Saturday, December 30, 2006

35 Hours and Counting


The 'rents have been on the ground here on the right coast since midnight on Thursday night and still.....................no luggage.

To review: Carol and Wayne arrived at JFK at midnight on Thursday night. No luggage. On Friday morning, the word from American Airlines was that the luggage would come in to JFK at 2 pm on Friday afternoon. The luggage would be delivered within 6 hours. At 9 pm on Friday night, the phone rang: luggage delivery dude said he would deliver the luggage, but he would be late, after midnight. We should leave a signed note on the front door and he would leave the luggage on the porch. At 7 am this morning, we checked the front porch: but neither the luggage dude nor Santa had delivered.

A new round of phone calls was made: American reported that the luggage delivery service was on the case. The luggage delivery dude said yes, he had the suitcases at his office ----- the delivery van had broken down last night. But he would be sending the suitcases out ASAP. He'd call once the van left Queens.

It's now 11 am. No joy.

Update: The suitcases arrived around 3pm (we had gone to see a play). They were on the front porch when we got home. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Loot

So we're playing a card game called Loot tonight. And basically Grandma and I are just trying to stay one step ahead of JT. We finish the second hand of the game and put the cards back in the box, all the while looking at the advertising on the box, which Grandma reads as "endorsed by Mesna"........uhhhhhh, that would be Mensa, super genius.

Grandma does offer a defense: she has had very little sleep and her luggage still hasn't arrived....she's missing all her meds. Of course, it didn't keep her from winning the game.

But still, it's the highlight of the trip thus far.

Real Life Conversations with JT and his Grandma


Grandma and Grandpa didn't hit the front porch until 2:30 am last night and the morning came awfully early. I heard JT wake up around 8:30 and have a quiet look around the house: Grandma was awake. So she was invited into his room and as I dozed, I could hear JT talking with his Grandma about all sorts of 6 year old boy things: his new razor scooter, the presents that Santa brought him, reading, his kittens, the tire swing in the park down the street. It was awfully sweet to wake up and hear that conversation.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Parents are Coming, the Parents are Coming!

Say this in the same tone that Paul Revere called that "the British are coming" and you'll know how I feel about getting Sassafras House spic and span and ready for my mother's inspection. C & W are scheduled to land right around midnight and I have been cleaning for much of the day.

The bathrooms are clean, the floors have been swept, the kitchen is clean, fresh sheets are on the guest room bed. As long as my mom doesn't go down to the basement, I think that things will be okay.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Real Life Conversations with JT


JT: Will you help me put on my gladiator costume?

Mama: Sure.

JT: Ummmmm.......where are the pants?

Mama: There are no pants. Gladiators wore skirts.

JT (incredulous): Boys? Wearing skirts?

Mama: Yeah. You can move faster that way.

JT: Are you taking my picture for your blog?

Mama: Oh yeah.

JT: You know people will see it and say, "Who is that little girl in a dress? I thought she had a little boy."

Mama: Pictures speak louder than words, son. Smile for the camera.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post-Christmas Shopping Tips......December 26th edition

1. Tempting as it may be, one should not run to the mall in one's Christmas sweater, sweatshirt, turtleneck, or the like. I'll not say that I have entirely avoided the temptation of holiday clothing, as that would be false. But the Christmas sweater should come out on the 1st of December and go away on the 25th. This rule is as firm as the law of gravity.

2. As it turns out, you are not the only driver on the road who wants to make a turn. It is hard to believe that the earth's rotation is not dependent on you getting through that light. But, ahem, it's not.

3. There is no store left on the planet prepared to offer you a full-price refund without a receipt. Deal with it.

4. Unlikely as it may seem, many people have the day after Christmas off from work and they too are eager to shop the sales. Lines are to be expected and you must wait in them. Patiently. Here again it helps to remember that you are not the center of the universe.

5. No child in his or her right mind willingly quits playing with the toys left by Santa to accompany you to the mall. Perhaps this is why junior had a meltdown in the middle of Bridgewater Commons, whilst passersby looked on in horror.

Christmas Supper


The food was good, the company was terrific, and the boys used their very best manners. Mama was happy. It was a really good day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Best Christmas Ever"





It seems that JT has a bit more resilience than his Mama. He came downstairs this morning, took a look at all of the Santa loot and announced, "this is the best Christmas ever." So that felt pretty happy. And with this kind of joy in our house, I plan to take a page from his playbook and have a happy Christmas myself.

The cowboy costume seems to be a hands down favorite......though I'm not sure a gun is required to get a glass of water served up, JT seems to think that I move quicker when heat is involved.

Ready to Greet the Man in Red


We've set out our cookies and JT left Santa a note wishing him a safe journey. From here the boy is off to bed, with hopes that sugarplums dance in his head. Memo to Santa: We are ready.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Little Change and Some More of the Same



The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is change. As anyone who knows me has learned, my life has undergone an enormous and painful change this year. I haven't always been happy about it. I hope that with time the changes will feel like they were for the good. But in the midst of the upheaval, it's awfully hard to know. And, even under the best circumstances, I've never been a fan of uncertainty.

Despite the unexpected changes, some things have remained the same. I am still JT's full-time Mama and I am still the essential person I have always been. I have tried to maintain my sense of humor. And in the midst of the upheaval in our world, I have done everything possible to make sure that my son feels as certain and secure as ever. That's the tall order of parenting every day and it becomes even taller when one parent has flown the coop.

So the past 6 months have been about change and more of the same for JT and me. I've done my best to see to it that he knows how very well-loved he is. I've maintained some of our most beloved traditions. This month, that's meant making Christmas cookies together and greeting the town fire truck when Santa made his tour through town. We've done lots of new things as well, because that's what change means.

At this point, I have no notion of what 2007 will bring. But the change to a new year will be most welcome, if only to shut the door on the painful year that was 2006.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Man of the Hour

Just when I fear that no one reads my blog, I get a load of e-mails with one question: what's the address for the Norad Santa Tracker? Here's the address --- www.noradsanta.org/index.php. You'll have to cut and paste because I can't get the blogger link button to work. The site is cool and very impressive to the crowd of believers.

And as Christmas Eve approaches, aren't we all believers?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sassafras Sister


My sister KO lives in California and while I was slacking about off from work on Thursday, she was busily educating America's youth. Or doing something. She sent me this e-mail about her Thursday and is now my first official guest-blogger:

Potluck today at work. Made the tri tip last night (overnight), seasoned with a red wine sauce, shredded it all up. So yummy. Brought the crock pot to work and while getting it out of the car, the cord got stuck under the seat. My hands kept moving...crock pot stayed still...until there was shattered crock pot and 5 pounds of tri tip all over the pavement. I laughed. Except that it was kind of the main
dish for the potluck, so I was most worried about what to feed the department. I got dad to go buy more meat and BBQ it for me, but what a way to start my day.

Then during my prep I took three girls with me to do some stuff for winter
formal. We found a lost dog out on Nees Ave., so we spent a good 20
minutes returning the dog to it's rightful home (success), but it just
wasn't how I needed to spend my time, you know what I'm saying? Except
that I can't just leave a dog out on a busy street. and when I called the
guy on his cell phone (thank goodness for awesome tags--address, home phone
and cell phone), he was so thankful and happy. And the gate that was open
was by the kids' playset, so there was kind of lots of joy in knowing that
we prevented some crappy moments at home for a family (if something would
have happened to the dog). But oh vey.

Note: Tri tip is a cut of meat (beef) that seems to only be available in California. It's one of those crazy Cali things that I miss here on the right coast. And, yes, KO has earned herself some good karma on this day. The picture is KO and her younger son Spence, taken at Disneyland this summer.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Multi-tasking for the Masses

Years ago, Vanna White wrote a beauty and lifestyle book. I remember in particular that she recommended using the shower as a Water-Pic (remember those) for your teeth ---- to save time in the morning. For this lame suggestion (and many others), the book was roundly trashed by the critics.

But I thought of Vanna this morning as I was terrorizing the kittens by using the electric sweep to clean the stairway in my house. I stood on the edge of the steps, using the broom, and getting in a nice calf stretch after my workout. Usually I read when I stretch but I was branching out today.

Vanna would be so proud.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Suddenly I Could See Clearly

I went for my yearly contact lens eye exam yesterday. I chose a new doctor this year because last year's eye doctor (from one of those doc in a box eyeglass places) recommended a new contact lens and, much to my dismay, I followed his recommendation and ended up with the Acuvue Glass, Sand, and Grit in Your Eye lens. I believe that the official name was Acuvue Hydroclear Advance. It was neither clear nor advanced. Frankly, it was a pain in the......eye.

I had followed his recommendation against my better judgment as the old lens brand had been happily serving me for years. But he sagely suggested that the Glass, Sand, and Grit in Your Eyes lenses would allow my eye to breathe better. "They're new," he said. "Everybody is getting them, " he cajoled. And who am I to deny progress?

I hated these lenses from the outset and when the new doctor asked what I was wearing and whether I liked them, I was vehement in my dislike. She smiled and said, "Yes, I've heard that before." It seems that the evil lenses have been withdrawn from the market because many people feel the way I do. Lots of doctors were urged by Acuvue to give them a try, in part because they'd make more money. But the product is not a success.

Ha! Vindication at last. It turns out that the Acuvue Glass, Sand, and Grit in Your Eye lenses are made of silicon, which does allow the eye to breathe better. But, whereas most disposable lenses need to be replaced once a month, the Acuvue Glass, Sand, and Grit in Your Eye lenses need to be replaced every two weeks because they cannot be easily cleaned. Alas, my insurance only covered 12 pairs of lenses a year and the Acuvue Glass, Sand, and Grit in Your Eye recommender had conveniently failed to mention that I would need to buy an additional 12 pair (perhaps because he knew I wouldn't switch if this fact was revealed?). Thus, for about two weeks every month I suffered.

And not quietly.

I'm back to the old retro lenses now and I'm a happy, happy girl because of it. 2007 is looking better already.

Literally.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Homework is Fun!

On occasion, JT comes home from the first grade with extra "homework" ----- assignments prepared by his friends and copied by the teacher for the students to complete. Tonight, P and D had made homework for the kids, this in addition to the regular homework from Mrs. C.

And that's how you know this is prep school ----- the first graders are making themselves extra homework for "fun" and their classmates are happily completing the assignments, not beating the snot out of those who manufacture the extra work.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Finishing Touches


On day one of the baking frenzy, we made chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, rocky road fudge, and mint chocolate brownies. Day two featured cardamom shortbread, hazelnut chocolate brownies, molasses cookies, and chocolate chip brownies. All of these treats will be packed up and brought to school on Tuesday. Tonight, JT and I put the finishing touches on the sugar cookies.

I find that feeding students yummy baked goods creates a mellow attitude that says, "sure, we'd love to take your quiz Ms. M." And what more could a teacher ask for?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Anticipation


The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings this week is anticipation. And given that it's the Christmas season and my son is hounding me to open "just one package, mama," it seemed like a good idea to write about the anticipation of Christmas.

When I was a child, the month of December was sweet torture. Slowly, the days passed. My sister and I would endlessly look over the Sears catalog toy pages, dreaming of what Santa would bring. And as we opened the boxes on our advent calendar we could count ourselves closer to the big day. We'd decorate the Christmas tree and then watch as packages magically appeared under it. The whole month was about anticipation.

Christmas Eve was the best and the worst combined: Santa was close at hand but the minutes of the day would slowly tick by. We'd often spend that night with our cousins Aaron and Brian and when the time for bed finally came, we'd lie in our sleeping bags too excited to sleep. It would take forever to drift off and I can still hear my mother saying, "the sooner you sleep, the sooner Santa will arrive." And yet sleep was most elusive that night.

The next morning brought the reward for all that waiting. Santa had been at our house! The presents were set out and there was the anticipation of the stocking yet to come. As a little girl, I believed in Santa with all of my heart and even when the truth was revealed (thanks, McCalls magazine), I protected the secret.

As an adult and now a parent, I see exactly why the anticipation of Santa was so magical. For me, nothing re-creates that childhood happiness like preparing for Christmas Eve. All month long, I store away little Santa treats for my son, just waiting for that happy moment when we come downstairs to find the presents left by Santa. JT's anticipation is great and I'll admit that I stoke the fires. I want to give back to him the childhood magic that I once anticipated.

So the presents are appearing under the tree and we've written Santa a letter. Mama has squirreled away the perfect treats for tucking into a boy's stocking. We'll watch the NORAD Santa tracker on Christmas Eve and we will set out cookies for Santa and reindeer food as well. And for that night I will believe again.

I can't wait.

Today's Etiquette Tip for Picking up the Boy at Your Ex's House

- Maybe don't wear your new girlfriend's sweater; the one that she wore when she came over to dinner as our guest earlier this year. It's just bad form; kind of tacky.
- Also, and this is just a general tip for life: if you have no melanin, yellow is just not your color. Not so much, you know?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday Treats


Today has been declared cookie baking day at our home. We haven't finalized our cookie list, but JT has requested sugar cookies and brownies, so those will make the cookie tray for sure. I'm in the mood for shortbread, so I'll be making that. And no holiday would be complete without rocky road fudge. Next week, he'll bring cookies to his classroom and I will bring treats for all of my classes. It's a tradition that we both enjoy.

Last night I got out the big roaster, which I use almost exclusively to make cereal mix, another holiday tradition at our house. For those of you playing along at home, the recipe is reproduced below.

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups corn chex cereal
3 cups rice chex cereal
3 cups wheat chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. In a pyrex bowl, melt the butter and stir in the Worcestershire and spices. In a large baking dish (I use my roasting pan), combine the cereal. Pour the melted butter and spices over the mixed up cereal and gently stir to coat everything. Place in the oven. Roast for an hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Songs

For the past few weeks, the first grade has been practicing for the holiday sing. JT enjoys singing class (though I fear that his musical abilities reflect his mama's skills, which is to say he should sing only in the shower). His sense of holiday songs is a combination of the different traditions that he is learning about in school, so he is just as likely to sing about Frosty the Snowman as he is to sing "dreidel, dreidel, dreidel." I like that.

My friend S tagged me to come up with a list of my favorite Christmas songs, and it's given me plenty to think of this week. Check out Shelley's list at http://butwait.blogspot.com/2006/12/christmas-carol-tag.html. And mine is right here:

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I remember first learning this song in the elementary school choir. The pacing was a challenge for a chorus of 10 years olds but I loved the way that singing it made me feel. It was the first grown-up Christmas carol that I ever learned all the words to and I still remember it. I've even been known to sing it out loud when I'm sure that no one is listening. I learned then that it was an English carol from the 1800s.

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph is the first Christmas song that I learned, complete with all the childish revisions: "you'll go down in history, like Nixon!" (yes, I date myself). I even knew all the names of Santa's reindeer and to recall them today (and rarely a day passes that JT and I don't discuss the reindeer and whether or not they are ready for the coming trip), I sing the first part of this song. JT is singing the song now, complete with all the silly additions, which he finds endlessly amusing. It makes me smile.

3. Deck the Halls
Who doesn't love this song? I like to hear it sung in rounds, because it seems so much more festive that way. Plus the whole song reflects my hopes for the season and the way that I run my home ----- always open for friends to pop by and feel welcome.

4. What Child is This?
I like the sentiment of this song and the wonder of it. To me, it's a reminder of Christmas Eve as a holiday of quiet joy and, dare I say it, hope. While writing this post, I did some reading about the song and it turns out that this is also an English carol, circa the 16th century.

5. Joy to the World
When I was a little girl and this song was sung at church it always seemed to fill the room with joy. It was as if the big moment we were all waiting for had finally arrived.

It's not really a song but the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack from the Peanuts Christmas special is absolutely essential to my holiday celebrations. I play it often and enjoy the quiet of the music. Years of Christmas memories are wrapped up in these songs, and I look forward doing the same for my son.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kittens from Hell


As a result of an incomplete home improvement project, there is a small hole in the corner of my bedroom where the air conditioner cold air return duct is located. I need to have a box built around it, but honestly it just hasn't been a priority what with the zillion other things on my to-do list that seem more pressing.

And then I got some kittens. Within hours of moving into Sassafras House, Lucy went right down that hole and ran around the subfloor in my bedroom, meowing and generally sounding unhappy. It was a tense half hour and JT was hyperventilating with panic, but Lucy eventually came out of the floor and JT calmed down. I covered the hole with all manner of duct tape and cardboard. That was in October.

Last night I was exhausted and I crawled into bed at 10:30 pm. Two hours later I awakened to a scratching noise. I turned on the light just in time to see Lucy fling aside the cardboard covering the hole and then I watched her disappear right down the hole, complete with a sassy fling of her tail as I saw the last of her. Before I could get out of bed (to do what, I have no idea) Tiger followed. Now they were both in the subfloor, running about and meowing.

It was freakin' midnight, I was tired, and now I had two kittens in the subfloor of my bedroom. I'll not lie: my first thought was "if you're that stupid, then you get what you deserve." I figured they could stay down there until they were hungry enough to come out. Then I thought about how I would explain this to JT, not to mention the nice people at the Humane Society. For the next hour, I waited patiently by the hole in the floor so that I could rescue each kitten from the perils to which they had introduced themselves.

Then I shut my bedroom door for the night and tried to get some sleep. This morning, between starting a load of laundry and packing the lunchboxes, I patched up the hole with enough cardboard and duct tape to secure the international space station. For extra protection, I left my bedroom door shut.

Today I will make some calls to get the duct work permanently contained. And in the light of day all I can say is that it's a damned good thing those kittens are cute.

Friday morning update
: Despite the fact that I had created a veritable Berlin Wall around the hole in the floor, Tiger and Lucy tried again last night at midnight. What's the deal with the midnight attack? I kicked them out of my room, only to have them meow pathetically outside my door, desperate for my company. It might be a long weekend.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kids in Africa


Some of the students at my school are raising money for a charity that helps to provide education for children in Africa. For a fundraiser, they sold buttons and I have one on my jacket. JT saw it and asked what it was for. So I told him it was to raise money so kids in Africa could go to school.

"Wait," he said, "children in Africa don't have to go to school?"

"Well," I responded, "they want to go to school, but sometimes they can't."

You could just see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to figure out just how he could arrange it so that he could live in Africa and skip out on school and some kid in Africa could come here and take his place in the first grade.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Violated


We put up a Christmas tree this weekend and the kittens are transfixed. So far, they've managed to stay out of the tree, though a number of ornaments on the low lying branches have been batted about. And every morning I come downstairs to find this snowman ornament on the floor. Clearly, the kittens have had their way with poor frosty.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ticket Day

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is Punishment and Reward, which got me thinking about Ticket Day. In my son's 1st grade class, every Friday is Ticket Day. All week long, the kids have the opportunity to earn a ticket for good behavior. It's a reward system administered by the teachers in the classroom. You don't get a ticket for just following the rules, but for going above and beyond. You might earn a ticket for helping another student or for holding the door open without being asked. Each table can earn tallies for good behavior and 5 tallies are worth a ticket.

Then, on Friday all the tickets are collected and a drawing is held. If you win the drawing, you get a reward prize (JT's favorite is a homework pass). The more tickets you have in the drawing, the greater your odds of winning. A winner is drawn for each of the 3 tables in the room. Five children sit at each table. So the odds are pretty good that every child in the room will win at one point or another.

Not surprisingly, JT loves Ticket Day. He plans all week to earn tickets so that the odds will be in his favor. Because the system works by rewarding good behavior, he has an incentive to behave well. But the system is intermittently reinforcing, so good behavior doesn't always earn a prize beyond feeling good about behaving well. And to me, this is the real lesson of Ticket Day: that when we do right, we feel good.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Happy, Happy Sound of a Roaring, Clinking Furnace


We awakened to a very chilly 55 degrees here at House of Sassafras. The furnace wasn't working. I did all the things that I could do: checked the thermostat, checked the circuit breaker, checked the pilot light. To my admittedly untrained eye, the pilot light seemed to be out. But the idea of me and fire and gas in the basement just seemed like a bad one. So I called the repairman. 3pm they said. Okay, I responded.

I spent the day at work idly imagining just what a weekend in my cold, cold house would feel like. While my students enjoyed the irony of me living without a furnace (much to their dismay, my classroom is always ice cold), I considered the horrors of a $5000 furnace repair bill. In short, I borrowed trouble and worried like only my mother's daughter can do.

The boy and I were home at 3 pm and the temperature in the house had sunk to 50 degrees. The cats were okay, but they have fur coats. And then, two minutes after our arrival home, our savior, in the form of a burly Jersey guy with a whole lot of tools arrived. He went to the basement and a few minutes later came upstairs with a twelve inch black cord in his hand. "Your thermocouple is burned out," he announced.

The thermocouple keeps the pilot lit light. No pilot light means no warm steam and no warm steam means a cold, cold house of sass. The repairman headed out to the van to get us a brand spanking new thermocouple.

Just a few minutes later, the new thermocouple was installed, the pilot light was lit and I can hear the sounds of my furnace thumping and roaring to life. The radiator pipes are clinking with steamy happiness. It's music to my ears.

Best of all is that a new thermocouple is bargain priced at $86. So we're back in business here at Sassafras House, planning on a warm and toasty evening.

The New Jersey DMV

It was time to renew my driver's license and so I headed on over to the local DMV yesterday afternoon. I'll start with the good news: I was in and out of there in 20 minutes. Despite the horror stories about proving your identity, they gave me no grief at all (basically because they ignored their own rules) and it was easy to secure my fancy new digital license.

What I can't get over is the squalid, third world look of the DMV. The place was funky smelling, the floors were dirty, the paint was peeling and the whole office looked like the 3rd circle of hell to which bureaucrats are assigned in the afterworld. But for the brand new picture of Governor Jon Corzine, a smiling despot overseeing this wonder of modern bureaucracy, the place looked as if they were still working with the circa 1970 decor. The employees were as nice as one would expect given their wretched office conditions. But honestly, you'd need some serious antidepressants if you worked there every day.

And I have one last question: why did all the employees have a pierced eyebrow? Is this part of the DMV civil servant code in New Jersey? I demand answers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You Can Take the Girl Out of California......


....but you can't take the California out of the girl. One of the best things about growing up in California was the Mexican food. It's good, abundant and fresh. At the grocery store, tortillas are in the bread aisle, not the refrigerated section. I always miss California Mexican food, though over the years I have learned to make those tastes of home in my home, wherever it may be.

Tonight I made a batch of homemade refried beans. I do that every once in a while, just to have them on hand. For the next few days, we'll have some tostadas, some burritos, and some tacos and beans. Yum. The recipe is an adaptation from Diana Kennedy that I found over at my no-longer secret place for terrific food, Simply Recipes. If you'd like to make a batch of your own, here is the link: http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/001606refried_beans.php. My sister also has a recipe that makes a great batch of beans, perhaps she'll post it?

I took a picture of my bowl of beans and then saw the fruit bowl behind it, filled with avocados and mangoes, two more staples in my home that remind me of California. It's going to be cold with temps in the 30s here in Jersey today but at my house we'll have burritos with guacamole and queso fresco, courtesy of JT's California Mama.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Signs of Our Declining Civilization

At 11:30 am today, I headed on over to CNN.com to see what the Iraqi Study Group had recommended for the fracas that is the War in Iraq. But alas I was diverted from this important news by stories with leads like, "Boy Arrested for Opening his Christmas Presents Early" (ammo in my continuing battle with JT over this very issue) and "Paternity Unsure on Spice Girl Child" (I'm not sure how this information will ever come in handy).

All I can say is that our civilization is in deep, deep trouble when this constitutes the news.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Real Life Conversations with JT

On Monday, JT and I wore our matching green-striped shirts. At the end of the day, we stood in the mirror and looked at ourselves. We had this conversation:

JT: "Nope. I'm better looking."

Mama: "Seriously? You are missing two teeth and don't have much hair. I look better."

JT: "You're just jealous that you can't drink water without opening your mouth like I can."

Point taken.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Adding Insult to Injury

I'm up extra early this morning to attend a workshop for the teacher gig that keeps me busy during the day. So it's Monday morning and I'm in the shower at 5:20 am. That itself is below average. Post-shower, I return to my room to find my rotten kittens all curled up in the nice toasty warm flannel sheets that I had just vacated. They are purring away.

Ouch.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One Hour


The posting over at Sunday Scribbling is one hour. So I have decided to make a list of all the things I have done in one hour; the hour from 6:45 – 7:45 pm tonight, Sunday, December 3rd.

In this hour, I have:
- Posted comments about 7 students to the on-line data base at work.
- Checked out the new postcards over at postscret.blogspot.com.
- Read the latest entry over at dooce.com.
- Started to make peanut butter cookie dough ----- JT helped.
- Took picture of JT helping with cookie dough.
- Talked to my mom – I'm to wrap and place under the Christmas tree the Lands' End package she has sent my way. Got it, Mom.
- Finished the cookie dough with the little baker.
- Rolled the cookies in sugar, put them on the baking sheet, and placed them in the oven.
- Unloaded the dishwasher.
- Loaded the dishwasher.
- Started a load of laundry.
- Set up the coffee maker to automatically start brewing my coffee at 5:20 am tomorrow morning (an unusually early day is planned).
- Watched JT pour himself a glass of water from the Brita pitcher. Cleaned up the water that spilled and re-assured him that he'll eventually get the hang of it.
- Pre-packed JT's lunchbox for tomorrow ---- hot chicken nuggets, in a thermos, will go in tomorrow morning. Frankly, I find his lunch choice indefensible, but it's what JT wants. So it's what JT gets.
- Took the hot cookies out of the oven, cooled them on a wire rack.
- Put the rest of the cookies in the oven.
- Brought JT two warm cookies.
- Poured myself a glass of milk to go with a few of those cookies.
- Re-read this blog posting while eating cookies.
- Dowloaded photo and posted.

Next up: washing the boy and tucking him into bed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

This is Supposed to Reassure Us?

I read in the paper this morning that American Ambassador to Iraq John Negraponte believes that the war in Iraq is nothing like the war in Vietnam. Negraponte says, "In Vietnam we knew who the enemy was. In Iraq, that's not clear."

Is this supposed to reassure us?

Friday, December 01, 2006

History Day

The first Friday in December, Princeton University hosts a conference for NJ history teachers. The morning is given over to American history and the afternoon to a world history topic and the speakers are always the top people in their field. I went today and it set my mind awhirl with all the things that I still want to know more about.

I rather think that is the secret of education: discovering that there is so much more out there that I have yet to learn.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Easing in to the Season


It's November 30th and I have on my hands a boy all atwitter about the impending visit of Santa Claus. We've been talking about it for the last week. I have mixed feelings about facing this first Christmas as a single mama but I appreciate JT's enthusiasm, his joy, and his excitement. It helps me to see the big picture.

Tonight we started to decorate our house. We searched the basement for his advent calendar. Each drawer in the box will have a treat as he counts down the days until December 24th. And we placed a light in the front window, a symbol that a weary traveler can find rest and comfort inside our home. Finally, we put up the holly and the wreath on our front door. It makes our home just a little more welcoming and for me it represents my effort to welcome and embrace the coming month.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Real Life Conversations in Class

This might also qualify as what I call a prep school moment......the jury is out on that. But it is a real life conversation, and it was funny.

Student X: Does Mr. W (an administrator) look at the assignments you give to your students?

Me: No. Mr. W teaches math. This is history class.

X: No, I mean does he look to make sure that you are actually teaching history?

Me: I am actually teaching history. Shall we talk about the Revolution of 1800?

X: Well, if you gave us a piece of paper and asked us to draw a bunny for points, that wouldn't be teaching history.

Me: Correct. And I have never given you a piece of paper and asked you to draw a bunny for points. The Revolution of 1800 is called a revolution because.....

X: But if you did give that assignment......

The class interrupts.

Student Y: X, that assignment was a joke and it was for extra credit.

X: Yeah.

Me: Let me get this straight: you are complaining because some teacher promised extra credit points if you drew a picture of a bunny? I've now heard everything and you're going to hear about the Revolution of 1800.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Real Life Conversations with JT

First, a little context. With his reading tutor, JT is working on word-sound combinations. These days, he's working on sounds that are h-brother sounds: ch; sh. So he likes to review h brother sounds and identify them in the books he is reading. And this morning, he demonstrated the ultimate mastery of an h brother sound:

JT: Mama, I know another h brother word.

Mama: Oh yeah? What word is that?

JT: Shit.

Mama: Indeed.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Idle Traffic Thoughts

I'm making my way to work this morning and at a traffic light I see that the car in front of me has a Metal Head sticker. Okay, fine. But the car is a green Ford Taurus. I'm thinking that this is incongruous. Far be it from me to pass judgment, but I feel that some decisions need to be made: either you're a Metal Head guy and need the corresponding Metal Head car (a muscle car; something that growls) OR you're a Taurus guy and need the corresponding sticker (Barry Manilow? Mannheim Steam Engine?).

But the Metal Head/Taurus combo? It just doesn't work.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Arch-Nemesis

The post over at Sunday Scribblings is arch-nemesis. I've never been the sort of person to hold on to a grievance. I don't like being angry. But in the last few months, I've been angrier than I've ever experienced before. Sometimes I think about my ex and her actions and her words and I just want her to hurt as much as I have hurt; as much as JT has hurt. Is Lisa my arch-nemesis?

The thing is, I'm not proud of feeling this way. I don't want to feel like this. I don't want to be a person who is out there increasing the sum total of unhappiness in the world, even if it is for someone who has richly earned a little unhappiness. Don't get me wrong: I'm human and I'd like Lisa to reap the unhappiness she has sown. I just want it to happen without any assistance from me.

So I don't think that Lisa really is my arch-nemesis. I think that my baser instincts are my arch-nemesis. When your life is shattered in the way that mine has been, you have a tendency to blame yourself. Almost daily I ask what I did wrong, why she couldn't love me, and why the life we built together was valuable to me while it was a cage for her. This internal dialogue gets me nowhere. I need to be aware of how I feel, and I need to be kind to myself but dwelling on the pain won't make it go away. And I also need to realize that how Lisa feels, or if she feels, are not really my problem. Whether or not Lisa ever hurts for what she's done isn't going to change me. And it isn't going to change this situation in which I have found myself. It won't change things for my son.

Some days that's awfully hard to remember.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cornbread and Honey

Lesbian though I am, I'm a pretty traditional girl. I've always joked that I'd make an exceptional housewife: I'm a good cook, I like to clean, I'm fond of kids, and I'm an enthusiastic participant in other things people want their wives to do......but that I won't be mentioning on my PG-rated blog. You get the idea.

When I was pregnant, I pictured myself as the Mama of a chubby and round little baby. Instead, I got slim, who's only chubbiness was in his meaty cheeks. As a baby and as a boy, JT has mostly been content to live on kitchen fumes. But every once in a while, something I cook fills his senses and then he is unstoppable. That's how JT feels about cornbread. I made some on Thanksgiving, but most of it went into the cornbread dressing. Today he asked for cornbread for lunch. I immediately baked up a batch. He eats it warm with butter and lots of honey. Three hunks later, my boy's belly is full.

And his Mama is happy too.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tree Lighting



We went to Princeton this evening to see the newly lit Christmas tree in Palmer Square. JT has been watching that tree get lit since he was 2 and tonight we continued the tradition. It was a little different this year but he had as good a time as ever, which should tell me something about his resilience. And should help me to remember that with help from my friends I can be a single mama who gets the job done.

For reasons I don't quite understand, the photo has loaded improperly. I'm asking the nice people at Blogger for some help. Hopefully, I'll get it fixed soon.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cornbread Dressing



I am not a fan of stuffing ----- eating something stuffed into the carcas of a raw bird just strikes me as a deeply unwise decision. So I make dressing instead ---- cooked separately from the bird.

I'm not making a feast this year because we've been invited to someone else's house. And in this year of big changes, it seemed like a good idea to try something new. But I am bringing my favorite Thanksgiving dish – cornbread dressing. It's old-fashioned southern food for a yankee Thanksgiving.

Cornbread Dressing

First, you have to make cornbread. This is my all-purpose cornbread recipe and it makes great corn muffins.

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup lowfat milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 inch pan. Combine dry ingredients and then stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on rack to cool.

And now the dressing part:
1 8 inch pan of cornbread
1 cup celery, diced
1-2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper, plus a bit of juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 cups chicken broth

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish. Once cornbread has cooled, crumble it into a large bowl (6 year old boys with clean hands are perfect for this task). Mix in celery, onion, jalapeno (and juice), and black pepper. Add enough chicken broth to make the mixture moist. Pat into the casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Apple Coffee Cake and Bacon



My childhood Thanksgivings often featured a day of starvation before the big meal was delivered. At best, this led to overeating when supper was finally ready. At worst, it contributes to a lifetime of food issues. So I make breakfast on Thanksgiving day and today's breakfast was apple coffee cake and bacon (because JT is the king of bacon). I drank lots of hot coffee and it was a warm and cozy start to a cold day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Karmic Irony or Ironic Karma



Thanksgiving is this week and I have been struggling with facing the holiday. This morning I had yet another chat with my ex, known around here as the FI, as in f&@#$*g idiot, for reasons which should by now be patently clear. Today's discussion featured version 5.0 of her explanation for her sudden decampment in June.

So I'm standing in my kitchen waiting for an explanation that I know will never come, waiting for an apology for the way in which she callously tore apart our family. Waiting for her to acknowledge that she broke our little boy's heart and left me to make the repairs. Trying to get her to understand how much she hurt me and how much she hurt him. And frankly, I'm listening to her and fearing that there must be things about me that make me impossible to love.

Then the doorbell rings and a box of beautiful roses is placed in my hand, sent by a friend with better timing than she knows. And I realize that I grasped endlessly for the love and affection of someone who is fundamentally unable to care about another human being. Someone who never appreciated the life we had built together. Someone who is broken.

I know that I will still hurt and that things will still be hard. But more and more I see that a happy life is within reach.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Feeling the Love


I've had a rough couple of days and then my friend Shelley sent me this picture of my son and me as I opened the earrings he gave me for my birthday. I'm wearing those earrings today and looking forward to leaving work soon so that I can go home a play a little Monopoly with my boy. And I feel really lucky to have such a wonderful child to love and care for. With him by my side, I feel that most anything is possible.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Heroes

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings today is heroes. For the last few days, I've been thinking about what I want to write and I saw that my friend S wrote about being a hero in your own life. That, plus some idle thoughts of my own gave me my idea.

While I've been in the hotel this weekend, sans many of the usual responsibilities of my life, I've been reading my Country Living magazine and looking at the Christmas ideas. Christmas was one of those things that Lisa and I did really well. Together, we developed traditions to pass on to JT and we always enjoyed doing so. December is a magical time to be a little boy and JT's mommies always made the most of it.

Now the traditions and the celebrating are left to me. I'll get out the decorations, put up the lights and the tree, bake the cookies, and make sure that my boy still feels the joy. But right now I just feel like I will be going through the motions for his sake. For me, the biggest happiness of Christmas was sharing JT with his mommy. Having someone to be in on the secrets and playing Santa on Christmas Eve was the magic for me. Like many of the things that I have had to do alone, I'm sure that I will manage. Maybe I'll even be pleasantly surprised.

But at this moment I'm just afraid. I'd like to curl up in my bed and pretend that Christmas isn't here. And this is where being my own hero comes in. In so many ways I've been really proud of myself as I've navigated the painful changes to my world. So much of my identity was caught up in being Lisa's partner that losing her was a bit like losing half of myself. I've discovered the missing parts of Stacy and that's been good. But it's also been painful and sometimes I feel like I've just scaled one mountain only to find that yet another is just around the corner.

Christmas is that next mountain and I dearly want to enjoy the season. I want to watch the joy in JT's eyes and feel at peace. I don't want to be afraid of the changes anymore. I want to embrace the newness of my life and find some unexpected happiness. I want to be the hero in my own world.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mama and Boy Adventure


Today, JT and I had a whole afternoon to see the sights. We set off for the Smithsonian Mall to see the Air and Space Museum and the new Native American museum. We saw lots of big scary rockets and an Imax movie about Mars. At the Native American museum we saw Indian dancers and a terrific movie about Indian life. JT was wide-eyed for much of our tour, very excited to see everything.

The last time I visited the Air and Space museum was over 15 years ago and I would never have imagined then that I would be back to share it with a little boy of my own. As we walked back down the mall, returning to our hotel as the sun set, we saw the lights over the Capital building and talked about the Washington Monument and why this city is a special place for Americans.

In my previous life, I looked forward to sharing this all with both Lisa and JT. But today I just felt sorry for her because she has chosen to miss out on sharing the world with JT. I wonder if she has any idea what she has lost.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Zoo Animals













My little monkey enjoyed the pandas and the gorillas and was pretty impressed by the orangutan on the high wire. It was a beautiful day at the National Zoo.

We saw all three of the pandas......but my favorite was the one high up in the tree, eating bamboo and just hanging out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mama, her boy and 39 teenagers in the nation's capital




JT joined me on this year's Model Congress trip. This trip used to be my annual escape. Lisa would look after JT and I would enjoy a few days in Washington DC. But when I talked about the trip and the prospect of JT staying with Lisa, he asked me to bring him along instead. Of course I said yes. I brought some extra help with me, in the form of his babysitters J and C. He loved the bus ride, enjoyed lunch at the diner along the way (thanks to Miss Shelley for the tip), and as I write he's playing a fierce game of war with the sitters. Tomorrow we'll see the pandas at the National Zoo and the Smithsonian will keep us busy on Saturday.

But the best part of the trip so far was that moment in the hotel when he took my hand and said, "thanks for bringing me with you Mama."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Detention

So I had my yearly opportunity to sit with the evil and dastardly this afternoon, when I supervised prep school detention. A few show potential to be low-level white collar criminals, but the rest are just here for the gum-chewing, un-approved ladybug costume variety of sin. Nothing that smacks of a lifetime of crime.

And of course, there's me, the teacher, smacking her gum as she takes detention attendance.

It's a quiet group, cracking their knuckles and staring at me, as if I can make the clock move forward more quickly. For most of the 45 minutes, I just try not to laugh out loud.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If Your Mama Doesn't Adore You, Who Will?


I learned a lot from the first principal I worked with at my school. Among the most important of those lessons was the day he pointed out that no matter how difficult a kid may be, we should expect the child's parents to stand up for him. I've never forgotten that idea and it often gives me just a little more patience when I have a difficult time with a student in my classroom. I also think of this when I am taking care of my son. I don't want to make excuses for him, but I do want him to know that I am unfailingly in his corner. It was a message my parents always gave me, and I am passing it on.

I did my first parent-teacher conference as a single mama today. I felt awfully alone for those 20 minutes. At the age 6, though he tries as hard as he can, my boy is struggling to learn how to read. He's afraid to fail and this makes him reluctant to take risks. It's a problem that I know about and I am working on. He sees a reading tutor for extra help each week and he and I practice reading almost every night of the week. In the car on the way to school in the morning he reads the road signs and we talk about the words that the letters spell, the sounds that they make, and the multitude of ways in which the English language doesn't play fair (have you ever tried to sound out the word school?). He's working awfully hard and he's come so far already. I am so proud of his efforts and I tell him so every day.

Much as I love him, I know JT is not perfect and I can hear about the things that my son needs to work on. But today I also needed to hear what he does well. I needed to hear something of the beauty I see in him: his terrific imagination, his kind heart, his capable vocabulary, his sense of humor, his physical strength, his ability to make friends.

It's a hard job this business of being a mama. And my job has gotten a lot harder since I began to do it by myself. Today I wished for someone to sit by my side as I heard from his teacher; someone who believed in my son as much as I do.

But it wasn't to be.

Comfort Food

Were I a sensible woman, I would have made a picture as I pulled it out of the oven. But, alas, we were hungry when the chicken pot pie was ready last night. I've been searching for the perfect chicken pot pie recipe for many years now. Last night, I found it ---- yummy.

Thanks to S for patiently keeping me company and waiting for her supper. Pop on over to Simply Recipes and give this one a try: http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004089chicken_pot_pie.php

Monday, November 13, 2006

Real Life Conversations in Class



Me: So the deal with the Qin Dynasty is that government critics were sometimes banished or executed.

Student: What does that mean?

Me: Well......banished means being sent away and killed......that's pretty much self-explanatory, right?

Exasperated student: No, I mean what is a government critic?

Me: Pretty much every voter in America last Tuesday.

I crack myself up.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I Don't Have to be a Passenger in My Own Life

I've never been a passenger in my own life. The day I graduated from high school, the Superintendent of the schools in my town was on the stage to shake the hand of every graduate. I breezed on past him, not on purpose, but walking headlong into my future with a plan in mind. I'd been that way my whole life.

At the age of 17, I moved to Los Angeles to go to UCLA. Four years later, at the age of 21, I moved more than halfway across the country, to Nashville, Tennessee, where I didn't know a single soul, to attend graduate school. Five years after that, I took a teaching job in rural Nebraska, another place where I didn't know anyone. I was 26 years old. At the age of 34, I moved again, this time to New Jersey and with my partner and son. But yet again, it was a jump into the unknown. All of these changes and many more were orchestrated by me. I've always been the driving force of my life. And I have always been proud of that fact.

It's only been in the past 6 months, since the sudden departure of my partner, that I've doubted myself. A huge part of it is a consequence of feeling like I was not in control of my destiny when she left. And I realize that now the destiny that I manage is not just my own, but also the future of my child's life. And the last few months have convinced me that I am strong enough to handle the future for us both. In a way, I've learned again just how important it is to remember that I don't have to be a passenger in my own life.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gap-Toothed Grin


I think that the photo pretty much says it all. Tooth number 3 fell out yesterday.

Talking Smack

It took a few days for Conrad Burns and George Allen to face the facts but both of them conceded their Senate races on Thursday. That places the Democratic totals in the Senate at 6..........and I do believe that is exactly what I predicted just 4 days ago.

I do so very much like to be right.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Birthday Joy



I turned 39 on Monday and despite all my concerns that it would be a rough day, it turned out to be most grand. My friend E had organized a surprise party in my classroom and JT, who was in on the secret, was so pleased to be included. I was totally surprised, and touched, and it reminded me of all the really, really good things in my life.

And in the evening, I opened some presents that JT had selected on a birthday mission with Miss Shelley. Here again, he was so pleased to have some birthday treats for his Mama, and I was reminded of what a sweet boy he is. He picked out cookie cutters, earrings, and a book to record all the books that I want to read (he was most proud of this last gift). He's only 6 and yet he's already learned how to be thoughtful and kind. And he has good taste.

I'm in a really new place for the 39th year of my life. And it feels good.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Feeling Blue.......and Oh So Good

As predicted, the Democrats had a good night last night. As of this morning, they've taken 28 races and counting, which is a historically solid achievement. And they are still in the running for the Senate, with Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana holding on to slim leads. Who knew that Conrad Burns of Montana, tainted by the Abramoff scandal, could possibly hold on?

President Bush has a press conference at 1 pm, where I expect he'll talk about his desire for bipartisanship governance. I have my doubts, but I've not had enough sleep so I will try to be hopeful.

In 1984, I was so crushed that Geraldine Ferraro wasn't going to be the Vice President. At the age of 16, I wondered when a woman might come to real power in American politics. Back then, I thought it would be soon. Since then, a number of terrific women on both sides of the aisle have emerged as Senate and House leaders; a number of states have elected women governors. But we're nowhere as close as I would have expected in 1984. When I look out at the students in my classes, I see some young women of immense potential. Young women who won't take no for an answer. So to see Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Speaker-to-be, take the stage and claim victory for her party, was immensely gratifying. I am more hopeful than ever that one day my 6 year old son will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for a woman president.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

House Party

It's election morning and it seems fitting to offer up a few predictions of the outcome.

For starters, the Democrats look poised to gain the majority in the House for the first time since 1994. Among other things, that will give us the first woman Speaker of the House in Representative Nancy Pelosi. I predict that the Democrats will gain 22 seats today. It will be a narrow majority, but it's still a majority. And as far as historical trends are concerned, it's significant as party gains in the House have generally been slim for the past 20 years (not counting the 54-seat wave of '94).

In the Senate, the Democrats need to take six states to get a majority. That's a tough order. First off, they must hold New Jersey, Minnesota and Washington, three races that were in play. They will do so. It seems pretty clear that they'll take Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Missouri. But that's only a net gain of three. The Montana race has narrowed in the last few days but that race will also go to the Democrats. Larry Sabato of UVA thinks that Jim Webb will bring the Virginia Senate to the Democrats. If Sabato is right, and Stuart Rothenberg seems to think he is, that brings the magic total to 6. So the night will hinge on Virgina, Montana, and Missouri. It's a tall order but I think it's going to happen.

Monday, November 06, 2006

No Bounce in the Mama House

On Saturday, my new sports bra arrived in the mail. Honestly, I was pretty excited to find this bra again. It's a Champion and despite years of searching, I hadn't been able to find it at any sporting store. I had long ago given up hope that Champion still made the bra. But a few weeks ago, I got a Champion catalog in the mail and voila: there was my personal miracle bra.

I took it out for a test run on Sunday's workout. It was as good as ever: I was in the no-bounce zone. It's nothing fancy, just enough fabric, mesh, and underwire expertly engineered to hold things firmly in place.

And that is a happy, happy thing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Morning

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is morning. Lately, I have students who ask me these insane questions: "Ms. M, did you watch that 90 minute video on U-Tube that I told you about?"; "Why don't you see the Borat movie tonight (when it's a school night)?"; and my personal favorite, "Did you get our tests graded yet? (when the tests were only taken the day before). These questions remind me how busy my days are now that I'm a single parent. And morning is when it all begins.

5:50 am The alarm clock goes off, but I'm usually coming awake on my own. I take some deep breaths and think about the big tasks of the day ahead.

6:00 I'm up and in the hot steamy shower.

6:15 The coffee maker automatically clicks on, sending the smell of fresh-brewed coffee upstairs. I finish getting dressed, make my bed, and come downstairs.

6:20 Turn on NPR, pour a mug of coffee, and start packing the lunches (some pre-packing has been done the night before). JT's lunch includes a morning snack and an afternoon snack so the lunchbox is often bulging full.

6:28 Unload the dishwasher (which I know to be a 2-3 minute task).

6:31 Sit down at my computer for a few minutes to myself. Balance my checkbook, read some blogs that I like, update my blog. Sometimes I grade and exam or two, read a Newsweek article. Drink more coffee.

6:45 Head upstairs for JT's first wake up call. Take warm clothes from the radiator in his room (I set them out the night before) and place them in his bed. Run through JT's breakfast options. Hope that he is willing to get up.

6:48 Back downstairs. Start JT's breakfast; make my own; feed the kittens. Call upstairs to make sure the boy is getting dressed.

6:55 Breakfast for everyone. Cats included. One morning, I'm going to screw this up and wind up with a bowl of kitty kibble while the cats get Mama's granola. I eat at the table; JT has breakfast in front of the telly. I'm now on my 3rd cup of coffee.

7:05 Collect breakfast dishes, clean up the kitchen. Organize school bags for the two of us. Do I need a 4th cup of coffee?

7:10 Blow dry hair.

7:20 Head upstairs to brush my teeth and put on makeup (is this a day that requires glitter eyeliner?). Tell JT to put on his shoes and jacket.

7:27 Head 'em up and move 'em out. We're off to school.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Prep School Moment

On Friday afternoon, JT and I drove home two students from my school. C and J are terrific young women ---- bright, hard-working, kind, and both have helped me out by babysitting JT. JT loves it when we drive them to and from school because they give him all sorts of attention.

So we're headed home when we see three high school age girls (not from our school...I can tell by the blue jeans they are wearing) standing on the bench at a bus stop and shouting and gesturing at cars that are passing by. JT is entranced at such poor behavior and he says, "I wonder why they are doing that?"

To which C responds, 'Not enough homework."

Indeed.

I love teaching prep school students.

The Universe is Looking Out for Me

Next week, I turn 39, the age that no one claims. Last year, when I turned 38, the prospect of 39 was exciting. I thought about ending one decade of life and starting another with my partner and my son at my side. But in the intervening year, my partner of nine years walked out, leaving me a suddenly single mama.

It was a sucker punch and I'm still recovering. I haven't really looked forward to my birthday this year, because it seems like a marker of a life gone off its intended track. The last 5 months have taken me places that I never wanted to go and it hasn't always been easy.

When I'm being totally honest, there have been some good things that I have also found of late. Being on my own again is like meeting up with my old self; a person whom I liked. I've met new people and done new things. The TV has been on less and there's been more time for reading books. I've found strength that I didn't think I had, and my friends have been terrific. My son has proven to be a source of amazing wisdom, kindness and strength.

But still and all, I turn 39 on Monday and I'm in such a different place than I was last year at this time; an unexpected place. I look in the mirror, wondering if the age shows, wondering how I look to the world. When your partner leaves you for someone else, you're bound to feel some doubts.

But in this week when I prepare to turn 39 and worry about how I look, people have come out of the woodwork to tell me that I look good; healthy and happy. It's almost funny, the number of compliments that I have received. If I didn't know better, I'd think that someone sent out an e-mail when I wasn't looking....."Pssst: tell Stacy she looks great.....pass it on."

Or maybe it's the universe reminding me that I'm going to be okay. Maybe this is how I will learn that life's unexpected turns needn't be unhappy ones.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Evidence of the Bacchanalia


This here is the photo evidence of why JT loves Halloween so darned much.

PS: I have no idea why the picture is mixed up. I have tried to fix it but, alas, technology is not always my friend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween




JT set off for school this morning with his Indian costume carefully tucked in his book bag. At noon, the 1st grade put on their costumes and Mama came down with some war paint for her little brave. The parade around the big Elm tree on campus is just the start of the festivities, but it is the highlight of my day.

With a smile like that, it's hard to believe that anyone is going to get scalped.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sugar (cookie) Mama


Last night JT and I made sugar cookies for the 1st grade Halloween party. We'll decorate the cookies tonight and bring them to the festivities tomorrow. JT was excited to help with the baking ---- that boy can crack an egg with the best of them ---- and as he was stealing yet another taste of cookie dough he said, "Everybody loves the cookies I bring, Mama. You always make me cookies." It made my heart sing.

I have this colossal fear that since I'm now the only parent responsible for the day-to-day, I will become stodgy and boring, while Lisa gets to be Captain Fun ---- the 5 hour a week parent. I try my best to make sure that JT and I have fun every day, but some days that's a challenge. There's laundry to wash and homework to get done; supper to be made; trash to take out and any number of the daily chores that make up my life as a single mama. Sometimes it's hard to find the fun.

But last night, up to our elbows in flour, I realized that JT looks to me for everything: stability, rules, responsibility, and, yes, fun. And he knows that I am always going to be here for him. He knows that I'll tuck him into bed each night and be there with clean clothes and a full lunchbox in the morning. And from me he will learn that loving is more than just the fun, it's the whole package of caring for someone else. I may not be Captain Fun but I'm the cookie Mama and a whole lot more.

I'll take it.

Update: A picture of the finished product.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No, no, no stories


The post over at Sunday Scribblings this week is bedtime stories. Who doesn't love a bedtime story? Without a doubt, bedtime story hour is the best moment of the day for me. The ingredients can't be beat: a warm, clean, sweet-smelling boy wearing pajamas and tucked in with his blankies and me in my pajamas. One reason that JT has a big bed is so that we can be there together for story hour. I picked out warm, soft bedding to make his bed a welcoming place. Each night, we lie in his bed and read and talk and compare notes on our world. Sometimes I tell him a story from when I was a little girl – he loves that. Then the lights go out and the bedtime lullabies are turned on. JT asks to have his back scratched and, as he snuggles under the quilt, I gently pat his head and watch my boy fall asleep.

This has been the bedtime routine for JT since he was first born. When he was very little and regarded sleeping as an unnecessary distraction, he would say "No, no, no stories" when bedtime was announced. But then I would sit in his bed with a copy of "Good Night Moon" and he couldn't resist.

He's learning to read these days and I know that my bedtime story days are numbered. I'll be sad to let those moments go, though the thought of him tucked into his bed reading a book to himself is also pretty satisfying. And maybe one day JT will have a little boy of his own eager to hear a story read to him. And then my son will pass on the tradition, feathering his child's nest, cuddling up with a book and perhaps even talk about the stories his Mama once read to him.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Same Sex Marriage: October Surprise?

In the aftermath of the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling instructing the state legislature to make arrangements to allow same-sex couples to have the rights of marriage (if not the name), there have been some politicians eager to exploit the moment.

Mostly this is Republicans, hoping to use the issue of same-sex marriage to motivate the base to turn out and vote. Turn out is always a concern for both parties and in a year when their president has an approval rating in the dumper, and anti-Republican sentiment is on the rise, the GOP wants to get all of their supporters to the polls. Putting on a big scare about same-sex marriage might help to make that happen.

So as we head into the final 10 days, I'd like to profile a few of the key races where the NJ ruling might have the effect of helping out Republican candidates.

In the very competitive Tennessee Senate race, both candidates oppose gay marriage. Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford both say that they will vote in favor of a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that bans same sex marriage. Corker has had the lead in most polls of this race, but usually that lead is razor-slim and within the margin of error. In the last two weeks, Ford closed that lead. If the NJ ruling motivates the Republican base, they will turn out in Tennessee and cast ballots for Bob Corker. Tennessee allows early voting so folks are hitting the polls right now in the Volunteer state. Will this issue bring a few more Corker supporters to the polls?

In New Jersey, there has been relatively little backlash on the same-sex marriage front. Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Tom Kean, Jr. both say civil unions for same-sex couples are fine with them. But the ruling could motivate the most conservative Republicans in the state (and yes there are a few) to come out and cast a ballot for Kean as the lesser-of-two-evils candidate. This is a tight race to begin with and Menendez is barely holding on to the seat right now. Will the NJ ruling, just 13 days before the election, seal the deal in Kean's favor?

In Iowa 03, in the House race between incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell, and Republican state Senate President Jeff Lombardi, same-sex marriage is on the table. For starters, there is currently a lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage in the Iowa. Same sex marriage is not real popular with Iowa voters and though both Boswell and Lombardi oppose it, the concern here is about getting hard-core conservatives to the polls on election day. Though he hasn't been all that popular on the campaign trail this fall, President Bush was out for Lombardi on Thursday, the day after the NJ ruling. And in his appearance Bush called on Iowans to support Lombardi because he will help to oppose same-sex marriage and liberal courts. Boswell is one of the few House Democrats in trouble this fall and the NJ ruling could hurt him.

On Saturday, President Bush hit the stump in Indiana 09, hoping to help out incumbent Republican Mike Sodrel, who is facing a challenge by Democrat Baron Hill, a former congressman who is making a comeback bid. As was the case in Iowa, Bush invoked the NJ ruling, asking voters to return Sodrel to Congress to help protect marriage. Hill had opened a very slight lead over Sodrel in the past two weeks. But Bush was there to shore-up the conservative base. Will the base turn out and support Sodrel?

The good news here is that there aren't that many races likely to be effected by the ruling in New Jersey. But the margins in the House and Senate are slim and if the Democrats want to take control, every race counts. So when the Democrats look for the six pick-ups they need to take control in the Senate and the fifteen seats they need to take the House, these races might matter.

My prediction is that Corker will win in Tennessee and I think that Kean will also score an upset in New Jersey. Boswell will hold on in Iowa, but it will be close. Hill will win in Indiana, because he's run an excellent campaign and hasn't slipped up.

10/31 update: Menendez has just started a serious ad blitz in NJ and Kean has yet to respond. If Kean doesn't get on the air soon, Menendez will win this race.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Proud Parenting Moment

JT has always relaxed after school by drawing pictures. Lately, he's also been writing words on his pictures. That's good news because he could use the writing practice and it means that he's working on spelling words himself, albeit in a creative fashion.

The bad news is that he now has yet another venue to discuss farting, as this picture illustrates.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Toss-Up


It's not clear to me who is better looking: Tiger or JT.

I do know that neither is quiet.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Real Life Conversations, Part X

Mama: Good morning muffin, it's time to get up for school.

JT: No. School is for suckers.

Okay then. Sounds like the first grade may be a tad rough today.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GOTV

I have always been a fan of innovative GOTV efforts and this one by www.one.org is pretty darned impressive. It was on television and the web last night and makes a good point about what we all have in common.

Republic of Imagination

Tonight I went with some friends from my book group to see Azar Nafisi speak. Nafisi is the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, one of the most terrific books that I have read in the past year. If you haven't read the book, do so right away. And if you haven't heard Nafisi speak, track her down. She was terrific.

Her talk was not about writing but was instead about reading and the things that can be accomplished when we read and have that shock of recognition that other people are just like us. She said that reading helps us to realize that "we are all capable of the best and the worst." She said that when we read we are all a part of the "republic of imagination." She made a pitch for reading and talking about books as the path to the sort of subversion that brings change.

I love that idea. I still remember how much my life changed when I could first read to myself. It was like a whole world was suddenly open to me. Now I could be anyone and go anywhere; I could do anything. Books became my world; at times I have felt that they are my very purpose for being. My whole life I have kept lists of the books I want to read and of the books I want to share with others. Books are a refuge from the world, my very own republic of imagination.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good

Today's prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is "good." Easy and to the point, a simple prompt, I thought when I read it. But good isn't as simple as it might seem and sometimes it's damned hard to find. Finally I decided to sit down and make list of the first five good things that came to my mind.

- My boy, with his wonderful laugh and the smile that lights his face. And the sound of his voice each morning; the way he says "mama." Most days I can't hear that enough. That's all really, really good.
- My kittens when they curl up on my lap to sleep and make little grumbly kittenish sounds as they sleep.
- My friends, new ones and old ones, the ones who have been here for the hard stuff and who keep coming back. They make me laugh and ensure that I don't feel alone. They'll be here at the drop of a hat and they never let me forget that.
- Molasses cookies fresh from the oven with a warm cup of tea.
- The smell of fall in the air.

And as it turns out, it wasn't hard at all to find five good things and I could have easily found five more. And it's own way, given my life these days, that's the best part of all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ten Yards Away and a World Apart

JT had his first soccer game of the season last Saturday morning. We woke to a beautiful fall day and when we got to the soccer field, Lisa was there. So there we three were: JT and the people he loves best in the world. There were three of us. But there was no 'we'.

Lisa stood 10 yards from me to watch the game, following JT on the field and studiously avoiding any contact with me, the woman who grew that boy in her belly 7 years ago. JT played the game with enthusiasm and during the breaks went back and forth to talk with us both.

Honestly, I spent most of the game overwhelmed by the experience. Lisa has spent the last 4 months telling me and anyone else who asks that this arrangement, JT's broken family, is better for all of us. Last Saturday, I wanted to ask Lisa just what she means by better. But she doesn't have the answer for that and instead I would hear silence, the sound of her pretending that what is better for her is okay for the rest of us. For the last two years of our relationship, I've felt that our values were profoundly different. Lisa tried to deny that was the case, but her actions speak louder than her words.

This week, I came to soccer by myself and I watched with pride as my boy played the game. The two of us are our own 'we' now. And day by day I am learning just how powerful that can be. There are even moments when I feel sorry for Lisa. Because anyone who believes that it's okay to walk out on her family and daily life with a child who loves her just doesn't understand what better really is.

Friday, October 20, 2006

That's Ms. Oedipus to You

The scene: JT and his buddy B coming home for a playdate after school. They are talking smack in the back of the car, talking about boys in the first grade who like girls.

JT: D likes O.

B: D and O sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

JT: First comes love, then comes marriage....

B: And then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

Both boys laugh like this is the funniest thing ever. I am generally amused that the song is still around, let alone being sung by a boy with two moms. And then I ask if either of the boys likes someone in the class. JT's response was sure and steady:

JT: We only like our moms.

B: Yeah, we only like our moms.

Good lord, between that announcement and the velvet shirt I've got years of therapy bills ahead of me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Life Lessons, Tiger and Lucy Style


Each morning, JT awakens excited to see his kittens. He's a very responsible pet owner, checking their food and water and setting out their toys so that they won't miss us when we go to school. He folds a blanket in the morning so that they have a comfy place to rest. He speaks to them in a gentle voice, petting them with a soft hand.

When Lisa left, I worried that JT would internalize her message that it's okay to cut and run when the going gets hard. But it would seem that he heard my message instead: loving others is one part joy and one part responsibility, each important in their own way. He's learning how to care for his creatures and to take pleasure in doing so. He's making his mama proud.