Tag Archives: Homework

Letter to #2 as he leaves for college

Happy Birthday Son:

It’s hard to believe you’re celebrating your birthday away from us. Your birth was the most calming and beautiful I experienced. When people saw you they said out loud “he’s perfect”. From day one I embraced you as my sidekick. You’ve proven you are unique and strong enough to follow your own path. You’ve stayed the same and yet changed so much. That little boy who talked to me about heaven and said: “My heaven will be inside” is now literally jumping out of the house to kayak and climb mountains. Trust me, I didn’t see that coming.

That little boy who was so angry at the day care for not allowing him to be in the “big boy room” with his brother and was subsequently pegged as “angry” is still fighting when he feels there is an injustice. That young man who told me “Mom you have to do something” when he saw the need to help his friends is now making every effort to help others, when and where he is needed. That young man who was defeated during his first year in High School by careless words said by careless adults graduated with a close to 4.0 average (was it 3.93?) and got exactly where he was meant to be.

You know when Jake left I wrote him a letter focusing on the philosophies I wanted him to embrace in life. I don’t need to write those things to you. Seems to me we routinely talk about them. I’ve had the best time sharing and exploring your beliefs and thoughts; because you listened to mine as well and made me feel that you valued the time we shared. Watching how you’ve grown over the years and how your initial observations matured and cemented into your core beliefs has been remarkable for me. I’ve watched a man mature in word and deed

Still, because I’m the mom, I must impart a few thoughts.

Make mistakes – but for goodness’ sake learn from them. There is no failure if there is learning and growth—PERIOD.

You’ll continue to grow and your opinions will change and grow as well. Your strength will be in your ability to awaken people to the benefits of your thoughts. You cannot force them. You CAN inspire them.

Stress is the best and worst thing you can experience. It is good when it motivates you and bad when it rules you. Figure out a way to manage it that works for you. Breathe, walk, listen to music, MAKE LISTS to help you manage your tasks and remember WE can and will carry ANYTHING you might find too heavy to on your own.

You WILL land where you are supposed to land. Making an adjustment in course is what we do to keep the wind moving us forward. Don’t ever think you are failing if you are moving forward. We believe in you, we trust you and we will help you. You are NEVER alone.

Guard your heart. You have a special tenderness and vulnerability that others may exploit in a way that hurts you. Be thoughtful and brave in all things but especially in matters of the heart. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Love is best recognized during the hard times as opposed to the good times.

Nothing you can buy will be as cool as something you can experience and feel. Put your effort toward experiences and capture them with your photography talents. “The business of life is making memories.” Think the “Fun Fund”.

Despite what everyone says – “You can come home”. Home is a place in your heart where you know you are emotionally safe. You were given a great gift that not everyone has; the gift of unbridled love and support by your family. You have and will continue to meet men and women who have struggled to feel the support you have as your foundation. Don’t take that for granted. Build on it in a way that helps you reach higher and stronger every day. You will never be alone when your family is with you…and we will always be with you.

I love you. Your dad and I are SO proud of who you are and are thrilled with your strength to be you. Go out and make a difference with your words and deeds in a way that when you leave a place, people will know “Sammy was here.”

Have a great year my son.






Parenting: You must be present to win!

Were I to settle upon one point of success reference this whole parenting thing; I’d have to say it is something that must be done in person. That doesn’t mean you have to be a stay at home parent. I’ve got friends whom I admire completely because they have raised such amazing children; and both are working parents or in some cases they are single parents raising their child. In all of those cases however, the parents have been involved actively, ever step of the way. That means they were involved in their child’s life in a routine way that allowed their child to feel accountable to someone who is vested in their lives.

My hubby and I went to our middle school open house for our 6th and 8th grader. It was interesting to see how the population of parents dwindle from elementary school to middle school. I do get it. By middle school we think they’re set in their paths and moving along. Given our “present to win” philosophy however, it was important for us to attend. My husband ran through my 6th graders schedule and I went through my 8th graders class schedule. Just ahead of my husband in line to speak to the homeroom teacher, a mom’s first sentence to the homeroom teacher went something like this:

“I’m (so and so’s mom). Would you mind telling me why my son had lunch detention on his BIRTHDAY the first week of school.”

Wow, there’s a way to introduce rapport with a teacher huh? Now a few things strike me. If you are approaching a teacher, in whom I hope you want to establish some authority for your child, why would you be so confrontational? Hello Mom…communicating is something the LISTENER does. If you shut her down up front you have a tremendous task ahead of you to get some sort of appropriate relationship established so you can build your child’s educational experience. Also, why in the world, if you are this upset, would you wait till the third week of school to approach the teacher (in a large group, inappropriate setting, surrounded by strangers)? Perhaps you thought the teacher would cloud over and say:

“Oh my gosh, your right. Little Johnny did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and THAT’S why he got lunch detention.”

Couple of thoughts for a successful year:

-Teachers hold trump. Tell little Johnny that at school, the teacher is in charge just as much as you are in charge at home. Kids have to learn to follow the rules in order to shape their behaviors in a way that will lead them to a successful relationship with society. If you fight with the teacher about behavior you do not witness, then you’ve set your teacher and your child up for failure. A popular saying here is “if you believe half of what they say about me; I’ll believe half of what they say about you.”

-If there is an issue where you believe the process was mishandled, set up a private time/place for you to discuss the issue with the teacher as soon as possible. An immediate response is important especially if you are not in sync with the teacher’s approach. If, after a private meeting where you handle yourself in a professional way, holding onto your emotions (if it even goes there); if you still cannot wrap your mind around the teacher’s approach and depending on the severity of the issue, take a deep breath and step back; not too far back but let’s get past this and move on.

Now the teacher knows your “present to win” and will understand you are both are track with your approach. If you don’t think he or she gets that, tell her that!

“I want to be on track with you this year because I want it to be a great year for my son/daughter.”

Tell your child that while you may not competely understand the teacher’s approach, you do believe that she/he is in the school to educate your him and you will support the teacher in doing so. Then document the issue, date, time of the exchange, what your points were and what you understood the teacher’s points to be. If there is another issue of similar disagreement, you can step the process up (after once again discussing with the teacher) and move to an administrator if you are still dissatisfied and cannot come to an agreement with the teacher. Do this again, in a professional manner that will allow your child’s success be the center of the conversation

I received a call once reference my second son. Apparently he’d pushed a child down who was attacking one of his best friends. The assistance principal explained that regardless of the circumstances, a physical response couldn’t be accepted within the student body. I agreed that was the County’s policy, and my son accepted his punishment. At home we applauded Ben for his personal decision to not just stand by when a friend was being bullied. While Ben’s response didn’t fit in a system of zero tolerance (which I have issues with personally) his response WAS an example of a value we as a family support. I understood the AP’s bigger issue and we discussed it with Ben, but also made clear that we supported him (as did many of the folks at the school-but the school, of course, had to enforce the rules).

We all think our children are amazing; and, in fact, all of our children ARE amazing. But really, they all make mistakes. My kindergarten son lasted a whole 13 days before he was sent to the front office. Sweet Danny, sweet social, chatty, heartwarming Danny, recently came home with two yellows in a row. I trust the teacher (whom I’ve had for another child) and understood she was setting the standard for behavior for the year. I did however, exchange several emails with her for these rather minor transgressions to ensure Danny knew his teacher and I were on the same sheet of music.

“Danny” I told him, “don’t push the boundaries; set the standard.”

That is now our mantra as he gets on the bus. He’ll mess up again. I know and it’s okay. This isn’t a zero tolerance game. You learn by making mistakes and boy oh boy, I’d rather they learn them now when everyone around them wants them to succeed than when they are out there in the “real world”.

After having children involved in the public education system here in Stafford for a total of 18 school years spread over the four boys, I have never met an educator who wasn’t open to and almost pleading for a relationship with me that would foster my children’s success. You see it is also their success.

So be present to win, and learn to communicate in a way that moves an issue to resolution. No time for show boating, right fighting, or “showing that teacher”; blah, blah, blah. Be present in mind, in spirit and in physical being and you will win the prize! A healthy, educated child who will learn to make the most out of his situations in life.

Have a brilliant day!


Parenting Tip: Start your children with alarm clocks early in their education and make them responsible for their wake up time. It’s a small but important step toward them “growing away from you”. Don’t even TELL them about the snooze button.

Damaging Children 101

My husband and I are damaging our kids.  I know we are.  We don’t mean to, but as much as I read, research, and seek guidance; I’m positive there will come a point in their lives where they will look back and, as they talk about us, will say;

“I used to HATE it when my mom/dad would (fill in the blank).”

I imagine their wife, their psychiatrist or perhaps their cellmate, gasping as they cover their eyes and say;

“Nooooo, you’re kidding.  I’ve never even HEARD of that.”

There was the time for instance, that Steve got angry with the boys at dinner and raised his voice as he commanded:

“Don’t chew with your mouth full!”

I watched the boys stop chewing and ponder what their dad said.  I mean they considered how they could possibly stop chewing with their mouths full.  I’m pretty sure that caused damage.

Then there are my own contributions to their Xanax futures. 

Sammy recently came home and said he had a math test the following day on division and multiplication of decimals. 

“Are you comfortable with that stuff” I asked.

“I am with the division” he said, “but I don’t really understand the multiplication.”

“Okay”, I said, “Let’s do a problem.”

I then proceeded to write:

                    X   12.36

The boy was absolutely dumbfounded.  He couldn’t even do the first step.  I mean he didn’t know the first thing about how to approach the problem.

I freaked out.  How could he possibly be going to school every day and not know the first thing to do in order to solve the equation.  For two hours I ranted and raved, taught, fussed, and cajoled as I taught him every aspect of multiplying decimals.  Finally, after the tears and protestations, he got it.

In bed that night I told him how badly I felt that he was having trouble with math and that I had no idea.  I was so stressed personally and feeling completely out of touch with my kids.  I’d have to quit work, no more blogging, no more facebook.

“That’s IT” I told my husband.  “My focus is back 100 percent on the boys.”

The next day Sammy got off the bus and of course my very FIRST question was

“How’d your test go Sammy?”

“Easy, breezy, pumkin, squeezy” he answered.

“Terrific!” I felt able to breathe again.  “Do you remember any of your questions?”

“Well there was one that that was 19.99 X 2.”

“19.99 X 2?” I said.

“Sam-we were working 4 digit multiplication last night with digits, counting in, estimating etcetera.  That problem was really, really easy.  Were there harder ones like we worked?”

“Nah” he said, heading to the television.

“We haven’t learned that stuff yet.”


Now, I’m not sure if this is an issue of communication, overreaction, or pure mommy guilt on my part.  But I have GOT to figure out the right questions to ask before my liver fails.

Parenting Tip of the Day:

Hey if you’re about to be a new mom, don’t pack and repack a diaper bag every time you’re going out of the house. Buy a double of everything and leave one bag in the car.  Put a pack of diapers in the trunk, single servings of formula (or better yet just breastfeed), some ziplock baggies for those diapers that need to be isolated at your friend’s house, and some bottled water.  That way you can just grab the baby, some clean bottles (if breastfeeding isn’t your thing) and you’re out of the house.  You’ll never have to think “oh darn, I forgot the baby powder” again.  

School Daze

Keeping the boys on track with good grades is kicking my butt.  I’m really not sure I’m up to it, but I accepted the responsibility when my husband and I agreed I would be the parent staying home.

Sam returned from school a while ago with an abysmal score on his pre-test on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   Now I happen to consider Dr. King one of the greatest Americans of our time and I wasn’t happy that Sam wasn’t “getting it”.  For the weekend that followed I came up with study guides, matching questions, flash cards; I mean that boy knew everything about Dr. King there was to know.  His big test was on a Tuesday and when he came off the bus, discussing the test was our first order of business.

“How’d it go?” I asked; my fingers crossed.

“Pretty well.” he said.

I quietly commenced to pat myself on the back as we mommies do sometimes when we know we’ve made a difference in our kid’s lives; and to keep from going insane.

Come Friday when papers came home I was shocked to see the big fat 60 on his test sheet.  Sammy had missed four of the ten questions on Dr. King’s life. I looked at the test.  There was a paragraph to read and questions following the paragraph.  They weren’t exactly the questions we studied but the paragraph clearly laid out the information required.  I was deflated; and then I was MAD.

“Sammy, you come here and read this paragraph right now and then you’re going to answer every one of those questions.” I bellowed.

Sam came over, read the paragraph on the test and commenced to answer every question quickly, correctly and without hesitation. 

“Why in the world did you miss those four questions on Tuesday?” I demanded.

“Because Mom-I didn’t read the paragraph at the top of the test.” He said.

“Why not?”  I snapped; simply incredulous.

“Because Mom.” Sam said.

“I thought that would make it too easy”. 

I don’t think I can handle this for the next 10 years. 

Parenting Tip of the Day: I read a great tip in a magazine the other day.  When your children bring home oversized artwork that you’d like to remember but cannot keep due to space limitations, take a photo of them holding it.  You can keep the photo, discard the artwork (with their concurrence of course) and have a smaller, more manageable way to keep the memories of special projects.