Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
Welcome! I'm glad to have you aboard.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Restore Sanity to Halloween: The Ultimate Socialist Holiday!

I love Halloween. It’s colorful, creative and usually good fun.

But there are weird conversations going on this year about making rules for how old kids can be who want to trick or treat - like no one over 14 should be allowed to go house to house (can you imagine being the cop who has to make an arrest?). [See also Teens Defend their Right to Trick or Treat.]

That’s crazy. It's time to restore some sanity around here!

When it comes to Halloween, I am the ultimate socialist. If you show up wearing a costume, you get candy. Even adults. I don’t care. All you have to do is show a little creativity and have the wherewithal to go door to door. Okay, you do have to say, “Trick or Treat” but that’s is – everybody gets candy!

I love how much thought and planning goes into Katie’s costume every year. It’s usually her idea and then my scrambling to see what we can assemble. I think she’s had a homemade costume nearly every year!

And this year – and I blame her social studies teacher  - this year she made a homemade map of the route she’s planning to take with her friends with special houses identified (we all know the “good” houses don’t we?) so they don’t forget.

Katie took great care in choosing a good mix of candy based on her assessment of “kids favorites” (and no peanuts since a good friend of hers has a peanut allergy and she’s sensitive to that!).

The nation’s depressed. The economy still sucks. Politicians are fighting. Don’t we deserve a little fun (besides watching the SF Giants play in the World Series!)? And all we do is get mad at tweens and teens for being a nuisance. Well this is a positive, fun, good way to have fun – shouldn’t we all celebrate that together?

Share the wealth. Buy some candy. Make a Trick or Treater happy on Halloween no matter how old they are!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Middle School Dance Comes with Instructions! You Gotta See This!

While I was watching the Giants take game three last night, Katie was focusing on "groking" what she had learned in PE this week in preparation for Friday's big (first) dance!

At the commercial break, she dragged me into the office where she had laid it all out on our white board (they are closet doors and absolutely the coolest thing).  I couldn't resist sharing it with you - it's just too classic. And heck, if you aren't a dancer, maybe it will give you a few ideas!

The PE teachers have assured the students that nearly any movement, if it matches the beat, can be considered a dance move. Shoot basketballs? Do it to the beat. Grab groceries off a shelf? Do it to the beat. And don't forget to choose your favorite dance expression - that helps sell it. 

Now, put on some music and bust a move! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tween-age Grousing: This Strange Behavior Has Hidden Meaning

Ever since school started this fall, Katie has come home with weird stories about new behaviors she’s experiencing now that she’s in middle school. These are things the kids didn’t do before middle school (well, maybe a little but nothing like what’s happening now). It goes like this:

Katie opens her lunch her friend immediately asks, “Can I have that?” referring to her cookie, chips, pretzels, insert food item here.

Walking across the Quad at lunchtime, an eighth grader who doesn’t know her at all says, “Can I have a dollar?”

In class, a student assistant, a seventh grader says, “You need to give me some money!”

In another class, a friend spies her Silly Bands and begs, “Can I have one paahhhllleeessseee?”

What the heck is going on? Apparently it’s relentless and for some reason, my daughter has the good sense to say no. But I am really not sure why. I mean some of these people are her friends or at least people she’s friendly with. As for the older kids, I can’t believe she has the courage to rebuff them. But she does (thank god) and she feels completely comfortable telling them to take a hike.

But what is really going on here? This was really bugging me. So I asked an expert – my friend, her principal. Since she’s made a career out of middle school-aged kids, I figured she’d be able to clue me in. She did.

So what's behind "the ask"?

Turns out there are two different kinds of motivations behind “the ask.” The first is kind of sweet, not so much because of what the kids are doing, but why they are doing it. When “the ask” is peer-to-peer, it’s really a desperate attempt to form a social connection.

What the child is really saying is, "do you like me? If you do, you'd share with me," which, I admit is a bit clunky. But it makes sense. These are kids who are thrown together, many aren't friends but are friendly, and they have no idea how to approach someone and make a friend. So this awkward social bargaining ensues.

Now the other "ask" is really about power. As you might have noted, the person asking is typically older and inherently has more power in the relationship (bigger graders preying on younger graders). If the child asking succeeds in getting what he or she wants - most often money, but Katie has also been asked for school supplies and food - then they "win" the power struggle. And I have to believe that poor kid who gave in will be an easy ask the next time.

As I talked about this with Katie, she totally got it. It was like a light went on. "Of course," she said, "it's all about power. I am so telling my friends to tell those other kids to bug off." But on the friendship side of things, when I offered a suggestion of how to handle things differently, she told me I am full of it. She says she has it figured out and it will be fine.

No one is getting her stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sheer Pain of Being a Tween: So Simple but So Awful

I woke up yesterday fired up. Fall - my favorite time of year!

I had scoped out an event at our local crafts store, Beverly Fabrics, and I knew Katie was going to love it. They were offering small craft projects of the fall variety with a hint of Halloween thrown in. This would be great.

Except it wasn't great.

Beverly's was doing a good job. Adults were decorated in costumes and silliness. People were milling around inside and out and the craft tables were set up with lots of little things to do. But Katie froze when she saw them.

Normally, I would have had to let her run ahead to get to all the stuff. Typically I have to find things to keep myself occupied while she managed "just one more." But not this time.

As we approached the store, she started to get slightly agitated.  "Want to do a craft," I asked. "No," she quickly replied. So we went inside. "Look at all this great stuff," I said pointing out several, wonderful fall creations. "Yeah," she countered, barely moving. "Want me to make a scarf for you in school colors," I asked desperately, trying to find some way to connect. "No," she said, "I think we should go."

Hmm. This was totally weird.

We got back in the car and I stalled to think of something else we could do. I wanted to do anything other than go back home and stare at each other. I looked over and Katie was quietly crying. We sat together quietly. I realized this was one of those moments I have read about. A classic tween dilemma.

She really wanted to do the crafts, but she felt too old and horribly self conscious. She was caught in that awful place between being a kid and being a teen.

The rest of our day basically sucked. She was depressed and I eventually caught it. She still doesn't have any girl friends at school and I think not having anyone to talk to adds to the complexity.

So as the day ended, her feelings finally got crystallized in her head and we talked about what happened. She was so sad she missed the chance to do something she loved. But she also realized she didn't really have control over her conflicting feelings when the hit her at the store.

Gratefully, today is a much better day. Being a tween is very exciting, but sometimes, it just plain sucks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: Save Water, Take a Dirt Bath

Katie created this award-winning poster for our local water utility.
We know water is a limited resource. And I have talked to Katie about it for years. We live in a wonderful area but it is regularly impacted by climate shifts that often result in limits on our water consumption.

So today, around the world, bloggers are writing about water. It's called Blog Action Day and if you put that in Google, you will see thousands of folks blogging about water from many perspectives.

Take a moment, sign the petition below and see what others are saying.

Change.org|Start Petition

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Working Hard for Smart Teachers Makes the Whole Difference

We are a month into school and Katie is humming, almost purring, with the challenge. Sure it's been a lot of work but as she said, "Mom, I don't mind working hard for smart teachers!" No truer words have been spoken.

For the first time since third grade, Katie has teachers who are actually "into her." It's making a huge difference. Katie comes home with homework that isn't so bad. The deal is she wants to do so well on it that's she actually taking longer than I think her teachers' expect. She wants to delight them with her efforts and works really hard to go above and beyond.

But she also really wants their feedback. And they are so good about giving it to her. She comes home with letter grades on everything (her first time) and gets so excited when there are comments. The teachers are available to her during non-class hours and she has stopped by to see them to get help or clarification.

When I decided to let Katie go to Shoreline, it was with some reticence - I hadn't heard good things about the school. But now that we are there, I feel like it's a big hidden secret. The school rocks. And the teachers are amazing.

So I am letting her ride the tide of enthusiasm she has suddenly found for learning. She bores dinner guests after the meal as she teaches them about hominids and factoring. Hooray for a good start. Let's hope this doesn't end!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We Enter the World of Queen Bees and Wannabees (and Bullies)

Ahhh, bullies.

We have managed to get through six years of school with very few incidents of bullying. But now Katie's in middle school and the landscape has changed.

Thankfully, we started reading Queen Bees and Wannabees together just before school started. What a great book. We are only about half way through (homework is blowing out our time together) but the first half is awesome. It describes the Girl World and how the rules and roles are changing - especially in junior high.

Katie loved listening to the different descriptions of each kind of girl and the role she plays in the larger group. Because Katie hasn't been in public school, she isn't really part of a group yet. She was also born an arm-chair psychologist so she has an uncanny way of understanding others motivations in a way most kids don't.

Fast forward to right now.

Katie has met her first official Queen Bee and she is a bully. A bona fide, no-holds-barred idiot who has decided my kid needs to be put in her place. It started with "accidental" backpack bumps and mocking. It has escalated to more overt pushing and putting Katie down in class (PE class - perfect isn't it?).

This bully managed to stab another boy in the back with a pencil, sending him to the office nurse because it got so swollen. I have begged Katie to tell the girl to stop. Just stop. But Katie feels she can handle it and her current strategy is to ignore her.

Probably not a bad approach until Frisbee golf late last week, when Katie accidentally hit the Queen Bee in the head with a Frisbee. Of course this lead to a big discussion on Freudian Slips and are accidents really accidents. But the bottom line is now the simple bullying is on the verge of escalating.

So I don't have a tidy conclusion.

I am at an impasse with my daughter on how to handle this. I want her to make some adult aware of what's been going on in case it gets worse. She wants to downplay the whole thing; sure that it will blow over. She has good judgment and maybe that's the hardest part - knowing when to trust her's or mine.

We are at the point in growing up aren't we?

So I ask you your opinion? Do I trust her ability to handle it? Do I slyly get in it? I don't believe she's in danger - at least not yet - so there's time to let things play out. Love to hear from you...

UPDATE: In mid October, Katie hopped in the car after school and said the bully told her she had big feet. Katie said, "yep, I do! I am going to be tall.!" And the bully replied, "no, those big feet are going to get you beat up." I jumped from the car and marched Katie right back into her last period - PE.

The teacher was there and I made Katie explain what had been going on. For me, hearing "beat up" was the line in the sand I was looking for. The teacher handled it wonderfully. Asked Katie how she wanted to proceed and Katie said a face-to-face meeting with the other girl (I was shocked, what a brave choice!). Katie explained later she didn't want the girl weaseling out of anything, she wanted to make sure she owned it. A day later they had a CRT (Conflict Resolution something) and it was discussed.

The upshot, was a week later, said bully came up to Katie in the halls and said, "Hi Katie, how are you?" and was apparently genuine! Katie was floored. There haven't been any more problems. I am keeping my fingers crossed!