Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gratitude



Violet greeted me first thing Thursday with “Happy Valentime’s!” and for the hundredth time this week, I told her it was Thanksgiving. “What do you eat again?” Turkey. “I don’t yike . . . two-key!” (Think Clint Eastwood at his most disgusted.) Then don’t eat it. I’m sure you won’t starve at Grandma and Grandpa’s.




Daisy, my seven year old, is a gratitude natural. She faces the world with open arms, demonstrating an earnest appreciation for all creatures great and small. Violet, on the other hand, is not really a friend to the concept.



Tuesday was Violet’s Popcorn Pow-wow at preschool. It was something she was looking forward to because it was my coop shift, plus her sister didn’t have school this week. Daisy convulsed in envy when she learned she could not join us, and Violet flaunted her privileged status, until Tuesday morning when she approached me in the kitchen, “I don’t want to wear my pow-wow.” What’s your pow-wow? “I don’t want to!” OK, you don’t have to wear something weird if you don’t want to, but it sounds really cute, and I’m bringing my camera. “No!”



I have come to love my preschool shifts. We have the bomb teachers there right now. Sometimes, I feel like I have enrolled myself in preschool, and I mean that in the best possible way. The teachers know about our family reorganization in process, and they have been particularly generous with their warm hugs and gentle reassurances lately, like “You know exactly what to do.” (I love that simple piece of advice - it's the best possible thing you can say to someone who's going through a challenging time.) When we arrived to school on Tuesday, one teacher invited me to relax at the craft table in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh pot of coffee. I sat in one of the little plastic and metal chairs, getting quickly into my relaxation time before SOMEONE interrupted, “Mama, I want you to come pway with me.” But I’m relaxing in the kitchen. That’s what Teacher said to do. “But I want you to do a puzzle with me!” Oh, alright.



Recess was canceled due to rain, so the teachers killed time by encouraging the kids to share songs. There was some impressive embarrassment-free improvisation, at least until I joined in on the group singing and dancing. It’s not really something I do but ANYONE would feel comfortable at this school. Then I noticed my daughter curled up on the ground in a fetal position, blushing and begging me to stop. I thought I had a few good years left before I could inspire that level of embarrassment but whatever. I decided just to watch.



In the last half hour of the day, most of the parents joined the pow-wow. The kids sang songs while the popcorn popper went off in the center of the construction-paper “fire.” Pre-prepared bags of popcorn were then distributed to the excited kids. Violet immeditatlely sent her popcorn back because it wasn’t warm. Someone brought her a second bag.



Violet made it clear that the popcorn was not acceptable, and I warned her that she needed to deal. The kernels jumping out of the air popper from 1980 were just for effect. That wasn’t the answer I-want-it-warm Violet wanted to hear, which led to a self-directed time-out. She sat on the other side of the wall from the pow-wow, and it wasn’t long before she was sprawled face down on the lightly pee-scented carpet. I scanned the crowd to discover my kid was the only one not enjoying herself. Some kids were even taking turns sharing how grateful they were for the lukewarm popcorn and their mothers. All Violet had to say was “I hate this day.”



Violet managed to slip out the front door as I gathered our belongings at dismissal. I found her running laps on the lawn with a boy from her class who was adopted from Africa about six months ago. The kid is fascinating to me, partly because he seems to have adjusted remarkably well to a ton of changes in no time. He’s my little buddy, the only one who will boldly encroach on Violet’s lap space during story time. Their interactions have been mostly silent belligerent stares. But on this day, they shared the thrill of escaping the watchful eyes of their parents with giggles of pure joy. Seeing their coatless, happy selves with muddy knees running free on the wet grass is one of the moments I’m most grateful for this week. That and learning how easy it is to embarrass Violet in public (useful!).



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31878512@N06/3369884619/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bug Bodies

Oh my goodness . . . ten days later. Divorce doesn’t lend itself to a lot of cute blog posts. Everything’s going OK considering the circumstances. Each day’s a little different.



There are moments when I have to ignore everything I hear or dread to check in with what I know in my core, and I remember how I got here. And although this time of transition is messing with my mind, I’m at peace with the decision and bracing myself for the looming change.



So let me tell you about Bug Bodies.



Daisy has a monthly homework project to be completed with parents. The thing is no joke, and this month was an insect game. Daisy and I came up with the concept, purchased supplies, and assembled the game parts. Daisy worked on the questions with her dad.



The concept was that you earn bug parts by answering questions about insects correctly with the goal of assembling a complete bug. The number of questions you’re given is determined by a role of the dice. What kid wouldn’t want to play that? I imagined marketing it to Hasbro. We would become game millionaires and spend the rest of our lives dreaming up new concepts for learning tools that would literally transform lives. Every night would be family game night.



As Daisy colored the bug parts, I repeatedly reminded her to slow down. She was going too fast, leaving huge white spaces. She enthusiastically shouted back at me, “Slow down? Mom, I didn’t know! You want me to slow down WHEN I’M COLORING and THEN I’ll do a good job? Mom, I never knew that! I never heard that my whole life until now.” It might sound sarcastic when you read it, but her tone was sincere in a kid politician sort of way.



We tried to make the bug parts interchangeable, which led to some serious Velcro engineering, especially since the parts were not consistent sizes or shapes. At the beginning of the final night of work on the game, Daisy told me I was a genius as she watched me laminate. Figuring out the Velcro pattern took up a ridiculous amount of time, and hours later, I was snapping at her to pick up the 6 million uncapped pens she had meanwhile knocked on the floor. While hanging her head and arms off the side of her chair, she declared with a medium-high amount of drama, “Gosh, Mom. I’m just a kid.” GET. OUT. OF. YOUR. SEAT. AND. PICK. UP. THE. PENS. NOW. “O-K!” Homework projects. Good times.



Daisy was disappointed with the feedback she received from the other second graders. She said only one person liked Bug Bodies. Everyone else got a serious face – she demonstrated a look that was definitely not entertained – when they played. I’ll guess we’ll stick to the life of amateur game creators for now.

 
 









Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Autumn of Love

I have to write about the Giants lovefest that may have permanently taken over The City. Really, I have to because Tabitha's making me. She gave me an orientation when I stayed with her last weekend. I tried to talk her into writing about it because I'm a baseball outsider, who happens to be from a family with three generations of Dodger fans. I may not give it the tender understanding it deserves.



I referred to the Baseball Finals when I was talking to my dad the other day, so obviously I know nothing about baseball. But I was still entertained by the Giants talk show Tabitha was listening to in the car on Saturday. By the euphoric tone of the callers, I thought it must be a rebroadcast. But no, it was a full five days after the World Series had been won. And did you hear about that victory parade? It was the best parade that ever happened in the history of parades, filled with the bromantic cries of "I love you guys!" One awed caller recalled complimenting Pat Burrell on his beer during the parade. Burrell threw the beer at him, which he nervously caught one-handed. When Burrell ordered him to slam it, he didn't have to ask twice. The sound in the fan's voice convinced me he wasn't exaggerating when he summed up the parade in one word: orgasmic.



Of course, I can totally appreciate the story of the underdog team with no superstars who won it all. Tabitha described how her fiance's friends, who grew up playing Little League together in the Bay Area, screamed and did those brutalizing sports fan hugs when the Giants won the series; Tabitha even sustained a hug-related injury. Later, my dad translated for me, "Imagine watching the Lakers as long as you have, but they just won their first championship." OK, I think I get it.



But did you know that God was a Giants fan? During Game 2, the game Tabitha was able to attend, it was just before the first pitch, and the clouds parted and sunbeams bathed the players in holy light - but only the Giants, not those other guys. The sky remained strangely beautiful as the Giants accepted their ordained 9-0 victory. The night of the championship game in Texas, God turned the sky orange and black in San Francisco, just after sunset. I heard it on the Giants talk show.



I have to admit, I was feeling the love, which is why I might have "accidentally" packed Tabitha's favorite shirt. (I promise I'll send it back soon!) Check this out.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wow, November

One of my faults is I tend to run a little late. I can manage this tendency when it comes to work but cut it close too often. Believe me, I know down to the minute how long it takes to drive to various work locations.



I run a couple minutes late to one tutoring job at least once a week. It drives me crazy because it's the work location closest to home, a mere 13 minutes away, yet it's the one with my worst promptness record. What gets me are the local meandering roads clogged by tourists with nothing but time on their hands. (Oh, how we love to blame the trannies. Don't they know that some of us have to work in this town?)



I came up with a shiny new routine. I will now leave at least 10 minutes ahead of my have-to departure time. And what will I do with all that time to kill once I get there? Read! I always have a stack of books and magazines in my to-read pile. I know, brilliant.



So today, instead of keeping one eye on the clock and focusing on getting around slow-moving tourists, I took a leisurely drive to work. I was struck by the warm, beautiful day. What month is this anyway? When I arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I couldn't possibly sit inside the car and read when the ocean, only a half-block away, was sparkling so invitingly in the sun. I grabbed my camera; I had plenty of time.



I walked quickly to the water and breathed in the moist, salty air. It's been a while since I've seen the ocean. I didn't have a watch or even my cell, so I didn't stay long. On the way back, several Monarch butterflies fluttered by, and I had to have a picture. I followed the butterflies to the nearby preserve and took several pics - I didn't get anything great but actually captured a couple (last pic). Then, I realized I better get to work.



I was five minutes late. Dang! Next time, I'm sticking to the plan.