Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful for Moments Like These

Joe-Henry: WHY can't I have a tv in my room?
Me: Because I want you to grow up smart. So you could be president, or an astronaut...
Joe-Henry: I just wanna grow up to be a guy who plays video games. (pause) And drives a bus.
Me: aim a little higher, please
Joe-Henry: Don't worry mom. I won't be a hillbilly in a tank top.

Who needs Hallmark, when I've got this kid?

Feeling thankful for conversation and communication. I think I'll make a turkey to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

not enough to go around

I love my job. I do. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child "get it". Or make unbelievable eye contact. Or manage to contain their behavior to do just one more thing.

And I know I'm going out on a limb here when I write about my job in a public forum. I don't write about it often. But I'm finding myself keeping a lid on things so much that sometimes I feel like this:

And I have a feeling that this is what the kids I work with feel like a good deal of the time. I know it's what they've been feeling lately, because it feels like we spend a good part of our day just putting out fires.

There is a simple reason for this: we do not have enough people to deal with the students in our room. Most of our kids qualify for a one on one staff. But very few have them. Budget cuts, don't you know.

Add to this the absentee rate in the room, and dealing with one new sub after another, and it's gotten to the point where a good day is just a day that isn't horrible. Or a day where someone doesn't get hurt.

Don't get me wrong: the staff we have? ROCKSTARS. But there just aren't enough of us. There just aren't.

And most of today I felt completely on edge and helpless. Like when I saw one (LARGE) student at one end of the playground and another (LARGE) student at the other, both doing something they shouldn't and I'm supposed to be dealing with both of them at the same time. My fear, my deep gut fear is that someone is going to get hurt. Someone that just might be in the way, or a student, or a staff member, or a volunteer. And then it's going to go sideways and I'm going to lose my job, or worse have to live with the fact that I was responsible for the rest of my life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Am A Mom

There is an iconic picture of me that Charley took the night we went to the hospital to give birth to Joe-Henry. It's taken by him, and in the picture I'm in the bathroom, drying my hair, and getting ready to become a mom. We both looked high and low for it today, and couldn't find it anywhere. But in the midst of trying to find it, we found all kinds of old photos and were washed with a whole parenting lifetime of memories, as well as dim reminders of lives we had before Joe-Henry. I know. Unfathomable.

Why, you might ask, were we so determined to find this one particular photo? Because we took a very similar photo today.

I'm not pregnant, but it's a side view, in the bathroom, and I've got my hands in my hair. But for very different reasons. This time, there is no mistaking: I am DEFINITELY a mom.

For those of you perhaps unfamiliar with Star Wars toys, this is the Republic Gunship that flies by remote control. That we got him. For his birthday. That landed in my hair and had to be cut out.

The end.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Secret Agent Birthday Party

Joe-Henry turns NINE tomorrow, and because we just had a huge trip, we decided to keep his birthday costs down by doing it at home. I was nervous about it because last year we went to the super cool bowling alley arcade, and he kept saying initially he thought it might be - what was the word he used? Oh yes - STUPID. But I planned and plotted and schemed and it turned out to be a truly memorable, hugely fun, and most important - COOL party. I had to come up with something that both boys and girls would like, and we had kids ranging in age from 4 to 6th grade, so I wanted everyone to feel good about being here.

We decided on a "Secret Agent" Theme. The invitations went out inviting friends to help with a secret mission. And instead of giving out goody bags at the end, we gave them at the beginning of the party because they had things they might need to complete the mission - black sunglasses, little magnifying glasses, notebooks and pencils, compasses and whistles and tiny flashlights. I just used plain brown lunch bags and found these cool little clipboard notes at The Dollar Tree. All the goody bag stuff I got at either Oriental Trading Company, Dollar Tree or Office Max.

The kids were given a password (NINE), and then taken into Joe-Henry's room where they could choose a disguise if they wanted one. They all loved dressing up in all kinds of stuff - a witches hat, a football shirt, an apron, etc. I had downloaded a bunch of "spy" music: Theme from James Bond, Get Smart, Mission Impossible, etc. which played throughout the party. Then I took them all into the living room, where they were told they were on a mission to help with a birthday mystery. We would be doing several "training exercises" before we could look for clues. The first exercise was to help their powers of deduction. They were all given a secret identity taped to their backs and had to figure out who they were by asking a partner questions.

Then we did a memory boosting training exercise. They took out their notebooks and pens, and looked at fifteen items on a tray for 30 seconds. They then had to write down as many as they could remember in two minutes or less.

The next exercise was "pin the sunglasses on the secret agent". I had drawn an outline of Joe-Henry on a big piece of paper and cut out black paper sunglasses. They all had to put on a blindfold and who ever got closest won. Later on they could write messages to Joe-Henry on the outline.

Then we went to the backyard to do a disguise relay. The kids were divided into two teams and each team was given a backpack with a disguise (a big t-shirt, a hat, gloves, glasses, and a lei), a nerf gun and darts. Each person had to put on the disguise, run to the line and shoot a dart at the targets, run back, repack the bag for the next person, who would do the same thing, the first team done wins.

Then my FABULOUS niece Heather, who had been helping the WHOLE TIME (and truly, the list for all the things I owe her for is so long I don't know how I'll ever pay her back) donned her black trench coat and sunglasses and delivered a secret message for Agent McQuary. It was the first clue in a scavenger hunt to find all the goodies for a birthday party. The last clue was next door at the neighbors, and it was my brother's cellphone number. They had to call and tell Bugsy to "deliver the package". He had parked across the street with two dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. We have the best family EVER.

After they were all jacked up on donuts, we played one last game called "Diffuse the bomb". Two people with one badminton racket each had to take a black balloon to the next two people who had to carry the balloon between them without using their hands or arms to the last person who was in charge of the diffusing box (a box with toothpicks sticking up inside it). When they closed the box the balloon popped. We went through lots of balloons and they got lots of that sugar out of their systems on that game!

They then had just under a half hour to just play, and it was so much fun to hear them laughing and screaming. It was even more fun to hear how quiet the house got when all the parents showed up to take them home! But it was such a blast and for some of the kids I think it was the first time they went to a party without their parents. Judging by the smiles and how disappointed they were when their parents came, I think it was a success.

After it was all over, we let JH open a present from his Aunt, because we knew it was a video game he desperately wanted. And then Charley and I took a big, drooooooly nap.

Happy Birthday, Joe-Henry. You're my favorite secret agent ever.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rickie Lee Jones - Stewart's Coat

I walked down the aisle to this song in April, 1994. Charley just found the cd and went on a Rickie Lee binge, brought it into the living room, where we danced with each other and Joe-Henry joined in. Such a rainy day, and our house filled with so much love.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Your First Wife

I dreamt that I read your obituary
while sitting in my father's recliner
in the house I grew up in.

You were celebrated in bold face type,
you would be missed.
And they spoke of your first wife,
from whom you had been separated
"it was amicable" they said.

You had been living the life you were "supposed to live"
when you passed,
(but they gave our marriage the first long paragraph)
They quoted a statement you had made
regarding our marriage:
"It was good to be known"

I put down the paper and wept
having only just learned you were gone,
and that we were no longer married.
I buttoned my grey wool coat to the top
opened the rickety screen door of my father's house
to go sit under the Hawthorn tree

"It was good to be known"

Like a cup to catch my tears
it was oddly useful and practical
but not enough to hold my sorrow

Then your voice cut through the dream
like groggy thunder
muttering at the cat
"Bosco, stop"
I squirted him with the bottle
to keep him from scratching at the raindrops
sliding down the windowpane
and touched your sleeping shoulder.

It is good to be known.