Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I teach at an elementary school - we are a year 'round school, that's why I was at work on July 31st. We had a celebration in our courtyard this morning... a gathering to celebrate the life of 7 year old boy who died this winter due to complications with the flu. He was a classmate of Via's and a student of mine. I can't describe the feelings I had sitting in the school courtyard with all 350 kids, staff and faculty... It was absolutely silent (unheard of with this group of kids!) Several staff members spoke about this little boy and his fingerprints left on our lives. A presentation was made in his honor - a tree that will be planted and a "memory bench" will be added to our courtyard. His whole family was there. Hands were held. Tears were shed. Quiet prayers were said.
And as I looked at those children, I remembered that each and every one of those children is special to someone. Each of those children would leave a hole in the lives of the people around them if they were to suddenly become ill and die. It would take so little... it happens so fast.... I thought about how that little boy over there had pushed my buttons and made me crazy when I was trying to teach his class about characters and actors. I looked at that little girl over there and remembered that she had been dishonest about a book that had gone missing, and someone else tattled and someone else hit someone... And I saw clearly again how important each of these little (and not so little) people are to me. I am awed by my wonderful responsibility as a teacher. A responsibility that I sometimes narrow down to a paycheck.
And I looked at my daughter sitting near me in the summer heat, and I thought about how much I love her. How I love her crazy stories and her temper tantrums and her stubborn streak that will be wonderful as an adult but that drives her parents nutty... It has been too fast. And I have forget to watch it all happen. I have taken it all for granted. I have narrowed my role as a parent down to bed times and bath times and deadlines and laundry.
If someone in my life were to be taken away, would I remember what they smelled like? the sound of their laughter? It makes me think of the scene in "Our Town" when Emily has been buried and she is given the opportunity to repeat a day in her life, and the other people in the cemetery urge her to choose a normal day... She chooses a birthday from her childhood. In the scene that I am remembering, she realizes that no one really looks at each other... no one really sees what there is to see while there is still time to look.
Can I broaden my vision to include the things that are really important and close my eyes to the things that really don't matter...
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Last weekend, we loaded up the car and took the gang to an arts fair in Highland Park. Papa came along to "look at the cars." We think it was so he could eat fried cheese curds and drink coca colas. (Oma was in sunny CA helping the Lemon Tree Family move in and get settled.) There were some pretty wonderful old vehicles to be sure. This car in particular caught the fancy of the littles. I think it was due to the orange wheels. Prior to our arrival, it was so shiny and glorious, but 3 little girls with cheese curd fingers can do a fair amount of damage in no time flat. The old fellow who obviously owned this car, just stood back shaking his head and sighing. Not doubt, he was waiting for our departure so he could re-polish the doors. I thought that the old state troopers car from the 1930's was great. Of course, it looked like it belonged on a movie set. I could just imagine a young officer bouncing across and old corn field in pursuit of a bank robber or one of the "gangster criminals" that frequented St.Paul. John Dillinger is pretty famous in St. Paul... I know, strange. The story goes like this: the St. Paul Police told the ganster element that they could "vacation" in St. Paul as long as they didn't conduct any "business." It's actually pretty interesting bit of history.
Friday, July 27, 2007
A couple of days ago, Yaya and I went to the Byrd House, to visit our dear friends. This sweet friend is a lovely baker. She rarely bakes the same things twice, and really finds that baking and cooking (two distinctly different crafts/skills that she has mastered) are a wonderful way for her to express that creative part of her soul.
On this particular day, Mama Byrd had a hankerin' for some fresh blueberry ginger bread. So she pulled out a recipe - last time she used it was several years ago. I don't even know where the recipe I used last week is - Ack! She also pulled out all of the lovely, fresh organic ingredients that she had on hand - like a movie, she had everything that she needed, including fresh blueberries that she'd picked with her children a few days earlier. (Did I mention that Mama Byrd is pregnant with her 3rd child? If I didn't love her so much, and know what a truly lovely person she is, I would begin to feel inadequate.)
Then, she gave up control - gasp! - and let our children take over the baking duties. Note: our children are 2, 3 and 5 years old. Did you notice that her son is sitting on the baking counter and Yaya has her whole hand in the mixing bowl? Who knows what actually went into the bowl (certainly organic, from one source or another), but in that happy and sunny and relaxed kitchen something magical happened. These children created the most lovely little loaf of homemade blueberry gingerbread I have ever tasted. We made our own version of creme' freche (?) and poured a tart glass of lemonade. (This was my contribution to our gathering. Do I need to tell you that is was a lovely plastic can of non-organic frozen concentrate? I know, magical....)
It was a fabulous afternoon spent in the kitchen with the Patron Saint of Baking. I hope to do it again very, very soon.
Monday, July 23, 2007
We are all getting ready to head to the lakes. That's what you do in the midwest - go to the cabin... go up north... hide.
We are really looking forward to my brother, sister-in-law and their 2 gorgeous girls joining us at the lake this year. 5 little girls with the run of the "compound" ought to be interesting. I personally think that they should be forced to "sleep" in one cabin and let the adults actually sleep in another cabin.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Via is a student at the elementary school where I teach theater. It is a year 'round school with an arts focus. It's a very cool school. Every July, we present an all school musical. Every kid in school is on stage (except for the seven or so 6th graders who are working tech and the handful of kids who are running sets). We are an arts school, but we have no permanent performing arts space. That means that every summer after the Fourth of July, we set up a giant circus-sized tent, assemble a stage and build all of the sets. We set up rows and rows and rows and rows of folding chairs. The kids have rehearsed for 6 weeks or so. It is an original show every year. We double cast all of the leads so more kids get a chance to shine in the spot light. All of the performances are free to the public - and at the 7 o'clock show we seat approx. 1300 people. It's crazy and wonderful and a little frightening all at the same time.
This blurry photo is a pic of Via as a "Wallstreet Wizard." She is singing and dancing and obviously having the time of her life. It's blurry because there was a mad crush of parents to take photos of their kids, and Rick risked life and limb to get this out of focus shot. We love it all the same because it sort of captures the whole rehearsal/performance process for me.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Today, Noni and Yaya made lunch. They made "peter honey." That's kid speak for peanut butter and honey sandwiches... on whole wheat bread. No crusts. No end pieces.
Noni was the boss. She was in charge of spreading and cutting. Knives should only be used by "bigger kids than Yaya."
Yaya was NOT the boss. So Noni, the kitchen queen, told Yaya that if she listened carefully to all the rules, she could help. A little.
"Oh yes. I will listen to the rules. I can help. I am a bigger kid today."
So Noni told Yaya that she would be in charge of getting out paper plates and green grapes and vanilla yogurt and plastic cups with lids. Then she would also be in charge of getting red napkins and silver spoons and baby carrots and finding Big-Sister-Via and getting the enormous wiggling dog out of the kennel and squashing the yucky fly that had found it's way into the kitchen and moving all of the baby books from the table so there was room to eat.
Yaya did all of this for Queen Noni. As her reward, she got the last choice of sandwiches - the yucky end pieces or the parts with crusts. She got the slimy green grapes. She got the smallest scoop of vanilla yogurt. She got her 3rd favorite plastic cup with a lid. The enormous wiggly dog knocked over her plate and ate the carrots.
And the whole time, she sat smiling at Queen Noni - the Boss of the Kitchen Lunch Time Project because Queen Noni had let Yaya be in charge of so many important things today.
She said, "See I am a bigger kid today. Maybe next time, I can use the knife, too. How'bout that?"
Friday, July 20, 2007
I sang the National Anthem at the Minnesota Twins game on Wed. evening. OK, so I sang with a big choir, but I sang. It was a lot of fun. My dad conducted the group from behind home plate. Our lovely faces were on the Jumbo-Tron. That was all good, but the wonderful part -the part that gives me goose bumps as I think about it now - was this: it was cultural awareness night at the Dome. When we walked out onto the field, there was this sort of explosion of colors - dancers and singers from all ethnic backgrounds were performing on the field before the game. There were Mayan dancers, and Native American Drummers, and Hmong dancers, and Latino Dancers... When our choir sang, the other performers all stood together in a semi-circle around us - each group in their national costumes. It was fitting. After all, isn't that what America is trying to protect - our wonderfully diverse melting pot of a country?
It was all down hill from there. Santana pitched. We played the Detroit Tigers. It was a long game. We lost.
It was fun to share a beer with my husband!
This is our favorite breakfast in the whole wide world. We eat it almost every Sunday, and some times we eat it on Saturday, and sometimes, we eat it for a snack or dessert or just because it's in the fridge or because we are afraid that someone might get the last bit. Then we hurry and eat fast.
"What is it," you ask? "What could possibly create such a flurry in that household?" Well, I will tell you.
1/2 c. non-fat vanilla yogurt, organic
1/2 c. strawberries, fresh picked
1 tsp. brown sugar
That's it. Easy-speasy!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
This is Via. This is Via riding a tank at an amusement part. It is really a metaphor - and , frankly, I am not amused one tiny bit.! This is Via and her "attitude of the week."
Via is only a second grader, yet it appears that she is headed right into the greasy arm pit of puberty. She is a "pre-teen" complete with sassy attitude and unpredictable emotions.
Via was grounded this week. She lost her bike. She lost her computer time. She lost her books-in-the-car. She kicked her sister in the stomach. She lied to her mother. Several times. She cried. She threw shoes at her family.
Puberty is going to be rough on this family with three strong-willed girls. (What did the toddler books call it... "the spirited child?" They've got nothing on this!)
It's inevitable - the girls are going to be hormonal, angst-filled teenagers. It apparently doesn't matter if they are true teenagers by the numbers. It's all in the attitude. And by the look of things, puberty is descending upon us like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Why don't people warn parents about puberty? Where is this chapter in my parenting manual? My mother says that I am only getting what I deserve (apparently, my teen years were no walk in the park... so?!)
By my best guess, we are going to have several hormonal girls in this house for at least 20 years.
I will not be here. I will have moved to Tibet.
I hope they have coffee in Tibet.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
This is my husband Rick. He created this image of himself on line somewhere (no doubt, it was a "Simpson's" related web site) It's his "Simpson's Persona." I think that it's actually a pretty good likeness. He did one for all of the family. They are pretty funny, and pretty close to the truth. And like a great husband, my likeness is as tall and willowy as a cartoon character can get.
He is 43 years old today. He may be growing older, but he certainly hasn't lost his youthful sense of humor. If you think about it, send all sorts of good thoughts to him today. You could even check out his "My Space Page" - RickLoganHaha. I am so lucky to be married to a guy who makes me laugh - whether I like it or not - every single day!
Happy birthday, Rocko! I love you T.M.D.
Friday, July 13, 2007
This child wants to be a super hero. Today she is a chicken in a terrycloth cape. Tomorrow...? Who knows.
She is growing up so darned fast! Yikes. I can hardly stand it. Her language has taken enormous leaps. Now, it's not just words, it's ideas and jokes and stories and make believe. There are days, I can't wait for her to grow up. Those days are filled with stress and "shoulds" and "have tos." Then, some days, I am brought to tears at the thought of how quickly time is moving. It seems like only yesterday that our oldest, Olivia, was a little peanut in diapers and a terrycloth chicken cape, now she is talking about boys and singing along to pop songs on the car radio. Wow!
I hope that I can cherish this plucky little super hero and all of my girls and my husband and my family and my friends... I am so lucky to have each and everyone of these people in my life.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
This is beautiful Via. She is working on a compostition for her piano lesson. Does this girl rock, or what. Tonight, she wrote lyrics. What a creative young mind. I feel so honored that she chose our family to be born into. I really look forward to watching her become a young woman, then a grown woman. It's going to be amazing to see what she chooses to do with her life and talents. I love her bigger than the whole whole universe.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
This is Rick. He is writing jokes. He has a new love - stand up comedy. And guess what? He's really funny! I mean really funny.
He's hosting Laugh For The Cure - a benefit for Breast Cancer. It's a pretty big deal. I can't wait to see him do his thing. He is really funny.
And, he's kind of cute, too.
We went to an ECFE picnic tonight. It was a lot of fun. There were water baloons for the kids. We loved it. Our whole family got into the action... imagine that! Nora especially loved throwing things that exploded! Every time something exploded, she'd shout "sweet!"
Rick took Ava to ECFE this year (Early Childhood/Family Education). There are age specific classes. Rick was the only dad in the class, but - as usual - he got along famously with everyone. It was strange to go to a picnic and be the only woman who hadn't taken her child to this class. All of the "unknown spouses" were husbands ... and me. We had a great time. The food was wonderful - lots of great salads. The conversation was actually NOT centered around our children. These gals were very hip and current and artistic and... interesting. I wish the ECFE classes that I had taken Via and Noni to were this much fun.
(The gal who hosted had a rockin' house. I'd like to host sometime, but the pressure to have a fabulous house might overwhelm me. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.)
Got to go help Rick put the kids to bed.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I love goldfish.
That 'little snack that smiles back' has saved my sanity on so many occasions. I think that I might purchase stock in this company.
I should at least include them in my evening prayers:
"Dear God, please protect the humble little cracker that brings my rowdy children to a zen-like state while waiting for the cashier at the bank.
Please allow that little orange guy to remain crispy long enough for me to bathe in solitude for 5 more minutes.
Protect the fingers of the person who stamps that little smile on the fishy cracker's face so Yaya - when she is blessed with the smiling fish visage - will sing the commercial jingle instead of pulling my skirt to the floor in the grocery checkout line.
Oh, and bless the genius who thought of making cheese-flavored fish-shaped crackers in the first place. Bless the genius and the whole entire family-of-the-genius, now and forever, amen."
I really love goldfish.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
I love my garden. I love this crazy, ridiculously tall poppy that has emerged - forgotten - from under a hosta. It's amazing what a plant will do to get noticed.
It's equally amazing what children will do to get noticed. Tonight, Ava literally tumbled - head over heals - through the house in her sparkly, pink shoes... and nothing else. She is that poppy - 'though not forgotten - struggling to be noticed in a house of loud sisters. As Ava twirled circles across the floor, everyone stopped what we were doing and clapped like crazy for our poppy, Ava. She stopped tumbling, looked a little surprised that her antics had indeed caught our attention, threw her sweet little hands up into the air and shouted "tada!" What a fabulous little poppy she is.
It's raining! It's raining. Finally. It's raining - a hard, determined downpour of thick heavy drops.
Oh, simple rain, I dance in you. I celebrate you with primordial whoops and hollars. I splash in your puddles. I bath in your droplets. I sing as the thirsty earthworm swims in your lazy rivlets! Hooray!
What's the big hairy deal, you ask? It's simple: I am not genetically prepared for this crazy heat and humidity! It's been 95+ degrees here in St. Paul, MN for the last several days - raspberry sherbet quickly slips from the bonds of cake cones, the panting black dog is eating ice cubes out of the holiday beer cooler, the precious, rationed water from the sprinkler seems to hang unnaturally in the thick, humid air for several moments before languidly trickling to the earth - reluctantly sacrificing itself on a mission of mercy for the crispy brown grass.
But for now, all of that is forgotten because it is raining!
The garden will grow, the children will sleep at night, the dog will stop eating ice from the cooler and I may actually hug my husband. Maybe.
Friday, July 6, 2007
This weekend, my very nice friend Heidi married a nice Norwegian man named Morton. They are moving to Norway today. The wedding was lovely. They make a very nice couple. Everyone smiled and was happy. Heidi's new family is lovely and kind. She will be very happy.
I also think it is going to be very hard for Heidi and her sister, Greta, to be so far apart. How do you say 'good bye' to someone you have spent your whole life with? They have traveled together and lived together and worked together... for a long time they joked that they were the 'spinster sisters.' Now, Heidi is part of a Nice Norwegian Couple and Greta is living in her half of a lovely Victorian duplex. Alone.
Olivia and Nora are very worried that Greta will be sad. We will work hard to cheer her up if she feels lonely.
Only grandparents can love with a sort of controlled yet reckless abandon! Ava adores my dad. Everything is about Papa - she saves her left-overs for Papa. She gets an extra piece of candy for Papa. She says, "That was funny. Papa would like that." Instead of saying prayers at night, Ava talks to Papa. It's a good thing that Papa feels the same way about Ava!
What a fantastic slice of Americana we have participated in.
We laughed loudly around smoky bonfires on the beach at dusk.
We stuffed ourselves with cheep hot dogs roasted on open fires.
We indulged in too many gooey 'smores until our bellies hurt.
We endured small town fireworks from within a cloud of mosquitoes.
We frantically clung to fast bouncing inner-tubes behind slow moving speed-boats.
We cautiously made new friends-for-life.
We stayed up as late as we could and slept as long as they'd let us.
Then, we reluctantly returned to the asphalt of the city, road-weary and life-refreshed. Our skin - a crispy shade of pink.
I can't wait to do it again!