Category Archives: Family

Celebrating Grandparents

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So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend!  (In a better late than never sort of way. . . )

Last month we stopped by to visit my grandma on the way home from a trip. She met us with her caregiver on the porch of the home. She had a newspaper in her lap, and told us she loved to come out on the porch every morning to read. Her voice carried like memories, like my whole childhood wrapped in the silky smoothness of her cheeks. She hugged us and told us that we made her day. We only visited for 20 minutes or so, on strict instructions from my dad and his sister. “More than 20 minutes will tire her out.” So we started our goodbyes, even though she looked sad to see us go. Walking back to the car and getting resettled for our car trip took some time, but still, as we drove out past the porch, my grandma waved from her wheelchair. I honked my horn a few times, thinking back to all the old family horn-honking goodbyes at Grandma’s house.

My grandpa turns 101 next month.

101.

The other night we sat around the table after my dad’s birthday dinner, and my mom asked my grandpa to tell us about his old dog. It was a great story about a smart dog,  but I was busy listening to the ebb and flow of my grandpa’s voice.  I was busy thinking about my childhood, when I sat at family dinners and heard my grandpa talking, telling stories, riddles and jokes. How is it that a piece of my memory is now so embedded in the present day? 101! E says it’s more fun to say “Over a century!”

Most people don’t get to have their Grandpas and Grandmas still at this age. Mr. Thought doesn’t even get to have his parents anymore.

Somehow, I’m so lucky…  My kids get to have these very same pieces of childhood that I had. The stories, the voices, the love, the jokes, the hugs. . . And that is worth celebrating.

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A Slice of Life, It’s Not Easy!

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

You know what’s hard?

It’s hard to do algebra when you’re 39, re-learning it on the fly
to help your 9th grader with radicals – simplified
“This is stupid! When will I ever need this in life?” She asks.

It’s hard not to answer her with sarcasm,
“Well, when your 9th grader is crying to you about algebra,
You might wish you paid a little more attention!”

It’s hard to push back your own memories of hating. math. class.
so that you can say instead,
“Algebra helps you in later math classes, and the logic behind it helps you in life…”

It’s hard to hear yourself sound like a cartoon mom
saying some sort of script instead of
the inspiration you wish you could be.

It’s hard to watch your child try and try
struggling, worried, stressed
with new teachers, new classes, new expectations.

You know what’s hard?
High School.
High School is hard
Learning, that’s hard
Parenting, teaching,
having patience,
perseverance,
knowing when it’s okay to fail, when you should try harder…
when it’s time to ask for help.

Celebrating my kids through paradox

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

What are you celebrating? As my kids make a mess of slime in the kitchen that was already full of dirty dishes, I’m celebrating this messy job of parenting. . .

One of my sons  might drive you crazy painting white out onto a table, and needing 3 reminders to stop. He’s also the one who will help you move tables and chairs without being asked. He’ll enjoy the jolly rancher you give him to say thank you, and he will also ask “Why are they trying to bribe us with tickets and treats?” after he hears about the positive behavior system. He definitely benefits from authentic positive feedback, and the he is impassioned about the ridiculousness of positive behavior incentives.

My daughter cares so much about animals, she won’t read a book or watch a movie that might have an animal go through a hardship… and she sighs loudly and rolls her eyes when I remind her to take the dog out. She sits for hours creating beautiful clay jewelry, a highly detailed sketch, and batches of slime. She also doesn’t understand why she has to go to school, and learn to study better. She is a creative writer, wants to write a book, and hates to sit and read. She reminds me to be stricter with her brothers a minute or two before she whacks them with the end of the dog’s leash.

My youngest reads voraciously once he starts, asks me to order him books, spouts off facts he’s learned from his books, and complains when I ask him to do his 20 minutes of reading. He talks about not having new friends in his new school and a minute later tells me a funny story about the kids he was playing with at recess, or that 2 of his friends will be going to math with him. He tells on his brother, and then (of course) turns around and mimics whatever his brother just did.

Isn’t it funny how everyone is different? Isn’t it amazing? Even within ourselves we are different — full of paradoxes.  How can I figure out my children? How can I help them grow while I celebrate who they are?

 

Fueled by Love

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

I want to celebrate one of my kids today. One of my wonderful children is a little extra unique. He’s smart, creative, comical, helpful, talented, a struggling reader, fidgety, a nonconformist, sensitive and loud. If you haven’t met him, watching this will give you a good idea of him. (If you’re his parent, watching it might make you cry and hope.)

The other day I overheard someone else use the word tricky to describe him. They hadn’t met him yet, but it was my fault because sometimes I have labeled him “tricky” in order to try to describe him to others. But I think I’ve been using the wrong word. It’s not that he’s never mischievous… it’s just that that isn’t what I mean by tricky. The nuance of what I mean is lost in the translation from my brain to others’ ears. I mean unique. I mean not interested in the status quo. I mean challenges you to be a better person.  I mean sensitive but not quiet. 

The other day, Mr. Thought and I were talking about how to make sure our son starts off his new school on the right foot.

“He’s not tricky.” Mr. Thought said. “Well, sometimes he is, but that’s not the point.”

We both thought for a moment. “He’s just fueled by love.” My husband explained, “He needs to know he’s loved.”

I don’t usually speak in hashtags, but come on. This is #truth.

So, I have a new way to talk about my amazing kid. He is fueled by love. He deserves it.

And I think I have new way to talk about all kids, right? Who isn’t fueled by love? Who doesn’t deserve it? What does it mean? It means give every kid the benefit of the doubt, set kind limits, give second chances, again and again. Take a deep breath, let it go. Don’t make compliance your learning goal. Look around at your students and get to know them. Please. They are fueled by love.

 

 

A slice at the Grocery Store

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

 

There’s only one register open at Wegmans, and it’s a little bit slow. E and I can handle it though, and while we wait, a pregnant mother of 3 kids pulls her cart behind me. Her toddler keeps throwing things on the floor. So, when it’s my turn to put groceries on the belt, I ask her if she wants to go in front of me.

“No, that’s okay. They need to learn to be patient.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “I only brought one of my kids with me today, so you are welcome to go first.”

“Nope, I’m kinda hoping they open another register. Usually they open registers when there are lines.”

The cashier rings up my groceries, and the woman has to start loading hers.

“Can you get those things on the bottom? No the bottom. The very bottom of the cart.” She explains to her kids. “Grab the milk from your sister before she drops it.”

I’m pulled out of my noticing by the cashier complaining about the line. She needs a price check for one of my items, so now she is the only cashier and her lamp is blinking. Another worker walks by, and my cashier yells after her.

“Is anyone going to help me?”

The woman walks away, saying “I’m going to accounting.”

“It would be great if you said something.” the cashier tells me. “That will make them listen. This is crazy. I’m all by myself.”

I nod. “It really puts the pressure on you.”

“That’s true.” she says to me, and then turns her head towards customer service, calling out the name of her manager. “I could use some help!”

Her voice is stressed, and snippy. The manager looks up, takes a deep breath and says “I’m with a customer. And then I can help you.”

The cashier grumbles to me some more, and I don’t really know what to say, so I just tell her that it must be so hard. The manager walks over, a smile on her face, asking what she can do to help me.

“I’m the only one on register.” the cashier says as the manager walks away, looking for the price we need. When she gets back, she asks the cashier if the item got on my order.

“I have no idea. I’m the only one on register. Can someone please come help over here?”

The manager checks that the item is now on my order, turns to the cashier and talks in a very patient voice, “More people are coming on. It will be okay.” She walks away.

“I hope your day gets better.” I tell the cashier as I walk away. E looks at me, eyes wide and rolling a little. It’s the look he gives me when we witness something a little odd. So, we talk a little about how hard it must be to be the only cashier, and how hard it must be to be the manager trying to get other people on the registers.  In my head I think about how patient the manager was, and how stressed out the cashier was. I wonder if this was supposed to teach me something. Is it ironic that the manager was all smiles to me, and on the patronizing side of patient with her employee? I don’t know. But, I noticed.

E reads this over my shoulder. “That’s sad” he says, and then, “Why are you writing about Wegmans? Write about something else.”

 

 

A slice of a summer night.

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

 

Summer nights come suddenly. I’m just relaxing into the evening with kids, and then BAM! It’s 10:00, and I’ve failed at bedtime — again.

A bad headache equaled a late dinner tonight which made a late bedtime inevitable, so I decided not to care. We sat on the deck, as the light faded, and I just chatted with the kids:  Chairs pulled close together, legs resting on laps.

I wanted to see the stars come out, but the clouds were in the way. One big cloud, actually. So, I closed my eyes,  pretended my headache was gone, and just listened. We talked about makeup that L wants to try, “just for fun,” and the sphynx documentary the boys had watched earlier, and the smoothie E had just made, “even better than my smoothie from yesterday because instead of two ice cubes, this time I added two extra pieces of frozen mango.”

While we chatted and the wind stirred up, the magic wasn’t lost on me. In the back of my head I was noticing that this… this is what they mean when people tell me I’ll miss these days.

 

A slice of swimming lessons

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

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Melancholy has taken over E, and I blame the steroids he’s on right now. This sadness can come to play all through the day, but for sure on the way to school, on the way to karate, and during swimming lessons.

Tip of the day. Don’t start your 7 year old in any fun extracurriculars at the same time he starts a 12 week course of prednisolone! 

Today as I walked E and H into the YMCA for their swimming lessons, the difference between how each boy viewed this activity was clear.

H: I don’t know if I should move up a level, or just stay in this. I mean, it’s easy, but it’s good practice. How many more classes do we have left?
Me: Well, this is your third class, and there are 8 total .
H: 5! We only have 5 left?
E: 5! We have 5 more?
Me: You can take another round of classes after this if you want —
H: Yes! Please? Please?
E: NO! Do we have to? I don’t want to!

Once in the building, we hurry into the pool lobby. H and E walk through the men’s locker room, and I meet them via the women’s. E looks worried and says, “What if they make me go under water? Last time they just expected everyone to go under, and I can’t!” Then he tells me that the other kids splash, and that really bothers him. “If I hold two fingers up like this, that means they are splashing! That’s what I was trying to tell you last time!”

“How about 1 finger up means ‘I love you?'” I ask him.

I’m so glad to make this signalling system, because the first time I took the boys to swimming lessons, E kept looking at me and mouthing whole sentences that I couldn’t understand. If you have ever been on the other side of windows looking into an indoor pool where your 7 year old is scared of swimming lessons and is dramatically mouthing his concerns about drowning, you know what I’m talking about.

The classes are called to the pool, and I walk to the plastic pool chairs that parents sit in to watch. I’m not going to lie. Trying to watch 2 kids in 2 pools…not my favorite thing.

E is getting splashed. 2 fingers up from him, and I mirror his signal while mouthing, “It’s okay. You’ll be okay.”

Every few minutes, E mouths, “How many minutes left?” and I flash the number on my fingers.

25 minutes left.

E is so mad about the kid next to him acting crazy. His 2 fingers are up, his eyes are rolling. I give what I hope is an empathetic and encouraging look.

“What if I drown?” he mouths.

“You’ll be okay.” I mouth back, gesturing to his 2 teachers and the lifeguards nearby.

“How many minutes left?”

I look over at H, who is diving for rings and swimming back and forth in his class’ lane.

E does a front float, and a  doggy paddle to his teacher who keeps moving farther away. He looks at me, and I give another encouraging smile, with 2 thumbs up.  His teacher pushes him away, off towards the side of the pool and he is doing great. Until he’s not. And I see the mini panic as he loses steam, and goes under. His teacher is there in a second, and helps him to the side, and he seems fine. But when I mouth, “Are you okay?” with questioning eyebrows, and one thumb up, he shakes his head no. He rests, arms on the side of the pool, looking sad.

He swims again, and this time mouths, “Was I good?”  Thumbs up buddy.

H is diving off the diving board.

“How many minutes left?”

The kids in E’s class are taking turns jumping into the water. Last time, E jumped into his teacher’s arms. But today, he jumps straight into the pool, submerging himself.

“Was I good?”

“So good, honey!”

“How many minutes left?”

One more jump, and then I am handing the boys towels, talking to H’s teacher about moving up a level, and reassuring E that he did indeed do a good job.

I meet them on the other side of the locker rooms, and we walk out…Swimming lessons are done…until Thursday.

 

#sol17 March 27 A slice of not making sense.

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

It doesn’t make sense. 

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

She was just a baby.  How could a baby be expected to take Geometry? How could a baby decide between English 9, and Advanced English?

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

It doesn’t make sense.

 

#sol17 March 17 A few slices of St. Patrick’s Day

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

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In the car on the way home from picking up the big kids from school, the conversation turns to St. Patrick’s Day and leprechaun traps.

“I know you’re the leprechaun, Mommy.” H says, and I laugh.

“I’m not a leprechaun! I’m not that short! I don’t have red hair! I have no magic!”

L and H roll their eyes at me. “You always say that. We know you aren’t a leprechaun, or Santa, but you always say, ‘How could I have time to give presents out all over the world?'” L complains.

“We just mean it’s you who takes the gold and leaves us green candy.” H explains.

I just laugh. Then I ask them, “What would you do if you came downstairs, opened your trap and there was a tiny little mean spirited elf screaming at you and throwing magic spells your way? ‘ARGH!!!!! ACHHH!!!!'”

They look surprised and laugh.

“I think you are all the things. Except for Christmas. Christmas is real. It has to be. Also, I think leprechauns are real. Teacher Mary said she saw one” H tells me. L agrees.

Teacher Mary has retired, but her magic lives on!

***************

Later, I drop L off at her play rehearsal and run to Target.

I am on the hunt for something small and green or shiny. Something to leave just for fun. I am late for this errand, I know. A woman walks up next to me looking at the same leftover St. Patrick’s Day tchotchkes.

“I think those 4 leaf clover necklaces are all broken.” I tell her. She stares at them a little bit.

“I’m actually Irish,” she says, and I nod. I’m about to explain that I am part Irish when she continues, “Like, actually born in Ireland…We don’t do this there… This leprechaun trap thing.” She laughed. “But, my daughter came home from school saying, ‘Mommy! We have to set a trap for the leprechaun and he will come and leave us something tricky!’ So, here I am.”

We stare at the green headbands and four leaf clover socks together for a moment, before she walks away, saying ironically, “Well, good luck!”

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The kids are finally all asleep. My sub plans are done for tomorrow. I look at the traps that the boys have set. One is a cardboard drink holder, decorated with puffy paint and plastic gold coins, set precariously on top of the puffy paint containers. That’s the one I made with E. Rushing him a bit because, you know… bedtime! The other is the one that H made on his own. He filled a pot with water, floating some gold coins and duct taping others to the bottom of the pot.A piece of chalk keeps the pot’s lid on, ready to close. Before he went to bed, he explained that he didn’t want the leprechaun to drown. So, he left a lifesaver (mint, but with sharpied on stripes) and a short note.

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Years ago, I found the leprechaun trap idea online. It looked like a fun thing to try with the kids. I didn’t really realize I was starting a tradition that would last for so long. I know this isn’t what St. Patrick’s Day is really about. I know it’s a silly pinterest fad gone crazy. But, I’m okay with the little bit of March Magic.

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We didn’t catch any leprechaun’s last night. (Thank goodness… can you even imagine how scary that would be?) But, the kids did enjoy a few window gel rainbows, and just a couple of green candies for breakfast.

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#sol17 March 16 A slice of silence

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

I’ve been reflecting lately about time. What do you do with the time you have? What do you do with the silence? What choices do you make? This poem feels unfinished, but for some reason I like the shape of it on the screen. I’m sure it will look different on a mobile version, but it swoops in a way here on my screen… so I’m calling it done. For now. 

It is silent in my house.
E is still sleeping upstairs,
Finn is sleeping on the couch,
Mr. Thought is working downstairs.

I have a pile of should do’s.
I got my grading out: I graded one paper.
I’m looking at the basket of laundry: I’ll fold it later.
The dishwasher needs to be emptied, and filled: You get the picture.

It is silent in my house.
E is still sleeping upstairs,
Finn is sleeping on the couch,
Mr. Thought is working downstairs.