something right

Do anyone else's kids' homework sessions involve tears? I mean from the kid, not the parent - although I have shed a few in frustration. Today's session with the Bee did. Not that I should have been surprised; she is definitely the most emotional out of the three kids. That, combined with the assignment introducing her to probability (in the first grade, can you believe it?) and a lost-sleep hangover due to a weekend road trip, was no shocker. But it didn't make it any easier, either. She was supposed to write several statements, first about herself and then about her parents, showing events that could happen to her/us, and then write "likely" or "unlikely" next to them. For example:

My mom will eat chocolate tomorrow. Likely
If I put a football on the side of a hill, it will roll uphill. Unlikely

I don't know if she was having trouble coming up with examples, or getting bogged down with all the writing - it was a lot and writing is definitely NOT her favorite subject - or just didn't get it, but she was slowly melting into a puddle of tears and her own self-pity, and her mother really was trying to be patient and understanding and calm, but was also about ready to kick something; maybe the dog. But I remembered some words from my own prayers this morning...something about "please help me to speak kindly to my children, and with love." And I guess this included the dog, because she was spared. (I would never actually kick the dog, I have to interject here.) So I exerted myself a little more, offered loving, supportive, kind words - words about having a choice about her attitude in this tough situation, about how she could choose her reaction, how she could go out and play as soon as she was finished - and then had to remove myself from the situation before I completely lost it, because it wasn't working. I went into the kitchen and started washing dishes, while the little waif mourned her terrible lot on the floor next to the coffee table.

And then, halfway through the nonstick cookware, the crying stopped. Out of the corner of my eye, a little hand picked up the pencil and put it to paper. I remained silent, not wanting to draw attention to it. She was now working on the side of the paper, I knew, that had to do with writing about what her parents were likely/unlikely to do. I thought of past homework sessions which involved frustration on the part of both parent and child and secretly worried that something like "My mom will yell at me..........likely" might end up on that paper, and then what I would do when the teacher called about it, etc. But a few minutes later, she quietly and humbly walked up to me and handed me her homework - all wrinkled, because she had crumpled it up and thrown it on the floor at least twice. "I'm finished, Mom." And I couldn't help smiling. I also couldn't help putting dinner back in the oven for 10 extra minutes so she could go outside for a well-deserved scooter ride with the neighbor kids.

That was when I also sneaked a peek at her work: "Dad will go to werk. Likely. Mom will make dinner. likly."

And then this....

Mom will love me.likely

Guess I did something right today.



I am grateful today for whatever caused me, while I was loading my ipod shuffle Friday night, to place in the midst of Lake Wobegon stories, "Selected Shorts" and "This American Life" podcasts, arrangements of Vivaldi and various songs kifed from Pandora; the song "Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty. It came on at mile 12.5 of my second half marathon, when the wind was in my face and my legs were begging me to "just walk a little bit". And it made me imagine my dh waiting for me at the finish line, singing (okay, thinking; let's get real) those words. And then it made me pick up my feet and make it to the end, Stuntman and Flip and Miss Bee running the last 50 feet right along with me. Thank you.


funerals i have known

I went to a funeral for the husband of a friend in my book club yesterday. It was beautiful and sad, for lack of more expressive terms. But that's just what it was. I didn't know her husband at all, so I was there more for her.

I have been to five funerals. The first two were for grandparents; I was 8 at the first one and a senior in high school at the second, so my degree of understanding differed greatly between the two. The third was for my father-in-law, who died in a car accident, just after we had moved two states away and I was pregnant with Flip. Two of my sisters-in-law were also pregnant, and out of the three cousins that came from those pregnancies, the two boys bear their grandpa's name as their middle name. The fourth was for a child, a funeral I'm still not sure why I attended. They were a family who had visited our church meetings a few times, and they sat behind us, and their kids were little and fun to watch. Their little boy died under suspcious circumstances (involving a caregiver), horrible to think about - I still don't know what the outcome of the investigation was. And this was the fifth.

You can't go to a funeral without putting yourself in one of the many roles you see played in it: the widowed spouse, the daughter/son/parent/other family member of the deceased, the deceased him-/herself. Through all 5 of those I've attended, I've found that even if you don't know the deceased that well, you still react. Even if it's like this one - just watching the strong, tough matriarch of a family of 8 children, weary from dealing with 2 years of her husband's illness and watching his battle unfold, walk down the church aisle on her son's arm behind the casket with her eyes full of tears, still trying to be strong and tough.