Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coming in Last

Last is a place most people don't want to be.

Few choose to be last in line or be picked last for a team or come in last in a race.  Last means waiting and slow. And in a world as fast-paced as ours, last feels like almost not being there at all. Last feels like losing.

I haven't gone back to check each day, but during the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month, I have been last or close to last almost every day when I posted my slice.  Being on the West Coast contributed to that, but I also usually reserved writing my slice for the very last piece of my day.  I wanted to be sure all that was going to happen for the day had happened.  I wanted to fall asleep with words still rearranging themselves on my mind.  I wanted to eulogize each passing day with my words.

When I went through the Writing Project Summer Institute in 1999, I wrote a poem that began, "My time to write is morning..."  Now, the quiet and calm I like to write by comes with moonlight instead of the sun.

March has given me a new appreciation for last.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pie, Paychecks & Possibilities

My friend and colleague, Darcy, never fails to get me thinking.  When she stops by my classroom at lunch, she always has something to share -- an engaging story from NPR or a personal tale of some oddity or an anecdote about her daughter and on the best days her gift of inspiring ideas is accompanied by a delicious treat -- a baby pie, ribs, her amazing potato salad.

Yesterday, we talked about the balance between urging our children toward success and allowing them freedom to explore, think, and discover on their own.  She had been in a conversation with another friend about the concept of allowance and she questioned the practice of paying a child for doing chores or specific task.  While this teaches children that they will be rewarded for what they do well, the reward is monetary.  Her fear is that we then teach our children to be employees, and even worse, employees who will only do something if there is personal benefit to them.  What do we want to do? she asked.  Do we want to raise our kids to be employees or do we want to raise them to be independent thinkers, fueled by intrinsic motivation, empathy and self-respect?

Darcy doesn't bring me pie to get pie in return (she knows what a challenged cook I am!) She doesn't bring me pies so that I will pay her for them. She brings me pie because she likes me and she talks about interesting things with me so that both of us can grow, consider and think.

So the question has been rattling around: What am I raising my sons to be?

Only their best, I hope.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kung Fu

My oldest son, Michael, attended his first kung fu class last night.  He liked it (he flashed me a thumbs-up sign a few times so I knew).  When we returned home, he was eager to show the rest of the family what he learned.  We encourgaed him and praised him for trying something new and working hard in his first night of class.

I put him to bed and his brothers but twenty minutes later, he came to see me.  "Mom, can you wake me up early in the morning so that I can practice the weeping willow?  When I did it in class it made me feel calm and I think if I start my day with it, I will do a better job of not getting angry during the day."  This stretching and breathing technique had already impacted him. 

When he got up this morning, he had not forgotten his plan.  "Six times should do it, Mom."  And then, as I got dressed for work, I heard him talking to his little brother in the living room.  "Do you want me to teach Duffy (a stuffed bear) kung fu?  "Yes, of course!" Lucas eagerly agreed.  Michael began to show Duffy various kicks and punches.  Duffy (with a bit of help from the boys) responded with kicks and punches of his own.

That's when I knew for sure that he had enjoyed his first lesson -- when you love something, you want to share it, even if it means helping a teddy bear do a hammer punch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Love 'em and Leave 'em

Spending time with my family spoils me, makes me hesitant to return to work even though my classroom is my haven.

When I get there tomorrow, I will love my blank whiteboards awaiting my print. I will love my papers and books and piles -- all evidence of my learning. Perhaps theirs, too. I will love the talk and laughter, the writing and sharing, the silliness and seriousness we squeeze between bells. I will love being a teacher because it is who I am.

But tonight, I am already missing the boys, big and small, because I love them even more than blank whiteboards and writing; that is, even more than myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writing In Circles

Does anyone else ever feel like they are writing in circles?  I begin to type and after a few sentences think, "But haven't I said this before?"  I try to push myself into deeper earth, and I think that I am discovering new feelings or perspectives.  But then I stop and read what is on the screen and realize I have ended up in a place I have been too many times before. Very familiar territory.

And then I question -- Maybe this is the place I need to be.  Maybe resolution has eluded me and I am here again to find some kind of satisfaction. Maybe life gets so busy with the details and the daily demands that writing is the only way I remind myself of what I really need or what I really feel or what I cannot continue to ignore.

Sometimes writing can be a journey across a crowded map, a navigation of new lands.  But sometimes, writing is like a bird building a nest.  A return, over and over, flight after flight, day after day, to the same spot. A gathering of twigs, leaves, moss, trash -- layer upon layer -- all tucked and intertwined. Writing is like anticipation on a tree limb, first home to something that will eventually take flight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Good Laugh



The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.  ~e.e. cummings
 
It has permeated every part of my day.

Nicholas and I laughed playing his Finger Football game; he tried to flick the football through the goalposts (my fingers) and ended up flinging his whole body and still missing the field goal.  
 
We laughed on the playground as he and Lucas took on the tire swing for the first time.  I sent them into circles and loved hearing the laughter flying out of them as they spun.  We laughed over and over again at Lucas each time he came down the slide and his hair stood up on end as if he had been lightning-struck. We laughed again when we got home and looked at the pictures and video from the park and Chad and I laughed when Lucas exclaimed, "That was some good picture lookin'!"

We watched what may be one of the cheesiest sequels ever (Ghostbusters II) and in addition to chuckling at the strange goings-on in the film, couldn't help but laugh when Michael asked in the most serious way, "Dad, is this a good movie?"  Lucas made his brothers and I laugh as he did his own rendition of the Ghostbusters theme with a spiffy little dance to go with it. 

Lucas and I burst out laughing in unison when he went to give Daddy a kiss goodnight and Daddy's mouth was dripping milk and cereal from a too-big bite.

I have to admit the night even came to a close with laughter over a series of those bodily noises (from the kids, not me!) that seem to send every boy into uncontrollable giggling.

As I write, I can hear the laughter from the day spinning in my mind, like my boys upon that tire swing -- a beautiful, layered symphony of joyful sounds.

Yesterday I worried I had not done enough with my time off; today I realized that "productive" can come in many forms and I think I like today's form the best.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Need a Pause Button

My Spring Break is coming to a close and I am not sure how I feel.  One part of me wishes I had done more, accomplished something substantial, completed a project -- anything I could point to and say, "That's what I did with my time." Another part of me longs for even more time to do very little, to sit and watch silly sitcoms with my boys, hear their wild stories, watch them dance their goofy dances.  And there is even another part (albeit, a very small part) that wants to be back at school because it uses parts of my brain that get mushy even after only a few days off.


When Spring Break started I thought that as a teacher I am lucky because I get to feel that excitement of Spring Break nearing, that anticipation of a week of frivolity.  Most people leave the joys of Spring Break behind as they enter the world of adulthood.  But tonight I don't feel so much lucky as I do conflicted.  It is always near the ends of these breaks when I have these fantasies of taking my family off to some remote small town in the middle America, spending our days working a farm, taking long bike rides and preparing impromptu picnics while our nights are filled with reading aloud to one another from great books and maybe singing together while one of us plays an acoustic guitar.

And then I remind myself that true happiness comes from finding satisfaction not only in the pursuit of dreams, but also in the delights of the present moment -- my four year old's head on my knee, an extra hour of sleep in the morning, nowhere to be tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Couch & Carpet Camp-out

Camp-out. For many people that might mean setting a tent up in some remote location or perhaps even their own backyard. For us, it just means the three boys sleep out in the living room instead of their own room. I'm not sure what is so exciting about this change of venue, but the boys definitely love it.

We began the night with a hearty dinner of hot dogs and French fries. After showers, the boys set up their makeshift beds and settled in for viewing of the cinematic classic, Alvin & the Chipmunks, accompanied by the gourmet treat, popcorn and M&M's.

We had plans for Moonpie Ice Cream and maybe another movie, but it doesn't look like they are going to make it to nine o'clock.

I remember that about childhood -- simple delights and big dreams that drift between day and night.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warming Up & People Watching

Yesterday, my husband and I were sitting on a concrete wall watching people walk by in Downtown Disney.  The sky was an almost cliche blue with perfectly puffed clouds and the sunshine was warming the tops of our heads and making my eyes squint slightly even behind my oversized sunglasses. My chin was resting against my husband's shoulder and we sat in lovely silence for what felt like longer than it was.   Physically, I was unbelievably comfortable. 

But as I watched the people stream by -- couples, families, brothers, lovers, grandparents, sisters, friends -- my chest began to ache, a deep, deep ache that felt like it had started at the center of me and now was strong enough for my ribcage to sense.  I have felt this ache before and I usually have to quickly turn my attention to some task to take my mind away from it.  When I see people, especially in large numbers, I become overwhelmed by what I can only call love.

I see those faces, so many faces, and I wonder: Who knows him? Who cares about her? Are they happy? Is she lonely? Does he like himself? Where do they belong?

I imagine myself finding the empty space inside each one of them and being able to hand them a piece that would fill it perfectly.  And then they would smile and move on and I would know they were okay. I want to jump up and stop each of them as they pass, let each one know that I am willing to care and willing to help with whatever battle they may be fighting.

But that isn't how it works. Instead, as the people walk by, I become more and more aware of the inability I have to take away the pains of the world. If I let it, this sense of smallness could keep me frozen. 

Instead, I stood up, took my husband's hand in mine, and focused on making him feel like he belonged, right there with me.  And I reminded myself that I have been given people in my life -- my husband, my sons, my family, friends, colleagues and students -- and what a gift that is, the opportunity to fill even a little bit of the emptiness that any of them may be carrying around with them.  I may not be able to save the world, but I can warm the hearts and spirits of those in my life so that they can do the same for others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Latte at The Happiest Place on Earth

I love it when something lives up to the hype. Yesterday at Disneyland, I enjoyed my first Market House Cinnamon Tea Latte. They have been a topic of conversation among my husband's Disney buddies for months and all have raved about them. Usually, this would be the perfect set-up for disappointment, but as I walked out of the park, one hand holding my husband's and one hand holding the latte, I realized the entire day was like that latte.
We headed out to the park in heavy rain. It rained the entire way there--fat, troublesome rain--and I worried that our Disney date would be nothing more than a soaked fiasco. But I was wrong. As soon as we arrived, the clouds parted and sunlight bathed the area. Due to the morning rains, the crowds were thin and the park was ours. Expectations were not only met; they were exceeded.

From the sunshine-drenched afternoon to the delicious drinks on Main Street, my day gave me hope (and some much needed relaxation!) not hype.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Grandmas

I lost my grandma before I had my first son. As I have relied on my mom and seen her be a grandma to my kids, it has made me wish I could see my grandma again because I finally understand what she did that was so wonderful. I know my mom is the grandmother she is because of her own mom.

My mom is the grandma who will do whatever she can, not only for her grandkids, but for me. She is the kind of grandma who didn't have me cancel plans to get away for a night with my husband even though the boys have had the flu (third one came down with it this morning!). Instead, she took them, all three crazy boys, and sent me off to Disneyland.

She knows the boys need the time with her. She knows I need time with my husband. And I hope she knows how much we all appreciate her. And I hope she knows that she not only helped me be the mom I am, she is already influencing the grandma I someday hope to be.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sick Kids Say the Darndest Things

Over the last few days, two of my sweet boys (and my husband) have been bitten by a stomach bug of some sort which has induced all kinds of yuckiness.  And while sickness is never fun, as I do in most situations, I try to find the something good to hold onto so I do not get sucked into the pity pit.

Hearing my guys speak their hearts is one of those bright spots that shines through sickness.  My middle son gets very unnerved by being sick.  He shakes and cries and says things like, "Why does God let this happen to us, Mommy?" That might not seem like something that would make me smile, but it does.  For me, it means that my boy is a thinker and a questioner; his spiritual journey has already begun.  It is such an honest and sincere question and when he asks me, I have to  tell him that I do not know.  I have ideas, I have heard theories, but I cannot say that I truly, completely know.  I like those moments of truth that we share, two human beings trying to make some sense out of a senseless world.

And then there is my littlest guy, my four year old.  I call him my sunshine and, ironically, it certainly comes through when he is sick.  Today, he looked at me and said, "Mommy, you are the very best at knowing just what I want."  For someone who has been trying to tend to a homeful of ill loved ones for five days, I am not sure there could be a better compliment.
 
Except for maybe his next one: "Mommy, you are the most beautiful mommy a sunshine ever had!"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letter to Spring Break

Spring Break, I had such grand visions of you. But our first day together has not met my expectations. Instead of a family high on the freedom you bring, three of the five are fighting a nasty tummy bug. Instead of sleeping in or indulging in sweet cat naps, I have slept on the couch with sick children, awaking with their every whimper, rising each time they did. Instead of a fabulous start on my spring cleaning, I have spent my time laundering soiled sheets and sanitizing hands and bathroom fixtures. Instead of your first day being one of lightness and delight, it has been a lingering gray.

And yet, I see hope for us. You have given me time with those I love most and I think in the early afternoon, I could have sworn I saw a sunlit sky. Perhaps we just need to start again. Tomorrow, perhaps?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Could You Repeat That?

I have been thinking about repetition.  What do I repeat?  What do I like repeating and what do I repeat so much it makes me want to climb the walls?

I don't like repeating fights or failed cooking attempts.  I don't like repeating my name or mistakes.  As a teacher, I know I need to repeat instructions, but on the 42nd round, I start to show signs of impatience.  I don't like repeating after others and I don't like it when my children repeat things I didn't know they had heard.

But there are a few things I do not mind repeating.  Goodbye kisses and pregnancy stories are high on the list.  I need to repeat praise more often at work and home.  I will repeat "when you were a baby" tales as long as my boys ask for them.  I love you.  I could repeat that to the men in my house a hundred times a day and some days I do.

And this -- writing at night, hemming my day in words --is something I could repeat for the rest of my life, an I love you to myself. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Too Many Choices, No Direction

Tonight I have too many ideas from which to choose. 

I could write about my six-year old being sick and how he calls me each time he heads to the toilet.  I guess I make good puking company!  Tending to a child who is ill is actually one of the greatest blessings -- sure, there are the bodily fluids to deal with, but the tenderness can be excruciatingly wonderful.

I could write about class today.  Students were writing their essays about what they will seek and what they would sacrifice.  One young lady came to my desk and asked me, "Can I give my essay alternate endings?" My laughter burst out of me and broke the silence of the writers before I could catch it.  It was like she wanted to create the special edition DVD version of her essay.  Does this idea make anyone else smile?

I could write about how lately, I have been saying hello to this boy who spends his entire lunch period standing against a wall all alone.  Each day, I walk past him on my way from my classroom to my office. I smile at him and he smiles at me, too.   And lately, I have started talking to him.  A simple hello at first, but today, whole sentences!  He never says much back, but he returns my smile each time.  I want to be able to address him by name, but I am not sure how to get it.  Wouldn't it be weird to just walk up to a random student and ask his name?  I feel like it would.

I could write about how my husband thinks my first statement about there being wonderful in the kiddo's sickness is its own wonderful nonsense, or, as he put it, "the craziest thing I've heard."

Too many ideas tonight and already, my time is up.  I know because my eyes are closed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reunited and it feels so...

I have been avoiding this topic because I am never sure who reads this and I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't think I can write about anything else but this today.  I just finished RSVPing for my 20 year high school reunion, and I am kind of not happy about it.


I am afraid I will get to the reunion and not have any recollection of most of the people in the room.

And that makes me wonder, if that is even a possibility, why am I going?

I've thought about that quite a bit and maybe I am making myself write this tonight so I can figure it out.


I think I am going because:


I want to show off pictures of my sons.
I get to wear a nice dress and not worry about Cheeto-dust fingerprints.
It is nice when someone throws a party for someone to attend.
I will not have to take anyone else to the potty.
I want to laugh with friends I almost never see.
Twenty year reunions do not come along every day.
If other people are flying across the country to attend, I can drive the three blocks to the venue.
I want to tell my students what it was like.
Going to reunions is what almost 40-year old people do.
The DJ might play some Madonna.
I want to hear other people's stories.
I want to share one or two of mine.
I was young once.
I am not anymore and I love that sometimes.

This helped.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seek & Sacrifice

Each quarter, I give my students a big question to think about as we read, write, and learn together.  This quarter's question was this:  What will I seek and what will I sacrifice?  On Wednesday, they will be writing in response to this question in class and they will need to include how our readings from the year have contributed to their thinking. For my Slice today, I want to begin my own response to this question.

I seek wholeness.  In my family, in my work, in myself.  I want all of the empty spaces to be filled.  Writing helps me with this.  Like the protagonist in Ellison's Invisible Man, typing his invisibility onto the page, art allows me to leave a piece of myself on the paper.  And when I do this, when I leave my flesh and fluids there in ink on the sheet, it is as if my body redoubles its efforts and not only regenerates the part of myself I let go, but actually takes up even more space within me than it did before.  I seek this growth.  I want to feel my cells multiplying.For this, I must sacrifice my comfort and my privacy.  I must be willing to be transparent -- to be my same self regardless of situation or circumstance. I need not fear light; instead, I should welcome it. I imagine Ellison's protagonist with those 1369 lightbulbs illuminating every square inch of him.  Or Tess standing with strength in her white nightgown baptizing her dying child by candlelight.  I must sacrifice anonymity.  To become whole, I must come out of hiding, let the light reveal my imperfections and leave my mark.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sundays

Sundays always make me wistful and reflective.  They make me question how I love, how I live, how I spend my time.  I haven't written poetry for a Slice yet, so I thought it might be a good night to try.


Sunday

Maybe if I sit still,
very very still,
so still that even my eyes
hesitate to blink --


so quiet and still that i can hear
the hair tucked behind my ear
the freeway hum of thoughts in my head
the  thump, thump of my heart not slowing down.

Maybe if I sit still,
very very still,
the world won't turn
the sun won't rise
the hour won't pass

and i can breathe you in
for one minute more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joy is a Hockey Game

Joy that comes from another's happiness has got to be the sweetest joy there is. My middle son just got back from a minor league hockey game. He was invited by a friend from church. He had such a great time and to his six-year-old self, this probably ranks up there with Disneyland. We only had a few minutes before he had to get to bed (time change tonight, church tomorrow) but in those few minutes his delight became mine. I realized I was smiling so hard I strained my eyes.

My little guy is already lost in dreams, but I think I'll be smiling for quite a while.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Could Go for a Slice

Ever since we started the Slice Challenge ten days ago, I have had pizza on the brain.  Throughout the day I remind myself, "Remember that for tonight's slice."  My husband asks when evening rolls around, "Have you finished your slice?"  I share with a fellow writer, "I enjoyed your slice!"  And each time, I want to complete those sentences and thoughts with "of pizza" or sometimes "of cake,"  but most of the time, it's pizza.

So tonight's dinner?  Pizza.  It had to be.  And believe me, the boys were more than happy to accommodate my craving.  Of course, the big problem that arises when ordering pizza is choosing toppings that everyone wants.  We typically go with a something from the meat family --bacon, ham, sausage, pepperoni -- sometimes all of the above. Occasionally I can convince my guys to allow some pineapple to be tossed on, but any vegetable has been strictly forbidden.  Until tonight. 

My husband is away this evening, so that was one opinion less I had to consider and meat-lover that he is, I knew my chances of success were improved without his influence.  It was the perfect opportunity for a coup.  Tonight, we would have vegetables on pizza.

When the delivery man arrived, the boys beat me to the front door.  Eager is an understatement.  After my four-year old quizzed the man -- "Hey!  How did you know we wanted pizza??" --we got the pizzas out and I served the slices.  Immediately, "I don't like olives!"  "What's this thing on my pizza?"  "Why are the tomatoes on top of the cheese?"

"Look, guys," I reasoned, "Just try it.  Things taste different on pizza." And then, the last, desperate attempt, "Pizza makes everything better."

And wouldn't you know, they believed me.


Any guesses on what kind of slice might be on the menu tomorrow?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Prize Pony?!

As for me, prizes are nothing. My prize is my work.
Katharine Hepburn


In an effort to keep my students at least a tad focused next week, I launched a contest today: "It's Almost Spring Break Sestina Sweepstakes!"  We had spent the week in the rain and tears of Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina" and I wanted them to start turning their thoughts to sunshine (easy enough in our 80 degree weather today!) and to try writing a sestina on their own.  It is not the type of assignment I would grade, but I still wanted sincere effort, so the contest was born.  They will upload their sestinas to GoogleDocs, send me the link, and I will post them on the class website. Then, they will submit their vote for favorites and the highest vote-getter wins a prize.  It took until my last class  of the day to get the question, "What's the prize?"  Upon receiving the sharp look from my quizzical eye, she followed up with, "I mean, are we talking candy or are we talking pony?" 

"Somewhere in between," I said.

Really, it was a fair question.  Don't we often want to know what our reward will be for a job well done?  We use this information to determine whether or not something is worthy of our time, attention, skills and energy.  But maybe we need to be willing to give our effort even when we don't know what the reward might be, or if there will be one at all.   And maybe the best rewards are the ones we don't even know are coming.  Unsolicited compliments from my husband.  An "out-of-the-blue" thank you note from a student who graduated years ago.  The trust of a colleague who needs to talk.  A sincere hug of appreciation from a friend.  An extra half-hour in the sunshine with my boys. 

These rewards sustain us.  They keep us moving forward, keep us willing to help and hope. 

When I was eight, a pony would have been the best prize in the world.  But as I near 38, nothing can beat the rewards my students, my co-workers, my friends and my family surprise me with each day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just a little bit about love...

Just a small slice today:

Love is hard. It makes you turn yourself inside out trying to make sense where there isn't any. And just when you think you have figured this love thing out, you are reminded that none of us have it figured out. I guess that's why we ache for it. Because it makes us crazy and awful and good. Love is hard, but hopefully it's the one thing we have.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living Vicariously at the Library

Today was library day.  The boys get so excited that their little bodies can hardly handle the enthusiasm.  Once we are out of the car and making our way toward the entrance, they are running and twirling, half-skipping -- anything but walking along beside me.  As we enter, I shush and corral them, telling them that in libraries people are qui...oh heck, why do I bother?  We turn the corner into the children's section and the madhouse would rival any six-year old's birthday party.  Kids are jumping, playing with blocks, hollering, gaming on the computers -- hardly a one is reading a book.The adults are settled into too-small chairs and lost in their own conversations as their little ones treat the library like a playground. 

I know, I know.  I am supposed to be happy because there are so many children enjoying the library, but I always hope I can give my sons a little bit of my own library experience.  I loved everything about the library when I was young.  Books from floor to ceiling, alphabetized and catalogued. Roomy chairs and a quiet that allowed me to leave my body and get lost in my own head.  For me, the library was both grown-up and magical and I loved the paradox. 

That's not quite the experience my boys are having, but they enjoy the library in their own way.  They dive into the stacks, seeking the one Junie B Jones that we  haven't read yet or Book 13 of a beloved series.  They talk in their normal voices and have no trouble navigating the mini-carnival around them.

As with most attempts in parenting of reliving your own childhood through your kids, it doesn't look like this one is going to work.   I won't be able to give my boys the same library experience I had.  But, I can be a part of the library experience they are having.  Noisy mayhem or not,  I still love to take them. And I am pretty certain they love to go.

Monday, March 7, 2011

They're Writing Today

I love the booming silence of students deep in thought.  My classroom is usually a place of witty conversation, lively laughter, and healthy debate; occasionally we even have musical accompaniment.   But today, the room is thickly hushed as the students write.  Their heads bent over their papers, they are like umbrellas above their essays.  One hand expertly holds the sheets still while the other fills the page with words.  Every so often, the writers pause, raise their heads, and look around the room. They squint, yawn, stretch --  then refocus on the page in front of them. Quiet and slow, their pens and pencils leak their thoughts onto the page. Quiet and slow.  I love the noise of their learning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Boy and his Best Friend

My son Michael has a best friend.  He came over today after church to spend a few hours with us. Sometimes people think I am crazy when I invite another boy into my house (I already have three!) and sometimes I count myself among them.  But more often, I enjoy it when B comes over.  Sure, it is a little bit louder and a little bit wilder.  What really gets me, though, is that when I see Michael with B, I get a glimpse at who he really is. And when Michael is with B, he is happy.

B and Michael at Michael's 2nd birthday
B and Michael at B's 9th birthday
Michael and B have been friends their entire lives.  They have been in the same church nursery, Sunday School classes, and summer camps from the very beginning, before either one could even utter a word.  Now, I hear them out on living room calling each other "dude."  My hope is that someday, B is the friend who drives over to our house and just walks through the front door, no knock or doorbell required. The one we expect could pop in for dinner at any time. The one who has his own toothbrush in the bathroom because he ends up staying the night so often.  I hope that he and Michael stay close and that as they navigate through awkward adolescence and young adulthood, they have each other to lean on and wrestle with all the way through it.  Michael has his two brothers, of course, but there is something special about someone who chooses to care about you, about a friend who loves you like a brother because he wants to, not because he has to.

I don't have a friend I have known in the way Michael and B do, in the way I hope they always will -- a lifetime friend.  And Michael doesn't make friends easily; he can be a challenging personality.  But with B, it is just natural.

So, it is a bit noisier in our little apartment tonight, but it's okay.  I'll take the noise that comes from two boys being the best of friends any day if it means my son has one more person in his life who likes him almost as much as I do. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday, Slow Down!

On my husband's Disney-focused blog, Days in the Park, he sometimes features a "Saturday Slowdown," a post detailing a place in the park that is perfect for a little relaxation or some time out of the California sunshine. For me, Saturday and slow down rarely go together. I often think about my Saturdays weeks ahead and allow myself to imagine accomplishing great feats of organization, cleanliness and domesticity. A typical in-my-head Saturday to-do list might look like this:

Make the boys a bountiful, wholesome breakfast
Do several load of dishes
Vacuum thoroughly, moving furniture when needed
Do five loads of laundry and put away all of the clean laundry from last week
Organize all photographs from 2004 - present
Scrub toilets until they look new
Dust
Alphabetize our 500-DVD collection
Establish a disciplinary system that guarantees peace and brotherly love
Give myself a perfect pedicure

Of course, I never, ever have a Saturday that even comes close.  Most of the time, half of the day has zipped by before I even commit a list to paper, let alone cross anything off of it. Breakfast this morning was frozen waffles and pre-cooked sausage. I think my youngest son was still in his undies at 2:00 in the afternoon today.  I didn't dust.  I didn't organize.  I certainly didn't get a pedicure.  And now, it is nearing 10:00 pm and I can't believe another Saturday has slipped away.  What is there to show for it?

I guess I did a few things today. I did take Michael to his GATE test this morning and treated him to a McDonald's shamrock shake when he was done. I did present the technology inservice for teachers beginning the Writing Project Summer Institute at UCR. I did play a round of iPhone Scrabble with Nicholas and laughed when he played the word "fub" which sounded so silly to all of us.  I did get to have my four year old, Lucas, crawl in my lap and call me his "bewuvved". I do get an hour of quiet time with my husband, time for both of us to talk and share and let go of all the cares and worries of the week. 

And I do get to sit here now, writing.  It may not be sparkling toilets, but it certainly makes me feel ready for the week ahead and even the speedy Saturdays to come.  And who knows?  Maybe a pedicure is in the stars for sometime soon!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Battle or Bliss?

All day the question haunts me: what will I write about?  Ideas flit about me and I swat at them like they are tiny gnats before I realize they might be the ticket to today's piece.

What will I write about?  Will I write about my distracted students -- so eager for the weekend, but still mired down in the difficulties of their calculus test and their econ homework?  My boys - the way they want to be close to me, but already know they are supposed to be pulling away?  My husband -- how he "dances" with me by standing still and smiling as I twirl around him? Will I write about bedtime -- the bathroom trips, whines for water, one-more-kiss requests and stifled giggles from under the blankets?

I'm not sure today what I should write about.  I just know that my heart gets pushed and pulled in seventeen directions each day and by the end I can hardly describe what has happened or how I have felt.  I am not sure what to write about, but I know that I am blessed and burdened in such a wonderful way.  So many people to love, so many needs to be met. Study guides hidden under notebooks, half-hugs and wrestling holds replacing super squeezes and tenderness,  a stiff sway instead of a round-the-room waltz.  A mini-battle instead of unblemished bliss. 

I am not sure what to write about, but I write anyway. Because sometimes what is is better than what might be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blinking and Bugs

So many things slip away before we are ready for them to go.  We blink, without even thinking, and as our lashes touch, everything changes. 

A friend brought her nephew into my office today.  He will turn one soon and as I took him in my arms and looked into his wonder-filled eyes, I tried to remember what it was like to hold my own boys this way.  It felt so familiar to have his little body tucked into the bend of my elbow, but when I tried to picture my little guys  in the same sweet spot, I struggled.

Each day is so thick with moments -- quick hugs, noisy laughter, hot tears, spilled drinks, broken toys, looming homework, silly dances, jokes that don't make sense, question after question after question -- that distinguishing one from another becomes almost impossible.  Instead, they melt together into one long second.


We could try to keep our eyes open, to capture every second on film, to write every detail in a journal, but it wouldn't work.  The real  loveliness of the moment comes in part from its temporal nature.  Like catching lightning bugs in a jar, remembering it all would eventually ruin what we love.  Sometimes, we have to take the lid off and get our pleasure from watching the fireflies drift away.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lost and Found

Lost. The email begins with a tone of curiosity. “I can’t find my iPod -- any idea where it is?” A more frantic one more than an hour later, and finally after another hour has passed, “I’ve torn this place apart! Can’t find it anywhere!” I can’t do much. Even the magic of our digital world does not allow me to join in the search for missing items at home when I am at work. I can suggest, “Try here” or “Have you looked there?” Eventually, I look in my own purse and see the darn thing in he front pocket. Why? How? Who knows , but I least I can send an email to my husband-in-distress and let him know the item has been found.



Lost and Found. The boys brought home a notice from school stating their lost-and-found would be emptied at the end of each month and that staff would no longer be checking the lost and found items for names match the up with children. The process, apparently, has become too unwieldy. Reluctantly-worn sweaters, right mittens, and the odd pair of pants -- little owners must reclaim or they will be offered to the charity of choice.

Just this week: book, game, key, focus, confidence, fear, patience. All lost and found.

Sometimes, I blame it all on too much stuff. We have too much and we lose it because we cannot possibly manage it all. Something is always left behind. Sometimes, I think that loss is good. It makes us appreciate what we have and reminds us that all ownership is temporary. Losing something has inspired me to think: What will I do without it? How will I be changed by its absence?

Every once in a while, I lose my voice. Not laryngitis, but my words. I don’t have time, I don’t have ideas, I don’t have the energy it takes to stir something up inside myself, pull it out of my body and put it onto the page. But then, I do. And it is then -- now -- I am found.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recess

**I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers all month.

My eight was hide-and-go-seek, dreams of being a movie star, and not a care in the world.  His eight is a face dirty from tears, a series of citations, and too much yelling. MJ had another tough day.  Playground skirmishes, glasses on the asphalt.  

Sometimes I wish I could be eight, too.  I would take his hand in mine and ask him to play with me.  I would smile at him and he would smile back.  The California sunshine would warm the tops of our heads as we played and pretended.  Knight and damsel. Astronaut and alien.  Pirate and mermaid. We would have our own language and a super secret hand signal that means: "I think you are the very best."

And he would believe it.