I was getting ready to throw away a pile of old papers from my desk when I noticed one that was about to be discarded in error. It certainly looked like trash, with its worn, tattered edges and crumpled creases. But this was a special piece of paper. It was my list of “No Elbow Zombie Apocalypse Moves.”
Okay, so let me back up for a second.
My elbows have a history of causing me trouble.
There was that time in grade school when I was goofing around in the hallway and slammed my elbow right into the corner of a door, resulting in such blinding pain that I passed out in front of my entire class. That’s a super fun thing to do, especially when you’re already one of the uncool kids. Continue reading “An Elbow to the Face of Hard Work”→
The best thing happened yesterday morning. I opened up my Facebook feed to find my friend Emily had randomly posted this old Sesame Street video of how crayons are made. If you grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, you know EXACTLY which video I’m talking about. It was amazing to lay eyes on it again after all these years. And of course, it took me down a rabbit hole of watching other old Sesame Street videos that, despite being dormant for decades, were able to come to the forefront of my memory with a readiness that was both comforting and eerie. As the words to the songs fell easily from my lips, and the images put me right back to being in front of a rabbit-eared television set, I marveled at how so much of my childhood could be encompassed in a few video segments. And how my entire generation was molded by these sights, sounds, and concepts. Continue reading “Everything GenX Knows, We Learned From Weird Sesame Street Videos”→
The other day, my nine-year-old daughter, Grace, sent an email to my husband and I, as well as to her grandparents. Since she is just nine, those are the ONLY people with whom she is allowed to have email contact. Still, she is so enamored with having her own account that we are often treated to her random thoughts for the sake of her being able to send a message. This was one of the most recent:
I cant believe I’ve started long division so soon. In thierd grade I learned so much, like… science, multiplication, division, and now you know, long division. I won’t know if this is right or wrong until i’m older, but…WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO LEARN?????!!!!! I’ve already learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and long division. When do I use this stuff in my life anyway, besides school? But I geuss I should Know how to do this, just in case.
When do I use this stuff in my life anyway?
Every teacher everywhere has heard that question before. I actually just heard it from a fellow parent regarding the aforementioned long division as we chit-chatted during our sons’ baseball practice. Her daughter sat next to us, trying to trudge through two more homework problems before being allowed to play on the playground. Part of me sympathized with her frustration. My own daughter has been struggling with the demon that is known as long division, and homework time has dragged on with a lot more whining and overly-forceful erasing. And whining. Did I say whining? Because there is whining. And that can only lead to a passive-aggressive Facebook post from me:
Dear Long Division,
I did not like you much when I was a kid. I still don’t like you much as a parent. I’m starting to think “United we stand, divided we fall” was really an outcry against any homework focusing on you.
Love, English Nerd
It is sometimes hard to justify why learning certain things are important, especially when your child does not always see you using those specific skills in your everyday life. You, after all, are probably the first model your children look to as a barometer of what adulthood will be like. And hey, if you’re doing just fine without long division, why should they have to learn it? It also does not help matters when mom and dad can not quite seem to answer those “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” questions.
Just last week, I got to be Billy Madison. In case you don’t know who that is, he is a character played by Adam Sandler, who, as an adult, had to repeat grades one through twelve in order to take over his father’s business. I, on the other hand, only had to repeat third grade, and my teacher was none other than my daughter…and the rest of her class. “A Day In Third Grade” was a way for her and her friends to demonstrate to their parents what they have learned during this school year. And I was worried I would show my daughter on an even grander scale how much I do not remember from grade school, further demonstrating just how little retention of the the third grade curriculum is necessary for success later in life. I mean, we are talking about me, the woman who ran into some trouble helping Grace with her FIRST GRADE math homework.
Sure enough, my old nemesis long division reared its ugly head as one of the lessons, along with spelling, grammar (which I DOMINATED), a test on natural resources (on which my b.s. answer of “we would die” to the question “what would happen if we didn’t have trees?” was counted as correct), and an incredibly anxiety-inducing timed math game.
My daughter and her partner taught a lesson on cursive. Cursive? There are schools out there still teaching cursive? Doesn’t that seem a little archaic in this technological day and age? I know several schools in our area have done away with teaching cursive. But I am thrilled my daughter’s school still does. I’m even begrudgingly happy about the whole long division thing. And I will tell you why.
Educational standards are constantly coming under scrutiny in order to make sure our children are learning the skills they will need to succeed later in life. I have seen more and more emphasis on things like technology, which has pushed out many skills now viewed as passé, like cursive. Handwriting in general doesn’t seem all that important either, seeing as how so much of our daily communication happens electronically. And there is only so much time in the school day.
Yet I would argue that my children are receiving a gift by going to a school that still believes in teaching things like cursive. But not because I think cursive itself is that important. Heck, I don’t even use cursive anymore, in favor of printing. However, I worry that we are becoming a society who cares so much more about the product than the process. If the product itself is not crucial, then it can be easily tossed to the side. But the way I see it, even if we may not end up using the product, the process is still incredibly valuable. Things like teaching cursive help children master a skill. They learn to practice over and over to make perfection. All this technology we use automatically makes many things perfect for us. How is that good for developing brains? How does that encourage growth? How does that foster the idea of learning for learning’s sake? How does that contribute to future generations of culturally literate populations?
I may not use cursive anymore, but those hours at a desk with a freshly sharpened pencil and a sheet of lined paper, repeating the curves and bends and flows of letters, was the beginning of a realization that I could train my hand to do better. And every time I sit down to create an illustration, or pipe a decoration onto a cake, or create something for someone I love, I know how to control my movements. More importantly, I know it is not always going to be perfect the first time. If I want a desirable product, I have to pay attention to my process.
That is also what I console myself with when I sit with my daughter, helping her remember each and every God-forsaken step of long division. Even that little awkward mathematical outcast, the remainder.
And it is why I spent my day in third grade as an attentive and enthusiastic student. I wanted my daughter to feel like what she has been learning this year is valuable, even to someone who does not directly use all those lessons on a daily basis in her grown-up life. After all, it is much better to have a well-stocked reserve of information floating around in your brain, as Grace pointed out in her email, just in case.
Still, I am doing a happy dance that this is the last week of school before summer vacation. I need a homework break. Because you know fourth grade is going to pick up with fractions. Those little bastards are always ‘effing with me.
By the way, my dad was the first to reply to Grace’s email with one sentence. And as is my dad’s way, his response spoke a simple, no-nonsense truth that could not be negated by even the girl who once justified that, even though we live in the center of the country, her biggest fear was getting her arm bitten off by a shark because she might one day live in Hawaii:
You need to know long division in case your computer or calculator is not working.
My kids, like everyone else’s, are counting down the days until summer. And frankly, so am I. For many people, summer means vacation time. And I’m mostly all, “Yay! Vacation! Vacation is cool!” But there’s also just this teeny tiny part of traveling that kicks my anxious tendencies into gear. And THAT means you all get another excuse to laugh at me.
The very kind Janice, who gives “crazy” a very good name, is featuring my post “An Instagram Diary of Anxiety” over on her blog, Crazy Good Parent. I will love you forever if you head over there and poke around at all the other crazy good stuff she has going on!
We were speaking of vacation anxiety, right? Maybe you’re familiar with it. The conviction that your children will be injured, maimed or killed by something that, to other parents, seems harmless but to you is a disaster waiting to happen. Like swings. My particular irrational traveling anxiety is that, if we fly, my husband and I should take separate flights so that the children won’t be orphans when one of us crashes.
Over at Are You Finished Yet? there’s a great post about packing anxiety into the luggage along with the bathing suits and sunscreen. Click the link below and prepare to find out what you may have in common with Tina Fey.
A few months ago I wrote about my plan to dethrone the Rainbow Loom and offered multiple suggestions for new, cost-free, eco-friendly fads. Little did I know I needn’t spend all that creative energy trying to end the trend of jewelry made from glorified orthodontic rubber bands. I had unknowingly already set that wrecking ball into motion with the simple act of purchasing the Rainbow Loom.
I have had more than my fair share of bad hair moments. But my worst one lasted for three years. Luckily, my yearbook photos from second, third, and fourth grades are still around to make sure it goes down in the annals of history. Or the annals of something.
My husband is hoping I don’t make it, as he isn’t looking forward to the pretty ridiculous amount of time I spent making the last video. But come on, people…just two more!!!
I have been floating around some ideas, some songs, some dance moves. It might just end up being spectacular. At the very least, you can witness a YouTube catastrophe and add one more notation in the ways your are likely cooler than me.
It can happen via Facebook. It can happen via Twitter. It can happen via the “Send Me to Your Inbox” button on the home page. It can happen via WordPress. It just needs to happen. Twice. By Tuesday.
I’ll be on the edge of my seat until then.
P.S. Thanks for sharing my blog. Even if the only reason you do is because of bribery.
The Circle of Moms website posed an interesting question this week: “If you were giving a commencement speech, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to young women who want to include motherhood in their futures?” I thought about it, and threw my answer into the ring. You can go vote for it on the site…I’m not sure what I would win, but it would be fun to just pretend I’m the most popular singer on American Idol. You can identify my comment by my name (Kelly Suellentrop), but here is what I wrote:
Motherhood is not an either/or situation. You don’t have to be either a mother or a professional, either a mother or a follower of your passion, either a mother or yourself. You can be a mother AND all of these things, for motherhood is a job that coexists with every other aspect of your life from the moment you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time. It is not always a peaceful coexistence, but it is almost always one that helps put everything in perspective. It is a forgiving job and one that allows you endless opportunities to get it right. It is the only job from which you can not be fired. Yet it is also the only job you can never quit, even though there are days when you will want to. It is the hardest and the easiest thing you will ever do with your life all at once. And the fruits of this labor will dwarf all other accomplishments you ever achieve; but their mere presence will also make all those other accomplishments that much sweeter, knowing your greatest achievements in life are proud that you are their mother.
Oh, and you may as well accept that the chances you will end up with a minivan are pretty good. It’s really not that bad.
I just realized today is Michael Jackson’s birthday, so I figured it would be a good time to repost this piece from last year. It somehow seems appropriate on many levels considering the season we are in. Happy Birthday, MJ! I’m sure my daughter and I will play a little “Michael Jackson: The Experience” dancing game on the Xbox today in your honor.
When I was in the first grade, I told everyone that Michael Jackson was my cousin. Before you get too excited, that statement is unequivocally false. I have no idea why I said it. Could I have already felt the push to be cool even as a fledgling student? Anyway, an immediate divide occurred among my classmates: my supporters versus my non-supporters. Heated debates on the playground raged as to whether a black person and a white person could be related. At this point, I am sure I felt pretty caught in the lie, and I fessed up to the truth. Surprisingly, I was not shunned as a crooked liar for those next eight years that I coexisted with these children. Some, even in the face of defeat, continued to argue in my favor that I could be Michael Jackson’s cousin if we traced my family tree back far enough.
Does the story sound familiar? I think it does. We hear it all the time. Nixon, Clinton, Blagojevich, Spitzer, Craig, Edwards, and most recently Weiner. A politician lies (which means he’s breathing – hehe), the country goes at each other’s throats trying to prove their side is right, the politician admits to the lie, some people argue that the lie is irrelevant anyway, and eventually we all move on. All the while, real problems go unsolved.
It will be a rare occurrence that I blog about politics…unless it is a rant against the politics keeping The Monkees out of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I told you they would pop up now and again – see my page “Why I Like Bananas“). I do not care much for politics. In my opinion, politics are what is wrong with government. Too much “my side is right,” not enough, “let’s see if we can compromise.” Too much abuse of power, not enough empowering the country. Too much feeling I am above the law, not enough making laws that will help our people. It’s enough to cause disillusion. And that’s about where I am at with the whole thing; I have a feeling a good portion of the country is behind me.
I am aware there are people who will chide me for my apathy. I know I should care more. I know I should read more newspapers and less Sandra Boynton. I know I should watch more CNN and watch less Real Housewives. I know I should, but I don’t. I am glad there are people out there still passionate about politics, because we obviously need someone to run this country. I just wish more of the sincere, level-headed citizens of that passionate crop were the ones elevated to office: more Atticus Finches and less Svengalis. Perhaps there will come a time when I find the desire to change a crooked system. After all, my mom, who I pretty much never heard utter even the word “politics” growing up, has now become seriously active in a political campaign. Her kids all moved out, and she decided it was time to put her mark on the larger world. Maybe that will happen to me…maybe.
In the meantime, I will likely tune out when the news anchor reports on the latest politician caught in a scandal. I will get a queasy feeling when I hear a Democrat and Republican calling each other idiots for having a difference of opinion. And I will head to the polls only to stare at the ballot and sigh, because I don’t like any of my choices.
Now I think I might go listen to “Christ for President” by Wilco and ponder what life would be like with Atticus Finch as president…and Michael Jackson as my cousin.