Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Little MJ, the performance

When he saw me waiting for him in the classroom after their lunch-recess, he ran to hug me before joining his class.

My son's teacher let him be the first to share at show-and-tell.  She asked him how much room he needed for his dancing, and his classmates moved back at his direction.  He stood nervously in front of the chalk board as the teacher reminded the students, "Are we going to laugh when he dances?  What will happen if you laugh or make fun? What will we do when he's finished?  Yes, we will clap for him because he is being a brave risk-taker today."

She had cued up the right disc and asked if he was ready.  He nodded.  The low bass beat of "boh, boh, boh...boh BOH..." of "Bad" by Michael Jackson filled the kindergarten classroom.  His best friend turned and looked at me, a smile on her face that said, "Can you believe this?!"  The sensitive blond kid sat in the front row giving him thumbs-up, which continued off and on through the whole performance.

He admitted to me later that he was nervous and the next morning, he told me that he couldn't stop thinking about how that was his worst dance ever.  I reminded him that the important thing was that he didn't quit, that he did it even though he was nervous.   Everyone clapped.  His best friend seemed proud.

As I told the story of our son's first performance last night to my husband, he teared up, and he said, "What an amazing teacher."  She set the supportive tone.  We are so thankful.

For the record, he didn't rip his shirt off, not this time at least.

Penguins

Last night, from about 5:00 until bedtime three hours later, my daughter copied sentences from wikipedia about penguins.  She was not being punished.  They are studying Antarctica in her class, and she wants to learn.

We are now on book two (in the correct order, not the 'chronological' one) of the Narnia series now, and she cried when I told her she couldn't keep writing sentences as I read. 

What it means to parent my daughter: losing a battle of wills means that she gets to continue writing facts about penguins as she listens to a story. 

She copies down all the scientific names and wants me to read them and is frustrated with me because I can't pronounce them correctly.

We have had battles of wills over things like what coat to wear with a dress on really cold days or the need to sleep in on the weekends, so I'm not saying she's a complete angel.  I'm just saying that I don't mind losing this particular battle about wikipedia.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Fluency

My beautiful, soulful daughter told me on the way home from school today that she much prefers listening to the music made by dead people than music made by people that are still living.  She mentioned Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, the Beatles (well, two of them at least), and Beethoven.

When we got home from school, she had a letter from my mother waiting for her.  She read it out loud, needing help with the words "imagination," "concerned," and "decide."  With her eyes lit up, she held it in front of her and said, "This makes me want to read it over and over to increase my fluency!"  She has been learning English for seventeen months.

She later talked about how she wants to keep it forever, that it's something to "treasure."  Tomorrow, her reading group is supposed to bring to school something that they treasure, and she's going to bring a necklace one of our neighbors made for her out of stones from Ethiopia that she'd gotten last year while there with a team of local doctors doing pelvic floor surgeries.  She has never worn the necklace; it stays in its box, and I'm nervous about her taking it to school tomorrow.

This afternoon after we got home, another neighbor was out, and I ended up talking to her for a while about books, my young kids, her grown ones, and how fast time goes by as we age.  She's one of my favorite neighbors (among a splendid bunch), one that I don't always talk much to but always connect with when we do chat.  She's invited me to be a part of the book group she's been in for the last twenty years.  Their next selection is one I already had, so I was taking it across the street to loan to her. 

One of her daughters is getting married in a few months, and she talked about how much she misses the days when her kids were at home in her orbit.  She liked the feeling that she could gather them close should they need her for anything.  She seems in a state of disbelief that her daughter is old enough to be getting married.  The conversation was a good reminder to me.  My kids are in my immediate orbit right now, and though it's the tiring years, these are the years I'm going to look back on with wonder that they ever happened at all.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Little MJ

Snippets from an email exchange between my son's teacher and me.

Teacher:
At the end of the day, I reminded the kids that sharing is on Monday, that it was their sharing day, as I forgot to put it in the kindergarten news.  As Abe walked past me, he said, "you know what I am sharing!". I said "what?" and he said my dancing.  I told him to practice and he said I don't need to because I can just do it!  I love his confidence!  

Me:
Thank you so much for telling me about what Abe said on Friday. This whole sharing of the dancing thing is blowing my mind, considering how shy he's been the last few years when it comes to standing in front of a crowd.  Tonight, he said, "What if I get scared tomorrow?"  I asked him what he'll do if he's scared, and he said, "Well, I'm not gonna quit." 

Then tonight, just so you know what you might be in for tomorrow, he ripped his shirt off mid-performance of "Bad."  


Tomorrow is the big day for him to share his dancing, something he has insisted on doing.  I'm hoping both that he doesn't choke and that he keeps his shirt on.





Friday, February 22, 2013

How to win

In the car on the way to a Girl Scout event, my son says, "Mom? This week at school, me and K and S and G tried to have a war with the girls but it didn't turn out so well.  The girls were just doing their own thing, not even playing with us."

My daughter and I both laughed at this.  It was the perfect chance to reinforce my advice to "just ignore" the punks on the playground.  This time, my own son was the punk.

Mid-week

This was yesterday.

Kids to school, read to kindergarteners, pick up my Liberian friend, knitting group, balls of yarn, late intern who I don't know what to do with, mock flirting between the Oromo with four wives and the Liberian widow that made the regal Eritrean laugh his head off, copy maker time of butterfly pictures for the kooky art teacher who praised me for said mundane task by saying I am "so special," Congolese elder repeating a hundred times in one morning my phrase "Oh my gosh" in my exact sing-song voice, fried fish from the Somali caterer, catch up on many work emails and phone calls, take my 'holds' from the library of the complete Michael Jackson five-CD set for my son, walk in door, put things down, melt a whole stick of butter for the shrimp scampi (a whole stick for my skinny family!), friend and her two-year-old arrive for dinner, two-year-old waits at window and opens the door for my kids, chasing ensues, the rejection of hugs from the baby but the taking anyway with laughter and tickles, dinnertime, last bits of homework, husband rushes out in the middle of dinner for a forgotten coaching session, clean-up of dinner, pack school lunches, jackets on and out the door to our church's "gospel community" at the pastor's house, new engagement and showing of ring and "Single Ladies" dance by the pastor's hilarious wife, introduction of "MmmBop" to my kids, shoes back on, drive home, brush teeth, pajamas on, pantyhose OFF Halelujah, blog reading, longing for the newly opened bottle of inexpensive chardonnay but chamomile tea instead, bed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Space Out

I was standing by myself in the spitting rain on the playground of my kids' school this afternoon.  It was noisy out there since school had let out just a few minutes before.  Suddenly a funny thing happened.  I felt like I was there, but not completely there.  I shut my eyes for a couple of seconds, and the noise of kids playing, parents talking, car doors slamming, metal scraping concrete and balls against the brick wall was muffled in my head.  I was suddenly acutely aware of the largeness of this world, the millions of people in it, the suffering and the joy, the chorus of humanity and nature, the spirit of it all.  I was there but not there.  As I opened my eyes, the noise came back to sharper focus.

This is a busy, loud world, and sometimes it feels good to space out a bit (said the introvert).

Cosby Kids

Our kids are now on Season 1, episode 3 of The Cosby Show.  I have lately been loving this age they're both in, still awkward and sweet and babies but also learning to read and do math.  One of the best parts of this stage has been the introduction of pop culture milestones for me, like Michael Jackson and now The Cosby Show. 

I am a kid of the 80s, and I was so happy to hear them cracking up while watching, mostly at Rudy and Vanessa.  I noticed that afternoon that they started playing a made-up game called "Cosby Show," and the one part I overheard clearly was my daughter as Ms. Huxtable asking my son, "Why do we have these four kids anyway?"

His reply, "Because we didn't want five!"

They get it.  Last night as I finished my book on the couch, they were at my desk in the other room watching, and I couldn't help smiling at their genuine laughter.  Thank you, Bill Cosby.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fanta

I woke up irritable today.  In fact, as I sit here trying to write this post, I just shushed my family, asking for quiet for five minutes.  At times, it feels like my main role in this house is to tell people where to put things and find things they have lost.

So after an irritable morning, I sent our son with his dad to a meeting so I could do grocery shopping with just our daughter.  The burden was lighter this way. She is a helper and great company, especially when it's just us.  In the car, we had a longish conversation about why goldfish crackers are not good to eat every day and what the term "whole food" means.  She's always been interested in health, medicine, and nutrition.  My need to explain to her what the word "ingredient" means was a reminder that English is not her first language.

In the first store, she sat in the huge cart the whole time and made a fort for herself from the items I was putting in, the 700 rolls of toilet paper being one full wall.  We sampled granola with rice milk, orange chicken, taquitos, beef broth which she let me finish.  In the huge parking lot, I ran her and the cart to the car, only getting a couple of looks, fueled by the compliment she'd just gotten on the way out on her pretty hair (I worked on it for four hours Saturday).

At the next store, she walked beside me and helped.  We bought only whole food here, although on the way out, I noticed the 50 cent cans of coke available from a vending machine, so she pulled out her wallet, the one with a picture of my grandmother in the front window, and put two quarters in.  She picked Fanta.  We rarely get cokes, and she was giddy with excitement.  She skipped out to the car while we talked about how our driver in Ethiopia used to buy her Fantas at every restaurant we went to.  When she asked why he did that, I said, "Well, because, I guess Ethiopians like to spoil kids sometimes."  This made her smile, and we talked about how nice the driver was and how fun that week was that we spent with him.

At the next store, she insisted on carrying both bags out to the car.  She laughed off and on the whole way.  I pulled out my phone to snap a picture, amazed (again) at her beauty.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hands

A small moment.  About twenty kids this morning at church were being led outside to play.  I was standing in the hall where my kids were not expecting me to be.  I saw them right in the middle of the group, and I caught their eyes.  I smiled at them, waved, then noticed that they were holding hands.  They were the only kids doing this.

Their eyes lit up at seeing me, and they walked out the door, letting go of each other's hands to take off running outside.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sun

The sun came out Friday, and it warmed up enough for everyone to take off jackets.  For February around here, this is bliss.  I parked my car blocks away from my kids' school to walk to get them.  The dog was with me.  The afternoon was spent outside, the kids' friends taking turns running the dog around the soccer field.  I got to know a new family and helped connect them with some free after-school sports activities, which they came to that very day.  Their four-year-old daughter got my kindergartener in a choke hold, which he tolerated pretty patiently.  My own daughter ran so hard that sweat was dripping down her face.  She was wearing her dark gray tshirt for the second day in a row that says "This girl's a genius."

The dog, tied up outside with a bowl of water, did not bark in our absence, and I felt really proud of him for that.  The game finished.  We got the dog and walked to the car.  Both kids nearly fell asleep on the way home. 

That morning, with two cups of coffee in my system, a coworker and I managed to complete the petition to bring one of my asylee elder's wife and children here to join him.  It was a satisfying feeling to have him sign his name to the forms we'd all worked so hard on.  We drove away from the brick building to get tea.  He told us both that, if they get here, he wants us to be the first ones they meet when they step off the airplane.  I imagine this moment and get teary.  He is a good man and hasn't seen his daughters for five years.  I can't imagine. 

I was happy the sun was shining so bright as we drank our tea.

Language of Familiarity

Thursday afternoon at work, a group of the seniors I work with were leaving for the day.  It had been a full day of activity, ending with Somali-made Ethiopian food and an English lesson about "What I like..."  Everyone was tired, and I suspected looking forward to their afternoon naps. 

I'd sat down at my desk to make a note of something when the gruff Somali elder walked by, the one who sounds angry no matter what he's saying. We exchange goodbyes and waves and apparently had some sort of conversation because the young Eritrean lady whose desk is across from mine shook her head and asked, "What did you even just say to each other?  What language is that?"

As an introvert, the initial getting-to-know-you phase is energy-draining.  I much prefer the comfort of already knowing someone, which is what I have now at work.  It's a nice feeling.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Birth Announcement

Until my daughter is old enough to tell me not to, I will speak with each of her teachers at the beginning of every school year about group projects that involve baby photos.  So far, her teachers have all been understanding and sympathetic to the reality that we will probably never have baby pictures of her or any of those "milestone" facts about her infancy.  I try to stay sensitive to her mood as we look at her brother's baby photos, and so far she's only expressed a couple of  times that she wishes she had them too.  In fact, lately, she seems to get a kick out of going through old family photos and especially videos where she can laugh at how cute her little brother was as a toddler.

I read today about this birth announcement, the one here where a boy was adopted at age 13 with no baby photos passed down.  So this is what how his new mother introduced them into their circle of friends and family.  I wish I had thought of this.  I find it hilarious and actually very touching.  Older child adoption rocks.

Tenacious

It was another day where I barely sat down.

This morning I talked on the phone to my 85-year-old father-in-law who told me about his latest doctors appointment.  He's taking a blood thinner now and prepared himself for being told not to drink any alcohol by coming up with a reaction, making sure beforehand from the nurse that his doc has a sense of humor.

"So, see, what I did, was, as soon as he told me I can't have my Monday night margarita anymore, I threw my purse down as hard as I could and said, 'That's it! I'm outta here! Find me a new doctor!'"

It was a good joke.

This afternoon, my daughter's friend came over to get her hair done.  It required timely orchestration with school schedules and the braider's schedule.  Part of my duty was to prep the hair for braids.  Her friend sat in the bath as I sectioned the hair off, deep conditioned from root to tip, and combed it out.  When my daughter saw me struggling to get the old braids out in the front, she stripped to her underwear and climbed in the bath to lend a hand.  She worked with such focus, leaning over her friend, getting the matted knots out the best she could.  The word "tenacious" came to my mind as I watched her; I always see little glimpses of the small girl she must have been at age three or four, sweeping the bottle-cap floors of where she lived or grinding freshly roasted coffee beans by hand with a mortar and pestle.  There is a drive way down deep in her to contribute, to be useful, to be a helper.  She also will look up from her task to laugh loudly if someone makes a fart joke.  She is remarkable.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday

It was such a painful feeling in my head this morning when the alarm went off after a nyquil-infused night of sleep.  In a haze, I got the single-cup percolator going on our gas stove and tried to decide what the kids should eat when I had to wake them up in ten minutes.  Leftover 'cinnamon quick bread' made into french toast happened during the time I usually take a shower.  They dressed and ate while I showered, and I left the house thirty minutes later with very wet hair, all on a work day.

We listened to "Yellow Submarine" on the way to school.  My son gave an early valentines gift of an old cell phone wrapped in pink construction paper to the cute blond girl in his class, and I realized as she sat on my right during 'book look' that she had bad breath.  She sure is cute though.  My son let her pick out the book each time.

My Liberian friend and I talked about our colds in the car on the way to work.  It was a boring conversation.  Work happened in a flurry.  A Kenyan Americorps volunteer donated a huge box of yarn to my program for our knitting group.  A kitchen worker ticked me off for showing disrespect to an elder, and I was on the phone with her boss an hour later to talk about the need for cultural sensitivity training. 

My husband is sick, sick, sick so I rushed to gather my chickadees from school.  A group of eight or nine little kids kept dog piling a big kid at the bottom of the slide.  He didn't seem to mind, so I never intervened.  I talked for a long time with one of my favorite first-grade mothers and told her son that he looked like a senator in his black wool coat.  I noticed for the first time that he mispronounces his 'r's.  "Mom, I want to go cause it's waining."

My daughter worked on a homework page of counting up coins until she got it right, after five tries.  I made roasted vegetable cheddar soup from yesterday's leftovers, which we ate in a rush to get to the house of the pastor's mother-in-law for my training for working with the kids at church.  My own kids were stellar during the training, writing on a white board, reading the books they'd brought, eating apples and whispering quietly the whole time.  I was proud. 

Stop by the hoity toity grocery store to see about buying half of a Fat Tuesday king cake, which they were willing to do only grudgingly even though it was 7:30pm on the evening of Mardis Gras, and that stack of expensive cakes were going to end up thrown out in four hours time.  We had samples and left without buying one.  They weren't that good anyway, definitely not worth $17.

On days like today when I don't sit down at all until after 8pm, it's hard to write posts highlighting one moment.  Not that any of these above are that remarkable.  It was just a normal, busy Tuesday.  Now I'm going to finish the last half hour of Downton Abbey and drink wine (which I'm giving up for lent!).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine's Prep

My son's current best friend is a very pragmatic little girl who is into superheros.  They are constantly together before school, after school, during school.  She came over this afternoon to play. 

The two of them went to use our old computer, and I asked if they were going to listen to music.

"No."

"Oh, are you going to type a letter like you did before?"

"Mom, we are going to mind our own business."

They are five and six years old.  Turns out they were typing out words from a chocolate milk cartoon.  You know, like you do when you're five and learning to read.

All three kids ended up making valentine's cards at our dining room table.  Our kind, thoughtful daughter made one for her brother's friend that she read out loud.  It said, "I think you are nice and I hope you have a good Valentine's Day.  You are pritty and I like your voiss."  It's exactly the kind of card our daughter would write to someone. 

However, when I dropped her off at home, I asked her why she didn't take the Valentine's card with her.  Her answer was, "I read it already, so why would I keep it?"

She's not a sentimental one.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chapter books

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Katie Nolan reads every night to her children one page from her Gideon Bible and one page from The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  She herself has very little education and doesn't understand many of the words but her mother told her that the way out of poverty is education, so this is what she does from the time her children are infants. 

It got me thinking about my degree in literature and my own kids.  We've always had books around, made frequent trips to the library, bought stacks of used books from yard and library sales, and read every day, but we haven't done a lot of this plowing through full chapter books yet.  I decided to change that, so Saturday night, I read the first four chapters of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to our kids.  They completely loved it, not wanting me to stop.  The chapter breaks have enough of the cliffhanger effect about them, so they kept prodding me on to more.

Tonight, it being a school night, we had time for one chapter, and then they said they were hungry.  I told them snack or chapter, not both, and I was pleased that they both had to really consider each option before deciding to go fill their bellies with the leftover bacon and pancakes from breakfast.  Tomorrow night we'll just get started earlier.


Questions

Over the short span of half an hour, my daughter asked me the following questions this weekend:

Does God itch?

Do we eat our snot?

Are colors alive?

Can we read more of The Lion, the Witch, and the Scarecrow?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sister of Charity

Working yesterday was a mistake.  I think it added on a couple days to this illness I'm living with.  So I stayed home today, not even getting up to see the kids off to school, lucky enough to have a husband who kept them so quiet that I slept all the way through the morning routine.

My head buzzed all morning, making me dizzy.  I read my book all day, nearing the end now.

My daughter started asking me last night about the sponsorship letter she found laying on the table from the girl we support in a foreign country for food and education.  There was a random picture of a girl and boy at the top of a paper, and she asked why we don't support him too.  I explained that those photos were just randomly chosen, that the girl wasn't "our" girl either.  She still wasn't satisfied.  She nodded but then blankly said, "Well, why don't you send more kids to school?  Why do you only help one?"  I fumbled but tried to explain about how it can get expensive (lame, I know).  Her eyes lit up and she said, "Well, I have money.  I can help."

My son's voice from across the table, "Hey! Not my money! You can waste your own!"

They decided about a year ago to combine all their money into a joint piggy bank for unknown reasons that I didn't fight.  Our son was worried that she'd use his share for foolhardy purposes like education and nutrition.

My husband told me tonight as we had dinner out that our daughter has been pestering him about the many homeless folks in our city.  She gets irked when we don't give them money. We talked about how we need to get small bags of supplies like toothbrushes, gift cards, dried fruit, protein bars, etc in our car to hand out.  We want this altruism to stay strong in her.

Right before bed tonight, she ran to me with a gift.  She said, "Mom, here, eat this brain!"  It was a piece of popcorn that truly looked exactly like a human brain.  I didn't want it, but she pouted so much when I just licked it that I eventually ate it, her gift of a brain. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Despite having a degree in literature, I had never read Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Two days ago, I pulled from my shelf the $4 paperback copy I got years ago at Goodwill.  I'm halfway through it and loving it.  I get why it's the sort of book people read multiple times.

That's about it for today.  We stayed home another day as a sick-day, though no one is running fevers anymore.

I did hear a horrible story today about the cat I was snuggling on my lap who had its eye popped out in a scuffle with a raccoon but not sure those details are worth remembering.

One of our cats, making it difficult for me to read.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Another Sick Day

I woke up last night at 3:00am thinking various things, not able to sleep.  One of my thoughts was about the likelihood of our son needing to take a day off of school due to a new cough.  I woke the kids up at their usual 7:30 time and decided to keep him home.  I had a few pressing things to take care of at work, so I took our daughter to school, gave a ride to my Liberian friend, sat down at my desk at work and started answering emails and phone calls for an hour.  I got lightheaded so came back home.

Our son was running a fever of 101, which went up to 103 by the end of the day.  Mother's intuition.  We watched Star Wars on the basement couch together, and I read deeper into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  My own cough got worse.  We drank ginger ale and ate snacks.  He ate the lunch I had packed for him last night.  An Ethiopian elder, the one who holds my hand everywhere we go, called me during Star Wars.  I laughed through the "conversation" because I knew exactly what was happening on his end.  I laughed too because he called me in spite of our language barrier.  I kept telling him we were fine, a little sick, okay, then naming his friends, asking if they were there eating lunch with him.  I finally heard a long string of loud Amharic as he gave the phone to someone who could interpret, not that there was any need really since I knew why he was calling.  He'd heard there was sickness at our house and wanted to check in.  This is exactly what the interpreter told me.  She was laughing too.

Another day out of school for my son tomorrow.  He is sad about missing "choice time" and the return of his beloved teacher (gone for two weeks for eye surgery), but oh how he loves watching movies in the middle of the day and drinking ginger ale.  I kind of like it too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guitar-player

Yesterday during the sermon at church, a man walked in with an electric guitar slung on his back.  He ambled crookedly down the middle aisle and took a seat towards the front on the right side.  He rocked back and forth a few times as he settled into his pew.  He 'amen'ed a few times in answer to the words on the importance of sabbath rest.

I had noticed him just fifteen minutes earlier as I drove five blocks to get a coffee for myself (my coffee maker at home had exploded grounds into my cup...and yes, it's pathetic that I drove the five blocks instead of walked it, but my husband insisted).  The man was walking down the street with his guitar and various other bags slung on his shoulders.  He was hard not to notice.  I could hear his voice through the rolled-up windows of my car.

A few minutes later as I drove back to church, I saw him again.  He had set up a spot for himself in front of passing traffic, and was playing the guitar, singing loudly. 

When he walked into the building and sat down, I wondered what would happen.

Turns out not much.  He listened for ten minutes or so, during which time one of the deacons came and sat right behind him.  I am pretty sure this was intentional.  The guitar player was difficult to predict.  He eventually stood up, gathered his stuff, pulled something out of his pocket and walked to the front. 

He laid a dollar bill on a table behind the still-preaching pastor.  The pastor said, "Thank you, brother" as the man shuffled back out into February.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dying Squirrel

Every afternoon in the sixth grade, part of my walk home took me on a path where I got to watch a squirrel decompose over the course of several months.  When I first noticed the dead squirrel in the middle of the single-person dirt path that ran beside the busy city street in front of my school, it was still furry and contained remnants of its cute squirrelness.  Eventually, as bikes and many feet rolled or walked over it, the middle of it turned into part of the path, only the furry head and tail on either side.   Why this childhood experience stands out to me so strongly, I am not sure about.

This afternoon, about an hour before dark, a lady in the park where many dogs were playing called out to everyone that she'd just found a dead squirrel.  She was warning all the dog owners about it in case it was poisoned, telling us we should keep our dogs away.  By the time I got to her, she and hour preschool-aged daughter had found out that the squirrel was actually breathing.  It was laying there in the cold mud on its stomach, all hunkered up with its face tucked in as close as possible to its chest.  Every minute or so, it would try to move, which is when I noticed that its front left leg was wounded.  The lady was working hard to keep her dog away from it, and I tried to figure out what to do.  The three kids stood around watching it, giving a running commentary on each development of  the squirrel's health.  Would the parks service come get it on a late Sunday afternoon?  Of course not.

We finally decided to get the box out of the back of my car to put it in, at least to get it out of the middle of this field.  I used a stick to shove the little guy as gently as I could into the box.  He was still breathing and looked utterly miserable.  I wanted someone to come along with experience in bringing a swift end to the suffering of a wild squirrel.  I picked up the box and looked closely at the guy.  The preschool girl asked to see too, so I bent down and let her look.  My own kids studied it too.  The part of me that has seen sitcoms and horror movies tensed up as images came to mind of the squirrel's eyes turning red, fangs glaring, as it lunged at my children.  Zombie squirrel attacks!

It just laid there though, perfectly still, breathing, eyes half-closed, suffering.  The small weight of it in the box I was carrying made me really sad.  The lady and I agreed to at least get it out of the way of dogs, so we found some high hedges to place it on top of.  I nestled the box down into the middle of the hedge, and covered it up with fallen limbs from trees.  The lady seemed genuinely relieved that I put the limbs around the box, saying with sadness in her voice, "Oh! That's such a good idea! Maybe it'll wake up and think he's in his own habitat!"  Whatever, lady.

As we walked away, I looked back at the box a couple of times.  The lady and her kid walked with me and mine to our car.  She kept telling her daughter that the squirrel may wake up in the night and scamper back to its home in the trees, happy to be reunited with its family.  The kid wanted to come back tomorrow to see if the box is empty.  The mom said they could but warned her that the squirrel may still be there.  We both agreed though that recovery was possible and that we should hope for that.

 If not, maybe some kid who lives in the house next to the hedge will notice the box with a dead squirrel and watch it decompose into the greenery over the next few months, the way I did in the sixth grade. Maybe my own kids will remember the day their mom stuck a dying squirrel on top of some bushes in the park.  If nothing else, by writing down this sad and weird moment, I got it back.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sales Pitch

My daughter has now taken orders for 128 boxes of girl scout cookies by walking around our neighborhood asking (plus a handful from my coworkers).  As we go house to house, I make sure that she is the one ringing the bell and doing most of the talking.  I try to stand on the sidewalk, only jumping in if she doesn't know the answer to a question. 

Today it's sunny where we are, so we spent a good hour out taking orders.  She would walk up to people who were out in their yards with her script I helped her with.  She'd say her name, what street we live on, and "Do you want some girl scout cookies?"  She could field questions about when the orders would be in, if customers have to pay now or later, even what her favorite kind is despite never having tasted one yet.

She has been in this country for sixteen months.  The brain's capacity to acquire a new language at this age is astounding.  One of the first questions we always got from people about her within the first year was, "How's her English?"  This is something I was never concerned about.  Our brains are so elastic in the grade school years that whole languages are absorbed within months.  The true challenge resides in retaining the fading glimmer of the language that she grew up with.

Language issues aside, my wonder at those 128 (and counting) boxes of cookies lies in this little girl's tenacity and self-assuredness.  She has moments of shyness when she hangs back upon meeting new people, but it lasts only a few seconds.  She looks at me with a question mark, and I lean my head in the direction she should go.  With her straight back, she goes.  Her chin is always up.  She takes that brown folder with the order form and pen tucked inside and makes her brief sales pitch. 

 I don't think anyone of her customers so far has suspected what a short time she has been here.  It sort of blows my mind.