Remarking on the Good

“No, we do NOT swing our bags around like that.”

“Aren’t you READY yet? C’mon!”

“Why haven’t you finished that?”

“Would you just EAT your food already?”

“I told you to turn that video game OFF!”

“What do you say?”

 

The list of behaviors requiring guidance and correction can be huge, can it not? It can be exhausting to constantly remind our children of what sort of behavior is required and expected of them.

 

Frankly? Sometimes, I get tired of saying it. Lord knows, I get weary of the words “no”, “not”, and “stop.”

 

More to the point, I honestly believe that our indignant cries and pleas to cease frequently fall on deaf ears. Many times, children hear our angry responses to their behavior and basically decide they’re already “bad” and, well, so be it.

 

Catch them doing something good

 

So, while I’m sure it doesn’t work for every single child and every single situation, I’d like to share with you my very best tip for seeing improved behavior:

 

Remark on the ones doing the right thing.

 

What does that sound like? Well, something like this…

 

“I just love the way Ginny has all her things together and is ready to go. Nice job, Ginny.”

“Jonathan looks ready for soccer. He’s off to a great start.”

“You know? It makes me so happy, Sue, how you got right up and got yourself dressed and ready to go for the day. Thank you.”

“Oh! Thank you for those good manners, Jack. I appreciate that.”

“I love how you’re making good choices today, Olivia. Good job.”

 

I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes. I mean… seriously? These should all be expected behaviors, not things worthy of praise… right? I mean, there’s certainly nothing EXCEPTIONAL about getting ready for the day.

 

But bear with me.

 

Most children truly do want to please. Most want your approval.

 

Some of those little ones making poor choices? Just need reminders and concrete examples of what better choices look like. When they hear you praise another child for doing the right thing? They both know what the right thing looks like and that you truly appreciate it. Those are simple, but important, concepts.

 

Try it.

 

Catch someone doing good and see if others don’t try to get your (good) attention, too.

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Menu Plan: Let there be light!

 

 

It is no secret at all around here that I LOVE the light. I’m perfectly content to have endless hours of sunshine. Meanwhile, the long, dark days of winter make me want to curl into a ball. These days? The sun shines high in the sky late into the day and that is JUST the way I like it.

 

This time of year is also notoriously wildly busy and this year is certainly no exception. Still, with a bit of planning and prep, we’re managing to eat supper together most nights and we’re still eating well.

 

Here’s what’s been happening on that front:

you gotta eat

 

 

Sunday: 

B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass… with our new pastor!)

Brunch– Migas, English Muffins, Melon (I made these migas with nacho chips and they were FUN!)

Mid-afternoon Snack– Cheese & Chocolate (just keeping it real)

D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s (Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo plus sides)

 

Monday: 

B–English Muffin Sandwiches, Apples, Milk

D–Taco Beef & Rice Casserole

 

Tuesday: 

B–Cereal, Yogurt, Juice

 

D–Cajun Turkey Burgers, Pasta Salad

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Popcorn, Apples, Milk (Fun mid-week surprise!)

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night!)

 

 

Thursday:

B–Bagels, Apples, Milk

D–Chicken & Spanish Rice Burritos

 

 

Friday:

B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Bananas

D–Pizza – Large Ham, Medium Mushroom

 

 

Saturday:

B–Cinnamon Sugar Oven Pancake, Eggs, Fruit

D–Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Shrimp & Broccoli

 

 

 

And that should do it!  

 

 

 

 

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Substitute Teaching as an “SJ” (AKA “Guardian”)

 

 

Do you enjoy personality type stuff? Is it as fascinating to you as it is to me? I find it endlessly interesting to see how our different traits and qualities impact how we interact with the world…

 

I am a substitute teacher. Now, that’s the kind of job where some people work a day or two a month and others work every single school day. I fall in the middle, though I lean toward that latter. I typically sub four days a week in a school for kindergarten through third graders.

 

I am also an ESFJ. That’s Myers-Briggs speak for extroverted-sensing-feeling-judging.

 

esfj-head

 

Now, there are some things about that that are really great for this job of mine.

 

Being an extrovert, for example, is likely a huge help to me since I bounce from class to class and grade to grade and am asked to interact with people (and different people!) day in and day out. The fact that this energizes me rather than draining me is a huge plus. I can honestly see how this type of work could be stressful for some of my more introverted friends. It’s not that they don’t love people! It’s that they wouldn’t love the constant, ever-changing onslaught of them. So that’s a plus for me.

 

Also, that “feeling” piece probably helps me out as I teach in a primary school. Relying on logical analysis to drive you when working with oodles of tiny children might make you bonkers after awhile. I am a deep feeeeeeeeellller and, while that means I might get a little too emotionally invested at times, I do think it’s a good quality for this particular gig.

 

Then there’s that “SJ” piece. Do you have any SJs in your life? I’m sure you do. We’re also called the Guardians. We’re the list-makers. The rule-followers. The structure-seekers.

 

We’re the ones you see in the grocery store with organized carts, lists in hand, and standing in the proper line– we will NEVER be in an express line with more than 12 items. Ever. (The thought makes me a little nauseous, even as a hypothetical.)

 

As an SJ, I like structure and order a whole lot. Schedules? Make me happy. Guidelines? Appeal to me. Checklists, outlines, and bullet points make sense to my mind. I show up on time and with the appropriate items.

 

One of the only things I truly fear? Is chaos. I truly can’t function with chaos. I can stand in the world’s longest line and wait my turn– so long as it’s FAIR. I’d rather wait through 40 other customers than be thrown in with five others in a free-for-all.

 

Lines exist for a reason, people. Taking turns is important.

 

This is just how I operate. And that’s all fine and dandy. However…

 

It’s not how everyone functions. And there is no “one” personality type that makes a great teacher. And here’s what that means:

 

Sometimes, I wind up in the classroom of a fellow SJ and I walk in and I’m all, “Oh, hey! Look at this detailed plan! Thanks for the materials, all in order. What’s this? You wrote down the specific math partnerships? Sweet! And I see you left the template for organizing our opinion piece about the seasons. Fabulous.”

 

BUUUUUTTTTT…

 

Other times, I walk into the classroom of an NJ and I look at the typed sheet in a black report cover and I’m like, “Wait… what? This is one IMPRESSIVE plan you’ve got here. Write an opinion piece about solutions to class division? Wow, that is AMBITIOUS for second grade. Heck, it’s ambitious for seventh, but okay. I like this list, though. It’s efficient. Somewhat intimidatingly efficient, but I’ll do my best.” And then I pray my best measures up.

 

Or, I’ll find myself wandering around an SP classroom, thinking, “Wait? Where’s the dang plan? And then I find some bright colored post-its scattered around with things like ‘Go outside and find an inspiring tree!’, ‘Write a paragraph about what color “excited” is!’, and ‘Work as a group and see how long all of your feet are put together!’ and I think to myself, ‘What fresh hell is THIS? And where are all the stinkin’ materials?’” I usually hyperventilate a little at that point.

 

Or perhaps I step into the room of an NP and, after my eyes adjust to blindingly colorful posters listing approximately 8, 052 ways to “be kind!”, I find a cheerful bulleted list written in turquoise marker and I’m excited. I like lists!! So I start reading,

  • “Andrew is really sensitive to criticism, so it’s best to use positive language at all times.
  • Trina does best seated at the west side of the room, even during group work. The light affects her.
  • Ginny and Brett will need some extra attention, so keep them near you, but not too close.
  • Ellie loves green!
  • Write a letter home together? Try it and see how it goes– they normally love this!
  • We’re studying circles, but since math sometimes makes them sad and bored, I like to use smiley faces instead of plain circles. :) :) :)
  • Music’s in the CD player– it soothes them!
  • Oh, and have fun!!! :)  “

 

… and I’m all, “You seem like a super fun and considerate person, but, for pity’s sake, WHERE IS THE PLAN???”

 

 

And that’s life as an SJ.

 

We love the rest of you all.

 

We just don’t understand how you get by without a PLAN. :)

 

 

 

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I’ve Never Been the Girl I See

 

 

She approached me at a banquet dinner and told me she was wondering if I’d give her three minutes of my time to help with a doctoral project. She’s studying psychology and needed a broad sample of women for her research.

 

I’m pretty passionate about education and higher learning and achieving and all that good stuff, so it didn’t take me long to agree. Heck, I didn’t even have to set down my glass of pinot to help.

 

She explained that she was going to show me a series of photos of twenty-five women of various shapes and sizes and I was to choose the one I thought most resembled my own body. It didn’t have to be a perfect match– just the closest I could find.

 

Easy peasy, right?

 

I looked through all the faceless images. Scrutinized the shapes, sizes, and proportions and, finally, handed one to her.

 

She glanced at it, glanced at me, and repeated, “You’re trying to find the picture that most closely resembles your own body type and shape.”

 

I nodded.

 

“So this is the one you think is closest? Number fourteen?”

 

I nodded again.

 

She noted down some data, then told me more about her research.

 

She’s looking into women’s perceptions about their own bodies. She’s trying to see if, as a whole, we have an accurate view of what we truly look like. Are we in denial? Are we too harsh? Are we spot-on? Do we really have no idea? Do we fixate on a certain body part and miss the whole picture?

 

She hasn’t completed the research and doesn’t have any final conclusions to share. However, she did reveal to me, when all my info had been recorded, that I had selected a picture of a 5’5″ woman who wears a size 16.

 

I’m 5’7″ and wear an 8.

 

She gently asked if I had lost a great deal of weight at some point.

 

What she was getting was whether or not I had, at some point, been larger than I am now and had lost some of that weight. The answer to THAT question was “No.”

 

I did reveal to her, however, that I had, at one point, been significantly smaller. I told her that the only photos of myself in which I had thought I looked “normal” were when I tipped the scales at about 110 and wore a 3 tall.

 

I’ve never worn a size 16. I’ve never worn over a 10, to be honest.

 

But I look at that picture and it’s the one that best matches what I see when I look in the mirror. That’s what  I see. 

 

The young woman doing the research pulled out photo number nineteen and showed it to me. “I would have chosen this one for you. I think most people would have.”

 

I looked at the picture. The woman’s body had some curve to it, for sure. If I had to guess, I’d say she felt her hips were slightly wide in comparison to her shoulders. But her waist was small. Her breasts full and high. Her legs not thin, but long and strong. She looked so much smaller than me. I could find similarities in certain features, but the overall impression seemed so much different from what I see in myself.

 

It’s hard learning that you’re not really the girl you see.

 

It’s even harder when you can’t see the girl others see even when you really, really want to.

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Not a Tomboy

 

 

The woman smiled at C. My little girl was crafting loops of color and shape on paper, happily creating. She was in her element.

 

Turning her attention to G, the woman asked, “And how about you? Are you into art like your sister? Do you like to draw and paint?”

 

“Sometimes!” G. chirped happily, her attention on hopping on one foot, zig-zagging over an imaginary line on the floor. “And I LOVE gymnastics!”, she added.

 

“Oh, she does?” the woman asked me.

 

I grinned. “Oh, yes. G. has loved flipping and climbing and fearlessly using her strength since she was a toddler. She loves it.”

 

She smiled back at me, then turned back to G. “Oh, so you’re a little tomboy, then!”

 

G. cocked her head. “A what?”

 

“A tomboy!” came the response.

 

G. shook her head, long ponytail swaying side-to-side. “No. My daddy’s Tom, but I’m a girl!”

 

The woman chuckled and that was that.

 

We headed home and I didn’t think too much about it.

 

G. came with me when I headed to the bus stop to meet A. There’s a neighbor girl her age who’s usually there at the same time. That’s a pretty big draw. Even if she weren’t there, though, G. would come.

 

She likes to climb.

 

Not a Tomboy

 

That pic up there is quintessential G. Dress printed all over with cheery cherries, long long hair, cowgirl boots, and the arm strength to pull herself up anywhere she wants to go. Her nails are polished a bright sunny yellow and her young palms have tiny callouses already from the hard use they get.

 

The boys in intermediate school– they try to climb that sign-post, too. Sometimes, they’re successful. Sometimes, they’re not. Either way, the dad at the bus stop teases them a bit since they have such a short distance to go compared to G.

 

G. is strong. There is no other word for it.

 

But she’s just straight-up strong. Not “strong for a girl.” Strong.

 

She loves to do bar in gymnastics. The pulling and climbing and flipping are right up her alley. Her remarkable core and upper body strength help her do amazing things. Why wouldn’t she love that?

 

She also loves to wear sparkly necklaces, dresses, fancy shoes, and polished nails. She’ll climb more carefully in a dress, sure, but there’s no keeping her on the ground.

 

These traits– these “girly” traits– are not in opposition to her love of climbing. They don’t contradict it in any way. She isn’t “girly, but she loves to climb.” She isn’t “a tomboy who likes girly things.” She is just a little girl with a wide array of interests.

 

And, so, she’ll tell you–

 

She’s Tom’s girl, yes.

 

But she’s not a tomboy.

 

 

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Bittersweet

 

 

“23 days until summer!!!”

 

The sign is bright and bold and impossible to miss at the front of the bus. I watch the driver carefully wipe off the three and change it to a two with a vivid orange dry erase marker.

 

22 days.

 

That’s what stands between us and summer break.

 

I sigh a little.

 

I read all the posts and lamentations about this time of year. I get it. We’re all DONE. It is brutal what is asked of us in these final weeks of school– the parties, the concerts, the orientations, the shows, the presentations, the meetings, the appreciation notes and cards and gifts, and on and on. Brutal.

 

We’re all tired. As the mercury climbs, motivation drops and we just want to breathe a little. Sleep in. Eat random food on a blanket outside for lunch. Stay up past bedtime chasing fireflies.

 

porch swing view

 

Freedom. We seek freedom. Freedom from the grueling, unrelenting schedule that drives us through these weeks in May.

 

And so I smile and nod in solidarity when I hear the whimpered pleas for it all to just be DONE already. I’ll fist-bump you about the never-ending and exhausting series of events that has us running in circles.

 

But, then, when I’m by myself just looking at the calendar, I feel a pang of sadness.

 

I don’t want it to be done.

 

I LIKE my current life. I love dropping A. off early in the morning to go practice the cello with his multitude of groups. I love getting to the elementary school early and chatting with the secretaries while my girls put away my lunch and chatter with their favorite teachers. I love spending my days either teaching or, on my one or two off days, at home alone, plowing through a zillion tasks and to-dos.

 

I am busy.

 

I have a ton on my plate these days and, when my husband asks, “So what’s on the agenda today?”, he often just shakes his head in disbelief at my response.

 

But I’m happy.

 

My days are full and challenging and demanding, but fulfilling as all get-out.

 

I’m not sure I want it to stop.

 

But then I remember that we have a week at the shore all planned for June. I recall the joy of just sitting at the lake while my kids take swimming lessons. I’m reminded that I can go on impromptu coffee dates with my mom or keep the kids up late just to eat ice cream under the stars…

 

I love those things, too.

 

And, so, it’s bittersweet, this time of year.

 

But I’m going to enjoy every last day of the chaos.

 

Because– (let me whisper this truth to you all)– I actually really like it. :)

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Who She Answers To

 

 

It took her a long time to mention it.

 

She didn’t even come right out and say it. Instead, she’d climb into my minivan at the end of the day and her narrow, angular shoulders would simply melt in relief and she’d murmur, “I’m just so glad to be out of there.”

 

It took me awhile to ask the pointed questions, too. But, finally, I couldn’t ignore it and I dug deep to find out what was going on.

 

She was being bullied.

 

There’s really no other word for it. The acts were small and petty, but constant and unrelenting. Calling her name repeatedly, then ignoring her when she turned around. Telling her she’s babyish. Making fun of her math difficulties. Cutting her off in line.Telling her the mini meatballs in her pasta salad looked like turds. Teasing her for being one of the slower runners. Knocking down the sand creation she made at recess.

 

She got through it, day after day, and then, one day, just collapsed in tears. “Mommy, I don’t know what to do. I decided to pay him a compliment, because I truly believe everyone needs kindness and he just laughed at me and said, ‘Shut up, C. I don’t care what you think.’”

 

And, at that point, I realized that all our tips for self-advocacy were just not enough. I emailed her teacher and special ed coordinator.

 

They are both wonderful and lots of things unfolded from there. Things are better, if not perfect, now, and I am grateful to have my little girl who enjoys school back.

 

I was eating lunch with the kindergarten special ed teacher yesterday. She knows C. well, as she worked with her in both kindergarten and first grade. I told her what had happened and how frustrated it made me. The thing is– despite everything he said and did? C. would be happy to be his friend. She really doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, despite her funny little cackle of a laugh.

 

Ms. J’s mouth tightened. She shook her head slowly and said softly, “Please don’t even tell me his name. It makes me so angry. I’ll want to beat him up.” Kidding, of course, but also a little serious. Anyone who has loved a child who was tormented knows that feeling. She took a breath and went on, “What I always take comfort in is this…”

 

She broke off and I ventured a guess, “C’s got a lot of people in her corner?”

 

“Oh, she does! Absolutely,” Ms. J. agreed, “but more than that. C. knows there’s something bigger than all of us. She knows who she was created to be and that, ultimately, it’s not her classmates or her teachers or any of us that she needs to answer to. She knows that. And I truly believe that’s how she remains both kind and strong through everything.”

 

I smiled, shakily, tears burning in my eyes. And I nodded, because, honestly, I couldn’t talk just then.

 

I went home, girls in tow, and they went outside to play. In typical fashion, G. found something treacherously high to climb and C. found a shady spot to draw.

 

I found her picture this morning, out on our paved driveway.

 

like a tree

 

 

She’s going to be just fine, my little C. She’s got a wisdom that little bully doesn’t even know about.

 

(But I’d still kinda like to kick him in the knees. Not gonna lie.)

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Menu Plan: Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy

 

 

May is here!! Hooray!!

 

Spring has arrived in full force around here. While two weeks ago I was driving in SNOW to take C. to horseback riding lessons, as I type this, the temp is pushing 80. Honestly, that’s a touch TOO warm for this time of year around here, but I am certainly not complaining. Winter was long and harsh in our corner of the country and warmth and sunshine are more than welcome! Joy!

 

I’ve been subbing a lot, hence my scarcity around here sometimes. It’s mostly awesome and that means it’s a pretty good fit for me, I’d say! My husband is endlessly amused by my new “local celebrity” status around here as kids come up to me in stores, restaurants, and events constantly.

 

And C. made her First Communion! Just one day shy of a year after her brother, she received the eucharist for the very first time, wearing the same dress my sister and I wore, and it was simply lovely.

 

doublecommunion

 

In the midst of all that, we still need to eat, of course! So here’s what’s been happening on that front:

you gotta eat

 

 

Sunday: 

B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Ham, Egg, and Cheese Sandwiches, Clementines

Mid-afternoon Snack– leftover pizza

D–Shrimp & Avocado Soft Tacos

 

Monday: 

B–Egg Wraps, Apples, Milk

D–Penne & Peas with Cheddar

 

Tuesday: 

B–PB Toast, Clementines, Milk

sriracha ginger meatballs

D–Sriracha Ginger Meatballs w/ mixed veggies over Rice

 

 

Wednesday: 

B–Ham, Egg, & Cheese Bagel Sandwiches, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice

 

 

Thursday:

B–Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, Clementines, Milk

D–Slow Cooker Chicken Parm w/ Penne, Broccoli

 

 

Friday:

B–Cereal, Applesauce, Milk

D–Pizza – Large Cheese, Medium Italian Chicken & Red Peppers

 

 

Saturday:

B–Breakfast Burritos

D–Macaroni Alfredo w/ Ham & Broccoli

 

 

 

And that should do it!  

 

 

 

 

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If the dress fits…

 

 

“Mike’s end-of-the-year work party is coming up, so I ordered a bunch of dresses from Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom’s, figuring I’d just have them delivered and return what I didn’t like. I think I got like a dozen of them. Mike may have raised a brow at the $2,500 charge (giggle), but I knew I’d be returning most of it.”

 

“So did you find something good?”

 

(sigh) “Well. I didn’t like any of those, but I drove to Macy’s and I found a really cute dress for only $175, so now I’m excited, because–”

 

“– You can splurge on shoes!!!”

 

(much nodding and laughing)

 

I heard the conversation and didn’t think much of it. I’m glad she found a cute dress. And, frankly, it’s not even close to unusual for women to drop a couple hundred dollars on a dress they’ll wear once or twice. It’s not my money and not my decision. It truly makes no difference to me whatsoever. If it works for their family? Go for it.

 

On the flip-side of the coin, I know women– online, not in real life– who manage to find adorable get-ups at tag sales and thrift stores for pennies on the dollar and still look like a million bucks. I’m super happy for them– that’s awesome. At the same time, I cannot stand going to tag sales and thrift stores aren’t my jam, either. I admire these frugal fashionistas for their incredible scores, but I’m not even interested in attempting it myself.

 

Somewhere in the middle, I have this large group of friends and family who fall in the Stitch Fix/Target/TJMaxx camp. Obviously, those are three very different places and ways to shop, but all of them fall in the broad “mid-budget” category. They’re reliable, with a wide array of choices. It’s not as much work as a tag sale, but you won’t have to drop triple digits on many items.

 

Me?

 

spearmint dress

 

I ordered the dress from Walmart. It was less than fifteen dollars. It came for the juniors department, which means it’s probably pretty weird for a thirty-eight year old woman to be wearing it.

 

But I don’t care.

 

Because, if the dress fits?

 

Wear it. :)

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IRL vs. Online

 

 

Something I’ve been thinking about…

 

IRL vs. Online

IRL, I’m one of the crunchiest people I know because I make about half of my cleaners and use rags instead of paper towels.

Online, I’d be kicked out of Camp Crunchy in a heartbeat for using disposable diapers.

 

IRL, I eat more whole foods than 95% of the people around me.

Online, the fact that I like a can of Spaghettios here and there means I’m fair game for scathing comments about my junky diet.

 

IRL, I’m one of the most “free-range” parents in my circle because I send my 4th grader into the store by himself and I don’t feel the need to cross every street with my children.

Online, that pretty much just means I’m not a helicopter parent.

 

IRL, I’m safety-minded and careful with my babies.

Online, I’d likely get blasted in a “bad parent” meme due to the fact that my kiddos rode in car seats with winter jackets on sometimes.

 

IRL, making pizza from scratch means buying pre-made dough for many people, so the fact that I make my own from flour, yeast, etc. makes me fairly remarkable.

Online, the fact that I don’t grind my own flour means I “cheat a little.”

 

IRL, I can tell my birth story and get amazed and awed responses, but no judgmental questions.

Online, I’ve had to defend my c-section, my diet, my prenatal care, and even the spacing of my children to total strangers.

 

IRL, my lack of cable is a real rarity.

Online, it doesn’t really count since I have Netflix and Hulu.

 

IRL, I’m a young-ish mommy with a larger-than-average family.

Online, I’m an old lady with a smallish family.

 

IRL, I’m very sensitive and a bit of a people pleaser.

Online, I’m very sensitive and a bit of a people pleaser.

 

Well, at least that’s something. :)

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