Posts Tagged ‘School’

The Empty Lot

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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The small house was torn down only a few weeks ago, and already there are few signs it ever existed. Grass and clover cover the empty lotare growing where the foundation once was, and there is no indication of the fence that bordered the small yard.

Now, it is just an empty lot.

Maybe someday the area will be used for  a garden or a new structure, but the space will never be the same again.

The destroyed house shouldn’t even be on my radar. When it was standing, it meant no more to me than a random stop where my dogs sometimes greeted the dog on the other side of the fence. Soon, I won’t even notice the changed landscape during my short, daily commute to work. I will accept the space for what it is: the status quo.

Yet, the destruction of the house has been weighing on my mind like the rapid progress of time, the growing independence of my children and the aging of my parents.

Maybe that’s because its destruction was timed perfectly with my son attending his first real graduation party – not one for a family friend but one for a friend no one else in our family knows.

Dropping him off at the party reminded me of dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten almost eleven years ago.

For months, people had been asking me if I was ready, and I blew off their concerns. I didn’t understand why they thought kindergarten was so significant. Both of my children had been in day care since they were toddlers, and I thought kindergarten was no different from day care.

Only it wasn’t.

On that first day of kindergarten, his teacher didn’t know my name. The school personnel didn’t know my son’s unique issues or about his contagious sense of humor. He was just another little boy who needed to be taken out of his car seat, encouraged to wave goodbye to his mother and walked into his classroom.

And I, his mother, couldn’t even watch him walk away. The woman working the carpool line frantically waved me to move on as the tears trickled down my cheek .

Now, my son’s public school education is quickly coming to a close. This coming school year, he will be a junior, which is considered an upperclassman. He is already talking about colleges and moving out of our house – which is exactly what I want him to do. I have no desire to have a 30 year-old son still living in my basement and depending on me to do his laundry.

And yet, there is a part of me that is sitting in my car watching my 5  year-old son take a teacher’s hand and walk into doors which lead to a world over which I have no control. And I can still feel the tears trickling down my cheek as I realize that my children, like time, grow, change and move on without me.

I can’t control my children’s growth or the rapid flip of the calendar any more than I can control the landscape I pass every day on my way to and from work.

What I can do is appreciate the potential.

Roses might bloom in that now empty lot. Or a  young couple might build a house and start a family there. Or the lot might remain one of few empty green spaces where people can walk their dogs while enjoying fresh air.

But I have no doubt that the space is destined for something meaningful that will make the world a better place.

Just as I believe my children are destined to make a positive  mark on this ever-changing world.  And like the empty lot, their quickly fading childhood needs to be appreciated rather than mourned, celebrated instead of regretted and, most of all, serve as the foundation for something even greater.

 

Raising Kids in the Dumbest State

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
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For years, West Virginians have been told that, collectively, we are obese and in poor health.

Recently, residents of  Huntington and Charleston have been informed that they live in the most miserable cities in the United States.

Then just this past week, West Virginians were recognized for living in the dumbest state in the nation.

The title was handed to us by TheStreet, a financial news website founded by Jim Cramer and Martin Peretz:  http://www.thestreet.com/story/12712489/1/the-10-dumbest-states-in-america.html[/embed]

Up until this week, I’d never heard of TheStreet, but I’m sure those who work there would take my ignorance as just another example of “dumb” West Virginians. That’s the same reason I hesitate to mention that I was raised to use  the term dumb as an adjective to describe those who don’t speak. I’m sure they’d counter that  the dictionary also defines it as “lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.”

What the dictionary doesn’t do is define dumb as “anyone who doesn’t have a college degree,” which is exactly what the folks at TheStreet did. They also assessed median household income and SAT scores to support their pronouncement.

I’m not sure what their scorecard was supposed to contribute to society, but I can tell you that all it really did was serve as another example of  bullying: an attempt by a person or group to feel superior by making others feel inferior through name calling and belittlement.

But here’s what the people of this Wall Street entity don’t get: West Virginians aren’t generally bothered by people who think they are better than us. And even though some individuals will always believe perception is reality, I like to believe this latest slam on West Virginia is a teaching opportunity for our children.

Yes, this is obviously an occasion to emphasize the importance of education and how it directly correlates with income and financial stability. But it’s so much more than that.

We can discuss how generations of West Virginians had good-paying, blue-collar jobs that didn’t require a college education. While the availability of such jobs shrunk dramatically in the last few decades, expectations and culture  have taken longer to change.

We can talk about the different types of intelligence, and how different people have different skill sets. Not everyone is good at reading and math, but they can be very gifted in art or music. And as we talk, we should also note that there is an immense difference between someone’s IQ and his/her ability to take a test.

Most of all, we need to emphasize that being poor has nothing to do with being stupid or lazy.  Throughout history, some of our nation’s poorest people are often the most hard working: They juggle working multiple jobs to pay for their basic needs or pick up extra dollars by shoveling driveways or mowing grass.

I’m not trying to imply that West Virginia doesn’t have issues that need to be addressed, and  I am a strong advocate of education and attracting businesses that provide solid employment opportunities to the Mountain State. But that’s not enough. We need to advocate for all that is right with this state and not allow others to  highlight our problems without promoting the good.

Most importantly, we need  to raise children who are proud of where they come from and the people they represent.

And I’m positive that there are enough wise people in West Virginia to accomplish just that.

Call Me Crazy (Part One)

Monday, April 28, 2014
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About this cell phone thing…

In earlier posts, I told you that my husband and I had no intention of getting our daughter a cell phone until she reached high school.  I couldn’t imagine the reasons why she’d need one before the first day of sixth grade, but every parent I spoke with confirmed that they’re as basic as school supplies: backpack, lunch tote, cell phone.

But why? Yes, I know … it gives our girl a lifeline. She can get in touch with us if she needs something. However, I can only assume phones must be turned off —  if not put away entirely — during class, and I assume they’re dropped to the bottom of a bag of some sort during practices or after-school activities. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

As I look back on my first year of junior high, which is now middle school to our kids, I had no need to call anyone. I was in the hallway with my friends before school, seated next to them in seven classes, at the same table during lunch, and on the field with them for band.  My dad dropped me off at 7:45 a.m., and my mother picked me up sometime around 4:00 when band ended.  Once again, who was I supposed to call, for what reason, and when was there time?

On weekends and during summer vacations (from June to September), my friends and I got together at each other’s houses or at the neighborhood pool.  My mother told me to be home at this hour, or that she’d be there to pick me up at that time.  I didn’t call to tell her when I was ready to come home.  She told me when to expect her.

Am I as out of touch as a rotary phone?

But all the middle school kids have them, I’m told.

Fine. So all the kids have some version of a cell phone.  Many have fun phones (I hesitate to call them “smart” when they can cause so much trouble), and others have less glamorous flip styles.  For those parents who are as stubborn as we appear to be, their children have “pay as you go” phones that are truly held for emergency use.

I took to the Internet to search for “first phones” and I found a list of possible choices.  As reported by numerous parenting sites, these are a few good ones available through local stores:

1. LG Migo

2. Sanoxy GSM

3. Firefly Glow

4. Buddy Bear

….WAIT. STOP. The “BUDDY BEAR” phone?

I clicked the link and literally choked on a long sip of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Indeed, these are “first cell phones” as I typed into the Google search box, but they aren’t intended for middle schoolers.  They’re intended for “little hands.”  Yes…preschoolers.

Pardon me, Mom, but WTH?

As I read RooGirl’s article dedicated to the best cell phones for kids of all ages, I discovered that entry-level communication devices are similar to an elderly person’s First Alert button that’s worn and pressed if they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

“…Parents give their children cell phones for reassurance and added security. It also allows them to keep in touch with their kids when they’re not together.”

Are they home alone?!

“Parents can choose phones to track children’s whereabouts via GPS, monitor phone activity and block content. Finding the cell phone that’s right for your child depends on how old, tech-savvy and responsible they are. And, whether you want them to use the phone for emergencies only, communicating with friends and family or have the ability to surf the web.” — RooGirl blogger

I’m sorry, but I can barely finish this post.  I am completely shocked that at least 10 phones on the market are designed for the younger set, gadgets that include cameras, text messaging, full-sized multi-color screens, and customizable ringtones. “Let it Go” has been downloaded more times than any other song.

I sit here thinking that if your child needs an SOS device in his or her hip pocket, then you don’t need a tiny tyke cell phone that whistles.  You need your head examined.

As I scrolled down to the tween and teen line of phones, I stopped on one of the first models reviewed by RooGirl.  The LG Rumor.

That’s it. I’m done.  Maybe I am Frozen in time.  But in the words of Elsa the Queen, let the storm rage on.  The cold never bothered me anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First phones for little hands…

Decision Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked  up thedr-seuss-memory-quote spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before  putting it down.

I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.

Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.

dr seussNow, 30 years later, that former teenage girl is fielding questions about what her son wants to do with the rest of his life, and I’m having a tough time believing that he can possibly know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.

In my world, that just doesn’t happen.

In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure.  And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.

But I realize that’s in my world.

In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.

Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.

But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself.  And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.places-ypu-will-go-quote

I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.

According to her journal, she does.

 

Off-Beat

Monday, March 3, 2014
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I should've seen it coming.

I should’ve seen it coming.

I knew she’d ask me “that question” sooner or later.  I’d prepared for the moment, but when it happened, I stumbled. I stuttered. I stammered.  I’d practiced my response for months; rehearsed it in my journal.  I wrote down all the clichés that would make understanding appropriate for her age level.  I read multiple articles about this topic, and I bought a few books to help me understand how times have changed.

My 10-year-old daughter is going off to middle school next year. I’ve been told that I must address these delicate issues before she sets foot in this new place. But, I waited until she asked the question that I’ve been dreading.

“Mom, what if I don’t fit in?”

Gotcha! You thought it was the big birds-n-bees talk, didn’t you? But this conversation is equally burdensome for a parent.  What if your child doesn’t fit in?  Did you?

I didn’t at first. Seventh grade was an awkward time (that phrase is spot on) in which I wore a denim jacket with every outfit.  I grew out of Palmetto jeans (not Guess) every other month, and my hair was as shocking as the gap between my front teeth. A bad perm was tinted a terrible shade of orange thanks to a bottle of Sun-In highlight spray, and it wasn’t complemented by bronzing makeup that stopped sharply at the jawline. I looked weird.  I was weird.  I carried my mother’s old Aigner purse, for heaven’s sake.  Think I’m over it?

My daughter popped the question on my bed one night, when she should’ve been fast asleep.  She lingered a little longer that evening, bouncing a foot like she was kicking an invisible soccer ball.  “What is it?” I asked, closing my book.

She crossed her legs into some type of yoga pose.  This was going to take awhile.

“What if I don’t fit in next year?”

Mike walked downstairs to check the door locks for the third time.

“What makes you think you won’t?” I countered.

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I had a bad dream a few nights ago that I was walking down the hallway, and I didn’t know where I was going.  A group of girls started laughing at me, and then one chased me through all these classrooms.”

I shuddered.  Dear God, that would scare anyone.

“And I couldn’t get away from her.”

My overly-analytical parenting style forced me into thinking that she was dreaming these horrible things to try to deal with deeply-rooted worries.  It was her mind’s way of bringing a problem to the surface (I guess). This also explains why she’s been in my bed for the last few mornings, watching the alarm clock.

“Are you treated that way now?” I asked.

She shook her head no.  I then asked how much TV she’d been watching, or if her books were too old for her.  She shook her head no again. “I’m reading about Jackie Kennedy,” she said. Well that Ethel could be a real bully, I joked.  She didn’t laugh.

“You’ll fit in because you and 50 other kids from your school are headed in the same direction,” I began.  “They’re not breaking off from the mix just yet.  But most of them are involved in something — dance, soccer, softball, gymnastics — which will make the first days of school a little easier,” I admitted.

Choosing to be uninvolved has ramifications. Inaction has consequences, too.  “These kids have been going to practices for years,” I warned her.  “So it’s a little late to start something truly competitive,” I said.

After reassuring her that she would have the best years of her life because of a friendly personality, a kind heart and a generous spirit, I shared my worries with a friend as soon as she got out of bed the next morning.

“She is an introvert,” I told her. “She holds back, and we might’ve encouraged it to keep her safe.”

“Then you know what, Katy?” my friend began, in a slightly edgy tone (which scared me).  “That’s when she picks up an instrument and she joins the band.”

I sat there for a moment.  I was in the band. I played the flute (because my cousin did), and then I switched to the saxophone (because my friend did), and then I tried out for the majorette corps (because my cousin and friend did).

“Since kids aren’t introduced to marching band until sixth grade, it doesn’t matter that she’s never had a lesson.”

I perked up.  THE BAND!

Why didn’t this occur to us?  She’s already a student of the Magnet School of Music at West Side Elementary.  Why wouldn’t she continue this interest? THE BAND!

That night (on my bed), I asked our girl what she thought about learning to play an instrument. Flute? Clarinet? Sax?

She curled her lip.

“Well, you have to do something,” I snapped. “That’s my new rule.  I don’t care if you run cross country or join the debate team, but if you’re worried about fitting in, then you need to find a group that will be a positive influence.”

“Oh no, it’s not that,” she exclaimed, fanning her arms in my face.  “I think I know what I want to do.”

I waited.  She smiled.  Then she laughed.  She tipped over on the bed and giggled some more.

“I want to play the drums.”

After a match of “No, you don’t” and “Yes, I do”, I withdrew from competition.  “You’re serious?” I asked.

“Yes. I want to play the drums and then the xylophone.”

“We’ll support you, but you’ll stick with it,” I replied, shocked that a book about Jackie Kennedy would be replaced by a biography of Ringo Starr.  A similar worry set in. Classmate reaction could go either way. Kids are so critical, especially of those who do something unusual. Fitting in and blending in aren’t exactly the same types of acceptance.

“I’m pretty sure that a tall girl with long, blonde hair and blue eyes pounding on a snare drum will most definitely stand out,” I said.

She never lost her smile. “And you and Dad can sit in the stands and watch!”

With bells on.

The Wrong Question

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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When I was six, I got my first glimpse at how misguided and even harmful some adults can be.

I already thought my teacher was mean (a belief I still hold today), but I never realized  that she didn’t believe in encouraging her students to develop their own dreams and aspirations.

I figured that out the day Mrs. Gladwill handed each student in her first grade class a large piece of paper with space to draw a picture at the top with lines underneath. She instructed us to draw a picture and write a couple of sentences in answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I soon realized that Mrs. Gladwill cared as much about our answers as she would about a random stranger’s response to the question “how are you?” In other words, she didn’t really care at all.

But even as a first grader, I was a bit of an overachiever. I wanted to impress Mrs. Gladwill with my plans to be a trapeze artist. No matter that I was completely uncoordinated and afraid of taking risks, I was going for glamour.

My first grade brain never equated a career, or even a job, with skills, aptitudes and passions that could make the world a better place. All I understood was a job defined you for life. Why else would adults always be asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I wanted to be glamorous and admired. The problem was, I didn’t know how to spell trapeze. When I asked Mrs. Gladwill, her only advice was to look it up in the “book of jobs” she had provided us.

Needless to say, trapeze artist wasn’t listed.

So I had to ask Mrs. Gladwill again.

Instead of just spelling trapeze or suggesting I think about other possibilities, she told me I should be something “normal” like  a nurse.

I had no desire to be nurse, but I recognized the authority she had. So, I reluctantly looked up nurse in the career book and wrote about how I wanted to be one. Thus ended my aspirations of being a trapeze artist.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of this incident when my son, a sophomore in high school, brought home his ACT Score report. One side provided his test scores and the recommendation he go to a four-year university. The back side was a complicated graph intended to help him make a career choice. I have a Master’s degree, and I didn’t understand how the “world of work” map could be helpful. And it, like Mrs. Gladwill and so many other adults, asked the wrong question: “what do you want to be?”pablo picasso

Every person already “is.” The question adults should be asking children, adolescents, young adults and even each other is “what are your gifts and how do you plan to share them with others?” That, according to  a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, is the meaning of life.

If Mrs. Gladwill had asked me about my gifts in first grade, I probably would have told her “my imagination and telling stories.”  Neither lended themselves to being a trapeze artist nor a nurse. They didn’t really point to a career as a social worker either, but I would discover new gifts as I matured.

To  me, helping young people discover their gifts is entirely more useful than the “world of work” map my son was handed. And watching them unwrap and use those gifts is actually a gift for all of us.

Procrastination is Making Me Wait

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
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There’s a saying that couples who have been together for a long period of time start to look like each other.procrastination

I don’t think my husband and I have taken on similar physical characteristics, but I do fear we are becoming more alike.

When we got married, people constantly reminded us about how different we are. I’m high strung and feel guilty if I’m not doing something productive. My husband isn’t and doesn’t.

I worry about deadlines and returning phone calls. My husband doesn’t believe in unnecessary stress and knows how to prioritize what is truly important. Needless to say, I’ve sometimes accused him procrastinating.

But lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve started waiting until the last minute to do things. I never did anything well in advance, but I never put things off either. That’s seems to be changing.

Recently, I had a report for work due on Friday, and at 3:00 on that Friday afternoon, I finally started the paperwork. At 3:05 I got an email telling me that the deadline had been extended until Tuesday. Instead of finishing the report, I started working on something else. I didn’t actually complete the report until, you got it, Tuesday afternoon.

Such  behavior defies my innate philosophy about the need to plan for unforeseen circumstances. I’ve tried to teach this to my children, but they have adopted their father’s philosophy of, whenever possible, putting off until tomorrow what you don’t want to do today.

Last month my children should have realized the wisdom of my advice when the unforeseen did happen. I had been hounding my son to finish his science fair project, but he was dragging his feet. With the science fair scheduled for Monday, on Saturday morning I told Shepherd that we would spend the afternoon organizing the data so he could put together charts and his display. With that said, I took the dog for a walk, slipped on ice, shattered my wrist and spent two nights in the hospital.

On Sunday, I had only been out of surgery about an hour when I received a phone call asking if I was up to helping Shepherd with the data. With less than 24 hours before the project was due and literally nothing done, I told him to come by. With laptop in tow, he did, and we put together the charts. For the rest of the day and well into the evening, I got updates about the project. Around midnight, I even received a text with a photo of the display board.

When I got home, very little was said about the project, but I was pretty sure my daughter had assisted with some of the artwork. I was also sure she would take note of the pitfalls of waiting until the last minute. That’s why I was surprised when Kendall didn’t take my advice to work on her social studies fair project during Christmas break. Instead she, like her brother, chose to wait until the weekend before the project was due.

I grumbled, but since the project was her responsibility, there wasn’t much I could do. Besides, Kendall is at that age when she takes great pleasure in testing her mother.

She made that quite clear as she finally cleaned off the coffee table in the family room, dragged out the blank cardboard display board and dramatically opened it on the table. Then, Kendall looked at me and gestured at the table. “It’s procrastination station,” she said. “It worked for Shepherd and it will work for me.”

I wasn’t at all pleased that the kids had actually named the spot where they work on last-minute projects, but my husband seemed to be. He actually grinned when I told him.

I’ll never know for sure, but I’m pretty sure he thinks the children actually inherited that trait from him.

There may be something to that theory, and investigating the existence of a procrastination gene might make a good science fair project.

I’d suggest that to my kids so they could get a jump start on next year, but something tells me that’s just not going to happen.

The Son I Don’t Know

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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Yesterday, my husband insisted I watch a video of a baby dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” I had just gotten home from work and Image (51)was already on my way out the door again, but Giles was persistent.

When I finally looked, I knew why.

The baby dancing in diapers reminded both of us of our son, a teenager who now towers over both of us.

When he was born, everyone told me the years would fly by, but I really didn’t believe them. Sleepless nights, diapers and endless worries about his development consumed my time and energy.

Now  suddenly, he is  a sophomore in high school with a life about which I know very little.

I know the  boy who walks through my house in his boxer shorts and tousled hair. I know the boy who is obsessed with computers, video games and music. I know the boy who comes home from football games and plays the trumpet after he thinks everyone else is asleep. I even know the boy who gives me sarcastic answers in one breath and says “I love you too, Mom” in the next breath.

But what I don’t know is the teenager who goes to school every day and faces the realities of adolescence and peer pressure. I simply get glimpses of him every now and then.

The first glimpse came at the end of his eighth grade year when he won a dance contest during a school assembly. My son? Seriously? He was never the most coordinated kid nor particularly interested in anything that’s popular. I later found out he’d won the contest by performing the “Dead Bernie,” which is actually a shout out to a movie from the year I graduated from college.

I got another glimpse when I was at Girl Scout camp with my daughter this summer when one of the other mothers mentioned him.

“My son loves Shepherd,” she said. “He’s like Norm on Cheers. When he enters the classroom, everyone yells his name.”

I asked Shep about this, and he stoically said, “I’m a character, Mom.”

And then, at a recent football game, an English teacher was chatting with me. “I love Shepherd,” she said. “He is just so enthusiastic. He doesn’t care what people think about him.”

I got the not caring about what people think about him part, but I wasn’t sure about the enthusiasm. Around the house, he generally shows the enthusiasm of a slug.

Generally,

But that same night after the game, he was particularly talkative.

“Mom,” he said. “One of the kids from the other band told me I was an awesome trumpet player.”

That’s about as talkative as Shep gets. At least, that’s about as talkative as he gets with me. But he highlighted his enthusiasm by wailing on his trumpet until the wee hours of the morning.

His love of music is why I am being the dutiful mother and taking on responsibilities with the school music boosters. That’s also why, on Monday night, I found myself playing games on my phone during a boosters meeting while I listened to other parents discuss basket bingo and costumes for show choir.

Then the band director said something that caught my attention. The group had been talking about the band’s performance at an away football game when the other school had given them unexpected respect and a standing ovation. In response, the band had signed a thank you letter. Only, according to the band director, he couldn’t send it yet because someone had decided to give himself an inappropriate title upon signing.

My heart sank. The band director never gave any indication about who the culprit was, but I knew. When I got home, I didn’t even ask.  But I did tell my husband, who pursued the issue with Shepherd.

“I asked Shep about signing the letter,” Giles said. “He admitted he embellished his signature a bit by adding that he was the best trumpet player.”

My heart sank a bit that my son had once again gone a bit too far. But then, my heart also lifted.

Maybe I’ve been kidding myself. Maybe I do know my son better than I thought.

Maybe, just maybe, I am having a problem letting go of the toddler and embracing the man he will soon be.

But in the meantime, I’m drafting a speech about modesty and how to sign a letter.

I have absolutely no doubt about what Shep’s one word response will be.

And when he says, “whatever,” I’ll know he still needs a mom to guide him.

School’s Out for (Some Of) Summer?

Friday, August 9, 2013
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Today is the first day of school for Kanawha County and I, for one, am JUST. NOT. READY!

Back to School Circa 2011-2012

Back to School Circa 2011-2012

Sorry. Didn’t mean to yell, but- IT’S SUMMERTIME!

I don’t even think my kids are as ill-prepared as I am. Although, they did sleep until noon yesterday; maybe that’s an indication they’re not totally ready for the school year. (Probably, because IT IS STILL THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER!)

I have not even sorted all of their clothes into a “fits/doesn’t fit” pile since THEY SHOULD STILL BE WEARING BATHING SUITS AND FLIP FLOPS for a couple of more weeks and THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT NEW TENNIS SHOES AND JEANS!

The clock ran out on us before I had the chance to dip-dye my daughter’s hair pink on the ends; before I had the chance to implement a “prepare for school” study regimen; before we even had the chance to get to the beach, or Ikea, or a major league baseball game!

School board: I NEED MORE TIME!

I have always been, and will always be, a summer person. I love the heat, the long days, and the chance to slow down a bit. Usually, though, as August draws to a close, even this die-hard hot weather girl is ready for brisk mornings, sweaters, college football, and a more structured routine. Now that school is starting early, I’m all confused: up is down and black is white. I’m telling you, this year’s school calendar is hindering my ability to flow naturally from season to season.

Of course, when the calendar came out in December and the early start was announced, rumors flew that the change was a way to prepare teachers, kids, and parents for a move to year-round schools. Kanawha County has not been on a year-round schedule except for four of its schools, but in 2011, then WV School Superintendent Jorea Marple went on record advocating a year-round schedule for all counties. As of now, no permanent change has been announced and, actually, the vote to start school early was a fairly close one: 3-2 in favor of starting at a time that would allow the semester to end before the Christmas break.

Personally, up until now, I have been cautiously optimistic about a year-round schedule. When I lived in California in the 90s, the vast majority of public schools were year-round (or, on a “balanced schedule”). Of course, I was all of 21, so I really didn’t care what the little hooligans did all year, or when they did it as long as it didn’t affect my tan. But, when I became a parent, I could see the potential benefits of a year-round schedule: better knowledge retention and a more consistent routine. Also, I understand that so many kids in West Virginia count on school breakfasts and lunches for better nutrition. When more than half of our state’s kids are living in poverty, it seems sort of a no-brainer to keep them in school and well-fed.

So, I was surprised to find myself whining and complaining so much as today drew near. I had considered myself pretty open-minded and flexible about the schedule, but- man- you should have heard me grumbling through haircuts, back-to-school shopping and the inevitable South Hills traffic snarl. I didn’t realize cutting summer short by just a couple of weeks would get me in such a funk. Are my concerns mostly just selfish annoyances? Am I hanging onto an outdated ideal of what summertime is supposed to be for kids? After all, giving kids a “break” wasn’t the original intention behind summer break- it was more about getting them to bale hay, right?

What do you think, Readers? If you have kids in Kanawha County Schools, are you as flummoxed as I am? Do you think this is a lead-up to a balanced schedule? And, if so, how do you feel about year-round schools? I want to know what you think!

In the interim, I’ll be at the pool, or raking leaves, or whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing in this transitional season.

Trying to Break the Dress Code

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
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I spent the first 45 years of my life hating uniforms. I was never attracted to men who wore them, and I never wanted to wear one myself.

I hated conformity to such an extent that I didn’t even like wearing a name tag or a shirt with my employer’s name or logo. At times, I had to wear them, but I didn’t enjoy doing so.

Then last year I attended my daughter’s middle-school orientation, and I started re-thinking the issue of uniforms.

Even though I’d already spent three years as the mother of a middle-school student, that student was my son. And during his middle-school years, he generally wore whatever I bought him without complaint. (That all changed when he started high school, but during middle school he was fairly oblivious to style.)

But my daughter is different. She’s been fashion conscious since she was old enough to pull clothes off store racks.

Fortunately, Kendall is also fairly level-headed, so I’d never been that concerned about her clothing choices. But her entry into middle school marked my sudden interest in school uniforms.

As we sat in the gym bleachers at her school orientation, I assumed the heavily made up girl in short shorts and a tight t-shirt was the older sister of an incoming student.

I was wrong. She was the classmate of Kendall, who was only turning 11 the next week.

On the way home, I couldn’t resist asking my daughter what she thought of the makeup and clothes.

I was relieved she wasn’t impressed, and even now as she prepares to enter seventh grade, she still prefers modest clothes and a fresh face.  I’m hoping that continues, but there are never guarantees.

For the moment, I have other concerns. The selection of modest and appropriate clothes is getting smaller with every inch she grows. Finding age-appropriate clothes in her size isn’t easy. Many of the dresses are suggestive, the shorts could be bikini bottoms and words on the rear end of pants are just not acceptable.

Then there are the school dress code rules about fingertip-length shorts and see-through shirts that we have to follow. Last year, Kendall was wearing a modest ivory shirt with a tank top underneath and was still told she wasn’t allowed to wear a see-through shirt by a rather militant teacher.

She was embarrassed and devastated and hasn’t worn the shirt since.

Which is why I’ve begun to re-think the whole issue of uniforms. It would certainly make the morning rush a bit easier, because no matter what clothes Kendall lays out the night before, by morning she has changed her mind.

It would also make shopping easier.

I was almost sold on the idea of school uniforms until Kendall performed in the musical Annie this summer.hooverville

She was a member of the chorus and filled multiple roles including a nun, a homeless person in Hooverville and a maid in the Warbucks mansion.

The nun’s costume is self-explanatory and she could have been taken for one of the orphans in her homeless costume.

But when she put on her maid’s uniform, she looked like an adult.maid

And, since she doesn’t turn 12 until the end of August, I had a difficult time seeing her in it.

I know school uniforms are quite different, but that modest maid’s uniform has me once again disliking all uniforms.

For now, I’ll rely on t-shirts, jeans, cute skirts, modest dresses and a great deal of  faith that she won’t grow up any faster than necessary.