September 2009


Kids in the kitchen, I am finishing up the dishes, my water therapy, quiet music, toddlers napping, my five works at her drawing, all patterns and lines of flowers, my two and eight work puzzles, four learns to zip, then sits to watch the puzzlers, my five looking over every so often, too, but intent on some goal for her picture known to her and not to me. The math here is my kind, though my eight started off with a sheet of addition problems, not sure what to do until I explained, though some of us would find it simple. Once she understands, she is fine. She needs no explanation, though, to teach a two to work a hard puzzle, starting first with a twelve piece jigsaw, moving her up to a more complicated one, asking her if she is ready for more, breaking down the challenge into steps, sitting beside the little one while she works, makes concentration and hard things fun, and satisfying. ¬†“I think we found matches!” she sings. “Do you think that goes right there?” “Yes!” “Do you think that goes right here?” “What about right here?” “Yup!” and then the lesson is about language, about give and take, about adjusting your words to those of another, also math in some way, patterning in words somehow like patterning in my five’s drawing. And now the four says, “I will show you.” and my eight says, “You are going to show us.” and he says, “What do you mean this goes?” and the back and forth, give and take, math, patterning goes on. Mixed ages, hands on, projects, play, they ¬†work, no doubt in my mind or in my world.

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Couldn’t resist sharing this window into our world, 3 pm, week 4, baby asleep on the futon under an afghan, brother asleep on the couch with his furry scarf, one nearly two snuggled under his blanket, sound asleep on his mat, one kindergarten just arrived drawing at the tall table in the kitchen, one two woken early with a cough climbs up to join her. Dishes on the counter, Lion Sings Tonight on the CD player for background music, African Dreams CD, Paychex calls for the hours of the teachers, not ready, will call back, big kids soon to arrive for homework, outside play, conversation, food, pretend. Hard to imagine wanting another job, a different job, at 3 pm in family day care when all around is peace.

“Hey, Maria!” calls my newly three from the climber. I am so happy to see him having fun with his friends I tell him so.

“I am so happy to see you having fun at day care with your friends, ____” I say.

“I am not at day care, Maria!”

“Where are you?” I wonder.

He stops to think, eyes looking to the sky, then says, smiling, “I am up here on the climber. I am flying.”

Well, so he is. Power of imagination transcends reality, again, creates another. Love those threes, as you know.

My other three, quiet girl last year, is beside me now, working with her new friend, a four, boy who used to love guns and older boys, talking to him about her building, which she has just asked me to see, a very fancy structure with four points, reminds me of the church the just three was building earlier and the space ship her other friend, the newly four was building beside her when she arrived at the table. More power of imagination, and friends, relationship. Three to four is good, too. Miss our fives, but nice to make space for something new.

Today I walk with my little group to the park and notice it is two toddlers riding and three threes walking. My youngest three says no, he has not had a birthday and is not going to be three. He is happy to announce, though, that the Tooth Fairy is going to come, and she is going to bring gum.

My other three, who loves to talk with this boy on our walks, says the Chewing Fairy comes to her house and brings gums. I wonder if it is packs of gum or gummy bears. No, it is packs of gums, and he brings them to her brother. How nice to live in a multicultural world.

On the walk home this same three walks beside me again. She is holding onto the bar of the wagon with her right hand, holding a yellow plastic watering can behind her back with her left. “Which hand is it in?” she asks.

“What do you mean?” I wonder.

“The yellow watering can.” she repeats for me, the dull one.”Which hand is it in?”

“Not this one,” I giggle, patting the hand on the wagon bar.

Still not enough information for a true guess, so I tap her hand with the watering can as I look down from my towering five feet three inches on her three feet something or other, watering can in plain view.

She giggles and tells me I am am right. I give her a hug and tell her she is good company, she makes me smile.

Then for the next few minutes, she is busy doing magic tricks and guessing games, contorting her body so the left hand holds the wagon and the right hand holds the can behind her back, “now which hand?” and again, I tap the hand on the bar and say “Not this one.” and she shifts again so the left hand holds the can again and the right holds the wagon, watering can always in full view and bright yellow as can be, “Now which hand?” she giggles again.

Reminds me of the knock-knock jokes the threes love to tell. My just turned three told one on Friday to a school age kid, who said, I know this joke, but in fact, if it is a three telling it, you probably don’t. They are inventive.

My formerly Catholic friend and I went for a walk in the woods today, our way of connecting with something outside ourselves, our girls along in love with every little thing in the forest. Isabel and I took pictures. Rowan and Therese searched for the plant relatives of their backyard bush, Agnes. Seems she has many distant relations in the woods around Punkatasset Pond. The beavers here have been busier than any place I have ever been. The frogs and toads and herons and geese were there for the observing, touching, naming, and photographing. We had fun. Enjoy. Happy Sunday.

Lesson number two, my girl moved up to minnow, worries this small fish will mean a bubble. Instead, it means laps and laps of swimming, tired at the end, her only complaint it is not as much fun, there is not as much instruction, just go, go, go, hungry at the end. From the side of the pool, where Anna Karenina waits face down on the cement, I watch my girl, in a pool of brown skinned kids, two brown skinned teachers commanding the two groups, one faster, one slower, to move, kick, breath, butterfly (!), and I watch the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, who are not much older than me, and I think, wow, who says these folks don’t care about their kids’ education, who says these kids don’t work hard? I wonder now if these are kids who are in the public school, these brown skinned high achievers, or if they go to Catholic School or the Charter, but regardless, don’t tell me it is the white kids and parents who work and care, b.s.

Still, I think about Anna Karenina as I watch my girl work, keep up, kick, slow down, breath, as I watch the people I think of my morning, and know I won’t read my book. As much as Tolstoy loves the peasants and the working people, he is an aristocrat, and even I feel like one when my girl emerges and complains, the teachers not teaching enough, the kid who splashed, the class not as much fun as she had hoped, and I watch the parents with their kids, one mother brushing and brushing her daughter’s hair, one grandma grabbing a stray little one who has wandered down by the pool, so hard I worry for his arm, he grabs at his shorts, cries out, and I think, I am here for my social studies lesson, not for my book.

I have got a new love, Anna Karenina, my first ever Tolstoy Novel, never having even considered one before, I found this at a yard sale last weekend and debated it with my friend Laura, newly minted public school librarian, I bought it, she bought a Sherman Alexie short story collection, with hopes that I in my more time filled life could read the tome and she in her newly busy working life would have time for the short stories, and then at some point, we would trade. The book itself is gorgeous, thick cut paper frayed at the edges in a way that is intentional and soft, cover a black and white photo I don’t love, more romance novel than classic image, but it is a Penguin edition and the back cover tells me that this is a very good translation, as though I would know, but gives me confidence nonetheless.

Each night this week at bedtime I read a few pages. I bring it downstairs with me for meals and to work, hoping for a break, but I only have time or find time at bedtime, always envy folks who read on the subway or during the day on their couches, not me, business for day time, watching children, watching people, novels at night.

The first night all I managed to read were the introduction and notes from the translators. Those alone fascinated me, brought me into the world of people who read such books, a world that has never really been mine, no classics on the bookshelves of my home growing up, or very few, no discussions over dinner or with the family at my grandma’s of novels, but very rich stories, careful observations of people something I have learned and loved at home and missed, find here in Tolstoy on the pages of his novel, once I get through the intro and the translators’s notes, which I love, but which make me feel like an insider/outsider, once I am welcomed in by Tolstoy, I am home. He tells his story with incredible powers of observation, each character and his or her inner and outer expression comes alive to the point where I am getting edgy only fifty seven pages into the book, wondering how all this observation will move the plot, patience, though, patience, for the longest book I’ve ever read, or tried to read, as my daughter points out, as we discuss Tolstoy in bed this morning, who knew that this girl, who starts the conversation telling me she hates literacy, has always hated it, no, loves writing, hates reading, is the one who will discuss Tolstoy with me, as we compare it to a book she has fallen in love with at school, given to her by her new third grade teacher, lover of books, and the reason I hoped to have her for my daughter, and which she is reading chapter by chapter, told me last night all about bringing it home, since she only read one chapter in school (how wonderful to have time to enjoy reading in her class), and her teacher let her bring it home (a privilege, not assignment) and how many pages are in each chapter (she makes me guess, I am always wrong) and the title (which I always forget, remember now is Little House in Boston) and which this morning prompts us to discuss the longest books we have ever read (Anna Karenina, Little House in Boston, she looks up the page count in mine, recalls the page count in hers), and also other books we love (the book Miss Clapham is reading aloud) and how wonderful her teacher’s reading of the book is (she shows me with her hands how the teacher holds the book and shows the pictures to the class), how wonderfully she reads aloud (and the smile shows me more), how good the book is (what is it’s name? and I know because it was on the chalk tray when I talked to the teacher about wanting my girl to love to read, the last parent there on Open House Night, having run out early on the middle school teachers to touch base with the teacher of my girl, and stolen a private conversation on what should have been a public night), and it is Hugo Cabaret, by Brian Selznik, for whom I have always had a special affection, as his first book to me, The Houdini Box, is one I read to my third and fourth graders at Fayerweather, and who I think was an aspiring author illustrator then, nearly twenty years ago, and who I vaguely remember my lead teacher inviting to visit the class, and the Houdini Box was a book I gave to Jonah when he was very young, and he fell in love with that book and with Houdini, and has been ever since, escape artist model on his shelf, escape artist image in our mind together when we watched Micheal from The Office try his escape artist trick last night on tv, fail at the trick, succeed in making us laugh, prompting me to wonder aloud if Jonah would like to act that one out, and him to smile, both of us knowing that he would. And then my daughter is mad at me because I won’t get out of bed, having been up early and fallen back asleep, I want to stay under the covers, but she wants me to get Hugo Cabaret from the bookshelf above Jonah’s bed, where I know it is and she says she cannot find it. Finally I do, but only after she brings me all her studio photographs in frames and we look at each one, and she dusts them and lays them on the bed and we marvel at her hair growing, turning blond to brown, at her smile, her happiness, her clothes, her hands, tell stories of who took the pictures, why, of grandma, a photographer friend, and we talk about all the things we have wanted to be, she asking me what I wanted to be at different times in my life and telling me she wants to be a math teacher or a day care teacher, me suggesting elementary teacher who teaches young children and math, and her saying adamantly, no, I want to have a family day care, and then talking with her about my day yesterday, about the homeschool girl who comes to learn more about babies, whose mother and Macky and I talked about how children find their true loves, Macky, this girl, me, my girl, the babies our true loves, or the observing and caring for young children, and how we are encouraged on the path to following those loves in life and work, Macky telling us about the books she read very young about the Natural Way of rearing children, both progressive and traditional in the 50’s when she read them, books by A.S. Neill and Erick Erickson, and I marvel at how she came across those books, and she tells me they were in her family’s library, and I wonder who read them and she tells me it was her mother, and the homeschool mom and I marvel at that and we all talk about the meaning of books in the home and of mothering and of children growing up to do what they love, and what those options are within the home and in the wider world and in the context of each person’s parenting, and just now I think how lucky I am to have lead the life I lead.

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