Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three funerals - can I get a wedding?

Today was the third memorial service is 10 weeks or so for me. The first one was not unexpected - pancreatic cancer. The second rather surprising - my grandmother was in great health despite vascular dementia. Today's was very surprising - a stroke possibly caused by a terrible heart infection that ended in a car accident.

I convinced Lil to come with me today - she had no ballet rehearsal and Luke was working. I needed someone to be there for me and with me. Someone to talk through the emotions. Someone to keep me in the here & now.

Someone to remind me that there is life & laughter when I feel overwhelmed with sadness.

People often keep their kids away from funerals. I believe children should be present in the celebration of life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Choices for Breakfast

We had a really busy weekend. Lil had a performance at Heartlands in Ellicott City for Ballet Mobile at which she did her newly learned role of the Chinese dancer in the Nutcracker. For dinner, we attended Iron Bridge Wine Company's annual Charles Dickens' party with "A Christmas Carol" readings and Victorian-costumed a cappella singers.

Lil got to bed around 10, which isn't really a problem usually. But she was tired & she didn't set her alarm. I didn't realize she wasn't awake, so she didn't get up until 8:15. The bus comes at 8:50-8:55, so she didn't have much time. She didn't eat breakfast at home on Monday.

As my friend Tom wrote, Howard County lags behind in providing school breakfast to low-income students. More on that in a second.

My daughter is failure-to-thrive, meaning she fell off the growth charts at some point...I think she was 3 years old. At the time, it meant that we had to take her to the doctor for monthly weigh-ins, supplement her with Pediacare and overall, stress out about her weight. She's almost 11 now, but given the fact she dances 10-12 hours per week, gaining weight is nearly impossible. She's been tested for lead poisoning and other abnormalities, but nothing's shown a problem. Her endocrinologist is pretty conservative and doesn't see much wrong with her. A child who really is FTT has no energy, may be anemic and is not always intellectually developed. So her endocrinologist's advice - let her eat ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

Breakfast is typically her best meal of the day. On weekends, she'll have several waffles or pancakes. On weekdays, cereal, sans milk (I know). Lunch & dinner might be smaller. So breakfast is the focus.

Back to Tom's post, there are several schools that provide breakfast to the entire school regardless of income level. Lil's school is one of those. There is no stigma and there is no hurry because the breakfast cart goes to the classroom. They have some cereals, fruit, milk and maybe yogurt, but she doesn't like anything on the cart.

When Lil told me she'd overslept, I said "Well, eat something you don't like from the breakfast cart." She replied "How can I eat something I don't like?"

That exchange stuck with me the whole day. I don't blame her for her choosiness and I'm not mad at her for eschewing "yucky" food. She should be grateful that she had an option though.

But what stuck with me was that she has the choice to say no to the breakfast cart almost every single day.

A lot of her classmates don't have that choice. If they say no to that breakfast cart everyday, they'll be hungry. And when you're hungry, it's a lot harder to be picky.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Middle School Muddles

Next year, my little person heads to Middle School. I dread it. Not because of the school, which has had a variety of incidents over the past couple of years (What middle/high school doesn't?). But because it's a jumping off point and it's not always a swan dive into that hormone/crazy/preteen pool, much less a clean swim to the ladder.

I personally liked one particular aspect of my parochial school life. I went to St. Martin's for 8 years - 1st grade to 8th grade. The only difference between 4th & 5th grade was that 5th grade girls started wearing a skirt instead of a jumper (pinafore for my British readers). Obviously, in the US, kids go to middle school/junior high in 7th or 8th grade, but hopefully you see my point of a transition to being a "big" kid.

When you became a 5th grader, more opportunities opened to you. We started electing someone to student council. I believe 7th graders were the vice-presidents and 8th graders were presidents. While this may be shocking to some readers, I was the Student Council President in my final year. I ran a campaign - I'm not sure which classmate I beat. (Which is pathetic: my class was only 25 or so people).

Here's what I DO remember: running for President, I had name recognition. The little kids looked up to me (the big kids probably had more reason to tease me, but...). That translates into responsibility. I wanted to present a positive picture of what 8th grade meant for those little kids. (Again, that is my peculiarity, there are/were plenty of upper school kids that did NOT feel that way.)

The opposite argument could be made for not allowing preteens/young teens to move on from the primary grades. That middle school offers maturation and better preparation for high school. Probably 75% of my high school came from an 8 year school though so that may have been irrelevant in my case.

Additionally, one could argue that being in an 8 year program could mean that your little siblings could tattle on you to your parents. You still had to see your annoying 10 year old sister at school assemblies or wonder if your 1st grade would report that you said "Damn" on the school bus. I was the baby (again, WHO knew that about me???) so I didn't have that problem. I had the opposite problem of all the teachers knowing my brothers, but everyone knew which brother I was more like...(sorry Brian!).

From Luke's perspective - he actually had that all 12 years of his hometown school. Blue Ridge School District is ONE campus with THREE schools. And from my view of the homepage right now, it is apparently snowing in New Milford, PA. We joke about his one-room schoolhouse, but that campus ain't that big. His public school graduating class was the same size as my private school class. (Funny coincidence - we were BOTH valedictorians! That's probably more of a reason to feel sorry for the Lilster. If you haven't met my lovely husband, think Rick Moranis from Parenthood.)

From the elementary standpoint, there is also the division of the primary (K-2) & elementary grades (3-5) in pedagogy. Why don't we divide them up? A 12 year old on the playground with a kindergartener exhibits a huge divide of physical, emotional & social growth. There are so many different ways of segregating kids by age throughout the world - I have no idea what the "right" way is or if there IS a right way.

Of course, I'm fine with Lil going to middle school. I am nervous about the infighting, the hormones, the monsters under the bed...But you  know what? I'd be lying to myself if I didn't state the obvious - it's already begun. Next year, it will just be in a larger, albeit overcrowded, building and she will have to find her way. Just like she does everyday of her life, without the anxiety I had all the time. She is a stronger, better, more socially adept person than I was/am. People say to me often about her & my fears of little things for her - "It's Lil. She'll be fine."

She will be & I will be.