Monday, October 24, 2011

Astronaut Resume.

(A conversation with the 4 year old, courtesy of her daddy)

Luca: "I think maybe when I grow up I want to be an astronaut."
Daddy: "That sounds like a good idea."
L: "I can go to the moon."
D: "Well, first you have to go to school and learn a LOT of things. It takes a lot of book work and studying to be an astronaut."
L: "Mickey and Minnie are astronauts. They go to the moon."
D: "Mickey and Minnie aren't astro physicists, though, sweetie. That's what you would need to be to become an astronaut."
L: "They don't need to be asro missifizz, daddy. They know how to do the hot dog dance."

Well, there you go.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Love.

Say Nice Things: Awkward Facebooking, Part 2.

Katie, Thank you for the kind words. I'm still teaching at Name Of School (this is my 27th year) and am also teaching an English 102 class at Name of  College. I encourage you to write your book--it takes work and dedication, but it's definitely a journey worth taking. I see you're a mom--I'm now a grandpa, with a grandson named Z who turns 5 in a couple of weeks. Time flies! Again, thanks for the contact, and I wish you blessings and peace. Sincerely, Mr. W.

(See: This.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloween Craft: Paint By Letters.

We decorated the house for Halloween this week, and when we were finished putting up all our decor, Luca commented we needed more things to hang on the walls. I agreed.

So off we went to the craft store, where I bought some washable paints and two 8" x 10" canvasses.

The next day, we set out to paint, but she wasn't sure where to start. She asked me to draw a picture of a family of pumpkins for her, and said she'd color them in. I took some chalk to the canvas, drawing a 'big daddy' pumpkin, a 'mama' pumpkin, and 2 'kid' pumpkins (Luca and Rohan, didn't you know?). We decided on some gras below them and a night sky with a full moon and clouds above them.

When it came to colors, we didn't want the 4 pumpkins to look like 1 big orange blob, so Daddy Pumpkin was orange, Mommy Pumpkin was red-orange, Luca Pumpkin was pink-orange, and Rohan Pumpkin was yellow-orange. To signify which colors went where, we used the first letters: O, R+O, P+O, and Y+O. Then we put a G in the grass, a B in the sky, and a W in the clouds and moon.

I outlined the first one for her before she started, just so she could get the hang of it. And that she did! I was actually impressed with her ability to stay pretty much in the lines and match the colors properly.

Rohan woke during the process and joined us to create his own 'art', though it was less Halloween themed and more abstract, if you will. Also, messy.

I confess: one of the things I MOST looked forward to about having kids was things like this. I couldn't wait to do art projects and holiday crafts and spend hours painting and making a huge mess and soaping up messy kids in a warm bath when it was all done. And it's truly all I'd built it up to be in my head.

And this? This togetherness they exhibit and the sharing and helping and co-conspiring? Makes it all the sweeter.

When all was said and done, Luca's Halloween artwork was quite the lovely piece to add to our collection.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reasons I Love My Husband.

We went to the mall today with the sole mission of spending a gift card I have on some new work clothes. Our mission was partially successful, and after we were done the kids were hungry and thirsty. They wanted pretzels and cheese, so we obliged, and in an odd turn of events we got 1 for free.

We went to sit on some couches to eat, and spied a woman by herself. Her clothes were a touch wacky and she was rocking back and forth on the couch opposite us. I smiled at her, but she didn't seem to see me.

My husband followed me over and saw the woman. Without a second thought, he said to her, "Hey, would you like a pretzel? We have an extra." To my surprise, she said yes.

When we left the mall, I told him I thought that was nice of him, offering this woman all alone a pretzel. And I told him I was surprised she said yes. Though she was clearly dancing to music only she could hear, she had a pile of bags beside her, so I assumed she had money.

"Those were Wal-Mart bags, honey. I just saw her and figured maybe she deserved to have someone give her something without her begging for it or having to work her butt off to get it."

"That was awesome of you, babe. That's why I married you."

"Well, thanks. But I didn't do it for the recognition. I just thought she might need someone to be nice to her."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clean Bill.

Luca had her first dentist appointment today. I realize the ADA now recommends you start bringing them in as soon as they start growing teeth outside the gums, but I think that is insane. Which is part of the reason we waited so long. The other parts are:

1) She wasn't on our insurance until August and we're cheap
2) I was scared her teeth might be weak like mine and didn't want to face the 'treatment plans'

I need not have worried. She did AMAZING at the dentist, which was no surprise, actually. It's not that she's a perfect kid or anything, it's just that little pleases Luca as much as impressing adults and making them tell her repeatedly how well behaved and awesome she is. They did a set of x-rays, a cleaning, and an exam, and she sat patiently through the whole thing AND got a clean bill of health! So proud of my girl and the teeth she clearly inherited from her daddy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Say Nice Things: Kid-Friendly Version.

My niece, who we lovingly refer to as 'Birdie' (so nicknamed in utero by Luca) is a spirited girl, and I love her for it. I know it must frustrate her parents sometimes, but when I am around her I just see a girl who is always going to know what she wants and never be afraid to ask for it. And I like that in a little girl, because I think those kinds of little girls, with proper guidance, grow to be self-assured and strong women.

I took the kids to meet up with my sister in law and Birdie this afternoon for an impromptu ice cream cone. We had a few hours to kill and the temps were in the mid-90s, so we sat outside and let the kids run around on the enclosed patio and toss gravel and little sticks around. Birdie was so excited to see her big cousins, and she dove right into playtime, even finding a small pink sample-size spoon and using it to dig in the dirt. We stayed for about an hour, eating ice cream and talking and watching the kids have a blast together.

When it was time to go, Birdie was not thrilled.

We walked to our car on the east side of the building, and they walked to theirs on the north side. The sounds of Birdie's shrieks in protest followed us to our car. I held both kids' hands in mine as we crossed the parking lot, and Luca looked at me and said, "Hey mama? I think Aunt Syd is a really good mommy."

I agreed with her, and smiled to myself as I got both kids strapped into their seats. And as we pulled out, I saw my sister in law and Birdie standing by their car in some sort of battle of the wills. Syd is pregnant with baby #2, and there she was looking a little defeated as she held a stubborn Birdie on her hip and tried to coerce her into the carseat without a fit.

We made a sharp left, pulled up behind her car, and rolled down our windows.

"It may not seem like it now, but I just wanted you to know what Luca told me, Syd. She told me, 'I think Aunt Syd is a really good mommy.'"

The look on her face? The gratitude for the kind words just when they were needed? Priceless.

Sometimes, the littlest among us know best what to say.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keep It Short.

I needed a change, so I got it.

I lost just over 10 inches of length and gained layers and bangs. This is me shortly after getting it cut by my sister in law. It was wet when she cut it and we didn't dry or style it, so it's hard to see the bangs and layers (but easy to see my natural, uncooperative waves), but I feel refreshed. It was time for a change.

And, for good measure, here's another from after I took a flatiron to the bangs and front pieces.

Say Nice Things - Pregnant People.

"You look so beautiful pregnant. If everyone looked as amazing as you, we'd all want to be pregnant all the time."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Say Nice Things: Potentially Awkward Facebooking.

My husband has a soft spot for kids who struggle in school. It's the real reason he became a high school teacher and the basis on which he decided to coach not one, but two, sports. It's the reason, too, that he's such an effective teacher. He was not a star student himself, so his expectations are that his students will commit to hard work and follow through, not that his students will be the best at everything.

My husband. He's amazing.

But this isn't about him. This is about the piece of paper he brought home with him the other day. I was elbow-deep in finishing up making dinner while trying to keep an eye on two hungry and hyper kids as they dismantled the living room systematically when he walked in about 40 minutes later than expected. I wasn't too shocked since he's currently coaching football and any spouse of a coach could tell you that schedules during the team's season can be unpredictable at best. So when he set down a piece of paper on the counter and asked me for a favor, I believe I mumbled back something to the effect of, "Sure, hon. Can you get the kids set up for dinner, please?"

When I finally had the time to look at the paper, I recognized it immediately as a high school essay. Rather, the terribly written thesis paragraph of a high school essay. His request was simple: look it over and provide some feedback. And when I dug a little deeper I couldn't say no: it was written by a kid whose mom raises him alone and works 2 jobs, so she's never home to read his homework.

Later, he told me he was impressed with how quickly I'd been able to edit and provide feedback. Mind you, I didn't correct the kid's paper for him. What I DID do was give him some prompts to help him clarify his writing and improve his thesis. But the conversation about my ability to do that quickly and help him rewrite his thesis so it at least got a passing grade prompted a discussion about how much I love editing writing. Which, of course, lead to a discussion about how I should have gotten a literature degree. (Add that to the list of about 5 or 6 other things I wish I had the time and money to do with my life.)

Which, in turn, led me to remember one of my favorite teachers, Mr. W. He was my honors English teacher in 8th grade, and he really impacted my life in so many ways. So on a whim, I decided to google him to see if he still teaches.

He does. And he has a Facebook account. You know where this is going, right? (And I confess I lied a bit about the context under which I found him on FB, but only because I didn't want him to think I was e-stalking him.)

Hi Mr. W. You probably don't remember me, but I was a student of yours (You also taught my older brother, X) in year - year. I was going through an old yearbook the other day and reminiscing about your class. I remember my mom telling me a few years ago that you'd written a book, so I decided to look it up and found you on here.

I just wanted to let you know that, almost 20 years later, I still remember and appreciate your class. I've always had a love for writing, and I think classes like yours helped make that love stronger. It's a dream of mine to someday write a book, and it was great teachers like you who gave me the foundation to be able to write and trust my voice. I realize this is a random message to get on Facebook, but I have always believed that rather than just having nice thoughts about a person, one should share them. So, thank you for being an amazing teacher.

I hope you are well.

To date, I haven't heard back from him, but that's ok. What matters is that I wrote it, right?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Say Nice Things.

How many times have you thought it, but not said it?

"That girl over there has a nice smile."
"That little kid is being so nice to the other kids on the playground."
"What a breautiful pregnant belly."
"That man wrote something that really changed my perspective."

I do it all the time. Think nice thoughts, but never have the guts to say them aloud. Sometimes it's because I don't want to embarass the other person, but usually it's because I don't want to embarass myself. I mean, what if I compliment her smile and it's dentures? Tell his parents he's behaving so sweetly just as he throws sand in my daughter's eyes? Compliment the pregnant belly and get a litany of complaints from her about carrying it around all day? Tell him he changed my life and get a cold shoulder?

So I bite my tongue, more often than not. And I suspect we all do. We think nice, lovely, kind, heart-bursting thoughts about others and we never share them with the person who inspired us.

One time, probably 10 years ago, my husband and I (then boyfriend, but who's counting?) had just parked our car off Mill Ave. in Tempe and were walking to a restaurant. I had my hair down, which wasn't typical for me. I've always favored long hair but hate it in my face so 98% of the time it's pulled back. We turned a corner, and a beautiful girl with a hippie vibe slowed, then reached her hand out to me. "You have beautiful hair!" she said, smiling warmly. And I swear to you, I not only smiled the rest of that day and through the weekend, I also wore my hair down almost all the remainder of the week.

And now, 10 or so years later, I vividly remember her unprovoked and spontaneous moment of kindness.

It matters. Kindness matters. A wise man I know very well once gave my husband and I (then fiance, but agains who's counting?) an incredibly important piece of marital advice: "Always try to be kind to each other." I took it to heart, but wasn't sure my husband would remember it 7+ years later. But then, the other day, I overheard him talking about my dad to someone, and repeating the advice my dad had given us that day.

And we're not perfect, you know. We go many days sometimes so wrapped in kids and work and bills and house and and and and that sometimes he goes up to the bathroom and never returns, having decided to crash out for the night and forgetting to come down to kiss me goodnight. Sometimes I mutter bad names to him under my breath when the kids aren't listening and there have been times we've gone to bed angry. Kindness doesn't always prevail in every little thing we do in life. We don't always win that battle. Sometimes, we forget. And everyone knows we often save our most harsh words for those we love the most fiercly. It's true, too, that sometimes I say the words, "Please stop crying and use your words to tell me what you need." to my kids, and in my head it sounds more like, "For fuck's sake, quit being a jerk and just spit it out!". But at the end of the day, we try to remember that kindness should prevail and we hope to raise our kids so they remember to, "Always try to be kind to each other."

The other day, we were out somewhere in public and the kids were playing pretty peacefully together. Suddenly, we were joined by another mom and her two boys. The younger was probably Luca's age and the older was probably 5 or 6. I confess I cringed a little, too, because mom was on her cell phone and released her two wild young boys to play without really watching them. History tells me that's the perfect storm for one of my kids coming to me crying, sand in hair and eyes or a slide being blocked by 2 bigger boys who won't let them come down.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The boys were rowdy and wild. They ran by Rohan at full speed, and he was clipped on the shoulder and fell hard on his bum. I waited for a beat, not sure if Mo would get up and keep playing or start to cry, and felt such happiness in my heart when both boys stopped running and came over by him. The older boy helped him stand, and both leaned over him and spoke in quiet voices. Luca ran over to check on the situation, and though I couldn't hear the conversation, I saw Mo nod and the smaller boy pat his back before both boys were off and running again. Luca came over to me, and when I asked what had happened she assured me the boys apologized and made sure Rohan was ok before moving on. The rest of the time there was pretty tame, but I did notice the boys letting Rohan and Luca by them on the playground equipment with no drama and even once helping Rohan when he couldn't figure out how to turn to climb down the stairs. When we got up to leave, I turned back and said to my family, "Just a second." I walked over by the mom (now off the phone but talking to a friend next to her) and told her, "I just wanted to let you know that your boys were very kind to my kids today, and I really appreciated it." She looked a little puzzled, so I explained, "Sometimes when kids who are a little bigger than them come play we have to referee because the bigger kids don't always notice the littler ones. But your boys were very nice to my kids and I think you should be really proud."

I'm not sure what I said made much of a difference to her (she still looked a bit puzzled by me when I turned to leave) but I felt good about it. And a little part of me hoped she told those boys what I'd said so they would know their kindness was seen and appreciated.


My point comes down to this: it's been a rough few months around here. I remember looking forward to 2011 but feeling some anxiety about it, and now I know my instinct was correct. 2011 has been a challenging year, and sometimes those challenges take me away from the mental space I try to maintain. They shift my focus to bad things rather than positivity.

So I'm dedicating October to Saying Nice Things. This month, I am going to make a real effort to say that nice thing that just popped into my head without worrying that it sounds stupid, might embarass me, might embarass the person it's directed to, etc. And just deciding to do this has already had one positive effect on my life: it's made me keenly aware of the fabulous things I notice about others already. Because kindness matters.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good-Bye Ruby Tuesday.

I will share more when I am feeling up to it, emotionally, but this weekend we said good-bye to sweet Ruby. Her health was failing and we were at a point where we had to choose to try to treat her or, at the age of 12, almost 13, if we could let her go. It was one of the hardest choices we've ever made together as a family, and she is now and will be missed incredibly. She is the dog we raised from puppyhood, who changed peoples' perceptions of pit bulls and who gave so much faithfulness, love, and devotion to our family. She was Rohan's best friend, and for our son who's not old enough yet to understand, I mourn more than I do for Darrick and Luca and myself. She was everything a family dog should be and more, and mere words cannot express how heartsick we are over saying good-bye to her a mere 15 months after making the same decision for Miss Piggy.

What an immeasurable blessing to be entrusted with the heart and the life of a dog. They give us more than we could ever give them and in return we owe them this one gift of setting aside our mortal emotions and attachments and freeing their souls to run on endless green lawns once more.

Rohan has been asking about her, and when he says to me, "Where's Ruby?" my heart knows the answer is "With her sister Piggy, giving herself to the earth once more. She, like her sister, is everywhere."

Rest In Peace, Sweet Ruby love.
May, 1999 - October 1, 2011


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