Playing Hooky


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Love Chat

When I come home from an evening out, my girl holds my face in her warm little hands and says, "I'm happy to see you, mama." My two-year-old wiggle puppy says, "I love you, mama," and then, "I'm proud of you, mama." Her words are half purr, half coo. I reply in kind to each of her pronouncements, with a squeeze for emphasis, which makes my girl giggle and squeal with delight.

These little love fests are becoming more and more frequent lately. I'm basking in them.

And what cheers me most is realizing that my daughter is reflecting what I give her right back at me. She gets these phrases from me, and she might not even know what "I'm proud of you" means but she absorbs the feeling in the words and returns it to me a thousandfold.

How extraordinary to see myself reflected in a mirror like this. It makes me proud of my girl and even a little proud of me, too. Maybe I'm not half bad at this motherhood thing?

I might have another story to tell when Amelie hits her teen years. But for now, I'll gladly take what I have. And bask in it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Postcards from Abroad

As soon as I pronounce to the world that I'm ready to blog again, wouldn't you know it, I get swamped with freelance work, so swamped that I work all weekend until my butt is sore and I'm practically cross-eyed. And I'm not even out of the hole yet. Still digging.

At least my work takes me to some nice places. I explored the colonial cities of Mexico on Saturday, haunted the luxury hotels of Europe on Sunday, and spent yesterday in exotic Asia. Have I mentioned that I'm an armchair travel writer? My job gives me wanderlust in the worst way.

I always take solace in the fact that if we go forward with our plan to homeschool Amelie we will be free to globe-trot. We can learn Spanish together as we hop from San Miguel de Allende to Guadalajara. We can show Amelie where millions of Monarch butterflies winter over each year in Michoacan. Then we'll backpack across China, walk the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai, and come face to face with the Terra-Cotta Warriors of Xi'an.

Okay, I'm definitely past the backpacking stage of my life (so twenties!), but let me have my little dream. We all need our Walter Mitty moments, don't we?

I leave you with this happy snap of Amelie. It's time to get back to work. Sydney is on the itinerary. Bon voyage.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Alive and Kicking

I was planning on calling this post "Back from the Dead," but I thought that might be too much of a downer. And it wouldn't mesh well with this cheery pic of Amelie painting at her easel. It's a "glass half full or half empty" kind of thing. Half full, it seems, is our winner tonight.

This blog is once again a living, thriving, pixilated, virtual organism. I am breathing life back into it. Voila.

What happened? Like the rest of the world, I got busy over the holidays. And despite all the hoopla and rioting in the streets from my ardent fans, demanding that I resume blogging again, I resisted. I deferred. I demurred. Until now.

But really, I missed writing here. I missed having something that was mine in writing. I missed marking the time in my daughter's small life. Catching it, cupping it in my hands, honoring it.

Here is a conversation that Amelie and I had recently. Almost as it was happening, I thought, I must encase this in amber. Or at least blog it. So here goes. I should preface it by explaining that Amelie calls me "Deer" sometimes because of a character that I created in a bedtime story for her (a deer that she befriends and that takes her for rides on its back).

Amelie: Deer, can you fly?

Mama: No. Butterflies and birds can fly, but I can't. I don't have wings.

Amelie: I have wings to fly!

Mama: You do? Show me your wings.

(Amelie shoots her two little sausage arms into the air exuberantly.)

Mama: Those are great wings! Do you want to fly? Let's fly!

(Mama starts flapping her arms and running around the room. Sure, it looks ridiculous, but my girl is only two, right?)

Amelie (outraged): MAMA! YOU CAN'T FLY!

(Mama stops, listens.)

Amelie: You're too big!

Well, there you have it: "Playing Hooky" is alive and trying, perhaps futilely, to fly again. With any luck, this blog will grow its wings back.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

Amelie is lucky. She gets two holidays, and that adds up to A LOT of presents. In my family, my brother and I were given a gift every night of the eight nights of Hanukkah. That's one big pile o' goods. After all, as Jewish kids we had Christmas to compete with, so we needed some good ammunition for our friends. ("Oh, yeah? Presents under the tree and in your socks? Well, we get a present every night for eight whole nights!")

When I told my husband about the eight gifts he was suitably horrified by the flagrant consumerism, but he was also a bit excited by prospect that we might just have to continue the excessive family tradition. So we're sort of going along with it. For now.

Here's Amelie wildly shaking pepper over play carrots at her new toy kitchen. She went crazy making eggs, pizza, and soup. It was all we could do to lure her to the table to eat some real dinner.

Only five more nights to go....

Friday, November 30, 2007

Reading to Flurry

I'm laid up in bed with a bad cold. Amelie loves coming to my bedside and unwrapping cough drops for me. She has unwrapped more cough drops than I could possibly consume in one day. Since I don't have the brain power or the wrist strength to type out a real blog post, I'm leaving you with a couple of photos of my girl "reading" to Flurry the therapy dog at our local library yesterday. (Thanks, Michael, for these snaps.) Doesn't the dog look like he's really listening?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Worry Less, Live More

My husband thinks I worry too much. Maybe he's right, although sometimes I'm just stating a fact ("Amelie is going to bed too late"), which my hubby quickly translates into worry-speak ("Amelie isn't getting enough sleep and will end up sick or slap-happy or the victim of some other terrible fate").

Who's the real worry wart?

Still, I think he's right that I, and probably the rest of the population of the free world, should worry less.

Last night we finished watching the documentary film Born into Brothels, about a photographer who travels to Calcutta, India, to chronicle the lives of prostitutes and ends up teaching photography to a rag-tag band of red-light-district children. It's an incredible story. I fell in love with these spunky kids, who discovered a new world through the camera lenses provided to them by the impassioned and protective British-American photographer Zana Briski. As she gets closer to the children and learns more about the bleak futures that await them, Briski devotes her boundless energy to getting these kids out of the brothels and into boarding schools, where they can get an education and a chance for a better life.

The photograph at top, taken by 14-year-old Suchitra, is one of my favorites. Sweet-faced Suchitra was not one of the lucky ones. Her mother would not allow her to leave the squalid brothel, where she is likely contributing to its income today.

Seeing this movie I am shamed by my silly little worries about Amelie watching too much television or not eating her veggies. And I am dazzled by the unaccountable flashes of joy and humor and even genius emitting from these scruffy kids as they struggle against enormous odds for a kinder future.

Today's mantra: Worry Less, Live More. Oh, and laugh more too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Better Than School

Sometimes I wish I had kept my mouth shut about our intention to homeschool Amelie. After all, our girl is only two - which means that I have to listen to people's objections to this scheme for a good 3 or 4 years longer than necessary. Not everyone is unsupportive, of course, but some friends and relatives take every opportunity to tell me why they think homeschooling will turn my kid into a weirdo or a misfit with no friends and no chance of getting into a good university, blah blah blah.

It's always reassuring to learn that people with these ideas usually know very little about the reality of homeschooling.

Of course there's always the chance that a homeschooled kid will turn out to be socially awkward. Yet schooled kids can be pretty weird too. I remember some strange characters from my school days (a boy who ate a piece of the innards of a dissected frog comes to mind) - and in retrospect I believe that the contrived world of compulsory schooling made some kids this way.

But the pushback that I'm receiving from a few friends and family members is nothing compared to the tremendous pressure that trailblazing homeschoolers faced in the 1970s and 80s, when a homeschooling movement quietly started to unfold in this country. Nancy Wallace tells it like it was in her excellent 1983 book Better Than School. Wallace's seven-year-old son was miserable in school, but when his parents inquired into teaching him at home they had to face an unsympathetic and all-too-powerful school board. After a few tense meetings and a lot of paperwork the board reluctantly allowed the Wallaces to homeschool Ishmael. Yet the school officials plagued this poor family with disdain and intrusive surveillance along the way.

Wallace has a slice-of-homeschool-life style that I really enjoyed. We get to see Ishmael and his sister Vita find and explore their passions, from writing stories to working out Bach minuets on the piano. In the chapters on reading and music, Wallace looks so closely, so lovingly, at the way her children learn. She honors her kids' unique learning styles in a way that simply isn't possible for even the most well-meaning schoolteacher, who has 29 other pupils to look after. And when Wallace discovers that her kids have a gift for music she makes piano and violin a centerpiece of their education, creating a conservatory-like environment and filling their lives with musical opportunities.

These kids are lucky. Are they weird? Hell, yes. Who wouldn't call a nine-year-old who writes operettas weird? But what's wrong with that? Seems pretty great to me.