The phrase “working mother” is redundant.
When the morning starts like this, I know I’ll be spending the day outside working in the yard. This in turn means that K will be inside, cleaning, doing laundry, caring for the Little Man. Our own little division of labor.
First up: the row of bushes — no idea what species — that runs between our driveway and our neighbors’. Mr. C has told me, “Cut those things back as much as you want.” They’re planted on his property, but they spill onto ours: I treat them as mutual property. But I take him at his word and usually do both sides myself.
This year, things are especially bad. The briers and honeysuckle at the end of the driveway have taken over. You can’t even see the two trees at the base of the driveway unless you look up. Then again, they’re Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweet Gums (or as I prefer to call them, Satanically Evil Indestructible Overly-Fertile trees), so who really wants to see them?
I get out the trimmer and decide, in the words of Marsellus Wallace, to get medieval on it.
It’s all futile, I know: I’ve already spent an entire day cleaning out the briers, digging up roots, pulling down the vines. That was some five years ago, though, and I must admit to my surprise at how long it took things to return to their previous condition.
I suppose in another five years I’ll do it again. The bushes, though, only have a year of respite.
It can be a joyful experience, with smiles and giggles and obvious relief on the face of the starving Boy. He opens his mouth wide; he waits patiently for the spoon; he closes his mouth slowly and seems to relish and inhale the food at the same time.
It can be a tragedy, with fussing and battling, with a head jerking back and forth in an almost desperate attempt to say “No!,” with hands flailing and pushing away the spoon to make sure the message gets through.
Whatever the case, the cleaning that follows can be Herculean. Food smeared here, there and everywhere. Dried caked food on the chin, the cheeks, the forehead.
But it always ends the same.
Food is joy for the little man. All food. Any food. He tries it all, rejects almost nothing, and seems to relish even the most exotic offering.
Truth be told, that’s a bit of a relief compared to the Girl, who still squawks and squeals whenever we try to get something new in her.
Change is good.
You’re decidedly less cute at 2:30 in the morning.
“How do you find a word that means ‘Maria’?” the nuns ask early in Sound of Music. Showing that she might understand it a little better than I initially would have thought, the Girl calls her own name in response.
Apparently, there are four sinus cavities.
And while that’s three more than I was aware of, they are obviously of a limited volume. Today, though, with the Boy sneezing constantly, they seem more like they’re portals to dimensions in which mucus is the dominant substance. In that dimension, scientists are trying to understand the ever-expanding nature of mucus, its uncanny ability to reproduce seemingly ex nihilo.
Fortunately, Babies ‘R’ Us provides the solution: a small battery-powered vacuum with nostril-sized tip and lovely clear reservoir that sucks. Literally. Graco, the manufacturer, was also kind enough to design in a little electronic distraction: the push of a second button turns the little snot sucker into a music
And so we fall into a routine:
- Grimace at the strands of snot hanging from the nose
- Grimace at the approaching Snot Sucker™
- Realize what the Snot Sucker™ is doing
The Boy, the Girl, and I went out for a walk this afternoon, to see what we could see.
We saw all our lovely neighbors:
- the ones with the sweet but somewhat kitschy flower bed in their front yard, the bed that includes an old screen door leaning against a tree with “Welcome” painted on it;
- the ones that are installing a new driveway on the far side of their house, providing their domicile with twin enterances;
- the ones who work hard to keep the subdivision name sign clean and the planter in front of it planted;
- the ones who seem to have enough people for four houses living under one roof;
- the ones with the lovely ivy growing up their house;
- the ones who have the cute variety of flowers growing along the driveway.
And the ones, busted just today, who were cooking meth in their garage.
These fine folks were taking up the slack caused when our other neighbors (and I use this term loosely, for they all live several, several houses from us, but in the same neighborhood) got slack and were busted just before Thanksgiving 2010.
The Boy is sick — trapped in the house, in short. Two ears, both infected. Talk of tubes. Worries about effects. We’re all caught, I guess. Home from the doctor this morning, though, there was only one thing catching E: sleep.
After a fitful night, I was surprised at how long he lasted before the fists began digging in the eyes, before the fussing began, before the first yawn. When he’s sick and fussy, the first morning nap is always a blessing: some coffee, a bit of news on the internet, a chance to catch a moment of calm. But the calm never lasts: I look around and see what a mess a little boy can make in only a couple of hours, and I begin cleaning.
Soon, I’m interrupted: a terrible squawking and fluttering just outside the kitchen door tells me that we have our first victim of the season in our raspberry bush netting. No matter how carefully I hang the netting, with such deliberate overlaps that I then secure with various extemporaneous methods, it never fails: the birds somehow get in and then, unable to get back out, just about destroy the netting in their panic.
Last year, I tried various methods, including going into the netting myself with a tennis racket and herding the bird down to a corner where I can then pick it up and carry it out. (I quit doing that soon after an unexpected turn from a bird resulting in a fluttering pile of feathers beneath the berry vines. I suppose I didn’t think things through all that carefully with that method.)
Eventually, this one finds its way out.
Not unlike the Boy’s dreams: he is desperate to head out after so much time inside. At dinner, he sees his jacket I left hanging on the back of a chair when we returned from the doctor’s office. He grabs it, smiles at us, and begins waving bye-bye.
Listening to you talk about what your mother does when she gets drunk, hearing your stories about how your grandmother can curse with the apparent fluency of a cliche sailor, I begin to understand how it is you have so few social skills. You’ve had no one to teach you these skills, through words or example.
Yet I’m still troubled. You’ve been in school now for nine years (counting kindergarten and this yet-to-be-completed year). Surely you’ve seen other students model these social skills you’re missing. So what’s missing in the equation? Recognition. You see these successful students as simply have a different nature than you, and to an extent, they do. They’ve learned and internalized behaviors that make them seem like they have a different nature, but in fact, you could be just like that. You just don’t recognize it. And unfortunately, no matter how many times I and other teachers tell you this, you won’t believe us.
F must have heard it a dozen times today. “You won’t remember your baptism,” all the “aunts” and “uncles” would have begun, “but you’ll always remember your first communion.”
The rainy weather will also stick in your memories — the huddling under umbrellas as you make your way from the parish center to the church, some more others less worried about getting soaked. With so much white on parade, there must been worries about soiling the all-white outfits so many wore.
But everyone made it inside relatively safely, with F standing toward the rear of his line stiff as a soldier.
“You won’t remember your baptism,” he would soon hear, but those are words from people baptized in Poland in infancy, like the vast majority of Poles. “You won’t remember your baptism” is much like saying “you won’t remember your birth,” but it’s not always quite the case.
Some of us have such a memory. The same priest who baptized me two years ago gave the homily today, the same kind of warm, welcoming homily he always gives. Our dear Father Theo from Columbia, a man from whom his love of God almost glows.
“Welcome, my brothers and sisters, to this holy place,” he begins every Mass, and though he says it consistently, it always sounds fresh and inviting.
But today wasn’t about the homily, or the hymns, or the responsorial psalm. Today, it was about a group of kids taking their first communion — as big an event in most Catholic families as a wedding, I’d wager.
Indeed, in a Polish family, the similarities are striking. Both are highly social events, always including a large party afterward with food and drink, conversation into the evening.
I overheard your comment to another student today about “going on down the hall before that teacher says something” because “she’s always in other people’s business.”I’m assuming you’re referring to the fact that the teacher in question will tell you to move on down the hall, probably interrupting any conversation in which you might be engaged and disregarding the potential impact of such an interruption. In case it had escaped you, said teacher is on hall duty when she tells you that. You, as a student, are in her charge; you are her responsibility. She is not getting in your business; she fulfilling her contractual duties.
What would getting into your business look like? Showing up at a social gathering you’re attending and bad-mouthing you to others might be a good example. Making desparaging comments about your personal life and the decisions you’ve made might be another example. Gossiping about you would be a third example. Telling you to move on down the hall is so far from “getting into your business,” though, is most decidedly not an example.
If you’re going to gripe about teachers, at least make an attempt not to look foolish by mislabeling your gripe.
A Teacher Up the Hall