Friday, August 29, 2008

Beyond Myself

I am a closet introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body. To most people who know me, I am bubbly and very outgoing. I love to talk, exhibited by my frequent “diarrhea of the mouth” when I’m at parties. I’ll come home and rehash the evening, “Oh my, did I really say THAT???” I love to plan events to bring people together such as church functions, fundraisers, and get-togethers for no particular reason. I am the one who will go up to the person standing alone and try to draw her in.

Truthfully, however, I’ve spent most of the last 2 years alone in my minivan or alone at home. I’ll walk along the bike path and see everyone else paired up in twos, but it rarely crosses my mind to call someone to walk with. I like to shop alone. When we go to the beach with other families, you would think I’d be drinking margaritas and dancing on the table top, finally having other grown-ups to talk to, but I usually spend several days in my room devouring library books. When I do join the others to play cards at night, I have a blast and am energized, but I realize that cocooning has become my nature.

I think over the years I have put out a weird vibe when it comes to being intimate with people. I joke that I’m about as deep as a puddle when it comes to introspection, so maybe I’m just afraid of grappling with messy issues. When Tom and I were dating, we had two friends who were also dating. When I would hear about their deep talks that would last until 4 a.m.— on the meaning of life, etc. I would have a pang. Why didn’t Tom and I talk about those things? I came to realize that one of the reasons I was attracted to Tom in the first place was that he didn’t want to always be digging deeper and deeper and neither did I.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about how we are called to be God’s hands and feet on this earth. The way we do this is through loving and serving each other as an outpouring of His love. I love people and want what’s best for them. What I don’t seem to want to do is extend myself in the day to day way of relationships. I rarely make or receive phone calls just to chat. I have a structure to the day that I am reluctant to depart from if something comes up.

I think of friends I’ve had that I’ve introduced to each other. More times than I can count, they have become intimate, helping each other with child rearing, spending holidays together, and seeing each other through crises, while I have become more of a yearly Christmas card friend. This may sound like I’m jealous, but I’m not; I just see in them a willingness to openly share the stuff of life together while I hang back, again and again.

Please don't get me wrong-- being God’s hands and feet has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert—it has to do with love. I am awed when people show love in ways I wouldn’t consider doing myself. My mother was an excellent example of this. Whether it was inviting our 80+ year old babysitter to live in our house for 2 weeks when she decided (temporarily!) to leave her husband of 50 years, or welcoming a stream of friends to our dinner table, she extended herself in ways that were not convenient, but were real.

There are so many people around me who don’t stop at, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” They just do SOMETHING. I am in awe of them, because what they do is so different from what I do. I am much more comfortable writing a check for a cause or praying FOR someone in crisis than BEING there physically in the trenches or praying WITH someone in crisis.

I am not sure where I am going with this, but my prayer is that God enables me to step out of my comfort zone and live life with others. There is nothing wrong with down-time or alone time, but I want to be someone whom others can count on, not just at a party or during the good times, but in the messy, nitty gritty of life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Feeling Louse-y Photo Update

I always thought Tom could be a little nit-picky.

Natural prevention (we hope!) for the kids: tea tree oil, olive oil, eucalyptus oil, shampoo and Ziplocs.

Mom's latest bug-inspired beauty treatment, complete w/grocery bag. I still have it on as I type this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Feeling Louse-y

I stood in the shower and called to Tom, “Do you want to do it in here or somewhere else?” With a strange look on his face, he said, “How about the kitchen?”

I’d like to say we were having a romantic moment, and if I think about it, what we did was indeed intimate, but it is probably not what you’re thinking. However, I must say having a spouse de-louse your head definitely brings you closer together.

I was paranoid on our trip to NYC that we’d bring home bedbugs. I didn’t allow anyone to put luggage on the floor or beds, and I even pulled back the sheets to take a look—nothing.

I was completely unprepared, however, to pick up lice in my own home state. For the record, if anyone from the kids’ school is reading this: I am the one who had lice. Please do not treat my kids like pariahs when school starts. I did treat Molly for lice anyway, because she was in close contact w/ the vector like I was, but so far, so good.

It’s pretty funny that I’m the one who got it, b/c as an elementary kid I was obsessed w/ lice. When we’d all line up for our lice checks, I held my breath, knowing for sure that the school nurse would find something. When she didn’t, I wasn’t satisfied, and would make my mom check me again and again. After about 5 years of this, she refused to check me any more. “ANNA, YOU DO NOT HAVE LICE!”

I guess it was just my time. I have done 30 loads of laundry and wonder if my efforts have been successful. The entire louse count at our house thus far has been ONE and I pray that’s the way it stays. My hair is brittle and unbrushed. No conditioner for at least 7 days! I’ve thrown away my brushes and hesitate to buy new ones in case the pestilence returns.

Tom and I have grown closer as he conducts the nightly inspection. I mean, you can’t watch tv or read blogs while your hubby is checking you for lice. We’ve talked about the beginning of school, our crazy fall schedules and every few moments he comments on my flaky scalp. He keeps calling it dandruff, but for the record I’d like to state that my scalp has recently undergone harsh chemical treatment for de-lousing and what he is seeing might just be a sign of an eensy bit of stress.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

3 Negatives Don't Make a Positive

For about 7 days, I’ve thought I was pregnant. So many things have been running through my mind. What will it be like to be an old mom? How will our household withstand a kid in puberty, 2 in their late teens, and a menopausal mom all at the same time? Could I bear to play Barbies or Thomas the Tank Engine again?

Would this body that has held together, albeit tenuously, all these years be able to handle another pregnancy without going to crap? Why, oh why haven’t I exercised the past two years? Will I ever have a career? Would I resent the baby? Would having a baby strengthen or strain my marriage? Was it okay for a mom of two perfectly healthy children push her luck to have another? What would it be like to go from the freedom of having 2 kids who are currently off playing somewhere in the neighborhood, to having one tethered to my leg, my breast, my heart? What would it be like for a kid to have such older siblings, who already drink soda and say "butt?" Why the heck did we ever get a dog???

Okay, it wasn’t all about me. My first fears were about how much Diet Pepsi I’ve been drinking and how few vitamins I’ve been taking these past few weeks. Is self-tanner bad for a baby? What about my recently colored gray roots? Coming from an older egg to start with, would this baby be saddled with additional problems brought on by an ignorant mom?

On the flip side, I thought about how after 7 years of indecisiveness, the decision had been made for us. We would have another child! Our family would feel complete. Soon there would be a baby in the house. That meant footy pajamas, bath time, and blowing raspberries on a jiggly tummy again. That meant a clean round head to smell and kiss, so delectable I could almost take a bite! That meant a baby to fold up against my chest, to sing to, whose eyes would light up when I entered the room. Someone who really believed I could make it all better. With a 7 and 9 year old, the jig is up. We all know even Mom can’t make everything all better.

I thought about how I might be more relaxed this time. With my first, I put so much pressure on him (and me!) for him to be the perfect child. With my second, I felt so in the weeds from lack of sleep and caring for 2 kids while my husband worked long hours, I simply did my time and rated my days by how much sleep we got. The days were relentless, and I sometimes found myself hiding in the bathroom just to get away from them. Maybe this time I’d have more perspective.

When people told me “this too shall pass,” I didn’t believe them, but now I do. Those babies whose babyhood I wished away are now riding bikes, reading chapter books, and (thankfully!) wiping their own rears. I’ve learned a lot in the almost 10 years since my first pregnancy, especially that all kids are different and mine don’t have to be perfect. I hope I would take some of that wisdom into mothering a new little one.

On the flip side, I wonder if I would be able to muster up the enthusiasm to embrace the wonder of seeing things from a baby’s viewpoint again, and not have a “been there, done that” attitude about parenting.

Well, 3 EPT’s later—all negative—I’m relieved and sad.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's My Party and I'll Fry if I Want To

I enjoyed the Olympic segment on all of the strange fried foods you can get in China. Scorpion on a stick, anyone? It reminded me of a family tradition I’ve been meaning to share with you.

Each summer we go camping in West Virginia with my brother. We stay at a rustic campground (toilets, no showers) in the mountains. We tube slowly down a river (beer cooler in tow), and make S’mores on demand. My brother is an expert camper, so Tom and I just need to show up and pitch our tent while he takes care of the rest.

One of the highlights of the weekend is “Fry Fest.” My brother heats up a vat of oil on his camp stove, whips up a batch of beer batter and starts to fry stuff. My son Jake has never enjoyed any type of fried food, so I usually sneak him a yogurt out of the Igloo cooler at this point. I tried to supplement our menu with a bagged Caesar Salad, but it was met with derision by the die-hard fryers in the group.

Within minutes, my brother and his best friend Will are dumping large quantities of fried food onto the picnic table. We sit around in camp chairs eating ourselves into a stupor.

Past experiments have included:

Whole onions, corn dogs, hardboiled eggs, chimichangas and doughnuts.

Here’s what we had this year:

Fish (caught that day)
Fish (frozen)
8 lbs of french fries
Chicken nuggets
Chicken breasts
JalapeƱo jack cheese
Zingers (like Twinkies covered in raspberry jelly and coconut)

And my personal favorite: fried OREOS! Check out the photo above. Yum!

If just reading this makes you feel queasy and maybe a little bound up inside, you get the picture. Considering the rustic bathroom accommodations, and the fact that I try to make it the whole weekend without using the facilities for certain acts, Fry Fest works out just fine for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The BIG City

We were strolling through Times Square on Saturday night, looking for a place to eat dinner. We wanted something distinctively New York, but we didn’t want to pay a fortune or have the kids embarrass us. That cut out a lot of options. When we finally saw a Mexican chain restaurant “Chevy’s,” I said, “Let’s do it!”

Tom rolled his eyes, thinking it a bit pedestrian, especially since we have one in our very own town, but I was just excited to find something we would all like. When we walked in, another party followed us.

With a quick glance back, I saw the most bodacious pair of breasts imaginable. These things were enormous. They were only minimally covered. They appeared to be “working breasts.” I don’t mean that in the same way that my own, marble in a tube-sock, saggy from breastfeeding, breasts once gave my little ones sustenance. These appeared to have been purchased for a specific mission or purpose. I was so busy glancing while not appearing to glance, that I barely noticed the woman’s 3 male companions.

We walked up the large staircase together and waited to be seated. As we walked to our table, I recognized the distinctive voice of one of the men. It was rapper Ice-T, one of my favorite actors from Law & Order! The breasts belonged to his Playboy model wife Coco! I was so glad that they were seated two booths away. This provided us the perfect buffer to tell the kids who he was, and to shield the kids from a view of the boobs.

We had a fantastic dinner, and enjoyed giggling about our small brush with fame. I felt vindicated when we had the best guacamole of our lives and because if a famous rapper and tv star would eat at Chevy’s, perhaps it wasn’t such an odd choice while out in the big city.

The kids wanted me to ask him for a picture, but I didn’t have the nerve, so here is a pic of me with my real iced tea, with Ice-T’s head in the background. Can you see it?

If it's too blurry, and I think it is, I will provide you with a shot of Tom and the kids in their best rapper poses. I guess now you can see why it's good there was a buffer zone between the See family and Ice-T.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Yanks are Coming

Shortly after arriving in the city, Tom and Jake went to the Museum of Modern Art and Molly and I entered the red awning Mecca of The American Girl Store. I had been planning this for months, and had even bought tickets to the American Girl play. As soon as we walked in, we knew we had a problem. Hordes of girls, moms, and a few bored-looking dads crowded the store’s four levels and all (okay most) of the girls clutched an American Girl doll.

Molly didn’t. I hate to admit it, but she has THREE of these dolls. They are $100 a pop. One we bought, one was a gift, and Molly won the other at a local toy store. You would think we could have remembered to take one of these dolls to New York with us, but with the packing, and the dog kennel, and the train, and everything else, neither “Nikki,” “Emily,” nor “Samantha” made it to the big city.

Molly went into shutdown mode. We had an hour and fifteen minutes before the play started. She wanted her dolls. I wanted chocolate and a diet Pepsi. Girls flitted about, taking their dolls to the hair salon, the doll hospital, getting their photos taken with their dolls, and buying matching outfits. Mothers sagged under the weight of multiple packages, containing doll clothes and accessories that cost more than my entire wardrobe. The bathroom stalls even had special hooks inside-- for your doll.

Molly stood in the corner saying quietly what a stupid store it was and how she wanted to go home. She wouldn’t look at the clothes, wouldn’t marvel at the tiny accessories, and wouldn’t budge. I tried to help her out a little bit by saying things, in a too-loud voice like, “Wouldn’t this pair of glasses look great on your Samantha doll?” and “Your Nikki doll looks a little different than this one, doesn’t she?” or “Can you believe that out of all the entries at the toy store raffle, you won the only Emily doll?”

Her ears perked up a little with my showboating, but it wasn’t enough to encourage her to get out of her funk and start enjoying our big date in the big city. She knew her dolls were at home, she knew there was no way I’d buy her another one just to appease her, and she knew we were stuck there for several hours.

After about 45 minutes of her silent dejection, I pointed out a tiny stuffed dog, retail $18. “This is Emily’s dog, Yank! Would you like me to buy it for you?” Molly responded with, “Are you buying it for me just because I’ve been pouting since we got here?”
“Absolutely not” came my measured response. “I’ve been planning to buy you a special late birthday present here at the store, but I couldn’t offer it to you because you were pouting so much. It wasn’t until you stopped pouting and feeling sorry for yourself that I could buy it for you.” Believable? I’m not sure. But Molly wasn’t the only one trying to save face and make it through this experience.

We ended up buying the dog, one of the cheapest things in the store, and enjoying our front row seats in the corny by inspiring American Girl Musical. We waltzed out of the building hand and hand swinging our tiny red bag between us.
Back at the hotel, the boys, who had spent an educational and edifying afternoon at the MoMA, looked at the tiny dog with suspicion.
Tom rolled his eyes and asked if I had bought it as a reward for bad behavior. Well no, I mean maybe. You see, I remember what it was like to be seven and to have a much-awaited and anticipated event quickly turn to crap. Heck, I know what it’s like to be 38 and have the same thing happen. So, if Yank the dog took the edge off for all of us, so be it.

On ZipLocs and Freedom

We spent the last week in Connecticut and New York City. There was a lot of blog material, including a celebrity sighting that I’ll fill you in on later. Today, however, I’d like to give you a little glimpse of the beginning of our trip.

Since we were already in CT, we decided to take a train from New Haven to New York City for the weekend. This was pretty big stuff for suburbanites like ourselves. We pulled our minivan into a parking lot clearly marked “Train Station Parking.” It wasn’t until we paid our $18 that we realized that this was overflow parking, the station was several blocks away, and we were in a particularly seedy looking part of town.

The four of us unloaded our stuff, and started walking to the station, the kids dragging their little pink and blue duffle bags behind them. We walked past a lot of trash, chain link fences and under a pretty scary bridge. The eeriest part was the streets were almost completely deserted.

A big building loomed ahead with a few people smiling, smoking and laughing on the front steps. It was a police barracks, and although I saw no law enforcement officers, I instantly felt safer.

Then I saw the people were holding clear plastic ziploc bags. I saw why they were smiling. They opened their bags and put their belts back on and re-laced their boots. High fives all around. I’d be smiling, too, if I were experiencing my first taste of freedom in a while. Instead, I shot Tom a look and encouraged the kids to pick up the pace a little.

I'm not sure what this says about our assumptions. We were probably perfectly safe, but I wondered-- would this trip prove too much for these nervous nellies from suburbia?

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Little Crabby

On our recent beach trip Molly bought a hermit crab. We alternate between calling him "Hermie" and her "Smiley." Name and gender have not stuck yet. Anyway, on Friday I had a busy day with a church conference. I noticed his/her cage smelled pretty bad and mentioned it to the kids. They suggested I clean it.

This annoyed me because it is NOT my hermit crab. I decided I would have Molly clean it later that day. Well, the day went by pretty quickly. When Tom came home from a business trip at 11 pm, he said, “What’s that smell?” Uh-oh.

We checked on Hermie/Smiley and found him/her shriveled up inside the shell. This was not good. I started to cry, thinking of breaking the news to my little girl. We live in the house of blame, and I knew I’d probably get nailed for this one.

Looking for reassurance, I said to Tom, “I don’t know how this could have happened! I gave it water, I spritzed its sponge, I fed it this morning.” His response, “Well, it does sound like you were the one in charge.” How supportive. I huffily put on my eyeshades and went to sleep.

The next morning I heard Molly coming down the stairs. After a few weeks of benign neglect, THIS was the morning she decided to call out, “Where’s Smiley?” Uh-oh. I bolted out of bed to tell her about his/her untimely death.

You may be wondering if I felt tempted to run out and buy a replacement crab. I know this is a rather common practice; however, after replacing and killing 4 guppies in the space of one day, and getting caught in the act by my smart little kids, I’ve decided the direct approach is best.

Soooo, I sat Molly down and told her Hermie/Smiley was dead. She didn’t blame me. We held each other and cried. We reminisced about the good times of the past 3 weeks. The hermit crab maze Jake made for it, the neighborhood walks-- I think that about covered it. Wiping her tears, Molly said, “Can I see him?”

I was glad Tom hadn’t jumped the gun and thrown him/her away the night before. I am big on closure. I just hoped he/she didn’t look too pathetic or smell too nasty.

From downstairs I heard, “HE’S ALIVE!” and indeed, Hermie/Smiley lives! I cannot explain it, but I am even more grateful Tom didn’t bury him/her alive. I wonder what bigger purpose is in store for this lowly crab, for surely he/she has an important destiny to fulfill. Right now I can hear him/her dancing a tango in the kitchen and I must say, “He/She is risen! Risen indeed.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hair Police

Molly is filled with disdain about my hair and my clothes. I really didn’t think this would start at age 7. Last week she said, “Mom, I really don’t think the “classic” ponytail is working for you” (her air quotes). I wanted to tell her I don’t feel the need to take hair advice from someone who wears her headbands in the middle of her forehead a la Xanadu or the Quacker lady of infomercial fame. Alas, I am the grown-up, so I refrained.

When we packed for the beach she asked if I was taking my hairdryer and flat iron. When I told her I was, I wanted to add my childhood refrain, “I’m doing it ‘cause I want to, not because you told me to!” As the grown-up, I kept my mouth shut. The one night I did forgo the ponytail to wear my hair down, she looked me up and down and said, “Way to go baby mama, loooooking good!” as if I had groomed myself solely for her pleasure.

It’s funny how fresh childhood seems, so I know why she feels the way she does, and I know it’s probably natural, but childhood is now far enough away for me to realize my mother was not the idiot I thought she was.

I think about the mortification of buying bras. At first my mom could just bring home training bras for my sister and me with no need to try anything on. I’m not sure what we were training for, but these bras had little purpose except to loosely cover up our “New Beginnings” as I had affectionately named the bee stings on our chests.

A few short months later, the New Beginnings needed new digs, so we had to go on a bra shopping expedition. My mother, sister and I crowded into a department store dressing room. As we tried on bras, my mother said embarrassing things such as “lean over and scoop” or “make sure you’ve wiggled down into it” as she advised us. Ugh. My sister and I could have died.

The worst was when she said in what we believed was an extraordinarily loud voice, “Don’t worry, they just look that way because you’re a little excited.” We wanted to crawl out of the stall, but of course if we did, people would be able to identify us, so we had to be satisfied just hissing at our mother to be quiet and stop embarrassing us.

Later, after my mom’s death at 46, I would cringe when I heard teenagers unleash vitriol at their moms at the mall. I wanted to scream at the girls to stop wasting their precious time together. I wanted to tell the moms to hang in there. That their daughters’ criticism was more about the daughters and the hell that is adolescence and the teenage years, than about their mothers. That, God willing, the time would come that these daughters would appreciate them again.

I know I could play the guilt card on Molly. “Don’t treat me this way, I could drop dead in 8 years and then you’ll really feel bad,” but I don’t. I know that her disdain is primarily developmental, and unless she’s being overtly disrespectful, I know I’ll probably bite my tongue and ride out her unsolicited fashion advice for the next 10-12 years or so. After all, I AM the grown-up. The frizzy haired, pony-tailed, gray-streaked grown-up who still misses her mom.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Crazy for You

Do you ever look like a raging lunatic? I know I do. It runs in the family. My sister called to tell me that she pretty much went nuts at a kiddie pool party last week and looked fully certifiable to all present.
Basically, she was holding all the s’mores fixings and felt set upon by mobs of little kids pushing, grabbing and waving sharp metal sticks at her. Breaking out in a sweat, her glasses sliding down her nose, she found herself glaring and yelling at kids right in front their parents. She may have frothed at the mouth; I wasn’t there to see.

I feel her pain. Now she’s going to have to be on high alert to try to act extra normal in front of this crew when she sees them in the grocery store, at church, etc. Not an easy feat, especially after a summer home alone with the kids.

Well, I can relate. The craziest I have ever appeared was when another teacher asked me to cover his class of 12th graders while he ran an errand. In the course of a discussion, one kid made a comment about “white trash” and I went ballistic. I thought I was cogently explaining how offensive that term was to all races, because by stressing “white” trash, there was an unspoken assumption that black people were trashy, but as my voice became shriller and I became more agitated, I realized I just looked like a crazy person. Nothing I said made any sense. Word swept through the halls that while Ms. See might be kind of cute, she was a nut-job.

More recent examples of my lunacy are when I get peeved by the way another kid is treating one of my kids, so I find myself stooping way BELOW their level. Hello? Being snippy with toddlers is not attractive in a 38 year old.

My own kids have watched wide-eyed at my door slamming, huffy tantrums, often when I can’t take one more argument about lumpy socks, or when my blood sugar starts to plummet. Watch out-- crazy lady on the loose. I’d like to be a calm, even-tempered person. Considering my own vivid memories of my mom reduced to tears in the car by 3 kids’ backseat bickering, her head immersed in a bag of orange gumdrops, I doubt there is hope.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Pot Calling the Kettle Icy Blue

I think I have officially hit home improvement tv overload. HGTV has been my porn of choice for some time now, but I may have to find something more edifying to do with my evenings, because my old favs are starting to irk me.

I think there has been too much trickle down of design/decorating jargon into the general populace (present company included). This has led me to look around my house and lament that it is not “Designed to Sell,” even though we have no plans to move in the near future.

I start to wonder if each room has a focal point, rather than just thinking about whether it’s comfortable. And if I see one more Candace Olsen-decorated brown and blue (with old-Hollywood glamour accents) bedroom, I think I’ll puke. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not ask me in what hues I recently decorated my bedroom, family room, and office, just let me rant.

I guess I appreciated these shows more before we all became pseudo-designers and decorators. There’s just something irritating about watching a straight male tagging along with his wife on “House Hunters” exclaiming in wonder (and they always do!) about the “clean lines”,“crown moldings”, “trey ceilings” “open floor plan” and how the accent wall “really pops.” Blech. Maybe I just need a nap.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Guest Blogger-- Regrets and Remembrances

I love receiving comments on my blog (hint! hint!) Some come in the "comments" section and others via email. After my recent blog about my student Alex and how I failed to reach him, an old friend sent me this beautiful letter about what she learned in a difficult teaching situation. So, with her permission, my friend Grace will be our Guest Blogger today.


Sometimes God has to keep at me before I agree to really contemplate a difficult situation. He is at it again. And using you as an angel again. I have been putting a lot of thought into when and how to get back into teaching... preparing for the future when I will want to work full time. I can use the multitude of options and obstacles as an excuse for my hesitance. But the truth He has forced me to come to terms with in the last few weeks is this.... my first year of teaching was the worst disaster and the greatest learning experience of my career... Almost 20 years later I still struggle to make sense of it.

When Jesse Helms died a few weeks ago, I was instantly taken back to Monroe, NC where I had my first teaching job. The racial relations at Monroe High School were volatile to say the least. It was a white male student who told me the tale of the elder Helms, a sheriff around the time of the civil rights movement, dragging black men into the jail at night and setting them free the next morning with bumps and bruises.

I didn’t make it through the first year. I resigned in February. Of course, there were lots of reasons, but it all boiled down to a single incident: one of my students threw someone else's papers and pencil out the window. It sounds silly out of context. I wrote him up and sent him to the office. He returned to my classroom the next day accompanied by the assistant principal who explained to me that, while the infraction warranted it, the student could not be sent to in- school suspension because he had reached the maximum allowed. He would have to be given out-of-school suspension or remain in the classroom. The student just gave me his usual devious smile and walked casually to his seat while every other student sat wild-eyed.

After class I really did try to explain to them that they had just given this kid a free pass to do everything short of hurt another student for the remainder of the year. But giving a black student OSS for throwing papers out the window would not play out well with the public. So this led to the other incident...

The administrators agreed to periodically sit in on my class. One day as the students were taking their seats the principal came into my General Math class. He greeted me and surveyed the room. Suddenly he was yelling at a student. "Stop looking at her! If you look at your teacher like that one more time...!!!"

It took me a minute to figure out who he was talking to. But then I could see the glare between Mr. Martin and Anthony who had arrived early and was already seated in his favorite spot in the back corner of the room. I don't remember what I actually did. I only remember that I wanted to slap Mr. Martin.

Anthony was a very fragile student. It had taken me months to earn his trust. Anthony had come to adore me -- as a teacher who would not ridicule him or allow others to belittle him. We had come to an understanding that if he gave me his best and finished his work, he could have some construction paper and work on his sketches while I helped the others.

Although he didn't want anyone to know it, he was one of the brightest students in that low-level class. Everyone else had to call him "AB", but he actually loved it when I called him Anthony. This black student who had never threatened me or tormented his classmates was being publicly punished in a most intimate cruel way... for what?!

So there I was... stuck with the student I never was able to reach and diminished in the eyes of the student with whom I had managed a miracle. And that makes me want to recite all of the other little things that played into the decision to resign so that I can convince myself that I did the right thing. But I will always wonder if I could have done more for both of them.

Your story about Alex reminded me of Anthony. And then yesterday, as I was unpacking the basement, Erin found the gift Anthony gave me on my last day. It was a sketch that he had worked on for some time. The sketch that was causing him to really look at me. I discussed the sketch with the girls. They could all tell it was supposed to be me. I think that he made my eyes much more prominent and pretty than they are in reality. The focus he put on the eyes still makes me wonder if he believed that I could really see something in him that others could not.

Love, Grace"

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reduce, Recycle, Re-Buy?

I cannot believe I just spent $41 on a baby gate! My “babies” are 7 and 9 years old. There are many other things that I would much rather have spent that money on:

A pedicure
7 tubs of ice cream, preferably of a chunky chocolate variety
A quick dye of my roots
School supplies (ahh, the heady smell of new erasers and Sharpies in the Wal-mart aisle)
A movie ticket, popcorn, Twizzlers and a large Diet Pepsi (OK—maybe $41 isn’t enough)

Alas, because of my dog Shadow’s increasingly disobedient behavior and the fact that she is hell-bent on destroying our new hardwood floor, I purchased a deluxe top of the stairs baby gate EXACTLY like the one I donated years ago, say, when the kids got out of diapers. Why? To keep the hairy, scratchy toe-nailed, urinating beast out of the family room for good.

I hate re-buying things! If I must re-buy, I’d like for there to have at least been some significant improvement in quality or function between the first and second versions. From what I can see, a wooden baby gate is pretty much the same as before. Besides, I am so mad at Shadow right now, I’m not exactly seeking out the safety functions of such a gate.

Re-buying also puts a cramp in my “pare down, donate, recycle” mentality. I am quite disciplined at purging things from our house, but when I then need to re-buy, my peeved mind starts to think that hording might be a better option. One day I’m re-purchasing a deluxe wooden baby gate, the next I’m the crazy cat lady trapped under my own newspaper piles. Ugh.

To make matters worse, I ordered it from Hmmm, who can think of a gazillion cooler things to purchase from Target than a baby gate?

I will need to try not to get too excited when the package comes. Even though I'll already know what's inside, I'll probably hold out a glimmer of hope that someone has sent me some really wonderful, bulky treasure I've been pining for, only to find-- a baby gate.
My sister tried to warn me about this a few weeks ago, as she knows about my active imagination and how much mail excites me. She had one of her packages forwarded to our house, addressed to me. I tore it open, not letting the kids get their little mitts on it, and there it was, before my eyes, my sister's new sports bra. Delightful.

How would you spend $41?