Saturday, November 25, 2006

More on Thanksgiving

Things I am feeling grateful for:
1. Family. They may not be exactly who I would have selected if I were in on the family-selecting process, but for better or worse, they are the ones who contribute to who I am. And as families go, they are better than a lot I've heard about.
2. My husband rocks. He made it through a long car trip with my mom and me talking about school pretty much nonstop. He, too, found the illuminated electric wall "art" depicting Waikiki beach with sounds of waves and sea gulls hanging over his parents fireplace amusing. He fed the stray cat who ran in(about 8 times) during the Thanksgiving party, then managed to talk his parents into letting it sleep in the garage. He also convinced them to put a cat door into the garage so the stray would continue to have a warmer place to sleep and access to food and water.
3. Christmas. Christmas decorations, Christmas music, Christmas greenery, Christmas food. Did I mention Christmas music? Just downloaded Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong, which you will like if you like anything else she does, meaning there are no surprises, just mellow melodic holiday music.
4. Fake Christmas trees. I'm sorry, I know. But I have a fear of fire, and I love having the tree up already.
5. Starbucks. Specifically, holiday drinks at Starbucks. Peppermint Mocha. Caramel Apple Cider.
6. Knitting. Passing knitting on. I taught D's 21-year-old cousin how to knit last night. We ran out to Jo Ann's minutes before it closed and found some respectable, Italian, variegated pink and salmon wool and 10.5 bamboo straights. Hurrah for quiet little addictions. . .
7. Colder weather finally. At last, when the weather channel site shows me the ten day local forecast, I see a string of days with highs in the 60's, and a chance of rain.
8. Lazy Saturdays. I just finished breakfast and haven't left the house yet.
9. Magic cookie bars .


You know the kinds of Thanksgivings you see in Sunset magazine? Tables beautifully set, all the traditional foods plus a few personalized twists, extended family and friends attired in casually autumnal clothes, a kids' table? I have always placed that image in my head as the visual definition of Thanksgiving dinner.

For several years, D and I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for our friends: long tables with white linens, wedding china, goblets, centerpieces of gourds, nuts, and candles, place cards, and all the traditional foods. We handled twenty guests seamlessly, effortlessly, without incident. But this year, the group of people we have included for this tradition had grown so large that we had a fall picnic in a local park instead. I missed the tables and passing the food, and seeing our friends a little more dressed up than usual.

I have a small family of origin, and most of its members shun tradition. Evidence: once we spent Christmas day on the side of a volcano in Hawaii eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Nothing wrong with Hawaii, or PB & J, but it's Christmas, people. When Thanksgiving is spent with my side of the family, it's nice and familial, there are yams and pumpkin pie, stuffing laced with sage, drowned in cranberry sauce. But it's small, and it's blue and green, because those are my mom's colors. No browns, oranges, candles.

D has a big family of origin whose members have even more friends. We spent Thanksgiving with them in Fresno this year, and took my mom along. Seventy or so people milling around the first floor of the house, singing Karaoke proudly and not particularly well, eating traditional filipino food (rice, garlicky noodles, egg rolls, stuffed fish, flan) from paper plates with plastic forks that kept dropping to the floor midst the metal folding chairs, and cackling with laughter late into the night. Fun, lively, chaotic, without a yam or pumpkin pie in sight. And, no football, yo. I don't even know who played, who won, etc. And I do care.

I told D this morning that someday, and I'm not sure where because our place is kind of small, I want to host Thanksgiving for our families. So we can have the picture that is stuck in my mind, begging to be satisfied.

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Lieu of Nine Months

Our certification process for being foster parents is almost done: CPR, check. TB testing, check. Hours of training on the Child Welfare System, check, plus binder. Livescan fingerprints, check. The home inspection is coming up this week, so outlets are covered, safety locks and so forth are done, and the baby room is ready enough (more will happen once we know specific age and gender).

We go to the bookstore and I gather books and magazines about babies and parenting. I have two competing thoughts: One is, there is so much to know, and the more I try to find out, the better it will be for me, my husband, and the kid. It's right up there with bringing about world peace. And the other thought is, don't people realize that parenting has been going on for a really, really long time and that our ancestors didn't have Babywise and What to Expect: The Toddler Years, yet here we are, a species that has multiplied substantially and with at least some sparks of goodness along the way? Should I work myself into a frenzy about gathering all the right baby "essentials" when women in third world countries give birth at home, sling their newborn onto their sides, and head back to life as usual because that's the expectation? I waffle. Excitement turns to anxiousness and returns to calm anticipation in the course of a minute.

I am excited to the point of nervous doubt—to want something this much is almost a taunt to the Universe to deny its fruition. But we can't stop the wanting. And hopefully the Universe will see what a great deal this is, two decent, intentional, energetic (d), organized (me), loving, and WILLING people just asking to take in a kid who needs a place. I don't see the catch, so I'm choosing to be optimistic.

Today, we fieldtripped for baby items that we won't get until the time comes, but which require some research and evaluating. After perusing the internet and reading Consumer Reports, we toured the stroller and car seat sections of a few babycentric stores and figured out which stroller (Zooper Boogie) and which car seat (probably Britax Marathon) will work best for our lifestyle and provide the best quality and value over time. And that won't cause irritation and annoyance when I use them. Thus, they have to be black, not yellow with ducks, beige with bears, or green plaid, just BLACK. (My mother is perplexed by my lack of enthusiasm for baby-themed clothing and gear. I, on the other hand, am perplexed by stores in which every piece of little boy clothing is appliqued with animals or the words "All Star" and every sports ball known to ESPN—no child is that fascinated by either barnyards or athletics. This is the just the beginning of our parenting differences. I envision a collection of non-pastel onesies with pithy sayings that would make my 14-year-old students envious. She's hoping I'll come around to the Rainforest crib set. Won't this be fun?)

As I sat on the floor of a stroller aisle, watching my prodigiously handy husband figure out the quick release inflatable wheels faster than the salesperson, I realized again, as I do over and over in different situations, that my husband is amazing. That he's going to be an unbelievably good father. That any kid would love having him as a dad. That I am undeserving and unworthy of him, and that just getting to be on this journey of life with him is the biggest gift the Universe could have ever arranged for me. I hate that I forget this sometimes, that I have taken for granted how incredibly gifted and fortunate I am to have this exact man in my life, precisely how he is. But I love how the Universe gives me reasons all the time, like today, to realize again just how good everything is because my husband is here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


1. If I needed to wallpaper a convention center meeting room, I could easily cover every surface with the amount of papers I have not graded but need to.

2. New seating charts would make my life better exponentially, but I would actually have to find the time necessary to creatively arrange 150 kids in five different classes, which takes longer than you might think.

3. I LOVE GRAMMAR! It isn't as important to me as critical analysis, explication of literature, superb writing, and thought-provoking discussions, but it's just so neat and tidy. What's not to like?

4. Forgive me. I already feel like writing certain kids off. I have never felt like doing triage this early in the year, but I can make a short list of students whose grades anchor the bottom half of the curve, and whose motivation levels hover around their ankles like socks without elastic. It makes me less altruistic and energetic than I wish I was, but the truth is, I could sit these kids in the back of the seating charts and pretend they don't exist for the rest of the year. Ouch. But it's how I feel, at least tonight.

5. Even though I'm behind and there are kids who are sucking my soul dry, I think I'm doing a better job of teaching this year. There are too many things to teach in Language Arts, but I'm finding systems and routines that are working better this year than ever before for fitting more into my teaching schedule.

6. In the past week, I have had three former students come back to say hello. One is in continuation high school, one has a felony on record that will be cleared in a year if he can stay clean, and the other is a college freshman. When kids come back to visit, they don't walk in and say, "You have changed my life." "It is because of you that each day has meaning." "I can trace the positive direction of my future back to its starting point right here in this room." But they come back. And they look around the room wistfully, tell me about their friends and jobs, and tell me they are doing well. Or poorly. Either way, I feel honored that I still have the privilege of accessing their worlds, even years later. They linger. I rest my arms on the stacks of papers I need to grade, and I purposely forget the time that seeps away while they sit and talk. The ones who don't suck my soul dry stick in my heart and my head forever. I remember their names. They carry my hopes and dreams with them. They are my children until I have my children. And after I have my children, I want desperately to keep investing my hopes and dreams in these kids who pass through my room and who sometimes come back to reconnect to some place and someone who meant something.
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