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Another school year is beginning, for some it already has. I am in my 9th year of teaching, not counting two years of subbing, student teaching, and several years of teaching classes at The Henry Ford. It’s safe to say that I’ve been working with kids for a long time. There are some things I’ve learned along the way to help you and your kid have a successful school year. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I hate sugarcoating so here we go.

  1. Make reading a priority in your home. I have SO many kids who do not come from a reading background and it shows. Read to your kids when they’re small and continue it as they get older. Reading is so incredibly important in school, so put the electronics away and make them read. Start small and gradually increase the time they spend on a book, it doesn’t matter what the genre is an show them that you read, too. Your example is the most important thing.
  2. Help them improve their attention span. I have middle schoolers who can’t focus for more than a couple of minutes on a daily basis. Do they have ADHD? No, they’ve just never been taught to stick with something. Now, I do have kids with ADD and ADHD who legitimately have trouble focusing, but a lot of the kids I teach don’t have an attention span because they’ve never been taught to have a work ethic. Give them jobs at home that they have to complete until the end, until they get the job done. Life skill.
  3. Teach them to respect. We teachers can handle a lot of things. Your child is struggling in English, math, science, social studies? We can handle that, it’s our job. It’s what we do. But when we have kids who routinely curse us out, I’m talking daily, openly talk back in class for no reason, and shamelessly lie, it makes our job ridiculously difficult. If you allow your child to be disrespectful to you at home and or to other people, they will be disrespectful at school.  Please, please, please teach your child how to speak and act respectfully, not just to adults, but to everyone, including you. I don’t mean that you should teach them to be a submissive little mouse, but if I had a dollar for every time a child openly challenged me at school, I’d be a rich woman. Learning how to treat others and situations with respect is a HUGE life skill. Look, kids are going to test limits, we teachers know that, but when you don’t back us up or worse, you take your kid’s side when he or she has been an absolute brat, you are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse people. Chances are, by the time we call you, we’ve already tried a lot of strategies. I’ve actually had parents tell their children, right in front of me, that they believe their child over anything I had to say and that’s true for a lot of my colleagues, too. That only teaches your kids that they have the power to behave any way they want and won’t receive any consequences. The trouble with that is a boss or, God forbid, a judge won’t see it the same way. Actions have consequences, good and bad.
  4. Don’t blame the teacher for your child’s shortcomings. I had a kid one time, 5th grade, who did not turn in any homework. When his parents came in to see the principal and me about his Es, his father rifled through the mess under his desk, fished out a paper, shook it in the air and said, “All she had to do was look here!” No. One hundred million percent not okay. Students are responsible for turning in their own work. Period. Responsibility is a life skill; teach your kid to own their mistakes. Again, life skill.
  5. Let. Them. Fail. It’s not the end of the world if Junior forgets their homework or forgets to study for the test. It will be okay, they will learn. Stop saving them; it will help them stand on their own two feet. Don’t make excuses for them. I once had a dad who caved and did his 5th grader’s homework for him because he cried if he didn’t understand it. I asked him if he would be doing his child’s calculus in high school. On the other hand, do encourage them! Ask them about school, what projects they have, tests, grades. Ask them about their day. Do you have a kid who won’t talk about it? Email the teacher! We’ll be happy to fill you in.
  6. Don’t take a phone call from your gynecologist and have a conversation about vaginal suppositories during a Parent-Teacher Conference. Seriously. I cannot scrub that from my brain and it’s been about eight years. Just… no. Not kidding.

We know your kids aren’t perfect, mine definitely aren’t. Youngest and Middle Child had some “fun” school moments last year, oy, but we learned from it. In my case, I need to check ParentConnect more often. Teachers don’t expect kids to be little angels, but for a child to have a successful year, we need the cooperation and help from you, the parents. It’s a partnership.

It’s more important than you’ll ever know.

Have a great school year!

 

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Everyone has hobbies, right? We need hobbies to explore our passions, to relax, to stay sane in a crazy world. Normal ones, weird ones, who cares? As long as your hobby doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, they’re fine. My hobbies include writing (duh), reading, history, theatre, music, travel. sewing/crochet, running, my garden (when it’s not a million degrees outside), and learning about the supernatural. It’s safe to say that I have a lot of interests and that I’m always busy.

Now, you may look at one or more of my hobbies and wonder why the heck I’m interested in that. Maybe, God forbid, history bored you to tears as a kid or the thought of running anywhere makes you anxious. Whatever the reason, you probably don’t share all of my interests and that’s okay. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things.

A hobby that I have trouble understanding is maintaining the perfect lawn. I just don’t get it. My lawn is green and made up of a lot of different things: clover, dandelions, a bit of grass, and some other unidentifiable stuff. I mow it once it week and that’s the extent of my lawn care. Some of my neighbors have beautiful meticulous lawns and they spend a lot of time and care to make them look that way, but I can’t see myself doing that.

Another hobby I don’t get is watching sports. My husband and sons love to watch football and baseball throughout the year. I would rather watch paint dry, unless it’s an important U of M game. Then, it’s a matter of principle. They love it when I have rehearsal because that means they can watch whatever game is on that night. It’s just not my thing.

So, what are some hobbies that you could not see yourself doing? Rock climbing? Skydiving? Fishing? Now I don’t mean things that harm others or the environment, just ordinary hobbies that you are most definitely not interested in. Don’t be shy, put it in the comments.

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It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, but hopefully all is back to normal now.

Just to give you a brief overview. Two weeks ago Thursday, I noticed that my shower was barely lukewarm. Ugh. We called in the company that had installed it 5 1/2 years ago. The technician came out, took one look at it, and said. “Uh oh. It’s no good.” I asked what he meant and he explained that there was a leak on the inside. Even worse, our warranty had Just. Run. Out. Of course it did. Sigh.

We set up a time the next day to replace it. The guys came out, did the job, and we thought all was well until we all got home from the theatre that night. When we opened the front door, we were greeted by a rush of natural gas. We got Middle Child out of the house and called the gas company right away. We must have been a sight, all out in the front yard at 10:30 at night, our neighbor cats winding around our ankles trying to play. The gas company came out, saw that we had a leak, and shut it off, telling us to call the other company in the morning.

Long story short, the leak did not get fixed the next day; we needed the pipes replaced. Our awesome neighbor hooked us up with a handyman who was able to come out Tuesday morning, which meant a few days of cold showers. Back up just a bit, though. Did I tell you that the power went out Saturday night? Yep. Good times. No air, no gas. The only utility we had was cold water. Luckily, my mother-in-law graciously let us bring our laundry over (and DID it for us) and our other awesome neighbors let me heat up water on their grill so that I could wash the dishes. It was hot, humid, and dark for a couple of nights. We took cold showers just to feel better. Of course, Marty had just gone grocery shopping, so we eventually added that cost to our losses with the exception of a big ham that hadn’t completely thawed in the freezer.

The power came back on Monday night, yay, and the handyman arrived early Tuesday morning to fix the line. (If you live in my area and need a handyman job done, message me and I’ll pass hi name along.) Marty, Youngest Child and I were leaving for Niagara Falls that morning, so my mother-in-law stepped in again to be there for the repairs. Middle Child stayed home because of work so he had a few more days of cold showers because one of the homeowners needed to be there when the gas was turned back on. We wouldn’t have risked it with him home alone anyway.

We got home Friday afternoon, called the gas company, and they eventually got there to turn it on. In the meantime, we noticed that it was rather warm in the house, even though the air conditioner was running. The problem was that it was blowing room temperature air, not cold air. I was really feeling at this point that the house was rebelling against us. I mean, come on! We called a different heating and cooling company to come and see what was going on. Apparently, the power coming back on had either created or worsened an existing leak and instead of the normal 70 PSI, our 30-year-old unit had 7. It would be a huge cost to fix it and it was easier to replace it. So, we chose a new unit and waited a few more days for it to be installed.

Truthfully, I grew up without air conditioning and we spent the first five years of our marriage without it, but I always hated summer. I mean, really and truly hated it. The kind of hate reserved for mortal enemies. Summer was much worse than winter. The sweat, the heaviness of the air, the stickiness of the air, not sleeping, general grossness. With air conditioning, summer and I have a truce; I always have an escape. Without air, misery ensues.

That brings us to this morning. The new company was here right on time and spent a little over five hours getting rid of our old air conditioner and installing the new, fancy-schmancy one. There was only one more attack of the house when the internet went out today, but that proved to be a simple fix handled over the phone. The period of house rebellion is, hopefully, over.

At this point, we have air, (hot) water, electricity, gas, and internet. Life is good, even if our credit card debt just went up tremendously. (The Big Red Eye will have to be mostly off-limits for a long time and I’ll be sending articles out left and right to make a little extra money.) I have rarely felt more relieved and blessed. I freely admit that I take it all for granted; we think these things will always be here but the truth is that they can go at any time. It made me really think about those who have no choice but to do without, who don’t have the credit to get things fixed or a home to go to. We are truly one of the lucky ones.

In the meantime, we’re going to make the house watch Dr. Phil for awhile.

God is good.

All the time.

 

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We’re heading out on vacation next week, nowhere particularly fancy this year, just to Niagara Falls for a day and then to Cooperstown, NY so Marty and the Youngest Child can see the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (I’ll be going to the Farming Museum, also in Cooperstown, because while I support the Detroit Tigers and can tell you a lot about baseball, the thought of spending hours around baseball memorabilia makes me fall into an instant coma.) We don’t have a name for our vacation this summer, unlike last year’s Oceans and Dead People Tour, but there are plans for Oceans and Dead People Tour II, possibly next summer. We shall see.

I did, however, insist on being around big water, so Lakes Ontario and Erie will do nicely. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls once before when I was around nine or ten years old and Youngest Child has never been so it will be cool to experience it again. Plus, I’m getting a massage at the spa, so all is well.

I don’t remember much about my first venture to Niagara Falls, but there’s one thing I do remember: The Mummy. No, not the movie. I would have italicized the title if I were talking about a movie. English teacher here. I’m talking about a genuine dried up person that had been alive a few thousand years ago but was, for some reason, on display in a little museum in Niagara Falls. It was amazing.

There are a lot of overpriced touristy-things at Niagara Falls, so we didn’t do a lot of them, but we did go into this little museum. I could not tell you 99.5% of what was in the museum, but I will never forget that it was where I saw my first mummy. It was in this glass case, kind of up high (at least to a ten-year-old) and I was amazed. Not amazed in a grossed-out way, but amazed in a this-is-so-cool-it-used-to-be-a-person!!!!! kind of way. The mummy was touted as an Egyptian pharaoh and had been brought to Canada from Egypt through a collector. We didn’t believe for a minute that this mummy had been a pharaoh, but it was still pretty awesome to see. Unfortunately, it was very common and fashionable in the 19th century for Europeans and North Americans to buy “souvenirs” that had actually been looted from Egyptian tombs, including actual mummies. (Sidenote: Egypt would LOVE all of its artifacts back, by the way.) That’s how this mummy had crossed the Atlantic and ended up in a tourist trap museum in Niagara Falls, Canada.

To make a long story short, years and years later, in 2002 to be exact, a news story came out that this mummy actually was an Egyptian pharaoh! Hearing the rumors about the Niagara Falls mummy, Egyptian archaeologists had tested its DNA and found that it was most likely Ramses I, founder of the Ramses dynasty of pharaohs. You can read the BBC story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3215747.stm

Since then, I’ve seen many more mummies. There’s one at the Detroit Institute of Arts, there are some incredible natural mummies under St. Michan’s church in Dublin, Ireland, one of which I got to touch, and there are dozens of mummies in the British museum. (Sidenote #2: The St. Michan’s mummies recently made the news because some arsehole broke in and stole a head from one of the mummies. I hope he’s being severely haunted right now. Like Poltergeist-style haunting. Jerk.) Here’s a link to see the Irish mummies: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/st-michans-church

There was also a TV show in the early 2000s called The Mummy Road Show, hosted by two professors. It was on when Youngest Child was a tiny baby, so I watched a lot of that. They also visited the Irish mummies (That sounds like a great band name, doesn’t it?). You can find details on that here: https://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/mummy-road-show/episodes/390281/

I know that many people, my family included, think that my obsession with mummies is a little odd, but I’m okay with that. I’ve always been fascinated with things that a lot of people find odd or disturbing. My mom used to say I was morbid, but to me, mummies are a tangible part of our long distant past. When we study ancient history, we are often limited to just reading about it, but through mummies and artifacts from civilizations past, we can actually see it, touch it. We like to separate ourselves from them, but these are people who lived, breathed, laughed, and loved, just like we do today. They had families, jobs, insecurities, worries, and joys. Somebody loved that face once. They were us, just 5,000 years ago. Mummies make me feel connected, somehow.

I didn’t know how that little visit would awaken such an interest in me, but I’m really glad it did. I’ve seen a lot, read a lot, and my life is richer for it. It’s also fun to say that my first mummy was a pharaoh.

I don’t know if that little museum in Niagara Falls still exists, but if it does, I may just go have a poke around inside. You never know what you’ll find.

If you have any “odd” interests, feel free to post them in the comments. I’m interested to read about them!

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After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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During a conversation with my husband the other night, we happened upon the topic of change. It came up because I’m going to Detroit Pride this weekend to join up with Free Mom Hugs. For those that don’t know, Free Mom Hugs, a group which also includes dads, gives free hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and encouragement to LGBTQIA individuals who have been rejected by their families. I’m totally stoked about being able to show a bit of love to someone who may just need it, lord knows we all do from time to time.

I reflected on how this was not what I was raised to believe, and how people can grow and change.

I know because I changed.

I was raised in a very conservative home where I was taught, especially in church, that being gay, or at least, being in a gay relationship, was a sin. It was never really an issue, just one of the countless sins we were told about. I didn’t know any better until I actually met people who were “out” in high school and in my first year of college. Listening to their stories really made me question the belief system I had been taught. Why were people being judged and condemned for how they were born, for who they were, for who they loved? The more I reasoned, the more my views changed and I struggled with what my religion said vs. what I knew in my heart to be true.

My brother came out soon after. He had been raised with the same teachings, I know he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would God make him that way if it was sinful? Why would God make anyone gay if it went against what He wanted? It didn’t make sense. I started reading more and researching, not only personal stories, but articles and studies on religion to see what was actually being said in translations and realized that I didn’t agree with the interpretation that had been preached to me for all those years. I was soon completely convinced: people don’t choose their sexuality, it’s hard-wired from the very beginning.

With this realization, I made it a point to be an ally. We’ve raised our kids to be accepting of everyone. We’ve also been very fortunate to belong to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what, with no agenda to “fix” people. One of our pastors even risked her job to marry two wonderful men a few years ago and we became an official Reconciling Ministries church the year after. The current pastor and his wife are all in, letting the rainbow banners fly. Our denomination is in a struggle right now to officially adopt a policy where gay marriages can be performed without penalty and I’m happy to say that there has some progress made on this. It looks much more hopeful now than it did a few months ago. We have wonderful new members who came to us because they have faith, but have not felt welcome in other places. There is still much to do.

Faith is important to a lot of people and it makes me sad that being gay is a reason for some to shut others out, no matter what the religion is. Do the homework, not just “research” from the conservative side, but objective research from real science. Talk to gay Christians, or gay Muslims, or gay Jews. You’ll find many. There are plenty of gay atheists, too, in case you’re not religious. Get their perspective, and really, truly, listen to them without judgement. Listen to religious scholars on the other side with an open mind and pray for understanding.

There’s another reason I think this is an incredibly important topic. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and LGB youth seriously think about suicide three times more than heterosexual youth. (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00001dqohxj19xof4dx2kuf9llet1) They would rather die than deal with the pain they feel from being rejected by the world, their places of worship, even their parents. That should say something to even the hardest heart. Think about that. Children would rather take their own lives than subject themselves to the humiliation heaped on them by those who think they are less than. As someone who has been on that precipice, that decision is born out of desperation, not attention-seeking. The methods used to change children are bogus, as proven over and again. Conversion therapy is cruel and it doesn’t work. You can’t “pray the gay away”, you can’t beat it out of someone, and you can’t change their mind. That’s not how it works. Again, do the research. Hear them.

LGBTQIA people are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed. Like everyone, they need to feel loved, they need to know that they are accepted, and treated with dignity and respect. I thank God, those long-ago high school and college friends, my brother,  and my sister-cousin, for being brave, for opening my eyes, for opening my mind. My life is richer and fuller for that, for the friends I have, for the love I am shown daily. I shudder to think of what my life could have been like if I hadn’t followed my heart.

Growth is often uncomfortable, because you often have to fix stuff, but the rewards are wonderful. When I see anti-gay protesters, so angry, waving their vile signs, it’s difficult to not be angry myself. I want to jump in and defend my friends and family so badly, but getting in someone’s face rarely changes their mind. Instead, I try to love. I try to set a good example. I try to stand up for what I know to be the right thing. I teach my students that using the word “gay” or “queer” as insults is not acceptable when the situation pops up, besides teaching acceptance of all as a norm.

I’m also still learning. As I mentioned, I want to be the best ally I can and I want to do it right. I make mistakes sometimes (I still have to make myself think of and say correct pronouns for the gender fluid, just because it’s a habit) but that’s part of growth and understanding and I welcome it, even when I screw up. I can do more.

So, Happy Pride Month. Much love to my family and friends who are celebrating and know that I have your back, always. May God bless you always.

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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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