Monday, September 29, 2014

Being "that parent"

***It was Thursday morning when I wrote most of this.  But then I had to leave my spot early to knock out a couple of errands before collecting my progeny.  Now seems like a good time to finish it up and send it out into the inter-web-world.***

It's Thursday morning again, which means coffee of the day, my favorite chair at the cafe, a groovy soundtrack, a sunshiney morning (I'm requiring it now for Thursday mornings), and children in classrooms learning all sorts of crazy cool things.  Like how to interview well for a jamming job that will predicate both a steady paycheck and us not supporting them ad infinitum.

By the way, #1 has stated on m-u-l-t-i-p-l-e occasions that she will be living with us when she is an adult and will eat whatever she wants, thankyouverymuch, and I will both be doing her grocery shopping as well as paying for it, of course.  She thinks this is fair.

Also by the way, #2 is now demanding that #1 call her "Sophia" (pronounced SO-fee-uh, obviously) whereas #1 has determined that #2 will call her Leah.  I don't know why.

Well, I sent an "angry" email to the principal of our elementary school this week.  I haven't received a response back, and for that matter, I neither want one nor do I want to continue the conversation.  I came into this school experience knowing full well that I cannot be "that parent" given my utter frustration with "those parents" over the years.  I refuse to be belligerent, demanding, confrontational, and unaware.  I've been on the short end of that stick plenty of times, as all teachers are, because parents obviously know more about my classroom than I do.  Admittedly, as a teacher, as soon as a parent starts even coming close to telling me what to do about their child or my class in general, I turn into hyper-defensive/let's-move-on-and-get-you-taken-care-of-so-that-I-can-consider-what-you're-saying-even-though-I'll-probably-grumble-to-myself-about-it-and-complain-to-other-sympathetic-teachers, at least on the inside.  On the outside, it's all about the PR.

I'm a #1 fan of teachers everywhere and absolutely abhor how the media has largely been responsible for the general attack on education that our country is experiencing.  The boy and I have NO qualms about sending our children to a public school.  At all.  I don't care how many negative stories you hear on the news about teachers who are arrested or disciplined for unseemly, questionable, or downright illegal behavior.  This is such an unfair representation of our country's educators, and it's deplorable.  Show me one teacher caught up in inappropriate behavior and I'll show you 20 (at the minimum) who genuinely care for their students and who are busting their rumps for my child.  And yours.

But I'm getting off track here; I especially want to hash out how I've been fighting the urge to try to put my two cents in when, frankly, it hasn't been asked for.  It's a fine line, fellow parents of school-aged children, to work with your child's teacher/school system and communicate about what is not working.  My gripe is two-fold: technology and the D'Nealean system for handwriting.

Our family has a love/try not to be too dependent relationship with technology, though it has not only infiltrated our lives (like pretty much everyone, I'm sure) but has also become expected of us to use and be dependent upon.  It's a bit of a challenge as a parent to model a do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do behavior in regards to technology, which, frankly, looks one and the same to the littles.  Our Kindergartner carts home her iPad mini (for which we pay a hefty technology fee now, not by choice) every day.  And we are responsible for that device--keeping it charged, not broken, not stolen, and certainly not misplaced.  That seems to be a wretched plan, especially as our child is not allowed to and will not use that device at home.  She will not.  We heartily don't agree with this trend to push gross amounts of technology on the littlest among us (there is some pretty convincing research out there that we use as a support for our argument..if you're interested, I'll post some of it).  At best, it's a gimmick.  At worst, there can be some serious ramifications.  But, as with everything in education, when scrambling desperately for answers to problems that cannot be fixed or, frankly, should not be fixed but accepted for what they are, those controlling the educational agenda tend to epitomize bandwagoning.  It must be something taught in ADMIN 101: How to be a Superintendent. 

But I wasn't "that parent" about technology.  I've tried to judiciously express my concerns (in person) about creating a technology dependence with Kindergartners and have been met with a couple of looks of befuddlement as if I'm speaking another language.  That cross is one that we will bear an deal with it as we must.  My pseudo-angry letter (it really wasn't that angry...forthright, yes, but angry, that's not in me yet) was simply to express my sincere disappointment with the D'Nealean system for handwriting, which essentially is a bridge to learning cursive writing.  We love cursive, stand behind the school system 100% to include this in the curriculum, accept this as a challenge for the future.  The D'Nealean system, however, is forcing the issue now.  NOW.  In Kindergarten.  Rather than teaching handwriting to wee young minds who are still learning gross motor skills in a standard, understandable fashion (stick & ball, anyone?), the D'Nealean system teaches all letters on a slant, with those wretched little tails on everything: "fancy," if you will.  This means that my child's attempt at a letter "a" now looks more like a "q."  Her lowercase "b" now drives me nuts.  And, what do you know, there are two of them in her first name, which she writes a lot.  (She also likes to put a period at the end of both her first and last name when she writes them...on everything...and sometimes throws a question mark and even an exclamation mark in there for good measure.  Flair.) 

I know that not every Kindergartner can write upper & lowercase letters when they enter school, but I'm going to assume that most can.  In my mind, that means that most Kindergartners are now struggling to re-learn what they were already able to do and in a confusing way.  "No, children, you are not allowed to write your letters in a) the way that you have already learned or b) in a way that makes sense.  We're thinking of how you're going to be learning cursive in a couple of years, so let's start working on that now." 

I was able to grab a quick minute with our daughter's teacher and talk with her, and it was positive because (shock) she, likewise, has similar concerns about the D'Nealean system and told me so in an open and honest dialogue.  That was refreshing.  I didn't accuse her.  She didn't feel threatened.  And, we were able to talk about an issue that also happened to pertain to my child.  Even better, she gave me her blessing for me to express my concerns to the principal, not because either of us think that the school will thus drop this handwriting system but rather because you never know.  Administrators will periodically review the curriculum such as this, and if they have honest, meaningful communication with/from parents in regard to this (and other) issues, it will be part of their discussion.  I'm certain of this. 

And because I won't be "that parent," I made sure to end the letter with a heartfelt statement of appreciation for all that our school's educators do not only for my child but for the whole kit and kaboodle of them.  Because it's true...teachers, as a whole, are a bunch of people who I believe in.  And it doesn't hurt to tell them that once in a while, even when you're not thrilled with some choices that have been made.

But then again, I slipped a note to the school secretary on Thursday saying that #1 would be out of school on Friday because we would be "out of town," which we were when we went to the zoo.  So maybe I am, kind of, "that parent." 

Thursday, September 18, 2014


I'm off my normal routine.  In fact, I have been for a while...months even.

We live in a large enough neighborhood with sidewalks throughout, which gives us a couple of decent routes to walk and take the girls out.  Every summer that we've lived here, my routine has called for a daily walk.  When that gets tiresome, there is another neighborhood across the street that we often venture into and a park just a few minutes away with a decent loop. 

But I've been struggling with a compete apathy towards anything of this nature (in nature, so to speak).  I've been at a loss as to why I should bother.  It's an utter pain to squish both girls in the wagon what with lots of legs happening in a small space, which inevitably leads to bickering about whose feet go where.  Plus, they're probably around 70 lbs. combined.  Thank heavens for wheels, but that's enough resistance to make me forgo the walk entirely.  Call me a wimp.  I do. 

El problemo is, however, that I have this thing with food.  It's something of a love affair (scandalous).  It's the good kind of affair because the affection is mutual.  (You should see the way that those brownies are winking at me from the counter right now.)  But, when don't walk and continue to eat like it's 1999 (metabolism of a teenager, friends), things happen.

The idea of a diet has entered my mind again, in part because a friend is on one and the in-laws are working through their own, but I just can't stomach it (so to speak).  I won't do it.  Nope.  No diets here.  Change of lifestyle?  Yes.  Diet?  Get away from me, tempter of evil things.

I keep coming back to the idea that really, all I need to do is reinstate portion control.  If I do, when I do, good things happen.  I feel good about myself, even if I'm holding on to more pudge than I want.  I've never been one to care all that much about what I look like so long as I can fit in my clothes.  And while I still can, I could and should fit better.  So that's what I'm striving for.  (And then I found myself at a buffet restaurant for a baby shower over the weekend, after eating a doughnut at church, and there was sushi, and about 15 desserts, and lo mein, and oh, the temptations!!!!)

Even more importantly, I've realized again that I have almost completely lost the sense of hunger.  Perhaps it's the basic, animal instinct in me, but my day typically revolves around combating even the possibility of hunger, not only with myself but also with my children and with the boy.  I keep a box of crackers in the car now for after-school pick-up drives home.  I nearly always stash something in my bag before leaving, for myself as well as the littlest.  Snacks are pervasive, and a good amount of my food bill goes toward foods that are easy to be consumed on the go.

We shall not feel even the slightest twinge of hunger!

So I'm taking on this challenge: to allow myself to feel real hunger, to avoid eating for any reason other than actual hunger, to remember what it feels like when I have need rather than want.

It's a work in progress, but frankly, what part of me isn't?  Just add it to the list.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Anyone? Anyone?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: our youngest is content to tag along on pretty much any trip for any reason.  Even if it involves 3 hours in the car just to go pick apples in the cold rain.  Plainly, she's a breath of fresh air in my parenting life. 

In all honesty, my life has been somewhat reduced to a crushing sense of frustration upon driving down the interstate, returning home with a bushel of apples and a sleeping child, only to dwell on how I actually intended to get two bushels of apples because, obviously, one isn't enough.  Let me repeat that: one bushel of apples isn't enough.  One bushel of apples is a lot of apples, friends.  It would make the average person think "Whoa, there partner.  What are you possibly complaining about?  What are you ever going to do with an entire bushel of apples for four people?"  My children...they love their applesauce.  And, it's just about the easiest thing in the world to make so long as you have a) a knife, b) a pot, c) some sort of blending device, and d) about half an hour.  Well, now.  I have all of those.  Applesauce freezes so beautifully and provides such a lovely little nighttime snack for said daughters, who virtually never refuse it.  AND I ONLY GOT ONE BUSHEL.  Now do you see why this thought was looping through my head for at least 15 minutes? 

In actuality, this dilemma is anecdotal.  Despite my best intentions, I messed up.  Which translates to failing.  And when you're in a quiet car, just listening to the wipers, there's a certain tendency to repetition.  There's a rhythmic beat that loops and reduces the negative because a positive thought never concentrates in this same way. 

I've had a larger than normal spurt of socialization with family and friends this past week, which has called for the standard chit-chat about jobs, kids and what-are-you-up-to-in-your-life-now?  Like the isolated and rhythmic thoughts of from yesterday's drive, my answers are the same: repetitious and incomplete.  I could speak in complete answers, but small talk dictates incomplete answers.  Yes, it's a blessing to have a non-traditional work schedule (but...).  Yes, I enjoy teaching as an adjunct (but...).  Yes, it's nice to take care of the girls during the day (but...).  Isolation fuels polite conversation and forsakes meaningful connections.  It also brings about boredom, which is not (shockingly) solved by making friends with the pantry.

Typically, I try to go somewhere every day, seeking out some amount of personal interaction.  But today, I'm staying home.  There are apples that are begging to be reduced to sauce and a little bean who's enjoys herself wherever she is.  And if you read this far, would you answer one simple question?  What are you doing today?  Perhaps community is not a single entity but a diverse construct that is developed in a variety of ways.  I think it is, and I would like for you to be a part of it.  Who's up for some virtual small talk? 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In the meantime...

Even though I haven't been writing with any consistency for the last...6 months, I think about this old blog just about every day.  Usually in the shower when I am utterly lacking access to things to write with.  Let me just tell you, I'm an amazing writer in the shower.  I blow my own mind with how amazing it is; too bad I can't share that amazement with you.  Just trust me on this one.

In the meantime...

I'm sitting in a coffee shop right now after finishing up some grading.  It's a moment that I have literally been looking forward to for about 2 years now.  Both children are in school, even if it's only 1 hour and 45 minutes, once a week.  It's still some me time, some grading time, some coffee shop time without having to coordinate a sitter, some time outside of the house. 

In the meantime...

I've been struggling, mentally.  I'm pretty lost, up and down, searching, whathaveyou.  I think I'll get there, though most days it doesn't feel like it.  Right now, I'm in a coffee shop, having checked several lingering items off of my list, listening to a jamming play list, and I feel confident in getting there.  Someday.

In the meantime...

I'll leave you with this: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing" -George Bernard Shaw.  My life is extremely honorable.  Chin up, friends.