Archive | Education RSS feed for this section

The Orange Dictionary and One Page Left

16 May

I remember taking a moment and thinking I should keep it. I should keep it.

And I did.

But in my early 30s, after having moved for the third time in four years, it didn’t survive. It got tossed around in boxes and then eventually tossed in the recycling pile. I remember pausing for a moment, thinking I should keep it. It was Erick’s. I should hold onto it just in case, but I didn’t and I remember feeling a little twinge the next morning when it was gone.

That orange hardcover dictionary with the word DICTIONARY in bold white courier font. He used it during his high school years to look up words he didn’t know, then look up those words in his Spanish-English dictionary, and then finally have an A-ha! moment after twenty minutes because he had finally figured out what they were asking him. He could finally answer.

My uncle Erick … he was more than just an uncle, he was the brother I never had, my role model growing up, my compass when I lost my footing. He showed me education can definitely create change. He was the first one in our family to graduate from college. He was there for me when I was learning my ABCs  and stood by me when I crossed the graduation stage myself. I knew when he had his own family he would be a great dad.

And he was …

uncle erick 007

Uncle Erick … very proud of the pumpkin skills that took place here with his daughter.

So when he died of cancer, when his daughter was only 10 years old, it broke my heart. I knew he was scared, not of death, but of not being in his daughter’s life, watching her grow, dancing at her quinceanera, and clapping for her as she crossed the stage in her cap and gown.

I knew he wanted to be there. So I made sure a part of him would be there with her for all those milestones. I interviewed him and made a scrapbook for her. Quotes, advice, stories, pictures. Messages and things he’d want to say to her when life happened, he was able to do that, to say some of those things.

I’d been giving these pages to her throughout the years, and now 11 years later, after her college graduation I only have one page left. One, and I so wish I still had that dictionary, because it was more than just a book of words, it was a part of his road to success. It was part of his work ethic.

But I didn’t know he was going to die when the dictionary got thrown away. I didn’t know he was gonna get sick. Nobody did. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink. He got the cancer just because he got it. And now I only have one page left.

I gave her the college page this weekend, followed by a hug and the I’m-proud-of-you speech, and the I-know-your-dad-is-proud-of-you-too whisper in the ear.

IMG_4430

My uncle, who helped raise me, was there that day too, sitting in the audience with me. His words were there, in black ink, scribbled in his slanted handwriting written during the last days of his life. He wanted to make sure he was there, and I was glad to have made that possible, because he was always there for me.

.

 

 

I’m Pretty Sure My Kid Has Miss Viola Swamp This Year

17 Aug

3 out of 4

It seemed liked the odds were really in my favor, my son’s favor. It really did. But then I looked at the list and there it was the 25% that bit me on the ass.

Crap.

I stood there about ten minutes, hoping that I hadn’t read it right. Hoping that for some reason my Jedi mind tricks could magically rework the list. Hoping, no not really, praying that my kid would not have this chick as his teacher.

I had met her once before at the Open-House-Meet-Greet-Show-Off-Your-Kids-Work Conference. She was next door and they had encouraged all the parents to stop by all the classrooms to meet the possible future teachers for the following year.

I usually like everyone. It’s rare when people rub me the wrong way, but this chick with her negative attitude, dismissive nature, and non-welcoming personality burned me out. I would have understood if it was the end of the evening, but it was just an hour into it. I know a lot of teachers too, I know they put on their best face when parents come in, but this chick apparently forgot. This chick was Miss Viola Swamp. I left the room thinking, dude I hope my kid doesn’t even pass her in the hallway.

miss-nelson_02

Miss Viola Swamp

And then there he was on the list. Room 29.

Crap.

I shook my head in defeat, he would be at the mercy of Miss Viola Swamp. After a couple of hours, and some chocolate, something came over me. I got a little parent crazy for a minute. For some reason I found the need to investigate. Yup. If this chick, was going to be hanging out with my kid for seven hours a day, I figured I get some information on her. Maybe she was having an off day, when we met. Maybe she was hormonal. I don’t know. I was thinking of all kinds of excuses as to why someone would give off such a negative vibe.

Have you met this teacher? Do you know the type?

I was curious. The crazy overprotective parent in me wanted to find out more. But I wouldn’t say I went into stalker mode, more of an unlicensed private detective in search of answers.

There’s a lot you can find out about a teacher on the Internet, people put a lot of unnecessary information on Facebook, but nothing to excuse someone of jackass behavior. And you know she probably doesn’t even remember being a jackass, but I do. Meeting people matters.

I was never a huge fan of first impressions, I always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, but they do seem to form 80% of my opinion. It’s like if you meet your all-time favorite actor, singer, player, author, or musician, and you’re so jazzed to have the opportunity to meet (although to be clear I wasn’t jazzed about this meeting, I was more just meeting someone and checking out the scene) and you have this picture of them in your head and then when you meet them, they just suck. Whether it had anything to do with you or not, that meeting taints your whole outlook on them from that point forward, and it takes a lot of work to change your perception.

So here I am, tainted and burned out by the fact that my kid ended up with the one teacher I wish he didn’t have.

I was so not looking forward to the beginning of the school year, although I had to hide that from my son. Didn’t want him going in with negative thoughts, so I just told him I didn’t know much about his new teacher, but that I’m sure he would get to know more about her on the first day of school, and that it would be a great day.

The day was done and my kid survived his first day without incident.

However, next week is Back To School Night, I don’t know if I’ll be able to say the same thing. Stay tuned.

.

.

Burning Bridges

5 Sep

Twenty-year high school reunion. I saw it on Facebook. I saw the head cheerleader and her clan making announcements and planning this shindig.

Burning Bridges

Burning Bridges

I was on the link and read the conversations, and all I could think of was … I don’t want to see these people. Ex-boyfriends, cheerleaders, and drill team members planning a party. I thought, yeah … I’d rather be getting a root canal.

It wasn’t so much the conversation, but it was knowing that these people still think that phoniness is passable. I know they don’t want to see me. We weren’t really friends, we were barely acquaintances. I don’t hate any of them, but annoyance is enough for me to stay away. I mean I don’t even like running into these people at the mall.

I’m 38. I’ve got gray hair. I don’t have time for this stuff. If I didn’t like anybody back then, I probably won’t like them now. I mean some people may have A-HA moments and do a 360-change, but for the most part people are who they are.

And the truth is the people I actually do want to see are probably not going either. They’re smart. They’re not even on Facebook.

Burning bridges … sometimes this is a good thing.

 

Sandbox Adventure List 18: Kindergarten

19 Aug

I never have trouble sleeping.

Ever.

But last night … last night was Kindergarten Eve and it was a rough one. Not so much because my son was tossing or turning, he wasn’t. Not so much because he was worried and stressed out, he wasn’t.

It was me. I was the problem.

I was anxious and feeling uneasy. I was having an attack of the neurotic mom syndrome. I had worries. At first it was little things, like waking up late and then having him be late for school, or getting toothpaste on his first-day-of-school shirt. Then it got to the point where I worried about the teacher sitting him next to the kid who ate crayons, no offense to the kid who ate crayons. I worried about jackass kid bullies. I know that as a mom I shouldn’t say jackass kids, but I know you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen them out there wreaking havoc on weary moms and deans of discipline. The kind of kids that need a scared-straight moment. I worried about bathroom breaks. I worried he wouldn’t make it to the bathroom in time and he’d be the kid who peed in his pants on the first day of kindergarten, marking him for the rest of his elementary school life. Yeah … that was me late at night.

The 6:15 a.m. wake-up alarm was rough. But I managed to survive the morning rush and got to school in plenty of time to avoid the crazy mom minivan-SUV traffic jam. And the fact that I found parking and didn’t have to walk five blocks to the entrance … dude … I think that’s what flipped the switch and I remembered to breathe. The early morning seemed peaceful enough to ease my anxiety and be fully present for the first-day-of-kindergarten-you’re-going-to-do-great speech.  And it was …

 

The morning awaited us ...

The morning awaited us …

 

Wearing his Batman backpack he felt brave and walked toward the doors.

Wearing his Batman backpack he felt brave and walked toward the doors.

 

Waiting eagerly to walk through the doors and begin his first day.

Waiting eagerly to walk through the doors and begin his first day.

 

His sister was a little sad to see him go. She waited for a long time before walking back to the car.

His sister was a little sad to see him go. She waited for a long time before walking back to the car.

 

Dropping him off was tough, but picking him up was awesome ... for all us. His sister saw him and shrieked out his name.

Dropping him off was tough, but picking him up was awesome … for all us. His sister saw him and shrieked out his name … just as loud as Rocky screamed out Aaaaadriennnnnnnnnnne!

 

I was happy to see him smile when he saw me, happy to hear about his day, happy to hear that he got a "peacekeeper" badge for being well-behaved, and happy that the first day of kindergarten went better than expected.

I was happy to see him smile when he saw me, happy to hear about his day, happy to hear that he got a “peacekeeper” badge for being well-behaved, and happy that the first day of kindergarten went better than expected. I was happy, I was relieved.

 

 

Sometimes You Just Need a Break From All That Learning

15 Aug

 

Image via LeFunny.net

Image via LeFunny.net

 

 

Parenthood is Full of Surprises

31 May

I’ve been to a few of these, including five of my own. All with mixed emotions of hurray and what-the-hell-is-waiting-for-me-now? But I’d never been to one as a parent.

It freaks you out. You completely change into a dress-wearing person. Something that my Chapstick type of personality isn’t too comfortable with, but you go with it. And then aside from transforming your wardrobe, your attitude also begins changing. You notice certain feelings taking over you as you see the school program with your kids name on it.

You really don’t want to turn into that crazed photo mom whose big head comes out in everyone’s picture. You really don’t want to be the kind of annoying person you write about. So you restrain yourself. You check your crazy at the door. After all it’s preschool. Get a grip. Coloring, cutting on the dotted line, and Llama, Llama Red Pajama. Nevertheless I found myself calling this a milestone moment in his mini life, sort of like walking and getting potty trained. In parent world this is big.

So I struggled with my crazy. I never had to do that before, usually I let my freak flag fly. But this was no freak flag, this was annoying crazy parent flag and you need to check that quick. You don’t want to regret anything later that day. You know yourself. So I sat there with mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean I don’t know what the other Children of the Corn photo crazed parents were feeling at the time, probably no shame seeing how most of their heads with bad hair and ginormous cameras showed up in many of my shots. But all I know was that in the end I was proud to have not gone over the crazy parent cliff.

I was also surprised that I had become sappy. Not balling out soap-opera crying sappy, or the beautiful teary-eyed single drop creeping out of the corner sappy. Just the internal, pensive kind, with emotions swirling about which started when I saw him walk down the aisle in his miniature cap and gown. I thought Holy Crap! He’s going to be strolling down the aisle in another cap and gown in 2025 and then I’ll probably be a real sap. Dude it was like last week when I was cursing up a storm dropping the F-Bomb every five minutes during labor down at Catholic hospital down the street. Just last week, I thought.

But then he smiled at me and it was all good. I was still a little sappy, but I put it in perspective. I’d been mindfully present in the moments that mattered … the sand castle building, the Lego constructing, the pizza making, the stay-at-home movie night going, the family game night doing, the bike riding adventuring, the museum experiencing, the zoo exploring, the superhero pretending, and the night-time story reading. I’d been present the whole time.

Exhausted? Yes. In need of wine and chocolate during the quiet of the night. Definitely.

But also present, and not just going through the motions. There, I was there and enjoying it. So I decided to start mindfully enjoying the graduation, and stop thinking about the future, stop thinking sappy, and stop thinking about the crazy parents surrounding me.

Once I stopped, it ended up being a good day.

 

Walking towards the future ... and me behind him trying to catch up.

Walking towards the future … and me behind him trying to catch up.

 

The program that got me thinking.

The program that got me thinking all sappy.

 

The clear shot I tried to take of my son and his graduating class, but no luck with everyone else's camera never getting out of the shot. I didn't understand why they kept taking pictures constantly ... they were in the front row.

The clear shot I tried to take of my son and his graduating class, but no luck with everyone else’s camera in the way. I didn’t understand why they kept taking pictures constantly … they were in the front row. Front. All they needed to do was take one picture. I mean all I needed was one. No luck. I had better luck outside by the fountain.

 

I saw this outside while we were taking pictures and thought dude I should totally capture this. A minute later my one year old decided to explore it, and ended up breaking the fake rock. She broke it in front of a few other spectators, so all we could do was hide our holy-crap moment, pick up the pieces and walk away.

While we were enjoying the ability to take pictures without interference, I noticed this rock and thought dude I should totally capture this. What a great sign. A minute later my one year old decided to notice it too. She ended up breaking the fake rock in front of a few other spectators. So all we could do was hide our holy-crap moment, pick up the pieces of hope, and try to walk away unnoticed.

 

While trying to escape the scolding eyes of witnesses, my son decided he needed a cold beverage. I assured him we had plenty of juice boxes in the car and we needed to leave the cookie and punch reception before his sister got a hold of another decorative memento.

While trying to escape the scolding eyes of witnesses, my son decided he needed a cold beverage. I assured him we had plenty of juice boxes in the car and we needed to leave the cookie and punch reception before his sister got a hold of another decorative memento.

Sandbox List Adventure 11: One Small Step For Man, One Giant Step For The Guatkind

17 May

He’s a firefighter. A secret agent. A doctor. A baseball player. A superhero. An astronaut … and sometimes he’s my Lego-building partner.

Most of these identities are imaginary and we do our best with our makeshift costumes and equipment made out of recyclable materials. However today I thought I would step it up a notch and provide an experience where I didn’t have to use an old Gatorade bottle or paper towel roll. Today we finally made our way to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour, something he’s been wanting to do ever since it made the long trek through the streets of our city and found its home at the California Science Center.

It was something we were so jazzed up about that I got advanced tickets so that we wouldn’t have to wait in the crowded line. I never get advanced anything but when it comes to kids’ activities I totally learn. I don’t want to get caught by every parents’ worst nightmare … The Public Meltdown. So you do whatever it takes, which includes the strategic planning of a genius … of a Mission Impossible agent … of a mother of two.

You get advanced tickets that give you an entrance time well after morning traffic, but before nap time. You plan it to get an awesome three or four-hour block of engaging entertainment. You check for the closest parking lots and always bring cash because you never know when the machines could be down. In addition you pack whatever it takes … granola bars, Goldfish Crackers, grapes, cheese sticks, fruit wraps, pita chips, an arsenal of juice boxes, books, learning toys with all the Disney, PBS, Sprout Channel, and Nickelodeon characters, and the master savior … The Ritz Cracker.

You walk out the door with your two kids and five bags and you think … I got this. I got this!  You slip in the Jack Johnson CD and know you’ll be there by track five or six. The morning rush hour should no longer exist.

And then you’re zooming passed the cars until disaster hits. Traffic. You don’t understand it. There shouldn’t be any. Did you expect big rig trailers and trucks … yes a few, but not a massive traffic jam filled with SUVs and sedans. You don’t understand it. And then after an hour-long trek, which really should have lasted twenty minutes, it hits you. Caps, gowns and Hawaiian leis. Graduation. College graduation.

By the time I finally parked, I was down to my last Ritz cracker. But once we got inside, I didn’t need the emergency reserve.

It was one small step for man, one giant step for Guatkind.

 

Our astronaut experience awaits.

Our astronaut experience awaits.

 

The cool art/display that caught are eye at the entrance.

The cool art/display that caught our  eye at the entrance.

 

My son intrigued by the mysterious white smoke coming up from the display.

My son intrigued by the mysterious white smoke coming up from the display. He’s discovering the power of science.

 

The journey begins, everyone was so excited that the juice boxes were not completely finished.

The journey begins, everyone was so excited that the juice boxes were not completely finished.

 

Checking out the amazing space stuff and educating ourselves before heading over to the exhibit.

Checking out the amazing space stuff and educating ourselves before heading over to the exhibit.

 

This is where we pretended to be Mission Control engineers. My son did a great job with his countdown.

This is where we pretended to be Mission Control engineers. My son did a great job with his countdown.

 

One of the best parts of the day was the simulator. Where he got a chance to blast off into space, fix a satellite in outer space, hang out on the moon, and then land the shuttle. He was a good astronaut and so was my daughter, very brave during the take off and landing.

One of the best parts of the day was the simulator. Where he got a chance to blast off into space, fix a satellite in outer space, hang out on the moon, and then land the shuttle. He was a good astronaut and so was my daughter, very brave during the take off and landing.

 

After our awesome astronaut experience we headed over for the main attraction.

After our awesome astronaut experience we headed over for the main attraction.

 

Definitely worth the traffic. Definitely.

Definitely worth the hour-long traffic. Definitely. The Holy-Crap Moment of the day happened right here.

 

The experience had such a "wow" factor that we had to take home a souvenir.

The experience had such a “wow” factor that we had to take home a souvenir. And this one entertained them all the way home. No need for Jack Johnson or emergency reserves.  Outer space rocks.

 

This is Why Laughter is Important

1 Mar
Image via www.lefunny.net

Image via Lefunny.net

 

 

Parents Gone Camera Wild.

20 Dec

Message to all parents attending a Preschool Kindergarten Holiday Program …

You look like nice people. You look like you would turn your blinker on if you made a right turn. You look like normal people. Like professionals. Like you do something really important at work or at home — something that requires smarts and common sense. But in a minute when your kids come walking down the hall … all of that is going to disappear. You’re going to become parents.

True. Very true.

 

The cameras and video recorders come out.

The cameras and video recorders come out.

 

So just let me remind you of some common courtesy tips that you may forget in the process of this Preschool Christmas Program.

It’s preschool. Preschool. Some kids may sing, some may not, some may sing the right words, some may forget the words, some may have stage fright, some may pick their nose, some may yawn in boredom, some may pick up their dresses and put them over their heads, and some may just twirl around. It happens, it’s preschool. Don’t get upset. Don’t turn into one of those crazy obsessed TLC pageant moms. It’s preschool. Remember that.

But also try to remember that many of you brought cameras to cherish these oh-so-special moments, so keep in mind that the person sitting behind you may not want the back of your head and shoulders in the picture. As soon as you see your kid pass by, snap the picture, smile, wave, and sit down. He’s not gonna keep looking at you. He needs to watch where he’s going, so he doesn’t trip and fall. He’s going to look straight ahead.

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas rocking the house.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas rocking the house.

 

Let him concentrate and sing Jingle Bells on his own. If he doesn’t know the song don’t worry about it. I’m sure he claps to the beat very well.

Once the program is finished, try not to rush the stage. Pretend like you’ve been to a sporting event or concert and let the person in the row in front of you go first. It’s game crowd protocol. Honestly, rushing to beat someone to the parking lot doesn’t make sense. Besides it’s Christmas! Enjoy the decorations.

 

The hanging wreaths

The hanging wreaths

 

The outdoor decorations.

The outdoor decorations.

 

The Christmas tree and the ornaments.

The Christmas tree and the ornaments.

 

Most people don’t follow these rules, which is why you hear of parents gone wild during the Christmas Pageant.  Listen to the professional in you — the one that wears dry clean only clothing, the one who’s been a victim to an awesome picture gone wrong because of the back of someone’s bald head and their wife’s split ends, the one who’s trying to stop the crazy parent cycle from repeating itself. Listen people, your holidays at school pageants will be much better.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

6 Nov

Geometry

 

Learning geometry.

Red circle.

Red circle.

Yellow cube.

Yellow cube? It looks like a square.

It’s kind of like a square.

I think it’s a square.

Blue hexagon.

Blue what?

Blue hexagon.

Blue … Blue … Can I have a cookie?

Geometry.