A Final Slice on a Day of New Beginnings

Changed. Transformed. Grown. Reborn. Today brings about two new beginnings. Easter and it’s rejoice and celebration of our Lord. And the final slice that is really a beginning as well. I always had ideas in my head and in the last 31 days have put them down on paper much more than 31 times. Some are just waiting to ripen into a future slice down the road. I can’t wait to watch them grow.

Easter has always been special in my family. For the obvious celebratory religious reasons that humbled us as we rejoiced in church, but also for the baskets. My parents looked at Easter as an after Christmas celebration. The birth and the rebirth. As a result, they CELEBRATED Easter. We would come down the long staircase rubbing the sleepiness out of our eyes and immediately set out on the hunt. The hunt for baskets.  Always hidden in some clever location. For a few years anyways. Then the baskets got too plentiful to be hidden. One of my favorite pictures is me with my bed head perm and giant grin encompassing my face, standing next to my new, super cool, just had to have it, scooter. I rifled through the rest of my basket, chocolate, eggs, gum, suckers, dots, bunnies, beans, and trinkets and then hit the driveway, still in my Garfield nightgown to feel the wind in my hair. Every Easter that followed was pretty much the same: basket, candy, and the piece de resistance:  large outdoor babysitter.

Easter now is different/same. We dye Easter eggs together. In my memories, it took the whole evening, creating the perfect array of colors and the one butt ugly egg we would save for my dad: speckled and brown from being dunked in every color for at least 5 minutes. I still have no idea why he loved that egg so much every year when he came home. Now, the egg dying takes about 5 minutes total. Dunk. Wait 5 seconds. Pull out. Done.

We still get baskets from my mom, but now I get to impart the same joy on Maddie as she comes down our short staircase, rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes to feast upon the spread that the Easter Bunny has delivered. I don’t hide because that moment is just too precious to watch.

We go outside to hunt for the eggs that said bunny hid all over the yard. A tradition carried on from my husband as my mom must have been too drained from making our baskets that we never did egg hunts as kids. I have no memories of this but my husband recalls searching for hours to find each egg and coming to blows with his brother over the number of eggs each scored. Now, I swear Maddie hunts them all down within 10 minutes even the hardest ones you can’t even see with your naked eye. It’s like she has egg sonar guiding her.

It makes me wonder if years from now she will look back on the endless memories of Easter and recall how precious and long-lasting they were. She’ll retell stories of endless searching, meticulous dyeing, and bountiful baskets. She’ll argue accuracy with any future siblings that will someday join her. And in my heart of hearts I look forward to the day that I get to see her pass on our traditions along with starting new ones  with her own tow-headed brood.

Let’s go see the ducks!

Small bits of green are peeking up through the surface of the ground. They’re fighting their way past the leaves and gunk left over from fall. It’s a sign that spring is arriving at last.

Today I got to experience another sure fire sign of spring; a trip to see the ducks. This trip starts with the first hint of green and lasts until the oranges and reds make their appearance. It is a time that gives us a break from the daily grind and opens the door to a world of simplicity, a world of nature and its bounty.

It starts when the ducks first come back and take over the lagoon. The geese are quick to follow, honking and bullying their way around the folks that come to catch and release any of the fish I’ve never seen. We start in the wagon at the end of our driveway, the anticipation building. Down the street we wheel, estimating how many ducks, geese, and frogs we will meet on our way around.

Once we arrive the exploration begins. We park our wagon and walk, hand in hand, transformed into scientific observers. My favorite time falls in two parts. The first is when we spot the frogs, swollen, huge, and green. Lying so lackadaisical that you can almost pick them up. The second is after those frogs seemingly disappear and are replaced with countless babies. They perch themselves on the edge of the water and wait until you are about a foot away before they leap another foot through the air and splash into the water, legs splayed in every direction. It never fails to bring a gasp from me and a belly laugh from my compantion that echoes out over the water and prompts the next three babies to take that same leap.

This daily meandering around the lagoon is a time to explore nature. But more importantly, it is a time when it is I to Maddie, mom to daughter, hand in hand, scientist to scientist. As she grows older the noticings change but the anticipation, appreciation, and wonder keep building and before I know it, each day I’m relishing in the words, “Mommy, let’s go see the ducks!”

Maddie writes today

“What should mommy write about Maddie?”

Yeah, that’s the level I have sunk to today. Asking my three-year old what to write about. As if she were my muse and will place in my lap the perfect topic. The best hook that will grab anyone happening to stop by this morning. I’m a bit of a skeptic. But let’s give it a try.

So, what should mommy write about?
LMNOP!!!
And what should I say about l, m, n, o, and p?
Q!!!!!

Hmmm… can I work with this? Someday. Here is Maddie’s version:

L is for lion
M is for mouse
N is for narwhal
O is for owl
P is for penguin
And Q is for piggy

In case you’re wondering. Piggies have a “quirly” tail.  And yes, we have a game that has three-year olds naming narwhals.
It’s good to be home.

Airport Musings

I remember flying years ago and feeling the unspoken “travelers code.” People helping people, striking up conversations, a sense of camaraderie with everyone heading somewhere for something. Together but separate.

Today I am unsure if my own self has changed or if everyone else has. You can still find helpers and the occasional conversationalist. But it really is every man for themselves. Nonetheless, I find that taking a step back (or slide back into my chair) at the airport can help to widen my view. Now that I am a writer, things appear a little differently. Possibly. Now I see…

The yo-yo master and son, sending the ball on string flying through the air and back again. Over and over. To whittle away at the time.

The children racing here and there, to and fro. Giggling, laughing, stopping in their tracks to stare wide-eyed at the giant planes.

The parents silently cheering them on please go. go. run off some energy. While peeking at each of the travelers around them to gauge who will be a kid friendly ally on board.

The young pregnant woman flying alone, wringing her hands as she sits.

The family flying together for mom’s 60th birthday. Excited, loud, boisterous, laughing, joking. Fun.

The husband giving up his seat to a stranger so that she may rest her body.

Despite the hustle and bustle and frantic pace. Despite the every man for himself idea. There is still a traveler’s code at the airport. You just have to look for it.

All Used Up

I have a secret. Do you? Is there anything you hold close that you don’t want prying eyes to see? I do.

I am a teensy bit Type A. That’s not my secret. Most people can tell you that about me. I color code my color coded binders. I have turned down a lovely chair for my classroom because it didn’t fit my color scheme. I once brought my husband to my classroom to get it ready for a guest teacher when I was stricken with the flu. I didn’t send him. I didn’t have him drop things off. I went with,  grasping a bucket in my armsJust a teensy bit Type A. See?

He’ll still weave an awestruck tale of how I sat in a chair with my head down on the table directing him to every file, paper, book, and supply my guest would need for the day. It was as if she was one with the classroom and it was amazing. Is what he says. Or I say that he says.

In reality, he placed his hands on his hips and said, “Well, this explains your car. You use up all the good at school and then there’s nothing left.” Now, I take great offense to that statement. However, I reluctantly admit that this little story has now arrived at my secret. Brian knows my secret. As does anyone that has ever had to wait impatiently outside the passenger door of my 2003 CRV for me to shift the most UN Type A mountains, to make room for their behind.

So I suppose it isn’t as much a secret as I would like it to be.

No matter how type A my life can be, my car somehow manages to escape my wrath. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my inner rebellious teen fighting to get out. Who knows? In my state of denial, I consider it a piece of abstract expressionism. If you squint and turn your head just so, a little Jackon Pollock comes through. Brian and his bold faced lies tell another tale.

Naturally, I prefer my version. So the next time you find yourself waiting outside my car door, take a little time to appreciate it.

Auntie What’s Her Name

I live too far away.

My niece tells me when I arrive. While we are in the midst of our grand first hug. Three days in and I confirm in my heart what it didn’t want to admit. She is right. This is how I really know.

Catie is 12 and Em is 10. And oh, the memories we have! The visits much more plentiful when funds were freely flowing. It never seemed really so far, the distance between Chicago and San Diego. A quick hop on the plane and boom, hugs and love abound.

This time is no different. There are definitely hugs and love abound. But B.

B is only 4. She knows me. But she doesn’t know me like the other two do. I’m that fun stranger that she knows belongs here because she knows I’m her mommy’s sister. She’s free with her affection, like she is with all.

She calls me Auntie. It’s cute. It’s what comes after it that lets me know I live too far away.

Auntie
Auntie Ingi
Auntie what’s her name Emma?
Auntie Sara
Auntie Mommy’s Sister
Auntie

I remind myself that all of them are love. Ingi is my aunt. Sara is her nanny and my cousin. I am her mommy’s sister. I am her Auntie.  I know the love when I walk in with my sister and she comes running across the room past my sister, shouting Auntie, and launches herself into my arms. I know the love when we go somewhere and she proudly tells them that this is HER Auntie. I know the love when she lets me eat the ears off her chocolate bunny when everyone knows it’s the best.

I know that she’ll use the Kim that defines me as the aunt that is her mommy’s sister. I know that. I know it doesn’t truly matter because she feels my love and I feel hers. I just know that when I leave, the Kim will fade and I will be Auntie again. To rebuild the next time I see her.

I live too far away.

A Poemy Monday Tumble

Sometimes you write for others, sometimes you write for yourself. Whenever you write, it helps someone’s soul heal through laughter, tears or any other emotion that your words grasp on to. For each it is different. I’ve been gearing up for this last poetry Monday and it has not been easy. I have so many half-finished snippets of poems, they could fill a notebook on their own. But this morning, I write for someone else.  She needs it more than I do today. Funny how when the moment is right, the words just kind of tumble out. Here’s my tumble:

Heartache

A relationship that cannot be
is the worst kind of pain.
She wishes she could see
what is causing the strain.

People come between their love
and she’s slowly giving up.
When she finds it’s a useless cause
to try and save the relationship.

The pain it causes, she cannot bear.
She knows she has to let him go.
When all she wants to do is hold on dear
to the love that will soon be no more.

She knows she must set him free
but it hurts her so much.
Maybe someday she’ll see
that he didn’t deserve her loving touch.

 

You Said

The other day you said you loved me,
but when I looked into your eyes,
the fire that used to be
wasn’t there.

You said you’d always be there for me,
but when I looked
you had seemed to disappear.

You said you’d never leave me
but now I’m all alone.

Then another came along
and said the same you did.

And when I look into his eyes
the fire is really there.

And when I look around
I’m no longer alone.

The other day he said he loved me.

And when I looked,
I could see the flames.

Tweaking your identity

There are so many facets to an identity: home, school, work, family, friends, the list could go on. I’ve had a myriad of roles within each during my lifetime. But for the last 13 years I have owned just one in my work life: Teacher. And it has been great. My kids have made my life richer. They have challenged my mind but never my heart. I’ve loved them all, even in their most tangled of selves.

Starting as Miss P in Room 23, I was terrified of being in front of these kids. Would they like me? Respect me? Learn from me? Have fun in my classroom? Remember me when they left? I’m not sure how much that class actually learned from me, brand new teacher, but I have a file that holds a faded orange card from my Carletta “Blueberries” telling me that I was the most fantabulous, wonderful, and exceptional teacher she’d ever had. All these years later, I believe the same about her. I’ve had student after student come through the door of Room 23 and Room 14 for the last 13 years. Some are more clear in my mind than others, but the impression that they all left as one of “my kids” forever sticks with me, and I hope with them.

During the last few years especially, my teaching has changed. It has become so much more about us than me. The students, their families, my colleagues, and me. That’s the us. Together we have made amazing changes and have grown so much that I am continuously thankful for all of them. They teach me every day about the value of inquiry, curiosity, listening, love, questioning, caring, camaraderie, laughter, and heart.

As I tweak my work identity and leave my classroom behind, a little bit of me fears losing a piece of what makes me me. I am a teacher with a classroom. It is who I am. I tell myself that I will still be a teacher and that the best parts of my identity will only be made stronger now: inquiry, curiosity, listening, love, questioning, caring, camaraderie, laughter, and heart. I’m ready. I think.

punschtorte

The pink cake. Enticing. So pink. Smooth frosting lovingly applied. So Pink. Cherry topped. So pink. It still graces the table of every family gathering of even the slightest significance. We would steal into the fridge and under the lid of the cake holder to snag a cherry off that pink cake.

Did I mention it was pink? Naturally, in anyone’s sane mind, a cake that was pink, Pepto Bismal pink no less, must taste delicious. Then you top it with cherries and suddenly it is delectable. Right?!!?

WRONG

This was not your average pink cherry topped cake. It was punschtorte. Recipe passed down from great great grandma to great grandma to grandma to mom and never ever to me after that first fateful encounter. After that day it was henceforth known as crap cake. Very eloquent I know. But, with your mouth salivating, you watch the knife glide through the first cut, the second, and scoop a piece up. The elation simmers a bit and you’re wondering why the inside looks so funny. Hmmmm… not at all pink but instead this strange creme color with some sort of concoction mixed with god knows what, thrown in the center. The outer appearance  keeps pulling you and you place that first bite hesitantly into your mouth. And BLECH…out it comes. After one chew of it you find yourself spitting it out on reflex.

The family is staunchly divided between punschtorte lovers and crap cake haters. It’s a big fat thick dividing line. Never does one dare to cross over. Whenever someone enters our family, the Crap Cake initiation takes place. Which side will they fall on? The lovers slice that cake and savor bite after bite. The haters enjoy a nice, normal chocolate cake, or better yet, a pink cake that tastes like a pink cake should.

 

Somewhere between excited and coward…

Somewhere between excited and reluctant to leave, I sit here a liar and a coward.

This Sunday I get to scoop up my Catie upon my arrival in San Diego. The Catie, Emma, and Bridget pieces of my heart are elated. But the Maddie piece of it is crying out, “what about meeeeeeeeee?”

The piece of me that is walking around in this world is excited to spend time with her grandma while mommy is “at work.” And that is how I become a liar and a coward. I’m not telling Maddie that I am flying across the country to spend time with her cousins and auntie. I feel like I’m betraying her and going to play mommy to someone else’s kids. How do you explain that to a three-year old?

So instead I put her in the loving arms of her Grandma and leave her in the loving care of her Daddy. But they aren’t mommy.

She needs her mommy, right?

But Catie, at 12,  needs some Aunt Kim love as she puts up her walls and tries to be strong. And Emma, at 10, needs some Aunt Kim love as her life falls apart at the seams. And Bridget, at 4, needs some Aunt Kim love because, well, she just wants some Aunt Kim love.

Aunt Kim can help make things seem like they aren’t really changing so much. I can help them feel like they are the center of someone’s world. I can hug them and love them, and give them tickles, and bring some fun to their rapidly changing life right now.

And Maddie, she’ll be loved with abandon for five straight days. Even if it isn’t mommy. She’ll be at the center of someone’s world too.

Everyone wins.