Tag Archives: children

Some Kids Don’t Smile

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This little fellow has come into my life. He’s thin with wary, pale blue eyes. The child’s a skeptic; a hard-earned, already knows the world can be brutal, skeptic. And he’s seven. Honestly, there are moments when he can push my buttons like a lightning strike…fast and powerful before I even know it’s coming. The heat flushes under my skin and I have to bite my tongue. And then there are moments when I find his smile and I know I won’t pinch his head off that day. (Just kidding, seriously.)

Those smiles of his are rare. We go for weeks without smiles. Pain lives inside his tiny body and a smile just seems ridiculous to him. Of course I only have him with me for forty-five minutes of the day…just a blip in his massive twenty-four hour a day span. But for those 45 minutes, he’s mine. And when I see him in the halls, he’s mine. Once a child comes into my room, I get a little possessive, and whether they know it or not, they become part of the slew of students I call my own.

This past week, something eased at this little fellow’s home. I’m not sure exactly what but I have my guesses. He’d never be able to describe what it is, but something lessened its grip just enough for his anger to weaken. And then, it came. A very awkward smile…he did not want it to come out, and he fought it as long as he could. And then before he knew it, another smile popped out. I just smiled back, thankful for any grin I could get.

To some, it may be hard to believe that children in this world don’t smile. It seems as natural as breathing to most kids, but there are so many who have no reason to smile. Their home lives are broken and painful. They come to school starving. They come in with dirty clothes and unkempt hair. A lot of students struggle to find any reason to smile at all.

The mother in me wants to squeeze them until they feel better. I want to make it easier for them even though I know I can’t fix what so many of our kids live through. I want to trim their jagged nails and take them for hair cuts. I want to buy them a pair of matching socks or a pair of shoes that fit. My heart aches to wash the smell of neglect out of their hair. The teacher in me knows many of those things are beyond my capacity to do. Not because I don’t want to, but because we all know I would get fired for bathing other people’s children at school.

BUT…what can I do? I can not lose my temper when my buttons are repeatedly pushed to the point of exhaustion. I can be kind even when I’m the grumpy one. I can do my best to make a child smile, even if it’s only for a minute.

I don’t think anyone besides educators (and the spouses of educators that have to hear this every night) fathom the condition of little people…not just their outwardly condition, but their hearts. Their souls are fragile, and many of them are living through things we think only adults go through.

Those needy babies keep me grounded, they keep me focused on something other than myself. I cherish the children who smile easily and say thankful prayers for their joy, and then I pray again for the little ones who don’t smile at all. I pray the happy giggles of other children will rub off on them. And honestly, most days I pray for the strength to handle their moods and the ability to remember why they’re moody in the first place.

He smiled at me this week…a smile, not a snarl (and yes, he’s snarled at me many times). It was a good smile and it made my week.

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You Can’t Say That At School

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A little girl with bouncing, shiny black curls ran towards me in the hall. It was more like a skip but still, in her current condition, she should’ve been walking. Covering her face was a mixture of glee and concern. Her large eyes met mine as she sort of smiled then sort of frowned. “I’m going home,” she said, immediately wanting a hug. “I don’t feel good.”

I hugged her back as I tried not to breathe in her germs and told her to get better soon.

And then this little voice, very twangy and small, chirped from behind me, “Her’s freakin’ sick.”

In a nano-second, I pushed the girl out of my arms to turn to the boy. “What?!”

“Her’s freakin’ sick!”

For a few seconds I could only gape at this child, only five years old and already spunky. Had he really said freakin’? Oh yes, he had. And did I want to address that first or his use of her instead of she?

I ignored the grammar lesson and proceeded to tell him not to use that word at school or at all.

So I thought I’d heard it all for the day. Not so fast. A few hours later, just as I’d wrangled the attention of three antsy little ones, another small voice demanded, “Who farted?”

Once again I gaped at the child (not the same child as before). I then told him not to say fart at school or ever. He proceeded to tell me that somebody did it and it smelled bad. Minutes later, as I’d moved the children on to other topics, the same fellow spat, “I can’t hear myself think!” He then began to chant as he squeezed his ears from top to bottom, open and closed, “It’s okay…it’s okay…peace, peace, breathe, breathe.”

All I could do was stare…that’s about it. Sometimes you just have to follow their advice or go crazy. So I breathed and then I laughed a little – but not in his face.

Y’all…come visit for a day. Come for a week. I promise you’ll smile.

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What the Heck is Fwight Night?

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Y’all…I’m still shaking my head, still trying to decipher what I heard today. I was across the table from two little people…real little people. These little people have severe speech impedements (according to me anyway), and they were both talking at the same time. Their little shoulders were touching as they gabbed and gabbed, and even as I tried to intervene, they couldn’t find the period at the end of their sentences. Our topic was math – matching dots to numbers – easy, right? But no…somehow we ended up talking about Fright Night (I’m still not real sure what that is). Remember the speech issue I mentioned – fright night becomes fwight night.  Anyway, apparently this stuff is scary so I proceeded to tell them they didn’t need to watch scary things. They shook their heads and said they watch scary stuff “all da time”. 

Y’all…I’m 47. I wasn’t allowed to watch scary movies when I was little. When I spent the night with a friend at 13 and saw my first one, the original Jason, it traumatized me so bad I was sick all night long – in the dark, where Jason lives, All Night Long.

So, these kiddos were comparing war stories about their scary shows. One looked at me and said, “You wealy don’t need to watch Fwight Night…it’s bad, so bad.”  The other jumped in, “I have scawy dreams after that show.”

Well duh…they’re five. 

Even though I was honestly fascinated by their conversation, I declared total silence until they finished their work. It about killed them to be quiet but they survived the torturous five minutes. 

Is it just me? Am I the only person in the world who believes Chucky should be off limits for children? Like for real. No scary shows = no bad dreams. Back to simple math. 

Y’all…these kids. My days are never boring.

Kid friendly Halloween!

My idea of a scary movie.

Jofis (Or Kindergartners are Kwazy!)

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She’s little, maybe comes to my hip. She’s blonde and giddy and very, very expressive. There’s a little speech impediment and a smile big enough to make you laugh for no reason.

“Jofis! Jofis,” she chants until the little boy (really named Joseph) looks at her. “You better be good! You hear me, Jofis?”

In the next nanosecond, she turns to me and exclaims, “Do you know Nancy (name changed to protect the innocent)…she is making me cwazy!”

“Who’s Nancy? Why is she making you crazy?”

“My sister, Mrs. Mawackawee!  And she…you know her?…she’s so mean to me!” She shakes her little blonde head and rolls her bright blue eyes. “She’s my fwiend but she’s so mean!”

These Kindergartners are a hoot. And their teachers are angels on earth. If you don’t believe me, come visit for awhile. I’ve always appreciated how hard they work (and always wondered how and why they stay with it year after year), but now after working with these little ones myself…all I can say is wow. These educators take on things we outsiders can’t even grasp. Tears, fear of toilets, angst and anxiety – and they are expected to take them from sad, I want my mommy little ones to ready to read first graders. My appreciation for these Kindergarten teachers has quadrupled. You guys are rock stars!

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Little Tiny Hands

More Kindergarten quotes…and mind you, these statements come at you like rockets, one after the other, sometimes with no breath in between…bam, bam, bam!

“I like tantelopes.” I say cantelopes. She says, “That’s what I said…tantelopes.”

“I’m a good listener.”  Little princess repeats this four times in a row before I even have a chance to nod. “A really good listener.”

“I might stink – I took a bath last night but I pwayed on the pwayground, so I might stink.”

“The tooth fairy comes to my house in some bubbles…”

“Hello, hello…,” she says to me, “Let me see your clock.” It’s the watch on my arm, and of course, I let her see it.

“Look, look, Gracie…Gracie…why, why, why? I don’t like lemon pie.”

Can’t Never Could

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Where has the time gone??  Six weeks since I last posted. Of course I know where really…it happened when the big change occurred in my life.  When I last posted, I had just gotten a new position at work, and since then, that change has consumed my life (but in a joyful way).

This past week, I finally began to interact with my new students. Being an interventionist, I serve small groups of students at a time, helping with certain skills. So far I love it. I love the one-on-one time…I actually have time to talk to them about the process of learning. Early in the week, I did a welcome-back-to-school activity while we were testing. It was very simple…they had to write the word can and decorate it. The word correlates to the “I can do it” poem I say with students who come my way.

Most of the kids smiled and quickly completed the task but one little boy balked. I told them that in my room we don’t say can’t, only can. He frowned at me, a very confused scowl on his face, and said, “But…but some days you have to say can’t.  Some days you just have to.”

I said, “We’re going to work really hard in here and try not to say can’t.”

“But…,” he shook his head, “No…no.”

This is the same child who within five minutes of meeting him, told me that his mom and dad don’t live together, his brother is being bullied every night, and his sisters are in heaven.

No wonder he knows the word can’t.

Can’t never could…maybe it’s hard to believe that when your home life is in shambles. Maybe it’s hard to believe that you can succeed when everything around you is crumbling. And believe me, he’s not the only child in our building whose home life is far from ideal.

I definitely look at him in a different light now.  Even though I may be expected to treat all students the same, how can you when you catch glimpses of their souls? Each one of them needs something different, something unique. Our job as educators is to figure out what that one thing is.

Can’t never could…I’ll be repeating that statement to myself often next week. I begin working with Kindergarten students…something I haven’t done since my first two years out of college. A part of me is excited, the other is terrified. They’re young, needy, sometimes very emotional, but so stinking cute. Should be interesting!

Love my new space…


 

 

Children and Mothers

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A day at the park.  A day watching 150 first graders crawl, run, shimmy over equipment. Your eyes never stop scanning.  Your heart never stops praying that no one breaks an arm. And a symphony of teacher voices churn, “Please don’t crawl on the outside of the slide. Don’t blow bubbles in someone’s face.  Get out of the ants!  Pick up your own trash when you drop it.  Please be nice and play with everyone.  If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.  Have a seat under that tree until you can control yourself.”

I watch the kids as they play.  I study how some play with everyone while others are loners.  Even the loners have fun and smile.  They all play well, relishing the freedom of being out of the classroom for the day.  They relish the freedom of being out from under my hovering thumb.

I study these children knowing some are neglected, some are spoiled beyond anything that’s healthy or normal. I see little faces that have no problem being alone because that’s all they know, and then there are others that need my reassurance from time to time.  Too much freedom leaves them feeling detached and disconnected.  They run up for a hug and then are back off into the fray.

I see my own children in the mix, my two babies who are no longer babies, who are now young adults.  I wonder as I study the needy and spoiled…did I do that to my own?  Did I cripple them?  Make them believe they were the only children on the planet?  Or were my children the ones who ran with unabandoned freedom over every square inch of the park? Were my children the ones who played nicely, including others, or were mine the loners who needed only nature and a swing as their friend?

Raising people is the hardest job on Earth.  Every parent knows this. Raising a child is scary and tough and full of so many ways to screw up another human.  During my tenure in teaching, I’ve met every kind of parent there is…the smothers who watch every second, the disconnected who use electronics as babysitters, the neglectful, the devoted, the ‘I’m doing my best but this hard…can you help me?’

I’ve seen glimpses of myself in all of them.  Every parent, even the best or the worst parent, can fall into or climb out of each scenario.  It’s a given that we’re all going to fail at times, but it’s also a given that we all have the capability to stand back up and keep on loving our children even when we’re tired, or mad at them, or when our hearts hurt so bad we think we can’t do another day of this thing called child rearing.

A wise woman told me once…never give up, never quit loving your kids, never think this moment in time will define them for the rest of their lives.  So I’ve never given up, and I try not to spoil too much, I try to show them that this world is a huge, wonderful place and they are not the center of that world.  I try to teach them to be kind, to be fair.

But still…I look at the little ones swarming the park like ants and I can’t help but wonder…did I do all I could?  What could I have done to stop the mistakes?  But then those mistakes are life, those mistakes remind me that the world is not all about me and my comfort.  I am a mother, and being a mother is hard.  I will keep on being a mother until my last breath because for good, bad or ugly, that’s what a mother is supposed to do.

To my children…I will never stay out of your business, not really. I will love you no matter what, even if I have to kick your bootie while I’m doing it.  I will never give up on you, even when I’m mad and my heart hurts.  I’m sorry for the screw-ups and unfortunately, I’ll probably screw up again. But most of all, I will never quit praying for you. I will pray every day for guidance, for you to find your path in this world, for you to yearn for God as He yearns for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the world, to all the dads and grannys and aunts who are filling that role. Happy Mother’s Day to my mothers in heaven…you all are missed every single day.

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July 1990

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Mother’s Day 1999

 

The Blessings of Wanna Be Teachers

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“I don’t like the Lego movie either.  When it comes on, I just turn it to Fox News.” – This quote did not come out of the mouth of a teacher.  Nope, a six year old said that to me and two other teachers this week.  Of course I laughed (and began writing his quote down immediately). One of the other teachers piped in, “Well, as long as it’s not MSNBC.” The boy and teacher looked at each other and smiled, sharing some inside joke I know not much about.

School has been busy as always, but I’ve been blessed with a student teacher the past month.  I get to keep her until March 1st and then it’s back to one set of hands.  A little girl told me the other day that it’s like I have two sets of hands now that Miss Sarah is around.  Very true.

I’ll be the first to admit, and I told Miss Sarah right up front, that I really didn’t want a student teacher. It’s a crucial time of year with testing lurking around the corner, and the thought of turning my class over to a college student was daunting.  I also told her that I believed that sometimes things happen for a reason, and that if God put her into my life, there was a reason for it.

Never doubt His reasons.  He placed a human into my life so level-headed and mature, so ready to work. When something is amiss, this girl tackles it. No being shy, no wondering if it’s her place.  She jumps in and figures out what needs to be done.  Sarah is a very mature soul in a young body, a natural-born teacher.  She’s kind, calm, loving but firm, and my kids love her.  And I do too.

Honestly, I remember being her age.  I remember having my first classroom at her age.  A year older than her, I had my first child.  I look at Sarah and know that I’m old enough to be her mother.  And yes…all of that freaks me out.  Inside, I don’t feel old enough to be my student teacher’s mother!  I mean, come on – I still feel 30-ish most days.

I look at Sarah and thank God young, vibrant souls are entering education.  I’m thankful that these women want to teach. I’m thankful that our community has a college that is producing such well-rounded, highly qualified wanna-be teachers (you’re awesome, Martin Methodist College).  Because these teachers will one day take our places.  These young, happy, light souls will one day soon slide into the rooms that many of us are retiring from or simply leaving for other endeavors.

Maybe God sent a young soul my way to remind me that there is a cycle, that the world keeps turning and progressing, even as I get older and my time grows shorter in the classroom.  Maybe God wants me to learn that it’s okay to jump – jump into new fields, new opportunities, new changes.  There will always be new life to take the place of the old.  And from what I see, this new life is ready to tackle the world.

 

Miss Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

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It’s that time again.  Are you ready?  Am I?  Most definitely not…not today anyway, but I’ll get there.  It’s time to begin another school year, to meet new students, to try and be the best teacher I can be.  Some years it’s easy, some not so much.  And honestly, I’m struggling a wee bit.  It has nothing to do with school (except for the getting up early part) and way more to do with the fact that I’m heading off to school alone this year.

For the first time in sixteen years, I have no child starting the school year with me.  No babies to pick out new outfits for, no new backpacks, no new tennis shoes.  Since Kindergarten, I’ve always taken their pictures on the first day of school and then meticulously put them in their scrapbooks.  I’ve always gone school supply shopping for them, picked out snacks, dreaded the homework, and prayed hard for them each day when I passed the high school.  This year, it’s just me.  And like the big goofball I am, I’m a little sad about it.

Hunter starting Kindergarten.  The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Hunter starting Kindergarten. The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Trey, first grade - reading to his daddy.

Trey, first grade – reading to his daddy.

Is it possible to be thrilled they’re both going to college at the end of the month and still be sad they’re growing up?  Yes, that’s me.  And is it unreasonable to ache for your little babies even while you beam at your semi-adult children?  If it is, then that’s me too.

Here’s what I figure:  I spent sixteen years of my life getting my children through school (and the last three, college), so…is it an unreasonable possibility that I should be finished with school, too?  Seems fair to me!  And what if I get them both through college?  Then that’s the bonus round with a big retirement coming right after it!  Right??  Right??

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack.  Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack. Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Luckily for me, I’m going to have a room full of little ones to love me when I get to school next week.  I know they’ll ease the missing and ease the sadness.  That’s such a wonderful perk to my job.  Just today, I got hugs from a prior student and a boy I’m having this year.  There are not many jobs where hugs find you everywhere you go.

I’m also lucky to live in a county where freedom and faith still find you on a warm Saturday.  This morning, people from our community gathered to pray for the upcoming school year.  People from all denominations and different parts of the county gathered at the courthouse before heading out to individual schools.  It was pretty amazing, and I know I felt blessings all around me.  My beloved Mrs. Marsha, the kindest cafeteria worker and person in the world, said, “Did you see the birds and butterflies circling our building while we were walking?”  They were there, we weren’t alone…  What a wonderful reminder that even when I feel sad and alone as I head off to school, I’m not.  I’m not alone at all.

The Best

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This past Sunday, I was very fortunate to witness my nephew being baptized.  He’s ten, inquisitive (we call him the question man), sometimes naïve but other times, very deep and intuitive.  He takes things at face value and simply believes in the truth.  He decided he wanted to be baptized (for all the right reasons), and he was lucky enough to have his dad do the honors.  We all thought it would be a simple process until his father gave a little speech just before dunking him in the water.  I don’t remember all of his words but I do remember this:  He quoted, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  This auntie cried like a baby.

It was a beautiful moment…one of those moments that touch you deeply, that don’t come along often.  An incredible moment between father and son…and the big father, too.

It made me ponder the people who come into our lives.  The fathers, the mothers, the siblings and friends.  The world is a web of people, seemingly so far away from each other but then so close.  My nephew (and niece) were adopted from China, from a world far away.  I try to imagine what life would be like without them.  I can’t.  I try to imagine my sister and brother-in-law not being their parents.  I can’t.  Those four were put together by something so much bigger than you and me.

Taylor and Rachel in the front - with their dad, Trey, and mom in the back.

Taylor and Rachel in the front – with their dad, Cousin Trey and mom in the back.

They may say one day, “I have the best mom and dad in the world.”  To them, it’s true.  My children may think it.  Lots of people feel the same way about their own parents.  You hear it over and over.  My dad’s the best.  My mother is the best mother ever.  But what does that mean, and why do so many of us have the best?

I believe that many of us are blessed to have the best parent (husband, child) for us in our particular situation.  Have you ever noticed how families have their own personalities?  The way I parent my children may not be the best for another child or family.  Each family is different, each is unique.  So many of us are blessed to have the best – the best for us, for what we need, for who we are.

So there’s no reason to dismay – yes, there are many, many best daddy’s in the world.  There are many, many best momma’s in the world.  If we only look, we may find that for us, for our needs, for our personalities and desires, we have the best.  The best friends, the best spouse, the best family.  Some families may only have one parent, and that only amplifies the blessing you are to a child. (To those single parents, I think you should get a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day gift every year – you deserve it.)

The catch is to acknowledge what you have, to appreciate it for what it is.  I truly believe people are put into our lives for a reason.  We may never understand all the reasons, but there’s a plan much bigger than I’ll ever be able to grasp working all around us.

Aren’t we lucky the world isn’t made up of only one best?  Instead, we all get to experience that emotion, that feeling.  When we’re truly blessed, we find ourselves with what is the best for us.

And I have.

My babies with their 'best' daddy!

My babies with their best daddy!

Saturday on Repeat

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So summer’s here…as in school’s out.  And honestly, I can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like it to me at all!  Not sure why but regardless, it hasn’t been Saturday for the past two days – it’s actually a Thursday and I’m not at work.  I’m sure it won’t take me long to acclimate to being at home…it never does!

I had to leave you with one more funny from perhaps the funniest group of students I’ve ever had.  Actually two.

How to protect whales.  Public Service Announcement - please read and adhere to number three!

“How to Protect Whales.”  Public Service Announcement – please read and adhere to number three!  And if you see a whale in a lake, please tell the authorities ASAP!

And secondly (and my last, I promise):  What does the mother buffalo say to her son going off to college?  Bi-son!   Like I said, funniest class ever.  I will truly miss them.

Here’s my wish list for the best summer ever:

Go to Mackinac Island (check – going in July)

Write every day

Read every day

Soak up some sun

Sleep late on occasion

Be thankful every day that I have nine weeks to recharge my depleted battery

That’s not an unreasonable check-list and I plan to make sure each one is accomplished!  To all my teacher peeps, Happy Summer!  And yes, it’s really a Thursday, not Saturday set on repeat.