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


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


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


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:

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


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."


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.