Dandelions, Wishes, and Fairies, Oh My

Mamacita says:     I love dandelions. I will never understand why people will pay out the wazoo for lovely nursery-bred flowers to plant, and then pay out the wazoo for someone to kill the lovely golden blossoms that are already growing.

 Dandelions: How are these not beautiful?

Dandelions: How are these not beautiful?

 

Is it because dandelions are so common, and grow so easily, that we take them for granted and prefer flowers that really aren’t all that much prettier but which are harder to grow, expensive,  and are a bit less common?  If dandelions weren’t sprinkled everywhere, turning plain green lawns into starry universes, common, easy, beloved by children, would they be more popular?

Whenever there are too many of pretty much anything, we tend to take them for granted and consider them less than first class.  Take a look at our overcrowded classrooms, for example.  But I digress.

If we examine each individual child flower, we will see that it is wondrously made, unique, adds to the quality of the universe, and is worthy of attention.

No florist’s creation will ever rival the Dixie cup with a few short-stemmed dandelions plunked down in it.

Nothing store-bought or paid-for will ever rival the dandelion even in its death, turned into a white fuzzy clock that will tell a child the time, according to the number of breaths it takes to blow all the fuzz away.  And, of course, FAIRIES love to ride on the soft, fluffy achenes, granting wishes right and left.  Every child knows that if you can blow ALL the achenes off with one breath, your wish will definitely come true.

How sad, to be a child without dandelions on the lawn, to have nothing but plain green landscaping that he can’t even play on because of all the chemicals, to have expensive blooms and blossoms that he can’t pick.  How sad the house containing children but no Dixie cups of short-stemmed dandelions all over the countertops.  My heart actually breaks over the thought of children living in a house where blowing dandelion clocks is forbidden, lest the seeds take root and ruin the “look.”  No wishes or fairies dare come near such a domicile.  There’s a big difference between a house and a home, and to people like me, who believe firmly in fairies, wishes, and stubby little bouquets in paper cups, a house has a green, chemically-treated velvety lawn, and a home has grass, sprinkled with tiny golden stars.  And, if the children are especially lucky, lots of little purple violets, as well.

 Dandelion clocks and wishes and fairies, oh my

Dandelion clocks and wishes and fairies, oh my

I believe that dandelions are flowers, in the same way that those expensive hybrid roses are flowers, and every bit as beautiful, especially when they’re thrust in our face by a grubby little child, put in a Dixie cup, and placed where everybody can see and admire them.

Dandelions represent summer, and childhood, and the love of a little girl or boy for a parent, and a Dixie cup of stubby dandelions means more to me than anything delivered by the florist’s truck.

Put that Dixie cup on the coffee table between two cereal bowls containing floating periwinkle blossoms and catalpa blooms, and House Beautiful can go blow.  I prefer the individual touch when it comes to home decor.

I also welcome the fairies.  Heaven knows I can use all the wishes I can get.

What’s that?  You’re afraid of the bees?  Sissy.

 

Bread and Butter and Sharp Knives and ISTEP

Mamacita says: I used to cook and make butter with my students.  I am reminded of those days whenever I run into former students from that class.

A while back, I ran into one of those former middle school student at Kroger’s.  I recognized him right away, in spite of the beard, the wife, and the three little kids, but for the first time, I couldn’t remember a student’s name. This concerns me.

My mind’s eye could see him with the years stripped away, and I could remember where he sat and who sat on either side of him. I could remember things he did and said in class, and I could remember his handwriting and where he liked to sit in the cafeteria. I couldn’t, however, remember his name.

He said to me, “I bet you don’t remember me!” And I replied, “Of COURSE I remember you.” Because I did, even if his name was gone from my brain.

He said to me, “I will always remember that one thing we did in your class.”

I replied, “And which thing is that?”

“Remember when you read that olden-days book to us and they were always eating and making stuff from scratch, and you taught us how to make stuff? What I remember most was the butter. My kids and I love to make butter, just like you showed us in 8th grade.”

Homemade butter

Homemade butter

The book was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. It was perfect for a low-ability class of 37 14-to-17 year old students, all boys, who hated reading and honestly couldn’t see any connection between something in a book and the outdoors/ hunting/farming/mechanic/taxidermy/4H/cattle-raising lives most of them were already considered experts in.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

It was English class, but we cooked, and we whittled (GASP, how politically INCORRECT!) and we made sourdough starter and later we made bread with it, and we made pies and jerky and boiled candy (it’s just fudge or taffy) and jam. And about once a week, we made butter to go with our bread. I had a glass churn, but that was too complicated so we poured the cream into a big Tupperware thing and passed it all around the class and the boys shook it while listening to me read. I would read until the butter ‘came,’ and then the boys sprang into action. They poured off the buttermilk and squeezed the butter until it stopped weeping. They sprinkled just a little salt into the butter and kneaded it in. Then they all washed their hands and whoever’s turn it was that day sliced the bread and they all put napkins in their shirt collars and tucked in. We used KNIVES to slice the bread and to spread the butter. Heavens to BETSY.

I let my students wield a big bread knife!

I let my students wield a big bread knife!

I know that many of them were enthusiastic about this book because of the food, and they loved the food because all teenage boys love food, and also because these particular teenage boys were seriously hungry.

I loved those Laura Ingalls Wilder units. Other teachers criticized them because watching sourdough rise, and making butter, weren’t proper English lessons.

I maintained, and I still maintain, that anything we as teachers or parents do that makes learning come alive is a proper English lesson. Science lesson. History lesson. Math lesson. Life lesson.

I was sad when the principal forbade me to do this kind of thing any more. There really wasn’t time, anyway, what with all the ISTEP prep the boys needed to do. That was more important in the long run, right?

"Make your mark heavy and dark." Might as well have the game as the name.

“Make your mark heavy and dark.” Might as well have the game as the name.

I ran into a grown man in a store yesterday who remembered those lessons and did them with his own children.

I’m sure he remembers and does the lessons required for ISTEP, too.

But I know for a fact that he remembers the butter.

Easter 2016: Rejoice.

One of two carved limestone Easter Island heads at the entrance to Thornton Park in Bedford, Indiana

Mamacita says: Happy Easter, everyone.

What? Oh, oops. . . . .

Vintage Easter card

Here. This is more like it. I do love those vintage Easter postcards. I hated growing up and finding out that those baby kittens were probably going to eat those baby chicks. I would also hate to have to tell you all how old I was before I realized that the bunnies weren’t really responsible for all those eggs.

THIS is Easter.

But ultimately, this is Easter to me.

And isn’t it wonderful that so many of us, with so many different beliefs, can hang out here in the Blogosphere and get along great and love each other without having to constantly proselytize and try to sway each other to our own beliefs?

Oh, wait, this is an election year.  Well, in spite of all that, we’re still all pretty nice.  Those who aren’t, well, who wants to sit by them?  “Those” people aren’t what the rest of us are all about.

Oh, sure, those people are online too, but I don’t pay much attention to them.  You shouldn’t, either.  Let them rant.. .

It’s the people whose beliefs are quietly lived every day, the people who show me by example what their values are, who get my attention.

And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? If you don’t believe me, just look around for a minute or two. Think of your family.

And if you’re alone, look in the mirror.

See?

Happy Easter, dear internet people. Eat chocolate. Smile. Have some eggs. Rejoice over something.

It’s a good day for rejoicing. . . .

You Have Schema

Mamacita says:  It’s all about schema, you know.  Why stay in the box, all cramped and restricted and crowded with boring people, when it’s so much more fun to live OUTSIDE of the box?  Nobody who chose to live inside the box has ever changed the universe in any noticeable way.

. . . except for THIS box. This box is larger on the inside.

. . . except for THIS box. This box is larger on the inside, and its occupant has changed the universe in many ways..

Sing.  Dance.  Write poems and stories and plays and songs.  Draw.  Sculpt. Discover things.  Connect things.  Remember, everything is connected to everything else, and one of education’s jobs is to help students connect the dots.  There is nothing in the universe that you don’t know something about; my students probably know this entire speech by heart.  :)  Schema.  Prior knowledge.  You have schema about everything.

Seriously.  Everything.

Well, it’s true.  You might not know enough to land the space shuttle, but if you can spell it, you know SOMETHING about it.  Can you perform delicate and complicated brain surgery?  Probably not, but you know where the brain is located; therefore, you have schema you can bring to the table about brain surgery.  Never underestimate yourself.  You know things.  You can do things.  And you have a story to tell that nobody else can tell.  Nobody knows it but you.

Who cares what the rest of the world thinks? Be yourself.  Nobody else can do it.

You have a message for the universe that only you can deliver.  Don’t let the world inhibit you.  Don’t let anybody talk you into keeping your message to yourself.

Naturally, if you’re an evil psychotic axe murdering terrorist or a deliberately annoying prick who likes to shoot, steal, pester, disrupt, or otherwise annoy others in both deadly and non-deadly ways, keeping them from their rightful participation in the celestial dance, this does not apply to you. I include people who get off on tickling someone until they cry in this category.

Behave yourselves.  Contribute.  We need you more than you could ever know, but unless you control yourselves and do what you were born to do, nobody will want to hear your message.

Remember who’s talking here.  :)

The Rights of the Bully Should NEVER Be Trump!

Mamacita says: So many of the teachers I’ve spoken to lately are frustrated almost beyond words by their schools’ insistence that they keep disruptive, non-participatory, and often violent students and bullies in their classrooms, to the severe detriment of the other children.

Badly behaved students should not trump the other children or the teacher!

Bullies should not trump the other children or the teacher!

All students have a right to be educated in their least restrictive environment. How can this be possible if there are students in the classroom whose sole purpose in life seems to be to prevent other students from possibly learning something?  Bullies should never have more rights than their victims.  Bullies don’t deserve as many rights.

When a child goes home at the end of almost every day scratched, bruised, pinched, frustrated, and crying because once again “that same kid” tormented him/her, swiped the pencils, broke the scissors, yelled out, distracted, pulled the hair, marked on the paper, constantly poked, stole the lunch, chased, teased, and in any other way prevented a child from having a relaxed-yet-exciting, unimpeded, nurturing, SAFE environment in which he/she might learn and excel and advance upward and onward and feel absolutely safe and nothing is ever done to the perpetrator, who is allowed to pretty much rule the school with such behaviors, I call it bullying and I refuse to accept any other label for it.  Why do we continue to allow bullies to exist in our classrooms?  It makes no sense.  Bullies exist because they’re allowed to exist.  Stop allowing it and the behavior will stop, at least in the classroom.

Administrators who require teachers to put up with these behaviors and give teachers no support when these kids become insistently uncooperative (that’s a euphemism, by the way), teachers who fail to protect their students from these behaviors, parents who expect the school to deal with their child’s behaviors in such a way that their child is never responsible, and the child himself/herself who continues to torture other children or in any way put up an obstacle to their success. . . these are all bullies, too. And our good, polite, hard-working, creative kids who WANT to learn and advance have to sit there and wait, and be pinched and robbed and interrupted and teased, etc., and wait some more, most often never getting to advance because they’re still waiting on the other kids, whose behaviors and needs are seen as more important. . . .

Bullying isn’t only on the playground or the internet. Any time Susie can’t learn, advance, concentrate, or sit in peace and be allowed to work because of Billy’s behavior, Billy is a bully and Susie is a victim and the adult in the room is the enabler and the administration is Dolores Umbridge. Why, then, is Billy soothed, placated, rewarded, and continued to be allowed to sit near Susie and torment her? And why is nobody outraged that Susie is being held back, harassed, bothered, and hindered from learning?

I’m outraged. You should be, too.

But nobody does anything about it because Billy is apparently more important than Susie.

And Dolores Umbridge doesn’t WANT our children to learn, advance, and soar because that makes them more difficult to bully, herself.

Bah.

When are we going to grow a pair and demand that our schools become once again what they were intended to be: places where those who wish to learn might learn? At the rate we’re going these days, the answer is “never.”

Shame on us. Shame on anyone and everyone responsible.

It Takes a Village, and We Are That Village

Mamacita says:  I think sometimes that if there had been online journals, blogs, when I was raising my children, I might not have made quite as many mistakes.

Often, during those years, I felt very isolated. I was sure that nobody else was feeling the same emotions, having the same problems, trying and failing at so many things, when it came to baby/child care. I felt like I was the only one, struggling with this and that, with the babies, and later with the children. I was embarassed to ask some questions, because I knew that nobody else in the universe could possibly have my same problems.

What to do...what to do....what to do....

What to do…what to do….what to do….

I used to wish that there was SOME place where I could find a lot of advice and sure-fire plans to help me. I used to wish that there were people who had BEEN there, who could share their successes and failures; word of mouth is still the most believable way of selling anything, and advice has to be sold, you know. We SAY it’s ‘given,’ but if it’s not packaged and presented juuuust right, nobody will take it.

Yes, there were relatives who were laden with advice. Friends, who had a lot of advice. Much of it was good, too; and just as much of it was horrible. And, the ‘supply’ of relatives and friends was limited. So limited, there was no way their experiences could help me with very many of the problems and questions I had. Besides, they were, well, relatives. And friends, however beloved, don’t always agree with our own parenting methods or theories.

Now, though, this has changed, and changed drastically. For every question or problem a blogger posts, there are potentially millions of people who have BEEN THERE, and somehow survived, and who therefore have believable and practical advice for a young parent who is wondering, puzzled, or even at the end of his/her rope.

It takes a village to raise a child?

Bloggers, WE are the village!

Bloggers: WE are the village!

Bloggers: WE are the village!

For someone like me, with grown children and a shipload of experience but no takers, blogging about the past is a cathartic thing, a trip down memory lane, with a lot of the bad memories miraculously erased. But to a young parent, some small thing I mention might make a world of difference! I hope so, anyway.

This applies to many areas, of course; but parenting is the most important job in the world, so it is the one I am thinking about right now.

I tried to care for my first baby by using charts in those free pamphlets the hospital gave me when I checked out. Imagine. With my second baby, I felt confident enough to laugh at myself, but even so I made tons of mistakes. We all do; they’re unavoidable. People who tell you that they don’t make mistakes are liars or amnesia victims.

Sara and Andy Goodwin, and Mommy

Sara and Andy Goodwin, and Mommy

Now, when a parent has a problem or a concern, one little mention of it on a blog or a forum, and the whole world wants to help.

And hey. A piece of advice about, say, diaper rash, from a parent who has battled diaper rash and won, is worth a lot more than a pamphlet about a diaper rash product. Even if there’s a coupon, and Marsh is tripling coupons that week.

Parents want answers to their questions. They want the latest answers to their questions. Our Moms/Dads may have been perfect, but a perfect answer from 1953 isn’t necessarily the perfect answer to the same question in 2016. And then again, sometimes it is. When our peers chime in with solutions that have been proven to work, perhaps it’s the solution to try.

I am not downplaying the role of grandparents and friends, in regard to parenting advice. I am merely saying that no matter how old we are, our peers’ opinions mean a lot more than we think. Blogging is a big collection of peers, and friends, and parents, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins and their next-door-neighbor’s sister-in-law’s beautician’s second cousin once removed. It is the biggest pamphlet in the world. It’s the biggest forum in the world. It’s the biggest therapy couch in the world. It’s the biggest sounding board in the world. It’s the biggest reference book in the world.

Just as there are kooks at the family reunion, whose opinions you wouldn’t touch with a 2×4 and a pair of rubber gloves, there are also kooks online, whose opinions we wouldn’t touch with TWO 2×4’s and a long knife. At a family reunion, laughing, screaming, mocking, and facial grimaces are not allowed. Online, we don’t have to be that polite, because the person can’t see us anyway, and we can click away any time we want. Or, if the advice is good, we can comment and thank the blogger, and come again as often as we can because maybe they’ll say something equally good or helpful again some time.

On my blogroll are people I wish lived next door to me, or WITH me, because I’ve come to love them as dearly as though we met for lunch daily. I’ve also BE’d to some blogs that made me laugh out loud at the pompous stupidity of the blogger, or cringe in horror at the close-minded prejudice, or smile at the picture of a child in front of a birthday cake.

The Blogosphere

The Blogosphere

Blogging is conversation. Checking out our blogrolls is seeking conversation with people we like. Sometimes, there isn’t time to read as many as we’d like, and we feel as though we should apologize the next time we’re able to come by! Well, I do, anyway.

We’re all busy. Most of us work and raise children and try to nurture them and a marriage and our friendships at the same time. Many days, something’s gotta give. With blogging, the conversations can wait till we can get there. Bloggers are true friends who don’t put any kind of time limitation on us. We are here, and we’ll be here tomorrow if you can’t stop by tonight.

We post about our lives, and if some aspect of one life can touch and help another life, well, that’s what friends are for. Enough friends together, make a village.

It takes a village.

And that village, my friends, is us. We are a phenomenon. We are the village.