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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Today I had the opportunity to chaperone a field trip to the theater at my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island.  Walking through the Fine Arts building, which holds oh-so-many memories for me, was pure nostalgia tinted with a hint of surrealism.  It felt simultaneously familiar yet strangely new.   I thought I saw my 20-year-old self as I negotiated the wide hallways–studying in a corner, reading an assigned novel curled up on a comfortable chair.

But as soon as I stepped off memory lane and looked at the actual students on campus, I noticed something quite new–study groups using laptops (with said laptops open to Facebook), not even looking at or talking to each other; cell phones everywhere, their owners furiously texting instead of reading the copious notes on which they’re about to be tested; students reading on tablets with all of the accompanying distractions.

And I thought about how just 23 short years ago, these distractions did not exist.  Believe me, I’m grateful.  I have no doubt that had Facebook, texting, and Netflix been part of my young-adult reality, I would have gotten substantially less done, and I truly don’t know where that would have led (or not led).

And this made me think about what the life of a college student is going to look like for my sons–who will enter college in 2022, 2024, and 2027.  What will exist to distract them?

I can’t even begin to imagine.

But what I do know is that starting now I need to teach them how to tune out the distracting technology, to focus on the single task at hand, to prioritize academics over social networking, and to exhibit self-control amidst the chaos.

Oscar will land on a college campus in just ten years–and I find myself wondering if I’m going to have enough time to impart all of this.

Let Him Have This

Several weeks ago when I told Edgar about my trip to England, he asked for only one thing:  a wand.  Convinced I was going to the land of Harry Potter where wands are readily available on every street corner and in every back alley, he felt his request would be easily fulfilled.  And, in fact, on the Friday morning of departure, the only thing that quelled his tears was my reminding him that I was going to get a wand–and possibly an application for him for admission to Hogwarts.

When I got to work that morning, one of my very creative students volunteered to create an application to Hogwarts for him–complete on wrinkled brown paper and written out painstakingly in perfect calligraphy.  The plan was that I would put the application in my suitcase and “bring it back”–as if it had come from England.  The potential magic, I knew, would be beyond compare.

Later that day another student asked how I would handle it if, when Edgar is eleven (the official age at which one can be admitted to Hogwarts), he tries to send in his application.  I looked rather quizzically in response to the question, never having contemplated the notion that Edgar would still believe Hogwarts was real at age eleven and quite sure that by then he would understand the difference between reality and fiction.

My student indicated (based on personal experience, I suspect) that Edgar may very well believe Hogwarts is real for a long, long time.

And as I thought about the possibility (and difficulty) of having to lift the proverbial curtain in five years, I realized that it would be worth it.  For the same reason we allow our children to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, I am going to let him have this.

There is something to be said for magic and even more for the ability to believe in it.

Are You Getting Excited Yet?

The short answer to this titular question is “Yes.”  In exactly 24 hours I will be on a bus which will take me to the airport where I will board a plane to London.  I am traveling with two fun-loving, hardworking, supportive colleagues and 18 high school students with personality-plus.   The trip will be exciting, it will be educational and eye-opening.  I adore traveling–but this trip comes at a cost.

Nine days away from my family.

And I would be lying if I didn’t say this makes me wistful–even sad.

Three months ago, I didn’t even think I’d be able to go.  Edgar was having active seizures–every day, many times a day; and I knew that if that were the case come April, there would be no way I could leave town let alone the country.  But his seizures have subsided, and I can leave.  My husband is here, and there is a strong network of family and friends who will care for my sons while I’m away and their father is at work.

Photo Credit: Deanna DiMarzio

But it’s hard.  Oscar just got his glasses this week; and every time I look at him he appears less like a boy and more like a young man–and I am reminded how fast time is flying.  Edgar, though seizure-free since January 28th, is continually adjusting to changes (albeit reductions) in his medications; and August has been coming up with new words and expressions every day that belie his two-year-old self and give me pause.

I’m going to miss them, I’m going to miss these nine days with them–a lot.

And, yes, I know it’s good for them to see their mother go and come back, to hear about people’s travels as they dream of their own future adventures, to be with caregivers different from those they’re used to. And I know it’s good for me and good for my students.  And I know how lucky I am–for so many reasons–that I can go.

But today I have a pit in my stomach–and a significant one at that.

And something tells me–whether I am the chaperone leaving behind three very young children or the parent who is sending their teenager overseas for the first time–that that pit will be my constant companion.

But as long as these three are my constant companions as well, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Just the Two of Us

Some time ago, I was asked to write a five-part series for our adoption agency, Children’s Friend and Service, entitled “A True Tale of Adoption.”  The idea is that the first installment would be about life before children, then an installment about each of our sons, and the final installment about our life as a complete family.

Here, with permission of Children’s Friend and Service, is Part I of the series . . .

I suppose we have Hurricane Gloria to thank. In September 1985, when I was a senior in high school, I had applied for two part-time jobs to supplement my nonexistent income. Wind damage had knocked out the power at one of the businesses to which I had applied—a local grocery store around the corner from my home—and they needed immediate help to retrieve the items from their freezers and save their stock. They called and told me I was hired and asked if I’d be willing to help out. With motives more financial than magnanimous, I eagerly accepted the job and skipped on down to lend a hand. And that’s when and where I met my future husband—though he didn’t know it at the time.

He was 24 years old, so definitely (to my 17-year-old self ) fascinating by virtue of his advanced years, and he was handsome and a guitarist in a band. Enough said. I was in love. We worked together and became friends until that fateful night in November 1986 when my appearance and corresponding nasal sound effects revealed I had a bad cold. Don came through my line at the store with water, cough drops, and a small orange juice. I rang up the items, not thinking a whole lot about them, until he said, “Here. These are for you. Feel better.” Now, of course, it was clear to me that he too was in love.

Photo Credit: Jan Armor

On December 13, 1986, this grocery store held its annual Christmas party—and both Don and I decided we would attend . . . well, we’d meet there. It wasn’t a date or anything. Except by the end of that evening, which we count as our “first date,” it was clear that this was one love story that was meant to be. Eight years to the day, on Tuesday (yes, a Tuesday), December 13, 1994, we were married.

Both Don and I were deeply entrenched in our education for a very long time—he pursuing his Master’s in Musicology at Tufts and I, a full-time public high school English teacher, a Master’s in English at the University of Rhode Island. We both started our Ph. D. programs—he at Brandeis and I continuing at URI. We also traveled—a lot: London, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Helsinki, Prague and destinations throughout the United States. The world was our classroom, and we were avid readers and explorers.

The idea that we would ever even want to have children didn’t really pass through our shared consciousness. We saw ourselves as one of those “sophisticated couples” who would spend our luxurious days taking classes, eating exotic meals, traveling to distant locales, seeing independent films, and strolling through museums.

Then one afternoon in 1995, Don and I were out on one of our sophisticated dates—a movie . . . Babe . . . yes, the movie about a talking pig. We sat through the credits (mostly, I’m sure, to consume the last vestiges of our exotic bucket of popcorn) when the name Oscar Farias, a production assistant on the film, appeared. That’s when Don—Don Farias—turned to me and said, “If we ever have a son, can we name him Oscar?”

If we ever have a son . . .

Down, Down, Down

When this is your six-year-old’s daily regimen (times two), any opportunity to reduce it is welcome.

Very welcome–but also very scary.

Because it is precisely this regimen in this exact combination that has allowed Edgar to remain seizure-free for over two months.

But after his EEG came back about as perfect as any EEG could, his neurologist made the decision that it was time to start scaling things back–milliliter by milliliter.

So that’s what we’re doing–every Wednesday, in fact . . . reducing one of his medications by one milliliter in the morning and one in the evening.  It is a very reasonable, very “slow and steady” kind of approach, and it may not even sound like much.

But it is–from both a medical perspective and a very superstitious mother’s perspective.

So, when you see us on Wednesdays and we seem as though we might be holding our breath a bit, that’s because we are.