Why I Heart Teachers — Every Single One of Them

I have such an admiration for teachers. Not just because I believed the words that Whitney Houston belted out two decades ago that our children are the future, but because I believe they are above us mere mortals.

I feel like they have super powers. Like the way they can make 27 six-year olds quiet down with a simple clap or get a rowdy group of 10th graders to pass a state assessment test. And do I even need to mention the ones that put their own lives at risk to protect students from violent perpetrators?

 

Photo from www.audio-luci-store.it

Photo from www.audio-luci-store.it

Yes, I know that you always hear about how teachers are overpaid and that they get summers off. Yes, I know some still have a union mentality more focused on tenure than performance/achievement. Yes, I know we are all jealous of how ‘easy’ their job is (I hope you can sense the sarcasm). And let’s not forget how awesome it must be to interact with parents day in and day out.

Now, I get it. There are teachers and then there are teachers. There are the educators that inspire and teach us ways to think and do that stick with us our entire lives (my high school AP English teacher) and there are those we would like to forget (my fifth grade teacher who told my mom I was too social and that was why my penmanship was bad.)

But the way I see it, teachers should get hazard pay, and not just because our schools are no longer the safe havens of yore; but because I am now a mom and know what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

So, because it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I heart teachers:

They deal with germs that make the movie Outbreak look like the common cold.  I seriously have no idea how teachers’ life expectancies aren’t the same as coal miners with the amount of ick they are exposed to on a daily basis. Lice, mono, strep throat, pink eye, scabies and every communicable disease known to man. And the vomit. Oh, the vomit. When my kids entered first grade I was so excited to volunteer in the lunch room. Well, that was before I saw two kids hurl and heard that a stomach virus outbreak was erupting throughout the school. Guess who gets to deal with that before we pick up our little cherubs? There is no summer vacation in the world that would make me deal with that.

+ They care, even when that’s not part of the job description. I will never forget the teacher who texted me pictures of my daughter at an event that I couldn’t make due to a trip I was on, or the teacher that called me at home because she was so excited about the jump in my daughter’s reading level. Their excitement was contagious, for me, my kids, and I believe, for them.

I am constantly amazed at what my friends that are teachers do for their students. Sometimes it is spending more money on their classrooms than what they make, or giving up their Friday night to spend it at a student’s ballet recital or soccer game. I have seen teachers sneak food to kids that are hungry or buy clothing to help a family in need. And in my heart, I don’t believe that these are a select few educators. I believe this is the norm.

Their interaction with our kids is like an after-school special. A friend of mine is a teacher at a large high school, and what she deals with on a regular basis is heart wrenching. Pregnancies, date rape, parental neglect, violence, bullying, eating disorders, mental illness and the list goes on and on. This is not an inner city high school either. This is a typical secondary institution in middle America. In addition to supporting the needs of these kids, she also gets to deal with their parents. The ones who stick their fingers in her face because they don’t like the grades their kids have earned, or the ones who leave messages — on her personal cell phone — asking to extend a deadline for a school project that was given five weeks earlier. Lucky her.

They are like the U.N. Have you ever seen a male first grade teacher work out the dynamics of three little girls who are going through friendship drama? Or a middle school gym teacher that has to deal with all the hormones raging in the locker room? At the end of the day, teachers are constantly solving crises. Maybe not ones linked to world peace, but for our kids, they are pretty major.

They see what I see, but 24x. My daughter had a dangling tooth that was so disgusting it at times made me gag. I could not imagine seeing that about every day for 180 days. The burping, tooting, and nose picking. The hair twirling, knuckle cracking and eye rolling. Teachers get to see this all the time from a wide variety of participants. How they stay sane I have no idea.

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They change lives. My daughter would not be where she is today if not for some amazing teachers (and therapists) at her schools. They, literally, have changed the trajectory of her life. And who hasn’t had “that” teacher that inspires us to be better, to think bigger and achieve more? The teacher that believed in us more than we believed in ourselves? The teacher that made something insanely boring seem suddenly ridiculously cool? I’ve had several, ranging from my sixth grade social studies teacher to my comparative politics professor at the University of Florida. They all changed me…for the better.

Teachers today are faced with insurmountable obstacles. Curriculums that are constantly changing; standardized tests that can be biased and unfair; parents that have unrealistic expectations; apathetic students that want good grades to be handed to them instead of earned; and a culture of disobedience that puts them in harm’s way, regardless of what grade they teach.

Today, I’m standing up for the teachers. The ones that make sure my kid’s pants are always buttoned because she couldn’t do it herself. The ones that buy school supplies because they know their students can’t afford it. The ones who come in early and stay late just to help that one student who just doesn’t get it. The ones who know it’s not about them, and it’s always about somebody else. And even the ones who become apathetic after years of getting beaten down.

Today, I’m saying thank you . You are appreciated, and I hope you feel it!

Do you have a special teacher in your life? Tell me about it.

Do You Need to “Look Up”

Just got back from a Girls Weekend that was amaze-balls (more blogging about that later), but wanted to share this video named “Look Up”. It is an extremely poignant take on the effect social media is having on our lives and what we miss when we have our heads down in our phones and iPads.

I have mixed emotions about this. I have a mild social media addiction, but I have also lived in 14 different cities and have friends and family scattered throughout the globe. I love seeing pictures of my friends’ children, vacations and yes, even the great meals they are eating at fancy restaurants. I crack up at Memes (by the way, did you know it was pronounced meam like cream?), my friends’ hilarious Facebook posts about what their kids did last night and some fantastic Instagram shots. I even use it to gather information about topics such as parenting, traveling, food, etc. The big joke for me is everything I’ve ever learned about anything has been from Facebook.

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Social media brings me joy with people who I normally wouldn’t have time to engage with on a regular basis. But I’m a pretty social person, so I do not think I have ever let it get in the way of forming real friendships (or maintaining those relationships that are most important to me.) Or I like to think so.

I have noticed lately that some of my friends get angry when on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Angry at “VagueBooking” (when people seek attention about something going on in their life without letting you know what’s going on), recipe posting, or airing out your dirty laundry. Mad at how people portray their perfect lives or post too much about mundane things. Frustrated with the negativity, political rants or even the football rivalries.

I wonder about the voyeurism we are obsessed with and why we find it difficult to disengage on social media. I am fascinated by the fact that it is so difficult to disconnect. And I am concerned with the effect it sometimes has on relationships.

I think social media is here to stay, but I am interested to see how people use it and the emotions it brings out in them. I will be addressing this in some of my blogs in the future, but for now, take a look at “Look Up.”

I would love to know what you think.

Giving Up the Garage Sale Blues

This article was published for Swap.com Kids’ Consignment. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

I have always wanted to be “that” mom. The one who holds successful garage sales while their kids manage a lemonade stand out front that donates money to a great charity. The one who paid for their family vacation by selling all their used baby gear. The one who makes room for all the new toys at Christmas by selling the old ones.

Unfortunately, I am that “other” mom. The one that still has baby clothes from eight years ago. The one that hoards toys because I know we barely used them and I should probably get a little green for it. The one who has bins of clothes scattered throughout the house that no longer fit my children.

I tried participating in consignment sales, but it was a lot of effort for little return. Hours of sorting, hanging and pricing, in addition to working at the sale. Then you have to deal with the stuff that did not sell because I didn’t see the small stain on the inside cuff of a jacket or because it fell on the floor during the initial mad rush. Not to mention that they usually only occur once or twice a year, so you are stuck holding onto stuff way longer than you want to keep it.

Sorting through clothes. One of my least favorite activities.

Sorting through clothes. One of my least favorite activities.

I tried to sell some clothes and toys at a garage sale once, but I hated the haggling. Did I really have to knock a quarter off an item that was priced at sevety-five cents?

And then I tried eBay. But the process of taking and uploading the photos, writing descriptions, and finding time to get to the post office was just not happening. Who has time to do that if it’s not your full time business?

So that’s why I’m super excited to try out Swap.com, an online baby and kids consignment shop for clothes, baby gear, toys and games, movies, video games and maternity clothes. I believe sharing is caring, and I know a lot of my friends take enormous times trying to unload their kids’ stuff, and this may be an easy answer.

According to the company, it is an online consignment model. The items are owned and priced by the customers, but the inspection, quality grading, photography, storage and shipping of the items is handled by Swap.com. It has more than 50,000 pre-owned items in its inventory and the buying experience is similar to Amazon — you add the items from various sellers to the shopping cart and checkout. Swap.com ships them to customers within one business day. The prices on Swap.com are 50-95% off retail prices making the items great bargains. First time customers also get a free shipping and over $50 orders always ship free.

What I like about it is they do all the heavy lifting, which means I may actually get rid of this year’s out grown clothes before my kids graduate from high school. Talk about an achievement!

I checked out Swap.com’s inventory and it looks like they have some great stuff. I have my eyes on a pair of pink crocs, a new with tags Gymboree bathing suit and a North Face jacket (obviously for next winter) but I’ve promised myself I won’t buy before unloading some of our outgrown stuff. We’ll have to see if that happens!

How do you get rid of your kid’s old stuff?

Did My Friend Just Tell Me She Has Cancer?

The other day I was going along happily checking my Facebook in between commercials when I read something that pissed me off. I mean flaming mad. One of my sorority sisters from my college days just asked (via status update) for some positive energy. She needed it, because she has cancer. And nothing makes me more angry than someone I care about getting cancer.

Kick Cancer's Ass

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

I used to just get sad when someone told me they got the big C. It used to be rare and usually to an older person. When someone who has lived a fairly full life gets cancer, it sucks. You try to rationalize that they have had time on this Earth and have seen kids grow, grandchildren born, etc., yet it is still hard to deal with and manage your emotions.

But when it happens to someone on the younger side…to someone in the prime of their lives, it just doesn’t make sense. In my twenties when a friend my age was stricken with breast cancer, I was devastated. It just didn’t seem possible. Then it seemed to happen more and more, a few times a year. A high school classmate, a secretary at my kids’ school, my colleague, my girlfriend. It doesn’t discriminate and knows no boundaries.

I’ve found out over wine, via text, through Facebook — and it never gets easier to hear those words. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be the person delivering the news. I have cancer. It changes everything.

And it’s not bad enough that people I care about deeply are affected. Sometimes it’s their child, which I find both devastating and infuriating at the same time. It’s just not fair.

Most of the time, thankfully, my peeps rally and kick cancer in the ass. Big time. They laugh in its ugly face and give it the middle finger.

But sometimes they can’t, and they lose the war after fighting so many exhausting battles. This makes me angry, because these are people who don’t get to see their children grow up, or sometimes have children at all. These are people who were seemingly healthy until having a headache, a lingering cough, a lump. These are people who do not deserve cancer.

It all just makes me so angry. But I think I’m angry because cancer takes so much control out of the lives of its victims. And for those of us sitting on the sidelines, it makes us feel helpless and desperate. Desperate to help out in any way possible.

It is hard to know how to truly help someone fighting such an awful disease, or how to help the caretaker. I want to be there, but I don’t want to intrude. I want to help, but I don’t want to be a bother. I want to tell them something encouraging, but I don’t know what to say. I must do something, but sometimes I end up doing nothing.

Cancer Awareness

So, I spoke to some of my friends and family who are survivors.  The ones who have given cancer a swift kick in the cojones or are kicking its butt right this second. I asked what were/are the best ways friends can help…and was there anything that didn’t. Here’s what I found:

Reach out and be positive: Everyone I spoke with said the large outpouring of love and support they received from friends and family was critical to getting their treatment off to a good start, and keeping them positive during the down days. Particularly to those patients who are immunocompromised or on bed rest, e-mails, texts and phone calls were sometimes the only contact they had with the outside world.

Sometimes keeping it simple is best when speaking to a cancer patient. “I’m so sorry” can be extremely effective, as could “Cancer Sucks,” “I’m coming over with alcohol,” “Let’s have cake,” and “I love you.”

But while support is needed, try to hold back from saying,“Everything will be OK” — at least at first. According to one friend: “It’s a natural statement to blurt out, but it makes the person shut down from feeling their fears and worries don’t want to be heard.” Keep it upbeat by asking general questions, and if you are unsure, just ask if he/she would like to discuss it. If they say no, give them the room and don’t take it personally.

+ Remember that cancer does not define them. Cancer patients and caretakers also want to talk about the things they cared about before the disease entered their lives, so don’t feel awkward sharing funny stories from the PTA meeting they missed, how ridiculous a conference call was, or how your arch-rival mistakenly plucked her eyebrow off.  Sometimes a conversation about the mundane is all it takes to feel normal again.

My friend who beat breast cancer described a lovely encounter she had on the sidelines of her daughter’s soccer team one day. After asking if she was doing okay and getting the quick and dirty about my friend’s treatment, they went back to talking about the game. In her words: “It was beautiful to have someone not need to see it as drama-worthy, but jus a reality in a yep and move on sort of way. Back to soccer talk, just like the guys would do it!”

Gift cards rule: Yes, cancer treatments are expensive, but there often is an immediate increase in every day expenses, such as  gas, groceries, new clothing for body changes due to treatment, etc. as well. I have a friend whose husband has taken time off from his job in order to care for their ailing son, so it can be a strain to cover expenses. Gift cards alleviate some of the financial burden to their family while enabling them to focus on what’s important.

+ Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Whether you are the friend of a patient or caretaker, try to avoid saying, “Just let me know if you need anything.” While this is nice and well-intentioned, most people don’t want to ask for help or can’t even think about what they need until they need it. One survivor told me friends and neighbors would leave freezer-ready dinners in coolers outside their front door, which was extremely useful, or do things such as drop off a dozen bagels every Sunday. Another friend told me her neighbors took care of their landscaping for a year while she focused on beating her thyroid cancer, including shoveling her walk and driveway before she even woke up in the morning.

Pool resources: Car pools, meal schedules, playdate coordination, and grocery shopping are all easy ways to help cancer patients and their families. Unfortunately, these can be a nightmare to coordinate. One mom who was fighting cancer was concerned her children would have to quit activities while she was in treatment. She tried to arrange carpools, but with ever-changing schedules, she felt overwhelmed. Instead, a friend stepped in  and used a few web-based tools such as Find and Remind and Volunteer Spot to coordinate everything from meal delivery to car pools. Since it was all online, everyone who participated could schedule accordingly, and my friend felt confident that her children were always where they were supposed to be, allowing her to focus on getting well.

Set your alarm: I believe in prayer, karma, the power of positive thinking, good juju, and whatever else may help someone in need. Recently, a friend suggested we all set our alarms for 10 p.m., so we would stop what we were doing and send strong, healing vibes to a sorority sister about to begin fighting breast cancer. That means every single day I can do something to help her, and I know our collective strength will help her beat this.

Join the cause to beat cancer: Sometimes despite all our efforts, we lose a friend too early. But you can always participate in helping to find a cure. Fundraising, promoting awareness and early detection, advocacy, giving blood/platelets, sharing research and data —  there are so many ways to help. And there is no greater way to honor someone’s memory than to help find a cure, which ensures no one else loses a loved one to cancer.

Do you have any tips for helping a cancer patient or their caretaker? Share them below!

Thanks to my too-many friends that shared these great tips. Keep fighting the good fight. We are all behind you!

Free Yourself Friday — Snack Guilt

One of the best things about blogging is meeting other bloggers, particularly when you find one that is as twisted as you are due to similar life experiences. Today my new friend Leigh from Eat Clean, Live Dirty is guest posting about one of my favorite topics: snacks at activities. I encourage you to read her post and visit her site because she is, well, hilarious and informative. I’m only a little guilty of being jealous of her, but we’ll save that for another post. Enjoy, and don’t forget, it’s Friday so time to free yourself of any parenting guilt!

Spring has sprung. The flowers are in bloom. And Little League is in full gear all across this great land. You know, baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

I can handle games and practices three times a week. I can put a smile on my face while getting soaking wet cheering on my son’s baseball team (I live in Portland, after all). I can even have dinner prepared and on the table at 4:45 in order to make the 5:30 games (most days). Early Bird Special!

 

What gives me the most angst about baseball season (or any other organized sporting activity in which my kids participate) are the snacks. The gosh. darn. snacks. Apple pie, Little Debbie style.

My four-year-old twins (2 of my 3 Dirties) played basketball for the first time this winter. I was thrilled they were finally old enough to join a sports team after sitting on the sidelines watching their older brother for years. To my surprise, they ho-hummingly participated. And they were WAY more excited about getting a bag of Goldfish crackers and a Capri Sun post-game than making a basket. Snacks were all the talk on the bench and spurred a race to the goody trough post-game. I had obviously failed them as a basketball mom. I write a blog on clean eating, after all.

When did snacks become such a focal point? A calorie trophy? Compensation for merely showing up? A necessary part of the game plan?

It pains me to see how this is playing out on tracks and soccer fields across America. And it creates guilt. Do I sit back and allow my children foods we discourage at home – at (even before) the dinner hour? Foods that are sugar-laden with Red Dye #40. Or do I put my foot down and take a stand for something I whole-heartedly disagree with – and deny my children a bit of happiness while looking like a total ass? After all, it’s not much fun being THAT parent.

Don’t get me wrong, while working on my own Eat Clean agenda I tried to toe the line. I raised my hand to organize snacks for our fall soccer team last year. I sent out an email that was short and sweet (so I thought): “A healthy snack (minimally processed and nut-free) is encouraged. Fresh fruit is always a good option. Drinks are not necessary since kids will have their water bottles. Thank you in advance!”

Um…yeah. It apparently took [soccer] balls and was not well received. I was told I sounded “bitchy” and “like a Snack Nazi.” Of course, people didn’t heed my suggestions. I believe cupcakes with whipped frosting and flavored juice boxes were the all-season low (not only did we have a soccer game, it was the kid’s birthday that week). Of course! Who doesn’t want a large helping of partially hydrogenated oil for dinner left over from a Charles Cheese Extravaganza? And by the end of the season, I totally succumbed to the “norm” and bought a cake at Costco for the year-end celebration. I was fighting a losing battle and a tub of Betty Crocker kicked my butt. Here people, I know how much you LOVE frosting.

In all seriousness, I know parents advocating snacks are well-intentioned. And while I’m pretty sure the Costco sheet cake wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made, I am choosing to let go of the guilt over post-game snacks. Yes, there are more extreme measures I could take – like contacting the sports associations and requesting that snacks be eliminated all together. But I’m not going to. At least not until my blog goes double platinum (wink, wink).

Why? Because each and every day, I am setting good examples in what I put on the dinner table. I am teaching The Dirties that healthy foods fuel our bodies and make us feel good. I am showing them how colorful and fun fresh fruits and vegetables can be. True learning starts at home. An unhealthy snack two times per week post-game isn’t going to make or break my efforts to bring up my family as healthy as possible. And my kids need autonomy to learn to make good decisions on their own. Having said that, I will continue to provide frozen grapes in eco-friendly bags when it’s my turn to bring snacks. Without a drink. Sure, some Candyland kids might complain like their mom’s iPhone battery just died. But they’ll survive just as they would 30 minutes without Minecraft until they can calmly and happily plug back in.

And if my kids happen to have a tummy ache after eating crap on the ball field, I will chalk it up as a win. So go ahead, eat that Nutty Bar, kiddo – and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper while you’re at it. Because this mom is letting go!

You can read more from Leigh at www.eatcleanlivedirty.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/eatcleanlivedirty.

 

 

Free Yourself Friday — Saying No Without The Guilt

The other day a friend and I were chatting on the phone when she told me about her daughter going to the prom.

Exciting, right? But then she mentioned how her daughter asked if she could have a “coed sleepover” at the home of one of the boys. Together. All the boys and all the girls. In one house.

Prom

Oh, how proms have evolved…

“Back up the bus,” I think I said. Now kids are doing Prom sleepovers?

She explained that the parents said the girls would sleep on one floor and the boys another. It was most likely innocent, but as the parents of this extremely trustworthy, responsible 16 year-old girl, they were not quite ready to say yes. It did not fit the values they were trying to teach her, it did not match up to the rules they had in place, and it just seemed unnecessary. There were better options.

And apparently, they were the only parents saying no.

A similar situation happened at Homecoming earlier in the year, but when they put the kibosh on the sleepover, the other parents buckled and also said no. Unfortunately, this time it looks like her daughter will be the only one not attending the Prom Pajama Party. Ouch.

So, of course now my friend has a little guilt. It’s hard to be the only one to say no when all the other parents say yes. Especially when you have a good kid.

I feel this way a lot too. Not with co-ed sleepovers yet, thankfully. But with a lot of other small things that I find important, such as not drinking soda, limiting what movies I let my daughters watch, no unsupervised YouTube, etc. When I hear other parents — or their kids — talk, sometimes I wonder if I am being too strict, am I too Pollyanna, am I just a stick in the mud parent? Will my kids be mocked because they are the last kids in their grade to watch Pitch Perfect or because I will probably not buy them an iPhone on their 10th birthday?

Now, I’m not here to debate whether coed sleepovers are okay (because I’m guessing they are in certain situations) or what age is right for a cell phone. These are personal parenting decisions. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some guilt when you are the parent that always says no or has more rules than others.

When my kids were younger, it was much easier to say no, and I had zero guilt about it. ZERO. “No you can’t have another cookie,” or “no, you can’t ride your scooter down that gravel hill” is a no-brainer. But before, all I was risking was a potential temper tantrum that could easily be combatted with a big glass of chardonnay.

Now, as my children get older, saying no can have social consequences. It can make them feel alienated.  It can alienate me from other parents. It can make me feel guilty.

When I was growing up, I was one of the few in my social circle who had an early curfew (or sometimes a curfew at all.) My mom stayed up until I was in the house and she would check with other parents to see if I was where I said I was. I got grounded if I wasn’t (not that this EVER happened.) She said no. A lot.  At her heaviest fighting weight, 101 pounds, she scared the crap out of me. And I don’t think she felt an ounce of guilt.

And I’m the better for it. Having a curfew probably saved me a few times from getting in big trouble or doing something stupid. Saying no when I asked to do something ridiculous like go to a sleepover where she knew the parents were out of town probably was the right decision. Not indulging in my every request — and more importantly — making me pay my own way on such things as car insurance, gas and some social activities, made my transition to college smoother and ensured I understood the value of a dollar.

She had rules, and she wavered when she thought it was appropriate. Although sometimes, like any teenage girl, I thought she just plain sucked, as a mom myself now, I admire the steadfast approach she took. And I think she’s pretty okay with the way I turned out.

Get rid of guilt

Can we ever free ourself of guilt when parenting?

In today’s world, we have to let the guilt go when we say no for a good reason. It might be for a safety, moral, spiritual, financial or just-because-our-gut-says-so reason, but as parents, we have to stick to our guns — to what we feel is important and what will shape our kids into being the people we believe they can be. There’s no reason to feel guilt when you’re acting in the best interest of your children.

A bonus: sometimes all you need is one parent to say no to get every other mom and dad on board with you. And there’s certainly no guilt in doing that.

Free Yourself Friday. Go forth and enjoy.

 

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