Yesterday my boss and I went out to a rural-ish suburb to conduct a focus group of elementary school teachers and see what they thought of the after-school program. The school draws from a low-income area, and about half the kids speak Spanish at home. Near the end of our session, my boss told the teachers to forget about the grant and its constraints–if the sky’s the limit, what would you ask for to help the kids at your school?
The first answer–and it got a lot of uh-huhs and nods of agreement–was a bus. A dedicated bus, so they wouldn’t have to request one through the district transportation office, which never has them available. They could put the kids on the bus and get them out into the world, go to OMSI, do field trips.
They also told us about how some of the third-graders are getting to partner with an indoor soccer club this year. It’s a huge hit, because the kids are part of the group out there with all the other kids. It brought home to me how hard it is for poor families to get out much or even feel like they’re part of what’s going on.
I’m thinking about a four-year-old today. He’s the son of a friend we had coffee with today– he was at preschool during our visit, but we got to meet his beautiful baby sister for the first time. She’s still in eat-and-sleep mode mostly, though I think she appreciated Sang’s funny faces. It was wonderful to meet her and to see her mom for the first time in a few months!
My four-year-old friend (can I call him my friend if we visited when he wasn’t there and probably no one will tell him? On purpose?) is having a hard time. His family changed, and he didn’t have a choice about it. His mom– his mom!— can’t play with him as much as she did before. He loves the baby (sometimes?) and definitely wants the baby to interact with him, but the baby is not so interactive yet, so that mostly means making the baby cry.
Even just hearing about it second-hand, I can feel what big emotions he’s having. So when his mom explains to him that he can mess with the baby and end up with the baby crying, OR he can leave the baby alone and Mom can then play with him because the baby is still asleep? And he messes with the baby? Well, a lot of adults don’t handle their relationships much better, honestly. It is really hard to accept a loss and eschew drama and take the way that’s better for everyone considering the new circumstances. I feel kind of wrung-out and teary just thinking about it. (Sang said in the car afterwards, “But if he lets the baby sleep, the baby has won.”)
That, plus watching the baby devote her entire, serious energy to growing at a rate that would be like my putting on ten or fifteen pounds a week, plus wiring up vast numbers of brain cells… well, when people talk about childhood as simple and innocent and carefree, I wonder why their minds are misleading them so.
Ramen! Yesterday I had something called “snack noodle soup,” a mildly spicy Korean packet. I think I’m developing a brand fondness for Paldo (they also made the green ramen) noodles: they’re chewier and more golden than Maruchan.
Today I tried Unif Tung-I Instant Rice Noodles: Chinese Onion Flavor. I was excited to see this flavor at FuBonn, but didn’t eat them right away because I usually prefer ramen noodles to rice noodles. I opened the oil packet, which was half white fat and half reddish-brown onion paste, and was scared. You know that fried onion smell, like the cans of french-fried onions you sprinkle on top of green bean casserole? It smelled like that. Like the onion smell that’s hard to wash off my hands sometimes. I like it and then soon I can’t stand it.
I liked it in the rice noodles, as it turns out. I suspect that if I had this a few more times, I’d get kind of hooked on it, as happens sometimes with scary chip seasonings. But I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to make that happen.