Things have a strange way of working out

A while ago, you might remember that I blogged about a bit of Mom guilt I had been experiencing. You can read the recap here.  The short summary is that I missed a performance my son had when he was in second grade, and he was still sad about it two years later. It is the only time I’ve ever let him down and I think that the hurt from it will take both of us a long time to get past.

The day was fast approaching that my daughter was going to perform just as her older brother had, in the living stations of the cross with her second grade class at her school. She had memorzed her lines and was all set to be a soldier who pushes Jesus along his walk with the cross to the crucifixion.

The days leading up to the performance, both she and her brother missed school for various illnesses. She had been sick first with what seemed like pink eye, but was just the same virus that was causing her nose to run. I had to keep her home from school to make sure it wasn’t pink eye. Two days later her brother was home with cold induced asthma.

The day of the performance came, and my son and I were on our second day with him home sick from school. We dropped my daughter off at school, then came home and did a little of his homework to keep him caught up with class. After lunch, we started to pack up for school when we got a phone call from the school nurse. My daughter had come down to the nurse complaining of a headache that wouldn’t go away. Since we were already on our way, I told the nurse that we’d be there in about a half hour, and I would give her something for her headache.

Half way from home to the school, we got another call from the school. This time it was from the front office. My daughter had thrown up, so they were packing her things up and sending her home. No living stations. No performance.

As we arrived at the school, my son smiled for the first time since my daughter started talking about her class doing the stations. He told me that while he wasn’t happy that his sister threw up, he was just the littlest bit  happy that I wasn’t going to see her performance.

So, in the end, it looks like Mom doesn’t get to see either of her children in their second grade living stations performances. I was worried about how I would handle watching my daughter perform when I missed my son’s performance. How would I express my happiness at seeing my daughter without upsetting my son.

It turns out that  I will never have to worry about breaking one child’s heart while showing praise to the other. I missed my son’s performance because I didn’t know I was supposed to go to it. I missed my daughter’s because she, herself, also missed it. Now it’s time for all of us to let it go, myself included, and move forward.

I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways. For those of you who believe in that sort of thing.

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The Stations of the Cross and Mom Guilt

mardigras2Today is Fat Tuesday, which means tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for those, like myself, who ascribe to the Catholic faith. Both of my children go to a catholic grade school, so the upcoming four weeks are filled with all sorts of events. I wish I was better informed about all of these events a couple of years ago, but I guess we learn as we live.

My daughter is in second grade, which is a very special time in Catholicism. Second graders go through First Confession (or Reconciliation) and First Communion. Because this is such a special year for them, the second graders often get to do other special Catholic things. For example, during Lent, it is the second graders in my daughter’s class who get to perform the stations of the cross for the entire school. My daughter will be playing the part of a Roman Soldier and will get to push around Jesus. She’s kind of excited about it. She thinks soldiers are cool.

My son is not as happy, because two years ago, when his class did their presentation of the stations of the cross, I missed it.

You see, two years ago, he didn’t convey to me that he was memorizing his part so that he could act out the stations in front of the whole school and any parents who could take time off work in the middle of the day to attend. He didn’t tell me that he expected me (needed me) to be there. He didn’t convey any of this. Instead, I went along thinking that this was something only his class was doing as a class activity in his class room. Smaller venue. Parents welcome but not necessary. I didn’t plan on attending. Work being work, there was plenty of things at the office to keep me busy on the day of the performance.

When he got home on that day, he told me through tears in his eyes, that when he looked into the audience and didn’t see me, he figured he just couldn’t see me. I must be behind someone, because I would have come. He just knew it. He knew I wouldn’t miss it. He told his friends that I must have been there and he just missed me. Disappointing him absolutely broke my heart then and breaks my heart every single day since.

He says he has forgiven me, but he’s never forgotten. The pain, for him, seems to be as fresh now as when he was in second grade. As his sister goes on and on about the stations and her part and how she wants me there, he almost can’t listen. I’ll catch him with a tear in his eye, and he’ll look away.

There’s nothing I can do to go back and change it. There’s nothing I can do to remove his disappointment that I wasn’t there that one time. One time. I’ve been there for every single other thing. I have made time for holiday parties at daycare and grade school. I’ve taken time off work to come read to his class, or bake and host a party or go on field trips. I’ve been that Mom who attends everything. I work full time, but I have made it a point to attend every single event that I knew about. I only have to know about it.

We learned from this. He knows now that he needs to better communicate things. He can’t just expect I’m psychic (although I come close with my kids), but it doesn’t undo it. It doesn’t make him forget that I wasn’t there the one time he really wanted me to be there.

And there is nothing I can do to change it.

Being a Mom who is cursed with being human is very, very hard.
RSM

Making the time you spend with your kids count

My children’s school had their annual ice cream social this evening. As usual, my children and I didn’t attend. My daughter wanted to, but my son didn’t. My husband is out of town (as he’s been every other week so far this year) so either we all went or we all stayed home.

I work full time, and we live a little over a half hour from their school, so doing things in the evening is something I often avoid. By the time I leave work, pick up the kids from school, get home, make dinner, make lunches, we have very little time together before it’s bed time. Sometimes I feel badly that we can’t participate as much as the other families do because we live so far away and that both my husband and I work, but I can only do what I can do.

Tonight, at the Ice Cream Social, the highlight that my daughter wanted to be there for was a scavenger hunt. The way she describes it, they were going to place photos of the teachers as children around the school, and the kids would have to find them and identify which teacher they were.  This sounded like a wonderful time, so I made her a deal. If we went home, instead of to the social, after dinner and homework, we would play something that was totally her pick.

She loved the idea.

So, with that empowerment, she decided we’d have our own scavenger hunt at home. I made a list of random things for my daughter and son to find in the house: a pencil, a scarf, something yellow, a giraffe, etc. They loved it, and took off around the house, daughter with list in hand directing her brother, to find things matching my description. Upon finding everything, they proudly placed all items on the kitchen counter, and presented me with the list. Careful to show me that every item had been checked off.

Next up, was a version of this scavenger hunt, with a twist. One child would take an item from the other and hide it in the house. The child who does the hiding, has to leave clues to find the hidden object. For example, the first clue says go to the television room and look under the green pillow on the couch. Upon flipping up the pillow, the seeker would find another note with another clue to go to the kitchen and look next to the sink. The seeker would then find another note next to the sink, and so on.

First my son hid my daughter’s stuffed seal, and then my daughter hid one of my son’s stuffed bears. After all objects were found, it was time to head upstairs to get ready for bed. One book each, a little managing of our simulation games on our iPads (have to collect coins, and set things to building) and it was lights out.

I know that as a working mom, I won’t be able to attend every after school event, but it is more important to me that I make these times special, no matter how much actual time I really have. I only hope that when they look back on their childhood, my children will remember the quality and forget how much the quantity really was.

Good night,

RSM

Everyone misses Daddy

Ed: I wrote this post up a few days back, and scheduled to post it so that I’d spread out my posts on this blog.

My husband and I both work at the same place. That’s where we met. Where we went from being him and me and became us. We make a great team both at work and at home. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

We both used to travel now and then for our respective positions. He’d travel much more than I would, but we both traveled. Since we had children, I have had a great reluctance to travel. First it was because I was nursing, and wouldn’t travel in the first year for each of my children. Then it just became harder for me to leave them in general.

Luckily, reductions in the travel budget at work have resulted in less funds available. This has lead to more of a reliance on internet and phone methods of holding meetings across county and less face to face meetings for the work that I do. That works out just fine for me.

For my husband, it seems that everything he ever works on requires some travel. Some months he’s gone for a couple of weeks, and some months he’s gone a day. Some months we are lucky enough that he doesn’t have to travel at all. The kids and I are used to Daddy having to leave now and then. It’s hard on everyone, but we’ve got our routines and we manage.

That is until this trip.

This time the kids are missing Dad terribly. I don’t know if it is because both kids are more aware of their father’s absence, or because we just had a wonderful couple of weeks off as a family for winter break, or because it’s actually been a few months since Daddy has had to travel. Whatever it is, these last two nights, both kids have been in tears and seem to be unable to fall asleep. At least tonight it only took an hour before their tired little bodies finally gave in to sleep. Last night, it took two and a half hours, and eventually ended with them both sleeping with Mommy.

I feel like they do. I hate it when my husband is away. I stay up far too late, getting all of those things (like blog posts) done that I don’t get to when he’s home. In truth, I do all these little tasks because I can’t sleep when he’s gone.

Just like my children.

Good night. I wonder how long it will take me to fall asleep.

RSM

Planning a multi-family trip to Walt Disney World: Deciding when to go

As I mentioned in my last post, I have taken it upon myself to coordinate a multi-family trip to Disney World in order to get myself, my family, my five siblings and their families, and my Mom and Step Dad all down to Disney World for a mega-family once in a lifetime vacation. I thought that I’d capture what I am going through as I plan here on the blog in case others who’ve done this have advice or others who are thinking about doing this can follow along.

Once my siblings gave me either resounding positives or luke warm non-negative responses to whether they wanted to embark on this crazy trip, I sent each of them a survey. I will reproduce the part of the survey that deals with step one in the planning: Deciding when to go. I felt that the answers below would help us to select the date for the trip. Deciding when to go is easily the hardest but most important part of this whole process.

From the survey:

Instructions: Circle one or fill in the answers

  1. Are you interested in going as a group to Walt Disney World?
    1. Yes
    2. No (you may now stop completing this survey)
  2. How long would you want to spend in Disney World
    1. 4 days/3 nights
    2. 5 days/4 nights
    3. 6 days/5 nights
    4. 7 days/6 nights
    5. 8 days/7 nights
    6. Other ___________________________________
  3. What time of the year would you be more interested in going:
    1. Late August (right before school starts, but hot)
    2. Early October (the first week of the month)
    3. Early November (the first or second week of the month)
    4. Other time of year  ___________________________________
  4. Are you willing to take your kids out of school?
    1. Yes
    2. No

Probably the most important decision you make to start off this whole Disney World vacation planning adventure is deciding when to go. If you have school aged children, which all of us in my family do now, then you have to discuss whether you are willing to take those children out of school to go to Disney World. If that isn’t an option for you, then you are limited to the breaks during the school year and summer vacation which are typically the more crowded times in the parks.  If you are not against taking your children out of school, then you can open your search to the less busy and less hot times of the year like spring, fall and winter.

We started our discussion with the year (2013). This would give everyone a little over a year at least, to save up for the trip. Next we had to narrow down to the time of year. Down to the last, every one of my siblings was willing to take their kids out of school in order to go to Disney World. So we were not limited to just the summer months for a vacation. I am not sure if this is because we work a lot with our kids and are willing to take homework down there with us (something my husband and I have done with our kids on a few of our trips) or that as midwesterners, we just can’t take the heat of Florida in June and July. Either way, we were clear to look at dates in the fall.

To start, we looked at the calendars of the members of our party who’s schedules revolve around school schedules. One sister is a teacher, and another works in the admissions office of a college. With these in mind, we identified a week in November and a week in October that would work.

For crowd levels, we looked over the 2012 Touringplans.com crowd calendar for those weeks this year to get an idea of how busy the parks will be on similar dates in 2013. I highly recommend a Touringplans account if you’re planning a Disney World vacation. We’ve been subscribers since long before their Lines iPhone application was even in beta.

For a data-centered nerd like myself, who has a bit of experience with mathematical optimization techniques, I love that the Lines app and the algorithms behind the touring plans inside of it are based on the traveling salesman problem. The solution is backed up with loads and loads of actual park wait times data taken over years.  If you want a little more background on the science behind the Touringplans, you can hear Mr. Len Testa (coauthor of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and member of the podcast WDWToday) himself over on the now-defunct podcast Betamouse. Part one is here and part two is here. If you are interested in the background, I highly recommend giving these two episodes a listen. Perhaps if I drive the listenership up a bit, some of the members of Betamouse who did not leave the podcast to go work directly for Disney might consider restarting it. 🙂 If they need a Rocket Scientist to join in, I’d gladly volunteer.

Ok, enough about betamouse. 🙂

According to the crowd calendar, the equivalent two weeks we were looking at in 2012 ranged from 2’s to 6’s out of 10. If we go in October, we will be able to catch the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival (which is my favorite special event in the parks) and if we go in November, we will miss F&W but the crowd levels will be even lower.

Initially, we were set on November, but were going to have to restrict our visit to 5 days, 4 nights based on vacation restrictions of one of my sisters. Then she got engaged, and has planned her wedding date for 2013. That means she’s out of going on this trip, since she will be paying for a wedding and a honeymoon.

That freed us up to look at October again.

With a week in hand, it was time to start getting data of costs together. That’s where I turned to the travel agent we’ve used in the past, at Mousefan Travel. But that part of the story will have to wait for my next post.

Good night all.

RSM

Planning a multi-family trip to Walt Disney World: Initial steps

If you know me, or read any of my tweets, you know that I love Walt Disney World (WDW). My husband and I have taken our kids down to see the Mouse at least once a year since they were born. But our love didn’t start when we had kids. Our first vacation together as a couple was a week staying at Dixie Landigs (now called Port Orleans Riverside) at Walt Disney World. Together and apart, we’ve both lost track of just how many times we have visited the Magic Kingdom resort area.

My Mom first talked my Dad into taking my sisters, brother and I to Disney World when it was just the Magic Kingdom in 1976. We were lucky enough to be down there during the bicentennial celebration.  We went two more times together before I went off to college and my parents got divorced. My husband went with his family even more times than that, starting out shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.

On almost all of the WDW trips we’ve taken our kids on, we’ve also taken my Mom and step Dad. It started because my step Dad had never been, and my husband and I were DVC (Disney Vacation Club) members and wanted to show him the magic of Disney. He was instantly hooked, and each time we went back, he and my Mom would charm their way into joining us.

It’s long been my Mom’s dream to get all of her kids, their significant others, and her grandkids down on a mega-family trip to Walt Disney World. The grandkids are almost all in grade school now, so after bounding the renewed idea off of my Mom, I decided to start the ball rolling. Starting last December, I pinned my siblings down to give me a yes/no answer on their interest level. If only one or two of them were interested, I’d still do the planning, because my husband and I would most likely be taking our kids down to Disney World again anyway, but it wouldn’t accomplish the family gathering my Mom had in mind. Thankfully, everyone either said “oh, yes!” or “ya, ok” and everything in between. We were go for launch.

In order to go the next step (to our travel agent – more on her in later posts) I needed to have additional information to start getting some quotes. I put together a short questionnaire for everyone, sent it to them via email or snail mail depending on which would work, and we reconvened with their answer.

In order to plan a trip to Disney World, the four biggest things you need to decide are:

1. When do you want to go (this is related to when can you take off work, are you willing to take your kids out of school).

2. What is your budget (this is tougher, because you have to start looking at prices of things in order to set your ballpark figure).

3. Where do you want to stay (on property or off property)

4. How are you going to get to Florida (Driving, flying, etc).

Because this post is getting a little long, and because I haven’t been really good about getting new posts up here on my site, I am going to end here. I will pick up in the next post with deciding when you want to go to the parks.

Wish us luck on this journey.

RSM

Reflecting on the Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus broadcast live via NASA TV app, streamed wirelessly to my Apple TV from my iPad2.

As I was checking out my site’s stats this morning, I noticed that a few folks were coming to my site by searching for “transit of venus for kids”. I have kids, and I June 5th’s  dinner explaining the transit, streaming it live via NASA TV on our television, then (with my husband) taking my kids outside to see it for themselves. They seemed to understand what they were seeing and what I was explaining, so I thought that perhaps I’d tell you all what I told them.

A long time ago, scientists thought that everything we see up in the sky revolved around the Earth. The moon obviously did, so the thought process was that everything else must too.  This simplifies things a bit, because when I say scientists, I really mean those in western Europe. There were star gazers in other countries and other cultures who were very aware that the Earth was on a journey around the Sun and not the other way around.

But for my purposes, I wanted to set the stage that the great Galileo lived at a time where his discovery was against publicly accepted knowledge.

Let’s segue to Galileo.  He built a telescope because the technology of the time was insufficient to view the things in the sky he was hoping to investigate and use to verify his mathematical estimations. He was starting to believe that while the moon did revolve about the Earth, the Earth herself might revolve around something too.

Using his telescope, which wasn’t even as strong as a telescope you might have in your own home, Galileo gazed at Jupiter and found it also had moons! He only saw four of them, but that was enough to support his theory. The Earth has a Moon. Jupiter has moons. Maybe the other planets have moons, and maybe everything doesn’t orbit the Earth.

Next came Venus. Galileo was doing some calculations of where he expected to find Venus if it’s orbit was actually around the Sun and not the Earth. If it orbited the Sun, every once in  a while it should appear to the Earth that it would cross in front of the sun. In front of the sun!? If Venus marched in front of the sun from our point of view, then it has to be between the Earth and the Sun. And if it’s between the Earth and the Sun, it really should orbit around the Sun and not the Earth.

This wasn’t proven until folks like the Salford stargazer William Crabtree who in 1639 was the first to observe the Venus transit. You can read about him at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1580747_salford-marks-transit-of-venus-from-home-of-man-who-first-saw-it-in-1639—video

The tracking of the transit of Venus was so important, that just like we send science spacecraft and set up telescopes to observe and discover new things about the universe around us, the great Captain Cook set sail to Tahiti where he successfully observed and took data on the transit of Venus.

NASA has a little writeup about Captain Cook’s Tahiti voyage here:

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2004/28may_cook/

Technology developments like a special clock that worked on the unsteady voyage on the ocean for Captain Cook and crew, and better telescopes developed by Galileo, helped scientists discover and learn new things, or confirm things they’d been thinking were true. Just like then, NASA and other scientific agencies, academia and companies continue this wonderful tradition of technology development today.

So, I told my kids, at the end of this talk on the history of science and  Venus, that science is just as exciting now as it was when Galileo and Captain Cook were out discovering new things. We are using their same techniques to discover new planets around far away stars. If you have a thought or theory about how things work, even if that thought is different than other folks around you, don’t assume you are wrong. Investigate. Gather data. Observe. The universe is an amazing place and she is just waiting for us to learn.

In short, Science = Awesome. Then, Now and into the Future.

Or at least that’s what I think. 🙂

RSM

RSM app review: Wunderlist

I have been a long time user of “to do” lists, both at home and at work. Making a list of the things I need to get done is the best way for me to keep my world organized.  When I started working at my current job, I was introduced to a formal list making program by the folks at Franklen-Covey.  Once I got my very own Franklin Planner, I never looked back. I am never without it.

Once my family gave me my original iPad, I started to think that perhaps I could replace the physical planner with an electronic one on the iPad (and hopefully the iPhone).  I’ve been searching for a while, and I think I might have finally found my replacement. Let me walk you through all of the apps I’ve tried and my thoughts on their usefulness.

The first app I tried to use was Evernote. I still think that Evernote is an awesome app and gets daily use on my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac to share bits of this or that as I coordinate my life. The synchronization between all of my computers makes it a hit. I can use it from whatever Apple device I find myself using at the time, and all of the data is gathered into one place.  It’s a great way to gather data  into topics for use later. I’ve taken to using it as an invaluable tool in the planning of our Family Disney World vacations.  But it’s not a to do list app. It’s too much for that. I need something a bit more simple that just does lists.

Then I tried a series of apps specifically called “to do” or “getting things done” apps. All of them let you manage lists and some offered the ability to put those lists into related folders, but none of them were easy to use. I kept using my physically planner, hoping I’d eventually find something. Among them were: Nubi Do, Toodledo, and Apple’s Reminders. I thought that both Nubi Do ($4.99) and Toodledo (free) did what I wanted but I didn’t care for the interfaces. I actually started to use the Reminders app (also free) at the beginning of the year as an experiment, but since I am not yet moved to the iCloud, I couldn’t sync between all my devices so I stopped using it.

Then I read a review on the blog of a fellow Disney fan, Kidani Katie, of a to do list called Wunderlist. As Katie puts it, this one is also free so it doesn’t cost you anything to check it out.  Immediately, I liked the interface. Versions are available for just about any platform, mobile or not, that you can think of. I downloaded it to my iPhone, my iPad and to my Mac OS X laptop. Even though I am an iOS fanatic to the core, I still find typing just a bit easier with a physical keyboard over a virtual keyboard. There, I said it, and I will deny having said it to anyone.

I started  by setting things up with the Mac OS X app interface. First, I set up a wunderlist account. This is how all of your lists will synchronize across your devices. Since I will be sending these lists up to a server, I am mindful not to include anything that I wouldn’t want to be saved to a cloud interface. Next, I set up boxes for work, for home, for kids specific, etc. In my Franklin Planner, I’d categorize my to do list by splitting it into two: work and home. Wudnerlist allowed me to break that down even further.  Then I went about figuring out how to enter to do items. It took me a few minutes of tinkering to figure out how to link those to do items with a date. If they are entered under the boxes they don’t have a due date. You have to put those in by hand.

Once everything was set up, I logged into the wunderlist app I’d installed on my iPhone using the same account I’d set up on my OS X machine.  After a little bit of syncing, all of the boxes and to do items I’d created on my Mac magically appeared.

Mac OS X interfaceI found the iOS interface to actually be a bit more intuative than the Mac OS X interface. It was easier for me to add information (notifications, due dates, categories, notes) to individual to do items via the iPhone than on my Mac just because of the layout on iOS. In spite of not initially thinking I’d use the iPhone interface other than to add or check off the occasional items from my lists, I actually do most of my list making on the iPhone. I think that once everything was set up the way I wanted it to be, that day to day entering is simpler on the iPhone.

My great experiment really started when I noticed half way through my day that I had left my Franklin Planner in a bag in my car. I hadn’t even needed it.  I did all my lists entirely electronically and aside from some notes I took in a notebook in a meeting, I didn’t even need paper.

It’s been about a month now, and I can safely say that the iPhone has replaced my Franklin Planner in tracking my to do list. It’s always with me; fits in my purse; is on my night stand. In fact, I use the iPhone more than the iPad to do my list tracking because it is the thing that I always have on hand.

If you are looking for a getting stuff done to do list tracking app, I’d heartily recommend you give wunderlist a try.

Enjoy,

RSM

All our Children need is love

Yesterday, across town, a high school student brought a gun to school and shot five of his fellow students. At the time I write this, two of the victims have died, and the other three remain in the hospital. The details of why this happened are still being investigated, but there’s been mentions of bullying, and family troubles.  I have been staying away from the sensational reporting of our local news, but enough of it has made it my way, that I have a picture of what is known right now.

Upon hearing the news from a Facebook friend on my way in to work yesterday morning, my first reaction was fear. Fear as a mother who has two grade school age children and wants nothing more than their happiness and safety. My whole being wanted to wrap them up in a little cocoon and protect them from the bad things in this world.

I didn’t bring up the shooting in our dinner time conversation last night. I waited to see if it had been mentioned in their school day yesterday, ready to answer questions, but none came. They are only in third and first grade, so their teachers might not have felt the need to talk about this event to their classes.

Bullying, however, did come up.

My son’s friend is a bit of a bully. He makes fun of younger children, and rarely has a nice thing to say to or about anyone. This perplexes my son, who has tried very hard to be friends with this young boy. They have been friends since they met in first grade, and hang out together at the extended care after school.

For about a month at the beginning of the school year, this boy wouldn’t talk to or play with my son. When my son tried to ask why, he’d been brushed off. Then, the friend started to try to get their mutual friends not to play with my son. Eventually, the boy apologized and they were back to being friends. No explanation was given.

Still, the questions remain. My son asks: Why does this boy say mean things? Why does he pick on younger children? Why does he insult people? Why?

The best explanation I can come to, simple as it might be, applies to all children who bully and all people who choose to act out of hurt and not love. They are somehow unhappy with their lives. The unhappiness can be anything, and might be hard for someone on the outside to understand, but I believe that all meanness comes from a deep unhappiness. If you are happy in your life, and have all that you need, then you will pass that  happiness on to others. If you are sad, then all you  have to offer others is that sadness.

My daughter jumped on that idea, and came up with home life reasons as to why children might be unhappy and therefore might be mean to others. Then they went through other children they knew at school that were mean, and tried to think of reasons why they would be unhappy.

My point wasn’t to analyze the state of their schoolmates, but was rather to teach them compassion and try to give them insight in to why people make hurtful choices. I am not trying to excuse these bad choices. We are all responsible for our choices. You can be happy because you choose to be so in spite of all that might stand in the way of happiness. But if you are never taught that you can be happy and choose happiness, how do you believe it? If you are a child and your examples are to be hurtful, how do you learn differently? Rather than excusing, I am only trying to understand, because I believe that understanding something allows you to deal with it and perhaps help to make it better.

My heart breaks for the parents who sent their children to school yesterday, and who did not have those same children come home. I cannot fathom that loss. My heart breaks for the boy who believed that this was the answer to whatever his problems were. My heart breaks for all children, everywhere, who are so sad that death is an option at the end of their stories.

Sometimes I worry that no matter what we do as parents, there are influences (media, movies, peers) that are beyond our control in the raising of our children. It’s that worry that makes me consider quitting my job and home schooling my children. Slowly, I let that worry pass by and allow myself to believe that the unconditional love I show my children and the compassion I teach them by words and hopefully by example, are what they need to prepare them for the bad and the good in this world.

As parents, loving our children, really and truly, is the best way to raise them to love themselves and to love others. A world with people that act out of love is a world worth working toward.

Thank you for listening.
RSM

How do you handle giving constructive feedback to teachers.

My children attend the extended care program at their grade-school. Since I work full time, I can’t be home at 3:30pm when they would get out of school, so I sought a school that offered on site after school care. The private catholic grade school we picked had such a program. I have always been happy with it. I like the teachers. I know my children are safe. My kids can finish their homework with help from the teachers who work the extended care, spend time with their friends, and watch some after school television.

Last night, when I picked them up, I immediately noticed that my son’s left eyebrow was swollen up huge! He explained that he and another child had collided as he made his way past where the kids were playing basketball. It was just an accident, but he banged heads with the other child hard enough to cause a big old goose egg right above his eye. It was so swollen that his he was squinting just a touch.

I asked what the teachers who work extended care did to help and he let me know that, as usual, they didn’t see it happen and had no idea. I immediately walked him over to one of the teachers, pointed out the swollen eye, and asked if they had ice or something to put on it. They were very accommodating, got the ice pack, and asked if he was ok. They stressed that they can’t see everything and he needs to tell them if something like this happens.

On our way home I asked why he didn’t tell the teachers, and he answered that it was for two reasons. First, in the past when he’s asked to use the bathroom, he’s been told to wait and not interrupt their conversations. And second, he didn’t want to get the other boy in trouble. It was entirely an accident. They just weren’t looking when they collided. My son just isn’t one to cause a fuss about things.

I wrangled with how to handle this situation all night. I didn’t want to get the teachers in trouble, and I do know how hard it is to keep an eye on two children let alone a whole gym full of children in ages ranging from preschool to eigth grade. The extended care program is essential to me, and I have been very happy with the service. However, from my past experience on the board of trustees at my children’s daycare, I do also know that sometimes teachers and care givers can use gentle reminders to keep their eye on the children.

So, with that in mind, and laying out all of those caveats, I talked to the Principal this morning after I dropped my children off. I asked him for only five minutes of his time, so he could make the first bell announcements, and I stressed that I love his staff and that I am overall very happy with their care of my children after school. But I wanted him to know that sometimes they aren’t paying as much attention as, perhaps, they should.

He thanked me for bringing it to his attention and said that we can all use small reminders from time to time.

How would you have handled it? I hope that the teachers don’t feel as though I’ve dumped on them. They do a great job, and this was one mistake, but it followed a pattern of distraction that I worry could result in a larger accident occurring.

We shall see what this afternoon’s extended care pick up brings.