Grilled Cheese and Love

I ate lunch with the kids from my art class today. I do this every Monday after art because I get to spend more time with the kids, because by the time I finish the class I am starving, and because Monday is grilled cheese sandwich day. Real grilled cheese. With butter.

Today I did not sit down to eat right away. Though I was eager to wolf down the grilled cheese that was waiting for me in the kitchen, I still had some cleaning up to do in the art room. As I was picking up bits of string and paper, I heard one of the teachers tell two boys to settle down and keep their hands to themselves. This is not unusual. It is something that we say to the kids at least once during each meal. I kept cleaning.

I heard the teacher tell the same boys not to touch each other’s plates or cups or bodies while at the table. Then I heard another teacher tell them the same thing a minute later. This got my attention. Not because of the amount of times the teachers had to repeat themselves, but because there were no accompanying screams, whines or sobs. I walked over to where the kids were eating, expecting to see the beginning of a fight or some sort of antagonistic behavior. Instead, they were each grinning and bouncing with excitement in their chairs.

I grabbed my sandwich and sat on a stool directly across the room from the boys. They were facing each other and giggling.   One teacher asked the boys if they were finished eating. This calmed them down and they returned their attention to their lunch. I watched them closely. They were eating quietly, smiling, chewing. They were happy. Really quiet, and really happy.  I kept watching. It was weird. Why were they suddenly following directions so well? Then I realized that they were holding hands under the table.

One of the other teachers noticed as well and we just sat there looking at them in awe. She whispered to me that one of the boys had been gone on vacation and this was the first time these guys had seen each other in two weeks. Needless to say, they were overjoyed at having been reunited; so overjoyed that they could not contain themselves. They soon forgot about their grilled cheese and proceeded to touch each other’s arms, pull at each other’s sleeves, and touch their heads together.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

A Pile of Spaghetti

Today was my first reading ever of “My Crazy Baby Brother.” I went to Wagon Wheel, my old preschool here in Los Angeles, and read the book to five different groups of kids. Rodrigo held up pictures from the book and passed them around to the kids, and my parents were in the back cheering me on. I was very excited and very, very nervous. It didn’t help that the first group I read to was about thirty two year olds. It was sort of like reading to a pile of spaghetti. It was tough to stay focused on reading the story. They crawled all over each other and it seemed like they weren’t paying attention at all. However, when I finished the book and asked if they wanted me to read my next book, they all yelled “yes!” It got easier from there. By the third reading, I felt like myself. Still a little awkward, but definitely less nervous. These kids were about three, and there were only fifteen of them, so that was nice. They really listened to the stories and when I asked if they had any brothers or sisters one girl shouted out that her big sister was a dog. I read the book to the next group, and when I finished, one boy looked at me like I was crazy and said “so, read it again.” By the time I read to the last group I was really having fun. They were four and five years old and they understood everything. They “eewed” and laughed at all the parts that I wanted them to. They asked questions about my writing and drawing process and were very excited by the fact that I had made a book. They were very eager to tell me about their crazy baby siblings. One boy raised his hand and said “my name is Henry and my baby brother puts his head in the garbage.” I can’t wait to read to the next group of kids.