I got really mad about something at school today. Oh, not OUT LOUD mad. Bah! Never! This is me we're talking about. My first reaction is always: Stifle, Stifle! Just quiet, me-mad, which means all up in my insides and not much happening on the outside 'cept judgy-looking eyes. (Then again, I've been told "judgy" is my default look. Sigh. I hate that. But whaddya gonna do?) Anyway, I was stewing, pouting, and just generally acting like a turd about it in my own head. I got mad then I took a drive to the bank. Because I had to. And on the way to the bank I was ruminating on my own rage. I turned the radio off so I could concentrate on how pissed off I was. That's dedication. I mean, I was really rolling around in that stinking pile of frustration. I was wrapping myself up in it and making a pointy hat out of woe. And then I had this lovely moment of clarity. I only got two hours of sleep last night. Like, I had been awake for more hours than a normal human body was supposed to, at that point. I didn't sleep and then I did my crazy job where I try to get fourteen year olds to pay attention, which is frankly, not something most people would try on a good day. I was at that shaky, delirious threshold where they tell air traffic controllers to please just go home before they hurt someone. And that was on the heels of being, as Miranda Priestly puts it in The Devil Wears Prada, "an incubus of viral plague." I did not sleep.I've been sick all week. It's only the second full week of school.
Like, (I'm gonna use Chandler Bing voice for a minute:) these books could not be any more different. Oh no, now I've lost everyone who was born after 1990. Well you see, kids. Once upon a time there was this haircut named Rachel... Never mind.
Can you tell I'm sick? I'm sick. My brain is doing little hoppity hops from one thing to another, and my nose is running like a GIANT NOSE THAT RUNS. My nose is such a tool, y'all. I currently have two wads of Kleenex shoved up thar' to try to stop up the yuck.
This one was a walk-n-listen for me, a sometimes drive-n-listen. The narrator was not, in fact (I checked), Stanley Tucci. But he had a Stanley Tucci-esque quality about him which made listening a bit more fun to imagine. Monkey Mind is Smith's journey through the origin, manifestations and treatment of his anxiety. Though he doesn't give his specific diagnosis in the book, I would venture to say it's Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. Or really, I don't know if you have both if it's called some other thing and frankly I'm sick so I don't want to look it up. But as someone who has faced her own share of panic attacks, I could relate.
Sorta. I mean, this is someone whose entire life has been shaped by anxiety. His mom is a therapist, he is Jewish -- he claims both, in addition to the wiring of his brain, have contributed to how he has handled trauma and anxiety in his life. There was also a long (and descriptive) passage about a sort of inciting sexual incident he experienced in his teenage years. So there's that.
I liked this book, and then I didn't. It wasn't that I felt it didn't deal with anxiety honestly. It did, and that was what I appreciated about it most. I found his descriptions of the physical sensation of panic to be fascinating. He describes his as an "icicle in his chest," and I think I'd go more for a grey, cold pool. But to each his own [description of unmanageable fears]. I began to strongly dislike this book when it ventured into some of his specific habits (like, disgustingly, nail-biting). I had to skip ahead in a few parts like that one because I was driving and didn't want to barf in my new car.
But unfortunately this book didn't seem to end up anywhere. And perhaps that's because with anxiety there's no story arc. You can't "cure" anxiety so much as you can acknowledge that it already moved into your home and then you figure as long as it's there you better work out a way to live with each other. So maybe that's why it kind of stopped being interesting to me. The last hour or so was kind of meh. I didn't feel a strong sense of resolution, and while that works in some cases, in this case I actually wanted to have some sense of finality.
My recommendation: I'm not sorry I read it, but I don't know if I can recommend it, really. Only if you're anxious and you want to see what other people have to say about it.
Just today I was teaching my AP kids about reading with purpose. For instance, when you're reading a passage on the AP English Literature test, you don't want to just, let's say, read it for fun. Its meaning will not make itself known to you without some work. You have to read it to find things, to make connections and dissect the passage's construction. But (as I told them) sometimes you just also want to read to be entertained. So before you get all disappointed in me for reading this piece of delicious cotton-candy fluff, please remember that I read about 10 books for school this summer, most of them very serious (E says, "wrist-slitting" literature). So I needed to just read to be entertained and not think too hard. And I was. And I didn't.
Not that I'm ashamed. I love me some Andy Cohen. I love all the kitchy, voyeuristic nature of the Real Housewives series. I have a hard job. I read hard books. I like to unwind when I watch my TV at night. So yeah, I love Watch What Happens Live. And Top Chef. And RHOC and RHONY, etc. And, HELLO? Meryl was on WHHL recently. Enough said.
Did this book have lots of behind-the-scenes Bravo channel gossip? Mmhmm. But it was also a really nice, honest autobiography. Cohen grew up wanting to be the next serious news anchor. He interned for CBS in the 90s and cut his interviewing teeth interviewing the soap stars he idolized. I love stories about how people end up where they end up. And this one was actually way better than expected.
I listened to this as an audiobook, too. I hate to say how surprised I was that it held my interest, but it did exceed my expectations. I found myself wanting to walk more frequently because it was so funny. That's always the mark of a good book--if it can make me forget I'm exercising. It felt like WWHL in my ipod. Cohen was just as entertaining as the narrator as he is on TV.
My recommendation: Yes, if you're a Bravo fan like moi. Pure pop culture fun.
Ahhhh. Let's have a moment of silence for my MAJOR comfort food dinner. Hamburger patty. Buttered noodles. Broccoli and mayo.
So, this morning I was feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Turns out I was actually carrying the weight of the world IN MY PURSE. You couldn't actually say I've been real good about cleaning it out lately. I tend to just keep carrying around anything I put in there until my shoulder hurts so bad I have to dump the contents.
Okay. This part isn't so bad. Normal looking purse.
Yes, there's a pair of tennies in there. That's not awful, right?
Okay. This is all par for the course.
Wallet(s), pens (ONLY THREE, ARE YOU SO PROUD OF ME?), Chapsticks (again, only 2--a perfectly reasonable number), checkbook, sunglasses, makeup, ibuprofen, nail file, earplugs (for emergency writing activities), gum, spare change, two pair of earrings that I took off on my drive home from work. Bobby pins are a bit out of control, but it has been worse. And we won't talk about the fact that I bought those nuts when I was in Palm Springs. In June. And I've been carrying them in my purse since then.
Here's where it starts to go downhill.
Loads and loads of trash (but mostly receipts, and no spoiled food or food trash... improvement!), Kohl's and Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons (for shopping emergencies, since I NEVER have the Kohl's coupon when I go), papers I was supposed to sign on Henry's Back to School Night and return last week (oops), a guide to being evaluated at school (hooray) and my adjunct duty sign-up sheet.
This is where things really go off the rails. I repeat: ALL OF THIS WAS IN MY PURSE. FOR DAYS AT A TIME. WEEKS, MAYBE.
A recipe for pork (from Williams-Sonoma, pilfered from the store on the day K and I went to San Francisco), a pineapple cutter. I'll give you a second to sit with that one. Walking shoes. POTUS, peeking out from behind my walking shoes. A weird monkey ball. A bookmark from Oxford (from E's aunt who was just there). Spanglish (the movie). And an empty jam jar.
My childhood relationship with the public pool in the park was an important one. Though I did the majority of my swimming lessons at the local community college, the park pool was where I went to goof around with friends, to learn flips and handstands, to get my first taste of freedom and unsupervised gossip. My mom must have taken me there as a small child; I don't remember her there much, though, past my youngest years when she'd sit on her towel with a book and look up periodically while we'd swim in the shallow end. I must have entered the pool as a day camper, too. I remember one summer, standing in line, waiting to get in while camp counselors coated each other's and kids' noses with neon-colored Zinc Oxide. Oh, to be a well-tanned teenager with a triangle of hot pink on her nose... I couldn't have imagined anything more glamorous.
The pool was within walking distance of every kid's house I knew. It was the first place I got to go without a parent. The best were those independent, warm summer days spent in the deep pool, the water thick and salty with chemicals and unimaginable mysteries. We'd enter the facility with just enough quarters jangling in our pockets to buy a cold drink. We'd stay all day, pausing from our swimming only to drink a Mountain Dew in the shade of the oak trees. The cement was hot. Our towels, laid out near the fence at the back of the deck, were always soaked by the time we'd get to them. We'd lay our bellies on the hot cement like lizards, searing them red. We'd hope not to be the recipient of an angry whistle tweet signifying bad behavior. When it was our scheduled time to leave, we'd loiter at the curb in front as we waited for the pick up car, scuffing our feet in the dirt.
Those summers I'd burn and peel and then toast to an earthy brown. I'd come home with red eyes from the chlorine. My hair turned green. The bottoms of my feet were scraped raw on rough cement. My bathing suit bottom would pill from scraping against the pool deck as I slid in and out.
I walked past the pool this morning on a walk through the park. It looked surprisingly small.
Sigh. It's Sunday. Feels like this weekend was about three minutes long.
Yesterday was a pretty good day, though. Movies all day, cooking, and an early night. Lazy days at home make me happier than a cat who sneaks into the master bedroom.
Yesterday afternoon, Henry's friend challenged E to a bike race. It was just about the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
Getting set up...
And, the finish...
(Hank's friend is well behind the car... E smoked him.)
That's right, E is riding a pink and blue girls' bike in these pictures. Sorry, ladies. He's all mine.
On my mind today...
So much for my Olympic inspiration. I've yet to go back out and run again. I'm really not sure what to do about, you know, being fit, lately. My weight is still hovering above the number I'd like it to be, even though I'm eating really well. I'm still so physically and emotionally drained when I get home from school that I haven't managed to head out at night or wake up early enough in the morning to get it in. Not even to walk, which just feels embarrassing to admit. I've wanted to go to bed every single night this week before 6:00. And I just can't decide if I want to run a race (or races) again or not. Time is running out on that choice, too. Should I run? Should I unfreeze my gym membership early because it would give me a place to go, to make sure I work out daily? Or do I want something entirely different? Would that be the way to kick my butt into gear? Decisions are paralyzing. First world problems. I know.
I can tell that my new work routine isn't familiar, yet, just in general. E keeps surprising me when he gets home at 4:30... I'm used to a good couple of hours to settle in after work and start dinner before he shows up. Now that we're home within an hour of each other, I keep thinking I have more time to do things than I really do. This is not a bad problem to have, but I think that for me unfamiliar breeds fatigue. I need routine so I can know when I have down time. I keep telling myself that if I could get through the year when E and I were separated (the year when I didn't know what I was doing five minutes into the future), I can get used to this and make it work.
My classes continue to go well so far, and I enjoy the kids. I feel like I have a great handle on who I am in my classroom and how to get what I want when it comes to classroom management. Yes, this is the hardest part of the year and I have to keep proving consistency until everyone trusts that I'm going to keep on being who I appeared to be on the first day of class. That's all normal, though, and I'm just biding my time until we get rollin'. I got last year's standardized test scores this week and though that's not what I'm all about, it was an awesome confirmation. There's a record of what I'm trying to do with these kids. My hard work and their hard work meant improvement in their scores, in addition to the improvement I saw in class. Yay ninth graders.
I have a strange detachment about school this year, though. I very much feel this year like I just woke up from a dream and so many people I care about are gone. I knew it was going to be hard for me at work now that K retired. But her retirement underscored for me just how many others have moved on, too. Others responsible for a lot of what made my lunches and breaks bearable. Others who both were and understood the culture of the school and the community. And that's not to say I'm just going to work because of the people I work with. No. But those are the people who make the struggles of this job tolerable, especially when we have tough years as we have for the last five or six. The people you work with in a high school help to define what it is. And what it is now is entirely different. It's not the school I've known for so long. Not at all. I feel a bit untethered. I'm happy to open my classroom and teach every day. Really happy. But I miss the sense that being there was belonging to a tradition. I'm lonesome.
That's life, though, right? Change in circumstance makes you change. I'm not sure what that looks like yet. Or what the next years of my career look like. But I like the direction that my MFA is pushing me, and as I said when I started in on it, I know it's going to afford me opportunities I didn't even know about when I started. Perhaps this shift at work is important because I need to feel less tied to the place I've been for half my life.
Right now that's what I keep telling myself, at least.
I've been on a Meryl Streep kick for the past few weeks, filling in the gaps of my viewing of her entire filmography, and re-watching a few movies I've seen before as they're aired. In the past three-ish weeks, I've watched:
The Deer Hunter
The Devil Wears Prada
Kramer vs Kramer
The House of the Spirits
Death Becomes Her
Angels in America
The River Wild
Postcards from the Edge
The Iron Lady
Music of the Heart
There are lots of other wonderful Meryl movies I've already seen, many much better, too. The above are just the ones I've seen in the past three weeks.
Every once in a while I'll get on a tear like this. I like having a list of recommendations to work from, and some of the best things I've ever seen have been as a result of working off a list from K. A few years ago it was '60s hunks: McQueen, Newman, Redford, etc. Then it was tearjerkers. This time I just set my DVR to autorecord anything with Meryl Streep and I supplemented with Netflix and worked my way down the list, making sure to watch anything I hadn't seen before.
I like having something to watch that's so NOT about whatever's happening right now. I'll watch my drivel on TV, but it's nice at the end of the night to shut the lights off and turn off the computer and get absorbed in something completely different than the usual nothing. There's so much I don't know about in film and TV because it came before me or I was too busy being oblivious to notice it. I feel like I could spend a lifetime watching movies and still never be caught up, entirely. Anyhoo... still workin' on my film literacy. (Is there a term for that? I should know it. I want to be well-read and well-viewed.)
They weren't all winners these past few weeks, obviously. But the good thing about MS is you get a good performance even if it's in a silly movie. But... favorites from this list were The Hours (which I saw before, but this was the first time watching it after reading the book, which changed and improved the experience of the film for me), Angels in America (HBO series, so well done... just. wow.), Adaptation (though it was weird, I liked it as metafiction), The River Wild for good, predictable American movie fun, and the cheeseball Music of the Heart, for making me cry at the end and for being one of those teachers-make-a-difference movies. The Deer Hunter was good, but so intense I don't think I can ever watch it again. Nor should I have watched it before bed last weekend. Lesson learned. Nightmare city.
I still have a few Meryl flicks left, but mostly I've seen everything I want (or in the case of Sophie's Choice, which I am emotionally stable enough) to watch at the moment. Tonight we were trying to come up with my next viewing list... thinking maybe Best Picture winners? Or nominees? That's my next mindless Netflix project... to look for the next thing.
I had to tell myself enough with the high heels today. Never mind all of my veteran teacher friends telling me my feet were going to hurt unless I ditched the clackers. I had to do it and I was pretending like I was fine for a few days. But they started to hurt, like, BAD. So this was the day when the benefit of looking more scary-teacher-y was outweighed by the bone-grinding pain I was experiencing in my feet every night. But there's something to that, right? I think the kids look at you differently when you're in heels, and I try to keep it going for as long as I can. At least at the start, when they're sizing me up to see what they can get away with. And Lord knows, there's a list of things a mile long that don't really bug me in the classroom, but there are things that do. Right now I need to win. For whatever reason, wearing heels helps me to establish the me-dominant society that is my classroom. Or at least to feel that way.
I'll try again tomorrow. I have to "train" my way up to dressing professionally again. Anyway, the point is that I wore flats and I feel better tonight.
But today on my break I had an errand to run. I'm still not even used to having a break, a "prep" period in teacher speak, because I've used mine for the last three years to high-tail it to the monkeys' school so I don't have to pay for childcare. But one of the things about having a prep is using your prep. And I've been frolicking in the magical fields of grading all week but today I needed to go buy a card for a former dance student of mine who was in a really bad accident last weekend.
Only, the thing is, my favorite old-timey grocery store closed last year. Remember how I was all nostalgic and pouty about it at the same time? So that's where I would have normally gone from work to buy a card. Instead, today, I had to go (over the freeway--gasp!!) to the Walmarts. Well, nobody ever really has to go to a Walmart, Lord knows I should have known better. I love me some Walmart but lately it brings up some deep-seated feelings of disgust. This was one of those it's not going to be so bad, it's 11:30 in the morning kinds of situations, and I kinda talked myself into it. The kids used up all of my shower gel, anyway. Walmart = shower gel + greeting cards.
I find my card and then I find some soap, and since I am experiencing the freedom of being child and cart-less, I make it up to the register in record time. Like a sprinter, I am. Don't even grab any processed foods (though I want them... oh, I want them).
Of course there are fifty people in line and only two registers open. Because why would you want to open enough registers for your customers? But I remember that our store has those "speedy checkout" (you know where this is going...) lanes for 10 items or less. So I find one of those, only the light's off and I stand there for a good five minutes before the nice gentleman in front of me kinda points up and goes "she shut down."
I am LITERALLY spending less than three dollars, so at this point I've already spent too much time in line, but whatever. I choose again, one of two lighted registers, each with sizable patrons waiting with sizable amounts of junk in their baskets. I'm not good at math, but it looked like more than ten in both carts. Again, whatever. At this point I was starting to get worried about when I'd get back to work.
Finally the woman in front of me heaves all of her (I'm guessing twenty?) items on the counter, and neither she nor the woman checking her out seem to want to talk to each other. Language barrier? Perhaps. But at the Walmarts we can all get along. Just so long as we keep it movin'.
Of course we didn't keep it movin'. The chick with the stuff had a credit card that wouldn't work (why would it, right?) and she just kept on swipin' and swipin' and (I think) hoping that prayer was going to magically change her account balance. Meanwhile, I'm checking my work email on my phone, ever-fearful that I screwed up and am missing something. The woman behind me in line decides she'd like to stand close enough to french kiss me.
I am not joking.
Since I have work email open, I turn my back to her and hope she'll get the hint. Nope, OF COURSE NOT. She moves in closer, and manages to get closer to my email again.
Finally, Swipey McSwiperson gets out a working card and is on her way. I hand the cashier my soap and card and move to the appropriate location where I can swipe my own card. (Who has cash this late in the month?) My best friend in line moved up RIGHT NEXT TO ME AGAIN. Like, here's me, standing at the debit card dealie, and here's her, closer to my hand typing my PIN code than I am.
Anyway. Some pictures from my day. The aforementioned flats, some earrings a former student made for me (on my awesome Walmart jaunt). Kids fighting pretend battles. Just because.
So. Who knew the Tudors would cause so much drama around here last night.
Part I: Denial K picks up the kids from school for me and brings them home. K was a history teacher for twenty four years, remember?
K: What did you learn about today?
Addie: Nothing. I don't remember.
Part II: Mom Arrives Home I come home and try to pry more information out of Roo.
Me: Addie, what did you learn about in school?
Addie: I don't remember. I don't know.
Me: Was there anything good that happened today?
Addie: Yeah, it was all pretty good.
Me: Anything bad?
Addie: No, not really.
Part III: Bedtime Freakout The kids are in bed, reading for a half hour. E is not home. I tuck them in, turn out lights. Ten minutes later, Addie appears in my room, crying.
Addie: Mom, I'm scared.
Me: What happened, honey?
Addie: I'm scared because we were role playing in Social Studies today and I was Bloody Mary. And everyone was teasing me. And they kept calling me that.
Me: Were they saying that dumb thing about the mirror? Kids have been saying that since I was a kid, honey. It's not real. I promise.
Ad: I know. Yeah. I mean... I'm not scared of that...
(Clearly, she is scared of that, but she's embarrassed to be scared of that.)
Me: Are you scared of being teased, then?
Ad: Yeah. I'm scared of being teased.
Big tears well up. Nine year old sadness, frustration ensues. Part IV: Bedtime, Redux. I go in to check on her after she's spent some time reading to calm down.
Me: What were you role-playing in class today, exactly?
Addie: You know, about Henry VIII. And all his wives. He had so many wives!
Me: You know I know that story, right? It's so interesting. And you know who taught it to me?
Me: K! We love that story. We've both watched books and movies and shows, all about that same thing. I promise. Ask her, she'll tell you the whole thing and probably show you pictures of everybody on the internet. She knows it way better than I do. She'd love to tell you.
Addie: Really? You guys know that story too? That's kinda what we were talking about today, you know, Henry VIII through Queen Elizabeth I.
Me: Roo. You know that's, like, what I teach too, right? Remember Shakespeare? He wrote all those plays then. And K was teaching that stuff for years. She knows that whole thing.
The two halves are coming more and more into comfortable coexistence. We're not yet at any kind of zen, but there were happy moments in my schedule today when I realized I had time enough to pee, to make copies, and to daydream during my prep period. Yep, daydream and grade summer work. And eat banana bread. But that kind of space is nice, whether I spend it reading about 18th and 19th century British novels or not. And the banana bread helps.
And like an omen from the God of Obvious Things, just as I start to feel like my work life is getting under control, the weeds are overtaking my backyard garden. Bless my little tomatoes, though, for growing right in the middle of the weed-choked, over-watered (we discovered the valve broke on the sprinklers) plot of poorly-tended land. For showing me that finding a place in the sun is possible, even in the chaos and muck.
I've had it with SPAM. Ever since the Yahoo mail hack. It's so frustrating. And add to that a kind of "off" feeling all day, like even though I was awake early with lots of sleep, I just didn't feel right today. Like I had all kinds of time but I didn't really do much.
And you know what I think it comes down to? Days when I don't daydream feel like nothing days. Days without any silence in them are so tiring. Stuffed with crap and mysterious fillers. Bad for you. Greasy. Like a can of SPAM.
See? Full circle.
There's nothing to complain about. Life is good. School is good. But I haven't had a quiet thought all day. I stepped from one responsibility to another and suddenly the day is almost over. I should take a walk, clear my head, breathe the air. Only my feet are killing me.
Thank God there's a break in the heat wave today, a light cloud canopy that's making today feel like a breather. This past week was blindingly hot, and it seemed as though there was someplace different to be every five minutes. I'm thankful for the time before kids arrive to set up my classroom and for the chance to reconnect with my colleagues. But meetings with grownups and meeting new kids in the same week just take a toll. By summer's end I've completely retreated into my small world and the cloak of introversion becomes my costume de rigeur. I had to shake that off. My whole body aches this morning from the combination of thinking so much, being outgoing, standing up so much (which I'm not yet used to), and revving up for the new school year all week. I'm thankful--as ever--to have a job at a school I love, and at the same time, I am currently a sad sack of exhaustion. By 7:00 last night my eyes were almost swollen shut, either from allergies or fatigue, I'm not sure which. I need this weekend to recuperate so I can teach hard next week. In running terms, this is my rest day before the long run.
I'm listening to a memoir about anxiety while I walk right now, called Monkey Mind. It's having two interesting effects. First, it makes me really, really, really (did I say really?) glad that my anxiety pales in comparison to the author's. So do, like 90% of my life experiences. But also, it's making me think about my own anxieties a lot. And in the case of this week, my worrying about what the week was going to be like was ten times worse than anything I actually encountered. (Yes, that's generally the way it goes, too. I hear you saying duh.) I had the first week of a teacher who has been teaching for ten plus years: ordinary. I was prepared for everything I encountered. I knew what to do in order to make it a good week. There were no surprises. There was, in short, nothing to worry about.
I like what I teach because it's hard. The AP English classes challenge my mind and afford me the opportunity to work with high-level kids. Those kids are the best kind of funny, too, smart funny. They keep me on my toes because often they're more uptight and worried about everything than I am. It gives me the chance to be the calm one. And my freshmen are a completely different kind of intellectual challenge. Their behavior is a direct reflection of how much I'm on top of every single minute of time in my classroom. Working with them reminds me that every kid needs a good teacher, not just the top kids. They afford me the chance to work high level skills backward, to take things apart down to the most basic components so I can teach them. You could say I've found good balance in my schedule.
As I said the other night, our routines still feel cumbersome enough at home that there isn't much time in our day for a lot of other activity, but that's okay. The kids are happy and prepared for school; life is running smoothly here. There's something to be said for your feeling of accomplishment when you learn to anticipate your family's freak-outs before they happen. I'm so happy to have a full weekend of nothing. The freedom is so delicious right now. I may end up at school today to start grading some of their summer work, but I don't have to, nor do I have to be anywhere else. That alone makes it better.
We made it through the firsts, successfully. The kids settled in like it was nothing and yet came home today (day two) reporting things were "much better," whatever that means. They're both enjoying their relative lack of homework thus far and both slept soundly last night, the sleep of the school-weary. I cuddled with them on my bed when I got home today and we went through the daily highs and lows. So much drama in Elementary school! Right now, as we're still re-learning them, the routines are big enough to fill our days. I'm exhausted thinking about making dinner.
My first day with students was today and--another first--though this was my eleventh start, it was the first time I wasn't nervous. At all. I think the pre-service days had the effect of making me so impatient to start that I just wanted to move forward. I had no trouble sleeping last night and I was glad to see the kids. They were charming. I always look back on this week and it's so funny how I have no idea what the personalities are that sit in front of me. It's strange to think of how well I'll know them by May. The worst thing about the first week of school is how nobody knows each other yet. I wish we could fast forward to the time when it's comfortable. But as first days go, this one was peaceful. There were no surprises, unless we're counting the mom who flipped me off, wagged her finger (and cut me off) as I exited the parking lot. Oh school. You never disappoint.
Henry, 2nd grade. Every hint of little baby boy is gone. You haven't had front teeth since 2009, but you've finally grown into those holes in your mouth. You climb the walls like a monkey, in preparation for your future stint on Ninja Warrior. You still want me to watch you play video games. You ride a bike, tentatively. Your pups are your best friends, both stuffed and real. Your sister is your constant companion; you look to her for guidance on everything. You joke beyond your years, even things you don't understand. The other night you told your father his driving game was timeless. You can eat a whole box of Mac and Cheese, alone, and you sneak Fiber One bars when I'm not looking. Your favorite books are the Magic Treehouse series and you've seen every episode of Spongebob about 45 times. You can't keep a secret about your own bad behavior. You swim like a madman, slapping the water with each stroke and when you dive, your feet flip over your head. Your little back is brown and your hair is blonde for the first time since you were born. When I say I love you, you tell me back that nobody could ever love me more than you do.
Addie, 5th grade. This summer you got long. Your hair reaches the middle of your back and your face narrowed--almost suddenly--to this smart, beautiful big kid face. It catches me off guard. Last night you had butterflies about fifth grade; you were up three times before you slept. You're so like me, and I hope not in the most painful ways. You're midway through your first read of the Harry Potter series. You still play with toys, long stretches of pretend and drawn-out stories, but I know that's going to change soon. You protect your brother and shepherd all of your cousins. You ride and swim and dive like you've figured out how to use your body this summer, like the signals from the brain make sense to your limbs. You hate wearing your glasses. You keep a notebook of drawings that are each done with meticulous care. You still love berries, and sometimes I have to tell you not to eat more than one banana a day. Your favorite dinner is probably smoked chicken, and you're already old enough to know your dad's BBQ and smoker skills are top-notch. You're shy. Every night before bed, you find me and wrap your arms around me, your blonde head pressing into my stomach.