Ode to Teachers

Tomorrow is May Day. The school year enters the home stretch. There is testing to be completed, curriculum units to be completed, grading to be completed….I share with you a tweet from @teachergoals:

Trying to fit everything in by the end of the school year be like…

Which reminds me of Key and Peele’s homage to teachers — I recommend those who have not seen it, take a look… and those who have seen it, take a relook — a great piece that serves as a reminder to all of us…teachers are the real MVP.

Share your inspirational stories about teachers!

Need Some Alone Time?!

Ever need some alone time? You know, you love your family, your friends, your co-workers and schoolmates, your kids… BUT! If you have to hear one more bit of chatter or listen to one more giggle, or “Mama pleeeeez” you think you might explode?! Here’s a book for you (and you can share it with your kids…they’ll recognize the situation immediately!)

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Grandma wants to knit. She has sweaters to make! But her many grandchildren are running around, getting into the yarn, raising a ruckus. Grandma’s had enough. She packs up and heads for the hills. But she’s not alone there either – a pack of bears is very interested in her knitting. So she climbs higher. Still not alone she climbs to the moon and then through a wormhole. Alone at last!

Brosgol’s words and illustrations come together to present vivid images that conjure up that all too familiar feeling of wanting to be alone. And the ending reminds us the feeling is only temporary. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Pegged for Preschool-2nd grade.

Friendly Skies

I’m having out-of-town guests next month. Putting together my show-them-the-best-of-Chicago list includes, of course, the iconic Second City right up there at the top. As I hopped online to find out what revue is playing right now, I was disheartened to see that Second City has experienced problems lately with verbally abusive audience members. So much so that they are now starting each show with an announcement of what should be obvious – racist, sexist, or otherwise rageful bullying will be not be tolerated.

This kind of uncivil, even assaulting behavior seems to be more and more the norm. Who has not been shocked and horrified by the series of airline-related hostilities toward their customers? I should say that on my last few flights, the attendants have bent over backward to be friendly and helpful. But yelling at passengers and ultimately physically assaulting them should never happen.

The lack of civility hurts not only the individual in the line of fire but the surrounding community as well. At the heart of it is the breakdown of societal norms that we have covenanted with each other to uphold. It is scary enough to us adults. For our children, it destroys their sense of safety that the larger community is supposed to provide.

So it was heartening to read today of a different kind of airline experience – one in which an adult served as a positive role model for a child, without even knowing he was being observed. The adult was NFL player for the Atlanta Flacons, Mohamed Sanu. On a flight up the east coast, he was seated in the row in front of a child traveling to train for an elite hockey team. Sanu spent his time on the flight studying his playbook. He noshed on a banana and cranapple juice. And when approached by fans eager to say Hello to the star, Sanu reciprocated with friendly conversation. The boy behind Sanu watched it all. And he took note. His parents did too. And in this current environment where community, self-discipline, and civility cannot be taken for granted, they wrote Sanu a note thanking him for inspiring their child.

This is not a big story. It should not even be remarkable. But in these turbulent times, it bears sharing – community is the sum of small acts of civility. Pass it on!

Share your stories from the friendly skies.

Earth Day: We Are the World

I was doing my car radio listening thing a few days ago. And I heard a story about a new scientific find: There are signs of a chemical reaction under the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This activity might just provide the conditions for life… way, way out there.

The conditions for life. An amazing concept that is so miraculous. And such a gift. Tis the season of new life. Beautiful white flowers are bursting out on every branch of the tree in front of my living room window. It’s makes me feel like I’m in a Monet painting. I had lunch today with a friend who just returned from visiting her 2-week-old grandson. Her face lit up as she talked about his tiny new face.

Celebrate Earth Day at the March for Science

Tomorrow is Earth Day and I will be celebrating my gratefulness for life here on this planet. I am going to the Science March – happy that the sun is supposed to be shining.

There will be speakers who spend every day thinking about life: about sustainability programs such solar energy, divvy bikes, and green buildings; creating platforms for collaboration among scientists to keep the innovations coming; the ever present search for medical advances to improve the quality of life for all of us here on earth.

There will be exhibitors to provide us information and ways to get involved to protect the Great Lakes, donate bone marrow, clean up nature areas, to name just a few.

I think it will be lots of fun. I encourage you to join in. I will be in Chicago. There are 609 satellite marches. Find yours.Then get your walking shoes on. Be there or be square!

A Judge Grows in the Bronx

This week the United States Supreme Court returned to full strength. Here’s a really good intro to the life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

As a child, Sonia found blossoms in the most unexpected place…around a chain link fence, near broken glass, next to an abandoned building. Using this metaphor, Winter tells the story of Sonia’s life from the high-poverty Latino community of the South Bronx to the Ivy League to the Supreme Court. It wasn’t easy. Not only did she grow up without much money but she had to face childhood diabetes and the death of her father. In college she felt socially out of place among her wealthy classmates. But like the flowers growing in harsh conditions, Sonia had a will to succeed and the tender care of her family that wanted to see her flourish. A great book for any child who experiences obstacles in life, an affirmation that even in challenging conditions, success is possible.

Pegged for grades K-3

The Magic of Eggs at Easter

Here I am closing out on my sixth decade. And yet I am tingling with anticipated joy at the thought of dying Easter eggs this Saturday. There is something so satisfying about the transformative process of dipping a white egg into a murky liquid and 5 minutes later pulling out that same egg, now bursting with color. Here’s a book that takes a different look but captures that same sense of possibility.

Egg by Kevin Henckes

Four eggs. One pink, one blue, one yellow, one green. Three of the eggs crack as expected. The fourth just sits. And sits. The newborn chicks from eggs 1-3 lend a little chick help. The fourth egg cracks. And out comes….something very different. The illustrations are infused with the joyful pastels of Easter. The simple text conveys the possibility of magic and miracle.

Pegged for ages Preschool-1st grade. Fun for adults like me!

Highest Court in the House

Everyone is talking about who will be next on the United States Supreme Court. Today let’s talk about your household’s Supreme Court…you and your partner.

I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day and this two-foot-tall kid came barreling through, not just my line but all the lines at all the other checkout counters. Most people looked at him with exasperation. A few smiled. (I will never understand people who think this kind of behavior is cute.) His mother called after him weakly. Heads swerved to look at her…judgmentally.

Bad mother, right? Too lenient. Not in control. We’ve all heard the advice before. You can reason with your child, let her make her case, maybe even make a concession if it seems reasoned. But if all this fails, No means No! You are the highest court in your household.

Rules are great, right? The theory behind them is rock solid. It’s the execution that can get a little dicey. And the toughest of all situations are those that occur outside the house — the super market meltdown, the sit-on-the-sidewalk, refusal-to-walk kind of battle – where it seems like the whole world is watching and judging YOU!

Here are a few tips from my many years of experience:

  • Describe the outing to your child before you leave the house. This does not mean map out every step. Keep it simple, be clear. It helps everyone, even little kids, to have the basic plan in their heads.
  • Anticipate potential weak points in the outing for your child. If you are going grocery shopping, feed them before you roll the cart past the candy. Pet peeve: The candy rack sits right next to the checkout. You AND your kid get a good 5 minutes staring it down. Let’s be real. Sometimes you feel like reaching for the Snickers just as much as your child does.
  • Build in some fun. If you have the time, include a stop at the park or the children’s section at the bookstore. If you don’t have extra time, sing songs or tell jokes or just make funny faces along the way. Maybe some passersby will give you a dirty look or roll their eyes. OK, a little embarrassing, especially if your singing voice is like mine. But it beats the look you get when your kid has a meltdown. Oh yeah.
  • Anticipate the meltdown and take a break. If your kid is getting fussy or loud and wild, or is giving you pushback on your funny faces and singing, try to build in a quiet break. If possible, stop home for some rest. For both of you.
  • If all else fails and the meltdown occurs, stop and remove your child (and yourself) from the situation. He will eventually calm down. So will you. Your grocery cart will still be there when you get back.

Is it easy? Sometimes, sometimes not. Does it always work? Nope. But regardless of what happens, always remember… you’re the boss, boss.

Share your favorite meltdown stories.