Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Illustrating a Point - Weston

Do you remember your second grade teacher's name? I do. Her name was Mrs. Whitcomb. I remember little else from my days in her classroom in Somers, New York, but I think she wore her hair in a bun (possibly cool in the early 70s?) and wore skirts. My mom can probably dig up the class photo if I ask her to, but I won't.  

In any case, I wonder now if I could find Mrs. Whitcomb and tell her how absolutely marvelous she was. Or must have been. Mostly because she did not lose her mind and lock us all in the closet for untold hours (surely I would remember if she had? Hmmm). Because I would. Lock us up, that is. Second graders are, simply put, honeybees from hell. They never ever stop moving.

I know this because today I went to the kids' school to watch a presentation by a children's book illustrator named Giles Laroche. I must tell you that I am a frustrated artist--I so wish I had some remote talent like warbling like a nightingale, or playing an instrument, or being able to draw a dog that does not in fact look like a cockroach on meth.  It's just not something I can do. Writing is my only marginal artistic talent. Some days I can write well, other days I write things about bugs on drugs but I digress.

Mr. Laroche, it turns out, has visited and spoken to the second graders in Weston for 27 years. 27 years!! And he rolled in a cart full of framed original artwork and told stories about the books he illustrates, and answered questions about Venice and how much paper he buys in a year and all kinds of other important stuff. He showed how he creates his art, which starts as drawings, then moves to cutouts and painting and he builds up these amazing landscapes and animals out of bits of paper. You can see more at his website.

When I saw him this morning (oh all right, struck with writer envy I stalked him into the library and brought him coffee and helped him move tables--a true children's book groupie, that's me), he was about to start presenting to three of the nine elementary school classes at Weston--about 50 kids in all. All the kids were lined up and led into the library by their teachers, quickly parked into rows in front of the presentation area, and then the presentation started.

During the 45 minutes of the presentation, not one of the teachers lost sight of her 18 lambs. An overly excited kid moving to his knees was dealt with by pulling a sleeve. A snuffly kid was presented with a kleenex. Not once did a teacher check her facebook, her email or her nails. Not once did they make a side comment to the other teachers. 

The first point of my blog today is to tell you that we should all call up our old second grade teachers and thank them. Because as thirty minutes of presentation had passed, the second grader fidget started on one side of the room and passed back again. Like a wave during a professional sports game. One kid rubs his hair with his jacket, turns the jacket inside out and wears it over his eyes (that kid was one of mine). One kid ties and unties his shoelaces. Another one turns his back to the speaker and begins a conversation with the bookshelf. At one point, I could swear I saw every single kid in motion--wiggling fingers, shaking hair, sticking a finger in an ear. It's enough to make you dizzy.

The second point is more of a question. Why would anyone want to be a second grade teacher? Okay, I admit it must have its fun moments--fart jokes and new achievements, reading taking off and the kids probably still need a hug every once in a while. Still, how in the world do you match that energy every day? Times 18? I don't get it but I am in awe of it.

The third point is that illustrator/author talks are cool. More please.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I've Got Nothing - Natick

So it's getting cold here in New England. We got BH some winter boots at REI today which is where I pulled this wackiness off the sale rack. Why yes, it is a down mini-skirt. 

I've searched for something else to say here, but I've got nothing.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Who and What It's All About - Weston

Last night my kids fell asleep in my room late at night after a Saturday evening blowing up soccer balls for party favors and watching bad kid sitcoms. Both of them prefer still to sleep in my room on the carpeted floor rather than in their shared bedroom. They are sharing out of preference--we have a room for each, but they are scared since moving here of sleeping alone.  The separation anxiety is worse for one than the other--he will follow me from room to room, always calling out if I disappear for a minute into the laundry room or bathroom. He is terrified of being lost, even in his own house. 

As I do most nights, I woke in the middle of the night, anxious about various things. I gave up sleep after a bit, and turned on my light. I had forgotten for an instant that the twins were in my room. As I looked down, there was my son who had spent his first five years of life as a complete dinosaur obsessive. He knew the names of about 40 dinosaurs, knew their eating habits, their tracks, their eras. His favorite was triceratops, and his frequent companion was Triceratopsie, a green tri- he had chosen at the Field Museum of Chicago one Christmas. Sadly his love for dinosaurs started to diminish in the last year until at the age of seven, he loves them out of habit, not depth of feeling. 

Last night he chose Triceratopsie from the 10 or so stuffies on his bed, and here he is, curled up around his favorite, sleeping like an angel on his dinosaur pillowcase (mom is cheap and has not upgraded to Pokemon or Avatar or whatever) having read his dinosaur book. He sleeps on top of a quilt I had made from his infant rompers--a lovely Brazilian woman made one for each twin-- and tucked into a zebra blanket--his favorite animal from safari last year.

My kids turn 8 on Friday. I am filled with love and regrets for this fact. Let's be honest here--the first three months here have been filled with intense joy, huge changes and great learnings. And sadness--separations from close friends, from the only place they remember in their consciousness, and from their father, who spends more time in Brazil than in the US. For now. Hopefully he will be with us more often shortly. And I've been stressed out--yelled a bit more, lost my patience countless times, and cried tears of frustration for not being able to do everything I want to do.

So what is this move all about? Why are we here? We are here for me and for them. I still feel like I can be a better person here in the US than I was in Brazil. I don't know how to explain that. I am happier here and more relaxed. We are doing the best we can, and it's not half bad. 

When we adopted our dog Coal a month or so ago, the foster coordinator said to me that I needed to set him up for success. As in don't leave him alone outside the crate and then have him eat the couch. Then you won't want to keep him. Don't let him off-leash in deer country--he may run after them.  How do you set your kids up for success? Let them sleep on your bedroom floor (don't worry Nana, I'm not on my way to Chicago). Let them wear their Brazil shirt four days out of five. Let them explore the wild without saying "watch out, there are ticks in the woods!"  I'm letting them be.

And celebrate eight. Happy birthday, my little Brazilian-Americans!