Tag Archives: kids

Why Parents Should Attend Conferences

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The belief exists among many parents that conferences with their child’s teacher are unimportant. For one reason or another, parents can justify to themselves why skipping their scheduled time doesn’t make a difference in the long run: my child has a good grade; the teacher would call if there was a problem; I’m too busy to take the time off work. All of these reasons seem legitimate, and, despite their validity, I’d like to present a counterargument expressing why Parent-Teacher Conference Night should be highlighted on every parent’s calendar.

First, there are many reasons teachers need to speak with you, beyond communicating your child’s letter grade. We often need to express to you what your child’s strengths are, what areas they can improve, and how they can adjust to better succeed in school. We may need to address minor behavioral concerns that don’t warrant a phone call home. We might want to ask about your evening schedule or suggest ways you can help your child prepare at home. We also would like to get to know you, to better relate to you or feel more comfortable discussing problems as they come up. We would like to express, face to face, our joy at your child’s successes and our sadness in their struggles. In short, we want to know you, and we want you to know us.

Second, parents have a different perspective and deeper knowledge level of who their child, our student, is. That perception is often vital in helping us understand how best to teach each student individually. The more we know about your son or daughter, the more we can tailor our lessons to help him or her. You can provide insight into his or her life that we would otherwise be unable to see. You can explain to us about your child’s health, talk to us about signs or symptoms of conditions you are concerned about, and describe for us any social problems they might be having outside of school. Mental, physical, and emotional health has a huge impact on a student’s performance, and if you make us aware of those types of issues, we are able to better accommodate a child’s needs.

Third, it demonstrates to your child the importance of an open relationship with others in their lives who care for them. When we can converse at conferences, you can share with them how their teacher views their abilities and that lets them know they are individuals, unique and appreciated just for who they are. It helps to build a better support system between some of the most important people in your child’s life: you and their teachers.

Make talking with your child’s teacher a priority. We will be flexible about timing. We just want your input. Educating a student is a team effort, and you are half the team.

Peace and love.

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What I Have Learned From My Kitten

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11162081_10205935851051198_2565505048927328346_nI have recently acquired a kitten; he is nearly two months old. His name is Hannibal, because my husband and I were betting that he would have to be a warrior in order to stand firm against his much bigger brothers (Archimedes is 19.5 pounds and Magellan is 14 pounds). 10922872_10205907810470201_7914865518395219764_n

I have never really had to introduce new cats to each other before; previously I had a single cat, and after he died I got a pair of litter-mates when they were tiny. Furthermore, having not had a kitten in about 9 years, I guess I had forgotten what bringing a baby into our home would entail. Over the last three weeks, I have learned just what acquiring a “free” kitten includes.

A kitten comes with a monetary cost. Immediately upon his arrival, it was necessary for us to purchase another litter box, as vets recommend having one for each cat and an extra. We also discovered we had to buy a “potty training” box: a used 9″ x 13″ cake pan, as his little legs would not enable him to scale the walls of the full-sized boxes. We bought a bag of kitten food and a new food bowl (so he would not be afraid of the scent of the bigger cats). We also took him, within a day of bringing him home, to the vet for his first check-up and to get his shots. The next week we had to bring him to the vet’s because he had a respiratory infection that is common to cats who are born on farms. Free kittens will cost you quite a bit of dough up front.

11329764_10205906092067242_644109690277529000_nA kitten disrupts the flow of the home into which it is introduced. Each comes with its own temperament, and, therefore, its own rules, by which all household members must play. When we brought Hannibal in, we had all the fears and hopes of any new pet parent: would he be healthy, would he create tension, would he get along with our other cats, would he love us? The first few days were rough, to put it mildly. Tiny little five-week-old Hannibal was terrified, hostile, and fiery. He spit and hissed and bit and scratched everyone; he hid between the door and the wall; he ran from anyone approaching him.

But my husband and I were head-over-heels in love. It’s exhausting keeping watch and standing guard, so Hannibal often fell asleep while sitting up. After he ate, he let me hold him and sing to him and would snuggle in and fall asleep. He often got so caught up in his playing that he would fall asleep in the middle of it. In essence, he was an angel when he was asleep. How could anyone not fall in love with a sleeping ball of fluff? Even more endearing was his tendency to nuzzle in when his guard was down. He showed that, although he was afraid, he could learn to trust us; it was the first sign he was accepting his new family.  11377099_10205927908052628_4119230687361810319_n11429088_10205994352033686_7724427361259011556_n

A kitten costs peace of mind. The constant worries pile up; it is especially true for new mommies. “Why is the baby sneezing so much?” “Where is the baby?” “Did the baby use the litter box yet?” “Did Archimedes just hurt the baby?” “What if the baby uses his claws and scratches out Magellan’s eye?” “If the baby sleeps with us, you’re not going to roll on him, right?” “When are the baby’s next shots?” “Did the baby just hurt himself jumping off the couch?” “What if the baby falls down the stairs?” “How do we get the baby to stop chewing on cords?” “The baby isn’t climbing up my curtains, is he?!” Well, ok, that last thought isn’t so much a worry as a threat, expressed in the form of a question. If you get a kitten, be prepared to replace curtains, move furniture around, cover the couch in blankets, and, essentially, baby-proof your home.

A kitten costs time. It takes time to potty-train a baby. It takes time to feed him in a separate room, watching to make sure that he eats and doesn’t get distracted by other cats’ paws under the door. It takes time to teach him his name and to teach him not to scratch the furniture and to teach him not to bite his brothers’ tails unless he wants them to fight back. I also had to specifically carve out alone time to spend with my other boys (both the other two cats and my husband) and ensure that my time was not consumed with the new kitten. I often had to seek out the other cats, who hid upstairs and downstairs (where Hannibal was, for a time, unable to go — he has since learned to maneuver stairs and is an unstoppable force). I had to reassure them that, although I was spending so much time with the baby, it didn’t mean I loved them any less.11215807_10205957227265590_2406978983197072906_n11254288_10206161078001731_47836632477146075_n

A kitten costs all your peaceful, quiet afternoons. Kittens love to play — to scratch, bite, pounce, and bound away. They particularly love to ambush whoever accidentally moves in their vicinity. It is how they learn and it is their instinct. They are the masters of guerrilla warfare. If you bring a kitten home, be ready for nonstop attack mode. Unfortunately, not everyone in this house enjoys playing. In fact, no one does. We have learned diversion techniques (tossing toys across the room). We have bought mechanical toys to distract his attention for several minutes at a time. We have cruelly but without regret drawn the other cats into the “game” through the use of feather wands and food (which, notably, they did not appreciate in the least). Fortunately, over the past few weeks, all three cats are starting to become much more accustomed to each other and are spending some time together voluntarily. The older ones might even be starting to like the baby, despite his never-ending energy and their complete lack of desire to play with him…or with each other.1471338_10206070604059939_4157556326881593652_n11659317_10206153293127114_6421831474576771216_n

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A kitten will prevent you from doing many things that need to get done during the day. As previously stated, they enjoy playing, and it doesn’t matter with whom: with people, with other cats, with their own tails. They tire themselves out through play, and thus (like all babies) tend to sleep afterwards. You will get nothing done when a kitten is sleeping on you, because you are terrified of disturbing it, waking it, and being forced to fend off the needle-sharp claws and teeth with which it will retaliate. So you will just lay quietly and let it sleep.

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Finally, a kitten will cost you sleep. Kittens are basically nocturnal. They sleep a lot during the day and are far more active at night. Your new kitten will keep you awake by bringing toys with bells into the bed for playtime. It will bite your toes if you happen to shift them slightly. It will scratch you as it climbs you like a mountaineer on Everest. It will knead you and chew your hair. It will wake you up several times a night (though, perhaps not intentionally). It will purr loudly and make you love it. It may even put you to sleep by doing it. 11665747_10206160606949955_6609770067023629341_n
Enjoy your new kitten, but know that it is not, technically, “free.” That is the best part.

Peace and love.17668_10205979425740538_5577552344138097590_n

The “Unpleasant Job” of Being Atticus Finch

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mockingbirdIn the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie perfectly describes the nature of her life-long friend, Atticus, who is a lawyer. Maudie tells his children, “I simply wanted to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”

The nature of his “unpleasant job” in the novel is simple: Atticus defends a black man against the blatantly, undeniably false charges of a white woman in the south in the 1930s. Atticus is ridiculed and threatened by the townspeople, who don’t understand why he is trying so hard to save someone they are convinced is guilty.

Atticus perseveres through the destruction of his reputation. He ignores the whispered criticisms and shrugs off the mocking insults. His belief in doing what is right enables him to wade through the venomous hate, so that he can teach his children to stand tall and proud. He leads by example; doing what is right is not always popular, but is necessary nonetheless. Even when his family is attacked, Atticus takes what he believes is the just and moral path, never growing bitter or regretful.

The unpleasant job of being Atticus Finch is the same in all times and all places: it is unpleasant to do what is morally and ethically right, even at the expense of one’s own security and happiness. It is unpleasant to defend the weak, the abhorrent, the defenseless. It is unpleasant to have compassion. It is unpleasant to go against the grain, to be unpopular, to, in essence, be despised unjustly. It is unpleasant to value truth and justice over tradition and expectations. It is unpleasant to be strong, when it would be so much easier to give up or give in. It is unpleasant to be a leader, rather than a follower.

Peace and love.

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Why Cats Are Like Tempermental Kids

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10001162_10203012910619514_5431744211315265957_oMy cats, litter-mates named Magellan and Archimedes, are almost nine years old — senior citizens, in the cat world. They don’t frolic or play often; though, when they do, it nearly always ends with some degree of booty-shaking, yowling, and pouncing. My husband insists that boys just like to roughhouse, but I cannot support the violence they perpetrate against each other and usually wind up consoling whoever happens to lose the battle while the winner struts victoriously away. IMG_20150125_161624_763

They are more content to sleep most of the time. In fact, they can nap just about anywhere, anytime, and in any position. How have they mastered the art of sleeping, which so often eludes me? They don’t live with the constant fear of interruption (as I do, from them, when they happen to be hungry, or bored, or feeling snuggly, or cold, or just ready for me to be awake). You see, they are the only kids in the house, so they don’t have to worry about their tails getting pulled or their ears getting yanked by tiny fingers when they aren’t paying attention. Thus, my cats sleep soundly any time they wish, which, at their age, is most of the time. IMG_20141229_223619_606

However, when they are awake and longing for attention, they demand it insistently, much like human children do. They greet us excitedly at the door each day when we arrive home from work, ready to be held or stroked or given catnip. They sit on books I’m reading, chew off edges of papers I’m correcting, plop down in front of the screen when I’m typing, and stand on my chest and meow until I acknowledge their presence (sleeping used to be blissful, prior to their arrival — a similarity to a baby’s first few months, I suppose, but this has gone on for eight long years).1920523_873887382645030_4205182349469638139_n

Furthermore, I find that, when I really need alone time, one of the two cats is always underfoot: they swish their tails in the water while I bathe, they hog the covers at night, and they jump up onto board games, knocking pieces over like they are getting paid to do it. They love to aid in kitchen chores, the extent of which consists of sitting directly behind whoever happens to be stirring the sauce or washing up dishes. In the way children do, beating me up or down the stairs or into the next room is a fun game we play every single day, over and over. Solo yoga has always been a dream of mine, but, luckily for me, they decide to help with that each day, too.

10462352_873904525976649_6022804356553615682_nWhen I need them to, say, kill a spider, though, neither cat can be found. Their helpfulness only goes so far. Their lives are all about their own comfort, almost all of the time. It’s lucky for them that I love it when they are content — our relationship as a family is perfect.

Love and peace.10806337_10204416238061823_1808339046698785271_n