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Thursday, February 28, 2013

from dark into light

Let me say that this post takes a tremendous amount of courage to publish.  I am doing so partly to be real and honest about who and where I am, but also to give strength to anyone else who may be searching for something more.

In January I called a truce with myself.   The past month has been one of remarkable change, daily awarenesses of who I am and what I need to be doing, gentle shifts and massive epiphanies.

I have read and reread Geneen Roth's Women, Food and God which was what convinced me to not go back on Weight Watchers after a recent weight gain but to really be brave about looking deeper at what is going on with how I eat and how I feel about my body.  I read it again.  I felt I needed more guidance so I got on Amazon and ordered a bunch of her other books. 

These days you can find me sitting in the cozy recliner next to the wood stove and a big window reading and searching my soul.

I'm not even kidding.  I hardly recognize myself in the past few weeks.  I am finding space for myself, giving myself a much needed break (about 36 years worth in fact) and making my own self-discovery high on my priority list. 

I know, who has time for this right?  Well, it turns out I do.  It is amazing what you can find time for when your soul's future is on the line.

It would be impossible for me to tell you how amazing Geneen Roth is.  You would have to read her books to find out.  But let me give you the basic premise of her work to put my own story in context.

Geneen Roth gained and lost over 1000 pounds in her life before she became so desperate she knew she had to find another way. She stopped dieting and began to form a bridge back to herself, away from the punishment and judgement of the diet cycle. She decided to find out if she could learn to trust herself again. She has been at a normal weight for years and writes and teaches workshops to help others "break free."

Roth's basic premise is that emotional eating and the guilt and self-judgement that accompany it, the unending quest to change our bodies and beat ourselves into submission regarding what we eat is a way that we escape ourselves and our lives over and over again.  In Women, Food and God she writes: "our relationship to food is is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself.  I believe we are walking, talking expressions of our deepest convictions; everything we believe about love, fear, transformation and God is revealed in how, when and what we eat."

Here are the basic five eating guidelines that she developed from her own journey:

1. Eat when you are hungry.

2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, TV, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety provoking conversation or music.

4.  Eat what your body wants.

5. Eat until you are satisfied.

6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

7.  Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

It sounds wonderful right? Powdered donuts for breakfast, french fries for lunch and hot fudge sundaes for supper?

Let me tell you, though, it is wildly uncomfortable.

For those of us who have lived their lives struggling to achieve the ideal body weight or manage our eating, it is downright terrifying to entertain the idea that the way to put out the fire is to walk head on into it. 

Turns out I far prefer a strict set of dos and don'ts, a careful equation of eat this and lose weight, eat that and gain it. There is tremendous security in a diet laid out by someone else.  It takes a great deal of trust to let go of calories and points.  Not to mention it is a little dicey to begin to trust yourself  when your hunger for things like chocolate feel endless and you feel you could eat a house if it were made out of chocolate.  Okay, maybe not an entire house, but for surely a small shed.

In many ways my eating itself is way less disordered than it has been at other points in my life. Yet, the constant obsession with what I'm eating and how it is going to affect how my pants fit has brought me to my knees.  I have been plagued with a general sense of discontent and hopelessness. It makes me miserable, angry and stripes all the pleasure out of eating. I tighten up the belt, so to speak, so that I can work on this extra 10 pounds and then I feel so boxed in a corner, so deprived, that all I know to do is bust out of the chains. I will eat what I want. I will do what I want. And you can't tell me not to.

My entire life I have eaten according to a list of "good" or "bad" foods. It is not that I always eat the "good" foods, but when I eat what I considered "bad" foods, I did so guiltily, with little enjoyment and sometimes in secret. I rarely, if ever, have had a no-strings attached, pleasurable eating of something that I considered a "bad" food. Living my life in this good/bad dichotomy has meant that I have deprived myself of lots of actual food, or at the very least, deprived myself of any joy while eating them.

Geneen Roth extends such love and non-judgement in her work that I can't help but feel like a flower opening to the sun.  What would it be like to assume that you are doing what you do with food for a very good reason? What would it look like to embrace yourself as you are right now, as a worthwhile attention of your own time, rather than a project and a body that needs to shed 10, 20 or 40 pounds?  What would it be like to change my internal state of being so that the need for extra food disappears?  What if I accept that being thinner will mean that I have a slightly different body but I will still have the same insides that need my attention?  Because, honestly, when I was at my thinnest, I just wanted to be thinner.  It is the quest for this holy grail of happiness that keeps me entirely apart from being in my life in this moment. If I could just get down 5 more pounds....

When I read her words, I feel like I am almost reading a suspense novel.  Where is she going to go with this?  How is she going to get me out of the one?  Where I find loopholes and doubt, she has a needle and thread to patch things back together or a safety net on which I can land.  She is my guide on this dark journey, holding a flashlight and lighting my way.
Here are two passages from Women, Food and God that really speak to me:

"Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic.  The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that you will have a different life.  If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself.  If you torture yourself enough, you become a peaceful relaxed human being."

And this one from a chapter called, "Reteaching Loveliness:"

"Our work is not to change what you do, but to witness what you do with enough awareness, enough curiosity, enough tenderness that the lies and old decisions upon which the compulsion is based become apparent and fall away.  When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop.  When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart.  When the shape of your body no longer matches the shape of your beliefs, the weight disappears. 

You will stop turning to food when you start understanding in your body, not just your mind, that there is something better than turning to food.  And this time, when you lose weight, you will keep it off.  Truth, not force, does the work of ending compulsive eating,  Awareness, not deprivation, informs what you eat.  Presence, not shame, changes how you see yourself and what you rely on.

When you stop struggling, stop suffering, stop pushing and pulling yourself around food and your body, when you stop manipulating and controlling, when you actually relax and listen to the truth of what is there, something bigger than your fear will catch you. With repeated experiences of opening and ease, you learn to trust something infinitely more powerful than a set of rules that someone else made up: your own being."

Roth writes about stepping through the doorway of our issues with food to what is behind them.  Because food is really just the symptom of the bigger problem. The physical attempt to feed hunger is a failed one because, of course, the hunger I am trying to feed is not physical.  I have learned that I have not only deprived myself of real salad dressing and eating cheese but I have have also deprived myself from enjoyment, from rest, from indulgence, from contentment. It is all mirrored with food. I remember being on WW and eating an ice cream sundae without the ice cream (cool whip and diet chocolate sauce and a cherry...sad, so sad) because it was less points. It is like living a substitute life.

I am learning to treat myself with exquisite gentleness, to feel worthy of unproductiveness, to recognize my need to take a break and rest. I have stopped bullying myself.  I sit in quiet meditation and welcome myself back to the present moment 100 times a day.   I'm inhabiting my own body with love and kindness. I have banished self-judgement and extend to myself the kindness I give so freely to others. I live in my moments, even the tough ones, and am not using food or obsession with my body to escape. I notice the desire to eat when I'm not hungry and ask myself what I really need.  I am taking up space inside myself, in my life and not making any apologies. I'm not weighing myself but I would guess I'm staying right where I have been, only I feel so much lighter and freer.

So I'm eating chocolate chip cookies and ice cream (sometimes for lunch but only when I'm hungry) and enjoying them like a starving cast away eating at a buffet.  It is hard to describe the degree of deprivation and judgement I have had around food.  It is such a relief for it to be over. And you know what? Now that the stigma of "forbidden" has been removed and I can eat anything, I find I am more discriminating than I thought.  That two cookies is enough or cheap chocolate isn't that enjoyable and, when I have my own permission to eat them, I no longer want the entire batch.  I tell myself I can have more just as soon as I'm hungry again and the compulsion slips away. 

I feel like I have returned from exile and come home to myself.

The amazing awareness that this journey has brought, and one that is required for it to truly work, is PRESENCE.  Once again, Roth (in When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair) says it best:

"Every day we open our eyes, get out of bed, brush our teeth, eat breakfast, talk to our families, do our work.  And most of the time, our minds are somewhere else. When we get out of bed, we are thinking about something we should have done yesterday.  When we talk to our children, we are thinking about the phone call we need to make.  When we walk to the bathroom, we are thinking about the candy we shouldn't have eaten.  Or want to eat.  Or are going to eat.  Or how great our lies are going to be when we lose weight, or get a promotion, or fall in love.  Every day, in every moment, we spend our lives thinking about what we already did or are going to do, and we completely miss what we are doing.... This lack of attention leads to a tremendous hunger that we can't quite name, so we get fooled into thinking that it's for something we don't have yet instead of for something that is unfolding minute by minute, right in front of our eyes."

Presence is essential to this journey because it is only in the present moment than I can know if I am  hungry, know what I want to eat (or know on a non-physical level what I need), and know when I am satisified.  Because compulsion is about leaving the moment, presence is its antidote.  Being in my body, the body I have been at war with most of my life, paying attention to it in a loving, gentle manner, is the only way to care for live in a real and true way.

 And I know you must be thinking, how do you pull off eating cookies for lunch when you have kids?  Simple. It is called the "free meal".  Once a week we will have meal where each person can decide for herself what she wants to eat. No judgements allowed. (Roth's idea and perfect for our kids who I worry will internalize my food issues.) 

We had our first one Sunday.  As we set the table for crepes and ice cream and a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for Maya, I thought, if anyone who knows us comes in right now they are going to think we have lost our minds.  Then Trish and Brittany came in carrying a chocolate cream pie for us.  Now if that isn't providence I don't know what is. 

I'm pretty sure the kids thought we were messing with them and Ella looked prepared to have us say "just kidding!" right up until the moment she bit into her pie and dug her spoon into her ice cream.


 Chocolate for supper.  No forbidden foods anymore.  Freedom.

So the laundry can wait. The dust bunnies can roll on by. The school can (and always has) function without me. I am stepping off the hamster wheel and placing my feet squarely on the sand to oppose the rip tide.  No one is going to die if I sit in my chair by the fire and feed my soul.  You can find me, all of me, right there.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

52 reasons we love Mommy

I want to tell you about the really cool Valentine's gift the girls and I made for Sandi. 
While Sandi was in Ecuador, we were over at Tricia's (Tia's) house and saw her friend Brittany making one of these for her boyfriend. It is SUCH a cool idea: a deck of cards, a simple ring from the stationary section of Target (plus some decorative paper we had leftover from making valentines) and you have yourself a gift that can hardly contain the love and adoration. All for under $5.
I got the cards all ready by cutting out and gluing on the decorative paper (at 11 pm two nights in a row). Then the girls and I sat down and let the love pour forth.

"We love you because you like apples and peanut butter."

"We love you because you take really good care of us."



I love this one: "We love you Mommy because your smarxt."
Some of my other favorites were: we love you because your bum is so pretty.  We love you because you smell good. We love you because you can bench press us.  We love you because you read to us.  We love you because you play with us. We love you because you look fantabulous. We love you because you smile a lot.

If you wonder how to make a difference in the life of a child, let me tell you what I learned from this: it is pretty simple.  Eat with them, read to them, play with them, adore them, hug them.  We could all use a little of that.

As you might imagine, Sandi loved it. Who wouldn't?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Valentine's Dance

This year being in charge of the school family Valentine's Dance wasn't as terrifying as it was last year when I was the untrained, uninitiated head of the ship.  This time around I was still nervous I would forget something important, that something piece of the planning would be skipped (Did we clear the gym for after school?  Do we have coat racks and hangers to borrow?  Do we have someone to pick them up? Do we have enough food?  How much food did we need anyway?).  But in general as the dance approached I felt fairly relaxed and on top of things. 
And then we got the massive 'nor easter and I had to decide about cancelling or postponing. I had to once again send out flyers again to the 353 students in the school (I had already sent out the initial invite and the reminder just days prior to the snowstorm).  I had to get permission from the school to change the date, call the photographer, contact all my volunteers and take over the food organizing because the mom who was heading it up couldn't come once it was changed.  I basically had to go back and do everything all over again.   Plus the extra week had me tweaking and re-tweaking the dance play list. It is hard to say the hours I spent getting that just right.
I went from relaxed and chilled to a little bit of a stress case. I was jittery like someone who had had too much coffee. Wait, I had had way too much coffee.
And of course, I had signed myself up to make cookies. I know, I just can't help myself.  But can't you see why?
This is what Maya and I did Friday after lunch before we were due at the school for dance set-up:
I just want to say how much I LOVE that Maya likes to help me do this stuff. She takes it very seriously and is so proud of her work.

Well caffeinated and fingers crossed that I had everything I needed, we headed to the school.  I had gotten several emails from people telling me they couldn't make it.  On my way in to school, I passed a mom who apologized that she couldn't stay.  I thought I might cry.  There is simply too much work to do alone. 

Yet, to my amazement,  there was a group of parents there ready to work.   Some had been there last year and knew what to do.  For the others I gave them the lay of the land and told them they had complete creative freedom.  And then, seriously, every time I turned around another corner or wall was done.  It was a beautiful thing. 

I learned a lot from last year.  The tiny lanterns that hung singlely from the suspended ceiling frame that held the unseeable twinkling light inside?  Forget that. We hung the lanterns in groups, saving tons of time and put the battery operated lights on the table.  The tissue paper flowers that hung on a strand of fishing line over the food table? Nixed.  We scattered them on the walls.  We had a couple of parents bring their own ladders since last year that was a lot of waiting around for a ladder  I asked around until I found someone to bring an air compressor so we wouldn't have to blow up all the balloons by mouth like we did last year.  (I had brought my little one that blows up our air matress but it didn't work and we were left to the use of our lungs - that is how committed this group is.)

This year we got all the food donated and spent way less on decorations than last year, which should translate into a bigger profit for the PTO. I try to remind myself that the dance is fun in and of itself, but it is meant to be a PTO fundraiser.  I also got wise this year and asked the photographer to adjust his rates so the PTO could get a portion of his business.  I am anxious to see what the bottom line will be when it's all said and done.

I was enormously grateful for the two moms who hung the disco ball and its accompanying lights. This is by far the one thing that is entirely daunting to me. I simply do not have a brain that can latch on to the mechanics of hanging, mounting and the intricacies of electricity. You can show me how you did it but I likely won't remember for next year.  If you would just hang it and make it work, I will be forever in your debt.

Ashley and Billy, the twins parents, came to help out.  Many hands make light work.
Last year we started the decorating just after school (3 pm) and didn't finish until 8:30.  This year we were done by 6:30.  I was so proud of this group and so grateful for their help.  We had fun, listened to music and laughed.  The kids ate the pretzels and Goldfish I had brought, kicked balls around and ran the loop of the hallway, giggling and sweating and shedding layers as they went.   It makes me feel so blessed to be a part of this school community.

It is hard to show in pictures since it looked best in the dark.

I also want to say a huge thank you to Kohls.  Kohls has this program called the A-team (associates in action) where non-profit organizations that benefit children are eligible for the voluntary assistance of Kohls employees for an event plus a $500 grant.  They came once again this year and are just awesome.  Two women headed up the food table so no parents had to do that and miss their kids at the dance.  Another man, Richard, has come each year from before I was in charge of the dance and has taught me a ton about setting up the gym.  He was quite tickled that I had requested him by name this year.  He was at the school waiting for me to show up the afternoon of the dance, about an hour before his three hour block shift.  I just adore people like him. 
Ella holding the 50 helium balloons our local hardware store, Schact's, donated.  It was fun to hold them. You could actually feel the pull. 

As you can see, the girls had a wonderful time. 

Sandi flew in at 1, visited with us for a bit and then took a quick nap (she'd been up for 36 hours) while we headed to the school for last minute set up.  To the girls' delight she made it to the dance.  It was incredibly rewarding to see all the kids running, dancing, laughing on the dance floor with joy stamped all over their faces.  So many parents thanked me.  And a solid cluster of moms were out there with me dancing to the "YMCA." I also did a little Cotton-Eyed Joe.  But when the flashmob song came on, I held it in so as to not embarrass my child.

When the last song had played, I glanced around at all the hard work on the walls, the ceiling, the tables and sighed as I looked toward clean-up.  But the parents dug in and within 40 minutes the gym was clean and, except for some overflowing trash cans, it looked like we had never been there. It had snowed all afternoon and I dreaded the thought of driving around the back of the school in the dark to unload everything into the PTO shed with my danskos swallowed in snow. My friend Jess's husband Andrew offered to go with me.  He pointed his car so his headlights would shine on the shed, carried the heavy stuff and shone a flashlight so we could see where we were putting stuff. 

Sometimes all you really need is someone to hold the flashlight.

When I came home with arm loads of dirty platters and bowls to be washed and bags of all my own stuff I had taken for the dance, the girls were happily eating at the table with Sandi.  They thanked me for putting on the dance.  The relief I felt was like surfacing from the depths and gasping air into compressed lungs.  Sandi was home.  The dance was over.  I had made it.  I had done it.  And we were all okay. 

Sandi and I stayed up to talk for as long as we could before our burning eyes and dropping lids pushed us to bed.  We were asleep by 9:30 and it felt like 2 in the morning.


Friday, February 15, 2013

I only lost my mind once and it was just for a few minutes

Phew.  I pulled off Valentine's Day without feeling sorry for myself.  Phew I've also almost pulled off being a single mom (entirely single) for the better part of a week.
Sandi has been in Ecuador for 267 5 days.  I am happy to report that I have done a stellar job of keeping thing intact on the home front.  Maya has had a very scary asthma week after she obtained Ella's cold.  Somehow I've managed to make the right calls with medication and intervention and  have avoided any late night airway crises.  (And yes I have about 8 neighbors sleeping with their phones on.)  I have been getting up very early in the morning (4sih) to meet as many of my needs as I can before the girls get up.  I make a fire, mediate, stretch and get on the elliptical machine (new found joy: watching Breaking Bad or Nashville on the ipad while exercising) before they even wake.  I've also been careful not to schedule clients this week and even said no to a few things just because I knew it would be too much. This is a major accomplishment for me.
Thank goodness I have friends like Ange and Emilie who repeatedly send me messages reminding me to do nice things for myself and what a good job I'm doing.   I'm telling you, if you don't have friends telling you things like this you need to go find some.
The day Sandi left the girls and I went to Beals after school to stay overnight with Sandi's family (and for me to work the next day). As nervous as I was to head to rural Maine and away from our ER with Maya, I was so cheered and comforted to be with her wonderful family.  Homemade haddock chowder, and unexpected power outage which lead to an impromptu dance party with my niece and nephew courtesy of my iphone's music library and s'mores for the kids by the fireplace.  Just sharing the worry of Maya's airway with a veteran mom like Patti was of enormous comfort to me.
One of the most difficult things about the week has been an unintended lack of communication from Sandi.  She took a global phone from Verizon with her but, for some reason, in the Andes at 10,000 feet, communication between us was not to be.  She was sending me emails but I wasn't getting them.  After not hearing from her at all, I was worried and upset which added a great deal of stress to this lonely feeling of being at on my own with the responsibility of the house and the girls.
Also, to add further strain,  Ella's Valentine's dance had to be rescheduled to this Saturday because this happened last Saturday:

This means that instead of getting the dance out of the way right after Sandi left, I've had to juggle it along with being on my own this week.  There are lots of random details that go into putting on this dance, especially after you have to postpone it and do some of that work all over again.  However, the postponement also means that Sandi gets to come to the dance if her flight is on time tomorrow so that is the bonus for sure.
So this morning, as I was reflecting on what an amazing job I had done this week and scrambling around to get my day in order (we begin decorating for the dance this afternoon), I let my kids watch the remainder of a movie before school.  This is a rare treat and one that I would have assumed would make them bow in gratitude at my feet.  However when the TV went off, Maya began a lengthy stint of yelling at me about her Barbie. I did not receive this well.  It escalated and came to head with me putting her Barbie momentarily in a snowbank. 
Okay, I am laughing about this as I now write it but it wasn't very pretty at the time.  She finally apologized, I retrieved the Barbie, gave a stern lecture about how it isn't cool to yell and scream at your family over a Barbie (or her surfboard/mermaid tale...yes, this is a true story) and we went to school.  (Thank goodness Maya's teacher is also a wonderful friend and she talked me off the parenting ledge on which I was standing.) I was left feeling confused about whether how I handled that made the point I wanted to make or if I had just made my kids feel afraid for their beloved things and afraid of their mother's temper.
I sent up a silent prayer for single moms everywhere because damn, this is not a job one person should be responsible for alone.  There have actually been times this week, darker moments, when I've thought, I can't believe Sandi has left her children in my hands and thinks I can do this.
In review, an A for the week and a D for this morning.  I guess that's the way it goes.
Back to Valentine's Day, here are the super cute valentines the kids made:
Yes, we have our kids make their own valentines (and yes we help a lot).  The upside is that they express their creativity, they put a lot of thought into it, it is a great project to see from start to finish and so on.  The downside is that when you have 25 kids in your class (Ella) and 16 plus two teachers (Maya), you have to work rather diligently to get them done and you don't really have any steam left over to make some just for your friends or family. 
Maya was all about the "Love, Maya".

Ella was more of the "From" variety.

Sandi always knows how to make things exciting for the girls by setting up the table in some way for special days.  I was proud of what I came up with in her absence.  (It should be said that Sandi also makes all signs with fancy lettering- I have the handwriting of a fourth grader- and this dry erase board sign took me an inordinate amount of time and effort.)  Sandi made the heart valentines with a note for each girl and they each got a gift and a small chocolate heart.

Maya got the Barbie Mermaid Tale movie (of this morning's movie/Barbie drama) she has been pining for.  She has had the matching Barbie for a while and has been desperate to see the movie.
Ella said, "Wow, I hope I get the movie I've been wanting."  I asked her what movie that was.  She shrugged, unsure herself.  She can be a hard one to please.  She got the new Taylor Swift cd.

As part of the plan to not be at home feeling sorry for myself while Sandi was gone on Valentine's Day, I made a plan with my friend Heather (whose husband was also out of town) to take our girls  to dinner.  We went at 4:30 to beat the crowd.  It was fun except that Maya acted like a zoo animal and, while it was okay when the restaurant wasn't busy, I ran out of patience when she began dancing around our table, shoveling pasta into her mouth with her hands and licking the window.  Oh, and between the two kids I had to go to the bathroom 3 times during one meal.  Still, I'm glad we went.  Heather is a wonderful person to have as a friend.

Me and my Valentines.

Sandi comes home in 26 hours. Not that I'm counting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

no back of the bus here

Last week the entire second grade class at Ella's school put on a civil rights play. It is an annual production for second graders and follows nicely on the heels of Martin Luther King Day and a unit they do on civil rights.

Allow me to say that, despite all the concerns I have about Ella being in the mainstream of public school with the big class, the standardized tests and the pressures of conformity, what the second grade team pulled off here touched and amazed me.

We talk to Ella about social issues all the time.  During any particular evening at our house you could overhear a discussion on gay rights, global warming, the need to recycle, racism or the need to be mindful and considerate of those with disabilities.  We had, of course, covered the highlights of the civil rights movement with her (especially during the election last fall) but it hadn't seemed to stick the way it did when she learned about it in school.

For most of January, Ella peppered me with questions about the whys and the hows of segregation and desegregation. I had to talk to her about slavery and prejudice. I had to let some of the real world into her bubble when I told her these awful truths about the world. 

When I was a child learning about war in history class, the Revolutionary War specifically,  I remember being utterly dumbfounded.  The opposing sides marched toward each other in lines and shot guns?  Whoever had the most people left standing won?  This made no logical sense to my child's mind (just as it makes no sense to my adult mind today).  Ella's reaction was the same.  People disliked and even hated each other because of something as basic and innate as the color of their skin?  It hit her very hard when I described that it would be the same if people were treated differently because they had blond hair or brown hair. 

"But that is so unfair," she said, visibly moved.

And what a powerful way to drive the point home to have each of the 5 second grade classes perform a skit about the civil rights movement.  They did "I have a dream" ,the Woolworth's lunch counter where white people threw food at blacks for sitting in the "wrong" seats, and Ella's class got to Rosa parks on the bus.

(The pictures are from way far away and then enlarged so the quality is poor, but you can get the idea.)

In between each skit, the kids sang equality themed songs.

Ella, who looked nervous at times, had a few relaxed moments.
Here is Ella as "bus passenger 1."  Kids could say if they wanted a small, medium or big part (everyone did have to have a speaking part) and she asked for a small one.  She said she didn't know it would be that small.  Here she is on the bus, just in front of Rosa Parks (an incredible performance by one of her classmates if I do say so). The bus driver (in the hat) comes back to ask Rosa to move out of the "white" seat and she refuses.  

 Ella then gives her line, saying, "I wonder what's going to happen" to which her friend Julia (in front of her) replies, "I don't know but I'm not going to wait around and find out" and then they bolt. It was actually quite funny and the audience chuckled, leaving Ella to say later, "I don't get why that was so funny."

And here is Skyler during a song and then giving her lines. She did an awesome job as the news reporter during the March On Washington.

By far my favorite part, second only to Ella delivering her line in a clear, bold voice, was when the entire second grade linked arms and sang, "We shall overcome." I had a moment, a big one, and wished I had a lighter. I worked hard to sit in my seat and not jump up and rejoice, thus plunging my child into social isolation for having the crazy mother.  I was successful.
It was a beautiful play and I was so proud of the kids, the teachers, and our (unfortunately) rather homogeneous community for giving voice and meaning to something that happened long ago but needs to be taught and remembered and never repeated.  These kids are our future.  May we arm them with all the information they need to be fair, equality-minded people.
Who knows, perhaps in a few years when Maya is in kindergarten they would like the gays to come in a do a play on Stonewall and Harvey Milk.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

stellar star

Here is a general snapshot of what the past week has been like:

This is a note that Ella made to catalog the "things that are gone" for Ella and Maya.  After a particularly cranky period following TV watching (after they had been warned about being cranky post TV) I told them no more TV for a while.  This came on the heels of telling Ella that we needed to back off the show Jessie for a while because she was being so mouthy.  As you can see they lost the TV and their two favorite shows: Jessie and Good Luck Charlie.  Ella taped this note to the kitchen wall so that all who came in could see the injustice occuring in our house.

Thursdays are my generally my busiest day of the week. Maya and I are together all day which I love but we have a lot of here and there.  I drop Ella at school, run errands for an hour (usually Target), take Maya to gymnastics, go to Ella's school to volunteer in the classroom and then at lunch. If the weather is nice we stay for recess, get home at 1:15, eat lunch, unpack from the first part of the day and get ready for the second part, pick up Ella from school, then I leave the kids with a sitter and go to work. 

Last Thursday I had had a particularly condensed morning and had made a point to stop and get a coffee to take to Maya's gymnastics even though it meant we might not be right on time. I also hadn't eaten a true breakfast so I had packed a Chobani to eat while I peacefully sipped my coffee and gabbed with my friend Megan about all matters of the world.

I came in to find all the gymnastics moms in workout clothes.  I immediately remembered that it was parent participation week.  I set down my coffee and my Chobani and tried to forget about the fact that I was wearing jeans (the still kind of tight ones that I've been trying to ignore).  I smiled at Maya, changed her into her leotard and got ready for some stretching.

It is really awesome that they do this.  Maya and her other friends were literally beaming to have their moms in their with them.  When it was our turn on the trampoline, Maya showed off her stuff by jumping, landing on her bum and then bouncing up to standing about 25 times in a row.  All the while she was working her strong little body so hard, she had her tongue hung out of her mouth in concentration.  I am so worried she will bite it off, but it has been passed down along the genetic line and I don't imagine there is much to do but apply chapstick to her lips and face every hour.

When it was my turn to get on the trampoline, she sat on the padded step alongside, face in her hands, expectant.  I jumped a few times, cautious of my post-childbirth bladder. She told me to do a straddle so I did.  She almost came unglued that I could do it.  She asked me to do it again and again, causing her teacher to comment that I probably wouldn't be able to walk the next day.  I took a little offense that her teacher thought me so unfit (in my too tight inappropriate for gymnastics jeans) that excercise would render me non-ambulatory.  I did a few more straddles and a pike jump for good measure.

In an unrelated note, Ella's second grade class has a special privilege that each child gets once during the year called "Stellar Star."  It lasts for a week and includes all sorts of perks.  You get to make a poster of yourself to share with the class, bring in an item for show and tell, be line leader each day,  choose a friend to have lunch with the teacher one day, etc.  We knew this would be coming at some point for Ella and, in an act of great preparedness (we had learned our lesson from Emilie when she didn't realize Skyler was the "Shining Star" of her class until Sunday night before school ), we had selected a bunch of photos of her over the years and had them printed and at the ready when we got the notice that the next week would be her week.  (You only have a weekend to prepare the poster.) 

Saturday morning we had a plan to head to A.C. Moore for supplies and take our time working.  On Friday morning my belly was very uneasy, causing me to go back to bed and fear the stomach flu had set in.  Saturday I was still iffy but better, but Maya was complaining about her stomach bothering her.  Sandi had to study all day for a test and I knew if I didn't get the girls to the store, my window of opportunity would close.  We had to start the creative and arduous task of Valentine making plus poster making over the weekend. Maya had just zipped up her coat when she said, "I feel a little like I might throw up."

Please don't think less of me when I tell you that I quickly buckled them into the car and headed for the store before such an event occured.  Ella was freaking out when she saw that I had packed a bowl and roll of paper towels just in case.  Allow me to say that the only reason I took such a gamble was because I had had the same thing and never actually got sick.  But poor Ella was in the backseat, smooshed up against the window and as far from Maya as possible, saying, "If she throws up I am getting OUT of this car!  I will stand outside!  Oh Momma, I can't believe we are doing this!" 

We got in and out of A.C. Moore with no issue and Maya was fine for the rest of the day.  We came home to start Valentine's and I posted this note for the girls (it has been a big post-it note week for us). 
They loved it. When they began to tire we stopped and moved on to something else. But wow they put some heart into those Valentine's.  They made about 8 each (Maya has to make 17 and Ella 25 just for their classmates which is why I started early) and they had paint, glitter glue, multi-layered paper hearts and the like going on.  It was super fun honestly, and if the people that give out gold stars to parents had been making the rounds just then, I would have surely gotten one.
Sunday morning was all about poster making.

And the mystery of the genetic link of the tongue out during periods of concentration has been solved.  Check out Sandi's tongue.

And Maya's...

Ella (and Sandi and I) put so much work into Ella's poster.  She got to pick out the colors, the paper, the stickers and the pictures from the big stack we printed.  It was so cool to see her put her creative mark on something with us only helping in the mechanics. 

For sure, she is our stellar star.
And just one parting story that gives a glimpse into a typical family meal.  Here's what it sounded like:
Sandi, picking up a piece of plain spaghetti: "I could totally thread this through your nose and out your mouth."
Me: "You could? With butter or without?"
Sandi: "With.  Otherwise it might get stuck."
Ella: "Ewww.  That is gross."
Me: "I would let you do that to me to practice."
Sandi: "You would?"
Me: "Sure. After 2 glasses of wine."
Maya: "Pasta?! Up your nose?!"
Ella: "Ewwww."
Sandi: "Well it would burn just so you know.  People don't like the feeling."
Me: "Oh, is it like getting water up your nose? I don't like that feeling at all."
Sandi: "Yup."
Ella: "If you do this I'm leaving the table. Please stop talking about it."

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