March 11, 2011

Freedom, Consequences, and The Opposite of Teamwork

First of all, many MANY thanks to Kyle at Have Kids, Will Blog (and The Kopp Twins- whose little girls I personally can't get enough of) for the incredibly kind words about me and my blog.

Secondly, another heap of thanks to Mom Daughter Reviews for even more lovely and kind things about me that you're spreading all over the internet.

All this attention could turn a girl's head!

And now- onto a subject about which I've been meaning to write at length- Freedom.

I am, in a way that I have not been since practically becoming pregnant, free.  You see, we live on a third floor walk up.  It's a gorgeous place- huge east facing windows with no obstructions, so it's always filled with natural light.  I've taken advantage of that by filling it with stained glass.  It has a lovely balcony on the front, where we can watch strangers and friends come and go.  It's on a nice quiet block, the most non-emergency vehicle noise we get up here are the sound frolicking children and dogs in the unofficial dog park next door.  We love it here.

But, again, it's a third floor walk-up.  When we moved in, I was already five months pregnant (twin adjustment: ten months pregnant) and in a really remarkable amount of pain from my SPD.  I didn't get out much.

Then there were two babies.  And it was winter.  I pretty much hibernated.  Spring came, and with it my return to school.  It was so nice and breezy in the house, with all those big, south facing windows opened wide.  And it was so much of a hassle to bring my children up and down, one at a time, the treacherous back stairs to the back yard.  Plus, we were so busy traveling.  Whenever I was home, I just stayed there.

But now things are different.  Spring has almost really sprung, it's routinely warmish, and sunnyish, or at the very least pleasantly dreary and humid.  I love early spring.  And now, my children have learned to climb the stairs.

Allow me to repeat that.

My children, each about thirty pounds of squirmy little toddler, are capable of bringing themselves from the front door of our building to the front door of our condo three stories above.  Add to that some success with a few tries at medicating my mystery condition, and I actually FEEL like leaving the house!

I can't tell you how liberating this change has been.  Suddenly, during those non-school days, I can GO somewhere, I can take my curious and friendly children off to play with other kids, I can meet other parents, and I can even run to the grocery store.  I almost don't know what to do with all that freedom.

Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect situation.  The girls can get themselves up, but not down.  Fine, down is easier for this grown-up.  Or so I thought.

Turns out that my old friends, back injuries and ankle sprains, do not like taking carrying two children down the stairs at once.  But what else do I do?  Take one down, leave her in the front yard all alone, and return for the child panicking in her coat and shoes upstairs?  I somehow doubt that this might lead to anything resembling happiness, and even at my best all I can imagine is hearing my daughter's name on an amber alert over and over and over.  So I use my trusty sling, tie one child on to my chest, pop the other on a hip under one arm, grab all our stuff, and leave the house.

The girls are loving it.  These days, if I need to distract them from absolutely anything,all I have to do is say, "Shoes!" and off they go to pull their shoes out of the drawer and try putting them onto their silly little feet.

We've been going to toddler music classes, and the produce market, and the occasional meet-up at other mother's houses.  And I feel like a new woman.

A completely broken, shattered, mutilated woman.  It feels like when I raise my head I'm catching some ample amount of flesh between my vertebrae, like I have a golf ball lodged under my right shoulder blade, and like I've been kicked repeatedly in the lower back.

Now, this alone wouldn't really be a problem, but it's compounding another little problem in a big way.  School.  That's right, I'm still in classes.  And every single one of my infuriating professors has assigned group projects.

I hate group projects.  It has been my experience for pretty much my entire life that the real purposes of these experiments are to test the limits of how much work you can do for other people without getting the credit.  So far, my biggest group project of the semester has beaten all the records.

You see, there's another woman in my group.  Another woman with a child, who has to travel a fair distance to get to class, and who seems rather busy.  When we first discussed this, there seemed to be a measure of understanding between us.  As the semester has progressed with me struggling to keep afloat in the midst of my illness and toddlers, this woman has failed to turn in her assignments, show up for classes, or cooperate in any way with her group.  Each week, her demands for our meetings have become more and more outrageous, up until we reached a total breaking point.  M and I have been having some money problems- the bursar at his school never sent him his financial aid, my school is still denying my my FAFSA for taking two semesters off to have babies, and both of our cars needed about a grand worth of repairs after the storm of doom.  I was ready to start missing classes because I couldn't afford Our Mary Poppins, but she got pneumonia anyway, and saved me the embarrassment of having to cancel on her.  In desperation, I agreed to a date, time, and general geographic area for a team meeting, chose the only location within that area that came equipped with high chairs (a deli), and agreed to schlep my toddlers to the South Loop and build a Power Point presentation.

Of course, there was pouring rain from dawn until dusk the day of our meeting.

So, what did this fellow mother and student and commuter do at four o'clock in the afternoon, watching me wrestle a child less than a year and a half old into a sling outside of a deli where she had agreed to meet me?

She marched up to us, third teammate in tow, and flat out refused to convene our meeting in the deli- at 4 in the afternoon with two toddlers in attendance- BECAUSE THERE WAS NO BEER.

I stood there, jaw on asphalt, spine on fire, SI a-flailin', DD a-wailin', getting steadily wetter, and collected my thoughts.

And as a reasonable adult with no choice but to finish this class, no reasonable options aside from taking my children home, and with a million and one responsibilities already waiting for me when I got there, I volunteered to do the whole project by myself.

It was exactly what she had expected.  She didn't even miss a beat.  She said, "Okay then!" and cheerfully handed of any semblance of responsibility.

She picked the one and only day and time she would be available to meet up again and review our project- conveniently a day that M is home and can watch the girls- and went off in search of beer.

To his credit, our other teammate seemed to feel that there must be a catch.  He's sent me a few emails since making sure I've got his part of the info and offering to go on fact-finding and photography missions.  But this other woman?  Her response to my declaration that I would just DO IT, was to tell me what her bit of the information was supposed to be, and what images I should get to go along with it- things that I already knew.  In short, that she had done no work and that I was now to do her part of the work- in all of its aspects- on her behalf.

Would you eat them on a boat?
Me?  I put the girls back into their car seats (miraculously they were okay with this) and just took them back home.  Where we had, without a doubt, the nicest night we've ever had without M at home.  Really, the girls were so charming ans sweet and loving that I couldn't help but feel like my degree was just a waste of time- a diversion from the only people in my life that always make me feel wonderful and good and successful, people who never royally screw me over out of pure selfish spite.

Still, I'm doing the damn project.  I'm stuck with this woman for the rest of the semester, so I'm just going to count my lucky stars that it's half over and wait until this presentation is done.  And then I am going to rip this woman a new one.  Seriously, I am laying down the law, letting her know that even if the professor feels that it's none of his concern if a teammate is completely useless (his argument is that if you can't work with difficult people in a group in school you can't do it in real life, so tough cookies) I can still go to her advisor, and that if she leaves us in the lurch like that for our final project I'll be making it very clear that she is NOT part of our group and had nothing to do with it.  I'm used to making enemies of colleagues, and I can deal with that kind of animosity for another few semesters.

So what's the moral of the story?  Is there a lesson, or at the very least a happy ending?

Thank you, thank you Sam I Am.
Let's see... it's sunny and beautiful and not EXACTLY warm but marvelously springlike.  I can bundle my wonderful children into their shoes and sweaters, and take them down the street to the playground.  Or next door, to a big open grassy (muddy) lot, or just sit on the front stoop while they play in the tulips.  Because I'm free, you see?  Tomorrow I'll be finishing that stupid Power Point, with M playing happily with his children.  I've replaced my desk chair with my yoga ball, so my back pain is slowly improving.  I've got a grocery list full of ingredients for making hamentastchen (I love the spring!) and I'm planning the girls Purim costumes.

Tomorrow I'm going to be up to my ears in school related frustrations, but right now I can sit in the sun with my amazing, sweet, cheerful little girls, and feel like the most successful person in the world.  So yes, it's the best of all possible endings.  Me and my girls get to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.



    You may find this book of interest.

  2. you're very welcome.

    I might have mentioned it to you already, you have a beautiful family. I'm thinking of going back to school too and taking a short term course

  3. Wow, school AND twins? Yikes!

    I always wanted to have twins and in fact thought my second pregnancy was twins, but it wasn't. He is a Gemini though, so guess I did sort of get my twins :-)

    Visiting from The Blogging Buddies...

    Have a great day!

    Come on home

  4. I love your blog :) its great. Thank you for stopping by my home

    hugs n blessings

  5. Carolee- both M and I are BOTH in school these days! Me finishing my BA, him finishing his MS. And we're both planning on graduating at the end of the next academic year. I can't even imagine how much easier life will become...



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