Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Work, Anne?

Nothing strikes more trepidation in the heart of a parent than a child's first progress report, from a new school, with a new teacher, and when behavior is clearly be a problem. It's amazing in our modern technological world how little has changed in the world of report cards. Sure they used to be hand-written and now they are computer printed, but other than that, they still come in the same odd little privacy envelope, folded in thirds and with the same I-Inconsistent and C-Consistent...1, 2, 3, 4 grading scales...somehow not using actual grades, but breaking tasks down into skills and giving them a number proficiency is supposed to help direct the teaching and learning of a student?

Anyhow, it's that time. Time for my kiddos to get their first report cards. First I looked at Elena's which is almost always predictable. Good work in spelling and writing...pretty good in reading...math struggles...would love to see more class participation...more social interaction. Pretty much the opposite of mine as a child (from a behavioral standpoint). Definitely, the opposite of Liam's....Usually...

This year, however, Liam's held some surprises. First I noticed that there was Inconsistent performance at talking in turn and staying on task...oh yes, that's Liam, for sure. Then, the report card looked really good. Mostly 3's, some 2's. Pretty expected for a 1st grader working on the skills that they will need to perfect by the end of the year. It is with great relish I look to the "comments" section. This is the section where I get to really hear the voice of the teacher and understand what they think of my kids.

Liam's comments section derailed the whole report card experience.

So, my question is where does "Anne" end and "Liam" begin?

The 24-Day Mystery

Never once did our Advent calendar hold candy, or chocolates, or even small toys, or stickers. Nope. Always there was just a picture inside that little paper door. The picture might be of a hobby horse, spinning top or stocking if we had gotten the calendar from our secular grandparents,  or an image with a more "reason for the season" message if we had gotten it from the other side of the family. Either way, it should not have been all that exciting. And yet, somehow it was. Somehow, wrestling with the perforated edges of those tiny flaps became as exciting as any other holiday treat and, like other holiday treats, caused much bickering among the sisters Sassano.

Whose turn was it to open the door tonight? Who was going to get to open the "BIG" door on the 24th? Gathered around the tiny fingers of one sister prying up the paper flap, the other sisters were crowded around, impinging on her space and pressing their faces in close so they could be the first ones to see the blot of color behind it. We always started off the month of December with excellent rigor and discipline, but I fear we left many an Advent calendar opened through the twelfth or so and abandoned.

I even remember a year or two when we recycled a calendar for the next year's season. Opening the calendar loses all its luster when the perforation has already been ripped through and the doors are popping open willy nilly as the calendar is twisted in little hands. Pop. Pop. Pop. Go to open one door and three dislodge themselves and fling wide revealing their secrets. The mystery is gone. The secrets, last year's secrets, no longer interesting.

We are about to relive the tradition here in the Gill household. I wonder how the Advent calendar will compare to the electronic devices and Netflix shows. Is there still appeal in a mystery image behind a thin cardboard door? I am hoping there's enough to interest us, but not so much as to incite fighting. That would be a lovely Advent gift.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Struggle for Good? Good Struggle?

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
M. Scott Peck

I am currently reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and am coming to terms with some facets of my personality I have never really acknowedged before. I believe I have a "giving-up neurosis." When I try to understand "why" I am stumped. I had a very supportive and loving family. I had a mother who was my best friend and was there for me, almost to her own exclusion. I did not doubt that I was securely loved. So, what might my "traumatic injury" be?

Then I started thinking about the moves. The sheer number of times I moved and left friends, sitters, teachers, neighbors, etc. Could it be that by moving on over ten times throughout my childhood caused me to have a problem with letting go? I'm sure it's possible. To a child, is a move where everything past is gone, never to be seen again, any different than a death?

Then I think about how I parent my child who has a personality like my own: Liam. He is overwhelming in his need for constant engagement. I am firm with him and forced to say things to him that a parent hopes to never have to say to their child. Things like, "Son, I am doing my own thing, you do your own thing and no, I do not want to hear about it." or "Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, please stop talking and go away." It's just too much.

When I think of how I was treated, it's not ever badly, but there was certainly a desperate need for escape on my mother's part at times. She would "conveniently" need to do laundry on the other end of the house and spirit quietly away while I was otherwise engaged. I'm sure she, like me, prayed that an engaging show would come on TV. Anything for a break.

Could that have had an impact? Maybe, the key is not to know WHY the problem exists, but to just know that it does. Maybe the thing on which I need to work is the letting go. I cannot tenaciously hold fast to everything or I will a hot air balloon, trying desperately to float, some baggage must be released.

And so I conclude with another Peck that seems to wrap it all up nicely with a bow...

“We must be willing to fail and to appreciate the truth that often "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived."”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Of Wood-Stock

I was asked to write about this by a fellow blogging friend, so I will. It's always been one of my guilty pleasures, to shock people with my "Conceived at Woodstock" credential. In some crowds, it buys me instant coolness. In other crowds, I have to quickly back pedal and tell that other side of the story.

My parents lived in Chappaqua, NY. They were both from decently well-off families. They asked their parents if they could go to this concert they saw advertised in the back of LIFE magazine. They sent away for tickets. They were 18, just young-uns. My mom attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, my dad, Middlebury in Vermont. They had been high school prom dates and sweethearts. It was the summer of love, 1969, and they were no exception.

Unlike some of the hippies who headed up to New York for the big gig, my parents were Boy Scout prepared. They had coolers, a tent, firewood, Swiss Army knives, an axe, food for armies...basically supplies up the wazoo. They even had bathing suits so they could be the only ones depicted in bathing suits in that ever-famous nude-mud-orgy bathing hole picture that is on the cover of at least one Woodstock coffee table book. Somewhere, in that picture is a rather tall leggy fellow (6'5") and his adorable Polly Pocket girlfriend (5'3"). They kind of stand out.

A couple of years back, they gave me their original Woodstock program for a Christmas gift. Sadly, their tickets (which of course never got ripped or punched) got misplaced over the years. I do actually remember seeing them. I also think I remember seeing some sort of a parking pass, which of course also became moot. Wish we had all that memorabilia now, though.

They stories they remember are chaotic and have come to me through the years like colorful snapshots. The two I remember best were when they had cooked up their steaks on their portable grills, how the hippies gathered zombie-like at their "campsite" to try and get handouts and when an errant zombie hippie wandered into their tent while they were having a real "sumer of love" moment. Let's just say, "Get out hippie guy! There's a baby to be conceived here!" I will remain eternally grateful for that tent my parents packed and took with them that offered them (however incomplete) shelter and privacy. Without it, I might not be here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How To Derail Your Work Day...From An Expert...

Is there a world record for procrastination? How about dorkiness? Quirkiness? Nature loving? Pretty sure not, but I would be up there among the finalists...there is, however, a world record for "largest oak leaf" which I have just SHATTERED. Sorry little Plebon boy...I blew the doors off your record.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Carrots or Candy Bars?

Today I learned a new categorization. I think a friend of a friend made it up, but I'm sure all my myriad readers will inform me if this is not the case and this is indeed a social maxim I have missed. Anyhow, apparently women can be categorized quite simply as carrot sticks or candy bars. Carrot sticks are wholesome, good for you, healthy choices. Candy bars are sinful, tasty, ephemeral and bad for you. If you are a man and you categorize women like this, shame on you....but, do tell me where I stand on your continum. If you are woman, ask your man. Am I a carrot stick or a candy bar? Turns out I am carrot cake...interesting...