new york city kid in arkansas
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We returned yesterday from a very fun week in Kansas!  The number one highlight was the Tacketts pulling off the biggest surprise yet, driving up to 1847 Marc on Christmas Eve morning when we all thought they were staying put in Illinois!  I literally couldn’t put a normal sentence together for about an hour.  Other joyful moments included cuddling with Huck’s new little cousins Jackson, Rylee and Sadie Starr, watching Huck make a popcorn wreath with Aunt Lori (and then eating most of it myself), Huck and Nana reading lots of books together, driving around my old hometown and looking at beautiful Christmas lights, visiting with my old best friend Jennifer and her three adorable boys in town from Maine, frosting cookies and trying to save a disastrous gingerbread house (good job, Uncle Nathan!), hearing Huck play some wild and crazy game that involved many boxes with Aunt Tina and Uncle Scott, raking leaves, relaxing in front of many different fireplaces, wowing everyone with magic shows & hurting their brains with Huck’s optical illusions & brain tricks, some more hot tub action (the theme of 2010), seeing Rylee smile at her Grandpa Gaylyn, drinking Shirley Temples, eating chips and dip, opening present after present after present, laughing with a brood of Twyfords on Christmas day, watching Huck’s delighted reaction as he kept receiving green (and blue!) tape from various stockings, Crazy Eights tournaments, a Hottman viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” late into the night, and drinking coffee in my old back yard by the fire pit with my dad while New York City dealt with a crazy snow blizzard.

And here are my two favorite quotes of Huck’s … when we arrived at Troy’s mom’s beautiful blue themed home Huck whispered, “Nana should celebrate Hannakuh because blue is the color!”  And when I zipped him up in a sleeping bag one night he happily said, “Now I can pretend I’m a portfolio.”  Every child’s Christmas dream come true.

Happy New Year, Kansas!  (And all the rest of you, too!)

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We’re getting on an airplane bound for Kansas in a few hours to give Huck an old fashioned celebration with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Because of this, the three of us had our family gift opening extravaganza last night complete with Shirley Temples, and Huck has already begun his winter break!  I took him home with me after this morning’s delightful Family Breakfast in his classroom where there was much hugging and giggling and singing.  Huck’s homework for the next week: Bring a postcard from Kansas back to school on January 3rd.  I think we can handle that.

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The older I get the faster time goes flying by, just like the old people used to say.  Right about the time I’m accepting that summer is ending, it’s time to trick or treat and then we’re getting on an airplane to spend Christmas in Kansas followed by summer starting again.  Proving that he listens to his mother’s constant jibber-jabber, Huck recently said to me that the older he gets the shorter the months feel.  For instance, he asked me how many days were in October and then said, “Back when I was two it felt like October had 33 days.  Last year it felt like 30 days and this year it was like 29.”  This explains why at age 40 I can’t quite keep up with the calendar or the seasons.

Here are some pictures from our whirlwind weekend of more holiday fun which included Troy dressed as a shepherd, Huck as a serious Magi, a tipsy Santa, a late night Christmas carol singalong around the piano, quality time with old friends, and our little friend Viviana as Baby Jesus himself.

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‘Tis the season for non-stop Christmas partying while visions of afternoon naps dance in parents’ heads.  Our weekend started with a wonderfully entertaining double birthday party that included a hilarious clown/magician who made Huck laugh till he was crying with joy.  We had to leave early to make an appearance at Troy’s very successful community party/toy & coat drive at the church where Huck made me tell Santa his desire for 100 rolls of green tape and three packages of bobby pins.  New Yorker Santas are a little edgier than, say, Midwest ones, and this guy (who we’ve been visiting every December since Huck was nine months old) looked at him and said what the rest of us have been thinking: “What do you want all of that for?”  Huck then smiled sweetly and added, “And some surprises.”  Our own neighborhood’s Santa-like sweetheart Donetta donated her valuable time and painted kids’ faces all afternoon, and when she realized Huck never quite made it to her line she insisted on taking him into Troy’s office and giving him whatever he wanted, which ended up being a Santa face.  Troy threw his back out that morning while reaching into the fridge for the mayo (heroic), so after the party we went to our friends the Pasbjergs’ home so that Carl could give Troy some pointers on how to manage his back pain.  We tottered home three hours later with much Christmas cheer in our bellies.  Sunday morning came too early (and I had to gently pull Troy out of bed) and was filled with even more fun.  The children’s choir sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” quite beautifully during church and then decorated one of the majestic evergreens, compliments of the “tree farm” right outside.  Then it was off to our neighborhood’s annual cookie contest party at our friends the Fiaschettis where my Butterscotch Oatmeal Delights tied for fourth place.  We spent the afternoon filling ourselves with many delicious things before again limping home and passing out from that good old Christmas-time-of-year exhaustion.

And in case you’re wondering, this morning I managed to get a few rolls of green tape from the hardware store down the street that has known and loved Huck (and his daddy) since he was a baby.  When I told them this was what Huck wanted from Santa they threw in an extra one.  The Christmas spirit looms large on 181st Street in Washington Heights.

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Our Thanksgiving weekend began with a Wednesday night sneak peek at some of the balloons being blown up on a cold and crowded street for the following morning’s big parade.  Then came a wonderfully quiet family day wherein Huck stayed in his pajamas and never left the apartment (his dream come true), Troy succeeded in making his very first turkey and ate it four days straight (his dream come true), and I got to drink lots and lots of coffee while halfheartedly watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (my dream come true).  During our feast I thanked the turkey for giving its life for my hungry husband and son, to which Huck replied, “Boy, you sure are emotional.”  The weekend also included an educational trip to the New York Hall of Science, a visit from Connecticut friends, a fall walk, several perfect leaf piles, many Shirley Temples, the breaking of two winter coat zippers, phone calls from family, a living room screening of the rough cut of our still unnamed movie, the beginning of my freelance transcription work, and a finished draft of our play just in time for Wednesday night’s public reading.  What a weekend!  Huck’s thankfulness this year was most focused on his school, and for that I am truly thankful.

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I’m a very thoughtful mother, constantly thinking about my child and how to make his life fun and interesting.  Like letting him pick out a very obvious girl’s backpack for kindergarten or encouraging him to get his nails painted at a school party or putting a big yellow school bus patch on a hole in his jeans.  What could go wrong with any of these thoughtful and loving motherly decisions?

Where to start.

A few weeks ago we were playing at a Central Park playground when I noticed Huck surrounded by little girls his age.  I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on until he began walking toward me with a trying-not-to-cry face.  I asked what was wrong and he quickly shot out his fabulous multi-colored fingernails and then hid them under his extra long sleeves as he sadly climbed onto the lap of his traitorous mother who willingly sent him out into the world to be mocked.  As is often the case in emergency situations, I froze.  Thankfully our friend Shamie and her son Jacob were with us and they began enthusiastically telling Huck that of course it’s okay for boys to wear fingernail polish and who says only girls get to have all the fun?  And then Huck announced rather loudly, “BESIDES!  Only ONE person has told me my backpack is for girls!”  Snapping out of my motherly daze of worry I demanded to know who had made such a claim.  Upon hearing her name, I proudly announced that the same little girl had just the day before told me “Jonny” was a boy’s name!

This did not seem to make anyone feel better.

Back in October Huck ripped a big hole in his jeans while climbing a fence, so a few weeks ago we went to the store to buy a patch (because apparently I’m a mother in the 1970s).  He was most interested in a very glittery peace sign, and since I’d just learned my lesson I gently tried to direct him toward a plain black and grey one.   For the first time in his innocent life he said the words: “No, that one’s too girly.”  Trying not to cry I gave him a quick lesson in what’s actually considered girly (glittery things) versus not girly (black and grey things) and after a few more minutes of pondering he selected an androgynous school-themed set.  We got home, ironed on the big yellow school bus and the next day he wore his new and improved jeans to school.  But when I picked him up he had his hands on his hips (first sign of anger) and told me that several of his friends laughed at him and said it looked like the Magic School Bus and that he would never ever EVER wear the jeans to school!

Again I hung my head.

Huck has always been drawn to things designed for girls.  Whether it be flowery water bottles, Abby Cadabby or very good smelling lotions, he loves things I would love.  And because I want him to be himself more than anyone else, I’ve never discouraged this.  (Plus it’s nice to have such a sweet companion.)  But now he’s out in the world everyday and people his age are teaching him important things.  I know it’s perfectly normal for children to start caring about gender issues right about now, and I don’t have any bad feelings toward the kids who are educating him on what he is or isn’t supposed to like.  He’s got a strong personality and I don’t think anyone’s going to completely change him. (For instance, he let the nail polish come off naturally despite the teasing.)  I have no idea what Huck will grow up to be, but I guess all this has taught me one thing: most of all I want him to be kind.  I don’t want him to ever tell a kid he shouldn’t paint his nails or she shouldn’t have short hair.

And I hope he always has a colorful backpack.

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I have personally had an amazing fall, and one of the reasons is because it’s felt so nice and long.  Some years fall feels like three days and then we’re stuck inside for several months, but this year … wow.  The colors are more beautiful than ever and we keep getting these gorgeous days.  I’m torn between loving every second of it and mourning that it’s going to end one of these days. 

In the meantime, I have a whole bunch of Huck tidbits to share.  A few weeks ago he climbed into bed to wake me up at 7:00 with the announcement, “Only 212 more days till Pentecost!”  That’s not really a sentence a non-morning person like me wants to hear first thing.  Then a few days ago I was commenting on all the Christmas decorations going up and wondering why there’s no turkeys anywhere when he said, “They don’t go all out for Thanksgiving like they do for Halloween, Christmas and Pentecost.”  I do not think Pentecost is what Huck thinks it is.

His school has Town Meeting every Wednesday morning where all the teachers and students gather to show their work, share announcements, sing songs and dance.  Never in a million years did I expect Huck would be comfortable enough to share something in front of the whole school any time soon, but last week he did.  According to my spy (Troy), Huck stood there and waited patiently until it was finally his turn to speak into the microphone and told every single adult and child in the room that he spent the weekend in the Poconos for his friend’s birthday.  Can you imagine speaking in front of your whole school at age five?   I would have thrown up.   But almost all the kindergarteners do it.  Kids these days.

Recently I was in the classroom helping his teacher Marilyn with some paperwork during “work time.”  I heard Huck say to his “girlfriend”  Oriana over in the Dramatic Play section of the classroom, “No, no, babies come out HEAD first,” and when I whipped around my head to see what was going on I saw her standing there with a little baby doll under her shirt.  His girlfriend. My grandchild. Maybe I shouldn’t volunteer in the classroom too much.  A few days later we had our family conference where we talked with Marilyn about how the year has gone so far and what each of our goals are for Huck over the next few months.  Huck’s goal, which he had written down, was to learn to count by 14s.  This made me smile for the rest of the day as I silently wished his teacher luck.

Huck loves to practice his brand new skills by reading signs wherever we go.  His technique is to sound out the word and kind of guess at what it might be, so I’m constantly getting tickled by him saying something like, “Free chickens?” while reading a subway bank ad for free checking.  He got a hold of some old scripts of the play Troy and I are writing and asked if he could have them.  He highlighted various lines and told me how they should be said (practicing his drama class skills), and then he surprised me by making a Playbill for us, which we’ll probably use as our poster one day. 

And lastly, Troy or I always say a little prayer before dinner, and the other evening Huck insisted that he say it.  After a very brisk and robotic “thank you for this food,” he explained that the reason he wanted to say the prayer is because he keeps them nice and short “like I like them.”  The other night his prayer got a little more detailed as he said, “Thank you for this food and for my Mommy and Daddy.  (Pause)  Mostly Mommy.”

Aw shucks.

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We spent the weekend in our beautiful Poconos lake house celebrating our beloved friend Shana’s 40th birthday.  (It’s nice to keep company with such wonderful people turning 40 this year.)  And I say “our” lake house because we stayed there a couple of years ago for Shannon’s birthday, who we very much missed this weekend because she lives too far away and is too busy with school right now.  Highlights this time around include meeting Shana’s sister Aliza who looks and sounds quite familiar and fooled us more than once, seeing Venus clear as day through Huck’s telescope, playing in an early morning snowfall, sitting near the cozy fireplace, sitting in the cozy hot tub while watching Troy and John jump into the freezing cold lake in their swim trunks, playing a personalized version of Apples to Apples called Shanas to Shanas, enjoying guitar singalongs (especially a particularly beautiful version of “Tiny Dancer”), eating amazing food prepared by Allison and the two Johns, spending time with Cheesie who came all the way from Arizona & gave Troy his annual haircut, Huck’s nightly “beditations” by Shana, getting to know little Michael and his great parents, sending balloons out into the universe (our apologies to the environment), and taking a wonderful hike to some beautiful waterfalls.

I can’t stop thinking about that big house for sale down the street …