable length.  You have been warned.

I wrote a most of a really long post titled “The Things Grief Teaches You,” or words to that effect, back in, whoa, November, but even I got worn out by it.  Tldr: nothing I wanted to know.

Then I kind of hit a wall, because as much as I’d love to talk to you all in person about, for instance, therapy, it does feel odd to put it on the Internet.  Maybe a password post at some point, at least for some of it.  The expurgated update is that I have been going, I think it is helping, and my therapist is not an idiot.  Also, I seem to have developed a Pavlovian response to his office, such that as soon as I sit down, I start crying.  I blame the carpet.   

Christmas was…you know, I really am going to have to do a password post.  More on that later, I guess.  We stayed in town. I spent an enormous amount of money on a prime rib that was frankly one of the better thing I have ever cooked.  Jackalope got her heart’s desire, a doll stroller.  I cannot believe I have a kid who loves dolls, which fall squarely into the valley of the uncanny as far as I am concerned.  We got the Bean a fairly indestructible camera.  

My choir spent the fall learning about half of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.  (It’s six cantatas. We did 1, 3, and 6.) I somehow got appointed alto section leader, which means I take notes and write everyone an email each week.  It’s a good gig: altos thrive with a little attention.  And dick jokes, it turns out.  They love dick jokes.  (Example: why did Bach have 20 children? He had no stops on his organ.) 

We performed the piece at a number of churches around town, which was a nifty sort of tour.  Brooklyn is, after all, the Borough of Churches.  I should learn some architectural terms so that I could describe them to you.  Sometimes we sang with an organ and sometimes with an orchestra.  I regret to say, dear readers, that the trumpets were terrible, a real shame with this piece.  But, ah, amateur music making.  It is what it is.  We paid soloists to sing in most of the concerts, but we did a tiny one in January for which we did not.  The director asked who wanted to throw their name in the hat, I imagined for auditions, and after a week of anxiety on the topic, I decided what the hell.  Turned out that was understood to mean that I positively could sing the recitative and aria I said I liked, and with essentially no rehearsal.  Um.  So I did.  Not perfectly, by any means, and in a state of real terror, but at least the mistakes I made in performance were different from the ones I made in rehearsal.  And my favorite dress, the one with the dragons, zips again*.  So there’s that.

*This is partly because Jackalope is nursing a lot less — I know the party line is that nursing makes you lose weight, but my experience is that no — and partly because I have essentially given up alcohol on account of nerves.  Plus other things for that famous password post.  Basically, file under “lower weight does not equal ‘healthy.'”  But dragon dress! It is my favorite.

Sugar gamely attempted to bring both kids to one of them December concerts, but while Jackalope loved it, her love was…vocal.  THEY SINGIN’ A MOOOSIC SONG!  Ship abandoned for park. The Bean came to the one where I sang alone and has been very sweet about it since.  

The big recent excitement has been applying to (public) kindergarten for the Bean.  And by excitement, I mean miserable anxiety-fest.  Allow me to tell you allllll about it. 

In NYC, there are districts (many per borough) and, for elementary school, zones within the district. Most of the time, you are all but guaranteed a spot at your zoned school (assuming you have one).  You can also apply to other schools; you have a higher priority within your district. You rank the schools you like, get admitted to one, and get wait-listed at every school you ranked higher.  Then there is all kinds of maneuvering over the waiting lists.
The Bean currently attends public pre-k at our zoned school.  There are good and bad aspects to that.  We like his teacher, a kindly man who is obsessed with fishing.  They are raising trout.  Really.  As in, they got a jar of eggs at the beginning of the year, and on Friday, Jackalope and I were guests at a party celebrating the fingerlings’ graduation from the small enclosure to the main tank.  At the end of the year, we will take them “upstate” (I am guessing this means Westchester) to release them, presumably so the teacher can catch them again.  The Bean has friends, the school is remarkably diverse, the PTA seems to have its heart in the right place.  (I attempted to join the diversity committee, but all their meetings have been during my classes.)  They have a lot of art and music and so on.  It’s also more academic than I would prefer, and simultaneously operating below the Bean’s academic level.  (Which is okay! He isn’t in pre-k for academics.  It’s just, I’d rather have less of that, and if I can’t have that, I’d like it to be interesting, you know?)  

I wanted to fall in love with the school when I finally got to go on a tour, but instead I was taken aback.  The kindergarteners were having a spelling bee.  There’s a lot of homework, even at kindergarten.  The music teacher seemed as  grumpy as the Bean had suggested.  There’s red light/green light discipline.  Blah.  Not awful, not the end of the world, just not what I was hoping for. I’m worried that a smart, rule-following kid who isn’t a big advocate for himself could get lost here.

Meanwhile, I also went on a tour of an unzoned  school in our district (good chance we’d get in). Enormous, two story classrooms.  All the kids in a given grade are in the same class, with four teachers who loop with them.  Great teacher development program.  No homework.  The classrooms felt to me like preschool — lots of interesting things to do.  All the STEM you could hope for, great social-emotional stuff.  Lots of opportunity for independent work, which is what the Bean loves best.  But low on arts — just residencies part of the year.  And not walkable.  The city would bus him, as it’s in our district.  

Then I toured a shiny new school, not in our district but an easy enough commute, close enough to walk home in good weather.  And I happened to run into a savvier friend, mother of a classmate from the magical preschool the Bean went to last year (why can’t all schools be like that?), who pointed out that, gorgeous light aside, this place was at least as rigid as our zoned school.  So I did not list it, even though it was so shiny. (So shiny! But also I secretly suspected the parents would drive me nuts.)

Impulsively, I did list another school in that district, one I never visited, on the grounds that it sounds progressive and our pickiest neighbor is happy with it. Plus that district has better middle school options.  I can’t believe I’m expected to be thinking about middle school for my four-year-old.

The school I ranked first we will never get into — four other districts have priority over us (plus siblings, yadda, yadda) — and I don’t know how we’d manage the commute if we did.  But I just look at that place and think, I can’t just not even try to get my kid into the one place I really think looks magical.  And then I beat myself up for not being able to afford to live in that neighborhood.

The application is in now, and all that remains is to second guess myself to no end.  Am I making the right choices? Are there any? And mostly, what would my mother say?

I changed schools often as a small child, and it stunk. But it wasn’t for no reason, and I wish I knew the full, adult versions of those reasons.  I know that my mother held her nose and violated her own principles more than once to get me in a place that was better for me.  I know that when I was in a place that actually challenged me, that my whole world changed.  I think these things matter, is what I’m saying.  I just still don’t know what the right thing is. 

So now we wait for March, when placements come out, except actually, that’s not all, because how could it be that simple? Instead, next week, the Bean sits an exam for gifted and talented placement, and believe me, you don’t need to tell me how fucked up it is to be testing four-year-olds in this way.  Believe me.  I get it.  But also: in sixth grade I was in an all-day gifted program of students pulled from the whole town.  And it changed my life.  So.  We hold our noses and take the test.  The Bean is really happy with the idea of getting to do lots of puzzles with an adult whose attention is all on him.  He hopes there are a whole lot of questions.

The test results come out in April — that’s right, after the kindergarten offers have gone out — at which point kids who score high enough can try to find a district-level program they like — there are two in our district, but maybe  we could try for the one not in our district that we could still walk to, where our friends’ daughter goes.  Kids who score super incredibly high can attempt to get a seat at one of the citywide schools, but what with sibling priority, we’re talking a quarter of the 99th percentile, so phhht. (Except OF COURSE I believe my magical genius child is…oh, just ignore me.) 

Also I am considering moving to the woods and homeschooling them and also growing my own saffron.  

I’d always heard how stressful NYC school stuff is, but I kind of thought that was for people who can afford private school.  (Which at one point we’d thought might be us, but the generous tuition reimbursement program at Sugar’s job has now become a “give already rich people a little bonus” level of reimbursement, so yeah.)  I didn’t expect to find myself lying on the floor in the middle of the night crying because I just really, really, really want to ask my mom what she thinks.  I want to ask her a lot of things, of course, but this one surprised me with its intensity.  I just always thought in the back of my mind that she’d help with this particular kind of decision making, probably because she was so very active in getting me my education, in finding a way to get me to better places when one place or another wasn’t working.  She had a plan, is what I’m saying, and she pushed and listened and made calls and made it happen.  And that sounds like a terrible, pushy thing to do, I realize, but the fact is that I was a smart, shy, melancholy kid who made it through relatively psychologically intact and able to get into and thrive at a tough college that was without question the best place for me.  And I don’t think that just happened by accident.

In Jackalope news, she is nearly two, smart and gigantically tall, into music and dinosaurs and her big brother.  She’s far more physically explosive than the Bean has ever been, and I suspect this version of two will be quite a ride.  As a family friend noted at four months, she remains an “Imma do it baby.”  I wanna do it MYSELF, Mama. She’s named or renamed all the stuffed animals, starting with “Baby Dog” and “Naked Baby Snake” and “Baby Fish” (a blue whale) and now “Eyebrows” (a monkey we’ve had for years, who does have a prominent brow, since you mention it), and the bear she got for Christmas, “Eyeballs.”  She’s charmed the cat into letting her pet him, and though we laughed, she really did chopstick this dumpling into her mouth at dim sum.   


15 thoughts on “Snow day updates

  1. What a treat to have a blog post from you surprise me in the middle of a boring workday! Also: Does this mean we can get a really cute baby doll for Jackalope for her birthday? Or maybe some clothes for one you already have? I wanted kids who like dolls, but alas neither of them do.

  2. I have picked up your liquor baton. Never fear.

  3. Ugh… I find myself asking the “WWMD” question all the time. I know the answer to most of my questions for my mom would be “Send them all to hell,” because that was pretty much her attitude. And yet knowing what she would say and hearing it… two very different things. I want the details. I want the reassurance. I want her to be cheering me on as advocate like hell for my kid.


  4. Valley of the uncanny, eh? I see what you did there.

    Has no one yet made a Trout Grows in Brooklyn joke yet?

    Kindergarten applications and testing sounds so stressful. I am sorry your mother is not there to lean on–she sounds like a wise and wonderful advocate for finding the education that best suits the child. But I am sure Bean will thrive wherever he ends up.

    And Jackalope–what a character!

    Always great to hear from you in any case.

  5. Aww we, I love the baby pictures. Also small children with chopsticks.

    Speaking of Bach, I just saw this joke. “Why did Mozart kill all his chickens? Because he asked them who the best composer is and they all said, Bach, Bach, Bach.”

    Re: schools. It sounds like you’re being thoughtful and are doing the best you can. If Bean ends up in a kindergarten he dislikes, you’ll have an opportunity to change the next year. Which, you know it sucks to change schools, but you also realize he’ll survive. If it were me, I’d pick the school with less art and no homework, since you can do a lot of that at home on the weekend, or in the summer. My boys (K and 3rd grade) go to a Core Knowledge Charter School, primarily because it’s 2 blocks from our house. Also it starts at 8:30 am, so they get plenty of sleep and don’t need to rush in the morning. It’s great academically, but doesn’t do many field trips. I supplement with what I feel they miss out on.

    Good luck with all the placement stuff, I’m sorry to hear it’s anxiety producing. I’m terribly sorry it makes you miss your mom even more, too. My grandma half raised me since my parents both worked and we lived next door. She died the year I got married, a few months before the wedding. Eleven years, this spring. I wish I could have asked her so many things, and new questions come up as my boys get older. I’m glad to think of her so often, since it would be more painful to forget her entirely. But the memories are bittersweet.

  6. I managed to stress myself out about school choices/admission in a town of 16000 people that contained exactly three choices: a decent but imperfect public school, a decent but imperfect charter school, and a private school that we could never afford–so actually only two choices now that I think about it. I clearly would never have survived in Brooklyn with kids. (I kind of loved it during my young adulthood, but that is another story). Two years later, I’m sure Eggbert would have been fine anywhere, but at the time, I hyperventilated several times per day. I wish you the best surviving it all. I’m sorry you don’t have your mom to support you. It sucks.

  7. The Brooklyn K registration is exponentially more complicated than ours but we have been equally stressing (and will continue until March 31 when registration ends) with choices. Our ‘testing’ is in Spanish Proficiency and we only get the results after we have signed our life over, ur, registered for our only dual-immersion program at the expense of a much closer, logistically ‘easy’ *shiny* school with all the right buzz words..maker lab, outdoor classrooms, diverse and engaged families. So ya, ugh. I predict we will stress about this decision more than college since, you know, she will have some agency at that point. Not having your mom around to struggle with you…I’m sorry!

    No advice, but certainly commiserate.

  8. Does it sound weird if I say I love you and am so proud of you for posting? If so I’ll morph that into ‘ I love your post’ .
    Sorry about the crying before/during/after/because of therapy. But your post sounds less panic attack-y.
    and you survived christmas, and cooking and singing solo and lots of snow!
    Hope you will post again.
    from Amsterdam with Love

  9. I miss you! Life is out of control (teaching- hurrah! = no free time- boo!) which is why it has taken me a ridiculously long time to reply to this. But I was so excited to see an update from you in my reader.

    I am glad you have found a therapy situation that is helping. I know it was exceedingly stressful to be bouncing around and not finding a good fit.

    The Bean’s school situation sounds insane. We are patting ourselves on the back because the public school 500 m from our house is also the French Immersion feeder school for the area, so by purchasing our house 7.5 years ago back when the school didn’t have FI, we’ve ensured that E. can stream into FI starting next year without changing schools. Talk about your happy accidents. His school situation is still not by any means ideal, but we strongly feel (at least right now) that the problems this year are due to the teacher and not the school. Hopefully next year will be better, and in the meantime we’ve achieved the dream of all middle-class Canadian parents, as French Immersion is widely seen as a stream that streams out some of the “unsuitables” while still being free. Depressing, I know, but I do feel quite strongly it is E.’s patriotic duty to learn both official languages, so here we are. And I am very pleased he remains a 7 minute walk from home, as I cannot even imagine what our mornings would be like with a longer commute that required him to wake up earlier.

    The gifted thing is also nuts. Not that I am saying the Bean is not gifted. Here they will not even test until the end of grade three, because they feel it’s too hard before then to determine who is gifted or just precocious. The idea of testing E. right now seems ludicrous, especially the idea that he might concentrate or perform in front of a stranger. Good luck with the Bean- I think the more options available, the better.

    Jackalope is adorable.

    Please tell me about the camera. E. has one of my old handmedowns and he is just about ready for his own, and I see your option comes in RED, the colour of the gods.

    I am sure you have even less time than I do. But I do hope you can post again soon.

  10. Tremendous respect for singing solo. A-flipping-maaazing. The palpitations! The feeling of bare-nakedness! The way your voice betrays your every feeling like a lie detector only more embarrassing! No no. No.

    I love the stories about the children; they do my heart good.

    So sorry about the school selection business – sounds like quite a land, as we say here. (As in connecting with, unexpectedly.) I mean, surely every parent is looking for a good school in line with their values – all this being forced to weigh the options and play the odds – it would put years on you. Oh, I wish your mother was there to help you. I’m really sorry, bionic. Xx

  11. Brooklyn schools! Like school anxiety everywhere but so…. concentrated. (People here are already flipping out about elementary school- two choices! Pick one! There are 24,000 people in 600 square miles!). That process would send me into the screaming heebie jeebies most likely.

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