Posts Tagged With: school

grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

A new school year starts tomorrow. BoyGenius is going into grade 6. The speed with which these kids grow up is almost surreal. Grade 6! I know we’ve done all the years, all the grades, but it still seems like there are a lot of holes — like we’ve skipped stuff. I know we haven’t; I know we live in different times, a different age than the one I grew up in, and as such BoyGenius’ childhood will be, must be different than the one I had. But does it have to go so fast? Did mine?

I think perhaps that when you are the child and you are living those years they aren’t as swift as when you are the parent. I certainly never felt like my childhood was slipping through my fingers; I remember something about every year, I think. I know that summers were long and hot and winters were long and snowy and school was something you went to every day and, for my part, anyway, enjoyed. I like to think that BoyGenius is having those same experiences, even if the events are different. He had two things he wanted to do this summer (neither of which happened): go to New York and go to Los Angeles. He went to summer camp and spent seemingly endless hours on his new gaming computer. We went to the beach a record low (for us) number of times but he was content with what he was doing. We did stuff, we just didn’t pack the weeks with outings. I’m the one feeling like we didn’t “accomplish” much, not him. He was happy. He is happy. HE IS HAPPY.

When I tucked him into bed tonight I asked him if there was any grade 6 “stuff” he needed me to tell him. He chuckled and said no. I asked him if he was excited for tomorrow. He chuckled again and said, “No, it’s school.” I asked if he was nervous, he laughed and said, “No, it’s school!” I said “Good.” I reminded him that he can talk to us about anything; if anything is unfair at school, or if there are any issues or problems with students or teachers, or anything at all he can come and tell me about it. He said, “Yes, I know.” All right, then. I kissed his newly shaved head (just the left side) and said good night. He seems happy.

This. This “no worries” attitude towards school starting. That’s all I need. That’s how I felt as a child: summer ends, school starts, no big whoop. He is happy. I am happy. HardWorker has a bit of anxiety (but that’s par for the course). In think we’re doing just fine.

Categories: memories, parenting | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

new year

As the new school year fast approaches (tomorrow!!) I see all sorts of “advice” or “rules” posts and articles that people have written for their children. Some are gender specific, some are grade specific, some are neither. Mine is BoyGenius specific. You might find some nuggets of wisdom in it, you might not.

My dear son, as you start this next chapter in your academic life as you head into grade 5 (seriously!??!) there are some things I want to tell you; some things you need to know. Guess what —- they are not much different than the things I told you at the start of last year, or even throughout grade 4, or 3. Take them to heart, or at least try to remember little snippets of them now and again:

  • don’t be afraid to be smart; don’t be afraid to let your smarts show
  • be respectful of others; friends, teachers, administrators, coaches
  • have fun — in the classroom, on the playground, at lunch
  • don’t let your smarts or the silliness and fun get in the way of learning
  • try not to be too frustrated when you realize that others don’t know the things you do or don’t think the way you do
  • don’t be rude
  • try to keep focused on the task at hand — if you can’t, then try to figure out why and if there is something you can do to make it better; if you need help with your focus, don’t be afraid to ask
  • stay true to yourself; you are a sweet sensitive boy with a fantastic understanding of “fairness” — please don’t give that up, as hard and as heartbreaking as it may seem to hold onto
  • come to me; remember that you can tell me anything and I won’t ever love you any less
  • if something is keeping you from learning and/or doing your best let your teacher know; if it’s the teacher, let the Mama know; marks and grades are far less important to me than you might think — you learning and loving it much more so
  • eat all of your lunch
  • write as neatly as you can
  • if you are bored please tell someone other than your friends, like me or Mommy or your teacher
  • you have every right to question anything you are being taught; please just remember to be polite and respectful when you do so, especially if pointing out mistakes or misinformation to your teacher
  • remember, Mama welcomes the dreaded “note home” from the teacher so never let that scare you
  • you and I together, kiddo, are a force worth reckoning with; I will advocate for you until the cows come home — maybe even after that — probably, yeah
  • practice your times table
  • if something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, walk away; don’t let people suck you into doing stupid things — we’ve talked about this, remember? (Mike Hunt is not a real person. My apologies to all of the real Mike Hunts out there.)
  • keep climbing trees
  • I love you, so does Mommy
keep climbing, baby!

keep climbing, baby!

Wow, that turned out to be a long list, a lot of advice. Like I said, at least try to remember snippets of it here and there. Sure, it’s all important, but if you have this list then you don’t need to memorize it. Neither do I.

(I reserve the right to modify, expand or shrink this list at any time now or in the future, in perpetuity and forever, to infinity and beyond.)

Categories: family, parenting, Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

my friend Gord

When my son was three years old, he attended a little “pre-school” learning programme offered by our town’s recreation department. It was, and still is, aptly titled “Ready, Set, School!” and is held at our local community centre. Our neighbourhood’s community centre shares space with our neighbourhood school. Children from every area of our town sign up for this particular programme; it’s very popular and we were lucky to get space. The great thing for those of us who live “in area” is that not only are our kids getting ready for school but they are getting accustomed to the very surroundings they will be spending the next 10 years of their lives in. It’s fantastic.

One day, when HardWorker and I were both attending a special Mothers’ Day Tea that is held in May, the pre-schoolers were “interrupted” by a visit from the school custodian. He was a familiar enough face to the kids, as he would come in once in awhile to check on the a/c or clean up a spill in the shared space. I guess some of the moms that were attending this special tea had a questioning look on their faces (something in the way of “who is this strange man who just walks in?”) because one of the teachers had just begun to introduce him to the parents when BoyGenius jumped up from the table, ran over and enveloped this man’s legs in a huge bear hug, very loudly proclaiming, “I love you, Mr. Gord!” The man smiled, looked at us to see if we were okay and seeing that we were, hugged back and said, “I love you, too, BG.”

That was the moment this man became my friend Gord. He saw 350+ children every day, and had for more than 20 years. He saw these pre-schoolers maybe once a week. He knew my son’s name.

As it turned out, Gord and HardWorker had met that previous winter, both taking the same night course offered by a local college. He spoke with us at length that day, wanting to be sure we were okay with him hugging our son, concerned that in this day and age one had to be so careful with showing affection. Aware that many parents wouldn’t like to hear him say he loved their child. He did, though. He loved them all. Every.Single.One.

Over the next 6 years, Gord would often recall that day and he would always tell me, “I’m sorry, but if those kids tell me they love me, I’m going to tell them right back,” or “I know you have to be so careful, but I’m not going to deny any child a hug.”

When BoyGenius started Junior Kindergarten he was very happy that he would get to see Mr. Gord every day. By Senior Kindergarten he started calling Mr. M by his ‘real’ name. In Kindergarten my son decided he wanted to have long hair. By SK his hair was halfway down his back and Gord often asked that BG keep him in mind when he decided to cut it, as Gord’s own hair was thinning. BoyGenius just smiled, never committing. He did cut it, the summer before Grade One. Gord asked him once what had happened to the hair they cut off? Wasn’t BG supposed to save it for him? BoyGenius just smiled. Gord smiled back. By Grade Two, BoyGenius had decided he would grow his hair long again. Gord was happy, mentioning only once or twice a year that he hoped BG would remember him if he ever cut it again. Once, in Grade Three, when a totally follically-challenged colleague of HardWorker’s asked BoyGenius the same thing, if he would give him his hair when he cut it, BoyGenius very quickly answered, “No, I already have a deal with someone else.” When I told Gord about this, he was over the moon and smiled for about a week; told me again how much he loved my son.

Gord told me more than once that even though he would be retired by then, he would be coming back to the school to see BoyGenius graduate. And if you knew Gord at all, you know that he would have been there. No doubt about it.

When Gord first got sick he underwent all the necessary treatments and couldn’t wait to get back to work. He did it. He came back. He needed to. Gord was worried that if he wasn’t able to come back to school/work as soon as he wanted, depression would begin to take hold. It wasn’t so much the fact that he had cancer that might set it off, but the fact that he wasn’t able to do the things that gave him joy. That he couldn’t be fully “there” for his family, his friends, his job, his school, his co-workers, his students. I’m sure there were dark moments still, but Gord felt better being able to come back to work. When the cancer launched another attack on his body, Gord remained upbeat, telling anyone who cared to ask that although he was having a set-back, or there was some new, strange, niggling symptom that cropped up just to irritate him, he was going to beat this disease. He certainly tried. When I last saw him in July, he told me, “Yes, another two or three chemo treatments and then I’ll have time to strengthen up.” He was weak, and tired. He smiled, I smiled. BoyGenius and I both took his hand. Gord and I both cried a bit.

Gord was a man who loved his family, his friends, his co-workers, his job, his school, his students. He often spoke of his wife and sons, told us how proud he was to have such a great family. To the end of his life he praised his wife, told me (and others, I’m sure) of how wonderful she was. He was so happy to have gained a granddaughter when one of his sons started seeing a woman with a little girl. He was nervous, he told me, so hopeful that their relationship would work out because he already loved this child. Gord was a hard-worker, proud of our school, proud of the staff and students, proud of his profession; he was a great advocate for his fellow union members; he was so appreciative and spoke highly of those who worked with him. If something needed tending to at the school, Gord would take care of it. If you had any questions about where something was located, Gord knew the answer. If you needed an extra person to volunteer to receive a whipped-cream pie in the face at our annual Fun Fair fundraiser, Gord was your man. If any of the kids needed a little steering in the right direction after taking a wrong turn, Gord would be happy to find jobs for them to do, a little something to divert them, as it were. This man had a smile, a hug, a laugh, AND TIME for everyone; he had a sparkle in his eyes and love and joy in his heart. This man also suffered from depression and anxiety. He didn’t hide it. He wasn’t too proud to let people know. Our world would be a much better place if all men took heed and strived to be the kind of man that Gord was.

The last two days, BoyGenius has been having trouble with his shoes being missing when he goes into school in the morning. He’s been finding them in the lost and found. Apparently the janitor is just sweeping them up from under his hook. I suggested he put them on the shelf above his hook. He says “but everybody’s shoes are under their hook. It’s just mine that end up in the lost and found.” I smiled a little to myself when he said this but I thought, no, I’m not going to say what I’m thinking. Then BoyGenius says, “Maybe it’s Mr. M’s ghost!” followed a couple of minutes later by, “I don’t know why he would be haunting me.”

I smiled and chuckled. “Because he loves you.”

I miss you. And I love you, Mr. Gord.

Categories: family, friendship, parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

hopes and fears?

** Please note that I have many conversations with myself and do much writing in my head. Sometimes this leads to fractured thought and prose. This may be one of those times. **


After the last mass shooting that made the international news I thought to myself, “I’m not going to write about this, everyone else will be doing it and I don’t know that I have anything different to say.” And I didn’t. Write about it.

Yesterday afternoon, shortly before 3pm, when I heard about Newtown, CT, I thought to myself, “I can’t write about this.” This thought only occurred after my immediate reaction, which was a mish-mash of horror, nausea and resignation. Oh, and I was stunned for a bit. Then, while struggling to win the battle over the gnawing, spinning pain in by stomach I scrolled through a number of news stories and tried to keep myself from reading all of the comments people were posting (I’ll come back to this in a bit). Within minutes I realised it was time to go get BoyGenius from school.

A small knot of parents and grandparents were waiting by the doors, as we always do. There were a few comments, a small recounting of events for those who hadn’t yet heard and a collective shaking of heads. There were those who stated, as so many on facebook had, that all they wanted to do was hug their kids, go home, and hug their kids some more. I stayed away from all of that because that’s not the feeling I got. BoyGenius came bounding out the doors, we shared our signature greeting (him jumping into my arms and holding on for dear life while I spin him around until we’re both so dizzy we can barely stand), he told me there’s no school on Tuesday — 1 day teacher strike [a whole ‘nother story] and then asked if he could go to the park. I said “sure” and zipped up his hoody for him before he ran off into the woods. I didn’t pull him any more tightly to me than I usually do, I didn’t hug him longer and I didn’t tell him I needed him to stay closer to me. I told him I love him and sent him off to the park, alone, to play with his friends. That’s what I felt like doing. (Well, that and throwing up … and the throwing up part is still present, almost 24 hours later.)

I don’t want to be afraid to send my son to school every morning. I don’t want to be afraid to take him to the mall to do some shopping. I don’t want to stop going to public gatherings in fear that some gun-wielding, grievance-carrying asshole will pick that day, that gathering to attend. So I’m not, and I won’t. HardWorker thinks of these things every day. I don’t. HardWorker has way more anxiety issues anyway, and things like this just feed her fears. Then again, so do television shows about bacteria on chicken or germs in hotel rooms. I won’t live in fear. I won’t have BoyGenius live in fear. Some of HardWorker’s fears have already rubbed off on him and I fight every day to keep him from absorbing any more. I don’t want my friends with small children, my friends with grown children, my friends with soon-to-be-arriving children to be crippled by fear of the world around us. I, like others I admire, choose to live in hope. I hope that the world will someday be a better place, that everyday it is indeed becoming a better place. I hope that we will stop hurting each other. I hope that we will cure disease. I hope that we will conquer famine. I hope for a lot of things. I choose hope over fear.

There is much talk when something like this happens; in comments on news stories, on facebook, on talk shows. There is much talk about gun control, as always happens at times like these. There is much talk about holding your children tightly. There is much talk about health care and mental illness. There is much talk about the US constitution and its amendments. There is much talk about how horrible that this should happen just before Christmas. People are saddened, devastated, shocked, stunned and horrified. Some are callous and self-serving. There is much talk.

Well I’m here to tell you that talk is cheap. Talk about gun control leads NOWHERE. You know why? Because the bigger picture in that discussion is one about power and lobbying and that picture is painted in very broad strokes with brushes made of thousand dollar bills; the details are the really important considerations and those details always get painted over. Talk about holding your children tightly is all well and good, but PLEASE don’t leave it until a tragedy happens to think about doing so. Talk about health care and mental illness needs to happen but again, those talks always become about politics and power and those money-brushes whitewash everything so not enough gets accomplished. Christmas — the season of love and light, goodwill towards men; does it really matter that this happened at this time of year? Would this horribly unnecessary tragedy be any easier to bear in May? Should we not be sad or shocked or horrified? No, I’m not saying that … what I’m saying is that more importantly that any of those things, we should be angry. Angry enough to take the necessary steps to ensure that this stops happening.

Gun control? Hell yes. You want the right to bear arms? Go right ahead. But be put on notice that every time something like this happens, every time there’s an armed robbery at the corner store, every time some gang shooting occurs, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. Societal ills? Hell yes. Sure, everyone should be held accountable for their own actions but it’s pretty hard to swallow that what you or I or the politicians do has absolutely no bearing on the person standing next to us. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER.  Loving your kids? Of course. Love them, respect them, listen to them, teach them. KNOW THEM.

Whenever there is a mass shooting, particularly when school-aged children are involved, those who knew the perpetrator(s) have the same things to say. Either “he/she was a loner; he/she was bullied a lot; he/she always seemed to have problems or issues,” or “we never noticed anything wrong.” Both of these perspectives need to be examined. It’s like people are either saying “we always knew there was something wrong” (and nobody cared) or “we never cared enough to get to know” if things were really as good as they seemed. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER. We need to accept that. Talking to someone might change their life. Smiling at someone may flip a switch in their head. A touch on a shoulder might let someone know that you actually see them standing next to you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that bad things won’t still happen just because you smile at someone. I’m not naive enough to think that the whole world can be healed with a hug. But neither am I callous or cynical enough to think that human kindness, human touch, human-ness won’t make a difference, either.

hopeToday, though. Today. It’s not about guns. It’s not about mental illness. It’s not about money or power. It’s not about your kids or my son. It’s about the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Parents that lost their children. Children that lost their parents. Students that lost their friends and teachers. Teachers that lost their students. It’s about a small town that will be forever changed. It’s about people whose lives have been turned upside down. Lives that may never be righted again. Let us hope collectively that they can all find peace.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. May hope always wield the mightier sword.


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what goes without saying?

“Well, that goes without saying.”

No, it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. As long as it isn’t hurtful, say it.

If you need to stand up for yourself, do it. Say it. If you see injustice being done, say so. If you love someone, tell them. If your neighbour has a really nice garden, let her know.

Your child’s teacher helped make grade 2 a fantastic year? … Tell that teacher. Hell, tell the principal! I did. I told the principal how I felt and I gave the teacher a copy of the parts of the letter that pertained to her. She needed to know how grateful I was, how happy I was, how happy BoyGenius was with his grade 2 experience. Telling her made her feel great, brought tears to her eyes and let her know that she really is doing it right.

People don’t know things unless you tell them. Good things and bad things. We usually don’t have much trouble telling people what we don’t like about what they’re doing, how they drive, the way they dress. We seem to have a much harder time telling people what we do like about them. It’s not all our fault. Many of us don’t know how to react when given a compliment. We brush it off, say something self-deprecating or tell the person praising us that they must be blind or crazy or something like that. I once had the occasion, after an afternoon and evening spent with a few friends and about 17 of our kids, to send all the moms an e-mail telling them that I had had a great time and that I loved all of their children. We had spent about five hours in one friend’s home, with 17 children ranging in age from 4 to 9 years, without once having to raise our voices or discipline anyone. Those kids were great! Every single response I got accused me of being drunk; not a one was able to just agree and say thanks.

If you are concerned about a friend’s stress level ask them to go for a walk with you and tell them you’re worried. They might give you the “I’m fine” answer or they might be so glad that someone noticed and cared enough to be concerned that they’ll walk and talk and get some things off their chest. It might not seem like much but it might be enough to let them get some respite from their struggles.

Think you’ve got the best paperboy in town? Tell him. Give him a tip. Is he someone from your neighbourhood? Tell his mom you think she’s done a great job raising a fantastic kid. When you meet someone and you think they have a fabulous smile or amazing eyes, tell them; even if it’s the guy behind the counter at the community centre. You might make a new friend or maybe you’ll just make someone feel like a million bucks. Either way, it’s a good thing.

If you buy a product and it has a problem, let the manufacturer know. You don’t have to be angry about it. Just point out to them that you’re disappointed and let them know what the issue is. Nine times out of ten, they will be apologetic and find some way to compensate you. Companies need to know if there is a problem with their manufacturing, with their quality control or with their shipping. (This is especially true for food products.)

You’ve seen it in movies, on tv; you’ve read it in books; maybe you have experienced it in real life: that goes without saying.

“Honey, did you enjoy dinner?” “Are you proud of me, mom?” “Do you love me?”

If they have to ask you, they don’t know. If they don’t know ….. it obviously doesn’t go without saying.

Fatboy Slim had it right all along … “I have to praise you like I should.”

Categories: words | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Monday’s words (on a Tuesday) – E

Alright, alright, it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday .. but we had a long weekend and the first day after a long weekend always feels like a Monday so I think I’m okay.

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter E and by the number 2216 (the number of E words I’ll be talking about).

E is for everything

When I first thought of this “series” I figured it would at least give me something to write about without having to give it too much thought; that turned out not to be the case. When I get around to these particular posts I find myself giving a lot of thought to words: words that start with the letter I’m at, words that are derived from those words, words that don’t fit the category but have the same or similar or opposite meanings, words that hurt, words that build.

I have a lot of favourite words starting with E, relatively speaking. They go something like this:

  • exhausted
  • ephemeral
  • ethereal
  • ease/easement
  • ebb
  • enliven
  • eddy
  • epitome
  • ewer
  • envision
  • element/elemental
  • ember
  • envelop
  • embrace
  • engage/engagement
  • enlighten

Now let me tell you what I like about these words and you can tell me if you feel the same .. or differently .. or nothing at all.

I love the thought that a person or an idea can be exhausted. We have explored all aspects of this, we have exhausted all avenues of thought. Do you have someone in your life who exhausts you? In a good way or in a bad way? I think we all have people who exhaust us in a “bad” way but I believe it is a rare find indeed when you come across a person who can exhaust you in a “good” way. I have a friend who exhausts me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and believe me, it’s all good. What that means to me is that I am so comfortable that I can let everything (good, bad, stressful or joyous) drain out of me, allowing me to look at it, to sift through it, to decide — sometimes with help — what is worth hanging on to and what should be let go.

I don’t really like the idea that some things are so short lived that they are ephemeral, but I absolutely love the fact that there is a term for this phenomenon and that it is such a beautiful word. Ephemeral. The word itself makes the idea easier to live with. Ethereal is another beautiful word. Extremely delicate, spiritual, heavenly, otherworldly, too perfect for this world. What a gorgeous word. What a sad and lovely concept.

I love the words ease and easement. Knowing that you are able to do something with ease is a good feeling — unless it’s something bad, then you should probably be concerned about the ease with which you are able to do it. Knowing that something you do can help ease someone’s feelings or hardships … that’s gotta make you feel good. And as far as easement goes, I’m referring to the feeling of comfort or peace, or the act of easing or relieving someone’s discomfort, not the right of way that allows you to use someone else’s property to get to yours. Although I kind of like that usage of the word as well.

I love the ocean and am soothed by the ebb and flood of the tide. When ebb is used to describe the lessening of things in general, although it is often seen as a negative descriptive term, I can’t help but think of the ebb of pain or the ebb of sorrow or the ebb of any other hard or painful thing. I always see it as a gentle calm settling over whatever is troubling someone. That’s why I like the word ebb.

There isn’t much that needs be said about the word enliven. It speaks for itself. “You enliven me.” You make me feel more alive, you animate me and my spirit, you inspire me, you brighten my countenance.

An eddy is a current of water (or air) that moves or flows contrary to the main current — man, I love that idea. Sure, it’s often a water feature so it grabbed me from way back, but going against the flow, building your own little current, whirlpool or whirlwind … that is totally cool. In fact, it’s the epitome of cool. Ahh, epitome. The embodiment of something. While I love the word epitome for its meaning, I love using it for its pronunciation. Epitome. Another one I love the sound of is ewer. It comes up often in crossword puzzles and knowing that when the clue is “pitcher” the answer is “ewer” always makes me smile.

Envision is kind of like enliven for me; the word itself is enough to make me see its meaning. I truly believe that a person can do or make or be anything that they can envision. It won’t always be easy, the way to get to that point may not be easily seen but as long as you can envision the goal I think you’ll get there eventually. (Eventually is one I didn’t mention but I fall back on it often. Eventually and eventuality. Those words keep me going sometimes; they give me hope.)

Element and elemental are words I appreciate in all of their presentations. Fundamental, essential, basic. Natural habitat. Sphere of activity. Being “in your element” must be an amazing feeling.

Embers are defined as parts of a dying fire; the small glowing or smouldering bits of coal or wood or ash. But if you bank the embers you retain the heat and can easily kindle a new flame when necessary. Embers may be tiny, they may be a part of something that is dying but they are hot. So very, very hot. When people speak of dying embers I think of sparks and heat and flames. I think of love that never dies; no matter how small that glowing ember is it can quickly be sparked to a raging fire.

Envelop and embrace are words that fill me with warmth and hope and an overall feeling of love and kindness. They are good words. I envelop you in my love. I not only embrace you in the physical sense, but I embrace your thoughts and ideas. How cool is that!?

When I think of engagement I think of BoyGenius. I think of how I want his teachers to engage him. I think of how I want him to be engaged in learning. I think of how it makes me smile when I see him engaged in conversation with a peer or a mentor, or when I know he wants to engage someone in conversation or in some other activity that interests him.

Enlighten. To give someone greater knowledge and understanding of something, be it materially, spiritually or philosophically. You often hear “well, let me enlighten you” used in a negative connotation but I think we should stop doing that. I think if I have knowledge or understanding of a subject or a situation I should be happy to share, to increase your understanding; I shouldn’t ever use enlightenment in such a way as to make you feel small or make a situation worse. That’s not what it’s about.

Wow. This has turned into quite an entry. I hope I haven’t bored you. Who knew E words could take over like that? (I actually pared down my list, if you can believe it.)

Categories: words | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

childhood revisited

As I watch my son roll down a 50-60 degree decline, onto the tarmac at the bottom, I am reminded of the games we used to play when I was a child. Things were different then. Or were they??

True, we didn’t have video game systems – but we did spend time at the arcade. True, we only got 3 channels on the television up until I was in about grade 4 – but once mom went to work so she could pay for cable, well then we got 13 channels! True, cartoons were only shown early on Saturday or Sunday mornings – except for The Flintstones; they were on every day at lunch. True, there weren’t any “kids’ networks” to monopolize our viewing time – but we did schedule our homework around the ABC After School Special on Wednesday afternoons, The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights and Sonny & Cher, The Hudson Brothers and Carol Burnett.

children at play

We played tag, both the frozen and regular varieties. We played hide & seek. We played Cowboys & Indians. We played badminton, frisbee and touch football. We played marbles (we usually called them alleys). We played Red Rover and British Bulldog. We played baseball or 21-up. We played on snow-hills and in vacant lots, we hiked across town to “Duck’s Pond,” we climbed trees and tried to swing on vines and once we discovered that those vines weren’t the same kind Tarzan swung from we brought rope with us. We hung upside down from the swings and walked from one end of the teeter-totter to the other. We tried desperately to swing so high and fast that we’d be able to go all the way around the top bar (someone had seen someone else do it one time, don’t you know). We rode our bikes, no hands, with the front wheel turned backwards. Standing. Downhill. We rode double and triple (and we didn’t have helmets). We skipped rope, although I never did manage to get more than two jumps in on double-dutch. We swam every day as soon as the weather permitted.

I grew up in a small town, huge backyard, empty fields across the street and next to us, trees for climbing right outside my door, pathways from the edge of our property right down to the lake. The lake was home to the main town park, complete with climbing apparatuses, swings, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds and fast metal slides. BoyGenius is growing up in a “town” with roughly 80,000 more inhabitants than mine had. There are no vacant lots or empty fields nearby, unless you count the baseball or soccer fields at his school. We have pathways from almost the edge of our property right down to the lake. There are playgrounds along the way but these days you are hard-pressed to find a merry-go-round or a teeter-totter. The school playground is bordered by a small forested area – most of the neighbourhood kids play in there on a daily basis. BG loves to climb trees and the baseball backstop; heck, he’ll climb walls if he can get a foothold. He’ll swim in any body of water that holds enough volume to cover him. He hasn’t quite mastered my technique when jumping off the swings (the one that totally gives you the feeling of flying), but he’s trying. He brings vines home from the forest, hoping to find a way to attach them to trees so he can swing from one to another, like Indiana Jones.

So it would seem that our childhood pastimes are not completely divergent although there are some marked differences. BoyGenius and his friends play tag; sometimes it’s just like what we played and sometimes it’s just a little bit different in that they play it in the forest, combine it with hide & seek and call it manhunt or mantracker. They will play regular hide & seek as well.  The frozen tag they play can be a bit different as well – one version is called graveyard and doesn’t involve any running around  … no movement at all, actually. Cowboys & Indians – well, you’re not allowed to play that anymore are you? I haven’t seen anyone playing marbles in at least 20 years. Neither Red Rover nor British Bulldog are allowed in schoolyards anymore so none of the kids today even know about them. If there are ever snow-hills in the schoolyard the children are not allowed on them. Pick-up football or baseball games have been replaced by organized soccer and t-ball. We don’t let our kids bike all over town or slosh around in duck ponds in hopes of catching tadpoles or snapping turtles. That’s if you could even find a duck pond these days.

As I watch my son roll down that steep hill, I remember doing the same. I remember the feeling and I remember that I loved it. I know that I will have to work with him to perfect his mid-swing takeoff, and work on his landing so he doesn’t break his arm again. And I know that he shares my love of that completely dizzy feeling you get from turning and spinning, arms straight out, in a wide-open field until you can’t even keep yourself upright and fall flat to stare up at the cloud-spinning sky above.

Do you see memories of your own youth in the games your children play?

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Monday’s words — A

Mondays. What do Mondays mean to you? As far as I’m concerned they are the day that you try to catch up on all the stuff that you didn’t get done on the weekend. If you work outside the home, I guess it’s different; when I went to work Mondays were okay, I didn’t have that big fear, the huge feeling of dread that some people get on Sunday night even. Monday meant I would see my work friends, I would get to buy a special coffee and listen to what everyone else did on the weekend.

Nowadays I see Mondays as that day to catch up. On sleep, on laundry, on unloading the dishwasher, on grocery shopping. Of course, it’s really just a mental illusion I create for myself. I don’t catch up. I might get some laundry done, I might go to the grocery store. I might not. I might read. I might just sit and watch television. Not that I didn’t watch television all weekend. Oh no. But that was different. There were other people around. Mondays – Mondays are the start of my week. HardWorker has gone to work and BoyGenius has gone to school. A new week has begun. It’s like a respite where you never thought you’d find one.

I’d like to start something on this Monday that I’ll hopefully be able to keep up for 26 weeks (but probably not in a row). I want to write a post featuring favourite words of mine. I don’t know that I’ll whip up some bit of prose or poetry every week; I might just list my favourites for any given letter. I don’t really know. I just really love words and sometimes just the sound of them or seeing them written out is enough to centre me, to calm me, to ground me, to send me soaring or crashing to the ground.

I figure the easiest way to keep track is to start with a different letter each week .. and since we have this neat little filing system called an alphabet, why not put it to good use? So let’s start with “A.”

  • awesome – meaning inspiring awe; I do often use it as meaning very impressive which is how the kids use it (how can I help it, I’ve got an 8 year old?), but I really like the idea of something being awe-inspiring.
  •  adept – an adjective meaning very skilled or proficient; I also like the related noun ‘adeptness.’ It just sounds cool to me.
  • aver – to assert or affirm with confidence; I like the idea of knowing something well enough to be able to aver it instead of just stating it.
  • antagonistic – hostile, unfriendly, acting in opposition; mostly I just like the way this one sounds … I don’t like acting antagonistically, but I can, and do at times.
  • abroad – in or to a foreign country or countries;I love the idea of going abroad and I feel posh just saying “I’ve been abroad.”
  • abrade – to wear off or down by scraping or rubbing; I also like abrasion. It’s the feeling that the word conveys to me when I say it or write it that puts it in my list.
  • alliteration – the commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter; I’m ever enjoying the employment of alliteration in literature.

I don’t just count these words among my favourites because of their meanings — sometimes it is simply the sound or feeling of the letters as they roll off my tongue. Sometimes the meanings take away from the word, but being able to use them in a sentence brings me joy.

How do you feel about words? Do you have favourites? Do you find yourself using the same words over and over in your day to day conversations? I remember hearing children complaining about adults using “their” words like awesome or cool. I remember finding myself using “absolutely” way too much when working with students on their reading. I remember hearing Erica Kane of “All My Children” talking about “people of their ilk” and thinking ‘no one really talks like that’ – that was probably close to 30 years ago and it has still got a place in my memory. Words are something that I cherish and I realized about 20 years ago that some people really do ‘talk like that’ and that I am one of them.

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family — born or built?

Yesterday was my mother’s 85th birthday. Last weekend we attended a “surprise” party to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday, and the week before that another aunt had her 85th. When I mentioned these occasions to a friend she said “Whoa, you got some good genes there!” meaning she guesses I’ll live to a ripe old age as well. I like that. I also really like that she didn’t ask for a family tree to figure out where my aunts fit in — because really, in tree form, they don’t.

My parents came to Canada in the early 1950s. My father came by boat and my mother followed a few months later in a Super Connie prop plane. Just the two of them, a young, newly married couple off to build a life together. Just the two of them. My father’s family and my mother’s family stayed behind. It was just the two of them.

My brother SkinnyGuy arrived in 1957 and BlueEyes followed in 1961. By the time I showed up in ’64 SkinnyGuy had been to visit the Fatherland with my parents and my dad’s parents had spent 6 months over here, just missing my arrival which occurred on the same day they sailed back across the pond. My parents had already built a network of friends and some of those friends became pseudo-family to us kids. Whether they were our godparents or just close family friends, they were “aunt” and “uncle” and their kids were our “cousins.” We had cousins — real ones, they were just far away and mostly older than we were. We had our grandparents and our aunts and uncles but we only saw them about every 4 years when one or another of us flew in whichever direction was fitting. For being as far apart as we were, we grew up with a fairly strong sense of family. I think we did well. Most of the success of those relationships is down to my parents making sure we learned two languages growing up, making sure we wrote letters, sent birthday cards and shared photos. It was important to my parents and to us that we know our family.

What was just as important was that we had a virtual family over here where we were the only branch of our family tree. I always marveled at the ease with which some people became aunts and uncles to us and at how some family friends never made it past the “Mr” and “Mrs” stage. Where was the line that those people never got across? Funnily enough, some of those Mr & Mrs couples and their kids are still people I consider family. I couldn’t not. There are also of course some members of my actual family that I hardly know at all.

  • When I was sick at school but my mom was at work I knew there was another home I could go to and be taken care of. It wasn’t an aunt who was home, it was Frau V–. Her three boys are like additional brothers to me even though we don’t see each other often. When she was sick and dying from cancer her daily question to my mom was “is the baby here yet?” but BoyGenius and Frau V– missed each other by 10 days. He knows all about her, though. She’s family.
  • If I needed a place to stay while my parents went on vacation, there was an aunt and uncle who would open their home. My cousins and I tried not to get into too much trouble during those two weeks but we certainly didn’t promise anything. I vaguely remember some broken furniture .. but it wasn’t anything serious. We had each others’ back — that’s what family does. Those people are family to me and I know their grandchildren, their great-granddaughter and their kids’ in-laws. Family.
  • When I told my then-manager that I needed a day off to attend my aunt’s funeral in my hometown she actually asked me if it was my mom’s sister or my dad’s. This manager knew (or should have known) that neither of my parents had any siblings here. She needed to justify (or not) the time off I was taking. My manager didn’t care that this woman was someone I had known and loved since I was 3 years old, that I had been through dark days with my aunt and her family. I couldn’t get a bereavement day because she wasn’t really my aunt and it wasn’t really convenient for me to be off. I took the day.
  • My cousins’ kids don’t call their aunts and uncles by “Aunt” and “Uncle.”  My cousins thought it was too formal and would make them feel too old fashioned .. not to mention too old. I think the kids have missed out. They all call each other by their first names and don’t seem to feel that close bond of “family.” They all get along just fine: brothers, in-laws, cousins, their in-laws, and now we have two new little grandsons in the mix; it just seems a bit distant, somehow.
  • My father’s cousin’s children always thought of my parents as Tante and Onkel and us as cousins (the proper title might be second-cousins or something similar). We are just cousins and to BoyGenius their kids are his cousins. We are family.
  • There are some branches of my family tree that I have only gotten to know through social networking sites like facebook. We are indeed blood relatives on my mother’s side but she had four brothers who spread across the country and didn’t do very well at keeping in touch with one another. My mom worked hard to keep in touch with her nieces and nephews and the internet has allowed me to get to know next generations. My family grows.
  • At my Aunt W’s 90th birthday party I was a little bit shocked when HardWorker asked my cousin, “So how do you guys know each other? How did you meet?” I was thrilled when my cousin, with a confused look on her face, answered, “We grew up together. We’re family.”

a great definition of "family"

Family isn’t necessarily born. In fact, some people strive to get away from their blood relations. Some people must get away from their blood relations. No question. I am lucky that this isn’t the case for me. Does that mean that those people don’t have or shouldn’t have people they call family? No. We are not defined by our families but I think how we define family certainly helps to define us. I have a heart that expands easily and tends towards including most people that I love in my definition of family. What this means is that I have a HUGE family (in my mind). It means I don’t have to explain the relationship when I say “that’s my uncle” (although with certain people I find I do still add “who’s not really my uncle” just for their own clarity). It means I don’t laugh at my Caribbean friends when they talk about some guy they barely know and say “oh yeah, I know him, he’s my cousin,” I just chuckle to myself and know exactly what they mean. It means I am thrilled to bits when my cousin posts some old photos on facebook. It means that a blogger I’ve never met who lives on the other side of the continent has just as big a place in my heart as the next family member in there. It means that I can’t hardly wait to meet two new little baby boys across the ocean or one newish little baby girl just a couple of hours away!

It also means it hurts when my best friend’s kids tell me they’re doing something “just family” on the weekend .. in their minds I’m not family; in my heart, they are. Our definitions differ at this time but that might change someday.

What does your definition of family look like?

Categories: family, friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

one bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch

Grade One. Every parent’s dream. BoyGenius’ only concerns about Grade One were 1) “there’s no Lego in the classroom” and B) “they’re going to make me do math.” He wasn’t completely chuffed about full days of school as opposed to half days but still seemed okay with it. Class lists go up, he’s in a split 1 / 2, with a teacher that I didn’t really know. When I asked those parents who did know of her, I didn’t get a very warm feeling. Still, we thought, he’ll be fine.  What could possibly go wrong in Grade One?

What was I thinking? What could possibly go wrong in Grade One? Let me see. Migraines. Inability to sleep through the night. Separation anxiety. Anxiety! Total loss of interest in school. Full on desire for homeschooling … in his words, “right through to university.” Poor academic performance. Personality change from Mr. Social to Wallflower. All in a matter of weeks. HardWorker and I were at our wits’ end. What the heck was going on? My gorgeous son was a wreck. BoyGenius’ Grade One teacher had been off the year before due to health issues. She started his Grade One year teaching part-time; she was back full-time at the end of October.  By the end of November BG’s life was a disaster zone. We asked him if anyone was bothering him at school. Nope. Did he like his teacher? Yup,  she’s “nice enough but she does yell a lot.” We got notes home saying BG was easily distracted and needed help finishing his work; couldn’t come up with story ideas. Every week, the same notes.

I approached our school’s head of Special Education. I didn’t know what else to do. She advised she would observe the class and “see where the difficulty is being generated.” After one visit she advised that she was no longer observing, she was stepping in. My education angel took BoyGenius out every day for weeks and spent time with him in the sensory and gross-motor rooms, settling him into his work upon returning him to class. It was grand. He was, if not exactly happy again, at least less resistant to the idea of school. Report cards came home in February (well, to be honest, BoyGenius’ report card went missing and didn’t come home when everyone else’s did) . BG was sick with worry (again) and didn’t want to go to school anymore. His report was pretty good, but he told me — through tears — that anything under an A was bad.

His report card said he would be “encouraged to write in complete sentences” and to work on his reading. Now I knew that these reports are just forms with drop-down boxes so I sent a note to his teacher asking just how he was going to be encouraged to do these things. After not getting a reply for almost two weeks I spoke with our SERT (special education resources teacher) again and remarkably got a call from the teacher the very next day, setting a meeting for the next day after that. BG’s teacher wanted to give me materials to allow me to work with him at home. I explained that he could read and write just fine at home and wondered what they would be doing for him in class. His teacher asked me how he liked the homework calendar/notebook that came home. I truthfully said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Apparently this was something that she had instituted a couple of weeks before our meeting .. but also apparently it didn’t matter that my son had never once brought homework back to school during those two weeks. She gave me a notebook and a calendar to take home. She said she had done a running record with him that afternoon; she reluctantly raised his reading level two steps. She said he struggled with comprehension on the lower level but was okay with it on the higher level story. Our SERT asked what the two stories were about and pointed out that he didn’t care what happened in the first one because it was about getting to school on time and BG didn’t even want to be at school. His teacher said he had problems with his “middle sounds” in words and that might be contributing to his reading issues. Our SERT did a running record with him the day after this meeting and amazingly his reading level jumped 4 steps … she wanted to go further but his teacher disagreed. The SERT put him on a computer program that she usually only started in grade two and found he breezed through about twenty levels and said he had no issues whatsoever with reading, pronunciation or comprehension. So what was the problem?

I started making BoyGenius’ issues general knowledge to any parent who would listen. They didn’t believe what they heard — not BoyGenius, he was “the coolest kid in Kindergarten!” I found that there were indeed a number of other parents who were experiencing challenges with their children in this same class. They all bickered and complained in the yard but only one other mother followed through with the administration. Others said “it’s too late now, it’s already March,” or “I don’t want any backlash from the teacher towards my child” or my personal favourite, “we’re just treating this year as a write-off.” Grade One — a write-off.

I did go to the principal. I did write a letter and have a face to face meeting. I did demand that something be done. I did put in a formal request for BoyGenius’ Grade Two placement. I did point out to the principal that the primary grades are the foundation for students’ educational careers and if they couldn’t be sucked into the culture of learning in those first three years then heaven help their teachers for the next ten. I did put the school on notice for the emotional well-being of my child. I did let them know that while I am definitely my son’s strongest advocate, I was appalled that I had to bring these issues to their attention when they should have been in contact with me since they saw him in this environment every day.

I did bring about a change. While BoyGenius’ Grade One teacher is still there, still teaching a 1 / 2 split, still being unable to exercise much control over what goes on in her classroom, the students she has this year are having a better time of it than those who had her last year. She is being more closely monitored by the administration, has apparently taken some direction. I feel less afraid and more happy for the grade ones she has this year.

What about BoyGenius, you ask? How is Grade Two? Night and day, my friends. He skips or dances to school every morning. He entertains. He is a “joy to have in the classroom” and quite frankly, back to being his brilliant self. He is apparently a natural leader as well as being one of the class clowns. He loves school, brings home one perfect math quiz after another and has the most diverse collection of books in his book box. His February report brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my soul. And he’s still complaining that there’s no Lego in the classroom.

Categories: family | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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