Category Archives: Thoughts about parenting

behind the blog (alternate title: “disclaimer”)

I haven’t been able to carve out time to blog consistently in recent months.  When I have limited time, I tend to sprint toward recording “things I don’t want to forget!”, focusing on the “family scrapbook” part of the blog.  As a result, recent posts have been full of highlights.  The momma in me loves that.  I want my kids to be able to look back through this blog someday and have those happy memories triggered by what they see here.

At the same time, this blog is more than a family scrapbook.  It’s also my connection to other moms.  Sometimes, I am able to get through a tough, lonely day where I am the only adult present for 10+ hours because when the fifth glass of milk tips over onto the table (and I want to scream!) – or I am trying to figure out how long I’ve been walking around with a child’s poop hanging from my ear (seriously, how does that happen without me noticing at the time?) – I think, “I can write about this, and another mother who reads this will appreciate what this moment is like for me”, and I smile.

Recording those crazy memories brings me closer to other moms, even if I never see those moms.

But here’s my question:  does recording our good memories have the opposite effect?

If it does, I am writing to say that if you have recently read about our staycations and trips and living room fun and activities and are thinking we have it all together, we don’t.

But in my little family, we have each other.  And that’s good.

And if you’re reading this, you and I have a connection.  And that’s good too.

To quote a blogger I read recently (at http://www.71toes.com/p/disclaimer.html)

“Disclaimer

 I love blogs.

I get inspired and rejuvenated when I get a minute to read what others write, and there’s something inside me that feels so fulfilled when I have a chance to spill out my own feelings and to make a record of what our family is up to in this blog. Once I write things down, it’s like my brain can relax instead of holding tight onto things that may otherwise get lost in the vast expanse of my own forgetfulness.

But some things trouble me about blogs….

One thing in particular has made me think long and hard about blogs lately. There was this one session we had back at my sister’s motherhood retreat in June that has knitted my eyebrows together in earnest concern ever since.

The topic was something to the extent of how to keep a positive outlook in your motherhood. The question was posed about what makes mothers spiral into depression or negativity.

And do you know what the most overwhelming answer was? Not health issues. Not finances. Not childrens’ behavior issues or the lack of having enough hours in the day to do what we need to do. No. The big answer from a whole slew of moms was that blogs are the problem. Yes, blogs.

And that made me worry. Because I have a blog. And the last thing I want to do with it is depress people.

In writing this blog, my intent is not only to do what I started it for in the first place: to help preserve memories and keep a family journal . . . . [But also to] bind mothers together [or at least feel less alone in the journey myself!]

The goal is certainly so very far from creating jealousy or comparison.

But the trouble with blogs is that we tend to accentuate the positive instead of the negative. It’s human nature. And that’s good, isn’t it? The bad part is that we see that positive “tip of the iceberg” that others are portraying and compare our worst to their best….That’s human nature too. And that comparing is not good.

Despite my best attempts to “keep it real” on this blog, somehow some people misconstrue the good stuff I write to mean that life is perfect all the time. And that just isn’t true. They haven’t seen the 90% of my iceberg that’s under the water hidden from view.

Those kinds of things make me wonder how I can make this more real life. I mean, I want to capture life as it is. But you know what? Life as it is, is good. Not because it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination, because it isn’t. My kids fight like the best of them. My heart worries endlessly about random things that probably don’t need to be worried about. I forget important things. I have about a bazillion wrinkles. I get mad as a hornet about dumb stuff.

But life is good because I love it. And I’m thankful for it…especially when I break it down into moments. Especially when I slow down enough to enjoy the journey. And that’s the kind of stuff I like to write about.

So I guess this post is really meant to say that I’ve struggled with writing thoughts and feelings for the last while because I worry about making life sound like it’s all hunky-dory around here when there are a million worries and concerns along with the good stuff.

But I’m just going to go ahead and let it all hang out…[just] please know that just because I don’t write every day about things like how I have love handles doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

: )

She has a way with words, doesn’t she?!

I don’t know why I felt the need to post this tonight.  Maybe because I have been struggling with some decisions about how many activities to involve my kids in this summer, and I have recently realized that I really have to let go of comparisons to what other people are doing and figure out what is right for us.  (More on that later, but man, it is a struggle!)

And maybe because I realize that while I’m listening to random folks and thinking, “I should be doing that!” and feeling badly that I’m not (even though I know it just wouldn’t work for our family), someone could be reading/listening to me and thinking the exact same thing.

So I’m quoting someone else’s disclaimer, because I don’t have the energy to write my own at the moment!  : )   And because in addition to feeling guilty about the things I’m not able to do with my kids, I was feeling guilty about posting the things I was able to do with them.

Motherhood is a very guilt-inducing state sometimes, isn’t it?!

I have no catchy end to this post, because my brain has sort of shut down (as it now does every night around 8pm!), but I can say this.  Sometimes, for no reason, I feel a tiny instinct that I should say something and I have no idea why.  And anyone who knows me knows that (sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse) I will usually err on the side of saying it.

And tonight, for some reason, my tiny instinct told me to write this.  And then, while ignoring that instinct and searching the internet for “tips on creating chore charts” and “advice about allowances for kids”, I stumbled across a new blog – and this disclaimer – that addressed the very instinct I had been trying to ignore.

So here you are!  A peek inside my muddled, unedited brain, in-between Disney posts : )

And a little blog hug from me to you!

Love,

K

 

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So I’m forming a commune…who’s in?

Found out Wednesday night that my husband had a last minute work commitment pop up for Thursday morning, which meant he couldn’t take E to school…

Already knew that he had work early Friday morning (a busy week!), which meant I was on duty for school drop-off two mornings in a row…

I always miss my husband when he’s gone, but I never miss him more than at 7am when I am waking up sleeping siblings to load 4 kids in the car and get E to school on time.

I have considered other options:

(1) letting her ride the bus those mornings…However, the reality is that E doesn’t love the bus.  She really helps our family by riding the bus home every afternoon during her brothers’ naps, and we try to help her by driving her to school in the morning.  We are especially committed to this, since the bus gets to school so early that E would have to sit silently in the cafeteria until they let her in the classroom, something she asked to avoid when we originally made our grand-scheme, first-grade transportation plans.

(2) letting her carpool with a friend…and we have done this at least 3 times, but they haven’t needed us to return the favor and I was trying to avoid leaning on them again.

(3) letting her be late, which I did once when a sibling was ill, only to end up feeling horrible because (what are the chances?) she missed morning announcements on the one day they played the video of her doing a book review…three days before they were supposed to play it, by the way.  Irritation, and mommy guilt overdrive (alleviated only slightly when E’s student teacher arranged for the announcements to be played again just for E…thank you, Ms. S!)

So Thursday, I was prepared to wake and load everyone, then pleasantly surprised when all the siblings were unexpectedly up and ready to go on their own…10 minutes before we actually needed to leave!  Knowing disaster (or a poop, or a scraped knee, or traffic, or a meltdown…) could strike at any moment, I went ahead and put everyone into the car.

Well, we arrived a few minutes before they opened the classrooms, and knowing E didn’t like sitting in the cafeteria, I simply circled the parking lot a few times (keeping the car moving so H wouldn’t scream) waiting until the moment when I could drop her off knowing she could walk right into her room.

E was confused (I mean, we are rarely early!  I’m sure it was disorienting for everyone!),  and she asked why we were circling.  When I explained, she said, “Oh!  You can let me out now!  They started reading stories to the cafeteria kids, and I don’t mind sitting and listening.”

“Are you sure?” I asked her.  “I can easily park for a minute, or circle a few more times.  The classrooms will be open in less than 5 minutes.”

“I’m sure”, she told me.  And I let her go in.

E didn’t mention anything about her morning experience during our “how was school” conversation yesterday, and I didn’t think any more about it until this (Friday) morning, when I knew I would need to load everyone up again.

This (Friday) morning was different than Thursday.  Everyone was sleeping late, and I was dreading getting them all up and into the car.  T had been up all night.  And I mean up to the point that at 1:30am, I finally put my computer in his room and played a Dora video so I could nurse H and get myself ready for bed.  Short version: I knew he needed to sleep and was loathe to wake him up, along with S & H who were also still sleeping at 7am.

So I got E ready very quickly and at 7:05, I asked her the million dollar question.  All her siblings were asleep.  I didn’t want to wake them.  It was too last-minute to arrange a carpool.  And being late wasn’t an option, because her class was going on a field trip to the Science Museum.  So, I asked her, “E, how would you feel about riding the bus this morning and letting everyone else sleep in?  You could listen to the stories in the cafeteria just like you did yesterday.”

“I don’t want to, mom.  Please drive me.”

So I did.

We had 10 extra minutes before we had to wake everyone, and we spent it on the couch, with her reading me a story.  I felt good about that, and then felt horrible as I woke up the siblings to load everyone in.

Well, don’t you just love it when that bad feeling gets so much worse?  Because as we pulled into the parking lot, E asked me, “Are we early again, mom?”

“No.  Right on time today.  You should walk down to your classroom.”

“Good”, she said.

“Why?” I asked her, “Did you not enjoy being in the cafeteria yesterday while they were reading the stories?”

“No.  A bad thing happened.”

“What?!  What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you sure?  I’m so sorry something bad happened.  Are you sure you don’t want to tell me?  Is it something I can help with, because I can park the car and we can all go in?”

“No.  I don’t want to talk about what happened.  I accidentally went in to the gym yesterday instead of the cafeteria, and that’s where the older kids [grades 2-5]  wait for their classrooms to open.”

My heart totally sank for E.  And I fought my desire to know every detail so I could offer every comfort because (1) she didn’t want to talk about it, and (2) I didn’t want to make her relive a bad moment, and get upset, right as she was about to walk back into the school.

So at this point, I still have no idea what happened.  Was the bad thing that she went into the wrong room and was embarrassed about that?  Or did something bad happen in the room…maybe an older kid teasing her about something else?  I don’t know how much to push her to talk about it.  If it’s something I can help her sort through or offer comfort about, then maybe pushing is worth it?  But she said very clearly that she didn’t want to talk about it (at least right then).

Anyway, we did get some quality family time this afternoon.  We surprised E by picking her up from school (no bus today!) and taking her to cash in the “free coke” coupon she won recently.  We also picked up the pottery piece she painted with Grammy during her visit last week (held at the store for glazing…E was so excited to get it today…thank you so much Grammy!), and checked the bike store for the third time in two weeks to see if any good used girls bikes had come in (and one had!  we currently have it for a trial period, but I think it’s going to be perfect…)

(And lest you think the other kids were neglected, there were a few fun things thrown in for them too – suckers at the pharmacy where we picked up E’s asthma medicine, ice cream cones after dinner, a set of used bases for family T-ball games from the sports store, etc.)

Nothing uber-fancy…all things we were going to do at some point…but today seemed like good timing…a fun post-school pick-up for the girl that has done the post-school bus ride for the rest of us all year.

And a distraction for the mama that wants the schoolyear to end so she can put her kids back into the little bubble – for just a little while – that is our family.

Not that we don’t have our moments…but at least I know most of what happens, who needs to say sorry, what my kids are feeling (and why and when).

Anyone want to throw all the “we need to stop micromanaging our kids’ lives” articles into the garbage and form a helicopter-parenting commune where everyone is required to be nice to everyone else all the time?  (Kidding, with just a hint of wistfulness…)

Love you, E.

So much.

(and if anyone out there actually runs with the idea of a non-creepy commune of niceness, our family is in : )

Adventures in Potty Training (alternate title: Dinner and a Show)

Nana is visiting, and offered to treat us to dinner at the local Hibachi restaurant, much to our delight…

I forgot to make a reservation, so we had to wait a bit.  No problem.  The older kids admired the fish in the tank, and I bounced H, as Nana sent a text message to my husband who is away on a work trip.

The peace was broken when I heard T announce, “I have to go potty!” and turned around to see his pants – and underpants – around his ankles in the crowded waiting area.  That’s right.  Full frontal for the captive audience.

Dinner and a show! (of sorts).

I raced to hand H off to Nana, who said “I’d love to hold him.  Give me one minute to get my phone back in my purse” to which I responded “YOU HAVE TO TAKE HIM NOW!  LOOK AT T!!!”  to which Nana responded “Oh!  OH!  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  T!” to which T responded, “I HAVE TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW!”  to which I responded by handing off H, picking up T and sprinting to the bathroom while holding T like a weapon naked from the waist down, to which the crowd responded by parting like the Red Sea, to which the host responded by offering to seat our family immediately (an act I discovered when E came to get us in the bathroom).

As a side note: E was shocked to see me helping T stand on the seat and peeing in the potty that way.  (I’m new to this with boys; is that an accepted method in public restrooms with little boys?, because I am open to alternate suggestions…he’s not wide enough to sit on – or tall enough to stand on the floor and use an – adult potty, and although I am queen of carrying the porta potty everywhere we go, there are times when we’re not going to have it…)

Anyway, as if all of that weren’t enough, the chef at our table did the flaming volcano thing that they do with the onion, then brought out a little statue that looked like a boy peeing to douse the flames, which prompted everyone at the table to laugh except for T who was decidedly unimpressed and said, “I do that now too, but I pee in the potty” which I can only assume means that given the choice between peeing (a) into a potty, (b) into a restaurant area crowded with people and (c) into a flaming volcano, T finds only options a & b acceptable.

How’s that for an exciting Saturday night?

(And thank you for dinner, Nana!  And to everyone else, you are welcome for the show : )

Encouraging generosity, global awareness and perspective in kids

During our engagement, my husband and I read an article about a family that encouraged generosity and global awareness in their children by involving them in decisions about charitable giving.  We knew we wanted to adapt their method for our own kids, but 9 years – and 4 children – later, we were still talking about our plan to do that someday.

Well, for Lent this year, we decided to stop waiting until we had time to really come up with a perfected system for our family and just dive in now.  I feel a little weird writing about this, but I’m sharing what we are doing for 2 reasons: (1) we benefit so much when others share their ideas and (2) we know we could be doing it a lot better and are open to suggestions.

Here are the basics:

(1)   We told the kids that every Sunday during Lent this year, they are going to learn about one problem in the world and one organization that is trying to help address that problem.

(2)   Each week, we are going to pray for the people affected by the problem and the organization trying to help them.

(3)   At the end of Lent, we’ll review the different organizations (and problems they address) and the kids can decide which organization will receive some money from our family.

So far, we’ve focused on organizations that have short video clips on their websites, but we’re hoping to expand to other mediums this week.  So far, with the videos, we have been very careful about what we show and we talk to the kids about what they’re going to see in advance.  Only one of our kids can read, so we read the captions for them during the video.  And I talk over parts of the videos as I offer explanations for what the kids are seeing.  (The explanations are important as these videos aren’t made for the purpose of easy understanding by young kids, but they are powerful if shown in conjunction with explanation.)

Here are the videos we’ve shown so far.

(1)   From “Project Night Night” (http://projectnightnight.org)…We  summarized their efforts (detailed on the homepage) for our kids, then showed them the video.  The organization basically makes sure that kids in shelters receive a bag that contains a security blanket, a stuffed animal and a book.  A $20 donation buys a bag.   The video is a simple photo montage of kids who give, and receive, bags. We also suggested to them that one of the places that currently needs bags is located in their Nana’s hometown, and we could actually buy the objects to put in the bag and send it with Nana if they chose that organization (and if Nana was willing to do the delivery…what do you say, Nana?!).  Here’s the video…

Project Night Night Video/Photo Montage

(2)   From “Charity: Water” (http://www.charitywater.org/)… I was initially nervous about showing this video due to the soundtrack and some hard images (our oldest is 6), but I’m so glad we did.  Our kids’ reaction was amazing.  As they were watching, we emphasized that some people had to drink that dirty water and that helping build a well would mean clean water for everyone in a village.  Almost 2 weeks later, S pointed at a ditch full of dirty rainwater beside the road and said, “There are people in the world that have to drink water like that, but I’m sending pennies to help them.”  Another powerful thing about this video is that is says the average lifespan in this part of the world is 39.  We told our kids that dad and mom would both be 39 this year and aren’t we lucky that we live in a place with peace and clean water so that moms and dads live so much longer.  That really made an impression on them (but was a risk, as we don’t want them thinking about the possibility of us dying!)  Anyway, this video really made our kids think – in a good way.

(3)   From the Make a Wish foundation (www.wish.org).  We chose a video about a girl who wished to meet a real ballerina (1) because our girls totally related to that and (2) because the girl in the video gets better.  To introduce this, we emphasized that some kids are very sick and that Make a Wish offers them something fun to think about instead of thinking about being in the hospital.  (Like being able to focus on the sucker, instead of the shot sort of thing.)  Our kids still talk about the girl in this video too.

After this video, we also emphasized to the kids that giving money is not the only way to help.  If the girl had wished for a chance to play at our house, would we have let her?  Of course.  The dancers in the video gave their time, etc.  My husband works for UNC and we talked about how if someone’s wish was to do something there, would they help dad arrange it?  In short, making the point that giving time, energy, etc. is very important.

Here’s the video:

(4)   Not sure what we’re showing the kids tomorrow, but may read them part of a letter about a family in our town who just lost their home to a fire and ask if they would like to contribute to a community effort to assist them.

What has amazed me so far about this:

(1)   I needed to be reminded that the blessing comes back 10-fold.  Since watching these videos, my own perspective has received a wonderful adjustment.  Instead of feeling like money is tight, I am overwhelmed by how rich I feel simply having a bed, clean water, healthy kids… I need that perspective and so do my kids.

(2)   The kids’ generosity.  At random points, they say “I want you to send our family money to that one when it’s time, mom”, but in the meantime, they have each individually come up to us and said “please send some of my pennies to all of them”.  One night, S disappeared after the video and we thought she was playing her Dora tamborine in her room.   Turns out she was shaking pennies out of her piggie bank so we could send them for her.  And she was very thoughtful about it.  6 pennies to this place, 6 pennies to that place, and 13 to the other…

(3)   The kids’ attention.  Several times this week, they have asked me if we’ll see another video on Sunday and if there’ any way they could watch it early.  And they are totally focused when the videos are on.  We’ll see how they do if tomorrow is me reading part of a letter.

What we still need to work on :

(1)   I need ideas for organizations and materials to introduce those organizations to our kids.  This is my real Lenten sacrifice…the time to search to find the right images and words to talk to our kids about this.

(2)   Our kids don’t get allowances and we haven’t talked to them much about money.  I would love to use some kind of system (they get 10 dimes, one goes to charity, one to savings, etc.) but we haven’t figured that out yet.  This would be a better project if they had some an understanding of money and some of their own money to give.

(3)   As kids get older, there are deeper conversations to have about all of this.  The point for our crew now is: (1) There are problems and good people working to fix them. (2) Our family helps.  You can help, and we’re so proud when you do. (3) We are blessed.  Appreciate what we have.

(4)   The prayer part.  I think the prayer for the people should be a bigger part of what we’re doing, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

Again, I feel a little weird writing this.  I don’t want to make it seem like we’re giving a lot.  And I don’t want to come across as anything other than someone who has procrastinated too long on an idea we learned about 9 years ago.  But I did want to share in case anyone else has ideas about how this can work, what resources we could use, or if anyone has been looking for an idea for their own kids.  So far, this has sparked some good conversations in our house and given me a reminder about the perspective I need to keep.

Hugs,

K

perspective (alternate title: H is for “hold me…24 hours a day”

H likes to be held.

24 hours a day.

I like holding H.

I wish I could do it 24 hours a day.

Sometimes I need to try to put him in his swing or on his playmat for a few minutes so I can do frivolous things like laundry or dinner prep or open a childproof bottle of ibuprofin to relieve my aching back.  On occasion, I go completely nuts and try to take a shower.

He doesn’t like that.

As a result, I have learned to do things one handed.  And I shower when there is someone else available to hold him or during (precious!) naptimes.

He is not a colicky baby, because if I understand correctly (i.e. according to the go-to medical source “wikipedia”), colic is crying that occurs for no reason.

H has a reason.  It is “I am crying because no one is holding me!  I like to be held!  Even when I sleep!”

Still, even though we are not dealing with colic (thank you, God!), when I read the following quote about colic, it meant a lot to me.  It is powerful, applies to our situation (I believe), and has made me appreciate hat H lets us know that laundry, dinner and even showers can wait.  I read it a few weeks ago, and I can’t tell you how often I think about it when he starts crying because I had the nerve to put him in his bouncy chair so that I could load the dishwasher (as if I needed an excuse to avoid the dishes…let me hold that precious baby!), and when I am nursing a sore back because I have to wear him in the baby bjorn all day to get anything (anything!) done around the house.

Not a picture of H, since I'm having camera upload issues.  Instead is a picture of Nana and S during her similar "hold me!" phase.  God bless you, Nana!

Not a picture of H, since I’m having camera upload issues. Instead an archived picture of Nana & S during her similar “hold me! even as I sleep!” phase. God bless you, Nana!

I don’t know if this quote is true or not, but it offers a perspective that I need, and I’m posting it in case it helps anyone else!

From Dr. Alan Green:

“I believe that colic exists in order to change deeply ingrained relationship habits. Even after the miracle of a new birth, many parents and families would revert back to their previous schedules and activities within a few weeks – if the new baby would only remain quiet and peaceful. It would be easy to continue reading what you want to read, going where you like to go, doing what you like to do as before, if only the baby would happily comply. Instead, the baby’s exasperating fussy period forces families to leave their previous ruts and develop new dynamics which include this new individual. Colic demands attention. As parents grope for solutions to their child’s crying, they notice a new individual with new needs. They instinctively pay more attention, talk more to child, and hold the child more – all because of colic. Colic is a powerful rite of passage, a postnatal labor pain where new patterns of family life are born.”

You have our attention, H!

Our love too!

You always will.

Love,

Your mama

P.S. I do realize that in the previous blog post, H was lying contentedly on the boppy.  That was part of his disguise : )  (and we do try to catch the rare moments on film!)

You’d think I’d be better at this by now…

More catching up from 2012…

In the last post I emphasized how excited we all were to meet baby H.  The kids were naturally excited, and we encouraged that, telling them all what great siblings they would be, how much the new baby would love them, showing them the ultrasound pictures, reading books about new babies, moving all the car seats around early (so no one felt displaced or relocated right after the baby was born), etc.  We heightened the excitement by telling them we thought the new baby might even bring them a present and by letting them place a hand on mom’s tummy to feel their new sibling give them a high five.

We thought we had done a pretty good job preparing them, until they all came in to meet baby H just hours after he was born.  The girls (ages 6 & 4) were thrilled to meet him and thrilled with their gifts – little wooden dolls they could cover in paint and glitter.  Both greeted their new brother then immediately started doing their designs on the couch of our room.

T (age 2) was also thrilled to meet his little brother and ecstatic over his present – a train named “Diesel 10”.  In fact, he was so excited about the gift that he actually wanted to call his new brother “Diesel” (which I thought was an awesome moniker, by the way…and the nurses told us since H was at least 2 lbs bigger than everyone else in the nursery, he would have been totally able to carry the name…)

Well, it was all going swimmingly until two year old T paused from his train play, walked back over to me to take another look at the new brother I was holding, and said,

“He’s so cute!  But where is his mom???”

Oops.

Cue the damage control monologue from me:

“Oh!  T!  Sweetie!  You know how I’m your mom and E’s mom and S’ mom at the same time?  Well, I’m his mom too!  I’m going to be everybody’s mom.  And, as your mom, I’m telling you that I love you so much! And now he loves you too!  Isn’t that good?!”

“Oh!” T says, totally taking that in stride (to my great relief).  And then he follows up with this…

“Guess what?! I brought the new baby a present!  It’s a choo choo…”

To which I respond, “T, that is SO NICE of you!  I see it!  It’s one of your choo choo’s!  And you’re going to share it with our new baby?! That is SO NICE!  He just loves it; will you show him how to play with it?  He’ll learn so much from you!”

To which T responds, “Yes!  I will!  And I really want him to have it! (and this next part said with such wonderful intent and complete pride in his generosity as a big brother… ) “You know, when he leaves the hospital, he can even take this train back to HIS house with him!!!”

Oops, again.

I guess somehow, in all the baby prep and high fiving and “you’ll be a great big brother!”, we neglected to state in a very pointed and specific way that the new baby would be coming back to our house and living with us.

Quite an oversight.

And while normally, there might have environmental cues for T (such as a crib for the new baby to sleep in our house…), the reality at was that we began a massive renovation just a few days after H was born (a month-long 3 room construction project).  In other words, while our hearts were completely ready for H, his room didn’t get built until many weeks after he was born!  Our environmental cues were all chaos, blueprints and contractors, with no sign of a crib!

Fortunately, T was ecstatic to hear that we got to keep the new baby at our house.  (Beyond ecstatic…jubilant!)

Whew.

Still, I am astounded that with all our baby prep, we never managed to convey specifically to T that I would be the new baby’s mother, and that the new baby would be coming to live in our house.

Don’t know how I missed that 2012 Mother of the Year title…

: )

Thank God for my wonderful, loving, open-armed (albeit unprepared-despite-my-best-efforts) kids.

DSC_0876

cute, creative & confined to the house…all while preparing her to take on the world!

I could write pages about E’s style.  Suffice it to say that since she was a tiny girl, fashion has inspired her creativity.  From

– fingernails painted 10 different colors to

hours in her room drawing new designs for her dolls to

asking mama to help her make those designs come alive in fabric (I wish I had any skill at all in this area…)

E simply sees things in fabric and thread that I would never see without her.

As a result, she has the uncanny ability to surprise me with what she’s wearing, even though I am very familiar with every stitch in her wardrobe.

Take her green skirt, for example.  It is a simple skirt, designed for a 5 year old girl in that it has shorts sewn in underneath.  Perfect for sitting on the Kindergarten mat.

Well, recently E came down from her room with the skirt worn in a way I had never anticipated.  She put on the skirt, and while the shorts remained covering her lower body, pulled the skirt overlay up and inside out to create a strapless shirt.

It was creative, cute, and (since my 5 year old will not be wearing strapless outfits), confined to the house.  I didn’t make a picture, but it’s basically a green version of this (except that the armless mannequin could never wear it since E had to hold the top up with her hands, as there is no elastic on what was intended to be the bottom of a skirt…I did help her pin it so it would stay during her fun “dress-up” hour).

You can imagine if the top were folded down at the waist, this would be a skirt with shorts underneath. E just transformed it the other way, making it look just like this outfit, without ever having seen anyone wear this before. Is this how Ralph Lauren got his start?  Or am I raising Lady Gaga?

This wardrobe alteration was not an isolated incident…

The next week, E surprised me by announcing she was dressed for choir practice while wearing a midriff-bearing, one shouldered shirt.  Since she owns no such items, I looked closer and discovered that her “shirt” was actually a pair of blue shorts worn upside down.  She had put her head through one of the leg holes and her right arm through the other to create this look.

Can you tell that the shirt is actually a pair of shorts worn upside down?  When she moves her arms and it becomes a full midriff-bearing, one shoulder ensemble, which is why I posted a photo that happened to catch her while her face was covered.  No need to show her fully on display in this outfit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think some of the best and most important childhood moments when kids are given license to create.  And E absolutely has license to create in our house. And room what I’ve seen so far, art & fashion are absolutely her creative specialties.  Her mind just looks at fabric and sees things I don’t see, and I think it’s fantastic.  I want to encourage it, not stifle it.

At the same time, E and I had to have two conversations before we headed out to choir practice that day…

(1) modesty… I am confronting this issue earlier than I thought I would have to and am admittedly unprepared.  Any pointers on discussing modestly with a 5 year old are greatly appreciated!  In the meantime, I will say that before she went out of the house, she was required to (a) put another pair of shorts under her skirt and (b) add a tank-top underneath the upside-down shorts to cover her belly and the exposed shoulder .  Which meant she left the house looking like this:

I also had to talk to E about…

(2) Being who you are:  I was up-front about E that (a) I loved her mind and vision and creativity, (b) seeing and doing things differently is celebrated in our house, as long as you are being true to who you are and expressing/not contradicting important values (like modesty), and (c) once you leave our house, you may get teased for seeing and doing things differently.  She should be ready for that, but not let it scare her away from something that she wanted.  (The world needs people who see some things differently, and it makes things a lot more fun too!)

But reigning it back in to the issue at hand, I basically told E that someone could recognize that she was wearing shorts upside-down as a shirt and tease her about it, and asked her if she would be ok when that happened.  She said she would, so we practiced her response in case that happened:

“I like the way it looks!  But I don’t like to be teased, so stop.”

And off she went to choir…

As it turns out, no one said anything to her.  And I am proud that she had a vision, was comfortable doing things differently, and learned a little bit about how to brace herself.  I will be the first investor in her design company, if her interest continues.  (I will also be the first to send her back upstairs if something is not modest, with suggestions about how to make it work while still being fun, accompanied by clear instructions to put some more clothes on.)

(As a side note, I would like to say that I uber-impressed with my mother-in-law, who witnessed about 75% of this exchange with E, let me handle the whole thing, and just smiled and said at one point, “You are both just wonderful!”  I got extra lucky that she came as part of a family package with my amazing husband!  More on their visit in an upcoming post…)

I also got lucky that we happened to be ready for choir early that day, which left enough time for a conversation.  Because a few days later, she came downstairs a few minutes before she had to leave for school wearing this dress.

random, fuzzy photo of E that I snapped as she was putting on an “art show” on the kitchen table…but she happened to be wearing the dress I’m referring to…a dress we both love, by the way…

No problem, right?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that she was intentionally wearing it backwards.  Which means this part…

became a midriff-bearing bikini in the front.  With no time for a real conversation or the addition of a tank-top, I simply had to ask her to turn it around and let her know we would talk again later about how to make her clothes both modest and fun.

Egads.

The next person who suggests we just make departures simpler by having the kids pick out their clothes the night before is going to get an earful.  I can look at what E is planning on wearing (sweet green skirt, cute blue shorts, pretty pink sundress…), but honestly, I’m not creative enough to imagine exactly how she’s going to put the things on!  I mean, this is the height of looking “different on the rack” than they do when the child actually wears them!

As another side note, I racked my brain to think of where E might have gotten any inspiration for the outfits…especially since with all the end-of-school commitments, we haven’t even really hit swimsuit season yet.  The only think I can think of is Princess Jasmine, which got me wondering why Disney, with all their creative thinkers, couldn’t come up with an outfit slightly less revealing than this for the princess so many little girls are obsessed with:

Love ya, Disney.  But I think you can do better by my 5 year old – who is certainly in your target age demographic and desperately wanted to be Princess Jasmine last Halloween.  (Which begs the question: why did I not see this coming?  E was a more modest version of the Princess Jasmine for that holiday.)

Anyway, a reminder to readers that I’d love tips on how you explain the importance of modesty to a five year old, and how you decide what is appropriate and what isn’t…

And a quick note to E…

E,

I Love your style.  I Love your brain.  I Love your spunk.  I love you.

Be who you are always!

(While modestly covering your five year old midriff.)

Love,

Mom

Some-kind-of-unidentifiable-soup for the soul

Another post I wrote a few weeks ago and never published…

I mentioned recently that S has a new fascination with cooking.  It manifests itself in a variety of ways.  Here she is helping me puree food for T.

In this photo, she’s peeling the leaves off cauliflower.

I do the primary cutting (i.e. I slice the squash and zucchini into medallions), and she uses her plastic knife to cut the medallions in half before I steam them.  She also uses a plastic knife to cut cooked carrots.  No, her cutting is not necessary to the process of making pureed food.  But it is absolutely necessary to the more important processes of (1) encouraging her current area of interest –  cooking, (2) contributing to the family in a way that makes her feel proud – you should see her showing T all the food she’s helped make for him, and (3) creating what I consider to be “quality time” in the kitchen…chatting while we both chop vegetables.  I’d love to still have her – or any of the kids – asking to work in there with me in 10 years.

My girl is mighty proud in this picture, and I am proud of her. These are some of our most fun days together. She likes pushing the buttons on the blender too.

As a side note, T is almost 2 and I should have him eating regular veggies now, instead of pureed.  We do encourage that.  He gets offered regular veggies at every meal.  But he doesn’t eat many, and he will take his morning oatmeal with all those veggies you see on the counter blended in.  I mean the kid goes through a bag of brussel sprouts, a head of cauliflower, a bunch of broccoli, etc. every month. Honestly, I wish I could get myself or the rest of the family to eat that much good stuff!  Still, I know we need to get him to eat a real green bean at some point (or even a pea or corn niblet, for goodness sake…) Any advice is greatly appreciated…

S also helps me make bread (which her dad loves…she is so proud to tell him on the days we make it).  And on days when there is no cooking to help with, she often asks if she can make us soup and salad for dinner.  She picks “salad” (grass!) out of the yard, washes and spins it in the salad spinner, and puts it aside as dad’s “late night” snack (i.e. he tosses the grass back out into the yard after everyone is asleep, and then of course wakes up raving about how yummy everything was…did I marry the right guy or what?!).

The soup she makes is basically water and anything else I have lying around the kitchen that she can get creative with (I let her put water into a big tupperware, and she adds a few scoops of flour, tears the heel of our bread into the bowl, adds a random fruit or veggie that has gotten over-ripe, puts in the unused parts of foods we’ve had that day (i.e. the green tops of strawberries) and dumps any breakfast leftovers in (whatever eggs E left on her plate and whatever cheerios T didn’t eat).

Check out the disgusting (but creative!) finished product, (which dad chucks into the yard discretely, along with the salad, after all the kids have gone to bed).

Oh wait… the soup is not the finished product…  this smile is what we’ve really been working on all morning…  check out my girl, so happy with her soup…

E loves the kitchen too, and is extremely eager to participate in the veggie chopping, etc.  (i.e. she is absolutely part of the fun!)  But S is currently the one who – when given free choice, anything you want with mom time – will ask to plant a garden, chop veggies, make soup, and pick salad.  (It actually started in our “school” time, where she would ignore every other activity in favor of the bowl of measuring items that she was allowed to take to the bathroom sink…she would play for half-an-hour with a few measuring cups, some funnels, an eyedropper, a set of measuring spoons and a baster.)

And for those who are curious, no…NONE of this has made her more interested in eating anything.  She is just as picky as ever.  In fact, although she is very interested in making dinner for everyone else, her absolute favorite treat – the one thing she asks for repeatedly – is to eat out, even though we do that maybe one time (Chick-Fil-A kids night!) during a regular month.  My goodness, she was on cloud 9 when Nana visited last week and took her out on several lunch dates and treated us to some fun dinners.  (And she comes by it honest…I was on cloud 9 too…thanks, Nana!)

(update: since I wrote this Grammy and Grandpa have also visited and treated all of us to some fun meals…so thank you too, Grammy and Grandpa!  More on that visit soon!)

This post has gotten longer than I expected, but there you have one additional thing we were doing last month…making lots and lots of inedible salad and soup!

A peek inside my brain (alternate title: Did we choose the right school for E?)

So I’ve been awol again…

I’ll spare you the excuses, and just say that I’ve written a few posts over the course of the last few weeks, but have been too tired to actually look at them with a clear eye and hit publish.  Over the next few days, I’m going to pull the trigger and publish them and hope they’re ok!  Here it goes…

Post 1: written a few weeks back…

So I warned you recently that I was in a kid-centric thinking & writing space.  I mentioned that was partly because our kids are all changing so rapidly right now.  The additional reality is that along with those changes come decisions that my husband and I have to make about rules, environments, activities, etc.  We are doing our best, but it’s nerve-wracking.  And it is particularly nerve-wracking the first time we go through each process, because there is so much information to gather and new types of thinking to do.  And the first time we go through most things is with our eldest child, E.

I know I just wrote a post about S and schooling, but lest you think it was easier with E…here’s a peek inside my brain…

Oh, E.  How we love you.

For those who haven’t caught a glimpse of her recently, E went through a “bride” phase (may be moving out of it now?), and for several weeks only wanted to wear this.

And not just around the house, but to school, church and around town too.  We did insist she take the veil off for school : ).  And wear a pair of shorts under the white “slip”.  And after the “train” got stuck in a scooter, we had to limit that element also.

(Can’t you just picture her, like a miniature Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, wheeling around on a scooter in this outfit?!)

Even when not in the midst of her brief bridal-wear everywhere weeks, E is my consummate girly girl.  She has always loved dresses and sparkly shoes, but this has been taken to a fever pitch recently because she has chosen her wonderful Kindergarten teacher as a role model.  While most of her classmates wear shorts and T-shirts, E chooses the dresses, flat shoes and cardigans that make her look like a little teacher.  She even insists on carrying her fancy little white purse with her in her backpack.  Nana fed her fancy fever recently by purchasing the shoes pictured below, which E wears every single moment I will let her (and I let her all the time, only insisting that she take them off on gym days at school, when all the kids are required to wear tennis shoes, or when we are going to be running and climbing at a park).

Don’t know how clearly the shoes will come across, but they are pink sparkly Hello Kitty slip-ons, positioned here under a heart shaped jump rope.

I am sure there are some adults at school who wonder why I would “make” my young daughter dress all fancy, but anyone who knows me or E knows that this is all her, and I am simply encouraging her to be who she is (as I wear my shorts, T-shirts and flip flops!)

But that’s all just context.  The heart of this post is that watching E be who she is this year, and watching her seek out role models among her teachers at school, has given me an opportunity to reflect on the big decision we made last year about where she would receive her formal education.

We considered every option, and honestly although we love her school, I still think about it a lot.  Part of this is simply because I’m a parent.  For those of us fortunate on multiple levels (i.e. live in a country where there are schools open to everyone, have the resources to actually have any degree of choice in where our kids go to school, etc.) there’s just a lot to think about.  My issues are exacerbated because I am a former teacher, who did additional schooling to become credentialed in the area of teaching teachers and supervising them in their classrooms.  Add to this my passion for public schools, my professional focus on under-resourced schools and intense concern about equity in education, my belief that – despite all this investment in public schools – the reality is that my most important job as a parent is to tend souls (i.e. love the religious schools that reinforce what we’re trying to do at home!), my appreciation of the Montessori system, and my willingness to homeschool if we decided to got that route…and honestly, what you have is a big mentally muddled mess.

In the midst of “school shopping”, I was greatly comforted by one school’s guidance counselor who listened patiently to all my thoughts, then smiled and said, “You should just relax.  Because I can tell by listening to you that you really care about your children and are willing to work to make sure they’re ok.  Wherever you put them, if they keep coming home to that kind of mama, they’re going to be fine.”

I really appreciated that (you have no idea how much!), but the reality was, we still had to make a decision about school.  Ultimately, we moved into a neighborhood whose public school was known for its nurturing staff and fantastic learning environment.  We have loved the neighborhood, and E has loved the school.  I do have concerns about the high schools here (they have a fantastic reputation, but in my opinion are so “good” that it leads to a competitive environment that can suck a kid right out of a balanced life and into a nasty vortex of stress), but we made the best decision we could for the next 8 years of schooling for E, and will deal with high school when we get there.

Still, my most important job is to tend souls.  So I wonder sometimes why we don’t have her in a religious school that lists that as their primary mission as well?  This concern has been exacerbated this year because I have seen first hand how E has chosen role models, friends and advisors in the community we placed her in.  We LOVE her choices.  Her school, and the world at large, is full of wonderful people.  But should we have placed her in a community where essentially everyone subscribed to our value system in order to hedge our bets that her choice of role model or friend would share our values on a fundamental level?  On the flip side, in doing that would we risk exposing her to individuals that might take it all too far – into the realm of homogeny, disrespect of others, lack of appreciation for diversity, or presenting what I would consider to be a warped version of our religious values?  Probably not, if we chose the community carefully and were diligent.  I guess the reality is that wherever she’s in school, we will have to keep the lines of communication open and talk to her about what we believe, how to maintain personal integrity while showing respect for those who believe differently, and listen to and respectfully guide her as she comes into her own way of thinking.

At this point, E is in a diverse school filled with wonderful people with all different types of beliefs, and she comes home to a celebration of that as well as a family devotional (we’re working on becoming more consistent with this…) and then out again to a church community that shares our values with her under our supervision.  Still, I struggle.  To make things more complicated, it is important to us that E embrace the Catholic Church as well as her global community and the protestant community in which we are very active.  Catholic School would certainly help with this.  In lieu of enrolling her, I am considering going to speak to the local priest.  (Update: have already made this phone call and am waiting to hear back)  I have heard there are classes for young children on Monday nights that might be a good fit for E?  Maybe we could find some community there?  It is thought-provoking for me, as I grew up exposed to two different Christian denominations: one at school, another at church.  I found it to be a fantastic experience, provoking a lot of independent critical thinking.  I wouldn’t trade that history for the world.  But I know others with similar histories that struggled, and would have appreciated our current position:  a fantastic school, with the directly-addressed-spiritual elements experienced in home and church settings with parents who are supervising more moments in the process than the 7 hour daily school-window allows.  (Honestly, I had one teacher tell me I was going to he#@ because of where my family attended services…that’s another story that worked out ok for me in the end (after a trip to the principal’s office because of my reaction), but could have easily devastated a more sensitive child?  I also had a third grade classmate tell me her father worried about my family’s salvation because of where we attended Sunday services, and revealed they prayed for our souls every night at their family dinner table…again, no problem for me – hey, I hope they’re still praying!  I’ll take all the prayers for salvation I can get! – but potentially problematic for a different child…still, the value of years of daily Biblical exposure and the focus on salvation amid daily distractions of school and life…) Anyway, regardless of the community we place her in, there is certainly more we could be doing at home and in other spiritual communities to enhance the spiritual lives of our children…

Anyway, with all these thoughts in my head, just this week, E drew this picture…

From left to right, it is E, her Kindergarten teacher, and her 3rd grade “reading buddy”.  She drew it because (her words, with pride), “everyone says I am a miniature version of my reading buddy, and she is a miniature version of my teacher.  So I drew a picture of all of us together!  I’m so much like them!

Clearly, at this stage of life, she is actively looking around for older role models: dressing like them, drawing pictures of herself as miniature versions of them, and even adopting their lingo (the expressions she has picked up from her teacher this year at school are adorable, I really must say!)  But when I see E emulating her teacher, it strikes me that we got really lucky.  We never spoke to E about how to choose role models.  There is no dress code at the school, and some of the elementary school teachers wear clothes so short that I wouldn’t let E wear them as a teenager.  This – along with the fact that she will never hear her 7-hour-a-day public school teachers explain things in a way that lends import to a spiritual perspective – makes me want to enroll her in a religious school.  But I know that there will also be individuals, and tones, in religious schools that I would have to steer E away from.  In either place, I will end up having to say, “choose who you emulate wisely…not everyone is going to have a perspective that represents what our family believes”.

The whole process reminds me of what my mom used to say,

“I can’t pick your friends, but I can choose which environment you get to pick them in.”

What a responsibility when it comes to choosing spiritual institutions, communities and schools!  Selecting those environments, and actively talking to E about how she is choosing who to spend time within them, are among our biggest challenges as parents.  Honestly, E is such a sweet kid that she gives everyone so many chances…which I appreciate, but honestly, I want to build a wall around the kid who has already had a chance and used it to be really mean.

Did anyone make it through this long ramble?  My apologies.  But the thoughts in my head just sort of became a brain blurt out onto the page.  And, honestly, it gets more complicated, because (1) if we were to “try” a private religious or Montessori school, we’d have to move out of our current neighborhood in order to afford it, so there’d be no real going back (unbelievable schools come from astronomical property taxes…the equity educator in my struggles with this, but that is another post), as well as accept the task of  teaching our children to be ok with the fact that their vacations, lunches, spring break trips, etc. just aren’t going to look like their classmates (we’ve seen the brochures for the optional trips, and while great, just aren’t realistic…), and (2) I’m just talking about E.  The school system in general just works for her.  But what about my child who is equally brilliant, knows the answer, but will LOVE surprising teachers with an alternate process/way of doing things.  Would an alternate setting be better for that type of child?  And could we logistically manage having siblings in different elementary schools?  I need to think about this next year…

In the meantime, could someone research all this and just tell us if we made the right choice for E’s elementary school?  We’re a year in…everything seems great…still I will always wonder…and my brain hurts already…

Did we put E in the right school?

Love your brain. Love you. Be who you are always.

*I may delete this post someday if I decide it’s too personal or realize that it would bother any of my children.  If you think it falls into either of those categories, I am open to recommendations on deleting it…feel free to weigh in!*

So if you’ve read the last couple of blog posts, you know that I’m thinking a lot about the kids these days.  That trend continues with this post, which contains two stories and some reflections about S, particularly with regards to the awesome way she engages in, and expresses, her learning.

There is a refrain in these stories.  It is…

“I love your brain, S.  And I love you.  Be who you are always.”

And the stories are as follows…

 

 

Story 1: S (who turned four in February) learned to write her name this year.   It is so cute, with its crooked, all-capital, all-over-the-page letters that I asked her to write it on a blank sheet of paper for me, so I could file that paper in her box of “special things from childhood”.

We sat down at the kitchen table together, side-by-side.  I gave her a sheet of paper, she chose her marker, and then – to my surprise – she started to make all sorts of non-sensical marks.

Now, I have seen S write her name many, many times.  She knows how to do it.  But these were just scribbles.

I didn’t say anything – just waited to see how many marks she was going to make and what she would say when she was done.

She finished, and put the cap on the marker.

I looked at the page full of scribbles, and S looked at me.

Then she looked back at the paper, rotated it 180 degrees, and there, in those precious crooked, all-capital, all-over-the-page letters was her name.  She had written it in reverse and upside down, so that (with the exception of one backwards letter), it was a three-year-old’s version of perfect when she turned the page around.

I almost fell out of my chair.

I swear, if I were reading this, I would think the author was lying or exaggerating, but honest-to-goodness that is exactly how it happened.  The follow-up is that I later sat down with my own pen and paper and tried to do it, and it is not easy.

Furthermore – just because I think it’s interesting, I will mention that I have paid attention since, when she doesn’t realize I’m watching, and never seen her write her name this way again…it was something about me asking her to do it and sitting right next to her, I guess???

The refrain…get ready for it…

“I love your brain, S.  And I love you.  Be who you are always.”

 

 

Story 2:  One day while I was busy cleaning up the house, I noticed that the pieces of one our puzzles had been scattered across the playroom table, and I asked S to help by doing the puzzle.  She collected all the pieces she could find (2 were missing at the time), sat down to work, and after a minute or so, said, “I did the puzzle, mama!  Come look!”

I went over with the intention of quickly viewing, collecting and putting away the puzzle, but had to stop when I saw the ultimate results of her efforts.  This is what I saw:

Not a single puzzle piece was in the “right” place.

Now I know S can do this puzzle, so I was curious.  I sat down next to her and asked her to tell me about her work.  She said, “I decided that this puzzle would be more fun if I made a rule about how I could do it.  My rule was that all the pieces had to go with their right color, but none of them were allowed to go with their right shape.”  And now it’s done.

The refrain again…get ready for it…

“I love your brain, S.  And I love you.  Be who you are always.”

Later, I gave her a much harder puzzle to do.  Here’s what the puzzle typically looks like:

And here’s what it looked like after S was finished with it:

That’s right, every piece fitted together…upside down.

Clearly, it was too easy – or not interesting enough? – to do with the picture side up.

Can I sing the refrain one more time?

“I love your brain, S.  And I love you.  Be who you are always.”

 

 

A mama’s reflection:

I have said many times (including in this blog) that I love the way S sees and engages the world.   I actually say this more often than I might otherwise because (1) it is simply beyond awesome, in my opinion, and (2) as she gets older, I worry that she is going to encounter lots of people – especially in school – who don’t appreciate her more unique perspective, so she needs to hear it from her mama in every way and as many times as I can say it.

She has not encountered any naysaying yet.  From what I’ve seen, Pre-K and Kindergarten programs seem to take pride in allowing children to be creative (shout out to E & S’ teachers here!).  In the young years, schools are great about introducing an idea, then letting the kids run with it in any direction they choose.  However, looking down the road, I have to admit that I am worried about finding the right school for S after Kindergarten is over.  Maybe I worry needlessly, but from what I do know, encouraging unique, creative, explorations & expressions is not the top priority in a lot of grade 1-12 environments.

The things I list below are, in my opinion, important for all students.  But there are some who will struggle more than others when asked to limit themselves to “acceptable” learning styles and expressions.  And I think S may be in this category both because (1) her style is relatively unique and (2) she is not one to cow-tow to any systems “just because”.  As her mom, I can help her figure out when to “play the game” and when to challenge the system (and how to evaluate the consequences of both courses of action), and I can give her advice on how to be who she is while code switching to get the most out of what traditional education has to offer.  But honestly, what she really needs is the right learning environment for her.

Ideally, S needs teachers all the way through that are going to challenge her with a question or idea and then let her try her own way of doing things without interruption.

It will be especially important for S to have a teacher that will encourage her to explore her own ideas and processes instead of “correcting” her when they see her headed down a path that seems to make absolutely no sense.

I am desperate to find teachers for her that are like those we have encountered in our pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms…teachers that will NOT try to make her thinking and expression fit into a standard path, but will instead celebrate her very unique way of seeing and engaging the world…

If they stifle her, or make her feel self-conscious or defensive or (I shudder to write it) – make her feel wrong – about approaching things differently, the world is going to miss out on the true essence of S.

(Moreover, my girl is impassioned, so she’s probably going to tell them what she thinks about their methods, and then get punished for it, unless she’s in a pretty special setting.  I mean, if a teacher had asked her to write her name, stopped her as soon as she saw the unrecognizable marks, told her she had misunderstood the instructions, removed her paper and given her blank sheet with instructions to try again, I can tell you that the S I know would absolutely refuse to do it, thinking, “I was writing my name, and you insulted and stopped me.  There’s no way I’m going to start writing it again”.  What no one will realize is that behind all that fire, she’s hiding a bruised spirit and hurt feelings.  And then her dad and I are going to be in the principal’s office trying to sort it all out.)

Maybe Calvin’s parents could give us some tips…  (And by the way, I believe that all students are “utterly and exquisite crystals”… and lots of teachers are too : )

Any suggestions on where to find a post-Kindergarten classroom that can manage all that?  I mean, I am a former teacher, and I know the challenge.  And I have lots of teacher friends who meet and exceed this challenge.  They are fantastic (you know who you are folks…and I love you for it!)  But it’s a lot to ask of a teacher to give a creative child leeway to explore alternate means of completing assignments, when that teacher has 18+ young children to prepare for a mandatory standardized test (i.e. I am not sure what is even fair to ask teachers to do, given all their responsibilities…)

(Along this note, as a former teacher giving a shout out to all teachers, I can tell you that every child has a unique perspective and that “the system” makes it very difficult for teachers to engage them all as individuals.  We need to do better as a society at addressing this.  In the meantime, I’m thinking about my now 4 year old daughter.  In terms of the “formal” schooling she’ll face in a few years, what’s the best place for S?)

 

 

SIDE NOTE:  My current solution is to beg my friend L (a former teacher and principal) to move her family here from Colorado and open a school and enroll all my children in it.  I will make her job relatively easier by introducing her to several teachers in this area, and insisting all my other amazing teacher friends move here and work in the school too.   A little background:  When L and I were studying education together, a guest speaker came into our classroom to teach us some math skills.  He wrote some problem on the board that I don’t remember exactly, but it was something like,

“Find 4 odd numbers that, when added together, equal the number 63.”

Well, he gave us a few minutes, saw everyone looking quizzical, and then provided the answer, which was that since 4 odd numbers will always equal an even number, it couldn’t be done.

Everyone looked relieved except my friend L who raised her hand and told him that it could be done, and she would be happy to reveal the method.  In response, the speaker launched into a re-explanation intended to convince her that you can’t get 63 by adding 4 numbers that are odd.

She responded by asking if she could write her answer on the board.

When she wrote the following:

the guest speaker almost looked relieved.  He predictably told her that her answer wrong, because 60 was not an odd number.

L, who still had the dry erase marker in her hand, simply continued writing until her answer looked like this:

Then she told the guest speaker that he simply needed to expand his definition of odd.

(How’s that for awesome? I approached L after class and basically told her she should decide whether she wanted me to be her friend or her stalker…)

I’d be ok with her teaching S!