Thursday, September 13, 2012

10 Things I Love About You

1. You make up little songs all the time. For example: "Sweet Potata has little tiny ears!"

2. You are a natural tiny dancer who feels the music. Especially Michael Jackson's Shake Your Body.

3. When you retell a story you use very exaggerated hand gestures and say "like" a lot. Have you been watching the Disney channel again?

4. You could tell any CTA rider how to get where they are going. You know that the red line begins at Howard and ends at 95th.

5. You can do flawless impressions and even accents. But you won't do them on command. You are nobody's monkey.

6. You love to try new recipes. Remember that brief period last Spring when you wanted a hummus sandwich for lunch everyday?

7. Sometimes you say nothing for hours. Sometimes you just burst into song with a gem like this:
"Come on, we can ride it! We can ride the train!"

8. You've been marching for the Chicago Teachers Union for four straight days.

9.   When someone asks you what your want for your birthday you say, "a card."

10. You are still very snuggly.

Happy 6th Birthday to a true original! I love you, Lil Buddy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Strike Schedule: A brief , and rough rundown of Days 1 and 2

Day One:

Wake up at 4:45am and trip over shit in the dark because, well, it is dark.

Make a poster, a kind of lame one.

Shower, pack up things, put on red shirt.

Remind sleeping spouse where it is I am going.

Walk in the dark to bus stop and feel a little nervous.

6 a.m.: Get on bus. Look for red shirts. there aren't any. yet.

6:20:  Get off bus and walk to school. Meet colleagues wearing red shirts. help self to coffee because you picked the wrong month to give up coffee.

Walk in a circle with better sign (not the lame one I discarded) and learn some chants. Help self to a donut because you picked the wrong month to give up carbs.

You would never give up carbs, actually, but this is a terrible month for it.

7:30 begin texting exchange with spouse. Try and give clear directions to the school down the street where you are now. Sense spouse's tension. Feel tension and frustration because your smart phone kind of sucks and hangs up on people a lot.

8:30: Greet spouse and Lil buddy at school. Provide child with munchkins.

9:00: watch as Lil Buddy warms up to other small protesters and begins to play

10:30: take child home.

11:00 lunch at home with child. Sit ass on couch and consider folding laundry.

12:45 Fall asleep during Thomas with Lil Buddy nestled next to me.

1:55: Wake up during Angelina Ballerina. Holy crap it's time to go!

2:00: ask LB nicely if he will put on socks and shoes.

2:05: Brush teeth. Tell LB in a sweet voice to put on socks and shoes.

2:10: Gather things and remind LB about those socks and shoes.


2:30 drive to and park car at school.

2:35: meet the other teachers and walk to train station with LB

2:55: exit station and find Daddy. Kiss boys goodbye. Daddy takes LB for the rest of his work day.

3:10: meet up with 50,000 people or so in front of Board of Ed. HOld up signs. March through Loop for two  hours. Shut down Loop traffic.

5:10: say goodbye to teachers and head to Daley Plaza where Daddy is waiting and LB is sliding down the Picasso head first.

5:20: train with boys

5:45: exit and walk to car

6:01: Gather Sweet Potata at the last possible minute from daycare and apologize for lateness.

6:30: feed babies.

6:50: snuggle with babies and read

7:05: bathe babies

7:15 put jammies on babies and brush their teeth

7:30 Night nights

8:00: pick up tacos from corner

8:15: eat in front of news

8:35: begin texting and emailing tomorrow's babysitting possibilities

9:00: decide on dropping LB at teacher friends house down the street

10:00: throw red t shirt in laundry!!!

10:45: Night nights.

Day Two

5:00 a.m. : sleep in today.

5:45 a.m.: make somewhat better poster

6:00 a.m.: leave for school!

6:20 a.m: arrive at school to find one teacher friend also early. Decide to go to dunkin donuts drive through in her car for coffeee

6:45 a.m: coffee consumption out of control today!

7:00 a.m: join teacher friends out on busy Irving Park Road. Wave sign, chant, worry over negotiations.

8:15 a.m: Daddy drops Sweet Potata off at her daycare.

8:30 a.m: Daddy brings Lil Buddy. Parks car in neighborhood and takes the train down to his work.

10:30 a.m: Gather signs and things, get afternoon assignment and put Lil Buddy in car.

11:00 a.m: lunch at Potbelly. Lil Buddy is happy and sparkly and insists I sit next to him.

12:00 pm: quick trip to Trader Joes where LB and I do our best to shop for the week with no list. Lots of prepared and frozen food. Mommy and Daddy do not have time to cook.

1:00 pm: arrive home and unload groceries. Pack a bag for LB to take to friend's house.

1:26 pm: drive to house and practice conversations in the car.

1:30 pm: drop off at teacher friend's house. Get LB settled. Take teacher friend with me to train.

2:00 pm: park car near train and get on train. Send text to hubby about where he can find car when he leaves work.

2:30 walk through Loop with teachers for a few hours. End up at Buckingham Fountain and take photos.

4:30: Daddy leaves loop separately to pick up the babies.

5:30 train it home. Send Daddy a telepathic message to start dinner.

6ish: walk in door and love babies. Message to Daddy has been received!!!!! Dang.

6:30: feed babies.

6:55: snuggle babies

7:15: bathe babies

7:30: goodnights

8:00pm: dinner for grownups

8:30: and a very small glass of wine

9:00: confirm through email that this is not over and there will be more tomorrow

10:00: wash red shirt

11:00: Night nights for us.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Labor Unions, child care freakouts, my special 6 year old, and me

I needed to have a serious conversation with my son. In short, I had to prepare him for the beginning of the week, during which he would walk a picket line with me, a fed up member of the Chicago Teachers Union. This conversation would not be easy for a lot of reasons.

We had just finished the first week of school. And in my house, school is a "we" kind of thing for me and Lil Buddy. I am lucky to have a great job, teaching dance and drama at a neighborhood Chicago Public School. I am blessed to not only have a job, but to teach a subject that I care deeply about and love sharing. I am further blessed to go to work somewhat side by side with Lil Buddy, who attends the very same school. This means we get to walk into school together every morning, wave to each other when we pass by in the hall, and leave together at the end of the day. On top of all of this is the fact that  I really do get to know and interact with the teachers, therapists, special ed teachers and social worker who work with him. His teachers are my colleagues and I am grateful for them.

Both of us were nervous about our individual first days of school and both of us were nervous about Kindergarten. Lil Buddy made it through, though. His biggest complaint of the week being that "lunch is soooooo short in Kindergarten!"

I was relieved that things seemed to be going smoothly. I knew he wasn't talking to his new (or old) friends yet as he adjusted to the overwhelming stimuli of school, but I felt confident that some form of social interaction would come. Maybe hopeful is a better word. I feel hopeful that social interaction will come. It will take time.

Despite my satisfaction with my job, the fact remains that as a CPS teacher, I represent a group of people, 25,000 strong, who are in contract limbo. And yes, I agree with everything that my union is fighting for. My contract, our new contract, must be fair and respectful to teachers both in words and actions. Why should we be called greedy by the media for asking for our promised 4% raise? The one that was withheld by our Mayor? A guy that I helped elect to Congress several times...........

Why shouldn't  I accumulate sick days? I already quit CPS once just so I could stay home for ten weeks with my newborn. Lucky for me, they took me back.

Why should our effectiveness be  linked to standardized test scores?

And why, please tell me, should any one of us teachers, anywhere in the country, be expected to actually "teach" 35-40 students at one time? How in the world is that effective? That's the one! Man, that is the one, that I am trying to conquer that I just cannot wrap my brain around. how do I engage, excite, reach all 30 children at once? How do I do it 5 times in one day, 5 days a week?

And our union represents a group of people highly disenchanted with our Board's take on school "reform." How on earth does closing a school and wiping it clean of employees spell reform? And what about the new school in its place? Can it accept all the children in the neighborhood or just a select few? Where do the others go? How do they get there? Where do the special kids go? The ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder, among other things? Is there a place for them at this wonderful new school? And if not, then where do I send my son?

So I thought about all this as I dragged Lil Buddy to union meetings during my first 2 weeks of work.

"Why did everyone keep saying 'Oh My God,'?" he asked. "what do they mean?"

I didn't have an answer. I struggled to figure out how I would prepare him to walk the picket line with me. I wanted him there, of course. I also really had no other place for him to go. I already pay for Sweet Potata's daycare whether she's there or not. So at least that was a no brainer. well, a costly one. The 2 year old can go to daycare. But that would have to be it as I prepared to walk away from my income.

And then there was the matter of Lil Buddy himself. I knew that his friends (children of my colleagues) would be there. But could they entertain each other the ENTIRE TIME? Would he last? My Lil Buddy, with his own unique level of tolerance for talking to grown ups and enduring schedule free events. Would there be enough bubbles, drawing, video games, DVDs, chasing, jumping, sparkling, donuts to last the entire time? I didn't know.......

On Friday I stayed until 4:30 to finish up my lesson plans for the week. Lil Buddy begrudgingly entertained himself in my classroom as I hunched over a computer. I took my copy of click, clack, moo home with me with a genius plan to read the book and discuss labor struggles on a snuggly bed. I imagined it would go something like this:

"You see, mommy is the cow with the typewriter, well, a friend of that cow, but a cow. Farmer Brown is the Board of Education. Mommy just wants a warm blanket because she is cold. It's about fairness."

"Oh, I see."

But we never cracked open Click Clack Moo. Instead, during a quiet resting/snacking moment at the park, I decided to broach the subject. Lil Buddy was exhausted from trying to catch butterflies with his net ("where are they, mommy?"). 

"Hey, Lil B. I have to talk to you about something."

"What is it?"

"There might not be school on Monday."

"really? is it a another holiday like thanksgiving?"

"No, LB, it's not a holiday. The thing is, we have to be in a parade and carry signs."

"Me, too?"

"Yes, but it's going to be kind of a long parade. You see, Mommy's job, well, all of us, who are teachers, we are not being treated fairly by, well, by the people we work for."

"You mean our school?"

"No, not our school, the people who run our school from downtown. They don't want to , well, they are not being fair. " And here is where I thought about health care and wages and school reform and class size and services for children just like Lil Buddy.

But I didn't talk about any of that. Cause I knew he wouldn't get it.

"That's not nice!" he exclaimed.

"Well, it's not fair," I corrected, "and we are going to have a parade on Monday to ask for fairness."


"and I need you to come with me. your buddies will be there. And you can have a donut in the morning."

"Donuts? Really?"

"Yes, really. as a treat. Only on Monday."

"cause there's no school!"

"Maybe, maybe there's no school."

"And I'll be in the parade."

"Yes. And the  parade is called a strike."

And that's sort of how things went. Simple, and awkward. I thought afterwards about IEP language: restate the directions, give extra time for questions and answers, give the child preferential seating. No, it wasn't perfect in that regard, either, but maybe it came from that place.

Tomorrow, Lil Buddy will come with me to school, where we will parade together, for fairness. We'll just have to see how it all goes, I guess. We'll wear red shirts and eat donuts, and maybe, just maybe, his amazing encyclopedic mind will tuck this memory away forever.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy to You, Sweet Potata!

Sweet Potata, look at you! Here you are at only 4 months old, sitting in a bowl at Grandpa and NY Lala's house. Already you were a sweet morsel of delicious baby exuberance. Now you are two. Two years old! How is that possible? Just yesterday Aunt BF and I propped you into this bowl for a cute photo op and then I scooped you up and you melted like butter into my neck. You were a sweet little lump of baby goo goo ga ga.

And you are 2 years old. ( 2 years and 2 days because Mommy didn't get around to blogging on the 30th, which was your big day) You can do all kinds of amazing things like tell your big brother "Don't do dat!" and "hugs! hugs!"  You can scale the changing table with your tiny monkey legs and arms. You can dance freely in Lincoln Square while buskers test out their amps and their questionable material. You sing "twinkle twinkle little sky," at the top of your lungs and you really don't care that the actual lyric is "little star." You tell people "Happy to You," instead of "happy birthday to you." You walk up to giant dogs and introduce yourself fearlessly. When you pet them you say, "Nice, nice yoggie." You build towers out of blocks and knock them down like a happy, mini Godzilla. You shun whole grain bread in any form but you love a hardboiled egg. I've seen you carry on a whole conversation with a Hello Kitty mylar balloon.

And here you are, face down in a cupcake. I love you, Sweet Potata. Don't ever change.