... as Shoes' 5 year old nephew, Michael. We'll get to that in a moment.

Thanksgiving was spent with my paternal family - some, not all. A huge deal. We were a military family growing up and I have never spent any holiday with my paternal extended family as an adult - and maybe just once or twice growing up. In August, though, my darling Aunt Janet (at my cousin's husband's father's house, which is another story altogether) said, "I want you girls [Cheryl and I] to spend Thanksgiving with us in Gig Harbor." And at 31 and 28, it was probably time.

It was a lovely day, filled with family I had met, and family by marriage I had never met. It was meeting my Uncle Mike's lovely daughters, their spouses and children, 2 year old glitter sprinkling and tickling, catch up with cousins -- altogether wonderful and altogether completely foreign.

It was bravery (as I am completely inept at meeting new people - unless they're clients in crisis) and love and building bridges and stepping in to something this military child has never been comfortable with: close extended family relationships.

Up and back to Gig Harbor on Thursday.

On Friday, however, I drove to Pullman (that would be 6 hours) to spend time with Shoes and his family -- 3 brothers, one sister, spouses, children, mom, dad. Honestly? I adore them. Honestly? Again, this close extended family dynamic is so new to me. How do they know so much about each other? How do they keep in contact so often? So many times I sit there quietly, taking it in, afraid to disturb it.

But this was a story about 5 year old Michael. You've met Michael before, in one of my summer postings. He's the one who drew me the picture of the mermaid. I had taken my homework with me to Pullman, thinking the scant amount I knew I'd realistically be able to accomplish would be better than nothing (although ... here it is, 9:30 on the Sunday night before my last week of classes, and I feel behind ...). Michael and I are solid, so when he came and joined me on the couch as I was reading about social welfare reform, I was so glad for the company.

He asked what I was doing, and when I told him, "Homework," he raised an eyebrow and skeptically said, "That's NOT homework. You're just reading." Right. Not like his homework at all, although he probably does a better job at his homework than I would ever do. ;) So I showed him my syllabus and how it works, and told him that my homework WAS the reading and we would talk about the reading in class (and at 5, he tracked every word).

He cocked his head and looked at me for a moment. And then he declared, oh so matter of factly, "THAT is SO boring."

Kid's too smart for his own good.

Then he showed me how to use the elliptical downstairs and we played dress up.

Lucky. Figuring out how to be a family member at 31 might be figuring this out on the slow end of the learning curve, but I'll take it.

It's happy.
... why do I feel so gosh darned busy??

I have this paper. You know.

A Paper. Capital P. A Social Policy Paper, in which I've had to examine a social welfare issue on a local, state and federal level. I'm been reading so many statutes lately that sometimes I see the statute symbol in my sleep. No kidding. And Poor Shoes. I don't know how many times that poor attorney has had to field my questions about where to find things in legislation.

But he's patient. So I'm lucky.

This paper gets turned in on Monday and I couldn't be happier. Knowing me, I'll fiddle with it until Monday morning, but at least after that, it's out of my hands! Between that, my group presentation in Social Justice, my Social Justice final, the courtesy CASA case I'm managing here in Portland and the Book Club I just joined, I seem to have my hands pretty full for being a 3/4 time student.

But trust me. I'm not complaining! What a privilege to be here.

And we've already registered for next term. Good Lord, how's that possible? For the next 11 weeks, I'll be concentrating on Human Behavior in the Social Environment Macro Theory, Social Research and End of Life and Palliative Care. (Cheery, right?)

Also just beginning to get in the Holiday Spirit. Kind of hard not to in this city that seemed to get a head start. But I'm scheming with the few pennies I have, and looking forward to a full bake fest after class next Wednesday. Big Thanksgiving plans this year - my first with my extended paternal aunts (I'm 31!), and on to Pullman the next day to visit with Shoes and his family.

And I mean, ALL of his family, including the step sister from Boston and the step brother from L.A. Family Auditioning makes me nervous, still, and I so look forward to the time when I can just relax and be.

Whenever THAT'S going to happen. ;)