biotin hair growth

82 and sunny. Gotta love it.

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Sunday afternoon, classes at Lehigh have ended, studying is well underway, Heather is just about out of the woods for her crazy busy time and Meera had a chance to swing a little.

Kyle went with Heather to an event and Owen is shooting hoops. 

All good. 

Grandparents Day

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Grandparents Day 1It has become a tradition for my parents to come for Grandparents and Special Friends Day at the kids’ school each spring. This was the fifth year that MorMor and MorFar have made the long trek from New Hampshire to attend this annual school event. We really appreciate them making the trip!

This year came at a particularly crazy time of the semester for me (they arrived on my last day of classes). As a result, we ate out the entire time they were here! It made it very easy for me, and a special treat for us all (and it gave my parents some keen insight to my foodie children).

It was a quick visit, but a good one. We treasure these visits.Grandparents Day 2 Grandparents Day 3

A Really Good Papi

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Every week, on Monday nights, Meera has swimming lessons. She always wants Braydon to take her, not me. Her main reason for this? He is “gentler-er” when washing her hair post-swim-lesson. So, every week, he goes with her. And every week, he washes her hair afterward, and gets her into her PJs, and drives her home, and then reads to her, and then hands her over to me to put her to bed.

This past Monday, I went along for the ride, just to see the Meera-Papi Monday Night Routine for myself. I watched as he washed her hair in the communal shower (sure enough! he’s way, way, way “gentler-er” than me!!). There he was — my main man, my husband, the father of my children — after a long day of work, standing in the shower with all the other mothers, washing Meera’s hair with more gentle patience than I’d ever have.

So often, there he is, with all the other mothers. I’m not saying that the fathers are never there– every once in a while there is one or two. But let’s be honest about the situation: it is not common. Let’s call it as it is: there are certain kid-zones (mainly, just about anything kid-centric that does not involve sports) where dads just aren’t too frequent; these places and spaces are overwhelmingly dominated by the moms. Obviously, there are lots of reasons for this, and a whole lotta history that’s shaping this, but let’s not try to deny it: it is what it is. And there is Braydon — chaperoning field trips, escorting on the birthday-party-circuit, sitting in doctors’ offices’ waiting rooms, scouring Barnes and Noble for Junie B Jones books, washing hair in the shower at the swimming center…  him and all the mommies. So often, that’s what it is. He doesn’t ask for credit for this, and he definitely doesn’t want extensive praise for it (thank goodness!), but I feel pretty strongly that he does deserve acknowledgement for it.

Yes, he works a lot. So do I. No, he can’t cook a meal to save his life (that’s embarrassing). I can’t manage our cars’ maintenance or check a tire’s pressure or change the oil either (that’s embarrassing too). Is he always an excellent father? No. And I’m not always an excellent mother either. We fall short, we screw up, we are surely messing up our kids in all sorts of ways. And there are many, many things that drive me crazy about him (and not in a good way). But, man oh man, does he ever rock the Papi gig for swimming lessons on Monday nights. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

I had tears of joy and gratitude in my eyes as I snapped that photo with my iPhone the other night.

Hair Day

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This is how they feel about Hair Days

We — like probably most families who maintain locs (and/or many other styles of natural black hair) — have a love-hate relationship with Hair Days. Every 3-4 months we re-twist Kyle and Owen’s locs. It is a whole day of hair doing. Hair Days are looong and painstaking and painful (literally, physically painful at times for the boys’ scalps and for their mama’s back). And Hair Days are bonding, nurturing, precious and fleeting (I’m always aware that there will come a day when someone else does my boys’ hair). We’ve been doing this for ten years now, including Little Sister’s entire life. Saturday’s Hair Day was the first time that Meera — at age just-about-seven — expressed vehemently that she wanted her hair done too. She told me exactly what she wanted done, the number of braids, and the color beads.

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Lehigh 2015 Hackathon

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Posted by Braydon~

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If you know what this means, you should have been there.

A few weeks ago, Jon came by to see the kids and hang out for a few minutes. While he loves the kids and is just a great all around guy, he also happens to be working toward his masters in computer science and is super smart.

For the last few months I’ve been toying with an idea for a piece of software that I’d like to see turned into a business but wasn’t sure how to move it forward in a reasonable way.

As he was sitting there, it dawned on me – we could run a hackathon here at Lehigh!  I looked at Jon and suggested the idea – he immediately loved it.

Jon mentors some of the students.  Or maybe he's just cheating?

Jon mentors some of the students. Or maybe he’s just cheating?

But wait.  If you don’t know what a hackathon is, this might be a bit weird. Check here for a primer, but in a nutshell it’s one or two day event in which a bunch of software programmers get together and try to develop something cool.

Then there is the "please, please work!" everyone has had before.

Then there is the “oh man, come on and work!” everyone has had before.

There are a lot of reasons to run a hackathon, and in this case, pretty much all the criteria you could want were hit:  student growth and experience opportunity, tie-in to residential fellows program, community building with a local business, opportunity for student internships, and overall innovation programming at the university.  What’s not to love?

There's lots to love about a Lehigh hackathon - maybe mostly hacking with good friends.

There’s lots to love about a Lehigh hackathon – maybe mostly hacking with good friends.

It took us a few weeks, but we pulled it off.  Or more accurately, Jon pulled it off.  This guy has incredible leadership skills. Pulling people together at one of the toughest times in the semester is no mean feat. And bringing in Professor Femister for additional guidance was the icing on the cake. Watch out, Jon is going to go far.

None of this would have happened – ever – if we were not living on campus.  Who knew that magic like this would be possible.

Thus, for about 10 hours this past Saturday we had a dozen or so CS students hacking away at a cool concept for an interesting piece of software.  While there were bumps, a bit of anxiety, a surprising large amount of pizza consumed, and some prizes given out, the big win was seeing these amazing students come up with creative, innovative ideas and work together on teams.

I would be remiss without a shout out to Heather and the kids for hanging in there for the hackathon. Heather managed to do both boy’s hair (OMG how did that happen – that is a TRUE hackathon) and braid about 10 micro braids into Meera’s hair.

***

So many times during the day I stood there seeing the future and feeling a wave of excitement for what is to come. Be sure to check out the article by an up and coming journalism major in the Brown and White!

Lehigh Hackathon 2015!

Lehigh Hackathon 2015!

We are already looking forward to the 2nd annual Lehigh Hackathon.  We’re taking what we learned here and making next year even better!

Live Lehigh Rock the Block!

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IMG_8001Well, the J-Ms might just have found our new favorite Lehigh event of the year! Yesterday was the first (hopefully first annual) Live Lehigh Rock the Block Party!

IMG_7996Live Lehigh programs are focused on living learning communities for students on campus. These types of programs are, I believe, a central component to a successful, thriving residential college. At Lehigh, and schools like it, these programs are especially important as they create an alternative to Greek life. I am, shall we say, a huge advocate. Anyway…  the Live Lehigh programs came together to throw a big end-of-year block party 4-6pm yesterday. We picked up the bambinos from school and headed straight there. Upon arrival we quickly discovered that the event was loaded with so many of our favorite students!

IMG_8018Within no time, the bambinos (the only people under the age of 18 there) were running around like happiest-happiest-happiest bambinos on earth (this is their element!). For two hours straight we barely saw them, as they were fully immersed with the many students there whom they know and love. (I swear: these three kids are the most popular humans on this campus.)

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IMG_8013And Dash quickly discovered that this event was, quite simply, heaven on earth. (If he were human he’d compete with the bambinos for the “most popular” title. As it is, he is, for sure, the most popular dog on this campus.)

IMG_8006The campus is bursting with blooms right now. This time is so fleeting each year — within a few days the daffodils will pass and the blossoming trees will simply be flooded with green leaves. But for these few days, right now, the entire campus is lit up with flowers and color everywhere and it is totally spectacular!

IMG_7989IMG_8027 IMG_7990IMG_7991The Rock the Block Party was an ideal way to spend a couple hours, just soaking up the spring sun and enjoying one of the last few days we have with students before they move out for the summer and/or graduate. Seriously, Braydon and I were talking about it afterward — we love these students. We are so fortunate to get to stand there talking with these interesting, dynamic, amazing, young people. How lucky are we? Oh– and we got to watch the bambinos jump like crazy with the college kids in the bounce-house (that is a wild sight), and listen to student groups perform (holy cow! at one point one of the bands — a heavy metal group — announced, “Is Heather Johnson in the audience? Because this song is about sociology!” and then proceeded to do their thing — given it was heavy metal I couldn’t make out much, but I did hear the verse, “open your eyes!” over and over in there somewhere — now thatthat, seriously, was just about my ‘high’ of the entire semester!).

IMG_8003IMG_8017Yes, our family life is quite unique. Yes, we give up a lot by not having a more typical family home/yard/neighborhood/lifestyle. But truthfully: there is no place we’d rather be than where we are right now.

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Liana

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IMG_8026Dash, Liana, Owen, Kyle, Meera — last night

Living on a college campus, we have hundreds (literally, hundreds) of babysitters at our fingertips. Braydon and I could go out every single night and have a different babysitter each time. If we need someone to cover the kids for a couple hours during the day, I have lots of students that I can (and do) ask. But for night-time babysitting, we like to have one “regular,” steady, go-to person that we can count on to handle the bambinos, their bedtime (and bedtime battles), and Dash, with consistent comforting steadiness. Braydon and I go out for date-nights on Friday nights probably on average about every-other-week. Our first year on campus we had our beloved Kathryn as our steady nighttime babysitter. But in our 2nd year, Kathryn was away for study abroad, and we had to find someone new. We quickly landed with Liana. And for the past two academic years, Liana’s been our steady-consistent-go-to-nighttime-babysitter-dogsitter.

Liana lived in Sayre last year and we got to know her, and love her, fast. And, Dash loves her beyond belief (she is, for sure, Dash’s all-time favorite student; he goes absolutely crazy when he sees her).

Just about every-other-Friday, Liana and the bambinos have pizza and watch a movie. And then she puts them to bed. Often Liana’s boyfriend Mike joins them. I’m not there — so I don’t know what exactly goes on — but I know that Kyle, Owen, and Meera love their time with Liana. I don’t think they even think of this as “babysitting.” They think of it as “pizza and a movie Fridays with Liana.” Sometimes, if we go for more than a couple weeks without this ritual, the bambinos will request that Mommy and Papi go out… so that they can hang out with Liana.

Liana’s on track to graduate this year. Which is, of course, great for her, but bittersweet for us. I’m confident we’ll always stay in touch with Liana (we’re developing a pretty good track record of keeping in contact with special students we’ve become really close with during their time at Lehigh), but we’re all starting to realize that our regular Friday routine is about to shift and change and evolve. Liana babysitting has been a two-year ritual that’s anchored us all. We’ll miss her when she goes. Which brings much weepy-type feelings into my heart.

The J-Ms love Liana. I hope posts like this will remind us, years later, of some of the very special people we had in our lives during this phase of our family.

Toothless Wonder-Twins

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DSC_0001When our twinados were tiny, and first starting to lose their teeth, they were fascinated by the whole process. The loot from the Tooth Fairy was the least of it; they were seriously enamored with the idea that their teeth fell out. Quickly they discovered that — if loose enough — they could pull each other’s teeth out. They’d wiggle and wiggle their teeth (their own, and each other’s), they’d wiggle like you wouldn’t believe, they’d tug and twist and yank, and they came up with all sorts of ideas to make the teeth come out ASAP. Their favorite was the “Tissue Method,” in which they’d use pieces of paper towel or Kleenex to wrap around their brother’s loose (often barely loose) tooth, get the best grip possible, then attempt to yank it out regardless of how loose (or unloose) the tooth actually was. They were unbelievably successful at pulling out each other’s teeth– even when the teeth were hardly loose at all.

Let’s just say there was lots and lots of blood involved, and we’ll leave it at that.

Braydon and I have crazy memories of all this tooth-yanking insanity. We laugh now about it, but at the time it was over-the-top twinny insanity. We remember one weekend morning, in particular, when they were six years old, and Owen pulled a very un-loose tooth out of Kyle’s mouth (with Kyle’s total approval) before Braydon and I had even woken up yet. I wrote about that in 2010 here.

Over the years we have spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying that they’ll accidentally pull out each other’s full-adult (non-baby) teeth. In fact, if truth be told, we’ve been known to call the dentist a couple of times just to have them check the x-rays to make sure that the latest lost tooth wasn’t actually an adult tooth mistaken for a baby tooth by one of our darling sons.

Well, they are almost 11 years old now. And they are losing their molars. This is one of those things where we’re reminded of how much they’ve changed (they are my height [Kyle], or taller than me [Owen], they don’t even believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore [whaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!], and relative to the tiny toddlers they once were, they are practically grown men!), and yet how little has changed (oh my heavens. in so many ways. they are still crazy twinny little twinado bouncing babies!).

Tonight, as the day was winding down, and we were about to begin the bedtime routine, Owen announced that one of his molars was loose. We checked it, and sure enough, it was. Then Kyle started feeling around in his mouth. Sure enough! One of his was loose too. We checked it, and yes — just barely — but it was a bit loose. So, here we are, with two just barely loose molars. No big deal. “Well, this will be interesting!” I said, “We’ll see whose comes out first!” And that was that. Braydon went upstairs to get Meera ready for bed, and I sent the boys on their way up to get ready for bed as well.

Next thing I know, Kyle comes barreling back down the stairs with a tooth in his hand, a huge smile on his face, and blood everywhere. “I pulled it out!,” he announced loudly and with a lot of pride. Owen heard this, of course, and within a nanosecond came bolting into the kitchen to see. I was stunned as I stood in the kitchen, holding Kyle’s tooth in one hand, and handing him a paper towel to mop up the blood with another. I had barely even examined Kyle’s tooth when I notice Owen, right there on the spot, with his brother by his side egging him on, dramatically and over-the-top-enthusiastically pulling out his own (barely loose) molar too. Sure enough, before I could even intervene, with Kyle shouting “Do it! Do it! Pull it! Pull it! Owen! Owen! Pull! Pull! Harder! Harder!,” Owen yanked out his tooth too. Another paper towel (much blood involved) handed to him by me, and another tooth handed to me by him, and I’m standing there with these two crazy boys, and two of their molars in my hand.

Whaaatha?!?!!

So, yeah. The double-bleeding eventually subsided. Peace was restored (“peace” is a relative term here. always.). And I got out the camera to document this fine moment in our family’s history.

Tonight we’ve got double molars in the Tooth Fairy Pillow. Meera can’t wait to see what the Tooth Fairy brings.

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Seeing Them Through

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LindseyThis morning I had the pleasure of participating in a dissertation defense for a student I had years ago at Lehigh. I was outside reader for Lindsey Livingston Runnell’s dissertation committee. She’s completing her PhD in Criminal Justice at Rutgers (after having — by the way — already received her law degree from George Washington University Law School; and about to embark on a tenure track job this fall for which she’s already lined up and ready to go).

This is the second time I’ve been able to do this for one of my ‘old’ Lehigh students (the first was my student Maggie). I sit on dissertation committees at Lehigh, and am sometimes asked to be outside reader for committees elsewhere. But it is really different — and really special — to sit on a dissertation committee for a student who you, yourself, had as an undergraduate. It is like seeing them through. And, in a special sort of wonderful way, you can see through them– because you knew them when.

You knew them when they were just getting started on forming their own ideas. You knew them when they were sort of an intellectual “child,” not really grown up yet into the lifeworld of their belief systems and not yet fully wrapping their own minds around their opinions and judgements and viewpoints and stances; when they were just beginning to bloom and blossom; when they weren’t yet in the driver seat of their own ideas. Teaching undergraduates is so special, at least in part because they are just starting out on the path of intellectually individuating. Every once in a while one really takes off. But then, often, you send them off on their way to law school or med school or a PhD program — and while you may see them from a distance, you don’t often get to really see the fruits of your labor up close.

So, to get to play such an intimate, inside role as sitting on a dissertation committee of a student whom you had as an undergrad…. well… that is like really coming full circle. Now they are intellectually fully in the driver’s seat. They are living it, owning it, and running with it. They are at the pinnacle of intellectual blossoming. It is pretty amazing to witness the transformation, and then be there for the culminating moment.

Thank you, Lindsey, for letting me be part of it. I am humbled by watching you, and I am so grateful you’re doing your good work in this world. We need you. And I’m proud of you. Love, Heather

{photo credit: I stole the photo at top from Lindsey’s husband’s Facebook wall! I had called into the defense this morning, since I wasn’t able to be there in person. So, I missed the ritualistic celebratory post-diss-defense champagne. Lucky for me, I have Facebook to give me glimpses. I love this photo of Lindsey.}

Living at Lehigh – Spring Swirl of April Angst and Awesome Opportunities

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IMG_7753Last year, right around now, I wrote this post: Annual April Angst. Ditto that. That’s just about exactly what’s happening right here right now.

I live at work and work where I live, and there is no separation (let alone balance!) between work and home. This is my life, and it is a chosen one. But right around now — April — I’m just about going crazy. All five of us are. But me the most. Because I hardly ever get off campus (at least Braydon goes off to work, and the kids go off to school); and I (more than any of us) have been living in a fishbowl for the past 8 months; and because April is just hellish for academics even when they have a healthy balanced separation between work and home (although, I’ll admit: I don’t actually know any academics who have a healthy balanced work-home life). Anyhoo– you get the point– It is that time of the year. I’m just about as done as done can be.

Which is why I sometimes have to pinch myself to snap out of the haze and craze and daze and remember that this living-on-campus-gig is a deliberate and voluntary choice on my part, and the good of it very much outweighs the bad of it. There are lots of “good’s” to living on campus — not the least of which is that we get to enjoy the beautiful grounds (it is like living in a gorgeous park), without having to plant, maintain, mow, or prune them (the daffodils are in full bloom right now and I savor the sight of them, knowing that someone else is taking care of all those bulbs and garden beds). But today I’m thinking about one of the other major “good’s” of our scenario as a Faculty Family in Residence: the awesome experiential opportunities we have as the result of living at Lehigh.

IMG_7913When we made the decision to move onto campus, one of the biggest reasons we did it was to give ourselves the opportunity to access the many diverse experiences offered on campus. Like many universities, at Lehigh there are literally hundreds and hundreds of events, lectures, performances, symposiums, and experiences-of-all-varieties offered on the campus each year. As a professor, B.L.C. (Before Living On Campus), I often felt frustrated with myself for not taking better advantage of all these things. I felt especially annoyed with myself for not taking better advantage of it all for my kids. B.L.C., I’d see posters for events and think, “Oh my gosh! The bambinos would love that!” or “Ugh, I should really take the kids to that!” or “Geez, we’re missing out by not going to that.” I always felt that one day I’d regret it if I didn’t pick up the pace and figure out how to get my kids more exposure to all these things that were right there at our fingertips. But dragging them to campus, and taking the chance that it might be a total flop, and having to coordinate how to make it all happen for a family of five seemed — more often than not — just not worth the hassle. So, 9 times out of 10, we just didn’t go. Living on campus, I theorized, would remove some barriers and make it so much easier to just go for it and take advantage of all the on-campus perks my job provides. My hope was that we’d flip-flop so that 9 times out of 10 we’d go instead of not go.

This is one of the things we’ve really done as we’ve been living here on campus: we’ve been going to lots and lots of stuff. We can’t possibly go to everything we’d like to (there’s just way too much offered), but we go to a lot. And this time of year, while I’m in the darkest hours of my Annual April Angst, and I have zero white space on my calendar, and I am questioning my sanity daily (and often thinking, “OH MY GOD! WHY THE HECK ARE WE DOING THIS?! WHY AM I 42 YEARS OLD AND LIVING IN A DORM?!?!”), it is good to remember the awesome opportunities that we have as the result of living here. Here is just a little snippet of a slice of just some of the things we’ve done on campus in the past 2 weeks alone.

The monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery spent three days on campus creating a sand mandala. What an incredible thing. It would be cool enough to just see this once, but because we live right here, I brought the kids to see it each day. This allowed us to see the progress in the mandala day-by-day, which was pretty incredible to witness. And each day we visited we learned more and more about the monks, their art, and their beliefs and philosophies. The three photos below were taken on each of the three days. You can see the progress in the mandala on each day as it becomes more and more intricate and detailed.

Day 1Day 2Day 3The organizer of the event took this picture (below) and posted it to their Facebook page. You can see the bambinos and me in the photo.

PIC MANDALAAnother very cool experience was that the bambinos were asked to participate in a special event on campus that commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was an exhibition basketball game between the Lehigh Valley Freewheelers (a basketball team whose players are all athletes who play in their wheelchairs) and members of the Lehigh men’s and women’s basketball teams. Kyle and Owen were the water-boys, and Meera was the court sweat-sweeper! The bambinos took their roles very seriously, did a great job, and had a TON of fun hanging out and interacting with the LU basketball players (many of whom are idolized by K & O), and the Freewheeler players (who, it turned out, were super friendly and engaged in many-a-conversation with the bambinos). Braydon and I just watched and enjoyed the event from the audience. It was a favorite night for the bambinos for sure!

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IMG_7776IMG_7778IMG_7782One of our favorite events of the year — Lehigh’s International Bazaar — was this past weekend. We love that event! And it was a gorgeous day! (And I got to eat some of the best dolmas I’ve had in a long, long time!)

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IMG_7801I hosted a luncheon on campus for the Honors Program that I direct. One of Lehigh’s awesome a Capella groups, the Melismatics, gave us a special private performance. I had brought Meera with me to the lunch, and she got such a thrill from seeing the Melismatics perform so up close and personal!

IMG_7789I got to attend a great sociology talk on one of my favorite subjects: foodie culture! This was a talk sponsored by my department, and I probably would have gone even if we weren’t living on campus, but because we are living on campus, it was so relatively easy for me to attend it (in between picking up the kids from school, and making dinner, and getting K & O to/from basketball practice). The talk was by Shyon Baumann, from the University of Toronto, co-author of the book Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape. His talk was so fascinating to me — it is fun, and rare, when the personal (hobby-type-subject) and the professional (academia as occupation) collide for a moment, and I really enjoyed that talk. …and I especially enjoyed that I could go without it wreaking total havoc on my family life for the night.

IMG_7835As part of living on campus, I teach as many of my undergraduate classes as possible in “Sayre Lodge” — a building that is part of the residential community in which we live (this building is sort of like a community center/lounge building, and it includes a classroom). My classroom is literally just steps away from our apartment. This semester I am teaching my Race & Ethnicity class there. Yesterday, when I walked up the path to go to class, this is what I found on the lawn between the classroom building and my apartment building:

IMG_7921Before my arrival the students took it into their own hands to determine that we were having class outside. They pulled adirondack chairs from all over the lawn to create a circle, and they were all there, ready for class to begin, as I walked up. It was so cute I could have cried. I almost did cry. Look at these sweet, strong, smart, amazing faces. I love each and every single one of the beautiful them. And now I only have four more classes left with this awesome group of students — only two more weeks of classes. It is bitter sweet to have another academic year winding down.

In the midst of my crazy spring swirl, when it often seems like my life is spiraling out of control, and the April Angst has me down (way, way down), it is good to stop and remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. And, even more than all the great stuff we get to go to and attend, and way, way more than the fact that we don’t need to worry about the groundskeeping, the first and foremost reason we’re living on campus is for the people.

The students are our people. And whether we are watching them perform, or living and learning with them, or hanging out together snuggling puppies on sunny spring days, it is our people who make life on campus more good than it is bad.

Two weeks ’till classes end. Three weeks ’till final exams are done. The countdown is on. I could cry from ‘done-ness’ right now. But just watch — in three weeks I’ll be crying tears of sadness that it’s over. The students will move out, summer will hit, and I’ll be counting down the days for the students to return again. (And Dash will be bored out of his mind, not knowing what to do with himself when he’s not fulfilling his very important job as Resident Pet Therapist!)

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Kyle, W.E.B. Du Bois, Miracles, and Gifts

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Last night was the Swain School’s 3rd-8th Grade Social Studies Fair. To say that Kyle is passionate about social studies is a major understatement. He has long been truly intensely focused on history/political science/social studies. And for the past three years his teachers have been telling me about his clear gift for these subjects. He’s especially passionate about African-American history. So, for Kyle, the Social Studies Fair was a very big deal.

Kyle’s chosen project was a study of W.E.B. Du Bois. His interest in Du Bois is multi-faceted and includes everything from the simple facts that Du Bois is of Haitian decent and was the first African-American to receive a PhD from Harvard, to the comprehension of Du Bois’s influence on Martin Luther King, Jr., to the complexity of Du Bois’s large legacy for the Civil Rights and Social Justice Movements of today. Over the course of the past few weeks he has come to know more about W.E.B. Du Bois than I could really ever have imagined. The confines of a 4th grade project were way too tight for him — his field of knowledge and expertise on W.E.B. Du Bois quickly expanded and spilled over into the realm of overwhelming. I truly don’t know how long he’d go if you let him just talk to you about Du Bois with no time constraints; he may very possibly go on for hours and hours. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around just how much his mind can contain when it comes to this sort of stuff. His favorite person to talk with is a current Lehigh student he knows — a history major who is a long-time American History buff/prodigy — who tells me that Kyle quite possibly already rivals her in his depth and breadth of understanding of all-things-African-American-history-related.

Throughout the evening last night I checked on Kyle periodically as he stood at his ‘station’ during the Social Studies Fair. I must admit: I was a tad bit worried that he’d be overwhelming his audiences and scaring them away, and I felt a compulsive need to try to help him navigate the rocky terrain of trying to discuss something of profound importance (to you) with someone for whom the subject may not be (at all) quite as compelling [a terrain that I, as an academic sociologist, am quite familiar with!]. At one point, I found him giving a very long lecture on the topic of W.E.B. Du Bois to his sister and two of her 1st-grade friends. I watched from a distance as the three girls stood there diligently and patiently listening to Kyle’s very involved lecture. Kyle had a captured audience — they may not have understood anything at all (in fact, I’m fairly certain they did not), but they stood there for him and listened to him (or, at least, pretended to), as sweet little first grader girls looking up to The Big Boy. If truth be told, despite their inability to comprehend Kyle’s diatribe against the lynching of blacks in the American South during the 1800s and Du Bois’s pivotal role in the ending of such injustice, I am convinced that somewhere deep in their little psyches they were somehow positively influenced by Kyle’s passion for the subject.

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The whole scene made me stop for a moment. In the fast-paced delirium that is our life, it is easy to forget the incredible miraculous profoundness of my boys’ life stories. And their influence on others. But, last night, seeing the scene I saw, for a split second I actually lost my breath in amazement at the realization of what I saw before me. Not because I’m a sociologist who understands the significance of  W.E.B. Du Bois (although, for sure, I do), but because I’m a mom who — for a brief moment — could see the significance of the miracle that is my son Kyle. This boy who, almost eleven years ago now, was born in one of most infamous slums on the planet; this boy who survived 8 months in a Haitian orphanage as the most destitute of the destitute; this boy who has become so healthy-bodied and strong-minded that he is — to most he encounters — almost larger than life; this boy who has overcome the most infinite odds imaginable to be who he now, at age 10, already is — not even taking into consideration what he might become. This boy. This boy is a miracle to behold. And I get to be his mother. (And the role of W.E.B. Du Bois, and many others, in making that reality possible, is never, ever lost on me. Or lost on my son.)

Kyle has a gift (many gifts, for sure, but his intense passion for history is identifiably an indisputable gift). And his life is a gift to all those he touches, including — in a very big way — me.

Kyle Du Bois

Commitment to hopscotch 

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This afternoon before we sat down to dinner as a family, Meera and I had a chance to build a fairy house and play a little hopscotch. It was 74, sunny and wonderful.  

We are lucky and I deeply appreciate that luck. 

Most Special One

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IMG_7814.JPGLook who came to see us today!!!!! Zahir! He asked me who was my most special one (student) of all time. I said, “You.” And he was, somehow, surprised by that.

I can’t believe what a joy it is for me to see my special ones grow up. And what an honor it is for me when they want me to meet their significant others. (And it is such a pleasure when I can honestly say, “She’s the perfect choice! I love her! I entirely approve!”)

IMG_7811.JPGKyle and Owen are away at a basketball tournament this weekend, so they missed out. Which made it extra nice for Meera to hang out with Zahir and AK without having to share the attention. (!) And me too… If the boys had been here I wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise. (!)

When I started teaching I could never have imagined how much I’d love following along my students’ lives as they journey out in the big wide world. But it has become one of the most gratifying parts of my life and work. My most special one, and all my special ones, make me so, so proud.

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