Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All About My Parents

Tootsie goes to a wonderful, loving, nurturing preschool, where relationships, responsibility, play, and imagination are emphasized--the same preschool her big sisters attended seemingly long ago.  

The teachers listen carefully to the little people and the important (hilarious) things they say, often recording them for posterity.  

We were treated to a Parents' Day celebration on Sunday, where we were presented with cards from our kiddos; here's Tootsie's take on her Mom and Dad:    

Some points of confirmation and clarification:

I do work with my friends.

Husband does work at da yacht club.

Husband does NOT enjoy letting the dog out to pee.

Husband and I did not meet at school, though we did attend the same high school.

Husband does like syrup, not usually on meatballs.

We do love our children when they go to school.  Apparently this is a likable trait.

Friday, June 10, 2016

HOW: Commencement Speech 2016

I had the honor of hosting my third commencement as high school principal, and here are the words I shared with our graduates and guests:

Now, Class of 2016:

What are you going to do with your lives?  What are you going to do next? 

These are questions you’ll both ask yourself as well as be asked (too often).  

Tonight instead, I want to focus you on how you’re going to live.  And “HOW” is a word worth writing on your mirror, because the questions I’m going to ask are ones you will answer every day whether you think about them or not

So much is in the how.  How will you greet yourself each morning?  How will you look yourself in the eye?  

How will you shave?

How will you take care of yourself?  How will you nourish your body?  

How will you maximize your strengths?  How will you improve?

How will you ask for what you need?  How you will you ask for help?  How will you know when you need to?

How will you apologize?  How will you admit when you are wrong?  How will you ask for forgiveness?

How will you forgive yourself?

How will you ask that difficult question?  How will you say no?  How will you tell the truth?  

How will you step up, speak up, stand up?  How will you protest?  How will you advocate?  How will you earn and demonstrate respect?

How will you greet your neighbor?  How will you pass strangers on the street or in cars on the freeway?

How will you respond when someone asks you for money?  Or for food? 

How will you make people laugh?  How will you make others comfortable?

How will you express your frustration?  How will you write that email?  How will you update, post, tweet, and comment?

How will you talk with people?  How will you talk about them?

How will you respect others’ bodies and their rights?

How will you love?  

How will you create a family? 

How will you break up?  How will you make up?

How will you listen?  How will you spend your time?

How will you face disappointment?  How will you sacrifice?

How will you help?  How will you express gratitude?  

How will you treat your environment?  How will you leave the places you pass through? 

How will you say goodbye?  

How will you start fresh?  How will you prepare?  

How will you let go?  

How will you stay in touch?

How will you love this life?  

How will you be?

Class of 2016, your words and actions will be the answers to these questions.  Open yourself to new teachers, models, and fellow passengers who will help guide your way.

How have you left us?  

With clean water, flag football, and enduring spirit.

Now, how will I leave you?  

With gratitude for your creativity, generosity, long conversations, and the love we shared between us. 

It is my honor now to introduce your senior class president...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

List: 2015 Thanksgiving Gratitudes

My multiple, ample, excessive cups runneth over.  I am pausing to appreciate the bounty.


1.  My husband with infinite patience for my job and its demands, as well as my habits... He's a rare find, this man, this father, this more-than-co-partner.  He inspires me with his patience, awareness of local and global issues, and earnest desire to teach, guide, and love our girls and pets.

2.  My daughters, who in their own unique ways give to their world, to their family, and to me.  As they and I grow older, I more deeply recognize how they reflect and gently guide me to be their better model and supporter.  Big Sis has discipline and drive as well as creativity and tenderness for family. Middle Sis celebrates a joie de vivre (goofiness) that is contagious, and a natural penchant for taking care of younger children. Tootsie is a force of nature, survivor of minor mishaps, talented copycat, and keen observer of all that occurs around her. Thank goodness she, our last, is a snuggler, too.

3.  My parents who are here and available for great conversation, family meals, childcare, professional mentorship, cheerleading, appropriate course corrections, financial assistance, grandparental cheerleading and support, and a safe place where we can flock.

4.  Extended family and friends who are wise and honest as well as forgiving and loyal and generous, and who step in, pick up our kids, create cousin company and aunt and uncle admiration, offer guidance, make us laugh, reassure, invite us over as well as come over, and support us unconditionally through life's mishaps.

5.  My job, which affords me the opportunity to bask every day in the company of people who exemplify what's possible:   Inspiring, creative, selfless professionals dedicated to enriching young people's minds and souls; and teenagers who are hilarious, infinitely intelligent, bursting with energy and potential, generous, insightful, wise beyond their years, and daily reminders that we adults don't know or control everything. Working in a public school is real work with real people and real rewards, and I'm grateful that the days that await me are full of problem solving, dreaming, teaching and learning, and evidence of what matters. 

6. Our neighborhood of community givers, activists, artists, business owners, non-profit supporters, hard workers, volunteers, and dreamers. How I love this place we've invested in and where we've bought two homes. Our environment boasts canyons, parks, playgrounds, trails, craftsman homes, hills, narrow streets, old trees, raccoons, coyotes, opossum, skunk, hawks, squirrels, rabbits, and tumbleweeds. 

7.  Our daughters' schools:  We are in our tenth year of appreciating the play-oriented, multi-age, loving preschool which has helped raise our girls. Middle Sis is attending our incredible neighborhood elementary school with its loyal and passionate teachers, tireless parent and community volunteers, and unparalleled performing arts, garden, and enrichment programs. Big Sis attends a large urban middle school where her teachers and peers, who represent true international diversity, inspire her. We love that these schools give awards for qualities and attributes versus achievements, and invite us to both shadow and participate in our kids' daily educational experiences.  

8.  My health and the health of my loved ones, which I do not take for granted. 

9.  Our house, which has had to compete with our cozy first home, but which has won me over with its peace and quiet, windows, space, views, safe cul de sac for Big Wheel races and skateboarding, and room for guests and gatherings. 

10.  Human tenderness:  One of life's pleasures is noticing the sweet spots, when siblings love on one another, when teammates share a victory or poignant loss, when acts of kindness happen spontaneously out there in the world.  I feel like I am often front row for those beautiful moments which make living worth it and humanity make sense.  

 Additional Gratitudes:

1.  Good books, good art, and good music.  I am so fortunate to know people who create all three, and my early mornings and late evenings rely on their accessibility and power to deepen my sense of my own existence.  
2.  Those who "let it go."  Ain't got time to hold on to grudges, dwell on disturbances, and generally make big deals. I am increasingly grateful for and drawn to people who keep moving forward, focused on solutions, and with a better, peaceful world in mind.  (After venting over a pint or glass).  
3.  Our coffeemaker with a timer (and the guy who loads it each evening).  My morning cup of coffee, secured before my morning pee, is an indulgence I appreciate EVERY DAY. 
4.  My iPad:  Its lit screen has allowed me to read with the lights off while our baby/toddler slumbers beside me. My books, my music, articles, photos, Facebook...all here.  
5.  Running.  Also known as jogging, limping, leaping, stumbling...we'll take it all.  
6.  Youth Soccer:  Our daughters play a lot of soccer and we spend a lot of time at games.  But the sidelines are where we've met amazing families and learned a few things about the culture of our neighborhood, kids' sports, and parenting.  
7.  Beautiful things and places:  The moon, my friend's living room, beach rocks at sunset, cloudscapes, that necklace, twinkling lights, flowers, architecture, fonts, the pattern on that fabric, your haircut, a garden.  
8.  Food:  I'm fortunate to have a brother who is a chef, a daughter who is a foodie, and a CSA box full of fresh vegetables each week.  I love cooking; I love combining flavors; I love the privilege of eating something different every day.   
9.  Comfy clothes.  The older I get, the more I appreciate an outfit comparable to mashed potatoes.  Soft, warm, unobtrusive, dependable, goes with anything.
10.  Funny stuff:  jokes, memes, videos, stories, our toddler, your mishap, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert...it's such a serious place, this world.  Cats afraid of cucumbers can make it all okay.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

List: Material (Garage Sale) Girl

You know how there are are those items you buy in the grocery store Every Single Time, thinking somehow you've run out, when you're forever in excess?  It's like you have an inexplicable internal fear of ever being without these (maybe-not-even) staples?   FYI, feel free to stop by our house for lentils, quinoa, brown sugar, and cumin powder, as I may need to borrow the maple syrup, ranch dressing, and soap dispenser refill we are always forgetting to buy. 

I'll own up front that I appear to have an inherited case of "the saves" (because I may need it!  For something!  Like a project!), which we will not call hoarding for now. But I feel I live in a perpetually conflicting state of mostly excess and sometimes inexplicable deficit (often of the things we arguably need, like milk). 

So someone like me has no business shopping on online garage sale sites, unless the products for sale are gently used milk, bread, and toilet paper. But in a free moment, and to the dismay of my husband, I just love to browse the stuff others no longer want. And I've figured out I'm quick with the "me me I want!" finger if you're offering the following items which WE DO NOT NEED:

1.  Patio furniture.  Example:  Lounge swing recently purchased, not yet assembled. Rationale:  we have a big deck. Rationale:  it's a good deal, and patio furniture full price is expensive! Rationale:  life outside is good, and it will be better with this item. 
2.  Throw pillows.  Example:  Blue and beige pillows passed on to me by a friend who recognizes my weakness. Rationale:  they're a cheap way to "redecorate."  Rationale:  they're like art, sorta!
3.  Craft supplies. Example:  Box of assorted free stickers. Rationale:  because we may need them!  For something!  Like a project!
4.  End and bedside tables. Example:  Antique drop-leaf table. Rationale: at one point, we could use a few of these. Rationale:  good end tables are useful, satisfying to own!
5.  Kids' items. Example:  Recently acquired push trike. Rationale:  this serves a purpose right now, and will enrich and broaden my child's experiences. 

Meanwhile, I have one daughter who snatches up and uses any free cardboard in our house, and has a funky obsession with binders. I think we come by it honestly (genetically), but far be it from me to point any fingers at the grandma who kept canned food in the trunk of her car Just In Case. 

What are your excesses and weaknesses?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

If (Middle Sis) Were in Charge of the World

A poem written by our now-fourth-grader last year (pulled out of the backpack today??)

If I were in charge of the world I'd cancel
Robbery, killing, war, and smoking drugs. 
If I were in charge of the world there'd be 
Book Clubs in every school, you would only 
have medicine drugs, and at all schools you'd
have hour long recess and lunches.
If I were in charge of the world you wouldn't
have pain. You wouldn't have meanness. 
You wouldn't have cancer or hunger. You
wouldn't even have homeless people. 
If I were in charge of the world
A house could transform into a giant hot tub. All
people would be nice. And a person who sometimes forgot 
to sleep and sometimes forgot to brush their hair would still
be allowed to be in charge of the world!

Monday, September 7, 2015

'Twas the Night Before School...

'Twas the night before school, when all through the house
All the creatures were stirring (maybe even a louse...)
The backpacks were lined up at the front door with care,
In hopes that there'd be time in the morning for hair;

When the children were finally tucked into beds,
and visions of field trips danced in their heads;
and Mamma with her iPad, and I with a nightcap,
fondly thinking of preschool and its time for a nap,

Then out of the computer there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the keyboard I flew like a flash,
Tore open the laptop, hoping it wouldn't crash.

The glint of the screen and its pixelly glow,
Gave a greenish lustre to my complexion below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an email, a tweet, and Facebook update (oh dear)

With a flick of the cursor, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment that I would be sick.
More rapid than eagles the appointments they came,
Soccer, Scouts, Piano, Fundraisers, you name it--the same!

To the top of the trash pile! Let's hide from our wall!
Now delete away! delete away! delete away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top my anxiety it flew,
With inbox full of obligations, and requests for donations too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my head
The refrain and the theme of each good book I've read.
As I drew in my hand from the keyboard and phone,
I remembered my teachers, mostly good to the bone.

She was better dressed than her students, from foot to her head,
And her encouragement outlasts her; so strong in her stead.
He taught with humility; lessons a knack
a Renaissance man, of all trades he was Jack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! His exams they were scary!
To be late or miss homework, you had best be quite wary!
Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
But her thoughts on the Greeks follow where'er I go;

The stump of a yardstick he held tight in his paw,
'Twas a rifle or protest sign, and we followed with awe;
He had a kind face but fire in his belly,
His sermons on life made us turn off the telly.

She was chubby and plump, and quite right for her role, We cherished each day with her sweet kindly soul.
While a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Was a sign that some pranking was not far ahead...

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all our notebooks; and turned with a smirk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
He reminded us daily that so school, it goes...

So I shut down my laptop, and logged off my Twitter,
and resolved that this year, I wouldn't be bitter.
For despite all the things that annually we fear, 
It's likely that this will be one AMAZING SCHOOL YEAR!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Eagle Ey

Our Tootsie earned herself a new nickname last weekend, "Trauma, Eagle Ey."

Tootsie trained her Eagle Ey on a dog at Concert in the Park on Saturday, and when she reached out to pet him, he reacted with animal instincts. To make a long story short (and to avoid the accompanying "control your child vs. control your pet" debate), I'll simply share that Tootsie required some exploratory surgery to rule out vascular damage and to stitch up wounds on her head and neck. She has minor (unnoticeable to the untrained eye) nerve damage to her face, but she's otherwise fine, acting like a typical toddler, alternately charming and defiant to her doctors and nurses and Mom and Dad. We remain in the hospital only to get comfortable with the PICC line and antibiotic infusions we will take on after discharge. 

Every event in the hospital leaves us bowing with gratitude for how fortunate we are: Only one more inch to the right, and then...only one centimeter deeper bite, and it could have been...

 We are thankful.

We are scheduled to leave for Boston and Maine on July 14. Need I mention that Tootsie got close to hijacking another Boston/Maine trip? Geez! I should probably knock wood until we are on the flight there...and BACK, as planned.

 So here I am again, rooming in the hospital under unusual circumstances with my third baby. This time, though, she's mobile. This time, I'm not allowed to leave the room unattended. Last time the two of us were confined to the hospital, she was a baby in a bassinet. I could leave her there for an hour in the care of her nurse and venture forth into the sunshine. This time, the one time I defied the nurse and went to the in-room bathroom without putting her bed's side rails up, she bailed out, stretching her IV cords to painful limits. Last time, each moment I breastfed her I was triumphant that my preemie was latching on and taking advantage of my rich bounty. This time, I'm wondering how we got to almost-two-years-old still breastfeeding. AFTER THIS, I swear, WE ARE WEANING!  

Not unlike last time, I'm at peace with our present and future. Once the paramedics arrived at the park and assured me our baby would live, I figured we could handle the rest.

So our two greatest challenges on the current horizon appear to be: 1) helping her kick her popsicle habit (averaging upwards of four a day plus lollipops), and 2) reaching consensus on a hairdo strategy (she's currently rocking the Rihanna).

Meanwhile, in typical Tootsie fashion, she's commanding the attention of the floor by doing laps in a push tricycle while declaring, "Ooooh; I like this!" and showing off how she administers her own oral meds via syringe.  She's also seizing the opportunity to potty train herself.  Why not?

In the ER at Children's Hospital, before formal names are established, patients are given "trauma names," established by alphabet much like hurricanes. Our Tootsie is "Eagle Ey" on my bracelet and hers. Which is just a new moniker for the same indomitable spirit which inspires us.

Hearty thanks to all those community members, neighbors, and friends who came to Tootsie's aid at the concert and who have provided support for all of us since. 

And we send our healing energy to the dog's owners, who were devastated by the events, and as we can only imagine, feeling helpless and hoping for the best.  We assure you we are well.