Monday, June 29, 2015

Wrapping up another school year

Here we were on Daniel's first day of school. Obviously, I scrawled that illegible announcement he is holding on a sheet of paper just seconds before, because: Mornings. (I have not mastered them. At all.)

And here we are on Lily's last day of wearing that hideous green and yellow uniform. She refused to take a picture on the actual last day because: 5 going on 2.

And here is the pile of stuff that Daniel brought home the last week of school. 3rd Grade = no joke. Somehow all this very important work was all inside his tiny desk at school, all year. Just about all of it went into the recycling bin. Moms and Dads of Pre-K and K kids take note: all those gorgeously sweet art projects your child brings home from school morphs into this pile of hideous math sheets and test prep guides fast. So if you want cute kid art to frame and decorate your walls Pottery Barn style, save it now, or go visit a friend with a 5 year old.

Lily's school work pile was no joke either, because her school had this notion that they were preparing their 4 year olds for early admission to Harvard. Her teacher actually said that they didn't have time to do holiday projects. So, no Valentines card for you mom, we are very busy learning algebra.  Anyway, those workbooks ended up in the recycling too. Luckily, Lily is one of those kids who enjoys filling out little spaces in little colorful worksheets, so she is no worse the wear. 

And here he is on the last day of school, looking a little puffy from the heat, and a little fed up with mom stopping to take photos of all these momentous occasions.

And so we finished up Pre-K and 3rd grade. Phew! It's funny, both my kids have such poor grasps on concepts of time and calendar that they both talked about what they were going to do at school today until I reminded them that school was over. It's a hard concept: 70 days of vacation. Well, well earned, I'd say!

Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A little bit of sweetness...

Phew. What a week it was been! My News feed is one historic high or brand new low after another... I have, as my minister put it, spiritual whiplash.

And still the days continue. The laundry is done and meals prepared, books read and errands run. The kids swing and twist and climb in the backyard, daring each other to greater feats of dizziness or height. Andrew and I sit in our plastic lawn chairs and watch them, and when we catch each other's eye we know we are both thinking: we are so blessed.

I've had several friends and family members and acquaintances call or write or come up to me to express their sadness, anger or outrage over Daniel being called n---- last week. I'm so grateful to know that there is so much love surrounding our family. Several folks expressed sympathy for the fear I have for my black sons future here in America.

The truth is, I'm grateful for these new feelings. My eyes have been opened. My heart has been broken, and I'm a much better person for it. The biggest obstacle we face as a nation isn't overt KKK style racism (although those guys are certainly acting out in horrible, violent ways. Burning down churches! What could drive someone to do that!?)... The largest obstacle is ignorance. We don't see each others suffering. We think these problems are happening Over There, on the other side of town. I think I used to, before I had, pardon the pun, "some skin in this game."

Well, maybe these latest parade of racially violent crimes will finally get our collective attention. It does seem like we are talking a whole lot more about racism and racial history than we had before. Unfortunately lots of that talk is ignorance and fear pretending to be righteousness and wisdom. 

But I didn't starting writing to bring us all down, again, I came to offer a little sweetness. Which I think we could all use. The bitterest lessons of our history must be tempered by some grace.

Or Peach Cobbler

My new favorite summer treat

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a cake pan. (You can use more butter, if you like)
Slice up 1lb of peaches (or however many you have), and toss them with some cinnamon and a 1/4 cup brown sugar and a splash of lemon juice if you have it.
Mix 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon baking powder in a bowl. Pour over the butter in the cake pan. Do not mix.
Gently pour the peaches over the cake batter. Don't mix. 
Bake in 375 oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the cake has risen to the top and turned golden.
Enjoy warm with ice cream! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

N------, or Let's talk about what happened in the park.

I've been a teacher for many years, and I've found that sadly, there are some kids that are just a@#holes. They are little a@#holes, and they probably grow up to be big A@#holes.

Another thing you should know is that my 9 year old son is regularly mistaken for an 11 or 12 year old. He's big for his age, and muscled and strong looking. He carries himself like a little man sometimes. A little, black man.

Yesterday was the last day of school and to celebrate I took the kids to the park to blow of their end-of-June steam. The sprinklers were on, and it was glorious. Daniel and his best friend promptly took off their shirts and got wonderfully soaked.  Lily raced around and I sat and chatted with a couple of moms I knew. Lovely, lovely.

At one point, I thought I heard Daniel shout. But I didn't see anything.

Then a few minutes later I looked up, and I saw my son - his 9 year old muscles clenched, head down, his broad brown back tense, his steps quickening and his fights tightening as he walked towards another kid- the little a@#hole, whom I knew from previous nasty experiences and who was taunting him with a water gun.

And then I was sprinting through the park, screaming "Daniel!" through this peaceful, happy little park. I screamed, and he came to me and he was safe. I heard mutterings of other parents around me, like "What was that?!" But they didn't see what I saw. They saw two boys having a water fight. I saw my son getting angry and going to hit the other kid. I saw my son (who did not have a water gun) being taunted. In my mind's eye, in an instant, I saw a fight. I saw cops, I saw Trouble. I saw Death.

This is not an exaggeration. This is why I sprinted across a peaceful park screaming. I must have looked insane.

Then the a@#hole kid taunted again, saying, "oooh, your mom got you in trouble." and I shouted at him to "Stay away from my kid!" Then I really looked insane.

I am normally a very laid back parent. My kids get into all kinds of scrapes and "learning situations." They get stuck on the top of the monkey bars. Their water balloons pop early. I don't go running. But my black son cannot get into fights. I've learned, because I watch the news and I know the stats, that black kids fighting is NO.  So I shut it down. I screamed for him and he came (and his bewildered friend). I looked in his angry, exhausted eyes and said, "I'm not mad at you. You are ok. I want you to stay away from that kid."

Daniel's sweet friend (who is not black) piped up, "That kid is mean!"

I said, "I know. Why don't you guys go play over there?" and pointed to the far ball field, which was empty.

They trotted off. I sat down and tried to slow my heart.

Later that night, Daniel told us that the kid had been racist.

I asked him, "Did he call you a nasty word?"

"Yes," Daniel replied.

"Do you want to tell me?"

"NO." said Daniel. "I'm not saying that."

So I knew.

It was a historic day, yesterday. A beautiful, historic day for America, which sorely needed a happy day.

 But in our family, a sadder milestone. Because some kid called my son a n-----er, and I was not surprised, and neither was he.