Thursday, September 30, 2010

Overheard: Back to School edition

Each month, I take note of the things my students say and, at the end of the month, I post some of the more memorable remarks.  So far, the back-to-school month has paid off a few dividends of note.

Overheard in the hallway: "I just realized that in almost every final battle scene, they never talk about morality."  I would love to hear the conversation that preceded this conclusion.

In a discussion about the Tea Party movement, one of the students remembered that the movement once called themselves the Tea Baggers.  As you might know, this name referenced a meaning that the Tea Party crowd likely didn't have in mind.  As the laughter died down, I thought that the discussion had wrapped itself up when one member of my government class announced: "They'll always be teabaggers in our hearts."  Oh my. 

And after I explained the two steps necessary to amend the Constitution (proposal and then ratification), student L announced, "Hey!  It's easier to amend the constitution than it is to quit drinking."  Quitting the demon drink is, after all, a 12 step process.

It's shaping up to be a promising year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


On Sunday evening, JT reported that he had a sore spot in his mouth which made it uncomfortable for him to chew.  I looked inside his cavernous yaw, saw nothing to worry me (please note, I'm not a dental professional, a fact about to be made abundantly clear), and sent him on his way with an ibuprofen and instructions to floss his teeth more carefully.

On Monday night, still in some discomfort, he reported that the tooth had been hurting since Saturday.  This news, of course, arrived at 9 pm.  So we repeated the floss and ibuprofen drill, went to bed, and hoped for the best.

Tuesday morning, I asked him how his mouth felt.  But it was rather a moot question since his swollen chipmunk-style left cheek said it all.  Anyone up for a mid-day emergency dental visit?

By 11:30 am, the diagnosis was clear: two abscessed teeth on the left side of his mouth.  The remedy was equally clear, if a little upsetting: removal of the troubled teeth, plus a matching tooth on the other side of his mouth to preserve his bite.  All three teeth were babies scheduled for eviction anyway.  Dr. C just helped them to move out early.

Post-removal, JT took the afternoon off.  He nursed a large chocolate milkshake and played video games in the back of my classroom while I taught two of my American Government classes. 

The teeth went under the pillow last night.  Extracted teeth are much more valuable then teeth which fall out on their own, so the Tooth Fairy paid premium dollar for his ivories.  In fact, at this rate I think that I can look for a few more teeth being forcibly removed.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Love of the Game

JT's joy in playing baseball seems to know almost no boundaries.  We get to weekly practice early in hopes that he can have some extra time playing catch with someone. And if there's no one there and he's grown tired of playing catch with me, he practices pop flies in the infield, throwing his ball high in the air and catching it himself.
There's just something about my boy with a baseball that I never seem to grow tired of watching.  And that's a very happy thing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Garden Bounty

Strictly speaking, bounty isn't the word that comes to mind as a description of the 2010 garden season in my part of the world.  The summer's intense heat and our local mini-drought really took their toll on this year's produce.  The picture below shows one of the more abundant picking days I enjoyed…..a pretty sparse season indeed.
Whereas in previous years I could fill a basket full of tomatoes, beets, squash, and flowers, this year I was lucky to fill my hands.  The zucchini did okay but the tomatoes never really offered the abundance I've grown used to enjoying.  My peppers never took off and even the beans were rather spare, though I expect a few more limas will still come my way.  Last year's carrot and onion crop lasted me until February.  This year's won't get me to November.

A garden is always at the mercy of Mother Nature.  I can only do so much to coax the growth along.  Soon enough the cold will come and the garden will retreat to a patch of cold, empty soil.  I'll fertilize the growing space and ready it for next spring.  The fertilization will likely be one part organic materials and two parts hope.  But that's okay.  A gardener lives in constant hope, with a side of crossed fingers.  It's always a welcome lesson for me and it's why I love my garden.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Real Life Conversations with Mom: I'll Do it Myself Edition

The backstory:  There is a rather famous story about me as a toddler and the very first sentence I uttered: "I'll do it myself."  Based upon this morning's conversation with my mother, let's just say the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Me:  Let me know when your suitcase is ready and either JT or I will carry it downstairs for you.

My Mom:  It only weighs 30 pounds.  I can do it.

Me:  I know, but just let me carry it for you.

My Mom:  I lift 45 pounds at the gym every day.

Me:  Okay.  But let one of us help.

My Mom:  It's really not heavy.

Me:  Here's the deal, Mom.  If something did go wrong, how would I explain that I let my 68 year old mother fall down the stairs carrying her suitcase?  Totally bad press for me and I end up in News of the Weird.  Let me carry your suitcase downstairs.

My Mom (grudgingly):  Okay.

And then my father weighs in, "Go ahead and carry it downstairs for her and then she'll carry it back upstairs and carry it down the right way."  And then we all laughed, some of us harder than others.  I expect that my mother is plotting her revenge.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: XY Edition

The backstory:  My mother and I were having a conversation about a potential new sofa for the living room.  JT, overhearing, offered his own advice.

JT:  Let's not get a sofa, Mama.  Let's just get three comfy chairs.

Mama:  How about we get some reclining Lazy Boy chairs?  We'll get the kind with a cooler attached for our beer.

At this, my mother and I burst into laughter.  JT got mad and accused us of laughing at him.

Guilty as charged, your honor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Jefferson

I am rather a fan of Thomas Jefferson, not just because every time I read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence my heart swells with pride at the promise of those ideas, but also because of his amazing curiosity about the world.  Jefferson always reflects a very human sense of what could (and should) be accomplished.  I respect that perspective.  I've read Notes on Virginia, of course, so I know that Jefferson also disappoints.  But I still admire him, warts and all.

In fact, I keep a Jefferson quote at the top of my writing journal; it's been there for years:  “No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity." The idea is one part consolation; one part karmic justice coming down the track.

Recently, I read Annette Gordon Reed's amazing The Hemingses of Monticello and though the book is really a detailed accounting of the rather remarkable Hemings family, for very obvious reasons Thomas Jefferson also looms large in their story.  The book is full of impressive Jefferson quotations and quotes about him.  In particular, these gems:

William Short, speaking of Jefferson, said this, "Jefferson's greatest illusions in politics…proceeded from a most amiable error on his part; having too favorable opinion of the animal called Man."

Writing to his daughter Martha, when she was frustrated by the actions of her father-in-law, he advised, "Every human being, my dear, must thus be viewed according to what it is good for, for none of us, no not one, is perfect; and were we to love none who had imperfections this world would be a desert for our love."

Jefferson on his dislike of big cities, particularly New York City, "I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man."  Pestilence seems a rather strong a characterization, but it sure made me laugh.

Jefferson on his religious beliefs: "I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."  No doubt this will be news to those loons on the Texas Board of Education who yammered on about the Founders and their creation of a Christian nation.

The first few weeks of U.S. History and American Government, during which time we study the founding and talk about the Constitution, are upon me.  And with this time comes yet another opportunity for me to both appreciate Thomas Jefferson and share him with a new crop of students.  I wonder again what Jefferson would think of the nation we've become.  What would surprise him?  What would make him proud?  What would disappoint him?  I look forward to having these conversations with my students in the weeks ahead.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Time and Wishes

The mild weather found us at the park a few weeks back.  We've been visiting this park for hours at a time since JT's friend B and his mom J introduced it to us three years ago.  It's JT's favorite park; he loves it best when there aren't many children around.  But even when the park is busy, he's happy to play there.

We have a routine.  I set myself on a bench at the entrance with a jug of iced tea and a long book.  JT heads in to play, checking back with me every once in a while.  We can literally spend hours at play in this fashion. 

On our last visit, as JT was playing and I was reading, a mama with a large bag on her shoulder paused in front of me, trying to keep two small kids by the hand as they walked toward the parking lot.  She caught sight of me and my book and said, "your kids just go in there and play, don't they?"  I could hear the longing in her voice; I could see it in her eyes.

I nodded yes and then re-assured her that extended time with her book was in her future soon enough.  We both smiled and she headed to her car.

I know that future will come much sooner than she thinks.  Whereas I once had a boy who was in the middle age range of the kids at the park, on this trip to the playground, I realized that he's one of the bigger kids at play.  I know how that tired mama feels.  And as surely as I know that feeling, I know that time is flying by.  Though it was once impossible to imagine, within a year or two, JT probably won't want to play at this park.  We'll have moved on to new adventures.  But I'll still wish for a few more hours with a little boy at the park.

It can be difficult to be that mama with the clinging small children; with no time to read her book.  Or shower in peace.  But I should have called to her one last bit of advice….don't wish away this time.  It will be gone soon enough and then you'll miss it; you really will.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unexpected Blessings

On a regular basis, I try to slow down and take a few moments each day to be thankful for something.  Though it might be something big and significant, more often it's something smaller, maybe even ephemeral but worthy of note: the changing leaves on a tree, fresh cookies in my lunchbox, a favorite binder clip.  Something that brings me a smile.

This past week, my daily note of grace has been somewhere in between the big and the small.  Each morning on my regular drive to school, I've found myself briefly pausing behind a school bus stopped on a very busy road.  It's the short bus.  As all the traffic comes to halt, a developmentally disabled young man, a teenager from the looks of him, bounds down his driveway, happily waving good bye to his mama and calling hello to the bus driver, waving at all the cars that have stopped for him.

That all of the New Jersey drivers have stopped, by the way, is something of a minor miracle.  But that's not the note of grace I have in mind.

The grace is in the young man's simple happiness to be going to school.  I know that raising a developmentally disabled child is no easy task and I imagine that his mama, no matter how much she loves him, is glad that he has school for the day.  There's grace in that.  I imagine that the school provides him challenges and makes him feel valued and proud of himself.   More grace.   And the way that he waves to the stopped cars, that might very well be the biggest grace of all.  He's happy to be alive, to say hello, to head off to school. 

It always brings a smile to my face. And that's happy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pretty Packages

I've had occasion to wrap some birthday gifts in the last few weeks.  These two turned out particularly well.
Inside this package are three new books for a bookish friend of JT's.  All three were new to the birthday boy (an avid reader).  So that was happy.
A package of bonus desk supplies for a fellow teacher, plus some cookies to start a long week.

I always enjoy wrapping packages.  The ribbons and paper, tags, and cards are just the sorts of things I love to collect and organize. And that's happy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food Friday: Easy Bruschetta

One of the best parts of summer's abundance of tomatoes  is that I can quickly pull together bruschetta.  I made this batch for my book group on Saturday night. It tastes like summer should taste and it's easy to whip up.  To make it, you'll need to bake a batch of garlic toasts.

And then stir together 3 cups of fresh tomato (homegrown if you have them), chopped small.  Add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, and a cup of fresh sliced basil (I like to julienne mine….just pile up a bunch of basil leaves and slice into narrow, thin strips).  You want to stir this together just before you intend to serve so that the basil remains crisp.  Just before serving, stir in a bit of salt to taste.  You can spoon it onto the toast, if you like.  When I do that, I like to serve it with cubes of mozzarella, black olives, and pepperoncini.
Or you can set out the tomato mixture next to the basket of garlic toast and folks can make their own.  That's what I did on Saturday.  The bruschetta mixture is in the yellow bowl on the right; set out amongst the rest of the snacks I served.  In the interest of full disclosure,  I can't take credit for everything on this table  The excellent muffaletta sandwiches were made by my friend P, who hails from Louisiana, and has the accent and recipe index to prove it.
Fresh, easy, tasty. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Down on the Farm

New Jersey is awash in agri-tourism farms and on Friday we set off to visit one located nearby, Alstede Farms.  We went with my neighbor, M and her daughters V and G (1 and 4, respectively).  Our plan: pick some raspberries, try out the corn maze, and generally enjoy the beautiful day.  The farm, like so many of this style of family-run business in New Jersey, was truly lovely.  Out past the corn maze in the fields with flowers, pumpkins, and veggies of all kinds, the views were first rate.
We started with a picnic.  V had the seat of honor.
There were plenty of things for kids to do.  While G rode a pony, JT and I took a tour through the corn maze.  JT eagerly took the lead.
 And managed to get us out alive.
JT consented to having his picture made on the pumpkin truck.  G decided to be the driver.
The pumpkin has understandable concerns about his safety in the hands of an erratic and overly-enthusiastic driver.
JT doesn't have siblings and sometimes he's a little surprised by younger children.  G and her sister V seem to really like my boy and he tolerates their fondness.  He's even told me that he likes the way they make him feel like a really big kid.
And sometimes he does more than that, looking after G in a way that I find awfully charming.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Household Happiness: Black and White Photos

 Black and white photos have always captured my interest.  When JT was born I set out to make black and white photos of him on a regular basis.  Over the years, my black and whites of JT have mostly been taken in the moment, when he's busy being himself.  Half of the collection hangs at the base of the stairs in the living room; 9 more photos made over a six year period hang in the stairway in sets of three, facing the living room.  The set taken this year is a happily completed goal on my life list. Making the photos wasn't the problem; I seem to manage that chore fairly easily.  The goal was to get a set developed, framed and finally hung on the wall.  I managed that last month.
 I love these pictures because I can stand in one corner of my living room and watch my baby grow up.  They are snapshots of a boy who is much-loved and each day when I walk up and down these stairs they are a daily reminder of just how fleeting time can be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plumbing the Depths of My Shallow Soul

Later this week, my school hosts Back-to-School night. It's a quick opportunity to make contact with the parents of my students, tell them what I intend to accomplish in the year ahead, and then send them on their way to meet the next instructor and their expectations, confident that I've got matters in hand.

In a nutshell, it's an entire evening devoted to snap judgements and first impressions.  And I've spent the past few days fretting.   I'm not fretting about what to say or how to speak; that sort of thing comes incredibly easily to me.   No, I'm fretting about the more shallow element of the evening: whatever shall  I wear?

The evening is planned for 7 pm at nearly the end of what will have been my first full week back to school.  That matters because 1) I must wear comfy shoes if I'm to be on my feet for another hour at that point in the week.  And 2) by the end of the day, my eyes will be dried out and so I'll likely have to wear my glasses.

Wearing the glasses doesn't exactly bother me if I can construct a sort of stylish, librarian look to go with my four-eyes.  I spent Sunday reviewing those options and it came down to this: leafy brown skirt, green sweater,  Mary Janes shoes that rock……and if I'm to really pull this outfit off successfully,  Spanx.  The good news about Spanx is that they firm up one's bootie.  The bad news is that eventually one's bootie grows tired of this state of suspended animation.  I can picture myself making it through the evening only to hide in a corner of my classroom and peel off my Spanx for the drive home.  This is likely as classy as it sounds.

The alternative look is Spanx-free, wearing my favorite sweater ever……a sweater so beloved that it has earned a nickname:  button-button.  Cute and much adored, this cardigan, but three sizes too big, thus conveying the impression that I'm a house adorned with buttons teaching the class.

Both outfits are ironed up and await a final decision.  In the big picture, I realize that what I wear shouldn't matter.  But remember when I noted that this is a night of first impressions and snap judgments? I'd like those conclusions about me to be neutral or even positive, not horrified by the fashion disaster unfolding in Sassafras Room.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Princess: Jersey Style

When my next door neighbor, M, began the search for a princess to make a surprise appearance at her 4 year old daughter's birthday party, she asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in the gig.

Did I know anyone?  Well I know Princess Krystalle. 

During the weekday, Princess K is an English major college student with a knack for playing lacrosse.  But during the weekend, her tiara comes out.
I nominated K for this job because she's spirited and fun.  I knew that she'd love the challenge and that the little girls, awash in their princess fantasies (and wearing their princess dresses) would be instantly enamored.  They were, of course.  Who doesn't imagine that a princess will come to their front door, armed with an extra tiara, glitter tattoos and shiny nail polish?
 A few years back, when my world went to hell in an afternoon, the Princess K was a high school senior with a wisdom and kindness well beyond her years.  She saved my bacon more than once doing those dark days, and she did it with a kind heart and enthusiasm for helping that made me think I could face yet another day.  Around this house, she's forever a princess.

More to the point for her weekend princess gig, she's the sort of person who will try anything once.  From the tips of her toes to the point on her tiara, she's loyal and kind.  She's not afraid to laugh in the face of adversity.  She knows that hard work and effort are the real foundations of success.  She can carry off a princess dress like nobody's business.  And if those aren't the qualification of a princess, well, then I'm afraid I don't know what is.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Last Wednesday, JT spent the night with his friend E.  I'd call it a sleepover, but that's a misnomer as E is the King of the Up-All-Night-Tween Festival.  The last time JT stayed the night with E, he was a large, unpleasant bear for a while and then he fell asleep, in the process setting a personal best nap record.

This time, I issued stern warnings that he MUST SLEEP.  JT took that to mean sleep for 2 or 3 hours, which is what he did on Wednesday night.  So he spent Thursday in a bit of a haze, steadfastly refusing to nap, playing outside, and dabbling in his ESPN options.  Finally, at 5 pm, he fell  asleep while sitting on the sofa.  Please note that he's still grasping the remote control.
He may be resting, but that's no reason to surrender his power over the remote control.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'll Take It

For me, one of the hardest parts of being a single parent is the absolute lack of support.  When you have a partner, they might help out or might reinforce you in your efforts, being supportive of the things that you do to care for the child you share.  That just doesn't happen in my world. 

I've grown used to parenting as a solitary venture, but I haven't grown entirely used to having my efforts taken for granted.  In my weaker moments, I rather long for an "atta girl."  But I'm not in this game for myself, I'm in it for my boy, and so I remind myself of that important fact and tamp down my desire to be appreciated.

I'm also reaching that point in child-raising when my son has plenty of activities and plans.  More and more often, I find myself on my own, serving as his social calendar manager, while he's off with his friends.  So it was on Wednesday, when he had baseball practice in the afternoon, followed up by a sleepover at a friend's house.  I helped him organize his baseball bag for practice and then picked him up after practice, armed with a sleeping bag, pillow, and a bag packed for the overnight.

JT got in the car after practice, checked out the supplies for his next activity and then said, "I knew I'd forgotten to ask for my sleeping bag and I was a little worried.  But then I remembered that you are Super Mama, and I knew you would have it.  Thanks, Mama."

I don't really think that I am a Super Mama.  Far from it, in fact.  Mostly, I get the job done. And that's fine.  But I have to say that being called Super Mama was pretty sweet.  It's really, really nice to be appreciated.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Food Friday: Fried Pickles

 I've mentioned this low-rent treat before and it elicited some insistent e-mails asking for the recipe.  Though I apologize for the delay in finally posting it, I will rest easy knowing that across the nation y'all may now stuff your gullet with fried pickles. 

And they will be good.

The ingredients:

1 jar sliced pickles ----- usually these are called hamburger dills
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

canola oil for frying

Ranch dressing (I just grab a packet of Hidden Valley and mix it up with mayo and milk).

Drain the pickles in a colander and then set them on a plate to dry a bit more.  While the pickles are drying, mix the egg and milk in one bowl.  Mix the flour and salt and pepper in another, adjusting the seasonings as you see fit.  Don't add too much salt, as this mixture will be used to bread the pickles and they are pretty salty to begin with.

Place a cookie cooling rack on the counter with paper towels underneath (to absorb the mess).  Then, dip each pickle slice in the egg wash and then the flour, coating both sides of the slice.  Set the slices on the rack to dry a bit.  Bread all of your pickles before you start with the frying because this is a messy job and once the frying starts, things will move fast.

Heat oil on high; you want enough to immerse your little pickle friends in the oil.  If you have a fryer, set it to 375 degrees.  Fry the pickles in batches until they are golden (it usually takes about 5 minutes per batch).  Carefully remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Serve warm with ranch dip.  I promise that you won't have any extras!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Window to My World

My home has 27 windows.  Lest you think I'm about to complain about how drafty the house is, let me note that the windows are new and were well-chosen by the previous owners.  They are air tight, fitted to the house's antique woodwork, and really add charm to my house.

Among other things, from every one of these windows is a view of my tree-lined neighborhood.  Upstairs, it feels like we are in a tree house.  In the summer twilight, when I read a book in the chair by the front window, the greenery outside looks like lush velvet.  In the winter, JT and I can lie in our flannel-lined beds and watch the snow softly drift downward. 

When the weather turns mild, one of my favorite house tasks is to open the windows to the outside breeze.  The cats relish a nap in the windowsills, moving from upstairs to down and north to south in order to enjoy the sunlight, the breezes, and the chirping of the wildlife that lives outdoors.   Last weekend featured some cool evenings and lovely days; the beautiful weather is back this morning.  As always, the arrival of fall will mean a lot more open windows around here. And though I can't quite sit in the window sill and admire the outdoors, I love those open windows and I like to think that I know exactly how Tiger and Lucy feel.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Accused

On a fairly regular basis, Tiger avails himself of a sip of my iced tea or the water in the flower vase.  I tend to object to his attempts.  He doesn't care.  On Saturday, in an effort to branch out, he tried my glass of milk.
The good news is that he'll leave my flowers and my iced tea alone if I just serve him a glass of milk.  The bad news is that Tiger's intestinal track does not love the milk as well as his taste buds.

So I think that kitty will have to make-do with his illicit efforts to drink my tea.  And the flowers, of course.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Drinking Up the Last of Summer

We landed perfect weather for the long weekend and on Sunday afternoon, we headed south to visit my friend Sharkbutt and enjoy a last day at the beach.  The waves, distant remnants from Hurricane Earl, were pretty spectacular.  And the sunlight and breezy warmth also measured up quite nicely.  It was a perfect day at the beach.
JT played in the sand, later announcing that he had sand in places it shouldn't be.
 He dared the waves to knock him down and they obliged.

And we all banked some rest and relaxation for the tiring schooldays ahead.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day

On Saturday morning, as I was organizing some materials for my classroom and listening to Morning Edition, I heard Scott Simon's very timely weekly editorial about work.  I have always believed work is about more than my labor and the wage I receive from it.  I make no secret of the fact that I love what I do.  I know that I would be lost without the opportunity to teach.  Simon sums up that sentiment and so much more  Every time my job frustrates me, I plan to read it again.  The text and audio are here.

Well worth your time.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

And Now a Word About Plumbing

For the better part of the last 20 years, I have lived in older homes.  Not surprisingly, these older homes have also featured older plumbing.  And plumbing of a certain age must be treated with care.

So it was that I quickly learned to avoid flushing or running the water in the sink when another inmate was in the shower.  The occasional mistake on this front, most often the flush of the toilet while the shower was running, would result in the shower victim receiving an unpleasant dose of scalding hot water.  The flusher would then be the recipient of a loud and often profane scolding.

One learns to take care.

Since the new plumbing arrived in the upstairs bathroom, JT and I have discovered that we can flush and wash at the same time.  In other people this might not induce happiness, but JT and I are really quite giddy with the arrangement.  The other day my boy announced that this was "fancy living."

It takes so little to please us.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Gems of Wisdom

One of the most useful features of living with a child is the absolute frankness with which they evaluate the world.  Diplomacy and subtlety are not aspirations for the under 12 crowd.  Sometimes that can be difficult.  For example, my father tells a story about a six year old me rushing into my grandmother's house and announcing, "Daddy says that lamp is damned ugly."  True, but not helpful to the cause of family harmony.

JT regularly shares his wisdom with me and my compulsive over-sharing ensures that I can no longer keep it to myself.  Thus I present the first in an occasional entry that I'll call JT's wisdom. 

Last night, while we were at the supper table, my ten year old announced, "A sweaty crotch is not good." While I might prefer not to assess this situation over a meal,  it's hard to argue with his conclusion.

Friday, September 03, 2010

That Familiar Feeling

This past week was the first week of school for both JT and me.  We're back into a routine of homework, setting out school clothes, early mornings, and packing lunch boxes.  I love my job, so I'm always happy to return.  JT (mostly) tolerates school.  Sometimes he even likes it.  But no matter how glad we are to get back into the swing of things, transitions are always rough for the two of us.

This year, my ex has insisted that JT use her last name again.   Though I question the wisdom of her enthusiasm for making an ass of herself at JT's school (a place where I work and am therefore well-known and perhaps well-liked), I lacked the will to fight on this front.  Instead of just being JT Sassafras, he's JT Broken Promises-Sassafras.   Back to school, with its inevitable "describe your family" assignments, always features a certain amount of emotional minefields for JT.  Her insistence on this change just added to the list.   And I wasn't quite prepared to be looking for JT's name on an alphabetical list in a different spot than usual. 

But we're coping.  When he writes his name, he's still JT Sassafras.   On the transition front, I've taken some care to avoid overloading either of us with chores or obligations, to make sure we get enough sleep, and to remind myself not to be overly sensitive.  We've even shared a laugh or two.  I know that we'll be settled in to our school schedule within a few weeks and that this transitional anxiety will then exit our lives.  Until then, I just repeat to myself that I can't rush time and that it will all be okay.

And mostly, it will all be okay.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: Personal Hygiene edition

The backstory: We're not an especially private family at Sassafras House (read: lock that bathroom door shut if you really want some alone time). And JT is acquainted with the biological reality of the facts of life (read: he knows why someone might need a tampon). But that he knows about these distasteful realities of feminine hygiene doesn't mean he wants to deal with them, as evidenced by the conversation we had when he saw a tampon, still in its wrapper, setting on the bathroom counter.

JT: Does that really have to be so obvious (waves distastefully in the direction of the tampon)?

Mama:  Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I might need it.  Would you like me to explain why again?

JT:  No.  That's not necessary (beats a hasty retreat out of my line of vision).

Someday, when he has daughters or a wife of his own, I like to think that they'll find that he's a sensitive, understanding man who will ensure that the fridge is stocked with chocolate ice cream at certain times of the month.  A mama can dream.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September 1st: Apple Pie Order

A normal summer would find me mowing the grass every week.  But this summer's high temperatures and dry skies weren't normal so the mower sat idle for all of July and most of August.  Last week, Mother Nature saw fit to help the grass grow again and so she sent some rain our way.  I fired up my slightly cranky 10 year old mower for another tour of duty in the backyard.
The fruit trees have endured the hard summer with greater ease than some of the other plants in the garden.  The summer's heat has meant that the trees have had to sink some deep roots to get the nourishment they need.  Fortunately, they are planted in the back of the yard, near the garden.  While the rest of the lawn suffered from the lack of rain, I always made sure that the garden was getting the water it needed.
There is no apple or pear harvest in my backyard this fall ----- the trees are still a bit young for that.  But gardens are all about promise and prospects.  They are a lesson in the virtue of patience.  I can wait.