Family Vacation: 1979 Edition

We traveled a lot when I was growing up, but not the fancy trips on airplanes, hotels, or even overseas. We drove places, admired the beautiful scenery, read Archie comic books and library books, and stayed with family or friends of my parents.

For a full year leading up to the summer of 1979, we planned a 5-week family vacation.

Perspective Reminder: there was no such thing as a cell phone, internet, home computer, or even push-button telephones (we had rotary phones and only needed to dial the last 4 numbers if it was in town). 

Process: My mother either called or wrote letters to the Chamber of Commerce of numerous cities and small towns throughout the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest of the United States. Then we waited a week for the mail to come in: pamphlets, letters describing local interests and accommodations, brochures, etc.

Mom would lay out piles of these treasures on their king-sized bed for my brother, sister, and me to pore over and talk about what we thought sounded interesting or fun.

From all this information, plus taking into consideration where friends and family lived (Oregon and Montana for example), mom set the route. *Map to be included in the next post.

Also during this time, we either bought a Coleman pop-up camper or maybe just spruced it up. We were already serious camping people, often combined with lake or canoe trips, so the prospect of camping out for 5 weeks was not anything new in itself.

Dad also ordered a custom-made new Dodge Maxi-Van remarkably similar to the picture below I found online! That had to be a serious splurge they had saved up for! It was maroon and silver, and the custom part was how the two bench seats in the back could be configured: facing forward like normal, facing each other with a table in the middle, flat like a bed, or, our favorite for times when we drove for most of the day, a “lounge” with the back seat set regular, but the front seat flattened out. Cool!

NOTE: no one wore seat belts in 1979, so all of these configurations worked with no safety restrictions to ruin our fun. We could play cards at the table, read in our lounge, or sit on the seats facing forwards.

Kim always had dibs on the front and center bench, staring intently at the highway or road between mom and dad’s captain’s seats in the front because she would get car sick otherwise. Bob could read, sleep, sing, talk, or do whatever in a car. I was somewhere in between; as long as the road wasn’t too curvy, I was fine reading in the back or gazing out the side windows.

One other thing my dad created before our trip was what he called a “Grub Box.” If we were going to be camping out and cooking outdoors for 5 weeks, there were some things we needed to have readily available all the time. It was a wooden box approximately 3 feet square with a front that dropped down with chains on hinges to be a sort of table opening up to a mini-pantry with cubby holes. Salt, pepper, sugar, flour, some canned goods, and other non-refrigerated goods could all be stored neatly in the Grub Box. What a genius my dad was!

**This one is going for $335 on Etsy and is similar, but my dad came up with his own idea and made an even better one himself back then, before the Internet, Amazon, and Ikea.

We also had a large cooler we iced up and drained at every possible stop to keep things like milk, cheese, mayonnaise, hot dogs and the like.

Man, were my parents amazing planners! They really thought of everything!

International affairs nearly spoiled the whole thing and we almost did not get to take this incredible journey. If you are old enough to remember, there was an oil crisis to do mostly with events in Iran. With the serious spike in gas prices, doubling the cost per gallon, my parents were uncertain we could still afford to take such a long trip in a big van pulling a camper.

But we did …

**Trip stories in subsequent posts this month**

Teacher Shortage

That is my prediction for the upcoming school year. I’ve already seen 5 posts for teacher positions, just in my area of World Languages. Many who are near retirement, who I thought would have taught forever, are leaving .. happily. Many who are young in the profession, less than 5 years, are moving on to do something else.

I’m personally leaning towards that first category as I near the close of my 28th year as a teacher. Or, at least in December I was 95% I would retire and do something else, almost anything else! The first semester of this year was horrendous in so many ways. I know, poor students, poor parents, poor administrators – sure, but I don’t have that perspective, so I won’t speak for anyone else.

What I do know is that this semester, with a strong feeling that deadlines and clear expectations that we stick to are healthy for students and teachers alike, I have felt at least close to being a teacher rather than a creator of content on Google Slides and Screencastify videos that no one but myself looked at or watched. When I say, “This assignment is due by X date and I expect X quality,” my students have risen to the occasion and manage – they know what to expect and do quality work. I have stuck to my word on deadlines and students have done assignments by those deadlines – they can and they will if you clearly communicate that expectation – and back it up. We have an “Amnesty Day” box where they can turn in 2 late assignments for 50% credit, like in many years past, and they understand that. Sometimes we don’t get everything done, but we have a little bit of relief.

What is unhealthy is, “You didn’t manage to get anything done for my class for a whole week, missed class on 1 of the 3 whole days you promised to attend, and didn’t communicate with me at all during that whole time? No problem, I’ll sit down with you, ignore the students who came to school 5 days and did all their work, and I’ll hold your hand for 3 more weeks while you get this one, simple assignment done while I think for you.”

Better yet, “You chose to self-quarantine for 2 weeks for no justifiable reason (no state competition, no family member at health risk, etc), complete zero assignments during this time, do not review the slides I’ve been required to prepare for students who choose not to come to school, do not communicate with me that entire time, and today, when you return, would like to know what you can do for my class.”

Thinking: What you can do for my class is either learn Spanish or drop, child! Thankfully, one mother had the brilliance to be angry with all her child’s teachers for NOT holding him accountable – she doesn’t have a leg to stand on to discipline him if he is now allowed to do EVERYTHING he did not do during his self-imposed 2-week vacation.

That was an eye-opener because I know that we teachers felt like we HAD to give these poor traumatized children a billion opportunities to wake up, get up, get dressed, and do almost nothing. How is that healthy for anyone? I felt so supported and … normal by that parent’s perspective!

We talk about post-pandemic strategies and all. Well, normalcy is a GREAT relief, right? No masks, hanging out with friends, expectations, … homework for hours, being overwhelmed with college applications, mock exams all weekend, juggling work and school, juggling work, athletics, family, and school, juggling…well, juggling is normal, right? Welcome back to real life.

Another thing I’ll be glad to say goodbye to is allowing students to NOT come to school so that they can take on the role of their parents: babysitting siblings, cousins, neighbors, or being a major wage-earner for the household. I don’t argue that many families need some extra income to make ends meet. My 16-year-old student, however, should NOT have to choose between coming to school and going to work – their education is precisely what will keep them out of that SAME cycle of poverty they are in right now with their family. They have opportunities and a positive future and need to be supported and pushed to pursue their own dreams and possibilities! I’m not certain many businesses in my community have been supportive of education during this time. Hello, Northwest Arkansas: Your employees who are 18 and younger and in school should be expected to participate in all academic, athletic, and social activities and CERTAINLY not have to choose work over education on a weekday! School first – not work.

The news that my district will NOT offer the Blended option for next year was the best news I’ve had professionally since over a year ago! I’m now about 40/60 on returning to school next year! I assure you, that is not wishy-washy, that is a 55% swing in emotions, feeling, passion. Coming back to school after Spring Break, I feel so much freer and have felt so much joy interacting with my students and feeling like a TEACHER again! Personal, human interaction is so life-affirming! I love my students and they learn so well with expectations and deadlines.

I hope administrators and especially, ESPECIALLY legislators, [who traditionally know NOTHING about education as an institution, other than the fact that they possibly attended some schools along the way to their position to show up with the craziest ideas for bills ever – ok, maybe that’s just Arkansas? … ok, not you, Megan Godfrey], will truly consider the situation as we end this year.

What are districts, states, and the national government doing to support educators at every level? To make things easier while maintaining reasonable accountability?

How are you feeling about the 2021-2022 school year? Will we have a teacher shortage or will we all return to school?

“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying…”

My mom is a voracious reader and instilled in my siblings and me a love of reading and books – real, physical, books.

A while back she was reading The Library Book, by Susan Orleans, and took some notes on Chapter 8 about our memories, our mothers, and books; these resonated with me.

The author says that she felt that if she wrote down her memories they would be saved, somehow. “The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to be forgotten…” This is definitely an older, or at least more mature, experienced person’s perspective. I am certain I would not have connected with this idea and probably would have thought it morbid, when I was 22 or even 35.

As the mother of 4 grown children and 2 step-children, as well as the proud grandmother of the most impressive, beautiful, funny granddaughter (that’s definitely a new perspective on life), that fear that Susan Orleans mentions is very real, almost tangible.

It starts with this fear of not being recognized – by my nieces and nephews that I don’t see very often, or my sweet, precious granddaughter. I feel very urgent about weird things: “What if she never reads this specific Mother Goose Rhyme?” or “I must sing ___ song to her on my next visit.” Her parents read with her and sing to her – does it really matter what those books or songs are? Well … yes, because they are connected to me, to my mother, to my upbringing, my brother and sister, to my parenthood memories of raising my children.

So I have started feeling the urge to write over the past 5-6 years. The living room, my bedroom, my office room (not-so-endearingly called the junk room), my school bags are all littered with multiple journals filled with random thoughts, ideas for fiction and non-fiction, teaching plans and ideas for writing (there is another area of fear as I reach retirement age – “everyone should know ___ or how will they survive without me?”), and the typical Dear Diary entries about my feelings, my joys and frustrations, my surgeries, my journeys. .

If someone could make heads or tails (tales?) of anything I have in there, it could turn into a mini-library of its own! Therefore, I have these dreams to do that myself – write! Be a writer! It sounds so romantic to take each of those ideas, one day at a time, and develop it into a lovely story, book of vignettes, blog post, children’s book or series, or best-selling novel.

Ms. Orleans says, “Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.” Maybe that’s what Salvador Dalí was telling us in his painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” with the melting clocks? I need to defy time, be more defiant, and write more intentionally.

“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his/her library has burned … But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it – with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited, it takes on a life of its own.”

Wow. I can’t stop thinking about that saying.

My sister Kim put it like this: “I think it means that what is important to us, our experiences and times, and all we know, dies with us. And even though we get interested in personal history(ies), when we get older it is because we don’t want people still here to forget our library. … What we won’t forget, and grieve the loss of, is our time and those deeply important experiences with our closest family. Like the snow stories. [family sledding stories] Those hit a nerve with me … they just brought to the surface life as it should be, almost like the Wimpy Kid stories.”

“Our trip in ‘79,” is a phrase that has begun many a tale told to my children – so often it inspires an eye roll followed by, “Yes, we know, mom. You’ve told us that before.” Kim, Bobby (brother), and I merely have to say, “Look at those sheer crags!” and a knowing, loving smile will appear on our faces, and if we’re in the same room, peels of laughter will break out and all three of us know that all’s right with the world again.

I’ve become my mother, for better or worse, and the similarity comes with that instinctive urge to share everything I know, my memories, with those I love because the fear is real.

“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying.”

**All quotes, other than the one at the end by my sister, are from my mother’s notes on the book, The Library Book, by Susan Orleans.

Southern Sledding Stories

Arkansas is the Winter Wonderland of the Sledding South. Didn’t you know that? I grew up in Mountain Home in north, central Arkansas, close to the Missouri border. As its name suggests, Mtn. Home is nestled in the Ozark foothills and, as a summer bonus, between two pristine Corps of Engineers man-made lakes. In the 1960s it was a cute, small village where everybody knew everyone else.

In 1968 my parents finished building our home next door to dad’s parents. The houses sat on two sides of the best sledding hill around! Our grandparent’s side was steeper and led past Cardinal Drive, after a zag left to avoid the telephone pole, down Buzzard Roost Road towards Indian Creek where the “new” Cooper Park is located. Our side of the hill was a little less steep, but had an outstanding zig-zag in the road at the bottom adding to the challenge, and continued to the Ostrowski’s house by a little creek there as well that ended any progress you had made. Truthfully, it was the rare run that continued that far and was worthy of bragging rights for the rest of the winter and into the next!

I’m fifty four and just this week my mother shared a story with my siblings and me that astounded us.

Something you may not know about sledding history in our family. Spring Street was a great place to ride a sled to the west. If you got a good start you could veer to the left and then to the right and make it all the way to the Ostrowskis. The best time to do this was at night when everything was frozen solid and no cars were out and about. We had little children in bed so we didn’t go out together. We took turns. Rock would stay in the doorway to watch me while listening for the little ones. I would have a great ride and bring the sled back. Rock would then make a run while I watched and listened. It was a great spirit-freeing experience. We usually each took 2-3 turns.

Hilarious! What cool parents! The “west” side had to be used for these evening adventures because the spouse who was sledding could be seen from our doorway almost as far as they could go.

One year when we were old enough to bundle up and go out to play in the snow to make snowballs and sled a little, mom took forever bundling me up – like the kid in “A Christmas Story” that could barely move. I finally got out the front door and my own father threw a snowball at me, hit me square in the face, and had me crying and returning to undo all mom’s hard work. I was done!

Any kid worth their salt harbors a deep seething anger towards snow plows and gravel trucks. I recall being quite flabbergasted by the gravel truck’s purpose in life. Who on earth would do such a thing and why? Surely nothing positive could come from gravel on the best sledding hill around? And, who sent it here? If my grandparents, parents, and our neighbors were ok with an amazing Winter Wonderland of a street, why should anyone else butt in?

From Bob Engeler: The Last Great Snow at 915 Spring. Like the Piss Up a Rope story*, it starts with, “Bobby, go away!” It was a good deep snow, and word around the neighborhood was that the snow plow was already clearing the streets. We were appalled and all agreed that we would throw snowballs at it when it came to our street. So like the righteous warrior, I didn’t play in the snow but waited more than an hour for the plow’s approach, street by street. Finally it came up Mimi’s side of the hill (our grandparents’ side) and I ran to that side of the street’s stash of snowballs. I timed my throw perfectly right at the drivers side window…..

Suspense. Which was wide open. And I nailed him right in the neck.

Standard procedure for this kind of situation is to–as soon as you see brake lights–Run Away. I don’t know if I was just too impressed with my incredible accuracy, confused that he actually had his window down, or petrified I was going to be “In Trouble,” but I just stood there with my mouth open as he stopped and slowly, slowly backed back up the hill. I stood there agog as he laid out the standard “you coulda put an eye out, kid” mixed with a pinch of “you kids these days.” And then he drove on. And stood there guilty and victorious. And looking at the slickest, most tightly packed, fastest sledding hill I had ever experienced…and it lasted for 3 days.

Our oldest, and coolest, cousin Margee – whom we all obey no matter what – had a story to tell as well. Most likely when we were too little to participate, she and two friends, Renee Crawford and Margie Collie, were sledding on the steep side of our awesome hill. At the time, Margee lived with her parents, my Aunt Buff and Uncle John, a ways down Buzzard Roost Road on 4th Street, so it was within walking distance – well, in those days we would walk anywhere!

I hit the snowbank at the bottom of Spring Street! We couldn’t negotiate the turn! Renee fell off halfway down the hill. After I hit the snowbank, both ankles rolled under the sled. Margie pulled the sled off and then pulled off my right boot. My ankle was already swelling! Uncle Rock was already on his way down the hill. He pulled me back up the hill on the sled and then carried me inside of Mimi”s house. My hero! [Mimi is our grandmother, Rock is my dad].

Growing up in Mountain Home, Arkansas was truly idyllic! We had friends, family, sledding, summer lake skiing, swim team, neighborhood biking without parents, and all the youthful fun you can imagine!

Feliz Navidad 2020 y Próspero Año 2021

Mentioning the year 2020 immediately raises most people’s blood pressure or instant grief or negative thoughts. It has inspired unique creativity in the meme world, which definitely helps relieve stress. Normally optimistic folks who take on challenges for fun have either stopped trying new things or complain more than usual. Granted, between 9 months of COVID living, racial strife, ugly political leadership, and so many changes to the perceived normal, we’re all a little on edge and a little more quick to pout or quit. Personally, 2020 will forever hold several monumental happy memories for me.

The first two events are intertwined. First, it’s the year my daughter and I spent nearly 24/7 together from February to August. Emily came home from China for Christmas break and the day she was set to fly back, February 9th, every airline cancelled all flights overseas – she was home to stay! Since I had just had my right knee replacement surgery on February 4th (positive event number 2), and she was completely my right-hand girl, this was not sad news to me. I’ve always pushed my children to go, go, go explore the world, try new things, go places! Since she couldn’t go anywhere, I felt personally blessed to have her with me. She did more than the obvious: drove me to physical therapy twice a week, drove me to school and back home, brought me things when I was too tired to get up, made me get up when I was too tired to get up. She watched funny shows to cheer me up, made me join her YouTube drawing lessons, walked with me, talked with me, drew with me, wrote with me, read with me. Replacing my horribly worn-out right knee could not have been more positive, due to Dr. Hanby and Emily Rose.

Event number three was left total knee replacement. Again, Emily was there for me and we kept learning new things, dreaming about what we wanted to do, watching more Taskmaster, and recuperating. By the end of July I was slowly playing tennis again – just standing and hitting at first – but I played my first doubles match in early August and it was a phenomenal feeling to play tennis with no pain in my knees! After not playing for 6 months, almost every other part of my body ached, but it was such a good feeling!

Next, my granddaughter Piper Joy turned a year old on August 5th. Julius and Nicole made the trip north to celebrate with GP Rains, Mama Elena, and Ganny Haynes and it was simply wonderful to see her after 8 months of separation! Julius and Nicole were wonderful about sending pictures, taking time to FaceTime on the weekends, and sharing her growth and changes with us, but seeing that beautiful, funny personality in our home in Arkansas was priceless!

After school started (crazy, blended, insane, sometimes illogical system that it has become), and I got a bit of a feel for what my year was going to look like, Fred and I decided to have our Vow-Renewal Wedding as planned. Well, not exactly as planned, but at the Christian Life Cathedral Chapel on our 30th anniversary, and live-streamed with limited, socially-distanced seating! My best friend Kristen Novotny planned and took care of about 90% of every detail, with Fred’s help on decisions. This left Fred and me free to meet with Pastor Ron Harris for counseling, growth, and planning for our Covenant Marriage ceremony. We enjoyed taking care of what details we could before we left for Florida, like shopping for outfits and buying lovely “past, present, and future” rings! With the benefit of two “Remote Learning” days which were designated “recuperation days” for teachers, students, and everyone involved in school, we headed to Florida. While there we had the time and separation from daily life to focus on our vows, the details of the ceremony, and ourselves. We chose songs to play with a slideshow we put together, decided on songs for during the ceremony (thanks to Aunt Nancy and Uncle David), and then a playlist for after the ceremony. With Pastor Ron’s direction, we discussed our Core Values, and took care of our extensive list of questions for homework. While some friends and family were able to attend the ceremony on Sunday, October 25th, most watched from the safety of their homes, sharing sweet comments on the FB Live Stream. The day was so special for both Fred and me: our best friends from college repeated as our Best Man (Gred McCone), and Maid/Matron of Honor (Irene Larson Dacus), my best friend organized everything, our daughter selected and sang “Tightrope” from “The Greatest Showman,” both my parents walked me down the aisle, and our friends Jared and Tanya Park carried a picture of Fred’s parents down the aisle. We have video, pictures, and a lovely framed picture with signatures to constantly remind us of this special day and our re-dedication to each other. Kristen collaborated with Fred, my children, Irene, Nicole, and others to ensure everything was wonderful for us. Fred made sure the day happened – for me, for him, for us, for our children. I have the most beautiful 3-stone diamond ring smiling at me every day as a reminder of our past, present, and future together!

On another professional note, we still managed to have a large number of students in Springdale apply for and earn the Arkansas Seal of Biliteracy during the Pandemic – nothing will hold some people back! Young people are resilient. Don’t let them think this is completely negative – ¡Sí, se puede! Yes, you can! Making excuses has been a problem to deal with. Perspective: if everyone on the planet is dealing with masks & COVID, you are not unique and you can’t claim “adversity,” the meaningless sports claim. Not for everyday tasks that a person can definitely perform. Make excuses and underachieve all you want, but many people are completely overcoming every obstacle thrown at them – racism, COVID, extreme poverty, language barriers, lack of resources. With excuses, you will be left in the dust. [Note: I am very aware that many people who were already struggling with anxiety, stress, and other mental illnesses, or simply needed counseling to deal with life, were hit especially hard with the isolation and differences in a COVID life. This is NOT what I mean by “making excuses;” rather, I am talking about kids and parents who have no real excuse, but use them as a crutch.]

Finally, with the support of an excellent principal in the best school district in the region, surrounded by outstanding teachers and an especially team-oriented World Language department, and of course, my best friend Kristen Novotny, the fall semester was an interesting experience. I’m not a liar – there were definite moments, days, and even a few weeks of extreme frustration and mind-blowing, life-altering situations. However, we all felt “in it together” and sometimes together against the world. We were always supported to do not just what was right for the student, but what was best for me personally so that I could survive, continue, and not give up. So much support from so many sides made it all possible and even positive overall because, after 27.5 years, I learned a great deal.

Here we are, December 31, 2020. We celebrated Christmas with all our children, our sweet, perfect granddaughter, friends, and even with family thanks to FaceTime and Zoom. We watched Christmas movies, hung the lights, sang the carols, read the Advent Calendar posts, wrapped and opened gifts, and played with Piper. [My children are amazing aunts and uncles!] Heading into 2021, we have to face the reality that our COVID situation continues and we absolutely must be diligently safe for everyone’s sake, regardless of personal safety ideas or incorrect philosophies. A vaccination has arrived on the scene, but it’s so early in the process, we have to hold strong on mask-wearing, hand-washing (still can’t believe so many needed reminding to wash hands after going to the bathroom – gross – so please continue that for the rest of your life), and socially distancing regardless of supposedly-important shopping needs or desperate need for bars (is the need for strangers so important?).

We can do it, people! Remember that “freedom” does not mean that you can do whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want…because I have rights, too. We all do – so wear your masks, treat everyone (of every race, social status, religious belief, political belief), with respect and kindness, and continue to stay at home when you can. These aren’t “limitations” but rather “measures” to keep us safe while still doing, mostly, what we want or need to do. Family game nights, family pizza nights, and family movie nights are on the rise – keep up the traditions! If you don’t have a family to stay at home with, invite 2-3 people to be part of your bubble and go out of your way to plan weekly, fun activities either in person or through technology!

I wish you all a wonderful, positive, memorable 2021 – but hopefully memorable for different reasons!

#blacklivesmatter #2bilit2quit

Leer con los hijos: 5 beneficios [2017 dic]

Leer es la actividad más importante que hacemos con nuestros hijos que los impacta ampliamente. Mientras leemos, todas las lecciones de la vida se enseñan y por eso la discusión sobre otras actividades es irrelevante. Leer puede ser el empiezo y la manera obvia o sutil para abordar todos los demás temas. Sin duda, debemos hacer otras cosas con ellos, pero leer es un elemento que no se puede minimizar ni eludir.

#1 – Compañerismo. No importa si tienes un hijo único o varios, un niño o una niña, existe intimidad en compartir experiencias tras leer. Ahora tenemos experiencias, temas y fondos para discutir. Tenemos referencias, ejemplos y perspectivas comunes. Experimentamos con la fantasía y aprendemos a soñar y a tener esperanza.

#2 – Aumentar el vocabulario y desarrollar el alfabetismo. Para tener éxito en la escuela y el resto de la vida, no hay nada mejor que podemos hacer para afectar su éxito en la escuela. Ellos saben más, han visto más (aunque sea tras ilustraciones o fotos), y han tenido más contacto con más ideas, temas, perspectivas. La lectura afectará su nivel de lectura (sin duda), los estudios sociales, las matemáticas, las ciencias, las habilidades con computación, cursos de elección, y todo tipo de éxito en todas las áreas de la vida. Puede hasta influir en la espiritualidad y sistema de creencias porque aunque los iniciamos en su camino, tendrán la habilidad de leer autónomamente y crecer personalmente en este sistema de creencia cuando estén más grandes, si son capaces.

#3 – Desarrollo de los Padres. Sí, todo el mundo puede continuar aprendiendo, madurar y desarrollarse. No se termina en el grado 5, ni en el 10, y mucho menos al graduarse del colegio o la universidad. Continuaremos aprendiendo palabras, sobre culturas, de la gente, sobre materias hasta el día de nuestra muerte . Cuando leemos con nuestros hijos, su inocencia al hacer preguntas, sus perspectivas nos causan pensar profundamente y aprender a expresar de una manera cariñosa sus peticiones sinceras por dirección y entendimiento. No es suficiente decirles, “Simplemente es así.” Nos desafían.

#4 – La Conciencia. Cuando seleccionamos ficción y no ficción apropiada pero estimulante basada en los intereses de los hijos, aprenden más sobre el mundo a su alrededor: las culturas, la historia, maneras de expresarse, perspectivas, valores, creencias, celebraciones. ¿Por qué dijo eso o se portó la niña así? ¿Por qué esta familia celebra así? ¿Por qué celebramos o no celebramos nosotros algo? ¿Cómo es posible que los aviones vuelen? ¿Cómo funciona el aparato digestivo? ¿Por qué creen alguna gente en cosas diferentes? ¿Por qué trataron / tratan alguna gente a otra gente de esta manera? ¿Por qué tengo pecas?

#5 – Curiosidad, Interés. Aunque esto es similar a todo ya mencionado, es importante. Es una gran lección aprender que se puede leer lo que quiera, deja de leer algo que te aburre, etc. Cuando los hijos son más jóvenes es tan importante seguir con sus intereses, pero que hagamos las selecciones o mínimo guiarlos con firmeza para que los libros estén apropiados para el hijo. Tú eres la persona que debe conocer mejor a tu hijo, no son los maestros, los trabajadores de la guardería, ni los abuelos (al menos que tienes el papel doble de padre-abuelo), ni hasta los amigos. Leer te deja conocer profundamente al hijo. Compartir tus intereses y preferencias, sí, sirve, pero leer con los hijos tiene que ver con cultivar SUS intereses y preferencias.

Leer, discutir, reírse, disfrutar. El tiempo con nuestros hijos es precioso y una responsabilidad grave, pero debe ser divertido en vez de un trabajo pesado. Es nuestro trabajo alegre. Quién sabe, posiblemente ellos te conocerán de ti en el proceso también. ¡Anímate!

Why should you maintain your Heritage Language with your children.

Razones para mantener su idioma natal con sus hijos.

Know the Bent of Your Child

That is the title of the entry on page 83 in my book, 15 Minutes Alone With God by Emilie Barnes [Harvest Press, 1994]. It was my first non-fiction, prayer book ever. I was less than 10 years into my marriage and had already faced several serious marriage-threatening situations with my husband and life-threatening situations with the children. I recently picked this one up again, having finished Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and did not have another daily devotional for my silent time each morning. I am now 52 and my children are 27, 26, 25, almost 24, 23, and almost 22. My oldest is married and just announced they are pregnant and due in August. This is a different perspective from my original reading.

The quote I wrote down says that this is what our children want to say: “Please take time to know me. I am different from anyone else. My sensitivity, my likes, dislikes, tenderness of heart are different from my brothers and sisters.” The one thing I certainly learned as the mother of 6: they are all so different. The way you treat them, discipline them (P.S. please do this, in some form or fashion), listen to them, encourage them, and reward them has to be unique. But how to be fair? It’s so challenging.

To my grown children: I apologize for the many parenting mistakes I made raising you. I apologize for my many faults which affected how you were raised.

Parenting is an extreme sport. It is not for the weak. It is for the adventurous, the crazy, the creative, the dedicated. Most of us set off on this path with a lot of plans: “I’m not doing this like my parents did,” or the exact opposite. The most humbling lesson was learning that my parents were nearly always right. I’m blessed that way, but as a supremely stubborn, independent person, it was also difficult to swallow. I always wanted to think I managed this all on my own; I don’t need anyone’s help or advice! Oh, and maybe with my husband’s help. The farther I get along the parenting experience timeline, the more I realize that anything positive I ever did was like my parents. My husband would probably say the same since his parents raised 15 children and still leave me quite awestruck.

As the mother of four and two step-children, the only thing I know in my heart to be true, that maybe, possibly a parent of one or, say, a parent of one boy and one girl may not know, is that truly every child is indeed different. It has nothing to do with gender necessarily. “The Birth Order” book by Kevin Leman has a lot of accurate observations and helpful advice. He is an outstanding speaker, by the way. However, while parents should listen to all the advice they can, whether to heed such information is up to us. “Know The Bent of Your Child” (not, know your child is bent, but that may also be the case): what works for one child will not work for another and can actually have negative effects.

This is where it starts getting crazy: birth order, gender, the willful child (when you were that exact willful child, who is now a willful adult), personality types, learning styles, interests, and that’s just the children. My husband and I are opposites, which mostly works for us – complementary strengths and weaknesses and all – but when faced with four to six children, we were not always on the same page. There were often eight different opinions floating around our house!

I think our biggest fault was, while trying to be fair, we treated them all the same. It’s logical, isn’t it?

Being fair on play time, curfews, when to get technology, and general rules is not the challenge. It’s what to do about it when the rules or expectations have been broken. For one child, if they ever even did accidentally break a rule (their personality would not let them), just a disappointed face from us in his or her direction was almost too harsh. The next child won’t stick to the rules to save their hide – like their mother. A disappointed face is almost a badge to this personality type. Tell me I can’t and I definitely will. And what are you going to do about it? Bless my mother. “My Bold One,” was what her friend Peggy called me and my mother often uses that term, bold, in a polite way, probably tongue-in-cheek for stubborn.

Remember that a logical brain does not develop in children until around the age of twelve – just before puberty completely blows their circuit system. By the time they recover from this electrical disaster, pride and fear of failure have reared their ugly heads to shut you out; especially from any sage advice you may have to offer.

From the perspective of this half-century-old woman who has traveled the world, worked with all ages Kindergarten through adults in education, led classes at church, and to whom many students, current and former, come to for advice on a variety of subjects, it is so logical, makes so much common sense that my children would love to sit in rapt attention to anything I wish to say. This does not happen, even when they seem marginally ok with us in general, or even proud of us (gasp!), when their friends ask us for advice and actually listen. What is wrong with them?

I know I never wanted to hear anything my parents had to say, even though my parents were both more experienced and smarter and more patient than I will ever be. I was offended by their suggestions. Do they think I’m stupid? I was actually doing stupid things, making ignorant decisions (as a teen and in college), but couldn’t they see I was smart? As an new parent I always thought: “Do they think I haven’t been paying attention? I’ve got this.”

Being a Teacher is like being a Parent: I tell my students something constantly, but when a guest speaker or other teacher says the exact same thing, we see the light bulb go off over our students’ collective head and they are so grateful SOMEONE finally said something useful. Eye roll.

We parents were once children (no, really, we were), and expect our children to act, react the same way we did. Never happens. It’s like a trick by our Maker – payback time.

That’s the Extreme Sport of it. We are not in control. We never were. The Bible verse Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it,” does not mean they will never makes mistakes. As a Spanish teacher, I’m excellent at interpreting, so I will interpret this for you: Do your best, what you truly think is best for your child at every possible moment, and then pray constantly, have faith, and trust a hope.

Children are humans and have been gifted with free will, not their parents’ will. So don’t freak out when they screw up along the way – at 5, 15, or even 50! (Sorry, Nellie Faye). They make their choices. They will makes mistakes just like you did, just possibly different ones. It takes a village, right? Support them, pray with and for them, love them unconditionally, and forgive them – often. And sister, pray for the village.

Taking Care of Death: Before It Happens

What happens when you enter your 40s, 50s, 60s? We all think about ourselves, yes? Old bones, not as spry as we used to be? Or proud to be active and healthy, despite the large number of your age? Maybe thinking about how great or horrible it is to be an Empty Nester? Probably all of the above in some way or another.

However, something we SHOULD HAVE thought about, talked about, and planned for was how to take care of our parents. I’m wondering how on earth I could have broached the subject when I was younger and obsessed with my own life, my children’s lives, my career, etc. I think that if my parents had been the ones to bring it up, I would have been willing, but yes, it would have been awkward. It is awkward.

Now that my siblings and I are in a position to START a financial discussion with our parents, who are barely in their 80s, and had always focused on us when we were growing up, doing things with and for us, we now find they did not plan well for retirement. We’re lucky to have them around, but we’re pretty late getting in the planning game.

So, if you are 40, 50, or even 30 or 60, take care of it yourself – for yourself – and find these documents online, through work resources maybe, or go to a lawyer (money $$):

  • Power of Attorney – financial
  • Living Will – medical
  • Last Will and Testament

You do have to get them notarized, but that’s way simpler than you may think; we went to the UPS office with my parents! **Note, you need to bring witnesses with you that are NOT in the documentation. We missed that part and the UPS lady went out of the store and found “Chris” to sign for us – she didn’t even know his last name. Crazy!

None of these affect you now (yes, I’m talking about you getting these documents in order for yourself now, not burdening your children or family later – you are now the PARENT, ADULT). They all simply provide your children, spouse, or whomever you choose, the ability and legal right to take care of you if you are unable to do so yourself.

It’s not fatalistic or morbid to take care of things while you can. Imagine your loved ones sitting around powerless and directionless if something should happen to you. Do you want life support or to withdraw everything but pain meds? Who makes that decision? Do you already have funeral arrangements made? A headstone? Do you want to be cremated or buried in a coffin? Who will pay for it? Does Life Insurance? Let your family know!

My husband and I are planning to live at least until 95! However, we are not in control of that outcome. Therefore, we need to make all those decisions, and many others, ourselves. We will find the forms to put it in writing. We will make sure our family is aware and then…live life! Have fun!

Reading With Children: 5 Benefits

The most important thing parents can do to help our children overall in life is to read with them. While reading, all life lessons can be taught, so other arguments about what is more important are mute, because reading can always be the springboard and more subtle, or overt, way to broach all other subjects. Yes, we should do other things with them, but this is an element that cannot be shirked or minimized.

#1 – Togetherness. Whether you have one child or multiples, boys or girls, there is an intimacy in sharing experiences through reading. We now have common experiences, topics, and backgrounds to talk about. We have common references, examples, and perspectives.

#2 – Vocabulary and Literacy Building. For success in school and therefore for the rest of their life, there is nothing we can do that will positively affect their success in school. They know more, have seen more (even if it’s only in pictures or illustrations), and have been exposed to more ideas, topics, perspectives. Reading will affect their reading (um, obviously), social studies, math, science, computer skills, electives, and all other success in every area of life. It can even affect their spirituality and belief systems because, though we start them on their path, they will have the ability to read independently and grow personally in that belief system when they are older, if they are capable.

#3 – Parents’ Growth. Yes, we can all continue to learn and grow. We’re not done in 5th grade, 10th grade, upon high school or even college graduation. We will continue learning words, learning about cultures, about people, about subjects until the day we die. When we read with our children, their innocence in questioning, their different perspectives cause us to think profoundly and learn to express in a loving way their genuine requests for guidance and understanding. It’s not enough to just say, “That’s just the way it is.” They challenge us.

#4 – Awareness. When we select appropriate but challenging fiction and nonfiction based on our children’s interests, they learn more about the world around them: cultures, history, ways of expressing themselves, perspectives, values, beliefs, celebrations. Why did that girl say that or act that way? Why does that family celebrate that way? Why do we (or don’t we) celebrate something? How do planes fly? How does the digestive system work? Why do some people believe different things? Why did / do people treat others that way? Why is my skin brown?

#5 – Curiosity, Interest. Though this is similar to both #5 and maybe all of the above, this is important. It’s a great lesson to learn that you can read what you like, stop reading books that don’t keep your interest, etc. When children are younger it is so important to follow their interests, but do the choosing or at least guide firmly, so they are appropriate for your child. You are the one who is supposed to know your child best, not teachers, not day care workers, not grandparents (unless you’re in a dual role as parent-grandparent), not friends. Reading allows you to know your child very well. Sharing your interests and preference is fine, but reading with our children is about nurturing THEIR interests and preferences.

Read, discuss, laugh, enjoy. Time with our children is precious and a grave responsibility, but should be fun, not a grind. It’s our joyful job and privilege. Who knows, they may learn a lot about you in the process. Go for it!

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