Friday

Day 11 of 31

Thank goodness you are here

Oh, how I have missed you

Finally…a time to exhale

Knowing that there are 2 entire days ahead

To do with them what I want

Not worried about time

Not concerned with making sure someone besides me is ok

I love you, Friday, and I will miss you as you depart

But for now, I will enjoy what you have to offer

The promise of a weekend ahead

Nothing Feels Normal

Day 10 of 31

Nothing.

Feels.

Normal.

I didn’t think it would be like this

The impact of disrupted education and socialization

Underestimated by others

Underestimated by me

Teachers, administrators, counselors and nurses

All struggling

Every.

Single.

Day.

Like actors on the grand stage, we pretend

We play our roles to perfection

The audience believes us and in us

More than we believe in ourselves

The curtain closes

We trudge off stage and find a safe place

To take off our masks

Tired from our day of award worthy performances

Now without our facades

Free to reveal

Nothing.

Feels.

Normal.

The Matching Room

Day 9 of 31

Our third daughter was adopted from China.

After completing tons of paperwork our dossier was submitted to the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). Dossier was the word the adoption agency used for a giant folder with copious amounts of notarized items and paperwork that seemed important at the time. 21 years later, I can’t begin to remember what was actually included, but I remember that it took close to a year to collect all that was required.

In addition to all the paperwork, a social worker visited our home to complete a home study. At the time I was nervous when Susan, our social worker, visited but now looking back I don’t even know if Susan was her name. In fact, writing this I just asked my husband and he can’t remember either. However, we both remember something she said to us that at the time we thought was strange, and by strange I mean, we thought she was crazy.

After Susan completed her interview with us and spoke to our other children about becoming big sisters to a baby from China, she collected her things and prepared to head out. As we said our goodbyes she said something interesting. Susan said the matching process in China is truly magical and that each family is matched with the baby who is meant to be and fits their family perfectly. My husband and I both smiled but once she was out of earshot we looked at each other and rolled our eyes. We didn’t think that a magical, meant to be situation would really happen on the other side of the world.

As we waited I did some research about how babies are matched to families. The dossier is entered into the CCAA system. In 2001 this system had two parts to it: Pile 1 and Pile 2. Pile 1 was a bunch folders from parents in the US and Pile 2 was a bunch of folders that contained information about Chinese babies (mostly girls) waiting for forever families. When the match is made an employee of the CCAA takes a Pile 1 folder and puts it with a Pile 2 folder and they become a forever family. That’s it, no miracle, no meant to be. In fact, sort of random, really.

As I continued learning about China, I found pictures online of a matching room. Now I was certain that the matching process was quite literally luck of the draw. Draw a folder from one pile and place it with a folder from another pile-random, not miraculous, and definitely not meant to be. But then…our referral arrived.

After taking a picture of the Fed Ex delivery guy, after all he was delivering my third child, I opened the large envelope to see our daughter for the first time. Six weeks later we traveled to China to meet her. After the first hour of crying she calmed down and took a deep inhale and exhale. She seemed like she was ok with us. I held her and swayed back and forth so she could see herself in the hotel mirror. I fed her a single honey nut cheerio from the stash I packed in my luggage from New Jersey. She put it on her tongue, moved it around her mouth and smiled. Then she let out a faint giggle. I took a deep breath in, a relief filled exhale and immediately thought of what Susan said.

Whatever happens in the matching room is indeed magical, miraculous and meant to be.

Piles of dossiers waiting for their own miracle

Emily’s referral pic
Emily the morning after we met
Emily and her sisters

Mr. or Mrs. Skunk

Day 8 of 31

I like having guests visit my house. There is always a flurry of activity before they arrive. We clean the bathrooms, put the fancy company towels out, make sure that there are flowers in the center of the kitchen island, and put out some kind of snack such as cheese and crackers or chips and salsa. As our guests walk up the driveway, we light candles and pretend that we just happened to have a candle burning, like it’s something we do all the time and not just when company is visiting.

As a planner by nature, I prefer to know ahead of time when guests will arrive. The anticipation is half the fun but last night, without notice, an unexpected house guest showed up. He strolled up to our house, looking all fancy in his black and white attire. Honestly, he looked like he had come from a black tie event. This wasn’t the first time he showed up unexpectedly.

About two years ago he visited us and stayed overnight. I didn’t really want him to stay but by morning he was gone. We never heard or saw him get up but we figured he decided to leave on his own since there was no evidence of him. We just thought he found a new and better place to crash. We assumed that this time was no different. Just a quick in and out, a drive by is what my husband calls it. I was ok with that. I didn’t really want him to stay much longer than a few hours.

As I awoke this morning I realized that our house guest has returned. Not only has he returned, without warning, but it seems that he was relaxing on our deck while eating a snack. Did he clean up after himself? No, he did not! He left what he no longer wanted for me, the mom, to clean up. In addition to the mess he made, he also left a strong scent of what I thought (and hoped) was weed.

I paused and stood there looking at his half-eaten snack and walked to the side of the deck. I noticed some freshly dug holes in the grass that lead under the deck toward the house. It was time to start my busy day. I inhaled deeply. Then I exhaled. Inhale… Exhale…Inhale…It was then I realized that Mr. Skunk has returned this year. At least I hope it is Mr. Skunk since the alternative could be an expectant Mrs. Skunk.

Mr. Skunk’s snack and footprints

Today Felt Like the First Day of School

Day 7 of 31

Today felt like the first day of school… but it wasn’t

March 7, 2022

Even the outside temperature of 70 degrees made it feel like a late summer morning

Students jumped out of their cars with giant smiles

These smiles that we haven’t seen in full view for a long, long time

Some had teeth missing and some had teeth that had grown in since the last time we laid eyes on their mouths

Two years! That’s a long time for a second grader

Two years! That’s a long time for me

Today we went mask optional

It was met with hesitation, excitement, nervousness, and relief

It was met with an exhale that has waited 2 long years

Today felt like the first day of school… but it wasn’t

Back In Sync

Day 6 of 31

We began our day out of sync

Independently…apart

We often run errands together

But this time one stayed home

I tell my students to never exchange texts when they are angry

I ignored my advice

Not by accident

On purpose

So that we are forced to sweep away the eggshells

We commence talking

At first independently…apart

Soon listening and understanding each other

Neither of us is perfect

Even after 3 decades

We both agree

Tortilla Hill isn’t the hill to die on

We begin our climb down

Once we start it doesn’t take long

We order in and choose a movie to watch

We are back in sync

Independently…together

Out of Sync

Day 5 of 31

This week we were out of sync

That sometimes happens after 3 decades

In the beginning we were completely in sync

We were independent…together

This week, we have been independent…apart

I hate conflict so I don’t enjoy this walking on eggshells feeling

Tension from a small argument involving tortillas

I know…it’s not about tortillas

Am I just too dramatic

Is he too sensitive

Is this tortilla argument going to be the hill we die on

That answers the “Am I too dramatic” question

I know how this ends

I have been here before

We won’t die on Tortilla Hill

We will get back in sync

And then we will be independent…together…again

Biggie and Mr. Rob

Day 4 of 31

Like many schools this week, we celebrated Read Across America Week. We ended the week with Friday being pajama day, in celebration of being dreamers. In addition, students were able to bring a favorite book to school to read during a short Drop Everything And Read time.

In the past I have joined different classrooms in order to participate. Today I decided to walk around and take some pictures. I was able to get some great shots of long hallways of students reading quietly. Among my pictures, I was lucky enough to get a picture of our therapy dog, Biggie, sitting and “reading” with members of her classroom. I thought that would be my best picture. I mean, it’s pretty hard to top a dog reading with little children.

I soon made my way down the next hallway and found a scene that topped Biggie. As I turned the corner there were 2 students sitting and reading. As I looked closer, I saw a third person reading with them. It was Mr. Rob, our custodian. Mr. Rob is amazing and he loves our students and they love him. He used to work at our high school until this year, and I’m not gonna lie, I was worried that we were getting someone who was used to older students and maybe wouldn’t understand what our school is all about. That could be a slice for another day, but I’ll describe our K-5 school as having a decent number of high needs students, some with challenging behaviors.

As I looked closer I could see that Mr. Rob was reading the book, Shhh…We Have A Plan. He didn’t have to participate. No one asked him to sit down and read to some of our younger students. I am certain that he had work to do, but he joined in because he saw that he could help these little friends. I’m sure that Mr. Rob doesn’t realize it, but the 15 minutes he spent reading with those students, quite possibly, was the best part of their week. Seeing it, was definitely the best part of mine.

What Happened to You?

Day 3 of 31

I wonder…

What happened to you?

Black and white pictures, found in drawers

There you are, with your brother, smiling and blowing out birthday candles

Were you happy

You looked happy

I wonder…

What happened to you?

A wedding picture…you are a young bride, setting off for your honeymoon with your new husband

Were you happy

You looked happy

I wonder…

What happened to you?

A daughter is born followed by unexpected twin babies dressed in pink.

Were you happy

You looked happy

I wonder…

What happened to you?

Time passed.

What happened to you?

You became angry

What happened to you?

You became abusive

What happened to you?

You became disconnected

What happened to you?

I can no longer ask you that question

You don’t understand communication now

I wonder…

What happened to you?

My mother and her brother

Time, Hard Hugs and Magic

Day 2 of 31

Like every educator I know, our school year started off rough. We had several young students who had some difficulty with self-regulation and eloping. It didn’t surprise us, but let’s just say, it was a lot. It was particularly difficult for our first time, full day Kindergarten friends.

One particular Kindergartener stands out to me. Let’s call her Camila. Camila fought coming into school and was reluctant enough that I would often follow her into the building to make sure she got to her classroom. She walked slowly down the hallway carrying a too-big-for-her backpack to her classroom door. She would hesitantly join her class for a brief period of time, only to decide, and loudly announce, that she was ready to go home. She was done and it was 9:45am. Her teacher reached out to Camila’s parents. Dad responded with, “Good luck. We can’t control her.”

That was September Camila.

If you were to visit my school now, you would not be able to identify September Camila. When school began, someone would attempt to convince her to get out of the car. Do you know how I know that? I am the someone! I am the someone who tried to convince her to leave her cozy mom and enter a room with one teacher per 18 children. It was not the best part of my day.

Fast forward to the present. Camila not only enthusiastically jumps out of her car, but she runs, full force and hugs me-HARD! She runs to the principal, full force and hugs her-HARD! It is the absolute BEST part of my day. It is so much the best part of my day that if I am not able to be at car duty, I make sure I head down to her classroom so I can get a hug from her.

So, aside from the magic that classroom teachers do, what did her teacher do? Well, she gave Camila what she needed.

TIME.

TIME to make connections.

TIME to build trust.

TIME to develop language.

TIME to make friends.

TIME to understand that school is safe.

Time to learn.

TIME.

Her teacher makes magic and changes the lives of these little humans. I know because I see it every day. If you ever want to see and feel magic, visit a Kindergarten class, but be ready. Given the TIME they tend to hug you-HARD.

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