The Job Too Important To Fail

When John and I became host parents for Lukas, our exchange student from Switzerland, a few years ago, it was on a whim.  During the application process, one of the questions asked of us was what were our rules.  Honestly, it was the question that stumped us. 

If you know us and know our kids, that may or may not surprise you.  Our kids are pretty good.  They aren’t exactly kids now at nearly 21 and 18, but they have always been generally well mannered and well behaved, and well, we haven’t exactly had rules with them.  It wasn’t that we lived in a home absent of rules, we just had rules as they were necessary.  For example, when Will was a toddler, we made a rule that he couldn’t watch the Rugrats on television because I didn’t want him imitating the behavior on one of the characters who was bratty. 

That was our general approach to parenting, and well, I think we did ok.  I mean, Will is now an adult and he is in college on track to graduate on time and Claire is a senior in high school.  Both are doing really. 

I tend to deal with my classroom in the same way.  I don’t have a laundry list of rules for the students on the first day we just have an understanding that we will all treat each other with respect and if that isn’t working, I will step in and deal with situations as necessary.  It works for me.  It works for my students too. I can only think of a couple of students over the past 25 years who have thought I was unfair, but even with those students and parents I have maintained a positive working relationship.

I think that is my problem when we tackle problems with steadfast, set in stone, black and white solutions.  What works in one instance doesn’t always work in another. 

I know that when we are talking about problems that our government deals with, it is bigger than problems a parent faces or a teacher, but I do think we have to be reasonable.  I understand the fear that some have about terrorism. It is real.  However, the ban from the executive order, no matter what the intention, is not going to be effective.  It has, I believe impacted the wrong people the most.  It’s because when making the rule, when just looking at the black and white, the shades of grey weren’t considered at all, which is why we see the backlash, and why we will keep seeing the backlash.  Our leaders need to start thinking before acting, which brings me back to the best parenting lesson I ever had.

When Will was just three, I grounded him from the television for a week.  This, by the way, was always the best consequence for him.  However, I did not consult John, who used the tv as a babysitter while he got dressed in the mornings [I was already at work], nor did I think about how awful it would be to have to entertain him without the television for a week. Still, as parents, we followed through.  We made a 7 day chart and we stuck to our guns, BUT, I never again gave a quick consequence without considering how the consequence would impact the rest of us.  I’m hoping that if nothing else the backlash from protests, judges, and angry Congressional members will convince our leader to think twice before acting rashly again.  I know the job is hard, but it is too important for him to fail.

A Thank You to a Special Student

Today, I am struggling a bit.  In truth, I’ve struggled a bit for the past week knowing that the anniversary of the tragic deaths of a family that I knew was fast approaching.  When it was raw, I wrote a note on Facebook, and I’m going to share part of that here.  It’s not that I want to relive this moment, but it’s that I don’t want to forget.  Here is the excerpt:

…The daughter was so bright.  I remember her has being very quiet in class at the beginning of the year and then totally impressing me with her voice on the page when she wrote for me.  She was a student that I could count on to always “get it” when I presented a big idea.  She had beautiful, shiny eyes and a lovely smile.  She was in the same section as my daughter and the girls in that class had to stick together because I had a lot of lively boys that loved to talk about war.  

The son had a much deeper impact on me as a teacher.  There was a time a few years ago when I was only teaching part time and coordinating our IB program part time.  He was in my son’s class the year I taught my son.  He was also on my forensics team, and he was a big winner for me.  His eighth grade year was a tough year for me personally, and I have trouble remembering parts of that year.  However, one moment from my writing extension class keeps coming back to me.  We were drafting research papers, and I sat down next to this young man to help him.  He was really struggling with the task of getting his outline to his draft without it looking like a list of facts.  As I sat down next to him, I told him not to read the list, but to tell me about it.  After he did, I told him to write what he told me.  A big smile came on his face and he did just that.  When he turned in his rough draft to me, I was so proud of him.  I also felt a pang in my heart.  I wanted more moments like that.  I knew that teaching was my true calling, not coordinating a program.  That was the moment that I started making my way back to the classroom full time.  Because of this young man, I became a better teacher…

Being a teacher is such an important part of who I am.  Sometimes, I don’t always appreciate that.  This time of year, when spring fever is running rampant, and I dream of summer vacation, I sometimes forget how important teaching is to me.  It is so much more than a job.  I will say, that if not for the boy mentioned above, I’m not sure that I would be teaching today.  I was, at the time, on a path in education that was leading me out of the classroom.  I will be forever grateful for this angel leading me back during his time on Earth.

I remember him today.  I remember his beautiful sister.  And I will remember both them every May 7 for the rest of my life.

Jen-sicles: Peaches -n- Cream

As if I don’t have enough going on, I’ve decided to start making popsicles.  I mean, I don’t even make dinner most nights, yet the idea of this new venture is exciting to me.   A few weeks ago my lovely daughter was sick and couldn’t eat.  All she wanted was popsicles, but I felt like they needed to at least be the full-fruit kind so they would be healthier for her.  Yet, these full-fruit popsicles are expensive.  Then I thought about the fruit that I buy that we can barely eat before it gets yucky.

Next thing you know, I’m on Amazon, looking for popsicle makers.  Click here to see the one I purchased.  It’s simple to use and comes with its own sticks.

If you know me at all, then you will know that I decided against looking up a recipe and just made popsicles.  My first venture was with kiwi.  I like them but they are a little tart.  I probably should have added some sweetener.  One thing I’ve learned from my trials is that the freezer seems to zap some of the sweetness.  I’ve also made a blackberry/blueberry combo that was pretty good.  In this one I used stevia and probably could have used more than I did.  I didn’t “juice” the fruit.  In fact, I just used my hand-mixer to mash it up because I was too lazy to drag out my blender.

Today’s batch was my first attempt at a dairy popsicle.  I used frozen, organic peaches, Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek Nonfat Yogurt, and raw honey.  Of course I didn’t measure; I just mixed and tasted.  It’s the first one I think most people would like.

The other issue with my Jen-sicles is storage.  What I did was take cling wrap [close to a square piece], wrapped it around the pop, and put the pops in a Ziplock freezer bag.  If I come up with any amazing flavors, I’ll let you know!PicCollage

Helping Them Deal…

I saw a post on Facebook today, and it was the headline for an article,”Please Keep Doing Things That Your Children Can Do For Themselves.”  It’s a lovely article , and the gist is that kids grow up too fast so parents should cherish when they can do things for them. 

I love the sentiment behind this article, and there are plenty of things I do for my kids occasionally that they can do for themselves.  I sometimes fold and put away their clothes or clean their room.  I’ve done Claire’s hair.  I do these things for my kids as a treat and they in no way expect them. 

However, my kids started doing their own things as soon as they could.   Admittedly, some of this is because there are things I hate doing.   My best example is laundry.  They were eight and five when I started requiring them to do their laundry.  Of course, I helped at first, but both of my kids have been able to do that task for years.  It’s one of the many, non-material gifts that I have given them. 

As a seventh grade teacher, I know that I impact kids.  Yet the best part of me being older and wiser than I was in my youthful teaching days is that I have now been in the shoes of the seventh grade parent and I can see potential mistakes.  I can also offer advice, and I think that is my best impact as a teacher — its on the parents.  This is essential, I believe, because over my 25 year teaching career, I have seen kids become more and more dependent on their parents, for even the smallest tasks.

My big “catch phrase” of late to parents is that they need to let their kids figure things out.  More specifically, I’m talking about grades and my speech goes something like this:  absolutely no one but you cares about your child’s grades in seventh grade, so this is the time to focus on the skills he needs to develop to be successful when his grades do matter and you aren’t there to help. 

The same is true socially.  There is a fine line between effective parenting, supporting your child, and interfering/enabling.  First of all, I won’t claim to be perfect on this.  I’m not.  But over the years, I think I’ve gotten better.  I try to be very involved in my kids’ lives while letting them forge their own paths. 

Over the past couple of years, the high school social scene has presented both trying and joyous times for my daughter.  It was so different for my son — in this way, boys are easy.  So as Claire has navigated the rough waters of changing friendships and “girl drama,” I’ve supported her.  I’ve asked questions.  I’ve tried to help her see other perspectives.  I’ve given her advice.  There have been times when she has been left out by a group, or even uninvited to an event [yes, UN-invited].  While part of me wanted to call the moms of the “offenders,” I refrained; this was something my daughter and her friends needed to handle.  Instead, I coached my daughter on how to work through it.  I reminded her that people aren’t perfect and oversights can be made.  When you can, give the benefit of doubt.  I taught her the difference between being civil to people and being friends with them, which is a huge lesson in being an adult.   In less than two years I will be sending her to college where she will have to navigate these waters by herself.  Now, she has practice in comporting herself with dignity. 

Learning to face disappointment with grace is, I think, the best gift I could give either of my children.  Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go.  Still, it’s hard watching my kids when they suffer.  It’s hard not to step in and make it better.  But sometimes, doing what is hard means doing what is right. 

PC? Politely Caring? Positively Compassionate?

One of my favorite things to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas is to listen to Christmas music on the radio.  One of my favorite tunes is from the 1942 film Holiday Inn; it’s titled “Happy Holidays” and this song is credited with the popularity of the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This song is from 1942.

Of course, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and the PC combatants are lighting up my Facebook feed with their broadcasts about how they hate political correctness and that they will say “Merry Christmas and if you don’t like it then…”well, you can guess the rest.

Why does everything have to be a controversy?

The current usage of “political correctness” or PC didn’t start until the 1990s, but really took off in the 2000s.  That’s 50 – 60 years after the term Happy Holidays was first coined, which just shows that saying Happy Holidays isn’t an anti-Christian meant solely to promote political correctness.

Maybe, however, PC stands for more than political correctness.  Maybe it stands for Politely Caring, or Positively Compassionate.  What is wrong with those ideas?  

When I first moved to Florida, I met my first Jewish friend.  I had never thought about saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever before meeting her.  I have to say, that I was raised Christian and consider myself a Christian, but my Jewish friend is one of the best people I know.  Her character is exemplary.  If more people had her morals, the world would be a better place. With that said, since meeting her and countless other wonderful people of different faiths, I have proudly said Happy Holidays, especially to people that I don’t know.  I want to be polite.  I want to wish people happiness.  I don’t want to assume that anyone’s faith is the same as mine, and I know that saying a generic holiday phrase hurts my faith in any way. 

I am, quite frankly, offended by Christians who are offended by people who wish them a happy holiday.  If you are offended, ask yourself what is wrong with you?  These folks are trying to be polite, compassionate, positive, and caring.  How do they know that you are a Christian?  Happy holidays fits everyone.  

holiday-greeting-flowchart

I saw this picture on my Facebook feed today, and it perfectly sums up this situation.  It’s originally from this site:  http://www.joeydevilla.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/holiday-greeting-flowchart.jpg

I love the line on this flow chart that says that “if you can’t see past the words of the wish to its good intent, then it’s not the holiday well-wisher that is broken, it’s you.”

…just something to think about!  

Selfishly Sad

When my son Will was little, he had a favorite shirt…he called it his “Steve” shirt because it had stripes like the shirt Steve wore on Blues Clues. We still have that shirt nearly 18 years later. My husband pulled it out last night and I held it. How did that sweet boy grow so fast?

Just a few minutes ago Will and his dad pulled out of our driveway, embarking on the 13 hour drive to Oxford, Mississippi, where Will soon begins his second year of college. I thought this year would be easier, but I was wrong. I told myself that I wouldn’t cry until he left, but I wasn’t that strong. The same pains that filled my heart last August when I left him in Oxford filled me again when he hugged me to say good-bye.

The worst part is…I’m also happy. I’m so excited for him to start his second year, as he tries new courses and comes closer to figuring out exactly what he wants to do for the rest of his life. I’m so proud of the young man that he is and now I’m smiling with joy thinking about that.

I don’t do well with a roller coaster of emotions. I feel so selfish for my sadness because that is what it is…I am thinking about me and my feelings. Yet, even that knowledge doesn’t quell the ache. I am going to miss him so much!

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To My Baby at 19 Weeks

I wrote this poem 20 years ago when I was expecting my first child…as I post this, summer is winding down and that sweet baby boy is about to leave for another year of college.  I’m going to miss him so much!  There are just no words that capture a mother’s love for her children…no matter how grown up they are!

To My Baby at 19 Weeks

When I saw your eyes flutter and your little mouth moving,
My heart leapt.
Then you moved your hand across your precious face,
And my heart flew.
So glad was I to see you healthy
Your heart pumping,
Your tummy full,
Your spine formed fine.
I can’t wait to feel you kick.
I can’t wait to hold you tight.
I can’t wait to see you smile.
I can’t wait to know you because
I already love you