Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, School, Teens

Flip the morning!

(Something to remember in September.)

Communal first. Personal last!

Because I didn’t figure this out until my second TEEN, and since my nesting days are numbered, I wanted to share this stroke of brilliance with others in case you’ve been suffering too.

I  don’t know about your teens, but ours rarely had time to make themselves breakfast or even eat the one prepared for them, let alone contribute in the kitchen, without keeping a ride waiting or missing it altogether, particularly after the sink hole of showering & biological/sociological-mandated prepping which led to forgetting homework or instruments or cleats; so now we’ve flipped the morning:

Downstairs first–packing up, contributing, eating, and then as much time as they want upstairs, Ie. whatever time they’ve left for themselves.

(ps. as parents, try reversing the order for yourself. personal first. communal last.)

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Posted in School, Takes a Village

Orange, Chocolate-Chip Scones~the preservation of democracy

School budgets–at the heart–of community…

This Vermont Life

Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market

A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.

This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day

Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.

“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”

Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting  in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.

“Forced, short-sighted…

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Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Round Two, School, Teens

Mommy Graduation

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Mommies graduate too!

Earlier this month I experienced mounting anxiety as my youngest approached graduation; but not because he wasn’t ready.

It was me.

flat,1000x1000,075,fI’ve devoted a lifetime to children, and not just the past 21 years to my boys and their school; but the decade before that to the children in my classroom, and even the decades before that, to my seven younger siblings.

Underneath the separation anxiety is
GRIEF,
and underneath that,
a deeper truth:

I AM READY!

I’ve been ready.

But the readiness doesn’t diminish the loss.
The vacuum.
Where there once was Everything.

hot-airLast night, he graduated.
I graduated.
(From the last of them.)

My baby will leave the hill that shaped our lives together,
and head to town,
to the high school,
where his father teaches.

And me?
How do I feel?
That’s what people ask, expecting
sorrow.

I barely slept.
I tossed and turned and fretted.

It may have been the champagne,
but I kept thinking of bubbles
and all things
that float…
up.

Finally, my mind settled in on
balloons,
and then to a single
hot
air
balloon,

and the way,

SHE RISES,

as she lightens

the
load.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Round Two, School, Takes a Village, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

the fading of the kindergarten wall

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Aidan at the bus stop, with his luggage.

3:36 pm. The school bus stops at our driveway, across from the pond, but no one gets off.

Our youngest, 14, has just, this very moment, touched down in Liberia, Costa Rica with his Junior High classmates.

When his older brother made the same trip a handful of years ago, I was a wreck; but he was only 12.

Still, I’ve splintered this entire day checking the status updates of Jet Blue and the posts in our parent Facebook group.

We brought our kids to school last night at 2:30 in the morning, and gathered in the parking lot in front of the bus until everyone arrived. We chatted like it was normal to be there, in the dark, in the middle of the night, hanging out. Someone joked about getting breakfast, and we all felt the pull of longing after a long winter that has protracted itself into spring.

3:00 am
3:00 am

The yellow school bus heading to JFK, manned by their classroom teacher, pulled out, on time, at 3:00 am, and two sets of parents cheered. Not for the kids. But for us. We were heading home childless. For 9 days!

By the time I got in the car though, the emptiness overtook me, and when I crawled back into bed, my mind skipped from thought to thought and wouldn’t let me rest.

Aidan graduates this June. People dismiss elementary school graduations as excessive and unnecessary, but they are truly poignant in our community. This particular rite of passage comes after 12+ years with the same peers before splintering off to a number of different public and private schools in the area. (Our town doesn’t have a high school so the tax dollars are applied to a school of choice.)

The graduation is also distinguished by the school itself. Completing your tenure at Marlboro Elementary is a one of a kind experience–steeped in ritual, initiation, rigor and love.

At the graduation ceremony itself, the students proceed through a canopy of teachers and staff joining hands above them; and then the students take the podium to host the ceremony themselves, even secretly choosing the guest speaker in the months before hand.

Theirs is a combined class of 7th and 8th graders, so it’s the families of the youngers who host the reception afterward; and the next day, these 7th graders return to their classroom, on their own, to greet the upcoming sixth graders.

Prior to the graduation ceremony, other rituals take place:

  • the reading of poetry from their own kindergarten days in the company of the current kindergarten class;
  • the weekly literature tea followed by an annual game of croquet–with students dressed in their finest hats and light colored clothing (a sight rarely seen in these parts);
  • a hands-on tie-tying examination which is a longtime rite of passage at Marlboro Elementary;
  • a private Consortium for graduates and their families where 8th graders step up to the podium in the Town Hall, built in 1822, to share an exemplary personal essay;
  • a portfolio presentation where an individual graduate (assisted by a 7th grade classmate) presents his best work from each of her years at the school to his parents and select teaching staff;
  • a Cabaret, put on by the Junior High, and held in the evening, in the theater at Marlboro College;
  • and my favorite–the last All School Sing–highlighting the favorite songs of the graduates at the final all school gathering.
sadly, the only photo I can find of Aidan and me at All School Sing
sadly, the only photo I can find of Aidan and me at All School Sing–a dancing day

This past Monday, feeling the departure of my son on the horizon, I attended the weekly All School Sing, and sat across the room from the boy who once insisted on sitting on my lap, and then at my feet, and then just a few bodies away.

Now he has his own chair in the outer circle with the adults while his younger peers take a spot inside the circle on the floor.

I look over at my son from time to time to see if he sees me, but his focus is on his peers until one of our favorite songs is sung: Kindergarten Wall.

I imagine that I began punctuating the lines, “CLEAN UP YOUR MESS,” to his older brother long before I began turning toward Aidan with them; and it’s become a family joke; a duel of sorts; particularly as Aidan turns the song back in my direction with his own emphasis of a handful of lines, punctuating the “grownups”:

But lately I’ve been worried as I look around and see
An awful lot of grown-ups acting foolish as can be
Now I know there’s lots of things to know I haven’t mastered yet
But it seems there’s real important stuff that grown-ups soon forget…

I am relieved to see that at 14, Aidan still plays along, even from across the room; although now he does so with his eyes more than his voice. After school, he reminds me that the part directed to adults is a whole section long; and I smile, happy for the connection, with a tinge of loss, knowing that  has already left the messy stage of childhood and had has headed into the foolishness of aging.

The last song sung was another family favorite, one which is always shared at the Sing before the Junior High takes their bi-annual trip abroad:

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Long mistaken as Peter, Paul & Mary’s, my boys and I know to whom this song belongs.

Their sixth grade teacher, a jazz lover, detests John Denver’s crooning, so we make a point to emphasize that this is his song; and David makes a point to leave the room.

Last year, Aidan argued at great lengths with his music teacher about it. She finally conceded in a phone message to our house that evening: “Aidan was right; but Peter, Paul and Mary were the ones to make it famous.”

a classroom, transformed
a classroom, transformed

As we sing, “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…” a lump forms in my throat, just as Aidan motions for me to turn toward the back of the room where David is departing.

I smile and simultaneously realize that Aidan and I have sung in this room together since he was a babe in arms. We sang Leaving on Jet Plane to every class since then.

But when that school bus pulls back into the parking lot next week after midnight, there will only be a few All School Sings left between us.

Kindergarten Wall

When I was a little kid not so long ago
I had to learn a lot of stuff I didn’t even know
How to dress myself, tie my shoes, how to jump a rope
How to smile for a picture without looking like a dope
But of all the things I learned my favorite of them all
Was a little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall

CHORUS:

Of all you learn here remember this the best:
Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess
Take a nap everyday, wash before you eat
Hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street
And remember the seed in the little paper cup:
First the root goes down and then the plant grows up!

Well, it was first, second, third grade, fourth grade, too
Where I had to learn the big things the big kids do
To add, subtract, and multiply, read and write and play
How to sit in a little uncomfortable desk for nearly half a day
But of all they taught me my favorite of them all
Was the little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall

Chorus

But lately I’ve been worried as I look around and see
An awful lot of grown-ups acting foolish as can be
Now I know there’s lots of things to know I haven’t mastered yet
But it seems there’s real important stuff that grown-ups soon forget
So I’m sure we’d all be better off if we would just recall
That little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall

Chorus

©1988 by John McCutcheon. Published by Appalsongs (ASCAP).

Posted in Nuts & Bolts, School, Takes a Village, Tweens

All about… Lice! (The best of head lice protocol from moms & the web.)

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Midnight (after 5 hours of treatment.)

Scroll down for tips on prevention, inspection, treatment & follow up. (Share your own success in the comment section below.)

Our Story:

I thought we were hosting my sister and her new baby for Thanksgiving, but instead my son came home from school with…  LICE!  Our relatives checked into a hotel and we spent the holiday week giving thanks while picking, oiling and avoiding physical contact with loved ones.

“Can I hug today?” my son asked each morning.

I’ve been terrified of lice for decades. I first read about them in The Thornbirds when little Maggie’s head was shaved; and later trembled as a teacher when my students lined up in front of the school nurse. But even when lice infested children sat beside me or when I had my own children, and we were all exposed–visiting company, best friends, classroom trips–we remained lice-free.

Apparently, lice is not so easy to catch. Honestly.

Still, I enacted my own preventative regime (see below) which was part science/part lucky charm. As the years passed, however, I grew lax. My son grew his hair. His class grew infested.

He had been scratching for more than a week when something unidentifiable fell off my own head.  “What is this?” I asked my husband. Neither of us could tell, but later that same day something else, unidentifiable, fell out; and I jumped into action…

The moment my son arrived home from school, I made him stop on the porch so that I could examine him in the bright afternoon light.

“I don’t have lice, Mom,” he said.”They’ve already checked me at school.”

He had been repeating this line for weeks, and I had wanted to believe that his scalp was dry from the wood stove, but now I wasn’t giving up…

I searched and searched and searched until I spotted what might have been nits at the back of his head (those tiny, translucent, sesame-seed-sized eggs, attached to one side of hair shaft, like a cocoon, with an adhesive as strong as super-glue; See video below #1); but I couldn’t be sure. His hair was dirty-blonde, iridescent-ly so, which made identification almost impossible.

“Let’s go up to the bathroom,” I said, “and bring the standing lamp from the living room.”

Under bright lights, I searched the same section of hair and thought I saw something… move.

Twice?

Three times?

After a mutual freak out, we returned downstairs to search the internet for what to do next, and we found some fantastic resources which quickly transformed us from victims to investigators/scientists.

We returned to the bathroom armed with information and began the process of combing (see video below #2.)

What I discovered?

A FACTORY.

Dozens and dozens and dozens of live lice–virtually invisible moments before.

(I’m itching just thinking about it. Aren’t you?)

After our initial outrage and disgust, we were curious…

How were the lice able to set up such an impressive, covert operation?

Why hadn’t my husband been infested given that he lays down with my son each night?

I decided not follow our school’s protocol for treatment given that they had failed to find or prevent lice from spreading (which probably had more to do with individual families and their ability to continue with the rigorous follow-up required. See video under #3). Instead I reached out to other families who had successfully treated (and prevented the return of lice), and I pieced together my own rigorous attack plan.

(For obvious reasons, I chose not to use “pesticides” on my son’s scalp; particularly given the fact that reports indicate that lice have not only grown immune to them, but have evolved into “super-lice” in response to these chemicals–See video under #3.)

In my exhaustive research to be sure we would eliminate lice from our home as safely and quickly as possible, I found the best of the best on the web. In compassion for other families (and in the hope that you do not spread it to us again :), I have compiled those resources and our own protocol here:

#1 Orientation

This video, from the excellent resource, Head Lice to Dead Lice,  helps orient the family to what is in store–with a much needed sense of humor.

Part II of the video with the 5 Step Plan (Video under #3 below) is helpful for making sure you don’t re-infest your household after the initial removal.

#2 Treatment

This video from, The Hair Fairy, lends the whole picking process a doable, matter-of-fact-ness, instead of our own earth-shattering doom. We relied on their thorough combing process (with a nit comb and hair conditioner) during our first treatment and thereafter. I will use this again if ever I suspect head lice in the family. It’s how we found ours and it’s how we continued to ensure that we didn’t re-infest.

#3 Follow Up

Though lice can happen to anyone, it’s up to us to make sure we don’t re-infest our own households by not following through with the necessary treatment. This 5 Step Plan from Head Lice to Dead Lice takes you through the steps from treatment through follow-up–including letting others know.  (Note: We chose olive oil and essential oils over pesticide– with successful results on an infested head.)

#4 Our Own Lice Treatment Plan

Here’s what we did from start to finish over a three-week period.

1) CHECKING: Checked head in natural light for nits, then under bright lights with a magnifying glass.

2) COMBING: Applied AMPLE conditioner (ours was tea tree) and used the combing process (See Video under #2) until we found: NOTHING. That first night this took many hours. We added conditioner as needed. Wiped bugs onto tissues and disposed of them. Washed the comb in hot, soapy water before successive comb-throughs and had our son repeat the process in the shower–using tea tree shampoo and conditioner (since we weren’t using the pesticide); and then did the combing process all over again; this time carefully searching each section of hair for any remaining nits (See Video #2.)  Lastly we used a vinegar rinse (diluted) to help dislodge nits before combing again.

3) OIL: We doused our son’s hair in olive oil and applied diluted essential oils (eg. tea tree, lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus) before covering it with a shower cap and securing it with a t-shirt or bandana.

4) HOME:

a. We vacuumed the entire house with special attention to beds, couches, chairs etc.

b. We changed all the bed sheets and washed dirty ones in hot water along with any clothing worn recently.
c. We bagged up things we couldn’t wash: stuffed animals, decorative pillows, fancy coats, hats, scarves or we put them in the dryer for 20 minutes on high. (It was freezing outside that week, so we put all the bags on the porch.)
d. We covered the couch with a new sheet each day.

e. We repeated the vacuuming and washing/drying daily until there was no sign of lice/nits in the house.

f. The infested persons avoided bodily contact with others and with couches etc; and also wore a bandana until there was no sign of lice/nits on their head for 24 hours +.

5.) FAMILY: The entire family oiled up that first night and then every 4 nights after for 3 weeks (as per the 5 Step Treatment Plan–video #3), including checking/combing in the morning before the oil was washed out.

#4 Prevention

This is our family’s time-tested protocol for lice prevention (Note: If we had followed our own protocol during the recent lice epidemic at school we would not have spent Thanksgiving dealing with them!):

1) Coats, hats, scarves into dryer after school

2) Head blow dried after school

3) Hair gel/essential oils (diluted) applied to hair in the morning before school as a deterrent

EXTRA PROTECTION 4) *If it’s a particularly bad school infestation, we apply the olive oil overnight treatment and use a nit comb in the morning to check with a magnifying glass. (No matter what the result, our hair appreciates the conditioning.)

*Note: we also keep tea tree shampoo and conditioner (and other strong essential oils) on hand to use once a week or more regularly when lice is active in the school.

See video under #3 above for more prevention tips.

If you have your own successful tips for inspection, treatment, followup and prevention, please share them below. We have to rely on each other!!

Posted in Milestone Moments, School, Tweens

The Initiation of 5th Grade

Modersohn, vispix.com

My son is not having an easy time of it this fall. I don’t know about your school, but at ours, 5th grade is the threshold of something completely different than what’s come before.

Suddenly, there are tests and grades and lectures.  Suddenly, there is no knitting or singing or circle time.  And suddenly they are presented with an uniquely, singular teacher: DAVID.

The kids are afraid of David.

The kids LOVE David!

The parents, on the other hand, aren’t so sure. We have suddenly become irrelevant. This shift both terrifies and fascinates us, as if we’re moving through a set of revolving doors for the first time. At one moment our 5th grader is in tears, and at another he is surly and rude.  First he begs us to help him, then pushes us firmly away.  He is revolving too. We all have bruises on our heads.

DAVID has the job of overseeing this passage through the TWEENS–for both students–and parents. We’d like to blame him for everything.

David is jocular and crude.  David is demanding and demeaning.  David is dismissive and didactic. If David were somehow different, our kids wouldn’t be changing.

David is a good distraction.

In David’s room, the innocence of childhood is trampled, and not only because of Ren and Stimpy.  Our kids discard their childhoods because they’re ready; because David shows them how; because they rely on him to do so; and in return, he earns their undying affection. (Highschoolers even return to hug David.)

The is my third round in David’s room, which makes the climb less of a surprise, but unfortunately doesn’t make it any easier.  The first time, I was a teacher myself, pregnant for with my first child. My son Lloyd had his own steep entry into 5th grade; but his and David’s minds were well aligned, which isn’t as true for the youngest of our family.

Aidan marches to the beat of a different drummer. He’s the poster child in fact.  Despite the aggravation, we appreciate the heart and exuberance he lends to our family.  We’re not sure how he’s appreciated in David’s room.  Recently he was told (by most of the class) that a paper cut would hurt more than his punch.

This past weekend, he burnt through another layer of innocence while wrestling with the chore of stocking the porch with wood.  When the overloaded wheel barrel dumped logs onto his boot, he sat down on the stairs and balled (less out of pain than frustration.)

Why does this ALWAYS happen to me!” he sobbed at the sky. “Why, why, why?” he repeated again and again as he returned to the shed for the next load.

Aidan had begged and waited and cajoled for help with this chore, and I wanted to be with him; but I could clearly see that my help would suspend him in “helplessness.”  Thus my own initiation, as a parent of a ten-year old, was to walk away and let him wallow in self-pity until he seared through his own resistance and emerged a more capable “man.”

Yes, he is only ten.  Yes, I wanted to take him on my lap and rock him.  And yes, he would have let me. But that’s not truly what he wants, and my job is to help him get that.

(I wish there was a David for me.)

Kelly Salasin, November 2010

 

(Note: a month later, we made the decision to have our son return to 4th grade.)