Friday, April 16, 2021

para Adam y todos los demás

Fridays!

I blog in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to copy this post's url into Google Translate and experience the magical imperfection of machine translation!

13 años. 7o grado. 

Aficionado de las películas de Disney / Pixar. 

Manos vacías, escuchando, obedeciendo.

Adam Toledo.

Muerto. Matado. Fusilado. Asesinado. 

13 años. Menor que mis estudiantes.


mis

estudiantes

jóvenes


guatemaltecos

salvadoreños

mexicanos

dominicanos

guineos

congoleses

árabes

y más...


morenos,

negros,

hermosos.


llenos del orgullo, el poder, y la sabiduría

de civilizaciones magníficas:

los maya, náhuatl, taíno,

mandinka, kongo,

asirios, kurdos, beréberes...


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


inteligentes, 

llenos de esperanza y sueños,

tristeza, desafíos, desesperación.


valientes, fuertes,

sensibles.

jactándose, pavoneándose, bromeando,

o encerrándose 

para proteger 

sus corazones,

sus emociones, esperanzas, y sueños. 


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


A veces, arrogantes.

A veces, derrotados. 

A veces, animados, alegres, 

tontos.

A veces, enojados, frustrados, 

desesperados.


A veces, toman decisiones sin pensar.

Se meten en líos. Se equivocan. Se distraen.

No consideran las consecuencias. No prestan atención. 


Pero también tienen ideas que cambiarán el mundo.

Aprenden, crecen, superan obstáculos.


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


¿Y qué van a hacer

si algún día, 

(si ya se fusilaron a un niño escuchando,

si ya se asesinaron a un muchacho obedeciendo,)

qué van a hacer

mis estudiantes multilingües

si un policía que no entienden

les pide hacer algo que no entienden

en un idioma que no entienden, 

o que les es difícil entender 

en un instante de terror?


¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía sólo ve 

su piel?


¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía 

no tarda 

apenas un segundo

en disparar?


¿Qué pasarán a sus sueños,

sus esperanzas, sus futuros,

si son asesinados 

en menos tiempo que tardan en traducir 

un pensamiento?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Too beautiful

Tuesdays at TWT!
What do I write? The sun is pouring across our yard, birds are twittering and chirping their greetings as they flit around our deck, and my heart is full of sweet moments with the girls. It's beautiful here. I could write a hundred beautiful, sweet slices. 

But that's just it. This life is too beautiful to not be bothered that once again, someone who should be in this world is now not. Someone who should've woken up today to hear the birds and see the sunshine (or whatever the weather is doing in Minnesota) did not. Someone whose two-year-old should've covered him in cuddles today, just like my Rainbow did for me. Daunte Wright. How do you tell a two-year-old that their daddy isn't ever coming home again?!

It's too beautiful here to not remember that mere days before that, Lt. Caron Nazario almost wasn't here either. In what kind of country should an active duty Army lieutenant be afraid to get pulled over? (Obviously, in the kind of country where an officer tells him he should be afraid.)

It's too beautiful here to not feel my stomach twisting with the recognition that they, like so many others, were just doing an activity so commonplace that it became one of our favorite, lighthearted ways to get out of the house during the long months of pandemic winter. That we are excited to hop in the car for joyful drives where we take the long way home. We're not scared, even if we happen to see a police car on the way. We just keep singing and driving. 

Which is why the beauty of today just makes my head and heart hurt more. I don't want to live in a world where I can leave my house without fear (I mean, other than the deadly pandemic and the general experience of being female...) while others can't. I don't want to live in a world where when my girls get older, my lists of worries for them will be much smaller than the lists of other mothers whose children simply have more melanin than we do.

Those of us who are privileged enough to not be directly, disproportionately affected by injustice can't just keep living like nothing happened, over and over again. Nor can we pause briefly to read some books and articles, feel better about ourselves because we're "learning", and then keep living, teaching, and parenting the same ways we always have. Learning is good and important, and we should all keep it up. (I'm certainly a different person and teacher than back when I was shocked when one of the first ELs I ever worked closely with told me there are lots of racists in my hometown.) But we can't stop there. 

Because what can I write today that I haven't written before? And then again? And all the times, too many to name, that I didn't write anything? And all the countless times before, for hundreds of years?

It's too beautiful here to ignore another trial, filled with the usual spin, underway about another Black life cut too short, unable to enjoy this beauty. George Floyd. Why is his daughter, just a year older than my Sweetie, spending these beautiful days missing her daddy instead of playing with him?

It's too beautiful here to forget that, for all the attempts at victim blaming, white mass murderers are lead calmly out of their crime scenes and white insurrectionists get to go home after documenting themselves attacking the United States Capitol.

It's too beautiful to also not recognize all the recent brutal attacks and harassment against Asians, who now have to wonder if they'll be assaulted or blamed for the virus if they step outside to enjoy a day like today.

It's much too beautiful here to not recall that these are not isolated incidents, small blemishes that we can just brush past in a return to some idyllic "normal". No, they are merely the latest drips in a long, deep storm of terror and injustice sprung from the very formation of our country.

"America, the beautiful," we sing. And it is. But also, it is not. 

And until we confront the truth that in many ways, America is deeply, menacingly ugly, it cannot be as beautiful as we want it to be. 

NPR, A Decade of Watching Black People Die, May 2020

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A slice of summer, in early April

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

Golden rays pour onto sun-starved skin

that soaks them up like flowers opening for the first time.


"Your headie's hot!" shrieks the big sister,

gentle hand patting the shining streaks of brown and almost-gold

of her little one's hair as they catch their breath,

still beside each other for just a moment

before running, flailing, spinning, laughing,

up and down the hill 

again.

Again!!!


Instinctively, my hand shoots up to my own head,

my own streaks of gold and brown,

and yes, the sun is here, close enough

not just warm but hot!


Neighboring houses are tiny mirrors of themselves

set in matching white and pink sunglasses

above wide smiles, teeth too big for little mouths.


A cheerful bird serenade 

as we eat ice-cream truck treats on the deck:

they can feel it too. 


Swimsuits! Sandals! Back outside!

"WATER TABLE!" the youngest squeals, "with UNICORNS!"

I can't believe she even remembers it.

Splash! Splat! 

Giggles, smiles, giggles.


And I know it's just teasing;

I know it won't last

for now;

I know there's more waiting to come...


But I also know 

summer is coming,

summer will come, 

and it's not as far away 

as it has been.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Torrijas

Celebrating languages on Fridays!
I write in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to experience the magic (and imperfection) of machine translation by pasting this post's url into Google Translate! And if you can write in a language other than English, join me next Friday!

Hemos cocinado torrijas por la primera vez. 

No me había enterado nunca de las torrijas hasta la Semana Santa que vivía en España, hace dieciséis años ahora. Un día me desperté para descubrir que mi "mamá española", Carmen, había cocinado un desayuno especial. Parecía semejante al French Toast, pero con un sabor distinto. - ¡Son torrijas! - me dijo ella. - Es un desayuno típico de la Semana Santa. ¡Y estarán más ricos mañana! -

Me las encantaban. ¿Cómo podría esta gente comer un desayuno tan delicioso sólo una vez al año?

Resolví intentar cocinarlas cada Semana Santa. Pero la verdad es que no me gusta cocinar, y menos si es algo que no he intentado antes. Y cuando por fin encontré una receta, me intimidaron los muchos pasos. 

Hasta el marzo de 2020, con el mundo en pedazos, cuando no pareció divertido cocinar unas recetas nuevas durante las semanas (¡jajaja!) en casa. Se me ocurrió otra vez el idea de cocinar las torrijas, y casi lo hicimos, pero el tiempo transcurrió en una neblina de trabajo y paternidad, y se me olvidó pedir los ingredientes necesarios antes de la Semana Santa. 

Entonces, cuando las semanas encerradas en casa se convirtieron en meses, y en un año, y nos encontramos otra vez en casa este marzo siguiente, decidí que éste, seguramente, era el año de hacer torrijas. Y este año, logré recordar pedir los ingredientes necesarios, y encontré una receta en inglés para que mi esposo la pudiera leer. Los muchísimos pasos de la receta casi me dieron un ataqué de pánico todavía, pero, por suerte, a mi esposo le encanta cocinar y probar recetas nuevas. Él se encargó de leer la receta temible y seguir sus pasos, y pronto, la cocina se llenó con el olor de aceite. 

mi esposo haciendo las torrijas bajo la mirada vigiladora de Sweetie

-¡Huele a España!- le dije. Carmen cocinaba tantas cosas con aceite que casi todos los días, su olor difundía por todo el piso pequeño. En el almacén, ¡había un pasillo entero de botellas de aceite de oliva! 

Guardamos las torrijas en la nevera por la noche, recordando las palabras de Carmen. Y hoy por la mañana, desayunamos con el sabor de la Semana Santa en España. 

¡éxito!

-¡Es mi desayuno favorito!- declaró Sweetie. 

-¡Estarán más sabrosas mañana!- guiñé, pensando en Carmen. Y casi podía ver la cocinita de su piso, tan pequeñita comparada con la nuestra, el sol madrileño brillando entre las cortinas verdes, la vista desde la ventana donde yo buscaba cada mañana el autobús que llegaba antes del mío, y las sonrisas grandes y orgullosas de Carmen y Gerardo cuando nos enseñaron algo nuevo a mi compañera de cuarto y yo. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A different 31 days

Whew! 31 days at TWT!
There's something exceptionally strange about the passage of time in a pandemic. Every day feels like a week, every week seems to drag on for a year, and yet, every month, I'm astonished to find that the calendar is changing again. Things that happened last week feel like they were months ago, but when I feel like surely I got that email or last texted that friend last week, it turns out that it's actually been a month or more!

Blogging every day for a month is always challenging (as proven by the fact that I haven't actually done it since 2016!), but just like everything in 2020 (see? how can it even be 2021 when every day since March 17, 2020 has been practically the same?), it felt very different this year.

Usually, the excitement of writing and connecting propels me forward on a wave of enthusiasm until at least mid-month, and I start to get stuck around the late teens or 20th day. This year, I felt exhausted at day 6 and wondered if I could really pull this off, then absolutely hit my stride mid-month and mostly cruised the rest of the way with just a couple of days where I was slightly, but not even really, tempted to not write.

Usually, my slices are a mix of classroom snapshots and family moments, with the occasional nature slice or reflection thrown in. This year, my posts were just like me, adrift in a sea of endless mom moments with no classroom in sight, with a couple of reflective posts thrown in.

Usually, I try to really work on my writing craft, trying new forms or gaining inspiration from others, and tapping into my poet side at least a couple of times. This year, it was all I could do to get a slice written each day, so I stuck to my typical writing style, trying hard to excel at the strategies I'm comfortable with, but not really trying anything new or anything in the least bit difficult (other than the hard work of slicing in Spanish on Fridays). However, I did push myself to include a song in each slice to celebrate my love of music and its power in my life. While some slices were about a song or included a song easily, there were others where it was a challenge to find the right song or artfully tie a song to my story. 

Usually, I have at least one day where I feel like I don't have any writing ideas, but this year (probably because I'd only written 4 posts in the past 2 years), my list of possible slices grew longer all month, and is currently sitting at 36 future slice ideas! (Looks like I have no excuses for slicing Tuesdays & Spanish Fridays!) I wasn't even sure I wanted to try the challenge this year, and now I can't believe I missed so many Tuesdays over the past months. (Truly, there were many days I realized on Wednesday that the previous day had been Tuesday, resolved to try the next week, and promptly proceeded to forget again. There were also plenty of Tuesdays I just decided I was too tired or writing was too much work, of course.)

Usually, I'd look for Linda's posts about nature or her family, Deb's posts about her dog (RIP, Chloe!), elsie's walks, and LeeAnn's amazing teaching ideas. This year, for the first time, most of my original slicing friends are either no longer slicing at all, or not slicing every day. I had fun welcoming new slicers and falling in love with stories and writing styles I'd never "met" before, but it felt very strange to navigate this challenge without the people who lifted me through so many others. (However, the fact that many of them continued to comment on my posts or like them on social media reinforced the special bond we've formed. They're not slicing friends now, they're... friends!)

Usually, slicing in Spanish on Fridays was something I did by myself, for myself. This year, I realized it could be so much more, and I'm so grateful to the TWT team for embracing my #MultiFri idea! It was incredible to read and listen to slices in so many different languages, to stretch my Spanish by engaging with native Spanish-speakers, to see language learners and heritage speakers engaging with their linguistic identities, to read other slices written in English but reflecting on the impact of world languages in their lives, and to just bask in the celebration of multilingualism, while embracing the pride that comes with knowing that my ideas matter. 

Usually, I talk up my blogging journey with my students as I prepare them for the student challenge in April. Now, I miss them. I miss designing mini-lessons to show them the power of their words and the beauty of crafting those words in impactful ways. I miss sharing my writing with them and seeing them change the way they see me, then seeing the spark in their eyes when they realize that they, too, could be writers, storytellers, even poets. I miss the connections we form through reading each other's slices and commenting, the way this challenge strengthens a classroom community, even this late in the year. I miss sharing their blogs with my colleagues and seeing the way my students' eyes light up when they receive a comment from their math teacher or guidance counselor, as well as the way those colleagues are impacted by my students' stories and writing styles. This year, I will carve out more time to support the participating classrooms with comments that note where I'm from, remembering how much my students loved knowing they were getting comments from teachers and students in faraway places.

It's a different year, for sure. But despite all the challenges we're all facing, different isn't always bad. After all, here we are, 31 days after I almost decided not to participate, with new (and still old) friends, a new way to highlight multilingualism, an overabundance of ideas to propel me forward, 31 very unique moments captured (including so many family memories to savor), a lot of reflection about the role of music in my life, and an aliveness in my heart reminding me that yes, I am a writer. 

I did it!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Mask parade!

Day 30 of 31 at TWT!
"We can get shale rocks! With Meemaw and Grandaddy!! I need my MASK!!!" Rainbow Girl squeals with excitement as soon as I tell her that my parents are going to meet us at our favorite park.

After packing lunches, rain boots for creeking, and extra clothes, and seemingly half the house, we choose our masks on the way out. "Pink unicorn! Pink unicorn!" she shrieks, reaching out her little arm and opening her chubby fingers. 

I think back to how excited she was to finally be big enough to wear a mask. All summer and fall, she'd been watching us put on our masks to see my parents or pick up her sister's school supplies. She was pretty good about wearing the little faceshield sunhat we'd gotten her, but she knew it wasn't the same. After a few times asking if she could have a mask, she learned the answer and started announcing, "Sis is big enough! Mommy's big enough! Daddy's big enough!" whenever we got them out. It was perfect. As her birthday approached, we started hyping, "You'll be big enough soon!" 

We made sure the mask pack was the first present she opened on her birthday, right away in the morning. As soon she pulled the tiny unicorn and rainbow masks out of the pack, she grabbed the pink one and held it up to her face. I cheered, "You're big enough!" and helped her pull the loops over her ears. Clenching her little fists in excitement, she tilted her head up and squinted her eyes in her happiest smile. 

The birthday girl, finally big enough!

"MASK PARADE!" she announced gleefully, flail-dance-running in circles around the family room with Sweetie close behind.

She wore it to my parents' house. She wanted to show it to Sweetie's kindergarten friends during their school meeting. She played in it. She colored in it. She read in it. She played in it some more. Hours later, if she could've eaten her snack in it, she would have!

Now, she usually only wears a mask when needed, although we still have the occasional mask parade. But she always keeps them on so happily that people ask incredulously how old she is when they see her. (It's a fair question since she's still wearing 12-18 month clothes!) 

"I'm two!" she declares proudly, often followed by an excited index finger jabbing at her face. "I have my MASK!" 

creeking today with the same mask (her absolute favorite), since my parents were with us


(When Laurie first started putting on a mask for a few minutes during her Facebook Lives last spring, talking about how we could all be superheroes by wearing a mask and washing our hands, Rainbow Girl burst into tears, but soon, she was much more curious than scared!)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Ride in the car!

Day 29 of 31 at TWT!
Sun streams through the windshield, making Rainbow Girl's hair in the mirror seem lighter than it really is. It's chilly today, but it looks deceivingly beautiful as we zip along the country roads, taking the long way home, as always. For most of last year, she hated the car (probably because the only place we went all spring and summer was to the doctor to get shots!), but in the fall, she suddenly decided riding in the car was so fun that she didn't want to get out, loudly yelling "I don't WANT head home!" when we approached our neighborhood. Suddenly, she would screech "YEAH! RIDE IN THE CAR!" when I said it was time to pick up one of Sweetie's free school lunches for remote learners, and one of our sanity-saving winter activities became driving around for an extra 20-30 minutes on any day the lunch is something Sweetie likes. 

Just a few minutes from our house, we can zoom along safe, fun backroads with rolling hills, gorgeous views, and few other cars. One minute we're gliding past wide-open, placid farm fields, and around the next bend, we're winding through wooded areas where long, gated driveways lead to mansions we can barely catch glimpses of. On one of our favorite routes, we even sail past the historic, well-preserved farm where the namesake of Sweetie's school, a freed slave, became the first Black farm-owner in the county and hid escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Just down the road, we peer at the reservoir that now covers the riverbank caves where the escaping slaves would hide until the farm owners rang a bell that signaled safety, and we think about the courage of all involved.

When we're not contemplating history, the girls balance singing loudly along to their playlist, looking at books, and looking out the window. With her musical car mirror, Rainbow Girl can see out the front windshield too, even though she's rear-facing, and I love seeing her little finger in my rearview mirror, pointing into her mirror at something we're approaching. "LOOK!" she'll screech, "DIGGERS!" (Both girls are in love with construction vehicles of all kinds.) Or I'll see her holding up a book, tiny finger on a picture, declaring, "A rabbit! Look, a rabbit!" or "I see Brown Bear, Brown Bear!"

She also loves to introduce each song by shrieking her special nickname for it when she hears the first few notes. For example,"How Far I'll Go" from Moana is "Pig!" because she likes watching for Moana's pig friend to appear in the music video during our YouTube playlist dance parties. "For the First Time in Forever" from Frozen is "Quack Quacks!" or "Duckies!" because she loves the little family of ducks that waddles by Anna at one point in the video.

In the car, it's astonishing to see how much she's memorized each video as she narrates her favorite songs by describing what happens in the video, exactly at the right moment in the song, announcing when Moana "dives in the pool!" in "I am Moana", or when Elsa shoots off ice fireworks in "Some Things Never Change".

Even better, she narrates the Spanish ones too, and while I know she just has the songs and their videos memorized like the English ones, she's also connecting the Spanish lyrics she's learning to the pictures in her head from the videos, and starting to learn what some words mean. I'm so proud when she declares, "Nariz means nose!", "I like melon!" or shakes her body at the correct times when "Hormiguita" comes on in the car. (Sweetie loves to help by tickling her in the correct body part as the ant crawls around!) Or when she tells what each letter does in "La Ronda de Vocales": "He bring a present for her mommy! He eats! He rides her bike!" (At just over two, she's still working on English too, and one of her more adorable explorations right now is pronouns that don't always agree with themselves.) 

Sweetie, who loves to be Elsa, mostly asks questions about the sights and helps make sure her little sister has the right book or her water cup... until the Frozen songs come on. Then she's fully focused on singing every word at the top of her lungs, making Elsa-ice-power motions with her hands (sometimes copied by Rainbow). 

I'm glad we'll be able to start enjoying more time outdoors and using the car to really go to parks (and eventually more normal places), but these winter car rides have been a fun way to get out of the house and yard while still being safe at home together!

"Hormiguita (Ant)" is one of our favorite songs, and I'm so grateful that there are amazing YouTube channels like La Gallina Pintadita with high-quality visuals (and sing-along lyrics for my budding reader) so I can give them access to a whole wider range of Spanish input! Before I discovered this and curated a playlist, Rainbow Girl (with her aversion to new things) was not a fan of me trying to use Spanish. Now, not only does she love Spanish songs, she's gleefully starting to use Spanish to communicate, just like her big Sis and Mommy!