Monday, September 28, 2009

It Came Back!

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My heart came home yesterday!

Sam left Friday morning on his very first trip away from home without me.  Scott took him with him to his parents’ house and I was left all by myself in a very quiet house.  Two days later, my boys returned and I got the best hug in the history of the universe from my sweet little boy!

Thankfully, when Sam got out of the car, he seemed as happy to see me as I was to see him.  I picked him up, hugged him, and set him on the edge of the van.  We both just kept holding each other without a word being spoken.  His embrace was just as tight as mine.  I kept wondering if I was the one determining how long the hug would go on, but no, I was just following Sam on this one.  His head was rested on my shoulder and, ooh, my favorite part, his little hands were patting me! I love it when he does that!  Oh, the hug seemed to go on for days and I never want to forget how loved I felt in that moment.  I truly hope that’s the way I make him feel everyday.

On a different note, near the end of summer, Sam all of a sudden became a very expressive, imaginative, creative little boy.  Not quite 3 1/2 at the time, there was a definite shift in how dramatic his face became when he talked.  Oh, the gestures and expressions!  We’ve said a few times that the entertainment alone is worth all the money we spent on conceiving him!

I finally found a short video taken as Sam was playing with a train app on Daddy’s iPhone. I hope it makes you smile! Sam watches it and bursts out laughing!

Not the best sample, but a sample nonetheless of Sam’s ever expressive face:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Doggone it!

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I logged into the wrong blog and made some html changes and totally messed my blog up! Oh, well! It's time for a change anyway. But it's going to have to wait until I finish working on someone else's blog! So, hopefully things will be back to normal by Monday!

While I have you hear, I'll tell you that this is a hard weekend for me. Sam is spending his first weekend away from home and I am lonely without him! On top of that, he has a fever today! So now, every little "Mother Cell" in my body is just aching to be with him to be a Mommy today!

Scott took this picture with his phone as Sam was getting ready to leave yesterday:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Virtues of YouTube…Again!

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Sam and I have had so much fun this morning exploring YouTube and discovering fun new videos! I went on there to look for a video of “Apple and Bananas” which we’ve been singing together for the past few days. We found this wonderful version that makes Sam laugh hysterically!

Then we went on to find lots of wonderful songs and stories. Some of them are video productions of the stories, some are read alouds using narrators and the book illustrations, and some are great animated shorts. Here are just a few that we added to Sammy’s playlist. Click on the images to watch the videos.

ThereWasAnOldLadyWhoSwallowedAFly bear-snores-on_256 cover giving20tree16qc1 gruffalo1 ss_GreenEggsAndHam

You can also find treasures like this, with the author reading the story:

Too bad YouTube is blocked in our school district. If you take time to preview videos (which you MUST do) you’ll find a wealth of resources just there for the viewing!

Oh, I have to share this story, as it started with “Apples and Bananas.” Scott knows how much I hate phonics rules, considering how unreliable MOST of them are. (C’mon, a rule with more exceptions than absolutes can hardly qualify as a rule.) Anyway, he’s always trying to challenge me, either trying to prove a rule or find an exception and a word. Depending on what side of the fence I'm on. Most of the time he’s teasing me. I think. So here’s the conversation that left me laughing myself into tears this morning. You probably won’t laugh, but it sure got to me.

Sam and I were playing on the bed while Scott was getting dressed and we were singing “Apples and Bananas,” going through each vowel sound. At the end of the song:

Scott: What about y? It’s a vowel.

Me: Only when it sounds like a vowel. Usually at the end of a word when it sounds like i or e. Like in “my.”

Remember, he’s always trying to prove me wrong…find an exception…

Scott: (tiny thinking pause…signaled by the smoke) What about the y in “why?”

Me: What about it? It’s at the end and it sounds like an i.

Scott: (smirking) How do you know it’s not a silent w-h?

And then I just fell off the bed laughing. God, I love that man! And I’m gonna choose to believe that he was trying to be funny.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gone Fishing with Grandpa

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When my Dad met Sam for the very first time, he brought him a fishing pole.  The second gift he ever gave him was a t-shirt with a big goofy fish on the front.  (The t-shirt was so big that Sammy has been wearing it at naptime for about two years and he still hasn’t grown into it.)  My Dad has been patiently waiting for the day to come when he would be able to take Sam on his very first fishing trip. 

Recently, Sam discovered his fishing pole hidden in the back of his closet.  He showed a lot of interest in it around the house and with my parents coming down for a visit this weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to introduce Sam to the fine art of fishing.  I don’t think my Dad could have been any happier.  And it was fun to see how excited Scott was, too.  I enjoyed watching the boys getting ready, though I think the anticipation was a bit much for Sam.  He got in trouble a few times before we could get out the door and down to the river!

 Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 05 09_0391     Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 05 09_0396 

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our morning down by the river.

Highlights Sammy's First Fishing Trip collage 1 Gramma gots lots of good Sammy time! Especially since I had a camera stuck to my face!

Highlights Sammy's First Fishing Trip Collage 2

Scott was on a mission.  I asked him what if it was just minnows nibbling at his bait.   He said he didn’t care what he pulled up, as long as he pulled up something to show Sammy!

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I’m glad someone was fishing. Sam was more interested in other things. Looks like these were the only fish he would be catching.

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Whew! Was I excited when Granddaddy finally caught a fish!  (That meant we could finally go home for lunch!)  Sam was excited, too!  We had no problem getting him to touch the fish.  But holding the fish so I could take a picture was another story. It took a little coaxing because apparently the fish was “covered in filthy.”  Thankfully, Sam took one for the team held it long enough so I could get one picture!

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Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 05 09_0776 Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 05 09_0837 Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 05 09_0848

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With a fish finally caught, Sam, Gramma and I could finally head back home.  Scott and Granddaddy stayed behind to fight the good fight.  I’m told that after we left, the fish really started biting. I think Scott said something about catching three. And of course they were all bigger than the first!

It was a long walk back to the car, so we stopped to rest and goof around for a few minutes.

Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 06 09_0046Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 06 09_0055Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 06 09_0106Sam's First Fishing Trip_09 06 09_0130

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We stopped one more time to take in the view.

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Mom tried to teach Sam how to be a real fisherman.

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But, bless his heart, the child is just a little too honest sometimes.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 9/9/09

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I know Wednesday is almost over, but I only just remembered that I made this a few weeks ago.  Now seems as good a time as any to share.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Am So Proud!

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I am so proud.

I am so proud of FL Rep. Party Chairman Jim Greer. Having not watched the first media coverage of any of the controversy, I had no idea that it started last week when he accused President Obama of trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."

"indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."

Where have I heard that before?

Oh, yeah! The parent note ("indoctrinate our children in his socialist liberal agendas")...and the woman on the morning news leaning her head out of the car window who said the exact same thing...and about 20 other places that phrase popped up over the weekend! Ha!



I am so proud of Jim Greer, who yesterday, after reading President Obama's speech, said "My kids will be watching the President's speech, as I hope all kids will." (Posted on one minute after the speech ended. click here)

I am so proud of The Ron Clark Academy, a private school no less, for accepting the President's invitation to watch the speech today. I found out that they were going to be viewing the speech through Facebook. Ron announced that CNN would be broadcasting from his school during the President's speech. I can't wait to get home and watch! I recorded 4 hours of CNN!

I am so proud of the students of The Ron Clark Academy. For I know that they are taught about respect and citizenship, even though the word citizen does not appear as blatantly in their incredibly inspiring mission statement as it does in ours and most others. Just spend some time visiting the website and getting to know them and you'll know, too.

I am so proud of the third grade teachers and students at my school. Regardless of what the parents were told in the phone blast Friday afternoon, no one I've asked can speak of being given any information to review to make a decision about whether viewing the speech would be appropriate for their grade level or not. Not only did the third grade team decide it was appropriate (fitting in with the school-wide theme and goals we set this year and our curriculum), but they made a bold decision to speak up and say "Yes, we're going to show it."

Interestingly enough, only 2 parents in the entire 3rd grade (5 classes) asked that their children not watch the speech. I wonder how many across the entire school would have done so?

I am so proud of myself and my husband. We are very good friends with many people with many beliefs and opinions. We tend to keep a lot of our opinions to ourselves as much out of respect for everyone else as there just doesn't seem to be any reason to share. Plus, Scott HATES conflict. I don't love conflict, but I do appreciate engaging dialogue. But politics is not usually a safe topic in our neck of the woods.

However, in the past few days, we've both stood up for this issue and for the children who (with parental consent, of course) were robbed of the opportunity to hear the President speak today. When my phone rang Friday afternoon announcing that my school, except for 3rd grade, would not be showing the speech, he was so angry that parents would have to "opt-in" for their child to see the speech. He couldn't believe that parents would have to get off work, come to the school and sit with their child in the media center so that they could hear the message. Before I knew it, he was actually on the phone to the local news station!

I am just so proud of us. Now here's hoping we haven't lost any friends!

I am so proud of the kindergarten student who sat beside me during the speech. She is the daughter of my colleague. Her mother pulled her out of class to join us so that she could hear the President no doubt reinforce the message that her parents send her all the time. I smiled when she heard President Obama say "kindergarten" and she said "That's me!" She knew he was talking to her. She smiled when he talked about Micheal Jordan and having to get up early...things she was familiar with and could relate to. And I had to laugh when it was over and her mother asked her what the President said. She quickly replied "Wash your hands!"

And for a 5-year old student, that just may have been the most important part of the message!

I am so proud and I am inspired.

I am inspired by a man who can sit in the most highest office in our government and still convince me that he understands exactly where the children I teach come from.

I am inspired by that man who tells all those precious children I've let go of every year that it's o.k. to mess up. You can still choose to make it right and succeed.

I am inspired by that man who encourages them to ask for help, because even he does it everyday.

I am inspired and I'll just pretend that all of my dear former students heard his message and will be inspired, too, because other than praying, that's all I can do.

Okay. I have no more. My sadness and frustration are gone. I am releasing my questions because I am done with it. It is over. I promise not to write about it anymore!

I also promise to show you tonight or tomorrow pictures from Sam's very first fishing trip. It was a wonderful experience!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beating a Dead Horse Part 2--My Two Cents

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This post follows up yesterdays post, and again, just a short disclaimer: This is my personal blog. I have no interest in reporting identifying information nor information that is not absolutely true. All quotes used in this post are taken from e-mails that arrived in my in-box or on my cell phone. I have no interest in being slanderous and I hope that I am not being unprofessional. I am, however, sharing my opinions about the events that I have personally witnessed. It’s my blog, I can do that, right?

Update: I started second guessing myself around midnight, and just to make sure I had a clear understanding of what it means to be a ci
tizen, I looked it up. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Citizen 1. an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman 2. a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it

I'm glad now that I did not write this yesterday when I was still upset. I've had time to calm down and figure out exactly what my feelings least right now, at this moment. And seriously, this could get long. But if I don't get this out, my head may explode.

I am dumbfounded and befuddled.

I just don't understand how this has become such a big deal. I really don't. It truly seems stupid to me that this is an issue. Chalk it up to me being naive. Or a first time parent. Or only 36. Or having only been interested in politics for about 10 years and only excited for the last few. Or to all my students over the years that I know who NEED to hear HIM speak, and often. Chalk it up to whatever. But the President has prepared a very short speech for "nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning." He has invited all public and private schools in the entire nation to watch the speech live. In a historical and technologically brilliant moment, rather than sit in one classroom and enjoy a photo op, and reach a small, select group of students, he has found a way to be accessible to many.

I am angry.

I am angry that public schools are not taking advantage of this opportunity. Every mission statement that I've read or helped write in committee has included the word "citizens." Here are my district and school mission statements as an example:

The mission of School District ___ , in partnership with the community, it to provide challenging curricula with high expectations for learning that develop productive citizens who can solve problems and contribute to a global society.

The mission of ___ Elementary School, a learning community of ___ , is to produce citizens who ___ , ___ , Experience and Succeed.

As teachers and parents, and citizens ourselves, we accept that public schools carry on the tradition of sharing our nation's history and teaching our children how to be citizens. That's why we teach Social Studies. That's why schools hold mock elections. That's why students have to write research papers on presidents and why we celebrate and honor past presidents by closing school in February. It's also why every school I know of was watching the inauguration last January. Because not only do we shape citizens by studying our nations history and teaching them about the processes, but we let them live the history in the making, living in the moment and appreciating the gravity and importance that is the transfer of power for our country. It is our job to teach them to become citizens. Citizens who may not respect the the office holder, but certainly respect the office of the president and the government. I certainly don't mean not to question it, nor work for change or always strive to make it better, but surely there is a level of respect that is...oh, I can't find the word right now. Surely you know what I mean. So, why would public schools even consider not showing the president's speech?

And I suppose I'm speaking more as a teacher and citizen right now.

In my district, I'm sure it is because parents were loud. I've heard comments around the country imply that the problem was not with the speech but with the lesson plans that were sent along with the invitation. First of all, among so many other bits if misunderstandings, they're not lesson plans. Secondly, I'm quite sure that they have no idea that the schools were sent any supplemental materials to help engage students in discussion before and after the speech. It wasn't posted on the district website and no link or information was given regarding the Department of Education website. The e-mail comment and the woman shouting on the news, both were concerned about President Obama attempting to "indoctrinate our children in his socialist liberal agendas." It's funny how they used the same words. Oh, I'd bet next week's grocery money that the majority of the parents in my part of the country are just hiding behind that sweet political excuse. I'm naive but not stupid. Not a day goes by that I don't witness racism. It is so accepted here as part of the culture ("Oh, that's just the way he is.") that I pray every night that Sam is not indoctrinated in the narrow-minded, racist ways of those around him that don't even realize sometimes what they say.

So, each school in my district ended up making it's own decision. In my opinion, my administrator did not handle the situation well. The initial response to a parent was that "it is most likely that the speech would not be developmentally appropriate for our students."
So let's just assume that other schools may be using this excuse. The Dept. of Educ. has decided that the President (also a father) has written a speech that is developmentally appropriate for all K-12 grade students. I could just leave it at that. Or I could add that we talk about setting goals and working hard with all of our students (K-5th) and they seem to handle that fine. Or I could add that if we're going to play the "developmentally appropriate" card, perhaps we should have put more thought into watching the inauguration. I don't think those 5 year olds really understood what was going on. (BTW, Sam and I watched it together. He's 3. That's how I feel about it.)

If anyone had asked me (no one did, but I sent in my concerns anyway), I would have said all this and more. I would have suggested that we show the speech and, of course, respect any parent's wishes to have their child not participate. Now, if any of our parents want their children to see the speech, they have to take off work in the middle of the day, come to school, pull their child out of class, and sit with them in the library. The majority of our children won't see it. Even if their parents want them to. They won't have access. They won't be able to go home and sit down at a computer and watch it together as a family. How's that for fulfilling our mission statement?

Oh, I could go on and on. Let me try to put my parent and citizen hat on.

If you watched this post, you saw how excited we were, as a family, to participate in voting last November. We didn't speak about who we voted for, and we didn't talk to Sam about names. We simple talked to him and got him excited about voting. He went into the booth with me and pushed the buttons for me. I want him to be excited about the process. I want him to vote for whomever he wants to as long as he votes. I want that for everyone. And I'd like to think that if Sam were in school right now, and if McCain were President, that I would be just as excited about this opportunity as I am right now. That I would be teaching him that this is our President and he has a special message just for him and all the other boys and girls in the whole country.

I'm having a hard time understanding why people are concerned about what the President is going to say. Is there really a concern that it wouldn't be appropriate? Do people really think he would start talking about health care reform or any other political agenda item? In my wildest imagination, I cannot think of what he could say that would be offensive to anyone during this particular speech while addressing our children and youth. He's not stupid.

Before I make this next statement, those who only know me through my writing need to know something about me. As a teacher, I serve in this order: my students--their parents--their teachers--my colleagues--my administration. I don't know anyone else who has more respect for parents and who values those relationships more than I do. I am a fierce advocate for my students and their parents. I say that because I never want anyone to be offended by anything I say. And I do worry that a few of my friends could take this next part the wrong way. Please don't. Help me understand.

I know that some parents are concerned enough and feel the need to preview the speech. I so wish I understood why. Am I missing something? Am I a bad parent because I don't feel that need? Am I too trusting? (I mean, I sure wish I had previewed Shrek 3!) Do I just not have enough experience with this type of thing? I just think he'd have to be really stupid to talk about anything other than what they have described.

I have taught so many students who need to hear this message from this president. And I think it's a wonderful idea if from now on, Presidents make it a habit of addressing our students regularly this way.

All right. My head is clearer now. Believe it or not, there was so much more I could say, but I actually tried to stay focused and limit my talking points. You are most welcome to share your thoughts, especially if you disagree. (Check out my comment to Jennifer below.) Just please don't beat me up and make me cry. I'm not used to being controversial. I really just needed to get these words out of my head. Sorry it was horrendously long. Thanks for hanging with me this long!

Update: The Department of Education should be the only source one turns to for facts about the speech. I have seen some incredible examples of people intentionally and unintentionally spreading information today that is just so far from the truth that if it weren't so dangerous it would almost be laughable. The website has a wonderful FAQ section about the speech that should answer any questions you may have. However, I still have one that no one has answered yet. Exactly what kinds of horrible, terrible things are people imagining he's going to say to our children Tuesday?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beating a Dead Horse Part 1—Just the Facts

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I know. Everyone’s talking about it. But let me remind you that sometimes I write here simply because I love to write and feel compelled to put pen to paper…or fingers to keys rather. Today is one of those days. If you’re tired of hearing about the upcoming speech, you may want to turn back now. If you want to know how things are stupidly playing out in the school district where I teach…read on.

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. I have no interest in reporting identifying information nor information that is not absolutely true. All quotes used in this post are taken from e-mails that arrived in my in-box or on my cell phone. I have no interest in being slanderous and I hope that I am not being unprofessional. I am, however, sharing my opinions about the events that I have personally witnessed. It’s my blog, I can do that, right?

ed_mn_topstory_photo If you haven’t been with me long, you may want to check out this post, one of my favorite posts about one of my favorite days. A little background knowledge may help you understand why after 7 weeks of not being able to write, I cannot let this day end without posting. I may scream if I don’t let the words out.

Before Wednesday afternoon, I had heard nothing of this planned speech. The first time I heard about it was in an e-mail explaining that it had been posted on the district website and that parents had been given the option for their child not to participate. My first thought was “Cool!” I love that President Obama is so tech savvy. I feel very connected to our Commander in Chief. We follow each other on Twitter. He sends me e-mails every few weeks. Yeah, we’re pretty tight. Anyway, immediately following that thought, and as a result of my being so naive, was “Why would parents not let their kids watch it?” And when I quickly realized why (I’m naive, not stupid) I finally asked “Why in the world did the district even present that option?”

Thursday morning, the following e-mail exchange was shared with us by an administrator because “This issue is beginning to bubble up in other schools, so we need to be prepared”:

From a parent: I do not know yours or the districts plan for September 8, 2009. I understand that President Obama is set to address the school children of America. I would like to make it clear that I do not want either of my children present for this event. This is an attempt to indoctrinate our children in his socialist liberal agendas. I do not agree with his politics, and take great issue with the fact that he is going through our kids to reach the parents.

An administrator’s response: Currently, we do not have any plans to view the address. Having elementary students, it is most likely that the speech would not be developmentally appropriate for our students. Should we have requests for children to watch, we will of course, invite families in to view the speech with their child; otherwise, our current plan is to continue our regular schedule.

I immediately shared my feelings with the administrator. I was filled with anger and confusion and on the verge of tears.

Apparently, principals across the district spent the day dealing with parents and making decisions about how to handle the situation. I personally like the way one of the other principals decided to handle it. Along with a letter that started out “We are excited to announce that President Barack Obama has announced…” then explained very clearly what the speech would be about, she added:

It is our understanding that his address is not intended to be partisan in nature, but is an attempt to address the importance of education for a student's future…I feel that it is always important to hear what the leader of our nation has to share with us and I am excited that he has chosen to embrace education by challenging all of our students to succeed in their educational endeavors. I would hope that each child will benefit from this historical experience.

I don’t know her, but I adore her. Really. My school handled it differently. All the chatter I heard throughout the day reflected support for showing the video. In fact, even the kindergarten teachers were excited, once we told them about it. But, to the best of my knowledge, none of the teachers had been given any information about the video or if they could show it or not. However, during the day, we received a message that the following phone blast would be going out to parents in the evening.

On Tuesday, September 8 President Obama will deliver a speech to students across the United States. Our teachers have reviewed information regarding the speech for each team to make the decision that is appropriate for children. Due to scheduling conflicts and child development issues, most of our grade levels have decided not to view the speech. Our 3rd grade team has decided to view the speech. Third grade families have the option of waiving their child's participation in this speech. Those that do not want their child to watch the speech will have another activity with a teacher. Third grade families should contact their child's teacher if they do not want their child to view the speech. We would like to invite families who may be interested in viewing the speech with their child. Families will be able to view the speech with their child in our library.

Hmmm. Really? So now they have to opt IN? And, I would LOVE to take at look at that information regarding the speech. All I could find was this.

If you stuck with me this long, and yes, I know this was incredibly boring, then maybe you’ll come back tomorrow for my reaction and opinion. Oh, I could write all night. Trust me. Emotions are running pretty high. But I do appreciate how long this has already become.

UPDATE: Click here to go directly to Part 2.

Presidential Motivation

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Warning! Events yesterday moved me to actually write a post. Shocking I know! However, I'm not publishing it yet for two reasons. It's not quite finished writing it and I think more of the story will unfold today so I'm going to wait to see what happens. Let's just say that I continue to be shocked and disappointed by narrow minded people.

And now that I've logged back in, I should be back for good. I've given myself permission not to worry about trying to cover all of the events of the past six weeks. So coming back doesn't seem so overwhelming.

Oh, how I've missed you!