Friday, February 27, 2009

Debi: Out and About, Perpetually

I've been meaning to respond to Stori's post about her rhythm being shaken by outings lately, but ironically, I've been out of the house too much!

I've said before that I did not set out to be home full time with my kids. I am a very, very social creature -- just spend ten minutes with me and you'll notice that I am highly engaged in whatever conversation I enter, and at least partially engaged in any conversation I can hear in the surrounding area. I just love being with people. Even if I am not with friends, I'd rather be alone in a crowd than in my house. For that reason, freelancing has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it gives me exactly the freedom I need -- I can take the kids to school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon, and I never have to worry about school holidays or sick days -- but on the other hand, I have no colleagues, no coworkers, no peers, and no structure at all. (Right now, on top of it all, I also have basically no work. Darn economy.) It can be lonely. It is lonely.

This is why the community I live in is so important to me. My average day requires me to leave the house at least twice -- on the way to and from school -- but I usually do a lot more than that. When I have work to do, I love to do it while I sit at a locally-owned coffeeshop called The Brothers K. I have my standard order (large soy mocha and a cranberry-pecan scone), which I milk for several hours, sitting in my favorite seat by the window, in the upper left of the photo here. This cafe is less than a mile from my house, so as long as it's not raining and the streets aren't covered in snow, I ride my bike, my laptop in a backpack.

These days, though, I can't justify the expense of the treats at Bros. K, so I've been staying home. It's driving me completely crazy. We belong to the Evanston YMCA, and so I've been trying to go there and run on the track or the treadmill most days. I'm the last person I'd have thought would do that, but my youngest child is three-and-a-half now, and I'm starting to lose the excuse for not having the energy for exercise! The YMCA is also one of my employers, since I became a toddler swim instructor this past August (mostly for the half-price family membership that comes with it!). I teach two hours of classes on Friday mornings -- more fun than you'd think.

By mid-afternoon, I have to start thinking about getting the kids from school. Waiting outside Ronni's school for her is a social scene all in itself. I've usually retrieved Sammi by then, so I stand there with her in the stroller munching a snack, and I gab with the other parents. Notice that I didn't say "I gab with the other mothers." This is a liberal town, folks! There are many, many fathers at school pick-up. That, and nannies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and those of us that absorb a revolving cast of extra kids for after-school play, emergency child-care, or just because another parent's younger one is still napping at home. In all weather, we stand there and wait for the doors to open and our progeny to stream out. In nice weather, impromptu snack picnics form on the playground, and we all sprawl on the grass to let the kids blow off steam and to put off getting dinner started.

On Tuesdays, one of my best friends (and the mother of Ronni's absolute best friend) teaches a "Creative Movement" class at the local park district building. I've enrolled both my kids, though Sammi is too young for it, really, and spends much of the class doing her own thing. More than a dozen kids from Ronni's school are in this class, and so I often help walk all of them over to the park district with my friend after school. There we are -- two adults, sometimes three -- with a gaggle of children making our way three blocks down a busy street in the late afternoon, backpacks and lunchboxes flying. No time for chit-chat during that scene; it brings out the sheepdog in all parents! The class, held in the beautiful sunny studio at our often-neglected historic park district building, is a wonder of free energy and happy wiggling. Boys and girls alike find amazing ways to move and stretch, thanks to the thoughtful teaching my friend provides.

After class, it's getting late. We've stayed until our friends are locking the door of the building, chatting and running around the studio. If I've thought of it, there's something waiting for us in the crock pot at home. If I've lazed too long, the walk home consists of me musing on the contents of the refrigerator, deciding between leftovers and scrambled eggs. The kids are still wound up from their dancing, and this week, Sammi refused to get back in the stroller. "I want to run, Mama!" And so she did...the whole three blocks home.

Sometimes that's the end of my forays outside. Some weeks, once my husband David is home and we've eaten dinner, I'll kiss the girls goodbye and drive into the city with my fiddle on the seat next to me, ready to meet my musical partner for a night of practice in a room at the local folk music school. As I think of this very typical Tuesday for us, I imagine Stori in my place, and then I imagine her domestic homebody head exploding, just as mine would staying in my house all day, alone with my girls. I think she and I are exactly the people about whom someone said, once, "opposites attract!"

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