Friday, December 18, 2015

Somebody Raised Him

As many of you know, I teach English as a Second Language. I teach Level 1, for beginners who have had at least some education in their home country, and Literacy 1, for students who have had no prior education, in any language. Literacy 1 students, or preliterate students, often speak native languages that have no written form. Dinka, spoken in South Sudan, falls into this category (or so I have been told). Others simply had no opportunity, whether because of poverty, or war, or because they were female in a society that didn't educate females. Whatever the reason, they present a whole slew of unique challenges. Some can't distinguish between a drawing and written language; the methods that work with children learning to read in their native language don't always work for these students.

In my Literacy 1 class, I have several students from Burma. One in particular stands out to me. Every time I hand something to him, or he hands something to me, he cups his right elbow with his left hand. He only ever uses his right hand to pass or accept things; in Southeast Asia, the left hand is "unclean," and it's not polite to use it for that kind of task. Cupping the elbow with the left hand is a traditional, respectful gesture in most of that region. It makes me a little homesick, if you can be homesick for a place you only lived for a year and a half. Every time he does it, it reminds me that somebody raised him.

Somebody raised him to be polite and respectful. Cupping his elbow is deeply ingrained behavior for him; somebody worked hard to raise a well-mannered adult. He's smart, and he catches on to new concepts quickly; somebody raised him to be curious and thoughtful about the world around him. He's a Muslim raised in Southeast Asia, so somebody raised him straddling two worlds, even before he came here to take on a third. He's never been to school before, in any country and he doesn't read in his native language. I'm still not sure what his native language is, because his English is pretty limited. Even though he's at a huge disadvantage, learning to read for the first time as an adult, and in a second language, he's putting a tremendous amount of effort into his education. He comes to class on time and rarely misses. When we practice numbers or the alphabet, his voice is loud and clear. Somebody raised him to be disciplined; he shows up to class even when it's snowing and cold. He's taking on a new country, and a new language, so someone raised him to be brave.

And somebody raised him to be happy. He smiles all the time and laughs easily. He thanks me every day. It's likely his childhood was difficult. He's short and slightly built, which could be genetic but could easily be a result of food scarcity during critical growing years. He was part of an unpopular minority in a country that doesn't tolerate diversity. If he's one of the Rohinga Muslims, which is likely, Burma doesn't consider him a citizen, even though he was born there. He'd have to prove his family settled there before 1823 to gain citizenship, and that's nearly impossible. His rights would have been nearly non-existent. According to Human Rights Watch, some Rohinga Muslims are forced into labor as young as seven, which could also explain why he never went to school. It's possible he spent a good portion of his childhood in one or more refugee camps, uncertain of the future. But somebody raised him to be resilient, to keep trying and be positive. He'll need that to thrive here. 

I don't know who raised him. It could have been a mother, father, uncle, aunt, or grandparent. I'll probably never know. He'll probably never see that person again, since traveling back to his homeland would be incredibly expensive and possibly unsafe. But every time he cups his right elbow, I smile; because it's such a polite gesture, because it makes me miss a country that holds a special place in my heart, and because it reminds me that he, and every one of my students, has a story - even if it's one I'll never know.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Maybe I'm just cheap, but. . .

The local classifieds have an entire section devoted to Home & Garden. I love browsing this section; the Farmer's Market, in particular, I love. Yesterday, out of curiosity, I decided to browse the ads under the "Fertilizer" heading. There were a few people selling their spreaders, a few bags of commercial fertilizer, and a number of farmers offering composted steer and/horse manure. Most the the farmers were either giving it away, or selling it very cheap - like $10 for an entire pickup load, which they would load for you. Completely reasonable, I thought.

Then there was the rabbit manure.

This lady was offering to sell her rabbits' manure. For $3 a GALLON. I'm tempted to call her. I imagine the conversation would go like this:

Me: Hi, I'm calling about your rabbit manure. I have a few questions.
Lady: Okay.
Me: What do you feed your rabbits?
Lady: Oh, it's completely natural food. Nothing artificial at all!
Me: Oh, great. So, how old is this rabbit manure?
Lady: It's pretty fresh. But the great thing about rabbit manure is that it's a cold manure, no need to compost it.
Me.: Okay, great. You know, it's very important to me that my manure come from happy rabbits. (I would be totally joking about this, but she's trying to sell manure for $3 a gallon. I think she's asking for people to mess with her a little.) I believe all living things are connected and happy rabbits will produce better manure. On a scale of 1 to ten, how happy are your rabbits?
Lady: Um. . .a nine?
Me: Nine. Great. So it's three dollars a gallon?
Lady: Yes.
Me: Okay, one last question. . .  
Lady: Yes?
Me: You get that this is POOP, right?

Maybe I should buy some. For that price, my tomatoes better grow like Jack's beanstalk.

Or maybe I should just get a rabbit. The kids want a pet anyway.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good to know

We've been spending a lot of time at the rec center lately. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the older two girls have swim lessons. We leave the house a little after nine, drive to the rec center, drop the two little ones off at daycare, get the girls showered, and off they go to swim lessons. Then I hurry upstairs to the cardio area and hop on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Then I meet the girls in the locker room, get them dressed, and go pick up the little kids from daycare. We generally go to the indoor play area for a bit (they have a play grocery store that Dylan could spend hours in, and an awesome indoor play structure) and kill some time before lunch.

We frequently see the local firefighters working out at the rec center. They're easy to spot, since they all wear their "uniform" t-shirts while they're working out. I've always found it reassuring that they are there; it's a job you'd have to be in decent shape to do well, right? But I've always wondered what would happen if they got a call while they were mid-workout.

Wednesday, I found out.

I had just picked up Dylan and Mailaya from the daycare, which is just inside the doors of the gym, and we were heading back to the indoor play area. Seven guys in matching t-shirts came BOOKING it down the steps from the cardio loft and head out the door. They weren't at a flat-out run - there were lots of kids and old people around, so it was too crowded - but they sure weren't wasting any time. They looked pretty intently focused, though. One of them did notice Dylan's awe-struck face and managed to smile and say hi.

It's nice to know that if we ever do need to call them, they move fast.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just when you think Church is boring

Our ward is shaking things up. Today, the Relief Society, Young Woman, and Primary presidencies were ALL released. I was secretary in the Primary presidency, and now I'm second counselor. Not a huge change, except doing Sharing Time scares the heck out of me. The new Primary president is an amazing woman who I have admired for a long time; the other counselor and new secretary are busy, busy ladies but I think they will be awesome to work with.

Three years ago this summer, I was called as secretary in the Relief Society Presidency. Just a week or two later, one of the counselors developed appendicitis and had to have surgery. I was called to this new presidency last Sunday. Today, the secretary in the new Primary presidency had HER appendix out. I don't believe in curses but. . .what the heck??? I told the other sisters in the just-released Primary presidency that they were very lucky none of them lost an appendix.

I'm also Assistant Compassionate Service Coordinator. I like to joke that I'm Assistant TO the Compassionate Service Coordinator, but apparently no one in my ward watches The Office so I've given up. The Compassionate Service Coordinator in our ward is this sister who's a little, well, rough. She tells it like it is. She can be a little bossy. She can be a little grouchy. But man, can that lady organize a funeral. She's awesome at getting stuff organized, and that's really the role of the Compassionate Service Coordinator, isn't it?

She's also had health issues for the last few years so about a year ago, maybe a year and half, they asked me to assist. Fine, no problem. All I have to do is show up and take orders, and I am good at that. They called me to be Primary secretary eight months ago and asked if I would still assist her. Sure, no problem. Then they called me to be second counselor, and asked if I could still assist. Sure.


The Compassionate Service Coordinator is REALLY sick. She's been out of commission for the last couple of months and is not expected to be back in full health any time soon. And today they announced that we are having a special ward fast because there are SO MANY people in our ward who are battling cancer or having major surgeries or otherwise struggling healthwise. Now I'm wondering if it's too late to change my mind about keeping both callings??? It'll be okay, right? He qualifies those he calls and all that. It'll be okay.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Today was supposed to be a peaceful, spiritual day, watching my daughter get baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It didn't go exactly as planned. Yesterday, when I picked Trea up from school, she told me that it hurt when she peed, and she'd had to go to the restroom at school four times during the school day. Uh-oh. She's had three UTIs already this year. So, since it's 4 pm when I get home, and my doctor's office is 30 minutes away, I decide to wait until John gets home and take her to the urgent care clinic near our house. He gets home at 7. We go to urgent care, deal with an overly perky doctor who at first tries to convince me it's just irritation from her imperfect hygiene, and then writes a prescription when the test comes back positive. We get home at 10. Today, Trea was miserable. Wavering between wanting to be baptized and just wanting to go home. I talked her into it, mostly because my dad had come all the way from North Carolina to be here. The bishop, her dad, and both grandpas gave her a blessing right before her baptism. She went from being nearly in tears because of the pain to fine in less than 10 minutes. She was baptized, confirmed, and had a great rest of the day. I hope she has good memories of today. My mother-in-law commented that no one remembers their baptism anyway, but I remember mine - or at least parts of it. I just want her to be able to look back on today and, if she remembers anything, to remember a blessing healed her. And that her dad and grandpas were a part of that. Not too much to ask, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Project"

That's what we call it around here. The never-ending, almost-sorry-I-even-started-it, project. The one that took so long Trea once told me, "Mom, I hope you finish that before I'm all grown up."

Me too!

So, let me explain.

This is the space beneath our stairs:

Doesn't that just scream "playhouse" to you? I thought it did. We put the two play kitchens and the table and chairs in there. A good start, but. . . then I read the blog of my cousin's wife, Amy, and she had made the cutest felt cover for a card table, to make a playhouse. And I thought, it would be really cool to make a false front for the play space in our house.

So I made this:

The kids love it.

Close up of the rosebush:

Close up of a rose:

Close ups of vine flowers:

(Sorry they're a little blurry, photography is on my list of things to learn. . .you know, now that I'm not working on this.)

There are ladybugs on the vine too:

I thought about butterflies, but I decided to add those later. They will be used to strategically hide any rips/stains/tears (which are inevitable, may as well plan for it, right?)

Although I am embarrassed to admit this, I started this nearly two years ago. Memorial Day weekend, 2010. I made a lot of progress at first, and then I was sick, because I was pregnant with Mailaya. . .then I was nursing a newborn and chasing a toddler, which is NOT conducive to big projects that have to be laid out. . .and then my mom got sick and passed away shortly thereafter. I ripped out all the dandelions in my front yard while she was sick, but I didn't want to do anything that needed patience. After she died I just didn't have any desire to work on it for a while.

But, it's done now. The hanging isn't perfect - but I've got a plan to tweak it. I also saved the sheer brown curtains that were in the living room, because I thought they'd make good doors. There's velcro on the back of the castle, so I just need to add velcro to the "doors" and they'd be done.

John asked me at one point what I was going to do to the back - you know, the inside of the castle? Good grief, like it needs wallpaper???

(I might, if I find the right fabric. . .)

It was also John's idea to add the rainbow. I had a sketch that I showed him, and he (somewhat sarcastically) said,"Great, all it needs is a rainbow."

And I, without a trace of sarcasm, said, "You're RIGHT! It DOES need a rainbow!"

That cost him about $30 in felt, so he probably regrets it.

I have big plans for the inside too, but I'm taking a break from this project to do other things. I'll come back to it eventually. I always do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things that make me laugh

I know, I missed last Friday, and today is Wednesday, but whatever.

Things that have made me laugh lately:

Adia referring to McDonald's as "Old McDonald's" - as in, the guy with the farm. Oh honey, if there were a closer connection between ANY farm and MickeyD's you might get to go there more often. . .

Trea giving Adia advice on the way home from school:

Trea: Adia, why won't you let me be your preschool teacher?
Adia: I don't need a teacher. Mommy's teaching me.
Trea: You won't learn anything from her, she's too busy. You should let me handle it. I know Chinese.

And Dylan, when we sing "Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam," jumps so hard that he usually loses his balance and falls over. But he pops right back up!

Mailaya mostly makes me laugh by giving me the biggest, cheesiest grins ever.

And finally, happy anniversary to my sweet husband! Nine years, four kids, and seven moves later, I'm still glad I married you!