Yes, it is!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Secrets About Kindergarten

Until I became a parent, I never really cared to read stories about school.  Although I did well academically, school was not a particularly exciting event for me.  With this new school year starting, with Jackie starting 2nd grade,  I have come across some interesting articles in regard to school.
This article caught my eye today.  Looking at the title, I couldn't imagine how Kindergarten would be so secretive.  The further I read, the more I had to agree.  At least, based on my experiences as the mom of a former Kindergartener, this article had quite a bit of truth to it.
For number 1,  Jackie nor I have ever been scolded by the bus driver, thankfully.  Jackie has had the same bus driver from day one and she is a sweetie.
Number 2, well it's just pretty much common sense to treat all the kids equally.  One kid is no more special than the next kid.  Now, there are kids who have special needs (I have 2) and need special accommodations.  That's fine. Otherwise, I expect my children's teachers to be as fair to them as they are to all the other students. 
Number 3, PTO.  Ah, yes, the PTO!  Otherwise known as Parent Torture Organization.  And it is torture to have to deal with a disappointed Kindergartener after I refuse to allow her to participate in the 3rd fundraiser in the first month of school.  Fundraiser packets were taking over my house at one point.  What makes me angry is that they gather the entire student body to get all the students psyched for the cheap prizes.  Sell $500 worth of grossly overpriced goods to get a worthless $10 prize (which in most cases is promptly forgotten about as soon as the child brings it home).  I have actually inquired about just donating some money to the PTO in exchange for leaving my child out of all the fundraising hoopla.  I realize fundraisers help schools to raise much needed funds for extra stuff but... why do we need that many fundraisers in such a short period of time?!! (I'm going to guarantee you that next week, each kid will be bringing home an Entertainment book to sell and receive orders for more.) Okay, I'm going to get off of my soapbox now on this one.  I can go on and on with this.
Number 4, oh yes, reminders about the fundraising packets.  The daily letters reminding you to return the order forms full of orders by the deadline.  Now that is stalking.
Number 5, Room Mom.  And no, it is not as innocent as it sounds.  I was a helper mom during Jackie's Kindergarten year and I realized then that the actual position of Room Mom was probably a job that I would not want.  Well, guess what? Nobody else stepped up to the plate at the beginning of Jackie's 1st grade year.  And guess what?  You guessed it.  Yours truly took the position.  The first party actually was not so bad.  However, things went downhill after that.  I won't go into specifics but I pretty much wrote off doing it again.  But guess what?  Uh huh.  I did it again. At Jackie's Open House last week, a handful of parents signed the form and put a check next to "help plan party"  while other parents saw the form, scrunched up their noses, and moved on to the next form.  Nobody checked "Room Parent".  Guilt set in. (Ask Tim, I have a guilt complex).  Being that I have experience as "room parent" and I don't work full-time, I reluctantly checked up the box for "room parent".  I don't know if I'm a brave fool or if I just have hope that this year will be better.  I. Must. Stay. Positive.
Number 6, oh yes, the "lice" letter.  A child in the classroom has been found to have lice.  It happened last year during 1st grade, too.   Jackie also got a letter about a fellow student with an allergy.  I take these things seriously... but who the heck gives their Kindergartener tartar sauce?!! That stuff is nasty.  I just don't understand how such a young child can enjoy that stuff. But that aside, Jackie got the same letter today in her backpack.  It must be the same kid from Kindergarten.  The kid who is allergic to tartar sauce. 
Number 7, letters about upcoming events at school.  Family reading night, spaghetti fundraising dinner,  Scholastic book fairs, gingerbread house night, Trunk or Treat night, you name it.  I've tried it.  The guilt trip is true.  Like I said, I have a guilt complex and if my kids know about a certain event at school, they will not let me forget. I have tried bribery.  Doesn't work.
Number 8, thankfully I didn't have to deal with this secret.  Jackie was not a problem child at school.  In fact, she won the school's character award in Kindergarten.  She was selected for her academics and for persevering despite having a disability.  I was a proud mom.

So, there you have it, the dirty secrets of Kindergarten.  Actually, I enjoy taking an active role in my children's education and I hope to be able to continue doing so in various ways throughout their school years. 

School Horror Stories

Just in time for the new school year, I ran across this.
I think I can top most of those stories.  I once had a teacher who made me sit underneath his desk and then he pulled his chair up.  Yes, friends, it happened.  It happened during my 8th grade year.  I remember the school and, to this day, I even remember how the classroom looked.  For probably the third day in a row, I happened to get the hiccups during his class.  It was not intentional.  I don't understand why I got hiccups for several days in a row in that particular class.  Apparently, it annoyed the teacher enough that he made me sit underneath his desk, with him sitting at it. Yes, friends, it really happened and I hope and pray to God that my children will never have to endure such embarrassment. 
I met Jackie's new teacher last week and I think Jackie is going to have a great year with this teacher, much like she did last year during first grade.  Jackie has a lot of people at school who truly do care about her and look out for her.  I really appreciate that she has such caring teachers around her.  I admit that I worry more about Jackie being bullied than I worry about Ben being bullied.
Jackie was a victim of bullying twice during her first week in Kindergarten and after I emailed the teacher about it, the school social worker was right on top of it and Jackie has not suffered bullying at school since.  I'm so thankful for that.  I am also thankful that schools have stepped up to the plate to put a stop to bullying in schools.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Oh no! We're Being Overrun By... Latins!

I bet that got your attention.  Let me reassure you that I have nothing against Latins, Asians, or any people of color.  In fact, some of my really good friends (and even neighbors) are people of color or other ethnicity.  My nephew and niece are Puerto Rican.  My husband has a nephew and a couple of nieces that are Latin and Asian.  I have extended family members who are African American.  It doesn't matter to me as long as there is respect and love.  I am very much against racism and I have a difficult time dealing with others who are blatantly so. (I also don't like when people pull the race card).
Having said that, I care very much about my mother-in-law (thereby referred to here as MIL).  Really, I do, contrary to what my husband sometimes thinks.  She is a strong Christian believer who is very loyal to her faith and I respect that very much. I also know that she is a wonderful mother to all of her boys.  She really is a good person.  However, I admit that I have a little difficulty respecting her sometimes because of some of her comments about non-Caucasian people.  It seems that she thinks that these people are slightly less than worthy.  Thankfully, she forgets that she has grandchildren who fall into this category. 
What brings me to rant today is that I mentioned that I might take my kids back to Lithia Springs for another visit to swim and play before I leave to go back to Illinois.   MIL immediately asked if there were a lot of foreigners there.  I was confused for a moment.  I asked what she meant by that.  She asked if there were a lot of Latins at Lithia Springs.  She apparently heard that the park was being overrun by Latins.  Gah!  I'm sorry but I couldn't help but roll my eyes.  I really don't know if the place was being "overrun" by Latins because I didn't take notice of skin color or ethnicity.  That didn't matter to me. What's important to me when visiting parks and other areas is that the place is clean, safe, and fun.  And Lithia Springs fits the bill.  It's a very nice state park that is open to anybody who can pay, regardless of race or ethnicity.   
This isn't the first time MIL has brought up the race issue in such a negative way.  Years ago, when Tim was single and stationed in Nebraska, he was working nights so he would have to sleep during the day.  The neighbors below were always sitting outside and being obnoxiously loud.  Of course, they were Latin.  Again, what would matter to me in that situation is the lack of respect, not the skin color.
Another time, MIL was telling me about a couple in her church who had adopted 2 little girls recently. Then MIL made the comment that they were going to grow up to have problems.  Of course, me being me, I asked her why.  Well, the mother was white and the daddy was black and the little girls who were adopted by this couple were clearly black.   They weren't mixed race.   Huh?  I was incredulous.  I don't know about you but I believe that love and a caring family are what most orphans care most about, not skin color.  Oh, MIL also thinks that children who are adopted from foster care all grow up with problems, too.  I have to admit that that made me want to adopt from foster care even more than ever before. 
Okay, so that's my rant for the week.  I really do try to ignore it when MIL starts talking this way.  I can't help but sometimes wonder what her opinion would be if I told her that I hail from Jewish ancestry.  Either way, I'm proud of whatever mixed heritage that I consist of.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Major Life Lesson

This post is probably one of the more difficult ones to write as it involves a serious offense that was committed by one of my children.
We have been on vacation for the past couple of weeks.  Tim had to fly back home last week to go back to work.  The kids and I have been enjoying visiting relatives and engaging in some fun activities.  And I, of course, am thoroughly enjoying catching up with my friends. 
Yesterday, the kids and I met one of my cousins and her children at the St. Pete Pier.  We had a very nice time visiting the aquarium, walking around the pier, eating ice-cream, feeding the pelicans, and other stuff around the pier.  The kids seemed to enjoy being around each other, too.  After we left there, I stopped at a gas station to fill up. I could see that Jackie needed to visit the restroom so after I filled up the van with gas, I took the kids inside the station to use the restroom.  Ben also asked for cold water so I bought a couple of bottles of water.  I got the kids back into the van and buckled in and we set off for the ride back to my mother-in-law's.  I got just a couple of blocks down the road when I detected a sweet odor emanating from behind me in the van.  I looked in the rear-view mirror to see Jackie chewing on something.  When I asked what she was chewing on, she said "nothing." I told her that I could smell and see that she had something in her mouth.  She immediately exclaimed that she "found it on the floor."  When I asked what floor (gas station or van), she pointed to the van floor.  I told Jackie that I did not see any candy or gum on the van floor when I strapped Ben into his seat.  We didn't even have any candy or gum in the van(gum is NOT allowed in my vehicle or house because the kids don't know how to throw it away when finished with it).  I pulled the van into a restaurant parking lot and asked Jackie to tell me the truth of where she got the gum.  Was it a whole pack of gum or just a stick of gum?  Did she take it from the store?  I pleaded with Jackie to tell me the truth. She then tried to place blame on Ben by saying that Ben told her to get the gum.  Ha!  Of course, I didn't believe that.  I finally explained to Jackie that stores have hidden cameras and that if I go and ask to watch the video, then I will know what really happened.  Jackie then admitted that she took the gum from the store.  She then got upset because she knew she was in trouble.  I explained to Jackie how her actions amounted to stealing and that it is wrong.  Very wrong.  Jackie knows without a doubt that stealing is wrong but why she chose to ignore her conscience this day is beyond me except for the fact that she has been asking for gum lately.  She really wanted some gum and this time she resorted to stealing it.  I told Jackie that I was disappointed in her for not only stealing the gum but also lying about it and for placing the blame on Ben. Jackie started to really cry and say that she didn't want me to be disappointed.  I had to explain to her the difference between being disappointed and unconditional love.  I love my Jackie with all my heart but my beautiful little girl really let me down.  I admit that I was also irritated that we were now going to have to waste time by turning around and making the situation right.  We had a nearly 40 mile drive with bad weather approaching and I did not want to add to my drive time.  But, we turned around and headed back to the store.  I told Jackie that she had to go inside with me and apologize to the store clerk.  I also told Jackie that when we got home in Illinois, she was going to have to pay me back for this pack of gum. 
The store clerk was very understanding.  However, I didn't appreciate him brushing it off as an accident.  If it was an accident, then why was I liable for paying for the gum?  I realize many kids will try a stunt like this at least once during their young lives but it is not an accident.  At least, for my little girl, it was not an accident.  It was an act of willful disobedience.  She knows right from wrong, especially in regard to intentionally taking what does not belong to her.  The other thing that bothered me about this clerk, as nice as he was, is that he apparently saw my daughter holding the pack of gum and then it disappeared.  He thanked me for being honest and returning and paying for the item. There was no other choice for me as I know that my conscience would get the best of me. 
I felt like crying because I felt so let down by my sweet daughter.  She isn't a perfect child by any means.  In fact, she does have a strong will that can be difficult for me to handle at times.  But I've been so proud of how tender her heart was (and still is) and how she wants so much to please people.  Then as if I wasn't feeling bad enough, when we finally got close to my mother-in-law's house, Jackie said something to me and I very clearly heard her  something about my "d_ _ _ phone".  Whoa! I asked Jackie what she just said and she refused.  She tried to brush it off because she was upset that she was trying to say something to me but I was on the phone and I couldn't hear her.  I was on the phone with her dad explaining what had happened.  Tim was very shocked about the gas station situation.  I talked to him about the language later.  I've been trying to be very careful about how I talk in front of my children.  We do have other members in my family who are, unfortunately, not careful.  At. All.  And it's worse than the "d" word.  So, it was just another thing that I had to remind Jackie about.
This incident really had me upset and feeling disgusted as a mom that my sweet little girl would resort to stealing to get the coveted gum.  When that store clerk told me that all kids do that at least once in their lives, I don't know if I believe that.  I do remember doing it once myself when I was about Jackie's age.  However, I really feel that if it wasn't for this particular "friend", I would not have stolen.  I had walked to a store close by with this "friend" because she wanted to get candy.  I had no clue that she actually did not have any money and as we looked around the store, she saw a toy that she wanted and actually stuck it up my shirt and told me to keep it there until we walked outside the store.  I knew it was wrong at the time but I didn't want to lose my "friend", either.  Thankfully, that is the only time that I intentionally stole from a store. 
My parents' son did (and perhaps still does) have a problem with stealing.  He stole from family, too.  His behavior was well known that at one point, it began to interfere with my own life.  I was a part of a girls group at a church and one time when we were selling stuff to raise money for our group, I was told that I couldn't take anything to sell.  When I asked why I couldn't sell the stuff like everyone else, well, the answer was because I had a brother who might steal it.  I was devastated that I was paying the price for somebody else's aberrant behavior.  I do not want my children to experience this.  Perhaps this is one reason I was so distressed about the incident yesterday afternoon.  I couldn't help but question my parenting skill because I know without a doubt that my children know that stealing is wrong.  My heart broke every time I looked at my daughter last night.
Even though the incident is behind us now, I still couldn't help but feel a little bit of heartache this morning when my daughter woke up.  However, that little pain was cured by the good behavior that both of my children exhibited today. I mean, they were even holding hands in the back of the van as we drove to my parents' house this afternoon and then again when we came back to my mother-in-law's house.  Now that, folks, is a complete miracle coming from my children.  Here's hoping for another day of awesomely, good behavior tomorrow.