The First Thanksgiving

20131128-222355.jpg

You know, after you’ve been living in another country for almost two years there are few “firsts” left to experience. So I was surprised when I realized that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. Then I promptly cried in front of my coworkers.

It’s Ale’s first Thanksgiving, so I made her an outfit that she will some day laugh at.

It’s our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife (Last year I went home).

It’s the first time I’ve made turkey and dressing.

It’s our first Mexican Thanksgiving–so we had Mexican and Americans dining together in the true spirit of the day.

It’s the first time I’ve had to explain the significance of Thanksgiving to anyone.

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t the turkey–honestly, I could live without it. While I love pie, it isn’t that either. It’s the whole getting-together-with-family that makes it special!

20131128-222758.jpg
A couple years ago my mamaw’s Alzheimer’s won out over our favorite holiday. My mama admitted that the holiday wasn’t as much fun as it once had been. So, I made it my mission to have my own Thanksgiving with my mama. We made all the staples together: and even pulled out Mamaw’s recipe book to make her recipes.

Last night I flipped through my book looking for pumpkin pie, and my Mamaw’s handwriting popped out from one page. I looked on it with love and determination. Love for the amazing women who’ve labored on a day like this–and determination to pass on that same love by being a better mama and wife.

Victor said something that I think is really valid about today. He said, “In the United States, one woman cooks for everyone. She does it because her family is important. She just wants them there with her.” I had more than my family with me today–but I think about the moments leading up to that one meal. My baby crawling around singing a constant hum. My husband telling me stories and listening to me talk about my coworkers. The laughter we shared over something the baby did. Laying on the floor of the kitchen to nurse in between preparing the pie and turkey. Multiple trips to the store for supplies.

And now the baby and my husband are by my side. Our bellies are full of sweet potatoes and turkey. We are snuggled up and ready to beat the cold desert night together…

It’s my first Thanksgiving with my family, and we kept the family tradition alive. I’m thankful for my 28 Thanksgivings with my Mama and Mamaw–and for this, our first, as a Mama and daughter team. The Thanksgiving tradition will continue…

20131128-222529.jpgMamaw’s dressing–as dictated by my Mama and made by me.

My Lofty Goal

20131125-220622.jpg

I’ve often said that I married my dad, but what I want to talk about today is how much I’m like my mom. Before I get started, I will preface by saying I inherited some of her amazing qualities. She’s a loving and amazing woman…who sometimes yells.

I’m not saying anything we haven’t already talked about. In fact I asked why we do this.. Why do we begin yelling when we get frustrated or angry?. She said this: “Because I did.”

My poor husband.

Now before you start feeling sorry for him, you should know this doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s happened twice. That’s two times too many. The first time, I became a mad woman. I started killing ants with my fists while hollering. The last time I started cleaning and and hollering.

I’m just going to stand up for myself and tell you this house doesn’t bring out the best in me. The ants are the biggest problem. Now that it’s getting colder there is a steady stream of them right across the floor–out of one wall they come and in one wall they go. I try to be patient with these wise creatures, but then my rage takes over.

So, without a blink, I made myself (and my husband) a vow. I’m really going to try self-control. I know it can be done. I’ve learned how to stay calm at school–now I’m going to practice being calm at home.

Wish me luck, people. We’re still looking for a house and it’s getting cold. That’s a recipe for disaster breathing in and out while counting to ten and self-talking my way back to peace…

A Letter To My Baby

20131118-162600.jpg

Dear Sweet Ale,
My precious little girl–mommy is so tired. Why do you wake up early on the weekends, but you sleep so long during the week? This morning you opened your eyes and just touched me with your sweet soft hands. I willed you back to sleep–hoping to get a few more winks myself. Then I realized, my moments with you are few and far between already…

My heart flutters when you reach for me.

I came home, and there you were. Daddy didn’t listen, and you were watching the Schoolbus YouTube video…again. You saw me, and started jumping up and down. Your two teeth were gleaming as you flash that million watt smile my way. I grabbed you up–and gave you a squeezed. Thinking of how excited you get–it makes Mama so happy.

Papi said that he doesn’t let you crawl anymore. He really can’t wait for you to walk! He doesn’t understand what he is in for once that day comes… All I can think is, “Please wait, baby.” I need you to wait until I have time to prepare for you toddling around. I could make a list of tangible ways I need to prepare, but really–I just need to hold you another day, week, month…

My dear girl, I love every minute I get with you. Even though right now, it feels like you are eating or sleeping most of the time we’re together. Even at the moment, you are curled against my side and out like a light. I look forward to vacations and weekends not just because I am off–but because I get to be with you! I cling to every smile, giggle, eyebrow raise–because one day you’ll be too big and impatient for Mama’s love.

Until then,
Amorously your’s,
Mama

Teacher Reflections

I am currently taking a B.S. Master’s class on teacher reflections.  Today, our teacher said we needed to think of the most disturving experience in our history of teaching.  He told us not to share it with anyone–that reflections like this are highly personal.  So like all my other personal and most private thoughts, I figure that this is a good place to defy his wishes.

Where do I begin?  Six years of teaching have given me experience after experience that has “kept me up at night thinking of what I should have done differently” (the directions…).

1.  There was that time my first year when my student held scissors to his chest and a pencil to his neck.  He told me that he just wanted to die.  He was, of course, heart-broken at the tender age of 10.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how broken he truly was.  His home-life was in shambles, his step-mother resented him and treated him differently than the other students.  He followed up this event with a shoestring around his neck… and mandatory time being evaluated.  He is the student I remember the most.  The student that told me, “Miss Blakley, you saved me in there,” when he returned from the hospital.  I think of him constantly, and have called him to check on him.  Maybe someday I will find him on Facebook.

Maybe I should have kept in better contact with him.  Maybe I should have fought for him.  Maybe I should have done more to focus on his needs, and not the angry young man a couple seats over…

2.  There was another student that same year.  One that my mom suspected had been sexually abused based on her behaviors.  She wasn’t a behavior problem.  She wasn’t an academic problem.  She was ignored.

What if I had asked her more about her home-life?  What if I had reached out to her family?

3.  Student three made me promise not to tell anyone that her family was living in a van.  I didn’t.  She was well behaved.  She was poor.  She was well-loved.  She came to school clean each day.

What if I had thought to check on her family?  What if they didn’t have enough to eat?  I mean, after all, they were living in a van!

Ahh… I think of these kids often.  But they aren’t alone.

4.  This kid was a big kid–bigger than all the others.  The other students, their parents were scared of him–wary perhaps is a better word.  He thundered around the classroom, because he was too big to move quietly.  He threw his body around like every other seven year old–only he was the size of a ten year old.  He didn’t know how to play with other students, so I began playing with him.  I love this kid–I would have taken him home with me.  Alas, he did actually have a mama who cared–at least the best way she knew how.  This kid, he was too dumb to follow along–and too smart to qualify for services.  He was flying in the dead zone academically.

What if I had pushed harder against the system for him?  What if I had coached his mom on her rights to request testing for her son–after the school determined that he didn’t need it?  What if I had kept in contact with him–given him my email address to keep finding me incase he needed me?

5.  This kid was special.  She was sweet as could be–but suffered from physical issues as well as the issues that come when your parents refuse to admit that your kid can make mistakes.  Her mom made me nervous–there’s no other way to put that.  And she’s the ONE kid that I happened to screw up her test scores.  Convenient.  Once, I accidentally hit her in the eye when I turned around in the hallway.  Nice.  Totally an accident.  That kept me up at night.

Here in Mexico, I think about the academic needs of my kids more than their social and emotional needs.  It must have something to do with homes that have both parents, food that is on the table, and money that pays for quality education.  Sigh.  Thanks, teacher.  Thanks for dragging up my worries with my precious babies throughout the years.  That will for SURE keep me up tonight.

We, As Writers

20131106-165529.jpg

I don’t know that I would have called myself a writer before this year. I mean, you know that I did a much better job blogging the first year, no? There’s been a change of events that has caused me to reevaluate…

It all started when my school began using Lucy Calkins writing. For those of you who aren’t in a classroom, Lucy Calkins is a “program” to teach students how to write. It is great because the first part of the year is spent with the students learning that their stories are important. We’ve moved away from Lucy lessons, and now we are writing our own. We teach students specific “mini” lessons, and every day we say, “We, as writers…” It works like this: “We, as writers, tell stories by using pictures.” “We, as writers, get ideas from real life experiences.”

I started to realize that It is easy to connect with my students while I am teaching. Because I am a writer.

This week we had a celebration for the students. Parents came to school, and the students were able to read their stories out loud. We met with parents to let them know it wasn’t time for correcting grammar or punctuation. It was time to celebrate their children as writers.

I have to say you, as readers, really have done a lot to help me celebrate. I know that sometimes I misuse words, forget punctuation, or am unclear. But every little hoorah! encourages me to keep writing! This blog has been such a great experience for me, and while I love sharing my family with you–it has given me a voice. (No smart comments about how I never lacked a voice…). It is also the cheapest therapy that one could ever choose…

I feel like I can say, with utter confidence, that we, as writers, appreciate our audience. Thanks for your patience through my blogging laziness of the last few months. I’m working on my motivation!

Raising a Reader II

20131102-153708.jpg

I’ve been so excited with my little pumpkin! She is growing up so fast! Friday she started crawling–and she is not content to sit still any longer! Victor said yesterday, “Now, the Bebita is just looking around for something to touch. She doesn’t want her toys–she wants shoes, or cords, or…”

One of the most exciting things about her crawling is that she chooses to be with us now. I will leave her playing in the living room, before I know it–she’s made her way to the kitchen or the bathroom. She grins up at me so proud of herself. Or sometimes she will be playing at my feet, and when I look down at her she reaches for me. Ahh… It makes this mama’s heart so very happy…

Now that she’s making choices on where she goes, she also is making choices on what she does there. So the teacher’s corner of my heart was happy when she crawled to her carpet, picked up a book, turned over on her back–and started “reading.” Because for her, that’s what it is: reading!

Sweet little Squish, you become more fun every single day.

20131102-153446.jpg