A man of few words (right now, anyhow)

“Nathaniel, do you want to help me write my blog today?”

“What’s a glog?”

“That’s where you write your ideas…”

“And then give them to people! Can you write down my ideas, what I did today?”

“Yes!”

“Okay.

Number One: Gymnastics.”

“Do you want to say something about it, how it made you feel, or something you did, or something you saw?”

“No. Next, Aunt Hadley’s. Going Home. Going to REI (soon). Next (each time I finish a word, put next, okay, so you don’t have to put a space). Next go back home. Next play. Next have dinner. Next get ready for bed. Go to sleep.”

“What would you like people to say or think about your day today?”

“Good.

Send it.”

(I goot to help!)

When it Rains, It Pours

When it rains, it pours.

Except,

Living here,

When it rains, it does not pour.

It drips, and drizzles, and mists.

It sits gray and damp and heavy

Without a proper soaking.

There are no absurdly big puddles to dodge

or jump in with both feet.

There are no inverted umbrellas, giving up the ghost,

or real soakers that invite you to scream around outside.

I know that this business of raining, and pouring,

is meant to speak of

too much, overwhelming, piling on,

but honestly,

it’s the constant drip, drip, drip

that feels more likely to

drown me.

Leave Them Kids Alone

I did not have the easiest birth with my oldest, Nathaniel. My blood pressure had been high all pregnancy, and so the doctors determined that I should not be allowed to go past my due date.

On Wednesday, I arrived at the hospital for my scheduled induction. They led me back to room, checked me in, and after 30 minutes or so, sent a kind, young med student back to check me. There had been a baby boom, and if I wasn’t dilated, they were going to give my room to someone else and reschedule me.

On Friday, the hospital called and thought maybe they’d just reschedule for Monday, when my doctor would be on call. I suggested that it might be possible that the induction would take longer than a breezy afternoon, and I’d like to be called when they had an opening.

On Saturday afternoon, I was admitted to the hospital and started on Cervadil; Saturday evening, Cervadil was removed and I was thrown into the tub to stop the contractions, which were stressing baby out.

On Sunday, I was started on Pitocin; Saturday evening, Pitocin was discontinued, and I was made to lie in one particular position to stop the contractions, which were stressing baby out.

On Monday, I was started on Pitocin, again, on a slower protocol; Monday evening, Pitocin was discontinued because I’d been on it “too long”, and I was advised not to go home in case contractions started, which could stress baby out.

Tuesday, finally, my baby was born. Tuesday evening, I had to get a blood patch after my epidural headache left me unable to lift my head long enough to go to the bathroom.

Wednesday, we struggled with nursing, and worked and worked and worked with a lactation consultant to get him going with a “nipple shield.”

Thursday, we went home, and then Friday morning a nurse came to check on us, and then Friday afternoon, the mohel (also a doctor) sent us back to the hospital to test for jaundice. I sat in the chair outside the nursery, waiting for them to call us in, sobbing. I was starving, beat up, hormonal, and being told my baby was not perfect. Dr. German, a resident who had visited with us many times over the previous days, happened to walk by. He knelt by the chair, treated us with kindness, and promised to send a nurse by the house the next day.

Saturday, the phone rang. “Hi, it’s Dr. German,” he said. “So, I was talking to Dr. Beard.” Dr. Beard was the attending who’d been through all of this with us. He looked a bit like Dr. Phil, but with nothing but kindness and calm in his demeanor. “Dr. Beard thinks that we should just let you alone for the weekend, so you can just have some uninterrupted time with your baby.”

“Are you sure we’ll be okay?” I asked meekly, no fight in me in either direction.

“You’ll be okay, and we’re just a phone call away if you need us,” he reminded me.

I kind of think that Dr. Beard saved my life, not to be too dramatic. What I needed was exactly what he said: nothing. That is, the supportive, trusting kind of nothing that has a safety net but messages its confidence in you above all.

I’ve been thinking about our struggling students today, who we hover over and fret over and seldom leave alone to do the work. I’ve been thinking about our new teachers, who we surround with support from this department and that department and the principal and the grade level team, and seldom leave alone to do the work.

In this season of testing, and evaluations, and high stakes, I wonder if the best thing I can do for my teachers right now is back off, and do nothing.

Bathing Suit

Today, I had a day off from school, and so I:

1) Went bathing suit shopping

2) Hung out with my 7-week-old niece, Tessa.

Bathing suit shopping was, true to stereotype, more about function than fun. But, remember when it was? Remember when it meant VACATION and SUMMER and POOLS and BEACHES, and not CHANGE or DOUBT or HIDE?

In honor of Tessa, and the only bathing suit-related feelings I hope she ever knows, an abbreviated history of My Fabulous Life in Swimsuits.

– Magenta One-Piece: One color, but oh what a color it was. My sister, 19-months younger than me, had the exact same suit. We spent most of the summer fielding the question, “Oh, are you twins?” to my horror and her delight.

– Regency Estates Swim Club Swim Team Speedo, black background with jazzy red, yellow, and blue stripes. The first time I tried swim team, at 5, I swam precisely to the midpoint of the pool, grabbed on to the lane divider, and refused to move a muscle more. Then, three years later, they introduced this suit. I joined the team, and spent most of the next 7 summers in the pool. “Everybody swims, everybody wins, so let’s have fun!”

– Fluorescent orange, green, and pink color-block swimsuit, purchased at the Dolphin Cove swim shop on Hatteras Island, only the swankiest swim and souvenir shop on this tiny island. Midway through vacation, my mother realized that one swimsuit per kid was not going to cut it, and I got this incredibly sophisticated, it-girl swimsuit for the rest of the summer. Nothing sets off that nut brown tan that only kids can achieve like fluorescent orange, believe you me.

– My first two piece swim suit, a hand-me-down from my cousin Johanna. It had a big tropical flower on the top, against a bluey-purpley background, and I stood nearly paralyzed by the side of the high-dive, terrified of what would happen when I jumped off in that thing.

– My first real bikini, red with little white flowers, cute but so small! I wore it as often as I could, feigning nonchalance while inside I said to myself, eyes big, “LOOK HOW GROWN UP YOU ARE!”  There’s a picture from a spring break camping trip senior year in high school. I’m wearing the top, and jean shorts, and the boy I had a huge crush on is staring right out me, as I beam at the camera. Oh, god. High school.

Tessa, I can’t wait to take you swimming, and watch you enjoy summer, and sun, and your own strength.

Restoration

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch, on a sunny day, just a tad cooler than expected.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch, on a sunny day, just a tad cooler than expected, with wise colleagues who fight the fight alongside you every day, but whom you rarely get to see.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch, on a sunny day, just a tad cooler than expected, with wise colleagues who fight the fight alongside you every day, but whom you rarely get to see; colleagues who cross departments, schools, experiences.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch, on a sunny day, just a tad cooler than expected, with wise colleagues who fight the fight alongside you every day, but whom you rarely get to see; colleagues who cross departments, schools, experiences; colleagues who are really more like friends, who know so much about your daily life and are there for you in the moments when everything is too much or too funny or too sad to experience by yourself.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch, on a sunny day, just a tad cooler than expected, with wise colleagues who fight the fight alongside you every day, but whom you rarely get to see; colleagues who cross departments, schools, experiences; colleagues who are really more like friends, who know so much about your daily life and are there for you in the moments when everything is too much or too funny or too sad to experience by yourself; letting the work rest just a little bit, knowing it will be there, but not feeling it press down on your shoulders in quite the same way for that stolen hour.

There is nothing so restorative as a good bowl of pho for lunch.

Tulip Chocolate

My Uncle Karl, more commonly referred to for the first decade of my life as my Uncle Chocolate, owned a chocolate shop in New Jersey by the name of Tulip Chocolate. As a consequence, good grades were celebrated with personalized chocolate-covered Oreos arriving after each grading quarter; our most frequent Eggo toppings were the cocoa-covered bits of excess chocolate he would send home in a big bag after every visit (unfortunately called “Bobbie drippings”, after my aunt); and a chocolate-cast pig stood watch over our kitchen for my entire childhood, after my mother refused to let us eat the Superbowl decoration after our Washington’s team indecorous loss in 1983.

The chocolate shop was filled with wonders far beyond the racks and racks of E.T. chocolate lollipops, daring women’s legs cast in chocolate, and “TIME Man of the Year” chocolate magazine covers. In the first room, that open to customers, yellow and red tulips were painted head-high around the room, springing from a green carpet. There were big picture windows lined with white benches meant for window displays, but also good for peering out at the street.

The next room back was the cooking area, all white walls and metal racks, bright and clean and ready for inspection. It was grounded at the center by a chocolate stirrer, a waist-high machine filled with satiny chocolate, stirring with a blade that was somewhere between terrifying and hypnotizing. Here, too, lived piles of molds for all sorts of shaped chocolates, and dozens of gold boxes waiting to be filled.

In the back, the storage room, the only room where my uncle smoked. As a consequence, the white cardboard boxes that would arrive home smelled faintly, pleasantly of cigarettes, and to this day chocolate feels a bit incomplete without that underlying flavor. Here too lived a Macintosh computer, perfect for playing Oregon Trail while the grownups helped with the Christmas rush, cutting truffles and loading boxes.

Somehow, most fascinating to me was the unexplained purple splotch on the tile floor just at the threshold between the two back rooms. It was clearly some sort of spilled dye or marker-gone-wrong, but it felt special, secret, something that no customer would get to see, and no adults remembered to notice anymore.

Once, at a family dinner, my father was carrying on about his memories from his own uncle’s toy store. Finally, his other uncle, Dick, interrupted, “But Chas didn’t have a toy store. He had a hardware store.”

My father was gobsmacked. “But, I… I can see it! Are you sure?” His father and uncle nodded and chuckled as my father shook his head in disbelief.

It seems to me, these are the enchantments of our youth – piles of gold ribbons, bins of literal nuts and bolts, the sweet smells of chocolate, or sawdust, all mixed up with ownership and secrecy. These little cast-off treasures which cast their net of perfect safety, contentment, belonging and bewitch the simple rooms they occupy into castles in our minds.

There are only so many of these enchanted spaces in our lives. If my memories be false, let me never know the truth.

15 Lessons

Halfway through, here are 15 lessons I’ve learned so far from this year’s SOL.

1. It’s harder to take on a challenge in some ways, when you already know you’re capable of finishing it.

2. On good days, all is good – the writing, the parenting, the work; on bad days, all are crummy.

3. I’ve been leaning heavily on structure and “gimmicky” ideas, and loving what they allow me to reveal – in short order.

4. Looking into the notebooks of other writers is priceless inspiration.

5. Commenting inspires me to lift the level of my own writing.

6. I write best when I don’t have a lot of time. This long afternoon that I could devote to writing feels too boundless and unstructured.

7. Writing goes better with a cup of tea next to you, whether you drink it or not.

8. It’s really easy to default to humor and frustration when you know you’re going to be read – honesty is much harder.

9. Candy Crush and Buzzfeed are the death of my writing.

10. People think I’m a superhero for writing this much – but this is what we ask our kids to do every day!

11. It’s really hard to write without swearing. And I feel like this is semi-professional, so I’m trying not to swear. It’s really hard.

12. What they say about our having little writing tics is true – I’m discovering certain of you that I can always rely on for a poem, for a story about your family, for a funny memory.

13. Crossing off “blog” on the to-do list is one of the most satisfying “cross-offs” of the day.

14. Writing daily, as hard as it is, is a lot easier than writing occasionally. All that rust begins to wear off.

AND, of course,

15. I am not a robot (sorry, blogspot friends, I tease because I love!)

The More We Get Together

I had this great idea the other day, on 3/9, that I would take a picture at :39 past the hour every hour and just post that photocollage, and it would be so cool and slicey. And then I took the pictures, and it was, I suppose, a slice of life, but with nothing cool about it. So I tried again today, once an hour, to take a picture.

The side-by-side comparison:

Monday                                              Saturday

IMG_0099    IMG_0136IMG_0103    IMG_0149

IMG_0105    IMG_0150

IMG_0107    IMG_0151

IMG_0108     IMG_0155

IMG_0109     IMG_0160

And that was just the morning. The afternoon, I assure you, looks very similar.

IMG_0191

Tonight, right after this last picture, my children broke into a spontaneous chorus of “The More We Get Together, the Happier We’ll Be.” I couldn’t agree more, and it feels like the kind of agreeing that demands action.

Sushi

Tonight, we are going out for sushi dinner. It’s Friday, and I volunteered my day off for a day of professional development. It’s warm-ish, and it’s still light at 6:30. And one of the most joyful sounds in the world is the shriek my 4.5-year-old makes when he finds out we’re going for sushi.

He loves sushi. Not like, oh, he likes sushi. No, it’s love. When the swim instructor asks kids their favorite foods so she can count their back floats by “ice cream” seconds or “pizza” seconds, Nathaniel names “salmon nigiri,” and so counts by salmon nigiri seconds.

We’ll pull into our local kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi place, and in a moment he’s up on his knees, all big eyes and scrawny frame, scouting the belt for salmon nigiri. When it arrives, no sooner has it clonked onto the table, then he’s whipped off the little sneeze-protector cap and peeled the salmon off. “Chopsticks!” we remind him, a the slab of fish dangles out of his mouth, leaving a greasy slick on his chin.

In short order, our table will be piled with edamame hulls, a sprinkling of rice kernels, and, inevitably napkins soaked with soy sauce after a spill. Nathaniel will, by then, be on his third plate of salmon nigiri, and opening the negotiations for a trip to the frozen yogurt place next door. We’ll hem and haw, and occasionally threaten, and relent. And then we’ll traipse next door and start the process of topping selections, entertaining hearty debate about the relative merits of mochi and boba.

So, we’re having sushi dinner tonight. There’s too much joy not to.

Ants

We’ve been having a problem with ants. We’ve always had a few here, a few there, but they’ve moved from light brigade to wholesale invasion force. The kind you need an Act of Congress to approve.

I can’t remember when it started, but we’d see their little scurrying bodies sneaking in a neat, orderly line from the leftover birthday cake to the door. Touche, ants, touche. We cleaned and caulked and moved on with our lives.

Then, there was the infestation in the bathroom medicine cabinet, drawn to grape-flavored Child Tylenol that had been left in a cup. They were everywhere, even the threads of the bottle, each little body wedged in there. If it hadn’t been for the writhing, we would have looked like a poppy seed factory. We cleaned and caulked and did a little gross out dance and moved on with your lives.

And then, today, arriving home, the kitchen sink is more black than white, teeming. No more orderly line, they’ve gone rogue. There’s too much to clean, no place to caulk, and I’ve moved from gross out dance to heebie jeebies!

I don’t suppose it would appropriate to swear off moving on and just MOVE?