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Kindergarten Registration-from the Column

  • May 5, 2011 5:12 am

Five years ago, I registered my daughter for Kindergarten.  And, five years ago I also held my newborn baby boy in my arms.  Together, we watched my daughter take those brave steps into Elementary School.  Other moms tried to prepare me for the Monumental Moment, advising me to attend the “Boo-Hoo breakfast,” reassuring me that the day would fly by, and that she was ready.  But, really, I wasn’t worried.   I knew she was ready, and either I was too overwhelmed with a toddler and newborn at home, or I was ready, too.  We bought supplies, picked out a first day outfit, took the ceremonial first day picture, and went about the business of Starting School.  I even skipped the Boo Hoo Breakfast.  In fact, I didn’t Boo or Hoo at all.

When I picked her up that afternoon, she was slightly disappointed that she didn’t have homework, but more disappointed that she hadn’t learn to read that very first day.  I told her it would come in time, that most things do.  And so began the many lessons of patience that year would bring.

It wasn’t long before we began to realize the reality of the School Calendar, and how completely that Calendar ruled Family Life.  School ALWAYS started at the same time.  Every Single Day.  Not only that, but School was open Monday THROUGH Friday, and there was very little gray in that routine.  As the mom of a kindergartner, toddler and baby, that routine became a grueling checklist of quickie breakfasts, foamy toothbrushes, leaky bottles, and quick seatbelt snaps (with fingers more or less out of the buckles).  Those hazy blurred mornings truly rocked my Mommy World.  Having been a teacher, one would think I would have been prepared, but Elementary School was just a completely different ballgame.  In addition to the added daily routine of family chores, we added School chores, including reading homework, Scholastic Book Fair Forms, Field Trip Permission Slips, and the dreaded Behavior Folder.  Looking at that folder was the least favorite part of my day, everyday.  In fact, by the end of that school year, my middle child truly thought a simple three tab folder was in fact called a “folder signed.”  Enough said.

Needless to say, it was a huge growing year for our little family, and we have continued to grow as my older son began school, and both “big kids” have graduated to new grade levels.  And now, somehow it’s time to register my baby for the world of school–for Kindergarten, and I just don’t see how that is possible.  This time, I don’t know if I’m ready.  Kindergarten Round Up is in a few short weeks, and I can’t imagine him carrying his lunch tray, walking in lines, learning to read, and bringing home that dreaded “folder signed.”  Those things seem too big for him, and should be saved for all those other “Big Kids.”  In fact, as I type this, I can feel my throat closing, and tears welling in my eyes as I think of buying his school supplies, filling out his permission slips, and snapping that first day picture. 

I have a sinking feeling that the Boo Hoo Breakfast will be an all day buffet for me this year, but deep down in my sappy heart I know he, too, is ready, just as his siblings were, to take this big step into his Big Boy Life.  He’s been looking forward to this his “whole life”—to join the world his Big Sister and Big Brother belong to, and, as he takes those eager first steps, he’ll think he’s finally made it.

Youth Fair…from the Column

  • March 23, 2011 7:58 pm

Next week begins the Wise County Youth Fair, and for the first time, we are active participants in the festivities.   As new members in the Decatur 4-H Club, we have dabbled in a few activities this year, learning the ropes of the organization, and finding our groove.  Honestly, there are so many different elements of 4-H, it was a little overwhelming absorbing all the information.  We attended the 4-H Explosion Event in the Fall, where we were able to cruise around and talk to leaders of all the different projects, and a few things caught our eye—believe it or not, there’s more to 4-H than just cooking, sewing, and raising animals!  While there are still more than enough opportunities for those kinds of events, we were surprised to learn there was Dog Training, Photography, Science and Technology, Horse Training, Livestock Judging, Consumer Decision Making, Speech Writing…you name it, and I bet there is a project group working on it!  Since I had a friend in the organization, she helped us make some project choices this year. We attended the meetings or practices, trying to learn as much we could about our projects. In addition to our project leaders, the Wise County Extension Office was always eager to help, answering my many (many) questions.  In fact, I spent last Sunday afternoon in the office asking more questions, making last minute adjustments to our photograph mounts and labels.  In learning all the ins and outs of 4-H, I’ve spent some great afternoons just spending time with my daughter, both of us feeling a little uncomfortable at the newness of everything, but excited in this new adventure.  And, it wasn’t just me that got this bonus bonding time—my mother-in-law and husband took the reins in the kitchen, and helped my daughter pick out recipes for her Youth Fair Entries—even taking time to practice cooking with her.  She was exhausted, but that time was precious for all of them, I’m pretty sure.  Besides all the bonding, the eye for detail that 4-H demands is something we’ve been trying to teach, something her teachers have asked her to watch, and something she continues to miss.  So, maybe, just maybe all this practice will make perfect!  We have a few more details to attend this week (ok, A LOT more details) before the Big Week next week, but I’m excited to see the finished product from these weeks and months of work.  I’m excited to see everyone’s finished product, to tour the animal barns, to talk with friends, and see all the pieces become a whole. Next year we might take on another kind of project—she’s been eyeing chickens and rabbits.  4-H and Youth Fair—two things I didn’t expect to join when we moved home, but two more things that make this little Small Town that much more unique.

The Perfect Date…

  • February 8, 2011 6:38 pm

My husband and I have never been big on celebrating Valentine’s Day. There was a time when we had a super sappy tradition of “making the presents” in college and briefly thereafter, but after the kids came along we didn’t have the extra minutes in the day to brainstorm, cut heart shaped Valentine’s cards, or mold plaster of paris picture frames (yes, that really happened!)  On second thought, there might have been a reason it was a short-lived tradition.  But, once the kids took notice of the Heart Holiday, we resurrected a few little traditions.  We have a heart-themed day, complete with heart cookies, heart shaped cards, heart pizza…ok, that’s it.  That’s as far as this sappy girl can go.

But, one tradition that I have grown to love is sending my daughter and husband off to the Daddy Daughter Dance.  For the past four years, we have found the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, and curled the perfect hair—as much as she would let me anyway.  She looks forward to the date every year, a night when she knows she will be the center of attention to the favorite guy in her life.  And, even though my husband feels a little awkward cutting a rug to the latest Hannah Montana tune, I think he relishes these moments when he is that guy.

The Decatur Junior Woman’s Club is hosting its 5th Daddy Daughter Dance Saturday, February 12 at the Multi Purpose Building in Decatur.  Amazingly, the club manages to transform an ordinary cafeteria into a dreamy ballroom.  Christmas lights, white, pink, and red balloons, confetti, chocolate fountains, door prizes, and a silent auction are just a few of the many touches that make this one night of the year a night to remember for a childhood.  Girls of all ages attend the magical evening, from toddlers to teenagers.  Yes, even teenagers find their cutest outfit, pose for the camera, and escort their fathers around the room.  They buy raffle tickets and hope to win.  They grab a snack, and giggle at their dads eating a heart-shaped chicken sandwich.  The squeal at their favorite song, and drag their dance partners to the floor.  They dance the Cotton Eye Joe.  They do the YMCA.  They talk.  They laugh.  And, they take time for each other.

As couples, we are told time and again to take time for each other, to schedule date nights, to show our children the importance of our relationship as their parents and to each other.  And honestly?  I’m the first one to ditch the kids in favor of an afternoon movie or a social gathering where we can spend time as adults and as a couple.  I agree with modeling a relationship that requires work, time, and commitment.  As parents, I think the same logic applies to our relationship with our children.  I honestly try to spend individual time with my litter (ok, three) children, but admittedly, it’s hard.  It’s really, really hard.  I barely have time to get the laundry done, ever.  So, in light of our constant supply of dirty socks, planning kid dates…is hard, too.  But, this one evening a year, it’s a done deal.  It’s not too sappy.  It’s not too commercial.  It’s just right, and it’s perfect.

“All you need is Love.” –John Lennon

Goals-from the Column

  • January 23, 2011 8:11 pm

January is inevitably a time of renewal, rebirth, and general redoing.  Weight loss commercials clog the airways.  Sheets, towels, and furniture are on clearance.  Christmas decorations are tucked away in the attic, and everything seems back to “normal”—whatever your normal entails.  During this time of shifting and reorganizing, most people drag out those New Year’s Resolutions, and make a list of things to improve upon in the upcoming year.  I would guess that most people have similar lists:  lose weight, get pictures organized, get on a budget, give more time to charity, spend more quality time with the kids, try to understand the kids’ social drama, try not to yell at the kids so much while trying to understand them, etc.  And while all these things are good to write down, and try to cross off a list, I can’t help but think that perhaps a list of small, specific goals instead of “resolutions” might be less daunting and more attainable. 

For example, instead of “organizing pictures,” one could “make a 2010 photo book.”  While some might say those sound the same, and that the latter is just a more specific task to cross off a list, to me it’s a more attainable goal than the insurmountable one of “organizing all pictures in the history of my thirty-five years.”  I can make a photo book with the pictures from just one year; at least, I think I can.  Then, that might give me just enough incentive and motivation to go back one year to 2009, and make another book.  I don’t want to push my luck–but how I would love to be caught up on all those pictures in my thirty-five years. 

In having this conversation with myself, I came to realize that making goals with my children might have some kind of positive effect as well.  There is chatter in the educational world that goal-setting with students can have positive effects on their performance, and this year I am testing that hypothesis.  Admittedly, some students do tend to put in a little more umph when they see where they want to be at the end of their struggles.  Put that information on a graph, and that picture of their own specific performances ties effort to success.  Some students are disappointed when their goals aren’t met.  Others are motivated.  It’s an interesting dynamic, and one that I also wonder about regarding my own children. 

We had the New Year’s Resolution conversation at the dinner table on New Year’s Day, and I actually had to define resolution for my kids.  It was my seven year old that finally said, “Why don’t you always make a list of things to do better?”  Ok, good point.  Athletes do it constantly.  Talk with a marathon runner or high school basketball player, and both will discuss “beating their time,” or “increasing their percentage.”  So there it is:  goal setting at school, and goal setting in physical fitness.  Why not goal setting for simply being a good kid? As we wound our conversation around the table, we talked about the usual things:  being nicer to brothers, being nicer to sisters, keeping bedrooms clean, doing homework after school, etc.  From there, our conversations evolved into methods of “being a better sister.”  When situations escalate, as they do every single day, instead of screaming, kicking, and crying to solve problems, we brainstormed specific behaviors to try.  Now, I hear myself saying, “What would that super sweet sister do to fix this situation?”  Yes, I sound super dorky saying that, but those that know me, embrace my dorky factor—and my kids are stuck with it despite my resolution to change that fact. The bonus for me is that my screaming, kicking, and crying fits have decreased by a factor of twenty at least—which helps me work on one of my goals:  to “be a better parent.”

Personally, I’ve never written down official New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe it was because I didn’t want to fail in my quests, but revisiting a few personal goals around the dinner table as a family?  That, I’m looking forward to, and that I can achieve.

Bullying..a take on kindess–from the Column

  • November 11, 2010 5:56 pm

Recently, I was asked if all this “bully stuff” has gone too far—if somehow we as a society are blowing things out of proportion, and we should just let kids be kids.  I’ve been rolling the conversation over and over in my mind, and the conclusion I keep coming to is no.  No, we are not overreacting to this “bully stuff.”  I think we are just finally putting a name to some social behaviors that have always been part of the under current of kid culture.  And we are designating those behaviors not acceptable, which to me, is a good thing.

Let’s face it.  Kids are mean.  I wish they weren’t, but we wouldn’t have phrases like “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” otherwise.  That phrase doesn’t work, fyi.  I used it once at the bus stop when I was in kindergarten, and the kids proceeded to actually throw sticks and stones at me.  Was I bullied?  Maybe.  Was I scarred for life?  No, not really.  But, that doesn’t mean that these behaviors can’t escalate, get out of control, and really cause a child harm.  My nomadic childhood prevented me from establishing a history with any true bullies, but they were there—no matter which school I attended, they were always there.  It never took long for me to learn who was “in charge” on the playground, at the bus stop, or in the classroom, and I made a point to keep my distance.  But sometimes, kids don’t have that option.  They are targeted by those dominant personalities, and fall into a negative feedback cycle where sometimes their own reactions to those personal attacks feed those attacks over and over, year after year.   Put yourself in the shoes of that kid—the kid whose lunchbox gets stolen on the first day of school, or the kid that gets shoved in the hallway going to class.  Think how it feels to be the kid locked in the bathroom stall, waiting for the right time to escape, or the kid stung with a deluge of rubber band “hornets” in the a dark corner of a hallway.  Just imagine the anxiety as the boy who gets squashed on the school bus every day on the way home—just biding time until his stop finally arrives.  It happens.  And, it happens a lot more often than you can imagine.

“Treat people as you want to be treated.”  Some people call it the Golden Rule.  I just call it good manners.  Saying please and thank you in everyday dialogue, smiling at the checker at the grocery store, letting another car enter your lane of traffic, helping someone pick up their spilled box or bag—none of these actions take any extra energy or effort, and yet make the day that much brighter.  Take it one step further with actions like encouraging a friend with a compliment when they are down, picking up extra trash in a parking lot, giving away that McDonald’s happy meal toy to the eager toddler in line, or even opening the door for a stranger, and there you have some active kindness—acts that might take a little extra effort, but that can only make our world a better place—acts that could start a chain reaction of kindness.

Schools are the war zone for bullying behavior, and every school wants a positive school culture.  But, it takes teachers, administrators, counselors, and every student actively teaching and reminding each other of those basic good manners and random acts of kindness to make that school culture a reality.  Decatur ISD has taken an extra step by also implementing Rachel’s Challenge, a program focused on creating that positive environment by creating a chain reaction of compassion.  For those unfamiliar with Rachel, she was the first victim of the Columbine Shooting in 1999. Her family created this program to celebrate the way she lived, the way she inspired, and the way she loved.  Her story will make you stop; it will make you think; it will make you change.  Her essays were insightful, and her life’s mission was noble.  Rachel chose to live her life with purpose.  She chose everyday to put other people’s feelings to heart, everyday, and to make a difference in their life by showing compassion.  Her story touches our students, and this program could make a difference in the lives of kids every single day.  I hope that we, as a society, can make the choice to start a chain reaction of kindness, to live our lives with purpose, and to bring up a generation of children focused on the consequences of their own actions.  Because only then can we make that positive culture change, a change Rachel Scott has challenged us all to accept.  By identifying bully behavior, we are on the road to making that difference, one smile and one simple act of kindness at a time.

(more information on Rachel’s Challenge can be found at

Pee Wee Culture-from the Column

  • October 7, 2010 8:34 pm

We aren’t a Pee Wee Football Family.  And, in a world of Small Town Football, we are definitely in the minority.  In fact, I think I feel the eggshells breaking beneath my feet as I type this blasphemy.

But I’m trudging ahead, so, hear me out.  I promise we are all on the same team.

My husband put his foot down years ago regarding the age our boys would join the Football Team, and that timeframe did not include the Elementary Years.  His views are heavily influenced by his own football experiences and observations as the son of a high school football coach.  While we can debate the pros and cons on learning the strategy of the game early in life verses later in life, there is one common concern.  Injury.  Boys tackling other boys at any age can cause injury.  Period.  Of course, I understand injuries happen in all sports including baseball, soccer, and basketball.  Personally, I didn’t even play those sports as an elementary student, and still managed to find myself with broken bones and stitches every few years or so.  So yes, injury happens anyway.  But, I think we can all agree that football is more of a contact sport than the others.  And, that’s where my husband’s views end, and mine begin.

We actually participated in Pee Wee Cheerleading for two years.  After our move home, I was super excited to involve my daughter in all things Decatur, where she could wear her Eagle Blue with pride, and cheer on her Team.  In Kindergarten, it was Flag Football.  The games were held on a soccer field, and the parents cheered while the boys learned the correct direction to run, and the girls tried to stay together during their chants.  It was fun.  It really, really was.  It was a time for parents to visit, kids to socialize, and everyone to support Their Team—it was a good foundational beginning to Good Sportsmanship.  The second year was an entirely different story.  It was as though we’d graduated to Varsity Football, and the stakes were equivalent to the Super Bowl.  The boys began tackling—hard.  There was an official time keeper and announcer, and because the clock stopped between plays, the games grew from one to two hours.  The entire climate of the game had changed.  As I sat in the stands with the parents, I heard negative comments shouted at players, volunteer coaches, and even the Cheerleaders.  I was shocked at that level of Bad Sportmanship, and the modeling of that behavior to kids just learning The Game.  I knew that would be our last Pee Wee year, simply because of the Atmosphere surrounding the Game, and I knew that atmosphere was not a good fit for our family.

But, that was my experience.  And, it was cheerleading–not the actual sport of football.  So, I surveyed other moms to see what kind of experiences their boys were having.  Things I learned:  intensive practices at least twice a week-two hours each (beginning in August before the first day of school), dads scouting other teams for pre-game strategy, volunteer coaches watching tape, pep talks discussing how to change these “boys” to “men.” Is it just me, or does this seem a little intense for a second grader?  Even the NFL is getting in on the game, highlighting the “Little Guys” on a recent sportscast.  The local blogosphere has also highlighted some of the Pee Wee Culture, just because it does seem to be such a phenomenon.  But, there are two sides to every coin, and I also learned that some of the boys LOVED it.  Some of the boys THRIVED on it.  They looked forward to wearing their jerseys to school on Fridays, and were chomping at the bit to hit the field, hit the other team, and score a touchdown.  And, I know sometimes finding a niche for a kid is all it takes to motivate that kid on many levels, so I will concede that point.

Do moms still cringe when they hear the crack of the helmets?  Absolutely.  I doubt that worry ever fades, even as the boys actually do turn into young men.  Have some moms also opted out of the Pee Wee experience, holding off for Junior High and High School?  You bet.  And yet, are there still other moms volunteering to be Team Mom, giving “go get ‘em” speeches, and painting signs for halftime?  I don’t see how it could be any other way.  But, my question is, “what are we teaching our kids?” Are we teaching perseverance, hard work, team spirit, and discipline?  Or are we fostering a climate where Football beats all?  I continually wish I could harness the Spirit behind Football and Athletics in the classroom–that somehow students would tackle parts of speech, mathematics equations, and science fair projects with the same intensity and focus of this football league.  I know it’s different.  I know a field has a certain electricity that a classroom lacks, but wouldn’t it be amazing to teach that academic perseverance and success was as fantastic as a Saturday morning touchdown?  Wouldn’t be amazing if we celebrated Monday Morning Focus the same as we do Friday Night Lights?

Family Roadtrips-from the Column

  • September 16, 2010 6:20 pm

As the unofficial end to summer approaches, I find myself looking back through the last three months, and already feeling nostalgic towards the Summer of 2010.  This was the summer my kids were all still single digits, the summer my youngest learned to swim by himself, the summer my oldest wanted her own blog, and the summer we took a twelve day family road trip. 

My husband and I are big fans of the Family Road trip.  In fact, we’d opt for the car over a plane almost every time. We practically lived on the road for a month after we graduated college, camping at the nearest state parks, and stopping at every historical marker we could find.  We’ve driven to Washington, D.C., New York City (and through it!), Columbus, Ohio, the Big Sur, Washington state, and as far north as Montana.  I imagine we’ll even drive to Alaska one of these days.  There is just something so exciting about packing the snack box, the drink cooler, the “fun” bags of entertainment, the pillows, the movies, and the ipods.  It’s a little more complicated now that there’s more than just the two of us, but trying to show our kids a little of what makes us tick is more than worth it.

This year, we set a lofty goal.  We blocked off the time, packed the car, and set our sights on the Grand Canyon and California.  My husband has a passion for the big hole in the ground, and I have one for Mickey Mouse, so we rolled them both into one extra long, extra intense family bonding moment.  I know people thought we were crazy.  They might not have said it, but they thought it.  And, there were times on during this twelve day jaunt that I wished I’d listened to them, but I looked at my half-full Diet Coke, and persevered.

We had our little bribes to help pass the time, and one of them was the roadside picnic.  We packed treats we normally don’t buy, such as Goober Peanut Butter, Cheetos, and Oreos; feasting while sitting around a fabulous concrete picnic table.  Those picnics were almost as fantastic as staying in a hotel, which apparently is the best part of family vacations in general—at least in the eyes of my kids.  I’ve often wondered if we went to the Decatur La Quinta whether that would be just as fun as leaving town on an actual vacation.  This year, because of the length of the drive, I padded the fun bags with extra “stuff” like notebooks and disposable cameras for the kids to journal and take pictures as we drove from state to state.  They took pictures of each other, the view outside their windows, the view from the big hole in the ground, and of course, the hotel rooms.  On top of both the roadside picnics and extra “fun” in the bags, we would stop once a day and splurge on a gas station fountain drink or Slurpee.  I don’t care for them myself, but apparently Slurpees are the best things since…hotels. 

Many movies, ipod playlists, desert views, dam tours, and hotel stays later, we finally reached the West Coast, and Disneyland-which we had held as a secret the entire time.  Because of our love of just the road trip, I think my kids were confused that there was something else at the end of all the driving, and it took them a while to warm up to the Happiest Place on Earth.  But, they eventually fell in love with Mickey, as we all do, despite thinking that the Wise County Reunion was just as much fun.  I’m not sure what that says about Disneyland or Reunion, but it definitely says something.

We fell into the same routine on the long drive home, breaking it up by visiting friends and relatives, but again eating meals on the road, digging through the bags for “fun”, and stopping for a daily Slurpee run.  But, by this time the kids were done with the novelty of the desert, and Texas seemed so very far away.  They were tired.  They were sunburned.  They missed home.  There were times I turned to my husband and verbally reminded myself that we were family bonding, that we were building family traditions and making memories…all kinds of memories.  Good memories.  Bad memories.  Ugly memories.  Family memories.

When we finally crossed the Texas State Line, the kids cheered, their moods lightened, and they, too, looked back on the previous two weeks with nostalgia.  They laughed at my nickname for the Grand Canyon, they giggled at being able to say “dam” in reference to the Hoover Dam Tour, they smiled at meeting Mickey Mouse, and sighed at the cozy beds back at every hotel.  A thunderstorm hit the car as we entered Decatur, and my youngest exclaimed that we were “finally out of the desert!”  Those last few miles we sang along to one of our favorite songs, picked up pizza for dinner, and agreed it was a Great Road Trip…and look forward to the next one…next summer.

from the column-Bring it!

  • August 19, 2010 6:33 pm

School days, school days, oh those golden school days…Those are always the words in my head, through the voice of my mom, when I see the first day of school approaching.  When I was a kid, I hated that song, or pretended that I did anyway.  Actually, I always loved the start of school…the school supply isle at our local store, the new school clothes, and, for me many times, a new school.  Ok, so maybe I didn’t love that part, but it added to the aroma of possibilities swirling in my head for the BEST year ever.  Every year, I promised myself I’d be more organized; I’d get better grades; I’d be the best friend.  I was an over-achiever and, let’s face it, a nerd.

As I trudged through my academic career, I fought hard against nerdiness, but it always managed to bubble to the surface anyway.  I’m not sure what contributed more to my own personal nerd factor, being the “new girl” over and over and, therefore, never really grasping the cool trends flowing through the social fabric of the 1980s, or my own DNA, which pushed me toward the love of science, reading, and away from the mall and shopping.  I look back on some of those first fashion choices, for example, and cringe as I see blue tights, blue eye shadow, blue mascara, and feathered hair.  I also look back and smile at submersing myself in The Black Stallion and Nancy Drew books—loving the feeling of escape and adventure that reading gave me. 

There were a few pivotal nerdy moments during my childhood adventures.  Specifically, I remember a 5th grade assembly at Basics Plus Elementary when a local aquarium representative came to talk to us about Marine Biology and Wildlife Conservation.  I was never quite the same again.  From that day forward, I drank in Jacques Cousteau’s work, and idolized him as my hero.  How much nerdier can you get?  The next year (at a different elementary school) I was picked as a student helper for another science assembly.  We talked about the scientific method, the different types of animals, and I put a boa constrictor the size of a large man around my neck.  I watched as my classmates gasped in amazement, and I swelled with pride at having this chance to shine.  The eighth grade class wasn’t as amazed when they came to the assembly; and their eye rolling and giggling tarnished my nerdy fun. But later that week, my teacher pulled me aside and built me back up with words of encouragement.  He told me he picked me for that assignment because he knew it was perfect for me.  I was shocked.  I’d never been perfect for anything, but he told me to believe in myself, to smile, and to never stop dreaming.  Maybe he was a nerd himself, and saw that in me. Maybe he was just one of those wonderful teachers that had magic abilities to say the right things at just the right times. Whatever his reason, he made a difference that day, and I began a journey to accept and embrace my inner nerd.  That acceptance saw me through school, college, internships, student teaching, real teaching and parenthood.  Through the ups and downs, I’ve tried always to remember that teacher’s encouraging advice:  to believe, to smile, and to dream.

Today, as both mother and teacher, I see those struggles again through my own children and in the eyes of my students.  I listen to stories of name-calling, and empathize with the social drama.  I watch as some kids almost skip down the school supply isle, catch themselves, and slow to a walk.  I try to slip in a wink and a smile when I see that subtle happiness.  (Sometimes being “too cool for school” takes a little work.)

At our house, we do all things nerdy.  We watch Animal Planet, and go to the Science Museum.  My kids have been known to absolutely beg, to go to the library to check out books.  We go on picnics and discuss igneous verses metamorphic rocks.  In our house, we talk about dinosaurs by name…scientific name.  My kids know they have a nerdy mom, and they seem to love me anyway.   I tell my students about my nerdy experiences, and watch some of their eyes flicker in recognition.  And, I remember to tell them about those experiences with a smile—to let them know that life-long learning is just as cool as the latest fashion fad.  I hope they will believe in themselves and that nerds everywhere will continue to dream big, because there’s just nothing better than a fresh start, a new year, and an empty spiral notebook.  The school year is almost upon us, and I say Bring It!

It’s Reunion Time!

  • July 25, 2010 9:08 pm

The Wise County Reunion will be in full swing beginning tomorrow night, but there are still a schedule of events to maintain during the day.  Check the Learning Ladder website for camps, the Decatur Library website for storytime specifics on Tuesday (11 and 12:30), and of course the free lunch on Wednesday. 

If you’ve never come out to the Wise County Old Settler’s Reunion grounds, take a moment to read the article below–it’s an event worth trying at least once!

When trying to describe Aggieland, there’s an often quoted phrase: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”  While that might be true in College Station, and for that matter, any number of schools, communities, clubs or organizations, it definitely exemplifies the phenomenon of the Wise County Old Settler’s Reunion.

Through the years, I have tried to describe our little “festival” to those “out-of-county” types.  I start with the history of the event, how it was founded in 1874 as an official reunion of Civil War Veterans and original Wise County pioneers.  I mention that the first year, the Wise County Messenger reported a successful day, with only the music as less than wonderful.  I paint a picture of a county picnic, a picnic that grew from one day, to three days, and eventually to a week of camping, conversation, and connection.  I emphasize the beginning of Tradition—tradition that has changed and evolved over the past 136 years, but tradition rooted deeply in the soils of these small towns.

I talk about the Midway, the Pavilion, the Queen’s Contest, and the absence of curfew.  I talk about the wrist bands, the carnival food, the nightly music, the water balloon fights, the dust, the heat, and the homemade ice cream.  I elaborate on the Family Reunions, Class Reunions, and nightly potlucks back at “Camp.”  And, it’s when I talk of Camp that I tend to lose people.  I see their eyebrows wrinkle, and their smiles fade.  Questions start flying.  “Did you say cabins?”  “Do you have air conditioning?” “What other times of year do people use this vacation property?” “How many people sleep in a cabin?”  “You stay up until when??”  And again, I describe the cabin village, how it’s not an RV Camp.  It’s an actual pseudo-town of screened-in camps built and maintained for use one week of the year—the hottest one at that.  These cabins are special.  They are unique.  They are decorated, judged, and awarded prizes and titles according to excellence in various areas of competion.  They are passed down to family members, held dear and precious to those who own them, and shared with those who may not be in the market (yet) for Reunion real estate.  In short, I try to define the essence of Reunion to the uninitiated.

They don’t get it.  Until or unless, they experience it.  Only then, can they appreciate the Wonder of Reunion.

And, they either fall in love, or run away.  There is no in-between.  No waivering.  No “on the fence.” Either they adapt to the new daily schedule of sleeping late, waking for lunch, falling into an afternoon nap, meeting up with friends and family for dinner, riding carnival rides, filling water balloons, having children “check in,” playing dominoes till dawn, and watching (or rather not watching) the time fly with friends. If, on the other hand, they do not adapt to this yearly hiatus from normal daily activity, they are aware of the hours ticking by, the sweat trickling down their neck, the dust sticking to their face, the children staying up way past their bedtime, the water balloons bursting at their feet, and the virtual money pit that is the Carnival.

But, somehow, the good outweighs the bad.  For Reunion Veterans, there isn’t any bad.  People plan vacation time around Reunion.  Weddings have been moved because of Reunion.  Newborn babies make appearances at Reunion.  Great-Grandmothers brave the heat of Reunion.  When I was in high school, I took my broken ribs, broken shoulder blade, and a stitched up body to Reunion.  Even car accidents can’t trump Tradition. 

And the kids.  Just imagine this week through their eyes. It’s the ultimate playground.  The rules are different during Reunion, if there are any rules at all.  It’s a time to play, to ride, to sing, to throw, and to make memories.  It’s a week of sleepovers.  Sleepovers OUTSIDE.  Sleepovers outside, with a carnival, and NO BEDTIME.  It’s a never-ending birthday party.  Games are endless, water balloons are plentiful, and the fun is incomparable.   

It’s Tradition.  It’s History. It’s one of those small-town events that makes every town in Wise county uniquely special, because “…from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”   And, frankly, isn’t that the best part?  Aggie wisdom—who knew?

Volunteerism, an afterthought to this week’s column.

  • April 21, 2010 7:20 am

As I talked about in this week’s column, there are easy ways to spend a few spare minutes as part of our school community.  But, also as parents, we need to make time for recreation, for play, and for fun.  Another way to serve our community is through attending and sponsoring fundraising or community work events.  Many of these events are geared toward family entertainment, enticing us with a “day out on the town.”  And, by attending these events, not only can we make time to relax with family, but also we make time to directly impact our community, its charities, its needs, and its people.  There are events peppered through the year including:

  • CASA 5K:  This year the event will be held June 19th, with proceeds benefiting CASA, and ultimately the children in CPS care.
  • Sarah’s Cure:  An event in the fall organized by JoBeth and Mark Southard to raise money for Galactosemia, a rare genetic metabolic disorder.  The event includes a 5K and outdoor concert featuring Texas Country.
  • Decatur Tour of Homes:  An event during the holidays organized by the Decatur Women’s Club to benefit local charities.
  • The Decatur Jr. Woman’s Club hosts three events a year to raise money for local charities:
    • Fall Golf Tournament
    • Daddy Daughter Dance
    • Wise Hoops 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament
  • Special Olympics:  The Lion’s Club of Decatur lends manpower to this event, as well as Salvation Army bellringing during the holidays.  Their fundraising efforts benefit touch every aspect of our community.
  • Spring United Way Golf Tournament
  • Lady’s Auxillary Craft Fair to benefit the hospital
  • Relay for Life
  • Crystelle Waggoner Park Work Day:  an annual event to maintain the community park built by community members.

This list is by no means all inclusive, and please feel free to discuss any events in the comments, so we can add it to our calendars.  The point is, that by attending events such as these, and noting the causes these events support, we can be an example to our children.  We can show them the importance of community service, and civic duty.  Attending events, sponsoring high school teams and clubs, sponsoring events-those are all small measures that can leave major impacts in our community and in the hearts of our kids-both where it counts the most.