Archive for the ‘family’ Category

This is how you lose her

One theme of the school year so far–and perhaps this is part of why I’ve been absent–is the Snork Maiden’s senior year, which I am finding profoundly moving.  All the senior rituals and experiences, but now she’s among the students having them.  Driving to school with her and being sharply aware that next year she won’t be in the car.  (I was going to write “next year I’ll be driving alone,” but actually it’s fairly likely that I’ll carpool with someone once my schedule no longer has to accommodate hers.)

And, of course, the college process.  It has gone pretty smoothly so far. The key factor for her has been that she has a pretty specific idea of the area she wants to work in, and that’s done a lot to shape her search. She visited a few schools that seemed like great places, just not right for her, and that helped her keep perspective about how it’s a decision on both sides, not just them judging you.  The places she’s applying to are places that she’s enthusiastic about. The SA counselors encourage students who are ready to do one or more early applications, and there are a lot of schools that offer non-binding early answers, so she applied to the school she thinks is her top pick and also to another one she is interested in, and got in to both.  The second one offered her a merit scholarship; she’ll learn more about financial aid for both of them in January, and she’s planning to go to an admitted students event for Top Pick in February.

It’s been interesting to see the process from the parent side.  I didn’t know about the official and unofficial Facebook groups that spring up for admitted students–the Snork Maiden joined the official one and one for admitted students in her specific major, which will be maybe 40-50 first-years after regular admissions is complete. Right now it’s about 20 students and they’re already bonding and sharing information. She already feels very committed to the school. I’m conflicted: the school does seem like a good fit for her, but I’d like her to keep an open mind about the others she hasn’t heard from yet, and the question of aid is also very much in play.

One thing I do support is her going to the admitted students event, even though I know it will exert a lot of recruiting pressure and she will likely come home even more sold on the place than before (well played, Top Pick, to have it before the regular decisions come in).  Top Pick is in a cold place, and she should know what February feels like there.



Windows and stones

Another not-great night of sleep, this time because of noise in the street.  I’m not exactly sure what was going on, but some kind of rowdiness at a neighbor’s house.  There’s a not-very-stable family renting a house on this block, with a teenage son whose friends come and go at odd hours.  When they first moved in, there were a couple of out-of-control parties, and the police were involved.  (Our neighbor in law enforcement is a good person to know.) Things have been quieter since then, but Neighbor C’s hypothesis that the son is a small-time drug dealer, and that the young adults who park in front of the house for a few minutes at a time are his customers, seems sadly plausible.

I looked up the police non-emergency line and sat for a while, listening and trying to decide if it was worth calling, while also thinking that Neighbor C–whose house is right across from the rented house–would likely call if she heard the noise.  It wasn’t constant–it was bursts of loud conversation followed by silence, and cars revving and then shutting off.  Then it seemed to be over, and I went to bed, but took a long time to fall asleep and then didn’t sleep well.

Today was mostly about attending Stubb’s uncle’s funeral, which was all right, as these things go.  He was a very sweet person.  He was 85, he had been ill.  It was good to see Stubb’s cousins, etc.  One of them, just six months younger than Stubb and therefore his special pal in childhood, is moving out our way in a few months, with her partner and their two kids, to have more space and to be near the partner’s mom.  This is kind of exciting news because we always wish we saw more of them.

Well, well, well

Feeling a bit foolish, I shared my anxiety about the Snork Maiden with Dr. Tea and Lucinda today at lunch.  (I had just been meeting with a student in the Snork Maiden’s class who had to run off with an extra practice DBQ* essay she had written to discuss it with the AP European History teacher she and the Snork Maiden share–the Snork Maiden would almost certainly never write an extra practice DBQ for any reason.  AP Euro is her favorite class, though, or maybe it’s tied with English.)  They reminded me that I don’t want the Snork Maiden to be an anxiety-ridden perfectionist, and that I don’t even want her to have ambitions in that direction; I want her to have a good sense of self, resilience, intellectual curiosity, and a thoughtful view about how she chooses to spend her time.  Dr. Tea pointed out that she is not going to peak in the first semester of her sophomore year.  Lucinda observed that she herself barely did any work in school and turned out more or less fine.  I laughed and calmed down.

*Document-Based Question, for those of you who are not, or have never been, AP History students.

Well, well

Still healthy (I think). The open house went well, and our reward (the Snork Maiden served as a student host) was to go to FLS’s tree-trimming party afterwards.

The Snork Maiden has hit a rough patch in math, and her English teacher (Dinah) was disappointed with her last paper. It sounds like she mostly has B’s right now, with a C in math. Aside from responding to her math teacher when he wrote to let us know she would be getting a “progress report” (i.e., a lack of progress report), and offering her our general support, we’re doing a pretty good job not fussing, nagging, policing homework, etc.  There’s no real obstacle that I can see to her doing better–she just has to decide to put in the effort.  My personal opinion is that she should be earning A’s in English and in Chinese, at least, but she’s not putting herself out enough to earn them right now. There’s been some distracting social stuff going on, and working on the play was very time-consuming (the D test grade in math that’s pulling down her average was a test she missed and then pushed the makeup test until after the play without doing sufficient review).  So now I get to see what a student “not working to her potential” looks like when she’s at home.  This is the lowest her grades have ever been.  And of course they’re okay–as I have told countless students for many years, a B is not a failing grade!–but I can’t help wishing she were excelling in something academic right now.  My sense is that she is not happy with the current state of her grades, though, so we’ll see what happens with that.  She did seem to be pegging away at math this weekend.

She is playing the marimba for the Nightmare before Christmas theme at the upcoming holiday concert, and the clarinet and sax for other pieces.  She’s been practicing said marimba with a portable set this weekend, as well.  That will be fun to hear and watch.

Then again, maybe I won’t

Except that the Snork Maiden was feeling punk by the end of the day on Monday, so we cancelled the sax lesson and endured a way too exciting drive home wondering whether she would puke in the car.  (I swiped a clean garbage bag from one of the cans at SA just in case.)  She puked after we got home and is currently curled up miserably in bed.  Poor thing.  I haven’t absolutely made the call on whether to stay home with her tomorrow, but I will if I need to.  (It’s as good a day as any for a substitute to come in and screw up my carefully laid plans the way they usually do.) Can’t tell–as one often can’t–whether it’s a stomach virus or something bad she ate.  We just have to wait and see what happens next.

She’s dozing right now.  Stubb has gone back to his out-of-town gig, so I’ve put her in my bed where I can easily keep an eye on her.  (Also, her bed is a semi-loft deal that’s a bit far off the ground for leaning over and throwing up into a trashcan.)  If she keeps sleeping, I might get a bit of writing done this evening after all.  If she isn’t done with the vomiting portion of the evening’s entertainment, however, that will certainly change the plan.

Meanwhile, I started taking the antibiotic that the doc gave me to use if the possibly-a-throat-infection kept on not getting better, and I think that was probably a good call, as the throat feels quite a lot better twenty-four hours after starting it.  Family medical adventures!


Mr. Rabbit and the lovely present

While, as predicted, my life is significantly calmer now, I’m still fully capable of getting really, really excited about the prospect of a three-day weekend!

Let’s be upfront about this: The house is pretty much a mess.  Actually, there are really just a few centers of mess: the kitchen table, which is where I’ve been piling all of the mail; my desk, which is a shipwreck of papers; and the living room/TV area, which is pretty much the Snork Maiden’s domain, and which she will tidy up when asked.  Other surfaces are cluttered and I would have to do some pretty serious decluttering in order to, say, have anyone over, but I can live with them for a while.

So I think I’m going to make the executive decision that tidying up is not on the docket for this weekend.  This might have the paradoxical effect of getting me to actually do some tidying up, but the main effect, I hope, is that I will be focused on more important things.

And what are these more important things?

Writing: I’m about 2,000 words behind in NaNo, which isn’t bad, considering.  I should be at 18,337 by the end of Monday, which means 6,665 over the next three days, or 2,222 a day–I can do that!  Still having fun.  It helps so much that my focus is on just doing it.  I’m also making some edits to my second ms. and getting it back into contest circulation.

Family time: Celebrating my sister’s birthday, and spending some time with the Snork Maiden.  Planning–I hope–the Snork Maiden’s belated birthday party, which is going to be an excursion to see the new Hobbit movie.  Oh, and taking my six-year-old niece to the middle school play at SA.

Schoolwork:  I could actually get ahead this weekend.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world if all I did was write one Hamlet quiz for Tuesday, but I have to take the Snork Maiden to the SA area twice this weekend–today for her volunteer tutoring, and Monday for five hours of rehearsal on the campus itself–so it’s very convenient to drop in there and do some work.  I can also write there.  As part of this, I do need to put in about two hours on my MFA class.  Feeling better about that right now, though.

Exercise: Ack, I have dropped the ball on this the last two weeks.  But I did finally buy a new pair of running shoes, because my old ones were so broken that I let the Snork Maiden take them on her class retreat and get them all filthy and even more broken.  So I think I will take a gentle run tomorrow, and do my simple workout today and Sunday.


Future shock, part 2

So the other part of that post is that I am also thinking about what I want my life to be like as the Snork Maiden ventures farther out into the world.  This summer, I’ll drop her off at her two-week program and, most likely, make my way (with one or two stops with friends) to where Stubb will be wrapping up his out-of-town gig.  We’re planning to drive home from there and have a few days on our own, reminiscent of a long drive we did twenty-something summers ago.

One thing I might like to do, eventually, is sell the house.  I like our neighborhood and our location, but I’m not crazy about home ownership.  I think Stubb feels more or less the same.  On the other hand, it is a good size for us, and won’t feel too big for just the two of us.  We are currently getting dicked around (I am starting to realize) while refinancing, and I hate owing a big bank a huge amount of money.

think I’ll want to keep working at SA, although my chair at NLNRU has said several times that I should come back when the Snork Maiden graduates, and get the tuition break if she goes to NLNRU or to another school in its tuition-exchange consortium.  It’s certainly another reason (besides liking a lot of the people) to stay in friendly contact with the program there.

I’m going to be mentoring a couple of students in a low-residency MFA program this fall, just working with them one-on-one.  I’ll be curious to see whether I like that or not, and whether that turns out to be part of my work over the next few years.

Today I got a very nice email from an editor I sent the ms. to back in January (here).  It’s a big press, one I didn’t expect to pick up the book, and they didn’t–but it was a helpful letter nonetheless, and it also expressed a continuing interest in the work that I think is real.

The email helped me see, actually, something that is out of place about the book, something I might actually be able to fix.  I will be thinking about it this summer.

Because in the shorter term, no matter what else happens, I really do want this book out in the world!

Future shock

So many things I want to write about, but the one uppermost in my mind at the moment is this essay by Madeline Levine in the weekend NYTimes.  It’s about reimagining yourself after the kids have “left the nest.”

When the Snork Maiden was a baby and a small child, the business of getting through the current version of life as we knew it tended to drive out most thoughts of future versions, with the possible exception of wistful thoughts of how nice it would be not to change diapers any more, or trying to imagine when it would be OK to leave her alone to run out to the store.

Now she approaches the beginning of high school, and while daily life does still consume a lot of energy and thought, I’m finding it increasingly easy to imagine the growing independence she will have over the next few years.  Surely this is largely because I’ve watched my students follow this trajectory; it’s my sixth spring at SA, and we’re about to graduate the fourth class of students I’ve taught (and the third that I taught when they were freshmen).  But it’s also because I followed this trajectory myself, as a teenager, and I well remember how much I wanted independence, too.

Mike Riera, author of Field Guide to the American Teenager and other books (including Surviving High School, a well-thumbed copy of which I keep in my classroom), tells parents that we have to get ourselves “fired from the job of being our kids’ manager and rehired in the role of consultant.”  I guess the thing that keeps me from being too sad about the Snork Maiden growing up–beyond the fact that this is what’s supposed to happen–is the hope of being one of her consultants for many years to come.

Smart women, foolish choices

The institution that sponsors the Thing has a Facebook page of its own.  I just visited it, feeling forlorn, and the person who posted the cryptic comment below is one of three people on my friends list who “like” the Thing.

Then I went to her page and tried to reassure myself that she “likes” a lot of things–over three hundred of them, actually.

But this is crazy-making.  I have to stop.

If I knew her a little better, I would message her and say, “That thing–is it my Thing?”  But I don’t, and I won’t.

Meanwhile, my SA colleague Natasha has also posted something cryptic, something like “everything wonderful starts out as something scary,” which makes me wonder if she is interviewing for another job.  Just before break, I heard that her daughter had decided to leave SA for high school in favor of a public school in one of the Smaller, More Affluent Districts in which some of our families live.  I know Natasha has been somewhat discontented at SA of late; she wasn’t appointed the science department chair a couple of years ago when the previous chair left, and she hasn’t always gotten along well with the new chair.  So with her daughter leaving, she’d be free to look elsewhere, if she wanted to.

Or maybe she’s just taking up capoeira or something.

I picked up our nephews Snufkin and Sniff today, from middle school and kindergarten, respectively, and Snufkin told me that he’d decided among his three top choices for high school in Massive City District.  He’ll be at a science-focused magnet fairly close to our house, which might end up being convenient sometimes–the Snork Maiden and I could pick him up pretty easily on our way home.

Did I mention that the Snork Maiden has decided to go on to high school at SA?  She has.  I’m really glad.

Now I just need to stay off Facebook.

Through the looking-glass

Okay, here’s one other reason I’m sorry not to be going to AWP this year: I could really use a couple of days off on my own.  The routine is starting to get to me (even though we’ve really only just gotten back to it).  I’m tired of being the go-to person for everything in the household and everything the Snork Maiden needs.  She’s a pretty competent thirteen-year-old, but I do still need to tell her to put this in her backpack and put that away and clean this up and by the way did you practice?  Also, there are fits of teenaged pique and frustration and school drama.  I don’t mind any of these things individually, but the whole experience is just so much more manageable when there is another parent around to do some of the last-minute errands and the ferrying around and just generally to absorb the emotional excess.  Thank goodness that Stubb is accessible by phone and Skype and that schedules usually work out so that they can chat and reconnect most days.

I don’t see a weekend I could get completely off on my own for a while, but I’m wondering if I could manage 24 hours just by myself, at home, like maybe next Sunday?

There are, by the way, some really fantastic things about being on my own with the Snork Maiden.  We haven’t been having a lot of adventures, but we’ve been having a reasonably peaceful and pleasant time with some socializing and some experimenting around the home routines, especially with cooking.  I love driving to and from school with her, and I’ve been quietly pleased with her sense of competence and ownership around the things she does at school.  She still regrets not having a really close, trusted girlfriend, but she’s become quite friendly with a classmate who’s new this year, and her guy friends remain loyal.  And she’s been doing very well academically.

Wow!  As I was writing this post, the mom of one of her guy friends called to see if she wanted to join them on a top-secret adventure for the son’s birthday.  That means she’ll be out of the house for several hours on Sunday.  Golly–I’ll have to think about whether there’s a way to stretch that out.  Unfortunately, all the grandparents will probably be involved in watching the Super Bowl, so it might be hard to find someone to drop her off or pick her up–but I’ll see what I can come up with.