Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hanami 2017

I have said before that the holidays and traditions of family provide structure and rhythm for our lives.  They are comfortable.  They help us understand the passage of time.  They ground the kids in family.  And they are FUN!

This weekend, after a Pi-Day snow storm stunted and killed approximately half of the early blooms and shocked the plants that had begun to emerge in late February, we had a 78 degree day and our yearly Hanami Party at Jim and Steph's.  Asian food was out all day (sushi, noodles, dim sum, octopus, miso soup, beef and bok choy, grilled meat-on-a-stick, squid, nori snack), Japanese beer and wine from Jim's vineyard (pure traminette!!) was flowing.  The kids were playing in the "sand box", swinging in the hammocks and on the giant tree swing.  We all talked and ate and played with the kids and caught up on our lives because even though we only live 30 minutes apart, we haven't all been together since the Super Bowl.
Family pic

She picked all of the kiwi and strawberries out of the fruit salad

Aunt Steph helped Abigail with some origami
after it got dark

The kids under a blooming cherry
tree right after the sun set

"Mama, whose toad is bigger?"

Alexander Hamilton

I detest 2nd grade homework. Having a kid in school has had quite an effect on my teaching.  I assign so much less homework now that I ever had, and when I do need to assign homework I focus on quality over quantity and try to give my students a week to do it.  This is because homework is a time drain on families.  Abigail gets off the bus at 4 pm.  She brushes her teeth and goes to bed at 7 pm, unless she has karate and it is more like 8 pm.  This means that on a good night, we only have 3 precious hours with her and part of that time must be used for feeding and bathing.  Putting homework in there frustrates her and us.  She wants needs time to decompress, read, play, be outside, be a kid.  We are lucky in the fact that she gets an assignment paper on Mondays and it is due on Fridays so at least we can spread it out and make it fit into our schedule as best as we can, but it still sucks.  

But if weekly 2nd grade homework sucks, one thing worse are the monthly projects.  They are supposed to be month-long activities for a kid to immerse in one particular idea or another.  Not all ideas were terrible.  Write a letter to a far-away friend or relative and have them write a letter back?  Ok.  Make a diorama of an Indian village?   Oh hell no.  What are we learning other than air-dry clay stains hands the color of pueblo?  Ugh, these projects make me want to scream.  And sometimes I do, like this month, when the students had to research a person in history, read about them, make a poster-board about their life, dress like them, and do an oral presentation.  Abigail instantly wanted to do Hamilton.  (I wanted her to do a powerful woman in history since her curriculum is severely lacking them. All they get are Helen Keller and Rosa Parks: women overcoming adversity.)  

Anyhow, back to Hamilton.  We checked some children's books about Hamilton out of the library and read them.  Abigail listened to the soundtrack to the musical with a new ear for the lyrics and asked a lot of questions.  Every time we asked her if she wanted to dress up, she said no, she would do the presentation in her regular clothes.  With our guidance and direction, she make a great timeline on her poster board.  (This is where my screaming came in.  She didn't know how to make a timeline and it took hours of our time to help her measure the board, divide it into sections, and watch her slowly and carefully print the important events she chose.  Hours.  This took hours.  I wasn't screaming at her, I was screaming next to her about her teacher who assigns these supervision-necessary projects that are a time drain on our family every month.  Not my best moment, but I am wise enough of my own defects to be sure parents have cursed me as the teacher of their children for one reason or another, so I'm over it.)

Abigail thought about rapping the first song from Hamilton the musical for her class presentation, but after her sweet voice started "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore..." Larry gently suggested that maybe she see if she is allowed to show a Youtube video from the performance instead.  She got permission to do that and chose the Tony performance of the Battle of Yorktown.  And, of course, the night before her presentation, Abigail announced the she did want to dress up after all.  In breathless excitement she said "I want to dress up because I think everyone else is and I don't want to be the only one not dressed up but don't worry I thought of it in my head and I can put together a costume with only stuff we have around the house!"

Abigail in her costume that she put together
the night before her presentation, using her
boots and leggings she has only ever wore once
and the bamboo sword she got at the
Shaloin Temple in China

The next day, Larry got coverage for his class and went across the street to see Abigail's presentation.  He videoed it for me and she did so well!  For 3 minutes she spoke on her topic with confidence and authority, which is a really big deal because she claims that she hates speaking in class.  When she showed the video, her classmates were captivated and shouted that they wanted to see it again or that they wanted to see it on Broadway.  Abigail was the cool kid for the day for having seen Hamilton in NYC already.  She was beaming so much she was practically floating.