Friday, August 29, 2008

My Muggy Moo Who...Turned Five Today

Muggy Moo Who*

Moo Moo who trills songs in the back of the car

and asks will you tell me a story
who is dresses and knee socks
who is a carrot and cold water
whose eyes glitter like seaglass
is reading her books by flashlight
who tells me Mommy I can’t
who shows me Mommy I CAN
whose little hands won’t hold mine
is doing it herself
draws in her little office all night and day
who is thinking up funny things to say
is writing
is inventing stories with castles
is singing, Mommy, so hush
isn’t so little anymore
is brushing her own hair
who tells me what she’s going to wear
is fairies and letters and secret elves
who dives up and down up and down up and down again
is the melody I hum as I fall asleep, so hush
asking will you tell me a story
tell me a story, Mommy, tell me?

*based on Sandra Cisneros's poem "Abuelito Who"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome to My Class

Today was the First Day of School, my 16th First Day as an educator. My third First Day as a Vice Principal.

I didn't feel as sad as I did two years ago today, when, after shooing students into class as the bell rang and surveying the empty quad, I retreated to my office and thought, Now what? I knew the teachers, at that very moment, were greeting students, somewhat nervously, as I had only recently, and establishing that crucial daily relationship meant to last nine important months...or more.

Nevertheless, today wasn't half bad; it was even almost great. Two years of investment in students from the Vice Principal Vantage Point seemed to yield dividends: the unruly senior boys who hang by the 500 building cleared a seat on the bench for me at Break and offered up some Hot Tamales; another student, whose older siblings preceded him in my Creative Writing classes, shared my salad at lunch. Freshmen didn't seem too scared of their New Disciplinarian. I made copies for a new teacher and helped a counselor summon students whose schedules needed switching.

I felt helpful; I felt supportive. I felt like an administrator.

Still, I know what I have traded in for this opportunity. It's hard to measure, hard even to describe. I read articles and imagine how I might share them with curious 17-year olds. I hear songs which allude to poems which allude to novels and I want students to understand those connections, as well as how simply knowing opens up new worlds. Moreover, I know that teaching comes with its own unpredictability and serendipity; that is, my students teach and expose me to things I couldn't imagine.

Outside the classroom, the discourse is different. It's vital, it's important, but it's not the same. So I have some work to do in determining the discourse path my career will take. And I just don't know where I'm headed yet.

Poem for the First Day (8/28/02)

Let me introduce myself.

I’ve been waiting for you,
it seems,
all summer—
Or maybe—
my whole life.

Greedy, eager, curious
I want to know you by now:
the songs in your speakers
words you scribble
fears, confusion, triumphs--
your friendships, the borders of you
melting and redefining

Let’s imagine Spring
after laughter and frustration
have fused us,
when this fleeting thing is ending
And you and I,
on the other hand, are only
just beginning.

This year,
you are
who I am.

Nice to meet you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ra Ra Ring; Kick 'Em in the Wing...

Our daughter joins her first soccer team next week. Right now we are assigned to Team 703, but in her Welcome-to-the-World-of-Competitive-Sports Email, the coach encouraged her players to come up with their own team names.

In the car on the way out to dinner tonight (night before the first day of school? I ain't cookin'!), "we" brainstormed ideas.

After our daughter proposed "The Suns," "The Rainbows," "The Sunsets," and "The Frog Lily Pads," we suggested that the name, maybe, should make it seem like your team is going to be full of Some Tough Soccer Players.

"Okay..." she contemplated. "Like, 'The Bad Butterflies'?'"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dear Neighbors,

We've been living with you on either side of us for seven years now. I wanted to write and say Thank You. Thank you for never calling The Police.

For seven years, we've had the same barking dog. Five years ago, we added a crying child, and two-and-a-half years ago, we added another.

You're nice people. Smart, socially conscious people. The kind of people who would call the cops if they suspected a child was being abused. I will admit that I've asked myself if tortured children sound much different from our overtired ornery ones when they're screaming and wailing. You seem to have faith in us, and I appreciate your trust. Even when one of our children is screeching at you to CALL THE POLICE through the open window.

Sorry for the open windows and close proximity, by the way. Even pride doesn't overrule our need for ventilation. You get to hear it all. Well, maybe you can't hear my frustrated hissing through gritted teeth. My wordless wielding of child with flailing limbs followed by passing of said child to spouse. With That Look: SHE'S YOURS.

But let's be frank here: you've also heard us yell. You've heard us Lose It. Thank you for understanding, for exchanging glances in the safety of your own home that signify: Here they go again; cheers!

Thank you for discreetly checking on our children's welfare the next morning by lingering in the driveway and making smalltalk.

I will also admit that sometimes I am tempted to call the police myself. On my own children. Because this must be some form of Domestic Abuse--this regular subjection to tantrums. It feels like mental abuse. We feel our self esteems eroding, with each irrational outburst chipping away at our collective parenting confidence. Surely no one else has a five-year old who still melts down, embarrassingly so? Surely there's a cure for these epic emotional paroxysms? Something we're not doing, something that will save us from greeting you with the vague shame of acknowledging an audibly exhausting episode from the prior evening?

Thank you for helping us continue the charade of Normalcy: Good morning, neighbors! Say good morning to the neighbors, darlings!

That yelling last night? Oh, wow, what a scary video we watched!

Say, would you like two children? You can have them. We promise not to call the cops when we hear them wail.

Wink, wink.


The Nelsons

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Know Something You Don't Know

Apparently Barack Obama has chosen his running mate.


Okay. Then don't tell us you know who it is already. Because, that's just...lame.

With our first daughter, at some point mid-gestation, we hinted that we had already chosen her name, but we were keeping it secret. This was mostly to ward off Opinions We Did Not Solicit on our unborn/unseen daughter's name. However, the reality that there was a Name Out There and our family members did not know it was, like, torture.

So with our second daughter, we pretty much lied. We said we had no idea what we were naming her every time someone asked. And it was a little true, since we left for the hospital without an established name. But we did have an Established List. And we didn't want opinions on that either, to be honest.

My point is, when you say, "I have no idea" when someone asks what you're naming your baby (or running mate), it's pretty much a conversation stopper. It's the nanny-nanny-boo-boo aspect of "I know, but I'm not telling" that makes you look like a...TOOL. Sorry, but it's true.

I know, I know! It's good political strategy. Everyone's wondering now. And TALKING ABOUT IT. And Begging for Information. Not to mention: The Speculation.


I already know it's not Hillary Clinton, so I am just pissed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kum Ba Yah

I am a Summer Camp Girl. In my middle school years, I loved going to overnight camp. As an incoming college freshman, I signed up for the Get-To-Know-You Pre-College Camp. As an adult, I can't wait till my daughters are old enough to take to Family Camp (Check this one out: "Talent Night was a RIOT!!!!" We are so there).

I love the tents, the counselors, the camaraderie, the crafts, the chores, the old and new friends, and especially the campfires and singing. I loved Camp so much as a child that when I got home, I would typically enter a funk characterized by my frequently articulated desires to "go back there," and my father would have to talk me back down from my Mountaintop Experience to the Real World. Where no one was holding hands, playing guitar, and professing love for the Great Outdoors on a daily basis.

I remember developing a few crushes on counselors, variously--and cryptically--named "Maverick," "Palomino," and "Sunshine." I recall being on the verge of Too Old for Girl Scout Camp when some fellow campers had the audacity to wear their tank tops as SKIRTS. I have a photo of my best friend and me trying this out ourselves. Our imitation was not seen as the best form of flattery.

Summer makes me especially nostalgic for Camp. As my daughters are too young to weave lanyards, I settle for singing Old Camp Songs in the car.

Here is my list of memorable tunes from years of camp:

1. Titanic (I remember being slightly scandalized while singing so happily about the sinking of said ship)
2. The Little Canoe with the Moon Shining All Around (kind of a girl power song)
3. Running Bear and Little White Dove (very dramatic hand motions for this one)
4. One Tin Soldier (this one brought out the peacenik in me at a young age)
5. I Saw A Bear ("Mommy, what does 'size up' mean?")
6. Three Jolly Fisherman (this song allowed me to yell "dam[n]" really loud, over and over)
7. Girl Scout Friend Song (sappy)
8. Ship in the Harbor (one of my favorite lullabies to this day)
9. Boom Chicka Boom (Elmo style...)
10. The Princess Pat (I never quite got this song. And I thought she had a Ricket And Doo?)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Open Season for Tattoos

In Body Ink, teens to twentysomethings are rivalled only by the under-six set. Temporary tattoos are all over the Toddler World, particularly in Birthday Goodie Bags.

My mother let the parents of her grandchildren know she was calling a moratorium on tattoos in the weeks leading up to my brother's wedding: there would be no cousins sashaying down the aisle sporting cartoon characters up and down their arms (and possibly legs...and maybe even faces).

We started stockpiling the temporary tatts that entered our household, including some inspired by Hello Kitty and the movie Ratatouille.

But since the wedding is over now, and we have a few safe months before my sister gets hitched, last night I gave the kids scissors to cut their own hair and then we began working on their tattoo sleeves.

Only kidding about the hair. But we did feverishly tattoo some hands and arms. And it felt good. This one's for you, Mammom.

Note: The poor picture quality is due in part to many moving (arm) parts. My daughters will not have a career in Synchronized Diving. Or Synchronized ANYTHING. We're still working on the Individual Cooperation Event.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've Been in School My Whole Life (and I think it's making me crazy)

I am having a recurring dream in which I am enrolled in a Chemistry course and I am not going to class.

In last night's version of the dream, I am in high school, and Chemistry Class is right after the Student Government period. Instead of going to Chemistry, I just hang out with other students who don't seem to have a class either. I know I am supposed to go to class, I know I have never attended (and it's probably too late to start now), and I know I need to drop the class before I get an F and it ruins All I Have Ever Worked For. But even though in the dream I remind myself to check the deadline for withdrawing from the course, I don't seem to ever do it. I'm passively willing my own failure, it seems.

This afternoon while I was eating a yummy piece of cake in the Principal's office, I felt a wave wash over me not unlike deja vu--a panicky feeling. I have go deal with that Chemistry Class! I thought, putting my fork down on the table.

And then came relief: there's no Chemistry Class! Not for me, anyway.

I can't help but wonder what it is in my life that needs attention. The deadline is looming, apparently.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Conscious of Her Conscience

Saturday night at the wedding my brother and his bride set up a table with canisters full of candy and bags for guests to fill with M&Ms, Raisinets, Gummi Worms, Hershey's Kisses and Milk Duds. My kids went to town, and the Little One left the reception hoisting a sack equaling her weight in sugar and chocolate.

When there is candy in our house, it becomes an hourly discussion topic. So I try to exploit the parenting angles: Gummi Worms emerging as a new favorite, we offered them as a reward to Daughter #2 for Pooping on the Potty. Not for Pooping in her Pull-Up. NOT for Pooping in her Underwear. NOT. IN. UNDERWEAR. PLEASE.

Lots of Gummi Worm Talk, no Poop Action. *Sigh*

Tonight we told both daughters they could choose a piece of candy if they finished their dinners.

Down went asparagus. Down went avocado. Down went ravioli. Down...went...(yuck)...tomato.

Bigger One chose a Gummi Bear and Little One chose a Gummi Worm (and now there's only ONE LEFT for an elusive Potty Poop).

One Gummi Bear being a sort of tiny reward, I told #1 she could have another. She was effusively thankful.

About half an hour later she came to me, rather distressed.

"Mommy, I need to tell you something..."


"Well, you know when you let me have two Gummi Bears?

"Yeah..." thinking, That was nice of me.

"I actually took another one."

"You mean you had three?"

"Yeah," she offered, looking regretful.

A thoughtful moment later, she added, "I kept wondering when you would ask, 'What are you chewing'...but you never did."

As a Mom AND a Vice Principal, confessions to me gold, and...SO RARE. Made me want to give her a lifetime of Gummi Bears.

Instead, I told her I was proud of her. And that next time, she could ask for that trifling third Gummi Bear (instead of sneaking it).

And if she remembered to say "please," she could maybe have four.

To My Brother and New Sister-in-Law:

May your marriage be "a canvas on which emerges/A chorus of smiles" (from the poem "Some Trees" by John Ashbery).

We love you very much!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Romantic Wedding Poems

My brother's wedding is this weekend, and I am honored to be a reader in the ceremony. They let me choose--or write--the literary selection, and I believe I found a unique and beautiful poem to share (I'll post it after the wedding).

Last night at the rehearsal, I suggested that I wanted to practice reciting the poem. But in keeping with my penchant for writing silly limericks on a whim, I delivered the following five-line masterpiece:

This weekend the couple will wed,
First rehearsal, and then we get fed.
Some vows they will take,
We'll dance and eat cake...
And the last part? (It happens in bed!)

I am not sure my mother loved it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Secret Elf Project: DAY 3

For the third installment of our Secret Elf Project, we outsourced labor as well as added an Elf. Auntie T, our daughters' godmother (note: no official baptism sealed this deal, but she's both Godly and like a Mother to us and our children) offered to lead the activity, and our neighbor, another soon-to-be kindergartener, played the part of co-conspirator (and batter-drinker).

This time, the gifts were mini loaves of lemon cake with copious white frosting and sprinkles. Auntie T brought ALL the ingredients and materials as well as patience and a sense of humor, much appreciated the day after we returned from vacation (many hours of Togetherness as a Family) and the day before I returned to Work and we all returned to Routine.

While they measured, poured, mixed, sneaked fingerdips, licked, and wrote Secret Elf cards, I made a photobook of our vacation and ignored our un-unpacked bags.

The Elf Crew made six cakes: four to give away to neighbors, one to eat, and one to save for our traveling friends who would return to come over for dinner Tuesday night.

Delivery was a comedy of errors, with one Elf in pull-up diaper and shirt and Nothing Else, one Elf loudly declaring her presence, and one Elf admonishing the aforementioned to Be Quiet, This Is a Secret Project. Not quite understanding why one cake refused to be delivered to one elderly neighbor's front porch, I finally (guessed, and then) hinted that our friendly and talkative neighbor might need to "go inside, as the elves like to be SECRET when they deliver their goods."

We have no idea how the other cakes were received, especially since at least one or two languished in the sun on the recipients' porches.

But hey! It's the thought that counts! Okay, and the cake batter. And the frosting...YUM!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dropping the "D" Bomb

Our family vacation was amazing. Off the charts, really. Incredible. Couldn't have been better.

So it's too bad it ended kinda poorly. With an almost-missed plane and some marital strife. We landed (yes, we AND our tagged-"LATE" bags made it) On Time Friday night, with the prospect of another Family Wedding Event on the morrow: my brother's Bachelor Brewery Tour on a Party Bus. After a week of HIS brother's wedding, my husband left for MY brother's event barely speaking to me, alas.

When I saw my brother later on this evening, he shared that he was so glad my husband was part of the group today.

"That's nice," I offered, "since we're getting divorced tomorrow."

My brother, about to get married himself, and whose sincerity is very real and measurable (and whose Brewery Tour left him a little Slurry and Sentimental), got suddenly serious.

"Look, sister. You can't just throw out the 'D' Word. And anyway, he's already family. If you were even serious, I'd have to tell you 'Uh uh, NO WAY.' He's IN, no matter what YOU do.'"

Worried that he thought I was actually confiding something with tangible possibility, I backpedaled.

"I'm only joking, brother. But I would like to Kick His Ass."

"All I am saying is, he's family. You can't even go there."

"OKAY! I GET it. Anyway, I just spent a week with his family, and I am pretty sure they feel the same way about me."

Moral of this story: watch where you go for sympathy. All the rules of allegiance change when you get married.