sex, abstinence, and the health class dilemma

Ah, the beauty of middle school.

Social drama and texting.  Girls and P.E. class.  Low man on the totem pole, switching classes, and brand new lunch options.

Plus graduation from a fifth grade puberty discussion to the health class that spans a range of topics including – wait for it – sex education.

Let the good times roll.

Continue reading

gratitude: capitals, planets, math, and geography

"Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
'cept February..." 

blah blah something...

whatever, February has twenty-eight,
twenty-nine in a leap year.


I have a rather porous memory.  Some of my friends had the gift of reading something once and it was lodged firmly in their long term memory; I had to work a bit harder than that, and even then I wasn’t always successful.

I mean, learning the capitals for all fifty states?  Talk about torture.  (And talk about gone.  If that info’s still stored in my brain it’s hiding behind some long lost episode of M.A.S.H. or something.)

Mnemonic devices were my saving grace for everything from remembering planet names to the order of operations.  It’s how I memorized the colors of the rainbow, names of the Great Lakes, and that dessert is spelled with two esses.

Having a brain that needs those connections made me a better teacher, too.  Anyone can lecture from a textbook…I taught my kids tips and tricks, how to link facts together, ways to make learning personal so it’s easier to retain.  The same memory glitches that made me work harder are what helped me find better solutions for the kids whose lives I touched.  Including our own.

Thank goodness for those memory aids.

My post as part of Colline’s Gratitude Project.

eight years of classroom cupid

Valentines Musings for My Munchkins

We've survived many a ♥ day,
you and I...
There were years 
I was certain
we'd never survive.
Addressing endless valentines,
fumbled shoebox crafts,
scouring ingredients for peanut allergies
lest we send a classmate
into anaphylactic shock.

"Bee Mine", "You Rock",
"you're the purr-fect friend!"
Huddled around the kitchen table,
enduring the angst of picking
which card goes to whom.
Then there's always the mom
whose kid does those damn
Pinterest valentines
when we all know 
you only want
the sugar

Elementary socialism
demands a valentine
for each boy, each girl -
no exceptions.
For years we've 
faithfully followed 
the rule,
candy for everyone,
no child left behind,
until the straw that broke 
the camel's back.
Now one's on strike,
refusing to take Valentines
at all
if it means putting on
a false face.

Middle school's shark tank
throws our kids in
to sink or swim
as they tread the
social waters
of tween hierarchy.
Suddenly a normal Tuesday
is rife with angst -
girls and guys
tiptoeing around each other,
painfully anxious,
parents helpless
through it all.

I do not envy you today,
my loves.


in matters of the written word

Listen, I know I can be a bit of a nut with the English language.  I’ll admit I have plenty of triggers in this area, both spoken and written, and that it’s entirely possible more than one person has given me the side eye if they overhear my rant.  That’s my baggage.  I own it.

Grammar mistakes – especially on important stuff like, you know, artwork titles – make me crazy, and pretty much any sentence ending with at (“Hey, Jim, where’s that remote at?”) makes me shudder.  I’m not asking for the Queen’s English here, just a reasonable resemblance to proper English.  It doesn’t even have to be fancy English.  I’d be satisfied by casual language with some slang thrown in if we could only avoid those traffic stopping blunders.

Oh, and in case our texting generations were wondering, writing still matters.

Continue reading

gratitude: 24/7 mother/daughter time

I’ve written about the fifth grade field trip to D.C. a few times, but I don’t know that I got to the heart of it yet.  Sure it was cold and exhausting, with days as long as the IRS tax code, and there were moments of pure pain when my back decided to act up.

And yet…

It occurs to me that I haven’t had that sort of one on one time with Bear or T-man since, well, ever.  Last year BrightSide took T-man to D.C. so technically it was just us girls at home, but we were going about our regular lives.  There’s nothing like traveling together to really get to know someone.

Bear and I spent every waking (and sleeping) moment together from 6:30 Sunday morning to 11:45 Tuesday night.  Just me and her (and a hundred other people or so), no buffer zone, nowhere to hide.  And it turns out my daughter – my very hormonal, somewhat unpredictable, sweet natured and smart daughter – is a lot of fun to hang out with.

Not only did I get to see her hanging out with her friends but she got to see me hanging out with other parents, listening in as I shifted into adult mode.  I got to see how she’s affected by the social dynamic in her grade, how her behavior shifts based on who she’s around, and she noticed the same sort of things about me.

But most of all, we were in it together.  We could complain and be miserable or we could joke around and have fun; we chose the latter, and our travel experience was richer for it.

It’s easy for me to recognize how I see Bear differently now.  Lucky for me, she was kind enough to clue BrightSide in from her perspective.  Sometime last week she turned to him and said, “You know who I’d want to spend a whole day with?  Gem.  But also mom.  She’s really funny, you know.”

My post as part of Colline’s Gratitude Project.

You wouldn’t think…but you’d be wrong.

Last week I embarked on an epic adventure with the fifth graders in Bear’s school.  Three charter buses, stuffed full of sleepy chaperones and hyped up kids, pulled out at the crack of dawn en route to our nation’s capitol.

It was an eye opening experience, to say the least.

Continue reading

Forever Family: T-man’s tidbits


me:  Here’s my plan.  I’ll do my questions and at the end we have something different.  Ready?

T-man:  Sure.

me:  What are your favorite frozen yogurt flavors and toppings?

T-man:  Favorite toppings?  Candy corn – ’cause you won’t let us have that at the house – hot fudge, and skittles.  My favorite flavors would probably be the ooey gooey cinnamon bun and cookies & cream.

me:  Those are both yummy.  What movie would you recommend to a friend and why?

T-man:  Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ’cause it’s like a horror/comedy film.  And it’s kind of weird to think about, like with the loops.

Continue reading

5 things girls should know by 5th grade

1.  Girls can be flat out mean.  Something shifts over the summer between fourth and fifth grade – some sort of change in polarity that tosses perfectly level headed girls into a maelstrom of hormones and introduces a whole new hierarchy to the concept of classmates.  Know who your true friends are.  The ones who always have your back and will take your secrets to the grave. Pay very close attention when someone suddenly begins acting inordinately nice toward you; look for their true intentions, and give them time to prove themselves worthy of your friendship.

2.  Knowledge is Power.  Part 1:  Learn all you can every single day.  Every piece of truth will help you on your journey, and you’re meant to do great things.  Part 2:  Protect yourself.  Do not tell someone a secret unless you’d be okay hearing it at recess.  (And no, “I promise I won’t tell anyone” doesn’t negate this.)  There’s a reason Benjamin Franklin said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

3.  You’re navigating a world of changes – emotionally, physically, socially.  It’s enough to make your head spin.  Remember that the boys are in these waters, too, and may be just as confused. They have their own changes to accept, hormones messing with their bodies, and often new rules in the social order.  Be kind.

4.  Know how to fix the chain on your bike, put air in your tires, run a lap, speak up in class, and stand up to a bully.  Girls need to be able to take care of themselves in a jam, and it’s cool to know how things work.  Physical fitness is important – you don’t have to be fast, but you do need to be healthy, and having a strong mind is just as critical.  Believe in what you have to give to the world, and then do it.

5.  Find at least one thing you’re truly passionate about.  It can be anything as long as the very thought of having a chance to do it excites you.  Your teachers are charged with educational knowledge and a remarkable one helps you develop your strengths, but only you know your passion.  Grab onto that and find a way to make it yours.

Interested in what boys need to know?  Check out yesterday’s post.