Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Heart is Light

I am forever amazed at what keeps me going.

We spent much of the last two days outdoors. On Sunday we hiked and bouldered our way across Kittatinny Ridge at Hawk Mountain, and we skiied Blue Mountain yesterday.

Astonishing that we made two major feats like these in two days. Even more amazing considering the lack of buy-in from both kids at the outset.

Yet, the kids loved the hike and the picnic on the ridge. And both took to skiing as easily as they did to swimming. And even I managed not to break anything in my first foray into the slopes.

But what has me sitting here with a silly, stupid smile on my face was something some one said. Well, it wasn't just any some one; it's some one for whom I have a great deal of love, and I know those feelings are reciprocated. And it's something that makes me laugh, because love is always something that people manage to screw up, misinterpret, read too much into, make too much out of, or otherwise despoil it.

I love my husband. He is my best friend on the planet as well as my favorite co-conspirator. I love my kids; they make me smile, and wondering after them and how their days are going is second nature to me.

And then there are certain select friends that are never far from my thoughts. I love them, too. But it always seems somewhat wrong to declare that--mostly because people tend to get the wrong idea when you use THAT word. It's almost like admission of love is like an admission of sin. Because love, I guess, is that narrowly defined. Sometimes when people say they love some one, they mean something else. Love is a convenient if not abused word that way.

But I always fall back on this:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13 4-8)

In other words, I know it when I feel it. And there is no better feeling in the world to share.

In fact, it really does make all things possible.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In the Presence of Hard Data

Three months later, we receive the evaluations of both boys. I'll share these with the relevant folk next week.

The good news is that the data backs what I already know; there is absolutely nothing in either report that I don't already know about my boys.

The bad news? The plain and simple reality that my kids function at a social play level of 3 year olds (3.7 for the elder, 3.1 for the younger).

In my blackest moments I wonder how either of them are going to survive; in my more enlightened moments, I remind myself we all have issues, obstacles and challenges to overcome.

Sometimes, the hard data, while useful in its own way, fails to account for all of the skills and intelligence that may not necessarily be quantifiable. Nevertheless, it indicates all the areas we need to be working harder on.

At what point, I wonder, do my efforts become enough? Or do I ever get there?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Ah, I'm tired. Had another note from Nic's teacher and he had his semi-annual meltdown. I had just come in from a wonderful walk in the woods, and this waited for me.

Just remember sitting there, shoulders slumping, feeling like it really doesn't take much to take all the fight out of me. Then read a treatise on bullying, which took my shoulders down to knee level.

I also did a cholesterol check, which gave me a reality check. The overall profile wasn't bad, but the pieces need work, and the kids need me to be here a good long time, so I am taking steps to make sure that I am.

Still, despite the punch to the chest, my kids are and will always be my reason for being. I think of them all day long, wonder what they are up to, hope that they are okay and enjoying their days. Sometimes I see them both at different points of their lives, always looping back to where we are in the present day, but always catching myself saying out loud "God, I love that kid." Those kids. Both of them.

So this evening I picked them up and told them that we were walking the mile. They both pushed back, as they do, but gamely walked with me. And Nic was awestruck when a red tail hawk coasted in for a landing right in front of us. He's actually had more up-close and personal redtail encounters than I've had, and all the ones I've had were always in his presence.

He stayed and watched the hawk for a long time. The hawk watched him, too.

We enjoyed the beautiful sunset and the pinks and purples of last light in the park. My favorite time of day with my two favorite people.

I felt renewed enough to clean the kitchen, do a load of wash, unload and reload the dishwasher and cook a meal. Big accomplishment? Both kids at least tried Brussels sprouts.

My days can be long and tough, but I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


God couldn't be everywhere, which is why he invented moms, said some one.

Moms can't be everywhere either, but we try.

Part of the reason I have volunteered for class mom duties was because I want to see what goes on in the classroom--the better to guide and instruct as needed, right?

Yesterday's Valentine's party went mostly okay. Something happened though a few minutes toward the end of the party. Nic was in the back of the room looking for a book and a bunch of boys were around him. They saw me coming over and scattered.

Nic seemed to me to be upset—his face was flushed and his eyes looked watery.

"What's going on, Nic?"

"I was getting a book," he answered averting his eyes.

I asked him if he was okay, and he said he was. "No one's bothering me, mom."

I didn't ask him that question. That he answered that question speaks volumes. He pushed past me to his seat.

I can't be everywhere. But where I can be, I make it count.

Be warned, boys.

At the end of this, I will not look to get a one-on-one aide for Nic.

He will be much better served by a bodyguard.

Game on.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

State of Grace

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. At least, I thought I was trying to figure this out.

This has always been something humming in my background. The Plan when hubby and I got together was that we would both get our doctorates and become academics. That plan detoured a bit when hubby received funding and I didn't. Still, undeterred, I carved out an alternate route for myself while hubby completed his coursework, research, and post doc. Sometime during all this, Nic arrived, and I continued carving out my own niche while parenting him, and later his brother when he arrived.

Hubby continued navigating his own course while I kept the balls in the air with the boys' services and my own work--which never stopped despite continued networking, doctor and specialist appointments, evaluations, IEP meetings, researching education law, brainstorming with my kids' teams. Keeping the balls in the air gradually became more difficult as my children grew and their needs became more complex. The perpetual grind of drumming up work combined with all my life's other demands deadened me.

Which is why the call that came about this time a year ago remains my biggest source of salvation. It called that particular grind to a halt.

Over dinner the other night, and at swim lessons yesterday, the idea of my going back for my doctorate came up a couple of times. And both times I shrugged, asking rhetorically what I'd go back for--I've already done several dissertations' worth of work in the last 10 years.

So in church this morning, as the visiting priest gave his homily (which was amazing--how not to take your spouse for granted, and if you know them like a book, bear in mind it's YOUR book--not your spouse's), my inner voice asked me: "Why are you looking to do something else? Don't you know I've made things easier for you so that you can do what you need to do?"

And of course it occurs to me now as I type this that I said to hubby last night at the end of the doctorate conversation: "You know, I'm their mom, and that's my primary occupation. Everything else," I waved my hand, "doesn't matter."

I said it, and saying it made it true, even though it's been true all along. My first and last job is shepherding my boys to adulthood and giving them the tools, guidance and strength they need to get there.

And everything else--beside the point. However, I couldn't be happier in my current situation--a true gift, to be using my own strengths and helping others find theirs. And I get to use skills I've been honing as my kids' team lead for the last decade--priceless.

Truly, I'm blessed. Even those days in which I may not feel it, I know that I am.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Devil in a Skirt

And if my little faux bird-flipper wasn't enough to give me angina, a friend alerted me that not all was as wonderful with number one son as I was led to believe.

Her son reported--repeatedly--that Nic's been on the receiving end of negative attention from a mean girl who is purportedly supposed to be helping him at lunch.

I spent a good chunk of today on the verge of tears.

I took a longer route home. Picked up the boys, allowed them to lead me around on elevator and movie adventures. Said little. Listened a lot. And then broached the subject about Nic's frenemy with him over dinner.

After vehement denial that this girl would ever be mean to him, he understood the source, what I was telling him, then insisted that he denounce her to all and sundry.

"NO," I replied firmly. "You will be polite, but you will not give her any reason to attack you. Okay?"

He insisted on telling the principal. We compromised on letting me handle it via email and phone with the people who work closest with him. They will be better prepared to deal with the nuances of the situation if they know what's doing. Because apparently, I know something right now that they don't.

Nic promised me discretion. And peace.

I hope he does a better job of keeping his promises than his bird-flipping brother did today.

Tomorrow is another day. I will hope for the best. Because there is no other option.

The Bird and the Bus Stop

It all started at 8:30 yesterday morning with an email from hubby; the subject line read 'your son.'

As the bus is pulling away, G, seated next to a window, flashes a big grin at me and flips me his ring finger. My jaw hits the floor. All the Moms think it's hilarious.

Apparently, not really, but I get ahead of my story.

The laughter that little incident provoked was inspiring enough to produce two encores at school.

I sat G down last night. "Why?"

He giggled. "It was funny. It made people laugh."

I instructed him to look at my face and note that I wasn't smiling. "They might laugh," I replied, "but when they tell their moms and dads what you did, they will not be allowed to talk to you, let alone play with you."

His eyes got big.

"Parents don't let their kids play with other kids who do things like that--is that what you want?"

"No," he answered quietly.

"Funny or friends, G, which will it be?"

"Friends, mom. I promise I won't do it again."

So on the way to the bus stop this morning, I asked him again: "Funny or friends?"

"Friends, mom. I promise I won't do it again."

The cold shoulder we received at the bus stop didn't surprise me; regardless of how 'hilarious' the other parents thought his little stunt was yesterday, we literally had everyone's back today.

I guess some days are like that.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Special Guest Today!

Last year, an old friend convinced me to take part in the Sydney Taylor Book Award tour. I enjoyed it so much, I asked to be a part of it again this year!

This year, Linda Glaser received the award in the Young Reader's Category for Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty. (As an aside, my kids really enjoyed it!)

EL: Linda, I was surprised to read that you struggled as a young reader. How does your struggles as a young reader inform your writing for young readers?

LG: Yes. I did struggle with reading when I was a kid. In fact, I thought I'd never learn how. That may be why I use a clear simple style when I write for children. I was the type of reader who needed that. And now, I want my books to be accessible to all children--including those who find reading difficult. When I do school visits I always let kids know that I struggled to read. I figure there are probably some kids listening who are heartened to hear that I know what they are going through and that there is hope.

EL: As a writer, it's fair to say that your subject matter somehow chooses you, rather than the other way around. How and where did you get your start as a 'professional' writer? (in this case, 'professional' means actually getting paid for what you produce--I believe anyone who writes as a mean to communicate can call themselves a writer!)

LG: I agree that anyone who writes is a writer. I've always felt a passion for writing. Even as a child, as soon as I learned to read, I used those same skills to write. I entertained myself with pencil and blank pad for hours on end. The very first time I was "paid" as a writer was when I entered a poetry contest in my late 20's. Before that I was a closet writer. So it was a huge leap to submit a poem to a contest. I was stunned that my poem won second place. I received a check in the mail for $7. It was absolutely thrilling. I'm pleased to report that since then, I've received larger checks for my writing. However, none have made me any happier than that one.

EL: What particular ideas set the writing process in motion for you?

LG: In college, I took a creative writing class taught by a teacher who only encouraged a few "stars" in the group. I wasn't one of them. By the time the class ended, I was embarrassed that I'd ever thought I could be a writer. However, I still loved to write and couldn't stop myself. So I became a closet writer for many years. Fortunately, I finally found a safe writing class. The teacher only allowed the class to offer positive feedback on the first draft. What a freeing feeling that was! That's when I first began to blossom as a writer. I think that's what still "sets the writing process in motion for me"--allowing myself the joy and freedom to write without being critical of it at first.

EL: What inspired you to write about Emma Lazarus? Or, how did she get your attention as a possible subject for a book?

LG: When I was a girl, I visited the Statue of Liberty with my family. Somehow I knew the famous lines "Give my your tired your poor...." And I remember looking up at the statue and feeling the power of those words. They meant a great deal to me since all four of my grandparents were poor immigrants. I was a young Jewish girl who loved to write poems. So I found it particularly inspiring that the person who wrote the statue's poem was a young Jewish woman. Many years later, when my editor for Bridge to America (my middle grade immigrant novel) encouraged me to write something else that I care deeply about, I realized that Emma Lazarus and her poem were there waiting for me.

EL: What challenges do you face as a writer? Meaning: what are those things that stand in your way when you have a particular idea you want to get across?

LG: The biggest challenge I face is to keep writing despite rejections. Yes. It still happens. I do get rejections. And sometimes I feel like giving up. Fortunately, my love for writing always seems to prevail. I'm most grateful for that!

For the full Sydney Taylor Blog Tour, please visit their site http://jewishlibraries.org/blog/?p=775.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Too much going on

I have an interview that I am due to post in less than 5 hours, but I'll think about that later.

(Yes, a special guest! I haven't done that in a while, so we are due)

I have G sort of bouncing and stimming on the couch next to me; Nic is looking at picture books; even though they are G's books, I prefer him reading to doing screen time, so I'll give it a pass.

My family left about an hour ago; we celebrated mom and Nic's birthdays with a lot of food and a lot of conversation and laughter. As the kids get older, these gatherings get easier, in more ways than one. Everyone behaved and played nice, and that's all I care about.

I'm just chugging along; scouts continues (G placed 5th in the Pinewood Derby last week; Nic shed tears that he did not win a trophy.) Nic had done such a great job helping run the concession stand the previous evening at the fund raiser that he spent more time hanging with his den than with me at the concession stand at the derby--good stuff.

I don't think Nic is ready for Boy Scouts, but we are going to give the local Troop a shot and see how it goes. At worst, it'll give him something to do and keep him out of trouble.

The boys have also joined a bowling league, and as it happens, all seven boys are 'of the tribe' and more or less on the same place on the spectrum. The first meeting went pretty well; the kids had fun.

G's religious education chugs along. I need to make a move with regard to Nic; just wondering how I am going to do it, but I need to do it soon, regardless of the how.

I still like what I am doing, and have taken on some more stuff to learn. I figure it can't hurt.

Feeling peaceful. But very tired.