Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to All!

It’s New Year’s Eve, the night; we wait for the entry of the upcoming decade.  Little Margo does not get it quite yet.  She has no clue about the celebration and staying up late…we have not yet introduced this activity to her.  But perhaps tonight, I shall do just that.  Go and wake her before the strike of midnight, provide her with a pot and wooden spoon.  Then we wait; we wait for the upcoming ruckus to start, and we join in.  Every year we hear the yells of “Happy New Year!” in the streets of our neighborhood.  But this year, we will make a little noise ourselves and introduce Margo to the tradition of welcoming the New Year.  Better put, the New Decade.  You just got to love it!

Happy New Year's my friends!  It will be a great one for sure!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas here lasts for two days....

The affair with Christmas starts on Christmas Eve.  We all head to my brother Guy's, and eventually arrive two - three hours later.  This has been our ritual for at least 18 years now.  I still remember the first Christmas I experienced with my husband at my brother's.  We were engaged at the time, and I so thought I was giving him the perfect present.  An NFL football, and something signed by Joe Montana, oh, plus a membership to the 49'er fan club.  Yes, it was done in fun, my hubby to be, loved sports.  Add to this observation, any time we went to a toy store or sports place he would head for the footballs.  So perhaps it was not all done in jest on my part.  I still remember when he opened up the package...hmmm...the smile was a little less than I expected, but it was still there.  Then he gave me his present...oh my goodness, it was a beautiful hand made jewelry box.  Boy did I feel dumb not taking the giving a little bit more seriously.  In reality, I was very serious, the problem was I miss read the man.  We still laugh about that Christmas, to this day. 

That Christmas was the first time I ever played with a Barbie; my niece was very young at the time, and she noticed I was not enjoying the experience as much as she.  Nicole looked at me with the big wide eyes of a 6 year old and said, "Auntie Maxine, don't you like Barbie?"  She was shocked at my answer, but allowed me to continue playing with her.

Christmas Eve is the night we gather, to eat a beautiful meal, talk, drink wine and exchange gifts among each other.  Now that the kids outnumber the adults, or at least it seems that way, it becomes a frenzy of unwrapping gifts.  Instead of children, we watch experienced sharks, shredding their package wrappings.  They each look at the acquired gift, and quickly move on to the next.  At least that is the way of the younger ones. 

The older teenagers, know better, or at least they have become a little more sophisticated about the process.  You still hear the glee when the perfect gift is opened.  That is the gift that captures their attention for a long time.  Sometimes, they will even come over and give you a big hug along with the thank you.  That is when I know, I bought the correct item.  By this time we are wading in wrapping!  The beautifully decorated area, is now full, of kids, parents, grandparents and wrapping.  The toys are stacked neatly, or not so neatly somewhere so they will not be lost

The next day is Christmas, this is the morning that Santa leaves his stash of goodies for those who have been, good, and a lump of coal for those who have been less then good.  We are still at my brothers, who can have Christmas without a handful of kids.  Little Margo, she loves staying at the cousins.

Mark and I arrive back to the house at 7:00 AM or so, and find the room is dark.  The two littlest ones, have been awake for about 30 minutes or so this year. They are found snuggling in Auntie Cori's bed, waiting for our arrival.  Next the teenagers are awakened by two small girls.  Then, the rush, or run to the Christmas tree.  "Santa was here, Santa came!" are the shouts uttered by all of our lips.  Everyone in this house believes in Santa.

First the cookies and carrots are carefully examined.  "Look, the cookie has a bite taken out of it, and the carrots, they are partially eaten too."  The wonder of this little experience is noted in the voices of the youngest two.  So again, the Santa story is preserved one more year.  Passed down from one generation to the next.  At last, the gifts are found, and unwrapped, but the frenzy does not exist.  These gifts produce the oooo's and ahhs any Santa would enjoy.  We are all content with the choices by Santa.  Now the rest of the day is set before us.  Eating our traditional meat pie, with grandmanma's ketchup.  All made with love and spice, and everything nice,...and then we shall gather around the table and enjoy each other in that very special Christmas way. Christmas, something to always be cherished, for the complete two day celebration. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas and the Kindergarten Teacher Gift.....

I can't believe the holidays are upon us! Tomorrow is the last day of school before the Christmas holiday break, and I only now purchased a gift for little Margo's teacher. I was reminded today of the impending tradition, when I saw one of Margo's classmates present the box of chocolates to Mrs. B. It was not wrapped, and Arnold began to point out a variety of letters on the box to Mrs. B. She accepted the gift with grace and acknowledged his current accomplishments with the alphabet on her newly acquired box of chocolates. Margo is currently oblivious to the gift giving towards her teacher thus far. I have mentioned it a few times, but no bites on her part. I will say she was quite excited about the books that Mrs. B. gave to each child in her class today. The individually wrapped gifts, contained the hand written name of each child on the tag, followed by, "from Mrs. B". Margo's friend came over to our house with her gift from Mrs. B. too, today after class. Both girls decided to wait until Christmas to open up their treasured present from their teacher.

Back to my quandary, what do I get for Mrs. B? I didn't want to do the chocolate or the wine, although both can be quite delicious. I wanted something a little more meaningful, and so I decided to write Mrs. B. an essay about rose bushes. I found a pair of beautiful rose bushes at Costco today, and thus began my inspiration for Mrs. B. and her lively rose bushes in her garden.

Once upon a time, there was a rose gardener, named Mrs. B. When I first met her, the garden was just starting to be developed. In fact I was not sure Mrs. B. could really be a gardener, because she was just starting out. I knew she was accomplished from her years of training at the university, and then she had even worked with the 1st grade roses for a year, but this year, Mrs. B. had to plant her own roses from almost scratch. These were the Kinder roses. They can be tough to manage sometimes I have been told. I wanted to discover how Mrs. B. would go about bringing the dormant roses to life.

The difficulty of planting a new rose garden, was understanding where the seeds were germinated and nurtured during their early days of life. I believe each of the 20 or so little plants were started with the best intentions at their home nurseries. Some of these nurseries have had a few of their older rose bushes grow beyond Kindergarden, before their most recent batch; other nurseries were experiencing the Kindergarden for the first time. This very wide variety of nurseries was providing a very wide variety of roses for Mrs. B's garden. Some of the dormant roses really did not sit well in one spot, nor did they keep their little thorns to themselves at times. However, Mrs. B. actually had them sitting on their own square plot after a couple of days. The colors of the plots were purple, green, blue, and yellow. She began to nourish them with the Alpha Bet fertilizer. It was working quite well. She combined this technique with the number quota. Soon each of the rose bushes was providing a variety of services about the garden.

One would describe the weather for the day, and let everyone know if it was cloudy, rainy or sunny. Another was in charge of the gate, ensuring it was closed and opened at the appropriate times. These little dormant rose bushes were amazing. Some could turn the light off and on upon request. Others would bring the attendance list to the main barn for filing. In fact each of these 20 dormant rose bushes was given jobs to do on a daily basis. Some were even table captains for the week. And suddenly, one could observe, that this new freshly tilled garden was becoming quite organized.

In reality it has only been about three and a half months since the garden began. In fact the nursery owners were still very interested in this kindergarden plot. I am one of those owners, and we gather everyday, outside the plot and wonder, what is happening inside. We actually share stories of things we've heard from the rose bushes themselves about the development of their garden. The over all consensus was our little rose bushes seem to all like Mrs. B. Sometimes Mrs. B. was away for a day and a substitute gardener came in to run the Kindergarden. Some of those days were marked by a little disarray about the garden. Soon Mrs. B. would return and start the repair work once again. Fertilize with Alpha Bet, and water with cheers.
Bit by bit, I watched, I saw the little leaves began to sprout. I head the stories read to me by my little rose bush. I watched the stubby little branches start to write words and then sentences that looked like run on words, and required some deciphering with a hoe. Eventually I was able to read this work. But you Mrs. B. already had the knack of sorting one word from the next. You weeded all about and throughout this garden. Sometimes it was a simple reminder of what needed to be done. Other times, the sacred "superstar" was turned over for the hour, and that seemed to cause the rose bush to grow in the most appropriate manner. I have heard it rumored that a "superstar" was torn asunder...and eventually the little rose bush returned to better growth patterns in the garden.

Do you remember all your precious rose bushes for this year Mrs. B.? Each one is a gift for you to grow, to nurture, and to create opportunity for growth in independence. In fact you garden more independence from each bush than we do, even though we were the original nursery. I know, once in a while, you were 'stuck' by the unruly thorns in these little dormant rose bushes. But I also know, in the next six months, each one of these little rose bushes will bloom. We will all be amazed by their colors, and fragrance, and in the end, we shall reflect along with you about the wonder of the dormant rose, now grown in the Kinder-garden by Mrs. B.

I really just wanted to give you the Elvis cheer, Margo has taught me so well. "Thank you, thank you very much!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Play Dates and Little Margo

Four weeks ago after school Little Margo approached a friend and said, "You really must say yes and come to my house and watch the museum at night film. It will really make you smile....." She can barely catch her breath, nor provide me the opportunity to interject, "let's do the play date tomorrow..." Her friend's dad interjects, "Baguette, needs to be somewhere after school," so a new time was set for 11:00 AM in the following Saturday.

This week, after school I was given a request by one of Margo's friends, "Margo's mom, can I come to Margo's house to play today?" Before I have a chance to say anything, she runs to her dad and informs him of the invitation, and then promptly turns to Margo to let her know the same thing. I am mystified, I was just run over by a little girl only three feet tall, and most likely 30 lbs to boot. I relent and even include the twins to the event. It has now become a hot chocolate and banana nut bread affair. The day before, Margo invited one boy and two girls to come over for hot chocolate. It had been an exceptionally cold day, and well there were some cookies to eat as well. So Yes, come one, come all to Margo's house. That afternoon there were 6 kids and three parents not including me.

The kids all played together for all these different events, and even more play dates. Why am I doing this insane thing? We are talking about two to three play dates a week for the past three weeks. Am I a sadist or just plain wimpy? Meaning I can't say no to a pleading face? No, no, no, I say it again no, I am not insane etc... There really is a method to my madness.

I remember the afternoon so clearly when Margo stood at the top of the stairs and said, "Mom, I don't know how to play with more than one friend at a time. It is very confusing." That was very interesting, and insightful for me to hear. This little comment reflected much about her brains lack of organization, so now it worked in social settings too. Here is the presence of Dyspraxia in its subtlest form. I suddenly realized I needed to provide her some opportunities at our home for 'gang play', before she would be able to figure it out at someone else's house. You see she had been to a friends house for a play date about 5 weeks before, and her friend included three or four other girls at the play date. Margo was totally lost, she wanted to lie down, or play in the sand by herself. It was difficult to get her engaged in any group activity. Some of which included dress up, and even drawing. These are some of her favorite things to do.

So now, after school, when Margo asks to have someone come over, I will suggest she invite a few other friends as well. She does, I break out the "instant hot chocolate", while they play games upstairs. Now these games can be dress up, castle or some other imaginary game called witch and children, snails or turtles etc...She is beginning to develop skills to participate in after school group play. She is learning to share her time and friends with others in the group at the same time. Little Margo no longer wants to do nothing, but is smack dab in the middle of the group activity.

I still encourage the one-on-one play dates too. These provide me a chance to get better acquainted with her friends individually. Often times I might be invited to "tell a story" about the two turtles or snails crawling on the floor. These two animals often times look just like little Margo and her friend under empty laundry baskets for shells. So yes I get my imaginative play dates in too. And well what more can I say, Margo is learning to play with more than one friend at a time. Now that is a good skill every kindergartner needs to learn...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Close Encounters of the third-grade Kind..."a little inspiration"

Margo's Kindergarten Teacher, "A monkey for Haloween"

I started reading Phillip Done's new book, "Close encounters of the third-grade kind", and was almost inspired to become a teacher. Of course I could not do it right now, but I thought when my little one was a little older, I could work on a teaching credential. But then I kept reading the next few chapters and was inundated by lists. Lists of what a elementary school teacher creates everyday or week to keep their lives in order. Then it hit me, I may be one of the Messys. Mr. Done states, "I'm convinced that there really are only two types of people in the world-----those with neat desks like my boss's and those with messy desks like mine. Tidys and Messys, I call them. It really is a Mars-and-Venus sort of thing." His discussion continues, however he reveals himself to be of the "Messy" variety. I can not tell you if that means he is a Venus or Mars type of person either. I can't even tell you if I am a Venus or Mars type of person. But I can tell you I am of the order of Messy's according to the book. I was not disheartened after this realization, because as I continued to read the book, I discovered the impact this "Messy" teacher has on his students.
So I started to read the book, not because I wanted to become a teacher, but because I thought I might learn something about relating to young children. I figured this would come in handy since my little Margo is only 6 years old at the time of this writing. Plus, I know how much Margo loves her teacher Mrs. B. In fact she has loved all of her teachers since preschool and Tuesday-Thursday class. So perhaps I could learn a few secrets about what makes a good teacher and then somehow figure out a way to transpose that into what makes a good mom.
And learn I did. I discovered caring for a student requires more heart and creativity than just brute force and organization. I lack immensely in the area of organization, and brute force is not another of my strong points these days either. So on with creativity, curiosity and imagination. These three C words are the "five dollar words" I discovered in Mr. Dones book. In many ways, his actions and interactions mearly mirrors the creativity, curiosity and imagination displayed in his students throughout the chapters of this book. Now it becomes my turn to use the three C's in my parenting style. (ok, ok, it is really two C's and an I, Creativity, Curiosity and Imagination)
I started in small baby steps, for instance my daughter writes a backwards J. Instead of saying "gee honey that is backwards", I told her a story that the letter "J", likes to look at the letter that comes before it, and voila, she begins to make the correction. What about the emotional side of can I apply the three C's there? Just yesterday Margo started to talk about wanting something important to hold or work with so she would be important. Oh my goodness she was just about ready to start crying a bowlful of tears. So I grabbed her in my arms, turned her towards the Christmas tree and began pointing to the very old ornaments hanging on the tree. "You see that red ornament Margo?" "The acorn shaped one momma?" she replied. "Yes that one, it is about 40 - 60 years old. It belonged to grandma Julie, it is a very old, and important ornament. Do you know, you are the only 6 year old I know who was allowed to place that ornament on the tree by yourself. In fact there are a lot of very special and important ornaments that we let you place on the tree all by yourself." There was a pause in the conversation, her eyes dried up, and she began to smile and tell me about her favorite ornament that she put on the tree.
There is a lot to be said about her comment regarding "...feel important." Doing things makes her feel important; good teachers make us feel important. Great teachers allow us to discover the answers to the secrets in life, both in joyful and sometimes painful moments. This book reminded me about what makes a good teacher. Knowing these traits is something I can apply to my relationship with my daughter. I am not sure I will ever become a certified teacher in my future, but I will become a "life teacher" to my daughter. I am sure I will have many interesting stories to tell from the experience as well as an enlarged heart for her and her friends.
Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind is the featred book for the Silicon Valley Moms Group December book club.