Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking Another Swing at Grandma's Mantel

Today is picture day. You'll feel the full weight of that statement after reading how picture day went last year:
Grandma's Mantel

Today is different. I was not there. I don't know whether a mantel-worthy photo was achieved or not.

But to my own surprise, it is of little concern to me. Grandma can put a print out of an email I got yesterday from Addie's kindergarten teacher on her mantel. The email tells me, Addie's mom, how excited the teacher is that Addie will soon be using her new communication device at school. It goes on to say how well Addie is taking to the classroom routines and listening/following instructions. Her teacher says she really enjoys having her in class and that her loving demeanor is an asset. And would I like to come and introduce Addie's new device to her classmates on Monday. This did not come from a special ed teacher or one of Addie's aides. It came from the energetic K4 classroom teacher responsible for the first school experience of about 40 kids (morning and afternoon class) of all abilities each year. (I had already been hearing things from the special ed staff that little by little have unscrunched my shoulders, unfurrowed my brows, curled up the corners of my pie hole and deep-fried my heart.)

Mrs. K's email is a picture itself. It sharpens the edges of the hunch that's been coming in to focus day by day since Sept 2nd after a summer of fretting about whether we'd made the right decisions about school. The final image - Addie is in a place where she is respected, where there are high expectations of her, where she is heard, where her dignity will be as cared for as well as the rest of her, where her differences can be celebrated, where she will grow and help others grow. It's hard to find places like that for my girl. And to know she'll be spending this entire year with people who see her power, strength, beauty nearly as clearly as we do. Well. That picture snapped today by the photographer could be the most off center thing, one eye closed, only the bottom teeth showing, finger lodged in a nostril.... It'll be in my wallet, on my mantel, set as wallpaper, without a doubt.

Despite, or because of, last year's unfortunate outcome on picture day, it was a unanimous family decision to put Addie in the exact same lovely dress as last year.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to School... a bit after the fact

A family photo of the 4 of us walking Cate to the first day of 4th grade. Pretty typical - Dad, Cate and Addie enjoying the moment... me behind trying to freeze and store their enjoyment, casting a shadow in the process.

Addie happily saying hello to a teacher and goodbye to dad.

My tiny big girl, learning the ways of her new world as a grade schooler.

Look who is in orchestra this year! Cate, apparently, plays the viola. That was news to me until the moment I was called upon to procure said instrument. I have seen her unpack it, hold it, clean it, repack it... but her virtuosity is evidently, still in store for us.

All in all, they are both pretty jazzed about school. Happy new year!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One Story, Five Pictures

Vacation was absolutely exhilarating, but I let too much time go by before posting about it. The relaxed and hopeful lexicon I'd have used to relay stories has been trodden a bit by back to school preparations and, to be frank, freak outs. But those confessions are for another day.

So I will tell one story (of moderate length by my standards, I promise) and post pictures, hoping they give a taste of just what a complete pause our week up north is every year. There is no room in our Jetta for the four of us, stuff we need for a week, AND all our concerns. Something's gotta be left behind. Amazingly, we pick worries and obsessions to lob off deck as we motor towards the one week a year where time doesn't exist.

The Story
Cate remembers heading to Door County every summer of her life. There are certain things she needs to do there in order to make it the holiday it was the year before. I guess that's what they call tradition. Miniature golf is high on her list at the age of 9, as are go-karts. I was not a particularly adventurous kid outside of book choice and trying out new vocabulary on my siblings, so go-karts and bumper cars always meant the same thing to me - shabby little cars made with no standards that spark as we crash in to each other - in short, something I'm not getting in to. But as a mother, I now understand that bumper cars and go-karts are completely different vehicles and therefore experiences. Alas, I still didn't care to set bun in either one.

But Cate and her dad had to do it one day on vacation after Addie tolerated mini-golf quite well. Addie and I decided to wait outside the chain link fence so we could get a better view (IE, pictures) as Michael and Cate zoomed by in their 2-seater go-kart. Addie was excited enough to watch, but when she honed in and recognized Dad and sister in a car, she seemed to get a little anxious. It actually looked quite like I imagine my face must look as I witness people I love having fun...with reckless abandon. Yeah! You're loving it and I love you, so the look on your face is always my goal, but ugh, you could totally croak doing that... but I guess I should keep that thought on the down low and celebrate your joy... Sort of a pulled in at the corners smile, weakly accentuated by eyebrows raised unnaturally high.

After the ride, Cate skipped up to us asking if she could now be the passenger while I drove the kart. Uh. No. The silent no - no, that goes too fast, the seat belts don't really seem all that secure, I can actually envision taking a corner too sharp and ejecting you, my sweet thing, and I don't know how we'd paste all your skin back on. The verbalized no - "No, not today. It made Addie really nervous to see you both go by so fast. Let's do something we all like now."

I should have foreseen the moment when Cate and I were tooling around upper Door County by ourselves, about to pass the go-karts. But I did not. We'd been to the bead shop and I'd assumed that she'd want to go back to the cottage and create the loudest, largest, most ostentatious wearable baubles we could, as is also tradition. But the karts speak louder than venetian glass beads at her tender age, so the following conversation ensued, back seat to front seat, in a pleading tone on both sides:

Mom, the go-karts are coming up. You said you didn't want to do it with Addie watching, but she's back at the cottage with Dad. So?
Awe, honey, we've been gone a bit, don't you want to get back?
No, why?
Uh, well. I mean. What about the beads we just bought, want to do something with those?
We can do that any time. C'mon mom, please. It is so fun.
Ok, I'll be honest. Go-karts scare me a little bit and I've never been on one.
Really, I've never done it and I'm nervous and scared. You and dad went really fast. I trust Dad's driving more than my own.

(About 4 second of silence, then Cate resumes in a very resolved, confident tone.)
Ok, mom. You let all your nervous feelings out right now to me. Say anything you want. Then we'll get in the kart and all you have to do is believe in yourself.

I turned on my left blinker and pulled into Johnson's Park. Within 6 minutes I was driving a go-kart and having the time of my life. My own mother probably would have had to look away.

The Pictures