A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: prison

Life as Pictures…always transitioning…

Season transitions are strange…school begins, but it’s technically still summer. But, really my days are mostly one blur to the next with vague awareness of a change in seasonal guard. Basically I’m forced to face it when my activity line-up shifts. This isn’t a complaint, but my life is home with the kids, so a weekend isn’t really an event…just another day, except my husband is around. As much as I love spending time with him and the entirety of my family, it’s disorienting. There is another adult I need to navigate when planning things, and my husband and I have different notions of what accounts for festive entertainment with kids.

Little Man began a new school year. He’ll attend three mornings in a row per week, compared to the spaced two of last year. So far the previous year’s behaviors haven’t reared. I can’t say I’m surprised by that, but we’ll see if such a trend continues. I learned from a friend that his last class had a significant number of high need kids. I have a slightly better idea than vague as to what that means, but I’d mentioned at the mid-year conference that I suspected my son was getting lost in the crowd. I was mostly ignored, so it’s validating that I wasn’t wrong.

But, in any case there are things to remember as I wade through the next bit of life…one with more time with a soul Warrior Queen. She’s old enough to need some kind of planned activities. I feel like the school year crept upon me this year, and I’m not prepared. That isn’t a complaint either, but it feels weird to have this kind of openness to…things.

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I can’t remember what prompted this walk in our neighborhood. The temperature must have been below Hades, which were relatively few and far between this summer. I can’t say there was much memorable with this walk…nothing particularly cute or funny to tell, but I remember enjoying it…enjoying watching my kids just do their small child frolicey thing. Warrior Queen kinda nailed the stroller push benchmark. It’s hard to say. While it was certainly veering into the grass more times than not, it’s a pretty shitty stroller. That kind of thing happens to me as well. Whenever I try to deal with it I’m left wondering if there is such a think as perceived Stroller Under the Influence or something.

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Totally Lady of the Flies, right? I for one am absolutely TERRIFIED!

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They were playing a secret game that only siblings understand. While Warrior Queen’s language is quite good, much of the time I have no idea what she uttered. Like her brother, she asserts something and dissolves into hearty chuckles asking me if I “get it.” I don’t, but he seems to. Most of the time my son’s role is sister translator. I don’t know if that’s a common sibling thing, but I soak in each and every moment of it.

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Another relatively tolerable summer temperature day. I don’t remember much other than the under boob sweat could have been significantly worse. We visited a favorite splash pad I’m sure I mentioned. Excellent facilities…outstanding playground. And, while my kids didn’t seem to want to be wet, I appreciated sitting in the shade and watching them play from a distance. I look for these moments when I can stand back and simply savor them as a unit.

Then there are other transitions, probably things that are only noteworthy to me. Important transitions on my end pertain to accomplishing something…usually mundane.

With my prison work I was genuinely delighted to finish writing three programs over the expanse of the summer. They took me entirely too long to complete for reasons I completely understand. Heading into the summer I feared they would remain as a loose end, but they are completed and submitted to their various parties. One is a second writing program I hope to teach in the spring. This program is the most uncertain, as writing programs from outside entities are a challenge to get into the system. I hope, though; I’m quite excited about it. Right now it is hovering at the most challenging level to get through at this particular facility. The administrator had a question, which I answered well; but I don’t know where she is with my response. Apparently she is on vacation at the moment. This official and I appreciate each other, so I hope that’s enough to quell any concerns.

The other is a program I designed as a monthly education seminar I hope to begin facilitating in our women’s prison at some point in the fall. Incarcerated women tend to be primary caregivers, as opposed to incarcerated men who are not. My seminar will be providing information about special education and various other education impacting situations like discipline, literacy, homelessness…things like that. Essentially, giving these women a rundown of the issues I bumped into the most.

The third program was helping a friend adjust an established reentry program to fit individuals serving a life sentence.

As it turns out I had the wherewithal to begin a fourth program that I never envisioned attempting at this point. It is a request from the DOC…a type of social skills group. Many of my projects directly from the Department of Corrections are not from created scratch…at least not on my end. I’m asked to contribute to or develop something specific, so they are more of a shared experience. This one will be created with no other direction than something pertaining to social skills for a facility with a mostly young, gang involved population. I am framing it around respect after exploring if something I had in mind already existed. Like the other three it’s slow moving, but I’m well into it. In many ways it’s easier to create than I thought it would be…I enjoy pleasant surprises.

But, in many ways equally exciting is the change in a hobby project that I’d easily spent a year inching on.

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I finished my second full afghan made from my yarn stash a couple weeks ago. The first one will be gifted to my daughter when she moves out of her crib and into a bed. The second I’d hoped would go to a third child; the back up plan to my son. He would have eventually received one, but I’d hoped it would be the following project. But, alas… In any case, there is not enough yarn stash anymore to support much of anything, so I was afforded the opportunity to raid the bargain skeins at a local store. This is all very exciting!

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This is the beginning of my newest crochet afghan project. It’s fun to decide on the colors and stitch work I will be consumed with for quite some time. I’m never sure of things until about five colors in, certainly this time was no exception. But, I think it will be quite nice when all is said and done. In my dream world this blanket will belong to a final child, but…sigh. I tell myself it will be mine, but I suspect its destiny will belong to another. I have this weird fantasy. After the third or forth loss, I started envisioning what I would do with the last blanket. I had to finish it, but would it be too painful to keep around? It turns out that I’m neutral about it in that respect…Mr. Man will adore it once he realizes it’s for him. But, I had these visions of donating it to a teen mom in foster care…that’s actually a thing. There are teen mothers who need foster parents to help them navigate pregnancy and eventually parenthood…assuming she is choosing to keep her baby. I’m not sure what happens with the foster arrangement if the baby is given up for adoption. At some point I’d like to make one of these blankets and anonymously donate it to a young woman like that. I would have these thoughts as I toiled with the last afghan; that it should be the holder of memories involving a baby growing through its stages. I don’t know if this one will be such a gift, but at some point I’d like to see that ambition come to fruition. Children of all sorts seem to gravitate to my stash projects. This one isn’t quite stash in the same sense, but it’s bright and colorful. As I schlep it with me to outings bearing scores of random kids, I expect the same result as with the other two.

But, then there are the daily random things having nothing to do with anything. They have phases too, which is perhaps why I include them in my transition basket of memories.

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My son builds things. He goes through phases…materials…structures. At this juncture it was cohesive towers that he craved to dance around. Warrior Queen would carefully add her touches of random bricks that fit nowhere else. Mostly she’d have to stretch in her effort, her bother watching her from a distance quietly. In those moments seeming to hold his breath in anticipation. He often seemed as proud as her once the task concluded. Sudden swinging crashes as they gleefully destroyed their work to begin a new.

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There is no real significance with these figures, though I find it interesting that Lego has a plethora of variously colored mullets in their serial killer collection bin of fragmented body parts. Does something like that really need to be memorialized?

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Warrior Queen doesn’t care much for dresses or dolls,  preferring trucks and other vehicles…maybe the occasional toy pony. BUT, she certainly loves sparkle and pink. These delights are a bit too large for her, but her eyes light up when she wears them. Beaming eyes while she utters a vaguely garbled, “sparkly.” These days I’d do just about anything to watch her dance around. It used to be focused, jerky hip movements; but now she throws her arms King Kong style. If there is the promise of her dances, then I’m prepared to offer her all the sparkles she could ever hope to desire.

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Milestones

My children will have their first sitter this week…twice actually. My parents have watched them without either me or my husband present, but never a stranger. It isn’t about some kind of grand plan or trust concerns. I’ve simply never gathered my shit to have people available for things like a rogue date night or something. I’ve felt the constraint from time to time. My husband and I agreed that I wouldn’t pay childcare to volunteer. It would be one thing if I needed the break for self-preservation, but I’ve largely been fine. It simply didn’t make sense to pay money so I could work for free…It’s irrationally and depressingly expensive.

Since a bit before my pregnancy began with Little Man four years and some change ago, I haven’t received many paychecks. It doesn’t bother me as much now as it used to, but I remember the first consulting-like contract I achieved…a few months of a check, and it felt indescribably good. It was meager, but adequately supported my tea and chocolate habit…the unnecessary cheap sweater.

I couldn’t admit it for years, but the reality is that the entirety of any income I’d earn would be consumed by childcare costs…if I’m lucky. My earnings would likely not be sufficient even if I managed a leadership position. The only exception is if I squared a first level manager job in a state agency, but that’s the equivalent of happening upon a baby purple unicorn shitting cookies in my family room while discovering that no version of Law & Order is running on any television channel. I’m lucky my life is comfortable. My husband makes a good living, even if the situation isn’t perfect. We are smart with our expenses, always planning for this, that, or the other thing. But, I can’t deny my socioeconomic privilege.

I worried for at least a couple of years about resume gaps and what my future held for me as a person. My employment passion is a tricky beast, and I met with endless dead ends as I explored ways to be engaged in any kind of worky-like thing. It was heartbreaking for a long time knowing that I couldn’t attend meetings or venture to whatever location to volunteer. Most events are not on weekends or evenings.

Warrior Queen is just about two, and Little Man is just about four; I’m on the cusp of earning my second paycheck since a bit before my pregnancy with Little Man. It isn’t much, but just enough to cover the four or five hours of childcare I’ll require weekly. It’s an unexpected thing that is the product of me sending out nets of interest as I make contacts…keeping my ears open for information.

The past three years I’ve gradually found my way back to corrections in a context I didn’t know to envision. I live in a big government state, so there seems to be endless programs with the support of countless nonprofit and university work. I’d known this, but I didn’t know it. There’s been so much to learn, and so much to do. Up until now all of my efforts have been voluntary, but it’s been cool to see what I’ve managed…a lowly stay-at-home mom with a couple of young kids…the successes and inroads I’ve attained from behind a computer screen and the scattered phone calls.

Last summer I finally mustered my shit and returned to teaching a class; I’d missed teaching…missed doing a lot of things, really. I’m not unhappy, but so much of my life is resigning myself to change that I might not necessarily want. It isn’t a complaint, but it’s a challenge to love who I used to be, and have to let go of that identity completely without knowing if anything comparable will take its place. I’ve learned to trust the process more these days. I’m genuinely a better person than the one I released to my history. But, I couldn’t have known that at the time.

It began as a lucky stumble to a local nonprofit providing rehabilitative programming for some of our correctional facilities. When I joined, so did new agency leadership. I appreciate uncountable things about this director, but mostly I value feeling important. My work with this agency ebbs and flows as there is purpose for me, but periodically I’m asked for an opinion about various odds-and-ends. That holds meaning. It isn’t often I’m asked about anything outside of parenting anymore. It’s a small thing, but I’ll buzz for a few days after.

The ebbs with the agency made me anxious. My interests and their needs are not always compatible, but there is a consistent place for me at this point, which I appreciate. Over the past few years I’ve managed contacts of my own through the tasks I’ve taken with the agency. Now I’ll periodically help corrections administrators directly with their programming needs that would otherwise be pushed off indefinitely for lack of time and resources. When there is no explicit assignment in the works, I interface with enough people that my own projects make their way into the system. It’s hard to explain in such vague terms, especially for people unfamiliar with these systems; but all of this is quite a feat.

This semester I started teaching my first college level class. It’s mostly online, and certainly not a traditional class for this level and university prestige. I offered my availability so that I could teach in a prison beyond the summer. The parameters of this particular class is bringing some university students into the prison with me. The college kids (When did they become kids?) have been completing reading and writing assignments in the context of criminal justice issues while the incarcerated population will be experiencing the creative writing class I designed and taught last summer. The college group will be participating too, but their vantage point is to understand the humanity of incarcerated populations. The prison group will learn tools for self-expression.

This week we’ll finally manage the facility orientation, and my children’s first sitter. If all goes according to plan, the first creative writing class will begin at the end of the week. At some point I will receive a paycheck. All of this surreal. It’s a mix of fear and inadequacy…confidence it will work, and a vague question if I will have this opportunity again. I try not to think about it; to get ahead of myself. I suppose parenting has prepared me well for this venture.

All’s Well that Ends Well…

I’m beginning this post with the end result because it is exciting for me and I fully haven’t exhausted innocent bystanders yet…You’re welcome…

My Department of Corrections literacy class application proposal approval has been up in the air since the summer.  For a long stretch the outcome was promising, then it wasn’t until this week when I learned that only a few administrative details needed adjusting before I would receive my final coveted signature.  In the meantime, I’ve been sitting in limbo soup that was left in the back of the fridge.  The same soup experience when after several moments of contemplation, the contents of the container are remembered.  The limbo was in part this class I desperately want to teach, but the other part is my role coordinating a tutoring preparatory program for a new and different high school equivalency exam.  Without the approval for the class I designed, I would funnel into coordinating and participating in this specific tutoring opportunity.  But, in true bureaucratic system fashion with new endeavors, the tutoring program generated by the DOC has been vague for months, leaving me to speculate on every aspect of the program and implementation.  Granted I was likely accurate with my ponderings, but no confirmation either way.

That was the back story; I hope sufficiently brief.  No information for months prompted a shortish notice of an orientation for the DOC education and vocation programs…It was two hours beginning at 6.30 and ending at 8.30…in theory…  My assumptions were confirmed regarding the rationale behind the uncertain path, as well as what would be necessary to coordinate such an endeavor.  Gotta say, I’m PSYCHED!  The general outcome from the months of toil is that I am designing a pilot program and supporting tutors that, if successful, will likely be implemented throughout DOC institutions…pretty cool.  I love this kind of stuff…plus I get to teach my dream class.  If only I were paid, I could support my chocolate and tea habit, and this would be perfect…

But, that is not how my day began…

Little man woke up in a fabulous mood in the morning.  We were having oodles of fun, but then I noticed he was beginning to look ill an hour or two before his nap.  Of course, I was in denial because he’s been sick twice in the last six weeks.  I aggressively tried to convince myself he just needed to sleep…And, I oh so desperately wanted to believe it…

Fortune, however, urinated in my Cheerios because Little Man woke up after an hour into his nap exhausted and in a terrible mood, and it was only one ‘o’ clock.  I was so, so foolishly hopeful he would sleep the two-and-a-half to three hours he had been for the last week.  Major bummer doesn’t even come close to my devastation when I heard the tell tale yelps of a grumpy Little Man waking from the monitor knowing full well he wouldn’t sleep again the rest of the day.

Thinking I had longer, I didn’t eat much, so I’m already hungry, and we aren’t talking normal hungry.  This is pregnant hungry, which takes on a demonic life of its own.  Do you know why all zombie movies are so similar?  It’s because most people have met a hungry pregnant lady by the time they’ve reached adulthood…not even an exaggeration…

Suffice it to say, I’m in a bad mood and pouting as I trudge up the stairs that leave me winded at the top because I’m harboring a parasite.  Once I’m finished wheezing, I brace myself for the mucusy onslaught I was all too familiar with, and I was still woefully unprepared.

To say cranky and needy really doesn’t quite capture the expanse of the hours until my husband arrived home from work, and I’m not even describing myself.  The highlight of the afternoon was forty-five back aching minutes I sat in an unsupported pike position singing off-key repetitions of Mary had a Little Lamb, bouncing my son as he rested on the expanse of my legs, looking up at me, and insisting that I rest my hands on his chest.  He held them there just to make sure I didn’t try anything funny.  So cute, right?  Sure it is.  I absolutely love a good cuddle monster, but not when I’m hungry and forced to continue like I’m single-handedly rowing a Grecian war ship.

My son had oozing, shrieking fits when I wasn’t holding him.  Eating did nothing to abate the needy torture I found myself entrenched in for hours.  He ate half of my hallowed everything bagel slim with butter, keeping me from eating my half because Little Man was determined to have me hug him tightly as he ate…so not cool…Every part of me wanted to punt my son across the room and steal back his half of the bagel and devour mine.  The kid seriously kept me hostage with bawling that escaped a glossy wet face in contorted expressions necessary to completely capture comprehensive misery of both of us until my husband appeared like the apparition of a holy angel designed to relieve the suffering of the natural world.

At that point, however, I was already running late.  I still needed to eat some semblance of a dinner; fortunately I had the foresight to stay in jammies until just before…I learned that lesson the hard way…  Nevertheless, I needed to change, and I had maybe fifteen minutes to do everything.

To top off the events, I was brushing my teeth in the downstairs bathroom, and even though I know Little Man must cause mischief and mayhem every time I enter this small closet of a room, I didn’t close the door behind me.  With a foamy mouth I learned that my son not only lifts up the toilet lid, but now has the desire to dabble his fingers in the water…lovely…Now try to picture a mom foaming at the mouth from a baking soda toothpaste and the initiation of a full freak-out as my son is dancing his fingers in our toilet bowl water like a creek insect.  I call for my husband…maybe shriek is more apt.  He enters, and highlights his frustrated ambitions as a comedian, “Hey, people pay good money for toilet water.”  So. Not. Funny.  But,  it’s his problem now.  I rinse and wipe my mouth, and head out the door hoping I didn’t forget anything in my mad last minute scramble to collect the items I’ll need for the orientation.

I’d like to say it was an easy drive.  It would have been if every pokey idiot wasn’t leading the way the entire route, but I arrived at a reasonable time.  By the end of the evening the preceding event traumas evaporated, but I can feel confident that new ones are just around the corner to give me comfort in my times of need.

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