Lunch

I hate packing my lunch.  It takes way more time than it should.  I do it at night since I am not a morning person and mornings at my house are rushed.  I have a pretty good routine down:

  • main-dish (usually left-overs)
  • fruit or vegetable
  • salty snack
  • sweet snack
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Usually I eat my PB&J around 10:30, my lunch around 1:00, and save a snack to eat after school.  Last night I packed all of the usual items, but for some reason it wasn’t enough today and all my food was gone by 2:00.  So now here I am at the end of the day, my stomach growling and no snack.  I guess it is a good incentive to leave work closer to the time I’m officially done instead of when I usually leave!

IMG_0691

No Need Jacket!

“No need jacket,” Baby Girl B declared.  My two-year-old twins and I were heading out the door to see a friend who lives just a few blocks away.  Although the sun was shining, there was a cold breeze blowing and jackets were necessary.

“Yes, we need our jackets,” I said as I helped Baby Girl A into hers and zipped it up.  Turning back to B, I held up two options.  “Do you want your purple jacket or your rain coat?”

“No need jacket!” B insisted, dodging out of my reach.

I quickly caught her and plopped her down in my lap, intending to put her jacket while I distracted her. “We’re going to see Mommy’s friend.  She has a new baby! The baby might be sleeping.  Shhhhh!  We’ll have to be quiet,” I told the girls while I pulled one sleeve on.  I thought it was working, then all of the sudden…

“NO NEED JACKET!” B yelled, twisting away and ripping the jacket off.

Hmmmm, what to try next? I thought. “OK, B, your sister and I are leaving.  If you don’t wear your jacket you have to stay here.”  I opened the front door, let A out and blocked B from learning.  “Good bye!  We’re going because we have our jackets.”

I closed the door and B immediately started to howl.  I waited a few seconds, my hand still on the doorknob, then opened the door.  “Are you ready for your jacket?”

“No need jacket,” B glared at me grumpily.

I checked the time on my phone. This was taking way too much time. “Yes, you need a jacket.  No more playing,” I let her know as I grabbed the jacket from the floor and scooped Baby Girl B up in my arms.  We wrestled around for a moment, B putting up a good fight, but I finally got the jacket on and zipped up. There, finally, hopefully that’s that.

“Come on, girls!  I’m going to get my sunglasses out of the car.”  I opened the door and dug my sunglasses out of the glove compartment.  I cleaned the lenses quickly, put them on, and turned around just in time to see…

Baby Girl B unzip her jacket and fling it across the grass with glee.  “No need  jacket!” she laughed, dancing away from me.

I grabbed the discarded jacket and chased B down.  “That’s it!” In a moment of genius, I managed to get the jacket back on B, but this time I put it on backwards and zipped it up her back.  I couldn’t help but smile as she twisted and pulled, trying unsuccessfully to get it off. “Alright, let’s go!” I said, back to my good mood, and headed off down the street.

Baby Girl B quickly forgot about her jacket as she became engaged in our walk, but I couldn’t stop smiling at her backwards jacket and the zipper up her back. It was a small victory, but when you’re outnumbered by two-year-olds, any victory is worth relishing.

IMG_0691

 

Inequities

Cameras flashed in my eyes as I stopped to pose on the red carpet, my husband reluctantly playing along at my side.  This is a little silly, I laughed to myself, looking around the reception area of my son’s elementary school PTA auction.  This year’s theme was a “Red Carpet Gala,” and the venue was filling up with middle aged parents dressed in formal wear.

We made our way through the silent auction section and found our table in the main room.  The room was alive with the roar of people chatting and laughing against the backdrop of donating money towards their children’s education.  I laughed and chatted along with them, but inside I was torn. This just isn’t fair, kept popping into my head as I thought about my own school where I work.

The night progressed with a delicious dinner, speeches from the PTA president and principal, a live auction, and a “raise the paddle” to specifically fund STEM curriculum and equipment.  I had a great time and am so thankful that my son can attend a school that provides him with an excellent, well-rounded education.  But at the same time, I felt angry at the fact that so much of what makes a great public school has to come from the parents.

I felt angry because the parents of my students can’t afford a $75 ticket to a fundraiser or to take off 5 hours to attend a fundraising even. The parents of my students can’t afford a $2,000 Adirondak chair painted by a class of kindergarteners or a $4,500 trip to South Africa.  But my students deserve the same educational opportunities that my son and his classmates receive.  The quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be dependent on how much his parents can pay.

And so I spent the night in conflict as I contemplated the inequities of our public school system, trying to figure out what to do about it, but in the end, just feeling torn.

Beautiful Day

I thought about writing my slice so many times today…

When I woke up this morning, looked outside to see the beautiful sun shining and realized the twins slept late and consequently let me sleep late, too.

When I walked the kids to the park down the street to play with friends we haven’t seen in months.

When I put the twins down for their nap and my son and I spent the afternoon pulling weeds out of our garden beds.

When my son and I went to the local hardware store to buy seeds and flowers to plant in our newly cleaned garden beds.

When I baked cookies to take to dinner with our good friends.

When I broke up the fight between my three children over our two manga doodles.

When I was enjoying dinner with my friends while our similar-aged children ran wild all over their house.

I thought about writing my slice so many times today, but there was always something else to do.  The day was too beautiful to look at a screen!

Try Again Next Year

“Buddy Boy, the door is shut on your leprechaun trap!” I told my son excitedly as I gently shook him awake.  As soon as his brain registered what I said, his eyes flew open and his face lit up.

“It is?” He threw back the covers and jumped out of bed.  He ran to the living room and looked around.  “Wow, Mom, the leprechaun sure did make a mess!”

I looked around the room.  Actually, the leprechaun hadn’t made a mess.  The toys, books, and jackets strewn around were exactly how the kids had left the room before going to bed the night before.  I laughed silently and replied, “Yah, he sure did!”

Buddy Boy hurried over to the trap he had set up the night before.  The flap on the cardboard box was closed tight, and there were sparkly shamrocks strewn around the box.  “Look, he ate the apple slice I put in there! He must not like the peel.”

Kneeling down beside it, he whispered his plan to me.  “I’m going to turn the box up so that he can’t get out.” He carefully turned the box on its side so that the flap was on the top. “There’s something inside!” he said as he picked it up.  Very carefully, he opened the flap and peering inside.

“Presents!” He yelled.

“Did you catch him?” I asked.

Buddy Boy pulled the green light-up bouncy balls and green licorice out of the box, peering inside. “No, he escaped!  But look!  He left green footprints! And a note! Ah, man, I didn’t catch him!”

“That’s too bad!  We’ll just have to try again next year,” I consoled.

The disappointment of not catching the leprachaun was abated by the presents and shamrocks “Leprechaun Luis” left behind.  Buddy Boy gathered up all of the sparkly shamrocks and brought them to the table where his cereal was waiting.

“I already know what to do for next year, Mom,” he informed me between bites.  “It has to be a smaller hole, no big doors.  And I’ll put a whole apple in the trap.  That way when he eats the whole apple he’ll be too fat to get out the hole and I’ll catch him!”

“Wow, that sounds like a great plan!” I said, smiling at the fun morning we had.  The magic of childhood is a truly wonderful thing.

How to Catch a Leprechaun

How to catch a leprechaun, according to my 5-year-old son:

First, check out a book about leprechauns from the library in October.  Become obsessed with being the first kid to catch a leprechaun.  Make different variations of leprechaun traps over the next months in order to figure out which one will be the best.

Second, when the week of St. Patrick’s Day arrives, forget all about leprechauns.  Don’t mention or think about them at all until your mom, who is nervous you’ll realize post-St. Patrick’s Day that you missed it and get really upset, casually says, “Do you know what Friday is?”

Third, get a box.  Your experiments have proven that all good leprechaun traps start with a cardboard box.  Rig a gold coin on a string so that when the leprechaun pulls the coin, the flap on the box falls shut.  Write “Free Gold” on the box and put a slice of apple inside to lure him in.  Put double sided tape underneath the dangling coin to catch him.  Bend up sparkly gold and green  pipe-cleaners and put them all over the bottom of the box to trip him up when he tries to escape.

Finally, ask your parents no less than one million times, “Do you think I’ll catch him? Do you think it will work?”

This is sure to work!  But if it doesn’t, I hear that leprechauns leave presents for kids who make really clever traps.  We’ll find out in the morning.

Papa

I turned the key in the ignition, ready to get home after the end of the school day. NPR was airing a report about a potential new break-through in treating Parkinson’s Disease.  Whenever I hear those words, my mind immediately goes to my great-grandfather.  His hands and jaw trembled from the time I was old enough to remember.  He was told he had Parkinson’s Disease until near the end of his life, when doctors decided it was actually something else.  But despite his change of diagnosis, whenever I hear the words Parkinson’s Disease, I still think of my great-grandfather.

Papa raised cattle on his farm in Oklahoma, but he also drove a Coca-Cola delivery truck and a school bus earlier in his life.  The things I remember him driving, though, were a tractor and pick-up truck.   I loved riding on the back of the tractor as he hauled hay to the cows in the different pastures, especially in the spring-time when the herd was full of tiny calves.

One spring break during middle school, I was visiting my grandparents and got it into my head that I wanted a pet hedgehog.  Papa called into the Saturday morning “Tradio” show, saying his great-granddaughter was in town and was looking for a hedgehog.  Next thing I knew, the phone in the kitchen was ringing with a woman who was looking to sell her pet hedgehog.  We climbed into Papa’s old pick-up  truck and drove down the old highway to meet her.  When we returned home, Blossom the hedgehog came with us.

I was in college when Papa passed away.  I will never forget his memorial service.  The church was packed with family, friends, and neighbors.  After we sang his favorite hymns, the majority of the service was dedicated to people who wanted to share their memories of Papa.  One after another, people shared about how Papa had touched their lives through his love and generosity.  It was truly a celebration of a life well-lived.

I don’t make it back to Oklahoma very often.  It’s a part of me that my husband and children don’t really know much about, but I hope that they will.  Someday when my children are older, we’ll take a family trip to my great-grandparent’s farm where my cousin now lives and I’ll show and tell them all about where that side of our family comes from.  In the meantime, I will strive to live my life full of love and generosity so that my children grow up knowing the values that Papa has passed on through the generations.

 

On Dressing Twins the Same

When I found out I was having twins, I promised I would not dress them the same.  But now I know why twins are so often dressed the same.  It’s to save their parents from the almost certain fight that will happen when both twins want to wear the same thing and there is only one of it.

I’ve learned this the hard way as a result of hand-me-downs and consignment stores. Don’t get me wrong, I love both hand-me-downs and consignment stores.  But the problem with both hand-me-downs and consignment stores is that you are almost certainly NOT going to end up with identical outfits for your identical twins.

This week, the culprit wasn’t even clothing.  It was a towel.  Yes, a pink hooded towel given to the twins by my son’s friend Jackie.  They affectionately call it “Jackie Towel,” and it has unaffectionately caused many tears after bath time.  Both girls want it, but only one could have it.  Baby Girl A started saying that she was done and would climb out of the bathtub before I had even washed her hair so that she could claim Jackie Towel for herself.  I tried alternating back and forth between the two girls, but that just meant alternating back and forth between who left bath time in tears.  So yesterday I went to Target and bought another “Jackie Towel.”  It isn’t identical, but it is hooded and has a lot of pink on it.IMG_0697

“Look!”  I told the girls, acting really excited.  “Jackie gave us another towel!  We have a new Jackie Towel!”  I crossed my fingers that they would buy it.

“New Jackie Towel!” Baby Girl B exclaimed happily.  As the better sharer of the two, she was the one who usually surrendered the original Jackie Towel to her sister.

“My Jackie Towel!” Baby Girl A proclaimed.

“Mommy’s going to wash it so that we can use it, ” I told them, happy they bought it.

Tonight, after bath time, I’m happy to report that there were no tears.  Baby Girl A was wrapped up in the new Jackie Towel while Baby Girl B was happily wearing the original Jackie Towel.  Two happy two-year-olds means a happy mom.

I know now why people dress twins the same.  Even though I said I would never dress my twins the same, whenever I buy the girls something new now, I always buy two of the same.  That way everyone is happy!

The Weight of Worry

This morning I was in a second grade classroom, where I’m helping the teacher get small group instruction going during her writing workshop.  Since today was my first day in the classroom, I spent the first part of independent writing reading over the students’ shoulders, getting to know what they are writing about and where they  are in the writing process.  One student’s introduction especially caught my eye.  It was full of vivid description and tension and definitely stood out in comparison to your average second grade story.

“Wow, J,” I whispered, kneeling down next to his desk.  “Your introduction really got me interested in your story.  I can’t wait to read the rest!”

At the end of independent writing, I stopped back by J’s desk to see what he had added to his story, but discovered he hadn’t written a single word more.  “J!” I declared in surprise.  “You mean you didn’t write anything today?”

“I didn’t know what to write,” he replied.

“Well, what happens next, after they enter the house?” I asked.  He paused a moment, then launched into the rest of his story.

“So you do know what to write.  You write down everything you just told me.  I want to see you write it down tomorrow,” I told him when he finished.

J nodded and joined the rest of the class in cleaning up, stashing his story in his writing folder and storing his pencil in the table caddy.  I was jotting some notes down in my notebook when I noticed J was standing in front of me. I looked up from my notebook and smiled at him.

“It’s just that I’m worried about my dad,” he started, wanting to explain to me why he hadn’t written anything.  “He’s sick.”

“Oh no,” I whispered, kneeling down in front of J.  “Is he at home?”

“No, he’s at work.”

“Where does he work?” I asked.

“He has to find work.  Outside. Gardening.” J looked down at the ground and I looked out the window at the steady rain that has been coming down every day for the past week.

“How long has he been sick?”

J held up two fingers.  “This is the second day.”  He wasn’t crying, but his eyes reflected all of the sadness and worry he was holding in.

I put my arm around him and gave him a warm hug.  His little seven-year-old body leaned into me and I could tell he needed some assurance that everything would be okay.  “I’m so sorry, J.  I hope that your dad feels better really soon.  I know it’s hard to focus and work when you’re worried about someone.”  I gave him a squeeze that he returned before joining the rest of his classmates lining up to go to music.

J has been on my mind the rest of today.  So has his father.  I hope that by sharing his worries with me, J felt a little bit better.  I hope that his father is feeling better soon so that he can work without worry.  And I hope that I will remember that when my students aren’t doing their best, there is always a reason.

“And how are the children?”

My mother gave me a beautiful birthday present this afternoon.  She took me to the “CommuniTea” fundraiser event of a local non-profit organization that collects and distributes “basics for children in need” (think diapers, clothing, car seats, cribs, etc).  Instead of buying me something that I don’t really need, she made a donation to this amazing organization in my name. IMG_0695

The theme of the event was “And how are the children?” I learned that this is a traditional greeting of the Maasai people, and the standard response is, “The children are well.”  The Maasai community understands that the health of their society can be gaged by the well-being of their children.  Even those without children use this greeting, which to me shows that the Maasai also know that raising healthy and happy children is a shared responsibility of all in their community.

Tonight I pray that my society will adopt this same stance.  There are too many children and families struggling across this nation, in my state and my home city.  All children deserve to have their basic needs met.  All parents deserve the ability to provide for their children’s basic needs.  Only when our children are truly well will we as a community reach our full potential.

Thank you, Mom, for a beautiful afternoon.