Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I wonder what people think when they see her.  Kyra, my fashion queen, wearing the big red hoodie.  And by big, I mean huge.  Made for someone who wears an xxl.  Made for a man over six foot tall.  The hoodie is fleece-lined and warm,  Kyra says "it's like a hug".  A hug that drapes her from the top of her head to below her knees.  Sleeves hang half-empty, one with a cigarette burn on the cuff. She's never smoked.  She's eight.

Kyra wears the hoodie every day there is a chill in the air.  Sometimes she wears it even if it's warm outside. She wraps it around her when she sleeps at night. She snuggles in it when she watches TV or reads a book. I asked her if I could borrow it one day and she refused.  "This is mine" she said "get your own jacket", not maliciously, but defensively - this hoodie has become her security.

So I really do wonder, as I send her off to school in the morning, hugged in the big red hoodie, what do people think?  Do they think I can't afford to buy her a jacket that fits?  Do they think I'm a careless smoker who accidentally burned her daughter's too large hoodie?  Do they think I picked it up at a thrift store thinking it would fit her?

And I wonder what people would say if they knew the truth.  If they knew that the big red hoodie belonged to my dad.  Kyra's grandpa.  Her best buddy.  Her partner in a mutual admiration society.

A few weeks before my dad died he told Kyra and Blaine "Don't you worry about me, I've had a good life. Don't you be sad about me.  You go and live and laugh and enjoy life."

And mostly Kyra does, but on days when it's hard or she's sad she wraps herself up in grandpa's hoodie and feels his hug and knows his love.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Between

Blaine started middle school this year - those hellish few years in between elementary and high school. The years when you lose control of your body and mind. Your feet get too big for your legs and you trip over everything. Your face erupts with oil and pimples. Your sweat starts to stink. If you are a boy, you spend the next few years with your shirt untucked in case, well, you need to hide things that make you want to say OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED STOP STOP GO AWAY.  And you spend so much time thinking about the growing feet, oily face, smelly pits, untucked shirts that you tend to  be confused and surly and just so damn emotional. And NOBODY understands.

Middle school is rough, no doubt.

But it's even rougher when you are the geek, the nerd, the picked on, the bullied. Blaine spent much of his elementary school years as the outcast. He doesn't quite fit. He genuinely likes school. Wants to be there. Loves talking to teachers. Strives to make good grades. He can talk politics, social change or video games. But most of his peers only like the video games. They don't want to listen to him talk at length about MLK Jr. and marriage equality and the documentaries he's watched and how he plans to change things when he's president. He's just different. And he's mostly ok with it - in fact he uses his experiences as a bullied kid to help others.  But, still, he realizes that his differences make him a target. And he has a hard time accepting that everyone doesn't want to be his friend.

So, my hope for this year? That he becomes an in-betweener.  The kid who falls through the cracks of the social hierarchy. That he be neither the bullied nor the bully. Instead, I hope that he will be that kid that everyone knows but doesn't pay that much attention to, positive or negative. I'm crossing my fingers that the kids who liked him in elementary school continue to like him. And I'm praying that the kids who picked on him and taunted him and pushed him around are so busy with their own changes and confusion that they ignore my son. Please. Middle school is hard enough. Please let him be an in-betweener in these in between years.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Accelerated Reader

Do your kids have to do this?  Blaine does.  Basically AR is a program that assigns reading levels and point values to books.  Kids in the school system here, and elsewhere, are compelled to read so many books, or for so many points.  Every time they read a book, they take a quiz. If they pass the quiz with a perfect score, they get the total amount of points assigned for that book (anywhere from .5 up to ??  I have no idea what the top end of the scale is, but I have seen books worth 40+ points).  If they pass with less than a perfect score, they get a percentage of the points assigned to each book.

Last year, in third grade, Blaine had to read a certain number of chapter books and picture books and pass the tests each 9 week grading period.  This year his teacher is doing it differently.  This year he has to accumulate 10 points each grading period.  This is not a problem for him because he reads all the time.  But he wanted to try to scam the system, and only test on a few books each 9 weeks to make his 10 point goal and then wait to test on other books he had read the next 9 weeks.  His teacher and I discussed this and it was made clear that the points are cumulative, i.e., Blaine has to reach a total of 40 points by the end of the year.  It doesn't matter if he does them all in the first and second grading period. 

So, this led to a discussion about books and testing between Blaine and I.  And what we ended up with was a challenge.  I challenged him to test on everything that he reads that is an AR book (not all books are AR rated).  If he does that, he should easily reach over 100 points by the end of the year.  I told him that if he reached 100 points, I would give him 100 dollars.  His response?  "Oh it's on like Donkey Kong".

I am not a fan of AR.  I think it sucks the fun out of reading for many, many kids.  Kids who come into the library who don't care what the book is about, they only care if it is short and worth a lot of points because they have some arbitrary goal to reach or they will get a bad grade.  Kids who have to read a science fiction book or a realistic fiction book for it to count.  What if they don't like those genres?  And what about the teacher who doesn't let a fantasy book (like Harry Potter) count as science fiction?  It's all so regulated and I would HATE to have someone regulate what I'm allowed to read or how much I have to read. 

But, as it's a necessary evil here, I decided to make it a challenge for my kid.  Because 40 points for him isn't a challenge.  He hasn't even really been trying this 9 weeks and he's already over 16 points.  Blaine has decided he wants to chronicle his "quest" as he calls it, so I helped him set up a blog of his own.  If you (or your kids) are interested, it's here.

I'll be saving my money, because I have a feeling I'm going to be shelling out 100 bucks at the end of the year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living with an old soul

I live with an 80 year old man masquerading as a 9 year old boy named Blaine.

Yes, sometimes he is juvenile - but as my grandmother used to always say "once a man, twice a child".  Which, in a nutshell, means that old men act like 9 year old boys.  Or at least my 9 year old boy.

Blaine is different.  He is a dreamer.  Lost in his own head quite often, able to focus with such intensity on something - a book, a video game, a tv show, that all else is lost to him.  Loves Hot Wheels cars, Wimpy Kid books, and tossing a football around in the backyard.  On the surface, he seems like other boys his age. 

But then you talk to him.  Hang around him for a day or so.  And you will know how different he really is. 

Blaine makes pronouncements that baffle me - in  a good way.  I always stop and wonder how he comes up with the stuff that he says.  What kind of thought process is going through his head when he thinks these things up.  I've mentioned before some of the things he has said.  God's Beard.  Mother's Day. Race Relations.  His heroes are not sports stars.  His heroes are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.  He despises litter and picks up trash all the time even as I cringe and tell him to put that nasty thing back on the ground for God's sake!  He just looks at me and tells me that he has to care for the earth. (Now, if only I could get him to care for his room like he cares for Mother Nature, but one doesn't seem to translate into the other).

He woke up the other morning at 4:30am.  Came into my room and woke me and told me that he couldn't sleep because he swore he heard footsteps in the house.  I told him there was nothing to worry about and sent him back to bed.  He went, but he didn't sleep.  When I woke at 6, I hopped in the shower and then headed downstairs to find that Blaine was dressed and ready for school.  He had even made his own breakfast.  Then he said he wanted to show me something.  He took me by the hand and led me in the dining room and on the table was breakfast for me.  He made me a bagel with cream cheese while he was making his own because, he said, that he knows I spend school mornings getting him and his sister fed, lunches packed, permission slips etc signed and that I often skip my own breakfast.  So, he wanted to take care of me since I do such a great job of taking care of him and Kyra.  He even made sure to toast an onion bagel for me instead of the plain kind that he and his sister like.

Stunned doesn't even begin to cover my reaction to this.  Even though this is not an unusual occurrence and it shouldn't be so surprising.

Same day I picked him up from school and he tells me that while the "extended day" kids (of which he is one) were outside playing a woman came by with a baby in a stroller to take a walk around the school track.  Blaine loves babies.  He loves to coo at them and pat their heads and tell them how cute they are.  He tells me that before he walked away from the mom and baby - and I have no idea how old this baby was, but from Blaine's description I'm guessing somewhere in the 6-9 month range - he leaned down into the stroller and told the baby "Kid, let your own feet be your guide into the world and be true to yourself.  Be a leader, not a follower and never let anyone bully you". 

Again with the stunned reaction.  Because, really, what 9 year old boy says these things?

My 9 year old boy.

His name is Blaine and he has an old soul.  I'm blessed to know him and I can't wait to see where his feet lead him.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Hello Blogworld!  I did not forget, I have just been, well, lazy.  Slacking.  Or, as I like to try to justify it, I've been too busy with "REAL LIFE" to post anything.  Yeah, that sounds good.

So what's new?  I now have a Kindergartener.  Kyra is a bus-riding, backpack carrying, lunch-packing student.  And she loves it.  This kid loves school.  Loves to learn.  She is impatient when it comes to figuring new things out.  She wants to read so badly that she gets mad at me if I help her figure out words.  She wants to be able to do everything that her brother does, and she wants to do it better than he does.

The week before school started, Kyra asked me if they would teach her how to tell time because she wants to be able to do that.  I told her they would and then, while helping Blaine do some online math skills that he was assigned for the summer, I saw that the website he was logged into also had math skills for pre-K and Kindy.  I looked through the topics and saw that in the Kindy skill sets there were units on telling time.  I asked Kyra if she would like to try them.  She flew to the computer and said "YES!".  I explained the long arm and short arm of the clock and what they stood for and started the lesson.  She aced it.  Less than 5 minutes of explanation and she just had it.  No problem.

Kyra learned to tie her shoes the first time she was shown how.  She taught herself to double-knot her shoestrings because she didn't like them coming undone.  She learned times tables because Blaine was learning them and she just hung around and listened.  She taught herself simple addition one day when bored in the back of the car.  It was surprising, to say the least, to have her call out "Hey mom, did you know that 2 plus 2 equals 4? and 4 plus 4 equals 8?"  I complimented her teachers at preschool the next day on advancing math skills so quickly and their response was "Um, we thought you were doing flashcards with her at home...we didn't teach her that".

My brother was like this.  He could grasp new concepts and ideas quickly, with a minimum of explanation.  Now, I'm no dummy, but I have to study and work hard to learn new things.  I was a good student, when I put the effort in.  My brother was a horrible student because learning didn't require effort on his part and he got bored.  I don't want Kyra to get bored.  I ask her everyday when I pick her up how her day was.  She is loving it, but she also says things like "We reviewed the alphabet and the letter sounds but I already know them" and "We are doing numbers but I already know my numbers".  She wants something NEW.  Something she hasn't already learned.  She wants to be challenged.  But because she has the ability to grasp new concepts with one try she is always ready to move onto the next thing, impatient to learn and master as much as she can as quickly as she can.

It's going to be fun.  And exhausting.  And amazing. Pray for me. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Reading

In the past 2 weeks I have been able to read and read and read.  Oh, and watch seasons 5 and 6 of The Office, but that's beside the point.  Since I am not inspired to write about much right now, I figured I would make a few suggestions of books that are awesome.  Keep in mind I work in Youth Services, so many of my book recommendations are heavy on the Juvenile/YA spectrum.  Bite me if you don't like it.

1. Bumped  - Loved, loved, loved this YA book.  It is set in the future and like the Hunger Games, it is a dystopian society.  Unlike the Hunger Games, it is not filled with blood and gore.  The premise is that all females become infertile at the age of 18 and so it is not uncommon for girls to "go pro" and enter into contracts with families to conceive and give birth to babies in return for college tuition.  There's a lot more to it than that, but I could not put it down.  Luckily, it is the first in what looks to be a series.

2. Horton Halfpott: or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening or M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset - How can you not want to read this book just based on the title?  The author, Tom Angleberger, is also the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda which was one of the best books my son read last year (or so he says).  Fun, silly book for kids.  (And their parents).

3. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Fun, complicated mystery story for the juvenile fiction crowd.  Blaine is reading this, so I decided to read it at the same time so we can discuss it.  I liked it so much I finished reading it before he got to chapter 3.  Whoops.  I plan on picking up the second book (yay!  it's a series!) tomorrow at work.

4. Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married - OK, I admit, this one was a re-read.  This is one of my favorite chick-lit books of all time.  It's chick-lit with a little bit more, in my opinion.

5. Smokin' Seventeen - I keep reading these Janet Evanovich novels even though they really are just the same book over and over again. They usually make me laugh and this was no exception.  It took me about 4 hours to read.

6. Wither -  another YA dystopian novel.  As vampire novels were crazy popular a few years ago thanks to the Twilight books, dystopian novels are popular now thanks to the Hunger Games.  I haven't finished this one yet but so far it's pretty gut-wrenchingly good.

This is just a sample of what I have read in the last 2 weeks.  I have a few other books I'm in the middle of along with Wither.  I always seem to have one fun fiction book, one literary book, one juvenile or YA book and one non-fiction book in different spots around the house and which book I read depends on the mood I'm in...and if there are any episodes of The Office I haven't yet watched.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to Blaine

I have a 9 year old.

I'm not really sure how that happened.  I mean, I know the mechanics of it all, but how did 9 years go so fast?

He's 9.  And he will be in 4th grade.  And he has an iPhone that he loves to text on.  And he's brilliant and compassionate and wise way beyond his years.  I learn something new from him every day, even if what I am learning is the limits of my patience.

He is my first born.  Wished for, hoped for, prayed for.  Years of trying with no luck and then one day two pink lines showed up and 9 months later (well, to be exact, 9.5 months, thankyouverymuchstubbornbaby) I held him in my arms.  He was 10 pounds of perfect joy.  Blue eyes that never changed.  Tiny little hands that grabbed my heart and my soul and never let go.  I read somewhere, and I don't remember where and I am sure I will get the exact quote wrong, that having a child is like taking your heart out of your chest and letting it walk around on two legs. At the age of 10 months Blaine was my walking heart.  Or in his case, my running, falling, tumbling, oh my God he's scraped his face/knees/elbows again heart.

I remember looking at him in the hospital when I was trying to get his flailing legs and arms in his cream and blue baby outfit and thinking "well, what the hell do I do now?!?" and the hospital photographer, who was waiting for me to get him ready for the standard cone-head, red squinty-faced newborn shot offered to help.  "I have three kids, it's gets easier" she said as she deftly tucked him into his outfit without breaking a sweat.  I had a college education and getting him into that outfit was like quantum physics to me so I marveled at the ease with which she managed it and wondered if I was capable.  A part of me was astonished when I was discharged from the hospital.  They were letting me take this child home?  I can't even get him dressed and they expect me to be responsible for him for the rest of his life? Are they nuts?

So I did what mothers since time began have done.  I called my mother.  And she came.  And she cared for us.  She still cares for us.  She and Blaine get to enjoy and annoy each other on a regular basis and I'm so glad they do.

I remember years without sleep.  Blaine was always a light sleeper and did not sleep alone in his bed through the night until he was 3 and I was pregnant with his sister.  I was tired of having the bed hogged by someone so tiny, but then I missed him when he got the hang of it and no longer crawled in bed at 3 am and stole my pillow.  He still crawls in bed with me some mornings when he wakes before I do, but not as frequently and not for as long.  He's getting too old for that.  Soon he will want me to drop him off a block from school and he will be embarrassed by me.  I know that.  I know all kids do that at some point.  But I hope it isn't anytime soon because my heart still catches and skips a beat when he runs up to me when I pick him up from school and hugs me tight.  I cherish each hug, each kiss, each "I love you" and I'm storing them up for the day the hormone monster steals my sweet, lovable boy and changes him into a surly teenager.

Blaine is the best big brother in the world.  He eagerly anticipated the birth of his sister, bragging to everyone about the car seat, crib, outfits and toys we bought for Kyra before she was born.  Though I worried that he would be jealous and would resent no longer being my only, he loved her with a fierceness from the beginning.  He would get anxious when she would cry and would, on more than one memorable occasion, cry out "MOM!  Kyra is crying!  She is hungry!  She needs to eat your boobie!"  Ah, breastfeeding and an inquisitive 3 year old.  What a fun and embarrassing combination.  He can't wait for Kyra to start Kindergarten next year so that she can ride the bus with him and he can show her the ropes.  He is, as all older brothers are, a schmuck to his sister sometimes, but he is also her protector, her teacher, her best friend and her lovey.

All in all, I'm the luckiest mom in the world.  And I have been for 9 years.  That is awesomeness.