What Will They Remember?

I wonder what my kids will remember.

I think I will remember the sideways, white rain I saw through the window behind Jay.  It was the sound of stuff banging around on the porch and the sideways rain that told me it was time to take cover.

I will remember the strange calm that came over my two sweet kids as we sat it out at the bottom of our basement steps in the dark.  “This is an adventure. We will be fine.  Tornadoes are over very quickly.”

I will remember that all of the neighbors resurfaced from their basements at the same time.  “Are you ok?  Yes.  Are you guys ok?”

    

I will remember texting nearby friends…thanksgiving after thanksgiving as each one of them replied that they were safe.

I will remember learning through our spotty cell connection that friends had lost their entire home.  Everything.  In the dark of our living room there was no way to hide the reality from our kids.  Later, with tears running down my cheeks, Chica asked, “Mom, are you crying?”  Yes.

I will remember that Nana’s house didn’t lose power, and we had a place to go.  Unlike so many friends, we could get out of our neighborhood easily.

I’ll remember that I tried to do homework on our unexpected day off, but I spent much more time scrolling Facebook, overcome by thankfulness for the good in our community.

I hope my kids’ memories are slightly different.

I hope my kids remember playing Catan by headlamp.

I hope Bubba remembers losing his first tooth at Nana’s while we waited for power to return.

And perhaps most importantly, I hope they both remember that people are more important than stuff, and we will do everything we can to protect them when scary things happen.  And when we can’t protect them, God can.

There are reports of 20-25 families in Elon that lost their homes.  Here are links to a way to help two families that we know:
https://www.gofundme.com/24dvh5h8
https://www.gofundme.com/5ev5htk

 

 

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Surprised By Yes

I find myself saying no often as a mom.  Yesterday the no’s included:

No, Chica, you cannot play Minecraft on that one morning where you’re actually ready for school early.  In a strange turn of events, you’re distracting Bubba.  Sorry.

No, you cannot keep playing when it’s time to go.

No, you will not get a treat if you don’t eat your sandwich.  My answer hasn’t changed since the last seven times you asked me.

There are other frequent no’s:

No, you can’t knock on your friend’s door at 6:45 on a school night.  I know we just got home, but your friend is probably already getting his shower.  And nope, 7:30 on Saturday morning just won’t work either, Bud.

No, we’re not going to sign you up for a sport right now.  I’m barely holding on to our current commitments.

No, we’re not getting a pet.  I don’t like/need/believe in/want to take care of/have time for pets. No no no.

And then the one that crushes me a little every time:

No, I can’t do (fill-in-the-blank) with you right now.  I have homework.  Lots of it.

I worry about that all the time.  I worry that this is what they will remember and what will define these years for them.  When I shared that worry with a friend last week, she said, “No.  They will remember a mom who had a goal and worked hard to achieve it.”

I hope you’re right.

——————–

Friday nights are usually my one night off.  The week is a hard push to Thursday, my class night.  Thursday nights, after class, are for catching up on all the balls I’ve dropped during the week.  By Friday I’m just over it.  I declare to my unsurprised family every Friday, “I’m doing nothing tonight.  No-thing.”  I want to curl up on the couch and spend the evening in an internet mind-suck, guilt free.

Last night I had the phone in hand, pillows propped just right, and blanket pulled up, when Bubba decided to join me.  He pushed his way up into the warm corners in the way that only he can do.  “Can we play a board game?”

No. This is my night.  My night to lay here and be warm and numb and do nothing.

But, I said: Yes.  It was an “ok-I-guesssss-sooooo” kind of yes, but still a yes.

He was surprised.  I was surprised.  Jay was surprised.  Bubba rushed into Chica’s room to grab Chutes and Ladders before I could change my mind.

So here’s the biggest surprise of all: I had fun.

Here’s why…
1. Apparently Jay and Bubba played Chutes and Ladders recently.  Jay helped him work out the ever maddening problem of knowing which direction to move.  There was no more, “Hey!  You’re going backwards!”
2. The kid moved for me.  That’s love right there, y’all.  I stayed warm under the blanket, and he counted out the moves for both of us.
3.  He’s gotten fast.  One main problem with this game is that it takes so blasted long.  But when you don’t have to remind a kid it’s his turn or wait for him to figure out which way the numbers are going, it gets better.  Promise.
4.  We talked math.  I can’t help it.   Here’s one of my favorite examples:  We were on the same spot.  I rolled a 3, and he moved me 3 ahead.  Then he rolled a 6.  Instead of counting up 6 from his spot, he counted up 3 from my spot.  I love hearing him try to explain those understandings that just come naturally to him.
5.  And the ABSOLUTE biggest reason I had fun:  He’s a good sport.  Chica is just rotten with sportsmanship, and she always has been.  She’ll cry if she loses.  She’ll cry if she thinks she’s going to lose.  She’ll quit rather than lose.  Lately she’ll actually just refuse to play anything rather than lose.  I’ve tried everything I know to do to help her with this, but I think it’s going to continue to be a long, slow, uphill climb.  I guess either Bubba is just wired completely differently, or all the sermons I’ve preached to her stuck to him.  Whatever caused it, that boy is good at winning and losing.  He’s competitive, but encouraging.  It was a night of no tears and no pouting, and it was refreshing.

We ended up playing one game of Chutes and Ladders, one fast game of Candy Land, and at least three rounds of super hero dominoes.  To top off an already great evening, we had ice cream right before bed and talked math.  Talking math is my current love language.  (Joking…..but actually not really.)  Out of nowhere he starts telling me he knows what half of 180 is.  He explains he’s thinking about how many school days there are, “And I just can’t get that number out of my mind.”  Yep.  My kid.  I get ya buddy.  His explanation was so unexpected that I made him say it again so I could record it.

——————-

I’m struggling with how to end this post.  Goodness knows I’m not going to conclude with some challenge to my mom friends about more yes’s.  Because, let’s be real friends, my ratio of no’s to yes’s is like 2,348 to 1.

Instead I’m just going to hope for all of us that the yes’s are the spaces where the strongest memories are made.  That’s true for me as a mom, so hopefully it will be the same for them.  Carry on.

 

 

 

Wide Angle Lens

This week for my grad class I had to write a portrait of myself as a teacher.  Something about this process was so hard.  When the first question in the reflection asked me to describe how I handle my emotions, all I could think about was the class of second graders I had yelled at that afternoon.  Like really yelled.  It was ugly.

In my assignment I was also supposed to reflect on my use of rich tasks, classroom discourse, and evidence of student learning….and on and on and on.  But my ability to think objectively about all of those areas was totally clouded by my most recent mistakes.  It’s been a hot mess kind of week, and I just kept picturing the teacher I made cry, the class I made sit and listen for waaay too long, and the balls I’ve been dropping all along the way.

I had my zoom lens on, and it wasn’t pretty.  Thankfully though, I got an email yesterday that helped me to begin to zoom out.  Then at lunch today I read an article that made my view a little wider.  Tonight, at the Chipotle checkout of all places, God reminded me a third time of the value of a wide angle lens: The portrait of me as a teacher spans 11 years, not one week.   Here are three snapshots that I must include:

*A mom of a student I taught four years ago emailed me for advice for her youngest daughter.  She told me her son was doing well in Algebra, and she appreciated the way I had reassured her of his understanding and ability way back in fourth grade.  She wrote, “So, as a teacher, what I so appreciate about you, among other things, is your ability to see the child and his mind, not just the results of his work.”  Her kind words have been incredibly encouraging to me.

*Today at lunch I read an article about local high school athletes who have signed with colleges.  One of my former fourth grade students received a full scholarship to play football.   I can only imagine the kind of determination and commitment it has taken for him to land this spot.  This has given me such renewed hope for my current students.  

*Tonight at Chipotle the girl ringing me up stops and says, “You look so familiar.”  I knew right away by her age that I must have taught her, but no names were coming to me.  (I don’t have that gift like my friend Ruth does.)  But as soon as she told me her name, I remembered exactly who she was.  And guess what that beautiful young woman said next?  “I still remember what you taught me, all those rhymes!  6 times 8 equals 48.  I never forgot it!”  I did a little dance right there in Chipotle.  No shame.  And I asked her if I could hug her.  Yep.  Again, no shame.  I told her that she had totally made my night, and continued dancing with my chicken bowl all the way to the door.

I know I run the risk of appearing like I’m tooting my own horn by recording these moments, but that’s truly not my intention.  I need to write them down to remind myself next month or next week or maybe tomorrow at 3:30pm that I am making an impact.  But more importantly than that, I want to remind my teacher friends that WE are making an impact.  My newest teacher friends, you’ve have never had the experience of meeting one of your students all grown up.  But your day will come too, and you’ll forget their names and embarrass them and be so stinkin’ thankful all in the same moment.

Carry on, friends.

26 Memories

Air Mattress – These days Jay and the kids like to camp out in the basement on the air mattress.  I hope this is a memory they’ll talk about when they are big.

BB-8 – Chica came into my room tonight to tell me she had finished five things on her to-do list, but mostly she wanted me to notice her super cool dangle BB-8 earrings she had just put on.  They were a most perfect Christmas gift from Aunt Rachel & Uncle Justin.

Coaching – I’ve been reading about content coaching yesterday and today for my next class.  I get overwhelmed and encouraged as I read, all at the same time.

Dessert – Our family has decided that these brownies are our new favorite dessert.  In case you’re wondering, a double batch is the way to go. Thanks, Mom.

Estimate – I spent one and a half snow days last week making this super cool Lego sculpture…times two.  Our students and staff have to now estimate how many Legos were used to make it.  I can’t wait to see if anyone will be close.

Finished  – Chica finished Chasing Space tonight.  It was so fun to watch her be excited to read about something other than dragons.

Groceries – Technology failed us tonight.  I made the grocery list on Google Docs so that I could keep updating it as Jay shopped.  However, it never refreshed on his phone, so he came home with about half of the things I was expecting.  We don’t argue over much, but we both almost got our panties in a wad over whose fault this was.  Conclusion: It was no one’s fault.

Hidden Figures – This is my new favorite movie, and this book is at the top of my summer reading list, along with Chasing Space and I Am Malala.  On the off chance that I finish all three of those, I think I also want to read Code Girls.  I usually spend my few free weeks of the summer reading fiction aimed at fourth and fifth graders, but I’m hoping to up my game this year. Maybe my two English teacher friends are rubbing off on me.

Integers – I helped a friend prep for making a video on integer multiplication today.  Red and yellow counters are the way to go if you ever have to explain to someone why a negative times a negative equals a positive.

Jordan – One of our former students lost his life this week to gun violence.  This has rocked me in a way that I cannot describe.  So many questions.

Kids – And many of those questions have to do with the kids I teach today.  How can I convince them that what I have to offer is better than what the street has to offer them?  How can we expect them to care about improper fractions or series circuits or the Virginia Company of London when their most basic needs are not being met?  Am I doing enough?  What else can we do?

Little Dickens – I spent the morning upstairs at Little Dickens sharing my kids’ public school experience with a sweet friend.  Public school is the only option that we have ever considered, and I am over and over thankful for the ways that their teachers and classmates are influencing them.  There are so many hard things and much brokenness, but there is also so much good.

My bribe – The kids had to tag along while we talked, so I bribed them with a stop at the Humane Society if they let us talk in peace.  I sent them in the cat rooms and just watched from the window.  Parenting win.

Netflix – Please watch David Letterman’s interview with Obama on Netflix.  I came home from school on Friday just so stinking discouraged about our country.  I’m embarrassed to be represented by our current President who devalues people in such an ugly way.  But then I watched Obama’s interview, and I tried to cling to its message of hope.

“I think in the whole struggle, there may be some setbacks, some delays, some interruption…but you take a long hard look, we will get there.  We will redeem the soul of America.  We will make this little piece of real estate we call America, and the world, a little better.  We all have a role to play.  We all can do something, we all can make a contribution.” – Rep. John Lewis

Our Friend, Martin – Today my tiny contribution was watching this with my kids, educating us all on the man and the message that this day celebrates.  Chica said her takeaway was that, “he didn’t just fight for Black people, but for the rights of all people.”

Patterns – I’m still trying to figure out what my pattern lesson will look like for first grade tomorrow.  This blog was supposed to be a quick diversion.  Two hours later….

Quiet – At dinner last night we took turns asking each other deep and not-so-deep questions.  I asked, “What does the world need more of?”  Bubba’s response was, “Quiet.”  Yes, Bubba.  Agreed.

Rekenreks – My most fantastic husband has cut and drilled over 250 pieces of wood to make rekenreks, a math tool that’s similar to an abacus.  I’m so thankful for that guy.  I can’t wait to give them to our teachers.

Star Wars – Tonight Bubba listened to a Star Wars early reader book on CD.  He then insisted on reading the whole book back to all of us after dinner.  Jay and I had to tag team it was so long.  I love this age and stage because I feel like you can almost see them grow overnight.

Tomorrow – SNOW!  Who do you think will be crazier at school tomorrow in anticipation for the snow Tuesday night?  Teachers or students?  Yeah…definitely teachers.

Undone – As it goes almost every year, I started the year off with a clean house and all kinds of plans to keep it up.  And as always, week 2 left most of those plans undone.  I recovered the dining room and den today, but the dishes and laundry are still staring at me.

Vegetable – My new favorite vegetable is brussel sprouts.  No lie.  (Yeah…I was really reaching for a V word.)

Water bear – Chica has a fascination with tardigrades or water bears.  Today she found a stuffed one at Givens.  I’m saving this for a birthday idea.  #nerdtoys

eXpectations – A family in our life group had a baby, and an invitation was extended for each of the families to bring a meal.  Oh the pressure:  How am I going to get it there on time and feed my own family?  What if I make the same thing as the person before me?  What can I make that the kids will eat?  How will I keep it hot?  This bring a meal thing is second nature to some people, but it makes me break out in sweat.  So I decided to lower my expectations.  I’m going to figure out something I can bring that I don’t have to make…just pick up.  Like pizza. Or Panera.  Or a rotisserie chicken….whatever.  Lower the expectations, and I can do this!

YMCA – Jay’s been going on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  I’m proud of his consistency, even through the crazy cold mornings.

Zero – I have zero ideas for a letter Z memory, just like I still have zero ideas for my pattern lesson tomorrow.  Now back to it….

Bingo, Ice Picks, and the F-Word

At ages 6 and 9, our tough parenting decisions involve Bingo games, ice picks, and the F-word.  We’re not even to double digits yet.

Maybe I should back up a little….

One of Bubba’s favorite parts of kindergarten is playing Bingo.  I think it’s more about the pencils he wins and less about the actual game, but he loves it.  So when I found a Bingo game while perusing the aisles of Walmart, this seemed like a better option than some other toy that would be destined to die a slow death in our front flowerbed.  I bought it and enlisted Grandma to bring prizes so we could all play at his family birthday party.  As to be expected, Bubba was all about it, and Chica quit when she realized she wasn’t going to win.  Good sportsmanship is an ongoing battle with that one.

During the same trip to Walmart I spotted these.  Bubba really liked our neighbor’s Halloween projector, and he would prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible.  I knew he would like it and managed to convince Grandma to bring this to his party too.  He’s been sleeping with snowflakes on his ceiling ever since.

Fast forward to this Friday morning.  Most Fridays Jay joins his dad and a few others for Man Breakfast at The Kitchen, so I’m in charge of getting Bubba to the bus.  I wait as late as possible to drop him off at a friend’s house (TY!) and head to work, rolling in right on time.  Leaving later than normal means more time to do dumb stuff, and this Friday morning was no exception.

See the pointy thing on the end of that light?  The part that looks like an ice pick?  I knew Bubba’s plan was to take it into his room to pop a balloon.  That sounded kinda fun, actually.  I carried on with answering emails and checking my grades on Blackboard, and I realized way too late that I was hearing the repeated sound of the pointy thing on something other than a balloon.  It was the box of his new Bingo game, with all of the parts inside, and I went from 0 to crazy faster than he could say, “Chica made me do it!”

There was lots of yelling.  Turns out Chica did encourage him.  So there was even more yelling and promises of great big ol’ consequences for both of them when I had a chance to talk to Dad about it.

When I got home from school that day it was the first thing I talked about with Jay.  And you know what?  He wasn’t nearly as mad as I was about the whole thing.  This caught me so off guard.  I expected wanted him to be just as peeved, and his chill was frustrating to me.  “It’s what boys do.  I’m sure I’ve destroyed plenty of boxes before with sharp things.  It’s not like he did it out of anger.  That’s a different thing.”

My reaction to disagreements like this is just silence.  So I sat in silence for an uncomfortably long time (for him) and tried to sort it all out in my head.  Yes, it was an inexpensive thing, but I had picked it out for Bubba based on our sweet conversations after school each day.  My feelings were hurt that it didn’t mean more to Bubba.  I’m an adult, but I’m also human.  Jay’s family and my family treat “stuff” differently, and 13 years into this we’re still trying to work out how our family approaches the “stuff”.  Bubba has a habit of destroying things, so how many times before it’s something that really does matter?  Sure, he didn’t do it out of anger, but he did do it on purpose.  And Chica?  WHAT made her think that was a good idea?

13 years are enough to know that not talking about it isn’t going to work. Oh, and by this time the kids had realized what we were discussing.  They were unnaturally still and quiet, trying to listen in from Bubba’s room.  So I made them turn on music to stop eavesdropping and went ahead and said the hard things.  We pushed past the stinging part and came up with a consequence and a plan, Jay’s perspective tempering my too-strong reaction, as it often does.

Since I’ll forget what we decided by November 18th, 2018 when this post pops back up on my Facebook feed, here’s what I told them when it was time for the talk:

“We love you.  We love you more than stuff.  And we have already forgiven you.  But what you did this morning was a bad choice.  It hurt my feelings that you destroyed a gift that I picked out and bought for you with money I worked to earn.  So when we talked about what to do next, we decided that we wanted you to know what it feels like to spend your own money on a gift that you’ve picked out for someone.  Here’s the list of chores you’re each going to have to do, before you get any screen time this weekend, and how much money you are going to make for each one.  Then we’ll take the money that you earn to the store, and you’ll get to pick out a gift for a kid that might not get many gifts for Christmas.  And I bet that when you think about the kid receiving that gift, that you will want him or her to take care of the gift and not destroy it.”

So here we are on the other side.  They’ve finished their long list of chores, minus the one Bubba needed me to help him complete, that we’ll do once this post is done.  We didn’t do the shopping yet.  Maybe tomorrow.

Here’s hoping that I remember when the parenting decisions get even harder, that it’s always best to keep talking.  It stings, and it’s confusing, and they’re listening in, but it’s worth it.  In this house where there are two perspectives, they are both needed.  Keep talking and keep listening.

Oh, and the F-word?  That’s the next tough parenting decision we’ve got to make.  Ugh.  Bubba asked this week, “What’s the F-word?”  I was on hold on the phone when he asked it, so….well….we just never got back to it.  My wise (?) friend told me to say, “It’s fart,” and be done with it.  Another, maybe wiser, friend said he surely already knows it and just wants to see what I’ll say.

Tonight the F-word is “figure”, as in we’ll figure that one out tomorrow.

Yep. I Cried.

That’s me on the left

The year was 1992.  I had my Umbro checked shorts, two pairs of Keds, a Saved By the Bell inspired sleeping bag, and a pillowcase my mom had sewn for me.  No worries that I didn’t really know the super-shy partner I had been assigned, thanks to a pair of inseparable besties in my GA group.  I didn’t care.  I was heading to CAMP!

It was just as glorious as all the big girls said it would be.  The songs, the mountains, the pool, taps at night, counselors that doted on us, Poptarts for breakfast…..all of it.  Unlike many girls my age, including my assigned bunk-mate, I don’t think I spent one second being homesick.  It was way too fun for that.

Summer after summer I found myself back there.  I got called Haley Mills for my Parent Trap haircut.  I learned songs that I still sing to my kids when they are dragging on a hike.  I met Jesus there.  I got my first job there.  Actually, working at camp is the only job that I’ve ever had except teaching.  I learned hard life lessons there.  I became brave there.  Eventually, during our years on full time staff, we started our family there.

So all of that to say I had some unexpected mom emotions well up in me this week as I helped Chica prepare for her first week away at overnight camp.  Something like fear mixed with sadness mixed with worry mixed with get-yourself-together-she’ll-be-fine.  I can distinctly remember my reaction to moms who stuck around just a little too long when they dropped their kids off at camp:  “When my kid gets big enough to go to camp, I will not be doing that mess.  I will drop her off and go.  Not try to make her bed for her, not cry, NOT baby her.  Moms like that just make it worse.”

Except that day came today, and it didn’t go like that exactly.  I did not make her bed, and I did not cry in front of her.  Actually, I didn’t even hug her goodbye for some reason.  But as she stood up on the steps and introduced herself to everyone, I bit my lip willing the tears not to come.  I saved them, but only until I was back in the car.  

I stared here at the cursor for a few minutes trying to think of exactly where the tears came from.  The tears came from so many places.  Thoughts of my mom getting me ready for camp and wondering if she felt all the same things.  Realization that a week will go by where I won’t remind her to brush her hair, and she’ll be just fine.  Hope that she’ll find a friend who gets her and will make the week that much more fun.  Knowing that having experiences apart from us, from me, is what growing up is made of.  Jay joked when I got home that “even stone-cold Tracy” cried.  Yep.  And I’m owning it this time.  

Have a glorious week, Chica!

The Candy Stash

There are a million other things I should be doing.  I should be unloading the dishwasher that Jay loaded last night or putting away the laundry he folded.  I should be cutting the grass I started almost a week ago or updating the website I promised someone I would work on 6 months ago.  But thanks to some unexpected efficiency, I’m done with homework approximately 5 hours early, the kids are entertained with their neighborhood buddy, and I want to do anything except what I should be doing.  So here I am.

One of my favorite things lately has been the “On This Day” Facebook button.  Nearly every time I click it, I find at least one blog post from a summer gone by, and I have the treat of remembering something that has long escaped my memory.  Yesterday I reread the story of Chica putting Bubba to sleep.  That girl continues to love on her brother who is sometimes so hard to love.  Late at night I often discover them snuggled up in bed, and she’s now the one patiently teaching him about bossy R and silent E.  She also answers his grumpy-cat “What if…” questions until he talks himself right out of being mad.  She’s a special kind of patient.

Everyday those posts from 4 years ago or 5 years ago remind me that I must keep writing, if only for my own memory.  So, today, I bring you (er….me….4 years later) the Candy Stash.

First, a few important things you should know:

I love Hot Tamales.  I also love school.  Combine the two, and I have superpowers.

I have been in school for two full years, finished one and a half extra degrees, and I’m starting on a third.  That plus working full time and being a mom and a wife….it’s ridiculous, I know.

Sometimes I get tired.  When 11pm or 12am comes, and I have 3 journal articles to read and yet another discussion question to answer, all I want to do is sleep.  But I must press into this crazy path I chose for myself.  Unfortunately I don’t like coffee.  Sorry Sarah…..I know it’s hard to believe, but I still don’t.  So it’s the Hot Tamales, and sometimes gummy worms, that get me through.  (That and 10 minute power naps with my head down on my books in front of me.  I’ve mastered it.)

Well at some point last semester our candy stash ran out.  When there aren’t Hot Tamales, I’m usually desperate enough that I’ll eat just about anything sweet that I can find.   There’s old Christmas candy, then Valentine’s candy, then I might go back to the Halloween candy that no one wanted, right before the Easter candy arrives.  But somewhere around late May our bucket ran completely dry.  In one particularly low moment of late-night writing, I ate something…ok…several somethings that Chica had been saving on her dresser.

And then she noticed.

There’s nothing quite like having to admit to your nine year old that your self control is so lacking that you stole candy that she had been saving.

“It’s ok, Mom,” eyes just this side of teary.

—————————————————————

I don’t exactly remember how I found out, but it was genius:

She now has her own Candy Stash.

She’s hidden her special candies in a new spot in her room, and she has clearly let me know that she’s not planning to tell me where it is so that I won’t eat it all up.  Bubba’s in on the secret too.  The especially funny thing to me is that they aren’t hiding it so that they can eat it in secret.  They still ask me each time they get some.  They’re just hiding it so I won’t eat it.  Ha!

Well, I was 9 once, and I’ve cleaned her room top to bottom multiple times, so I pretty much know all of the hiding spots.  So while getting ready to write this post, I went looking to see if I could find it.  Score.

But since it’s not 11pm, AND my homework is all done, I didn’t take any.  I just left this note:

 

I’ll let you know when she finds it.