Friday, May 27, 2016

Five On Friday: Field Trip Chaperone Tips

In my many years of going on kids' field trips as a chaperone, talking to other parents who have chaperoned and now working as a tour guide leading students and their chaperones . . . I've observed a few things. It seems as though some people really need a handy dandy guide to doing it right, so that's what I'd doing for this week's list:

1. When on a bus full of first graders, do not lead them in singing songs at the top of their lungs. Honestly, whose side are you even on?

2. When chaperoning on a trip a baseball game, it doesn't really matter how boring the game is (and trust me, I find baseball mind numbingly boring) you really shouldn't ditch your responsibilities and go to the Target across the parking lot from the stadium. Just no.

3. Do not disrupt a tour to call your husband at work and loudly ask him to identify a fish that was just seen jumping out of the river.

4. When the tour guide asks questions like, "Does anyone know what this was used for?" she's asking the children. Not you.

5.  Don't talk while the tour guide is talking. It's so rude, distracting and a bad example for the kids. This shouldn't even have to be said but apparently it does.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Five On Friday: Lessons from Working

Working as a tour guide and workshop leader for school groups at a local historic site, I've actually learned way more than five things in the past few weeks. I'm so fascinated but human ingenuity and resourcefulness . . . and don't even get me started on the myriad uses for limestone!

But this blog is all about me, you know, so my list is going to reflect that:

1. I've learned which shoes are okay for wearing out on my feet all day and which ones not so much.

2. There's been an  addition of new words in my lexicon like "coworker" and "abecedarian"

3. I'd been on a good fitness kick before starting this job and recently increased my almost daily 3 mile jogs just a tiny bit more so I could say I started my day with a 5K. But on the mornings I have to get out to work I only have about 20 minutes to exercise. An amazing thing began to happen--knowing I had a shortened run, I began running faster. Much faster!  I never knew I could run this fast! (But my 8- and 10-year-old track star sons are still way faster than me.)

4. Another lesson from the running analogy: I can run that fast because it's only for one or two miles. Likewise, I have been managing to still juggle it all (the kids, their activities, keeping the house clean, making most of what we eat from scratch,  etc) without dropping any balls. However, this job is short, it's only going to last another few weeks of school field trip season. If it was much longer than that, I'd really have to slow down.

5.  I make a cute Colonial lady but one that is much better at candle making than using a drop spindle to spin wool.

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Take Comfort"

I was on my hands and knees in the garden getting my pants filthy. It started to drizzle and I didn’t even care because I was already crying.  Before I went to the garden I had sent my husband a text, a change from the usual “what time is soccer?” or “What’s for dinner?” banter. This time I had written: “I’m having a hard time this week missing Babci.”

Right before the rain he replied, “I was thinking of her before the party. I see a lot of her personality in you and B. You should take comfort in that.”

We had two years of celebrations without her yet for some reason at my parents’ 50th anniversary dinner days before, I kept thinking of where she’d sit, how I’d make her comfortable. I felt lucky to have a husband who also thought of my deceased Grandmother. But then I wondered with frustration what “take comfort” was supposed to mean—frustrated with the futility of our language. Take comfort? Like a tincture? Could I ingest some until the overwhelming urge to cry passed?

I had done all of the things one is told to do after a loss. I let myself cry. I keep pictures of her visible. I honor her memory, oh, all the time. I hand out tic-tacs with personalized labels (a picture of her on the beach, 1941, with the words Stay fresh and on the back she’s sticking her rear end at the camera and the words Like Babci.) They are leftovers from her viewing. A friend had come to it and found a scene she didn’t expect: there was laughing and loud conversation. There were tic-tacs!  “This is sort of a party atmosphere,” she noted. Like it should be, I thought, for a long life well lived.

The rain stopped. I thought about my husband’s words and about the direct line I always had felt from my Grandmother to me to our firstborn daughter, B.  I thought of the way my youngest daughter, who had just turned three when Babci passed, so frequently asks to hear “Babci stories.” That should please me but sometimes I’m not in the mood. Sometimes I’m tired or it feels painful or she’s just stalling. Sometimes she tries to tell the stories herself but doesn’t understand what it means that a Depression-era family would have a drunken boarder so she tells it as a silly uncle. This littlest daughter is not her biological descendant but there’s still a line connecting them and all of the fierce and feisty women in this world.

How do your extended family members treat the adopted kids? What does your Grandmother say about these little Black babies you keep bringing home? Oh she just loved them. Rocked them and gave them each their first pickles. After I took them to meet their biological Great Grandmother, Babci caressed my hand, saying, “That was real nice what you did, Gina. Real nice.”

My friends indulge me in my ongoing mourning of the world’s least tragic death—a peaceful one at home of a 97 year old woman surrounded by loved ones.  They remind me that it didn’t matter how long she lived or how long it had been since she died, that years of grief would be no less than our relationship deserved.

But I wondered again, why now? It was funny that I was in the garden because it was a gardening memory that gave me my first tears that day. It was May when she went to the hospital and we heard it was “World Naked Gardening Day.” My husband and I staged funny pictures with strategically placed watering cans and shovels. My cousin showed Babci the pictures on her phone and she loved them. Every time a new nurse came in, she wanted to show them, too.  When we visited the next day and it was time to leave, my husband said one of her favorite goodbyes, which was, “Tell your mother I was here!” She retorted, “Try to keep your pants on.”

For two hours I worked in the garden, thinking of her stories, the heritage for my daughters and my sons. The way she loved babies and children and how she’d pinch someone’s ass at the supermarket and when they’d tell me “I saw your Grandmother . . .” I’d laugh at what might come next. I thought about the doll she stole with her gang when she was a kid and the thrift shop dolls she kept on her bed as an adult. I thought about how that morning I said to the kids, “You know what Babci would have said, right?” They did.

I looked at my phone again. “You should take comfort in that” and finally responded, “I’m trying.”

 *Originally published on Her View From Home

Friday, May 13, 2016

Five On Friday: First Two Weeks at The Job

Mama got an out-of-the-house paying job! I'm working as a tour guide for school groups at a local historic site. It includes a Mill, a one room schoolhouse, a log cabin, a quarry and more. 

I know it's only been two weeks but I'm really loving it and am already feeling a little disappointed that it's only seasonal work.
Here are some highlights from my first two weeks:

1.  In the log cabin, I was talking with some kindergarteners about how the fireplace was used for heating the house and for cooking. A little boy excitedly asked, “Did Santa come down that chimney?” I answered, “I’m not exactly sure what year Santa started coming down log cabin chimneys.” (He was satisfied with that, thankfully.)

2. In the schoolhouse, I show the kids how teachers might have punished students by drawing a circle on the board and then making the naughty student stand with their nose in the circle. Later when I ask if they have any idea what the little circle on their desk is for (inkpot) many of them guess, “to put your nose in?”

3.  From a 70-ish year old co-worker. “I have to tell you, I love your style. I notice you wear tights a lot. I just bought my first pair of Spanx.”

4.  Me to my own kids at home: “Oh! I forgot to tell you guys that yesterday at the Blacksmith . . . “
My 14-year-old son G: “I’ve got to admit, I’m a little jealous that you can say ‘yesterday at the Blacksmith’ . . ." 

5.  Random 4th Grader: "Did you know that in the olden days phones used to have round dials with numbers on them and you had to turn it to get to the number you wanted to dial?"
Me: "Not only did I know that but I'm so old I actually used to use phones like that."
Him: "Wow."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Five on Friday: What Being a Mother Means to Me

1. Even though I can easily sleep through my husband's alarm and the sounds of him getting ready in the morning, I wake up by the sound of a child breathing funny in a different room. 

2. Having a very thorough understanding of my own Mom's corny jokes, some of her decisions that seemed questionable to me as a child, and the concepts of both true pride and exhaustion.

3. Getting to call the Principal by his first name.

4. Answering to Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma, Mrs. My-Husband-And-Kids'-Last-Name, B's Mom, G's Mom, E's Mom, Z's Mom, A's Mom and more.

5. Having to demand a birthday card from the same two boys I once jumped into an icy pond to save.

Happy Mother's Day

Friday, April 29, 2016

Five on Friday: Sound Bites from My Muses

There are plenty of times when writers' block hits and I think I'll never have anything to write about again. Then I just tune in to what my kids are talking about and starting furiously typing away, getting their quotes just right for future usage.

Here are five recent examples, one from each kid (oldest to youngest). Maybe they'll make it into an essay one day.

1. I always get "I love you", "Spiderman", "Rock On" and "Surfer Dude" mixed up. (Me too, kiddo.)

2. On a scale from Space to Ten Thousand Crying Babies . . . how quiet were my footsteps? (Somewhere in between the two.)

3. It's dumb that I'm going to have to change for gym next year because I basically wear gym clothes every day anyway. (I know, dude. Swishy pants, swishy shorts, jerseys.)

4. I'm eating raisins here so don't bother me because raisins are important! (Duly noted!)

5. When we get home, we're going to go dumpster diving next door and you and Daddy go inside and have kissy time. (You are definitely winning favorite child of the week for saying this, honey, but maybe not so loudly at a restaurant next time, okay?)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Five on Friday: Feeling Famous on My Birthday

1. Cashier: "I need to see your  license."
    Me: "Huh?"
    Her: "It's a new thing for buying cough medicine, I have to enter your birthday."
    Me: (handing it over) "It's today! Does this count as being carded?"
    Her: "Definitely. Happy Birthday! Doing anything fun to celebrate?"
    Me: "Performing in New York City tonight for one of The Moth's Mainstage Events."
    Her: "Are you famous?"
    Me: "Not yet."

2. On Main Street in town on a sandwich board outside the art shop:

3. Hey, there's my name!

4. Hanging out with the Producers and Directors at the Moth, many of whose names I always hear mentioned on the podcasts so I felt totally giddy.

5. This was supposed to be video of me being introduced but it just does not want to upload right now.  So instead I leave you with this totally not flattering nor high quality photo. But I shall try with the video again later!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Five on Friday: Last Spring Birthday Boy

Three of the kids' birthdays are within a month's time from mid-March to mid-April. We're on the last of them now and then it'll be my birthday next week and then a little birthday breather for two months. (Phew)

For each of my kids' birthdays I like to dedicate a Five on Friday list to them. Last year when E turned nine, I shared some of his cutest sayings from over the years. This year I'm going to tell you about the things that he has taught me:

1. He wasn't my first baby but he was my first foster and then first adopted child. I might have considered myself a childcare expert by the time he came along but there was a lot to learn about transracial fostering and adopting and he got to be the guinea pig. (Thanks buddy)

2. I grew up with three sisters and we're sort of spaced unusually--my older two sisters are seven and five years older than me and my younger one is seven years younger than me. I felt like the baby of the family for the first seven years and then later  it was mostly just me and my younger sister so I felt like a big sister. I didn't know the middle child struggles were real. I know now because of him. (Sorry kid)

3. He's taught me  that a kid could love salads and seafood and hate french fries and chocolate chip pancakes. His sister calls him a disgrace to kid-dom.

4. I've always known how important family was and I knew we'd always try to do what we could to have his birth family in our lives. But I didn't really understand just how important those connections could be to a kid until he showed me.

5. Lastly, he taught me to really love watching sports. I still don't watch them on television or care to learn any stats or anything (let's not get carried away) . . . but seeing him on the field or court is one of my favorite things to do. I always thought people were either into sports or not, no middle ground, and I consider myself firmly in the second category. Not only did he prove me wrong by getting me excited about his games, he proved me wrong a second way by being insanely athletic but also very musically talented and a great lover of books. 

Welcome to the double digits, E. Thanks for all you've taught me and for being one of the best huggers around.