Get widget

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to best prepare your babysitter -- Guest post

a baby sitter's dream come true - extra pacis in the utensil drawer!

So, the time has come. It's either your first time leaving your baby with a baby sitter or perhaps it is the first time with a new baby sitter. All of the families I have sat for over the course of my life have either been neighbors, people I worked with at the daycare center where I was a teen, or friends/coworkers of my parents. In that case, you and your child(ren) might be familiar with this person already. Even so, I highly recommend having a "get to know you" night BEFORE the night you're going out. Have your sitter come over, play some games, read some books, watch the bedtime routine, etc. 

Here are a few different categories and scenarios that should be talked about/made known between parent and sitter.

1) How to prepare their bottle. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed, show your sitter how you make the bottles. If you breastfeed, feel comfortable enough to leave frozen milk with the instructions to just hold the baggie of milk under hot water until it begins to thaw and warm up. I've found this is helpful for moms who feed directly from the source and only pump occasionally to have backup for when they do want to go out. The first baby I ever watched who was breastfed was like this - she rarely took bottles so mom rarely pumped. Since breast milk lasts upwards of six months in the freezer, it was easier for her to pump whenever she had time and freeze it rather than worry about having to pump that day. 

If you formula feed, either prepare a few bottles ahead of time to be left in the fridge or show your sitter how to make the formula. With my niece, they used room temperature nursery water mixed with formula so her bottles were made at every feeding as they didn't need to be warmed up. It's also a good idea for your sitter to know formula making instructions on the off chance they need to make a bottle or two should the need arise. 

2) Know what solids to feed. Under six months, babies usually aren't on any kind of solid schedule that a baby sitter would need to know, but if your child is on solids and will need them, jot down a quick set of instructions for your sitter to refer to when the time comes to heat it up!

3) Lovies. These. Are. Huge. If your child has a special blanket or animal-blanket head, make sure your sitter knows how important this is. Lovies will come in handy when baby is over tired or ready for bed or just wants a cuddle. If your baby uses a pacifier, do your best to make sure there are a couple of spare ones lying around. Trust me, I KNOW how hard this is. Especially when you get babies who like to participate in the Pacifier Throwing Olympics. As long as there is one spare paci that your sitter can lay their hand on in a moment of need, you're good. 

4) Bedtime routine. This one is important for a couple of reasons - sometimes, babies (and toddlers) don't want the same routine their parents use from someone who isn't mommy or daddy. I've run into this a few times. Any attempt to put them down the way mom or dad does results in fussing, back arching, arm waving annoyance. In my experience, the parents I sit for have always been lenient about this. With one little one, who didn't have a sitter until she was 7 months old, I used to have to lay on her parents' bed with her and snuggle her up close to me with her pacifier like she was side-lying to nurse (which is what she did with mama in the middle of the night). Her face had to be smushed into my arm or my chest while she sucked on her pacifier while I rocked her back and forth sideways on the bed. If I didn't do it this way, bedtime was a nightmare. Said child is now 3 and as long as I tuck her in tightly and give her lots of face kisses, she'll happily go down. Heck, she even ASKS for bed when she's tired now! However, at seven and eight months old, while dad could happily plop her in her crib with her favorite blanket and pacifier, she never accepted that from me. And I was okay with that, as was mom. 

If you are a proponent of any type of crying it out, understand that this might be unsettling for your sitter. It's not that your sitter doesn't trust you or is questioning your parenting abilities. Trust me. I'm all for parenting the best or most effective way for your child. After all, you know them best. But sometimes, depending on the cry, I physically get anxious listening to a child cry. It's like I'm not sure if this is how they sound for mom and dad and I'm worried that they're crying a different cry and I worry that I'm doing it wrong. In cases like these (and depending on how well I know the parents/how comfortable I am with knowing their boundaries) I'll either sit in the room and rock the crib or I'll sit next to their bed and sing quiet lullabies. I do my best to never take them out of their bed once they are in it if that's not what mom and dad do, but I also know that they might be feeling anxious because mom and dad didn't put them down and I want them to know that everything is okay and they are okay. If your child is older and this is an issue of terrible twos or threes and it's become something of a power struggle, make sure to let your sitter know. For me, personally, when I know this is a boundaries pushing issue on the part of the child, I'm more at ease with listening to them voice their displeasure. Sometimes, depending on their language skill, you hear some pretty hilarious things come out of their mouths!

5) Boundaries within the house. A friend pointed out, when I asked for ideas for this post, that her bedroom is off limits even to her own kids. This is important to know. As referenced back in the bedtime category, a lot of bedtime routines often take place on mom or dad's bed. Whether it's story reading or rocking a baby to sleep, sometimes mom and dad's room offers an extra level of comfort when they're not there. Same with animals. If you have animals that don't like random people in the house and are more comfortable being kept in a room by themselves, make sure to alert your sitter to the fact that the cats are in the bedroom and prefer to stay in there. Also, don't be afraid to add a pet task on to your sitter's list of tasks for an evening! If an animal needs to be fed or watered or let out, your sitter should have no issue with this. Especially if the kids can help and it turns into an activity that kills a few minutes in those "will it ever be time for bed?" moments when kids start to get overtired and cranky. Most parents give their sitters free reign of the kitchen and pantry. However, if there is something you have that is needed for the next night's dinner or lunch the next day, just stick a post it note on it or tell the sitter what it's for. This also helps when little fingers know what's in the green bowl in the fridge and try to get inside of it!

6) Electronics. This one can be tricky, at times. Especially if a child has misbehaved during the week and has lost privileges. If that happens (and you think your child might try and get the sitter to let him or her use the device), it's best to put it away before the sitter arrives. Even if it's something that the sitter might use after the children go to bed (like the Wii or the television remote controls), if it's put away before the sitter arrives, they can play dumb when asked to use said device. Often times, I've had parents text me to let me know where they've hidden things after they've left so the kids don't know that I know where it is. This way, it ends the tantrums of "Please please please? We don't have to tell mommy!". And yes, this has happened more times than I can count. In fact, I remember trying it with my own sitters! Being able to say "Mom put it away before I got here! I don't know where it is!" is a really easy way to diffuse the situation. 

If you have a limit on screen time for your children, make sure your sitter knows. Sometimes, allowances can be made on a Saturday night. During the holidays, I've often brought movies with me (like Charlie Brown, for example) for the kids and I to watch. I also usually bring popcorn and we snuggle on the couch and eat popcorn and watch the movie. But I always check with mom or dad first before I arrive with a treat. 

As an example of a treat, (and I realize that this only applies to sitters who have been with your family for years and love your kids like part of the family), two Christmases ago, I went to Target and got P and C (who were 5 and 3) each a set of Santa forks and spoons, a Christmas themed bowl, and a Christmas cup from the bargain bin. Then I got a blank card and wrote to them as their Elf on the Shelf. I had talked to their mom earlier in the week who had said that they'd been having great behaviors lately so when I arrived with the presents, I told the kids that I had woken up that morning and their Elf had left them presents at my house. Later, while I was changing the baby for bed, I hear P whispering to the Elf, thanking him for her presents and telling him how much she loved him. 

7) Illness & Medication. If your child is sick and needs antibiotics or pain relievers, write down the dosage on a piece of scrap paper for quick review. Also make sure your sitter knows the best way to get your child to take their medicine. From droppers, to spoons, to medicine pacis, to syringes ... each child has their own preference and it'll help your sitter out a lot to know each child's preference. While I never give medicine without permission, either before mom and dad leave or after they leave through text or call, it's good to know where things are in case the need arises. That way, when you're out, you don't have to try and remember where you left the Tylenol the last time somebody needed it. 

Also make sure that your sitter knows where your thermometer is and how to use it. Some, like the ear ones, can be tricky. Chances are your sitter won't need it, but it's a good thing to know and have on hand just in case, especially in the winter months. If you have a child who is teething, give your sitter instructions for medication if you medicate for teething pain. For example if the child is just fussy, a popsicle or a teething toy will more than likely suffice. However, if you have a child who teethes badly and ends up in hysterical tears, chewing on their fists or anything else they can get into their mouth, let your sitter know what parameters you follow for giving Tylenol or Advil. In most cases, I'll text mom and say "T's been crying for the last ten minutes and the teething ring isn't working and she won't take the popsicle. I'm going to give her the Advil." This way, mom is up to speed and she can check back with you in twenty or thirty minutes to make sure the meds have worked and your child is comfortable again. 

8) Communication. With the advent of cell phones, it's easier to keep in contact with your sitter. A quick text message and all is well. As a sitter, I try and remember to text mom or dad and let them know that I'm getting ready to put the kids to bed and my cell phone is downstairs on vibrate so if I don't reply right away, don't worry. Sometimes, though, if bedtime is hectic, I forget to text. If you text your sitter and don't hear back in about ten minutes, double check the time. If you know it's bedtime, you won't worry that you haven't heard back. 

The other thing is phone calls from the kids. For some kids, a quick "good night, mommy, I love you!" is enough for them to go to bed without issue. For others, sometimes a phone call does more harm than good. If you have found that it does more harm than good, make sure to let your sitter know. That way, when a child asks to call, the sitter can pretend to call and then tell the child that mommy or daddy couldn't hear their phone and that you can try calling again in a little bit. Nine times out of ten, they're asleep before they remember we never tried calling again. 

As a sitter who loves the children she sits for, know that I will do everything I can to make sure everyone is healthy and happy. Even if that means walking back and forth across the living room with a fussy four month old for an hour or more (been there, done that. Nick Carter helped me out of that jam!) or laying down in a teeny tiny toddler bed to rub a head or a back until they're calm enough for sleep ... if it's something they need to feel comfortable, and it's within reason, I'll do it for them. I've given nebulizer treatments, rocked sick babies for hours, patted backs and given sips of water, held hair while they've thrown up and cleaned up any sicked up mess ... I'm not mom, but I do everything I can the way I know mom would do it because I want them to enjoy their time with me. I want mom and dad to be able to go out and do things without worrying that the kids are freaking out or have tied the babysitter up. 

Oh. One last bit of advice. This is more for the sitter than the parents - no matter how hard they beg, DO NOT AGREE TO PLAY HIDE AND SEEK! They know their house better than you and their little brains will think of spaces you wouldn't even begin to imagine hiding in. Hide and Seek is a surefire way to give yourself a heart attack when 20 minutes have elapsed and you still can't find the three year old and the five year old is laughing her butt off because she knows where he is, but she's not telling you because it's funnier to watch you scramble around trying to find her brother. Not to mention, nobody wants to break out the butter or Crisco to get little heads and hands and feet out of places they really don't fit.


Bridget Frazier is a twenty-something young woman who, over the years, has come to realize that hopes and dreams don't always coincide with reality. Take a journey through what it means to accept what life has given you, to be happy with the blessing bestowed, all while mourning the loss of dreams once passed. Find her at A Sainted Sinner.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Music and Entertainment Connect Autistic Children With the World -- S post

Autism and autism spectrum disorders have created unique challenges for parents for years. These disorders are often misunderstood, which makes it more difficult for parents who want their children to live normal lives. It's very important for people to understand that children with autism have many talents and interests that should be embraced, especially in the process of helping them to adapt. 

Autism and autism spectrum disorders are often misunderstood. Children who have autism spectrum disorders are often thought to have behavioral issues or learning disabilities when the true problem is the fact that they need a learning experience that provides sufficient stimulation. A child who lives with autism has a great chance of living a fulfilling life if they have a learning experience that caters to their talents and abilities. 

Many youths who live with autism have trouble communicating with others in traditional ways. However, they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves through writing, composing or performing music and creating unique artwork. Many who have an autism spectrum disorder feel more comfortable with online interactions than in-person interactions.

Journaling is a good form of self-expression for those who have difficulties communicating with others. This is sometimes a good way for autistic children to work through issues that are troubling them without having to open up and talk to people. Writing also helps children to express feelings to others when they have difficulty doing so verbally. Technology is a useful tool for autistic youths who have creative hobbies. The latest technology makes it easier for kids to share their love for their hobby of choice with others. There are many online communities for people with autism to share their work.

For one example of how important technology has become for those with autism to express themselves, in Alabama, a fourth-grade boy with autism found that his iPad had been stolen. He had used his iPad to compose music, keep a journal and organize photos taken on family trips. Because of this, he was very upset when the device was stolen. This news story had a happy ending when the iPad was recovered with all of the child's important photos and other content intact.

Some autistic children who are especially dedicated to music enjoy composing their own pieces or new arrangements of old favorites. There are many programs and apps available that make it easier for musically gifted kids to share their work. Some children with autism spectrum disorders have a unique gift for mastering new songs and playing new instruments with little need for instruction.

Any child who has an autism spectrum disorder could benefit from a unique care plan tailored to his or her individual needs. Therapists who closely work with autistic children and their families understand the importance of specialized care and how it contributes to a child's positive development. Lindsey Stone is an example of a therapist who helps parents and community members see to the needs of children living with autism spectrum disorders. A more specialized approach not only helps children develop skills related to their interests and talents but also makes learning much easier.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gaining 50 pounds proves nothing to no one

So, more than a year after the Maria Kang debacle, I wake up to this on my newsfeed.

"Woman packs on 50 pounds to prove 'no excuses' for being overweight"

Apparently, a while back, Katie Hopkins decided she was tired of having people tell her she was "lucky to be thin" and blaming their obesity on things other than themselves. She got so tired of it that she decided to eat 6,500 calories a day until she gained 50 pounds, just to show that it's only caloric intake and lack of exercise that makes people fat.

The only thing her "experiment" proves to me is that Katie Hopkins likes to fat shame. A lot. So much that she would undertake a drastic change in daily habits--one that made her cry because she thinks eating that much is so disgusting--so that she could continue to fat shame. It's that important to her.

And, honestly, it's totally off the mark.

All Hopkins did with this little foray into the world of overweight was prove that she, as an individual, with a normal metabolism, no physical or mental ailments that would beleaguer her weight control, enough money to afford a good diet, her genetic makeup and a bunch of other individual factors that make her a candidate for weight control success--would be overweight if she ate larger quantities of food than her body is used to.

I'm pretty sure science proved that already, first of all.

And secondly, proving that you personally eating a lot makes you personally gain weight says absolutely nothing about the rest of the population. To get all academia, it's not replicable and it's not generalizable.

So, congratulations on making yourself cry and force feeding yourself to gain weight so that you could then go back to your normal diet, lose the weight, and continue to fat shame--now in your mind, justified.

Hopkins has also said, "I don't believe you can be fat and happy."

To which I point her to this Tumblr.

Maybe Hopkins can't be fat and happy. She proved that to herself (unnecessarily since she already knew that about herself), but just because she doesn't like the extra weight and had to put massive effort into gaining it does not make that true for literally anybody else on the planet.

We are all different.

Hopkins, of course, is going to lose the weight in three months time by again drastically altering her diet and upping her exercise levels.

And that's great. But it doesn't prove that other people can do it.

It only proves that you can.

So, now, you're not just a random ignorant person making other people feel bad because you lack empathy and education about the different factors in obesity. Now you're an active participant in tearing people down to make yourself feel better about your life, willpower, cultural situation and genetics.

Congratulations, and good luck on your weight loss journey.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moving on from National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day -- Guest Post

One week ago, I logged into Facebook to check on my friends for the day.  After spending only five seconds on the page, I logged out with the realization that I would be unable to cope with myself if I stayed online.  While that sounds a bit over the top, I had forgotten that it was a day of observance, and status messages and articles about the day took me by surprise.    It was either get off the computer, or begin flogging myself over events that were beyond my control. 

In the United States, October 15th marks ‘National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day,’ and it’s the one-day that everyone is cordially required to come forward, and share their stories and feelings about it.  Last week, however, I had no interest in remembering, sharing, or even commiserating with anyone.   I have survived multiple miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and a complicated pregnancy that resulted in a traumatic emergency cesarean section procedure- one that could have been prevented if my doctor hadn’t jumped the gun.   The whole ordeal of pregnancy and loss hits where it counts already.  I don’t want a designated day of observance to remind me of every detail yet again.

Don’t get me wrong.   Loss is a very serious issue that affects over 10% of women trying to conceive, or carry a pregnancy to term.  Miscarriage is more common than you think.  More, despite advances in medicine, thousands of babies die unexpectedly in the first year.  As for healthy babies, we are in the middle of a spectacular boom, and there’s no sign of it slowing any time soon.  So a day like October 15th should be a call for solidarity to those celebrating life, those mourning a loss, and those undergoing fertility treatments. 

But what happens on October 16th?  Or January 1st?  Or on the day your best friend gives birth to a healthy baby?  When your cousin’s son dies from SIDS? Or the fourth time you miscarry? If it’s not on October 15th, or not during Infertility Awareness Week, which occurs in April, no one wants to discuss any of it. 

When I came to the conclusion that I would no longer try for another child a few months ago, I was saddened by the decision at first.  I felt angry at my infertility.  Then I realized that I was okay with that decision, and my heart felt lighter.   I was no longer angry when people announced pregnancies, but genuinely happy for them.   When I met my sister’s newborn last month, I was relaxed, because the baton had been passed to someone else.   I was happy about joining the “No more kids” club, and I began to remember that I am more than a parent, more than a statistic, and much more than what I represented to the medical establishment.   I felt empowered and ready to move on with life.

Yet when October 15th arrived, I suddenly became reminded of the complete loser I was for suffering those many miscarriages.  Worse, I felt like a jerk for not wanting to feel like a loser anymore. I felt like a bad person for wanting to focus on parenting the child I have, rather than grieve the loss of the children I didn’t have.   Then it hit me.  What was supposed to be a day of solidarity and awareness had become a spectacle.  It was as if the world had decided to single us out to point out our shortcomings, our imperfections, our losses, and we were on parade.  Like it or not, it’s ‘Happy Look At Your Faults’ Day!  Step right up, and give us a show!

I get the idea that women everywhere should bond.  However, limiting that show of solidarity to one day, week or month can do more harm than good overall.   While the rest of the world moves on to observe other “National Days” without so much as a blink, the rest of us have to pick up the pieces and start the healing process again. 

My little epiphany from months earlier?  It’s actually somewhat in tact, but only because I decided that self-preservation was better than reopening old wounds.   Logging off and shutting my computer down was the best way for coping that day.   Because of that decision, things hurt a whole lot less on the 16th, 17th, and 18th

Perhaps instead of remaining tacit about pregnancy, and infant loss, save for one day, we should consider moving beyond reserving that token day of observance in favor of just talking about it whenever we need to.   For those of us who have lost, let us commiserate when we’re sad, and let’s applaud when we move forward toward acceptance.  For those who celebrate their pregnancy?   Celebrate it daily!  Why not?  

Let’s talk about these things on October 16th, January 1st, whenever!   Let us be happy for those who have healed from their loss, and let us offer support to those who haven’t.  Let’s do it any day, any time.  Not just when we’re obliged to on October 15th.


Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why are we always apologizing for expressing ourselves? -- Guest Post

Today I found out that I have Lyme Disease. It has already invaded my joints, judging from puffy tautness of my left hand knuckles and wrist. I have no memory of yanking a tick from my skin. But that’s beside the point.

Yesterday in my online journal I complained about how much my wrist hurt. Immediately after posting that I posted an apology for whining.

That got me thinking.

It’s a strange business communicating online. On Facebook we’re expected to put on public faces and post photos of our loved ones, or, save that, repost inspirational quotes or photos of cute baby animals. Online journals traditionally eschew that for intimacy with a handpicked built-in audience who will celebrate your joys, comfort you in your grief, help you solve an issue you’re currently experiencing.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how we’re apt to apologize for complaining online about something.

Doesn’t that sound weird to you?

If we want to vent, whine, or complain about something in our own space why do we suddenly feel the need to apologize? Is it because we shouldn’t express the, shall we say, less sunshiny sides of ourselves? Is it because we’re afraid we’ll alienate our audience? What if we can’t stop whining? Why do we feel we need permission to vent about an actual medical condition?

Maybe our support systems are too preoccupied to listen to our woes. Perhaps our friends live too far away for us to drop in for coffee and a chat.

Maybe we should just shut up, put on the proverbial big girl panties and deal.


I sure as hell don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been diagnosed with a disease which, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc not only with my nervous system but also with my short-term memory. I’m already past the too-tired-to-move stage.

As I said in my online journal, I know, in the greater scheme of things, Lyme is a mere blip and it boggles my mind that someone as relatively healthy as me has it.

I apologized in my own online journal because I didn’t want my friends – my audience – to think badly of me. I still have that tiny “what if they don’t like me anymore?” shred left over from junior high. I don’t want them to think I’m tedious or I’ve branded myself as The Woman With Lyme. Ergo, I apologize. In my own space.

Heck, apologizing can just be as tedious as whining.

Here’s a thought: Maybe, just maybe, if we all stopped apologizing we’d be more apt to accept ourselves as the flawed humans we are.

I have Lyme Disease which now explains all the niggling conditions I’ve had for the past few months.

As soon as I finish this I’m going to take my first dose of doxycycline and call it a night.

And I’m not apologizing for it.

Kathi B. is a writer and baker living in New England.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to handle mean, baseless "reviews" -- Guest post

Last night the Twitterverse exploded around Kathleen Hale’s essay in The Guardian, Am I being catfished? An author confronts her number-one online critic. I’d read it a few days ago, thought it had a great ho-lee-shit quality about it, and scheduled a tweet for later in the week.

Little did I know.

If you haven’t seen it yet, a Goodreads user writing under the handle “Blythe” wrote a review of Hale’s book. Hale thought “Blythe” got it factually wrong, and took issue with the tone. “Blythe” harassed Hale via social media and did everything she could to bring down Hale’s ratings, including commenting on positive reviews of the book to say that reviewer had it wrong.

The We Hate Hale camp’s position is summed up nicely here.

And here’s a post on Bustle with a more nuanced view.

“Book bloggers,” which appears to mean anyone who has a blog and writes about books, or puts comments on other sites that write about books, are shocked—shocked!—that trashing people’s work on the internet as meanly as possible may well be free speech but is not in fact free from consequences.

The pearl-clutchers now terrified to post their opinions are laboring under the impression they are reviewers.

They’re not.

They’re hecklers.

This is not to say all comments must be positive. Or represent an in-depth engagement with the text leading to a thoughtful assessment of the positives and negatives and where within its particular canon the book should be placed (that would be a “review”). But little gems like

Fuck this.

are the moral equivalent of the guy yelling “you suck!” at a comedian. “Fuck this” doesn’t add anything to the dialogue. It’s not even a statement of opinion. It’s a deliberate, nasty jab intended to hurt the author personally and financially. And for those still heady with the power to depress sales and writers, it’s not as retribution-free as it looked.

As writers, we’re counseled not to engage with reviews. At all. Ever. And for thoughtful reviews—or even statements of opinion such as “Bad writing and it was a waste of time to read it”—that’s still the best policy. A genuine review by a qualified reviewer can, after the initial pain subsides, be tremendously helpful (it’s usually the first time we’ve heard from someone not already in our corner).

But for the assholes yelling “Fuck this”? Don’t engage as the writer with a reviewer. Squash them like a comic with a heckler.

 STEP ONE: The heckler must be loud enough to be heard by everyone else. 

If you can’t hear them clearly, nobody else can either, and putting down that heckler makes you look mean. For writers, this means don’t seek it out. If you can’t “hear” it, chances are most people outside that immediate community can’t either.

But if it’s coming across your social media, and other people have first identified it as mean, so it’s not just your tender sensibilities? Get on that shit.

STEP TWO: Only engage if you can win.

You’re not in this to be reasonable. You don’t want an apology, an acknowledgement, a recognition or to present your own case. You want to crush. Make them look like an idiot spewing meaningless vitriol.

Fuck this.

Mom, please stop using the Internet.

Craft your response like poetry. Cynical, funny, poetry. You know full well you’re poking an asshole with a stick, and isn’t that funny, gang, when we’re all in it together? The same jackasses who “Oooooooo” with the heckler will laugh at them—even louder, because you one-upped the guy who thought he was smart. The audience doesn’t actually give a shit about who’s “right,” and they aren’t smart enough to tell the difference anyway. (Individual audience members are plenty smart, but the pack is only as smart as the dumbest and most-easily-offended member.) They will side with whoever is the most entertaining, so be that person.

STEP THREE: Be prepared for even more fallout.

They might have more words in them. They might be smarter, or more obsessive than you. They might look you up online and trash you everywhere else they can.

Then again, you might get an essay out of it.

Yes, some parts of the Internet are elegant, intellectual salons. But most mass-review sites are little more than fanboys squeeing and high-school mean girls using authors as cannon-fodder. Every now and then someone says something worth hearing, if only by accident, but why wade through the pettiness to find it? Get a friend to scan for pull-quotes. Then go buy somebody else’s one-star book.


Allison K Williams is a freelance writer and editor based in Dubai. Her previous work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Brevity and the New York Times. She blogs at and edits at


Monday, October 20, 2014

Yoga Phrases for the Competitive Mind

I'm basically the worst match for yoga in the history of ill-fitting romances. I'm not one to just "let go of what I'm holding". I need that shit. Also, I'm not satisfied to just be present in my body. That body has things to do, and I still haven't quite reconciled that fact with me allowing it to lay still for fifteen minutes "softening." When I "follow my breath" I follow it to the ground. It took me two months to figure out the instructor meant follow it into your body, not follow it after it leaves your nose. In class, I compose frenetic to-do lists, figuring out how to best compose my day after this basically groundless excuse to stretch for an hour while listening to Gregorian chants.

You could say I'm an anxious sort of person. Which is why I started doing yoga. So…well done?

I'm not quite ready to "receive the effects of the postures" and I thought maybe I'm not the only one who hears something other than what is said during this hour of "being present."

With that in mind, here's a short run down of how yoga terminology translates to in the competitive, scattered mind, and how one might react to such phrases:

There is no achievement, there is no goal.

Achievement right now would be doing a correct pigeon, thank you very much. Actually, that's the goal, too. There is achievement and goal, right here! Why are you lying to me?

Discover who you are without struggle.

Without struggle I am...nothing. Well, that's depressing. Let’s quickly move along, shall we?

Find your edge.

Actually, I'm interested in finding your edge, instructor. That's why I'm here. To be as good at this as you are.

Be curious about where you can go.

Can I jump right over my edge? That's where I'd like to go, please. This edge is kind of in my way.

Doing the posture will not make you a better friend or neighbor.

Good thing I'm not here to be a better friend or neighbor. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to force my knee to the floor with my mind, and you're interrupting The Force, here, lady.

The worst that could happen is that you fall.

That will never ever happen. Like neve--WHOA! Well, shit. That was embarrassing.

Think about crawling your fingers back.

Crawl your damn fingers back. Now.

You might even hold onto your foot with your hand.

You will hold onto your foot with your hand if it kills you. God, I hate my edge. HAND. GO TO FOOT. HAND. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO. TO. FOOT. I COMMAND YOU.

If you are struggling, let it go.


Suffering is not required.

Thank God it's still optional, then. Because until I am my most beautiful tree, you can bet your ass I'm going to suffer.

Breath, relax, think, feel and allow.

So…I have a grocery list to compile right now, if we're just going to stand here for a sec.

Let your body move any way it's asking.

Is it my fault my body always asks to cross its arms, slouch and look at the instructor impatiently? I think not. I'm just doing what she said.

Soften the space between your eyes.

What? There is a skull there, dudes.

Without lifting your head, lift your ears.

What in the hell even?

This is a beautiful place to practice.

Translation: You totally suck at yoga. Don't hurt yourself, big guy.

Let go of what you are holding.

Um, no? That is a really scary prospect, and if you don't mind, I'll just cling to it, lest it get away from me and then ambush me later.

Be in the present moment.

But, like, the present moment is kind of boring, though. I'm pretty boring, to be honest. Can we be somewhere else? I hear zen is pretty rad. Let's go there.

Consider deepening the twist.

Deepen that motherfucking twist, right now.

Let your hands come to wherever they rest.

Touch. The. Floor. Without. Bending. Your. Knees.

Honor your edge.

Translation: Hahahahaha, I see you failing this pose. Give up now before you humiliate yourself.

One side might want something different than the other.

Translation: Man, you really suck on the left side, huh? I guess that side just wants to lie down. Maybe eat a bonbon.

Nothing to do, nowhere to be but in this moment.

God, why am I such a privileged piece of shit? All the other people have things to do and places to be. TRY HARDER. AT EVERYTHING.

Of course, I am fully aware that you are not supposed to think these things, but I don’t care.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to write, a marathon to run, two children to raise, dinner to cook, school to go to, manuscripts to edit--omg. Where's the coffee?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

When Kids Can't Connect the Dots

One of my children has the unfortunate habit of screaming like a banshee when something has offended her, or her sister has teased her, or anything has angered or annoyed her in any way. The other one has the unfortunate habit of trying out different forms of insult humor, then throwing a tantrum when no one finds it funny. Then trying to pretend it never happened and opening up new conversation as if she hadn't just skewered her opponent, then crying about it again when her conversation partner isn't ready to move on yet.

Both things happened yesterday, and, at different times, in different situations, I explained to them that sometimes saying sorry is the best way to move forward. If the one's screams have offended all within hearing distance, and she wants to then play, perhaps a simple, "I'm sorry I lost my temper right then," would help pave the way to playtime. If the other snuck in a jab, then wanted to recover because she's embarrassed it wasn't funny, but was instead hurtful, an "I'm sorry I said that about you. I was just trying to be funny, but that was wrong," would probably move everyone along much faster.

But my kids think of apologies as punishment. It brings about a responsibility they don't feel toward their actions until it is uttered. And they don't like that. They don't yet see how apologizing is a necessary, and NICE part of life. That boulders can be moved with sincere apologies, and that those types of apologies make us better people, stronger people, happier people. That an apology is not just to assuage the offended but to offer greater insight to our characters.

Right now, apologies are still "gross". Whatever that means.

Anyway, last night, right before bed, I was able to get a legitimate and heartfelt apology out of the screamer. I felt proud and happy that she seemed to understand what I meant.

Until 7:30 this morning when she called me from my warm bed.

"Mama, I'm sorry I cried and screamed on our special date."

That "date" was a month ago and that "date" was not something to apologize for. In that instance, the screamer was legitimately distressed out of her mind because she was separating from her twin for the first time. At the time, I did everything in my power to comfort and distract her, and we eventually (after hours) had a good separate day.

What kills me about this is that instead of connecting an apology to the annoyance of or mistreatment of someone else, she connected it to her feelings.

I told her that wasn't something she ever needed to apologize for. That her crying in that instance was understandable and right and that she has a right to her very real feeling.

My heart broke though.

Apologize for the time you tantrumed when I didn't give you chocolate, or made you put on your seatbelt or brush your teeth or go to school on time.

Don't apologize for the one time you felt scared and helpless and alone.

...We have some work to do.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Attachment Parenting and Halloween -- Guest Post

Halloween is coming, and sure to come along for the ride are the likes of tantrums over costumes, sugar buzzes and upset tummies, fear over scary decorations or stranger's houses, and general chaos. For parents of the "crunchy" or "Attachment Parenting" persuasions, Halloween can lead to some additional considerations as we gently try to help our children navigate the holiday without losing our ever-loving, granola-eating, co-sleeping minds.

With Attachment Parenting International's 8 Principles in mind, here are some tips, tricks, and treats for an AP-Friendly Halloween Experience!

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Okay, so obviously you've already gestated and birthed your little goblin, but we can capture the spirit of this principle by preparing appropriately for the Halloween festivities. Talk to your children about the plans for trick-or-treating, try on costumes ahead of time, and give consideration to the weather in your area. For example, we live in Wisconsin, so any costume that can't fit over a full snow-suit is just poor planning. Find out the hours for trick-or-treating in your area, and walk the route you plan to take before Halloween. Have flashlights for when it gets dark, tissues for when little noses start to run, and bags or buckets to collect the candy in. Generally speaking, plan ahead and involve your children in your preparations so everyone is on the same page.

Feed with Love and Respect

There is no one way that "Attached" parents feed their children, so this will look different for different families. If you try to eat mostly organic, you're likely to be disappointed in the piles of candy that come home with you. If you're vegetarian, you'll be on the look out for candy containing gelatin. If you've got a child with a peanut allergy, the supply of Snickers won't just be a let-down, it will be danger. Consider ahead of time how to approach your family's food considerations. Decide how many pieces per day you'll allow. Plan for a "candy exchange" wherein your child trades in their candy for healthier or safer treats you've pre-purchased. Set an example for your neighborhood by offering healthy/organic/vegetarian/allergen-free/insert food descriptor of choice treats. Ensure that breast fed infants are regularly offered a chance to nurse and pay attention to hunger cues that can get missed in the excitement.

Respond with Sensitivity

There is a good chance that before Halloween is through, something is going to scare or upset your child. Affirm their fears and feelings, and be there to comfort them with a soothing voice and empathetic words. Pay attention to your children, watching for cues that they may be becoming over-stimulated, and take a break if needed. Watch the path ahead for scary or startling objects or costumes, and either point them out to your child before you approach or avoid them if possible. Oh, and don't do that super mean thing where you pretend you ate all your child's candy and video tape their reaction. Just don't.

Use Nurturing Touch 

Your touch will help your child feel safe and secure through Halloween festivities. Hold hands or carry your child while trick-or-treating or at events. Place a reassuring hand on their shoulder while they ring the neighbor's doorbell. For the ultimate in nurturing touch, go for a  babywearing costume!

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This is probably a no-brainer, but limit candy consumption close to bed time to avoid hyperactivity and upset stomachs. Allow adequate time between trick-or-treating or parties and bed time to allow your child to wind down. A quiet, relaxing activity like completing a puzzle as a family can be a nice transition from the excitement of Halloween to the solace of sleep. Allow your child time to process any feelings of fright or insecurity while you prepare for bed time.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

As much as possible, keep your routine consistent and predictable. Doing so can help  minimize tantrums triggered by unexpected disruptions or unexpected situations. Be physically present and emotionally responsive, and answer your child's questions about your Halloween activities in a loving and respectful manner.

Practice Positive Discipline

When the inevitable happens and misbehavior occurs, respond with gentle, positive discipline. Try to determine the needs leading to the behavior (Is your child hungry? Tired? Confused? Frightened?) and respond to those needs, rather than reacting to the behavior. If possible, involve your child in determining an appropriate solution to their perceived problem.

Strive for Balance in your Personal and Family Life

Congratulations! You've given your children a fun-filled and happy Halloween! Don't neglect your own needs and self-care in your quest to maintain your parenting philosophy through the challenges of Halloween. Achieve balance by hiring a sitter for some adults-only Halloween Fun, or raid their candy stash while they're in bed! (For some reason, every Butterfinger in the bag looks suspicious!)

Happy Halloween!


A full-time wife and mother and a part-time substance abuse counselor. In her spare time (ha!) she blogs at Fine and Fair, a blog written to and for her children about the ups and downs along the journey of raising them as responsible citizens of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms. Joella is passionate about the principles of attachment parenting, breastfeeding, feminism, and vegetarianism. She enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and baking, crafting, making music, and aims to discover joy and beauty in each new day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ask a Cleaning Lady -- How to Tackle Scary Cleaning

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parental unit made you clean your room? That particular time your room was such a huge horrible aftermath that you couldn't even imagine how to start such a task? You probably said "but I don't know how!" and if your parental unit was a decent sort they would have said something to the effect of "just start small and go from there"

And even though that was good advice and you know what they meant *now* you didn't understand what they were talking about at the time? Because as I have often quoted Dr Seuss, "this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, there is no way we can clean it, no way at all" And you thought "when I'm big, I won't have to do this." Right?

And now you're big and you still have to do it.

There have been times (in my earlier, pre-medicated days) when I have had a cat-in-the-hat mess that I just sat down and cried. Because... mess. Eventually I would get up and start cleaning, something, anything, just to feel like I tried. Lots of people give up after a few of those "something anything" moments because they realize that even something, anything, isn't enough to make a dent worth pursuing, but I am one of those people who can’t stop once I get going. While I clean, I often find myself getting angry or resentful about the work I have to do. “How does this happen?” I wonder. When I was younger, pre-family, I thought I was going to make sure this sort of thing didn’t happen, yet, here I am...

It's one of those days when it all starts so innocently; the kids (or the spouse, or the enclave of friends) have a project they are working on while you're busy doing something Adult-y in another area. Then, when you check on things, you notice the mess but figure its no big deal, nothing you can't handle later on. Then something happens, something kind of awful, that makes the mess go from manageable to dreadful. But you know you can handle it, its just a mess after all, right? You go on doing your Adult-y things and figure you'll get to it later.

Then the next thing you know, you're back in that room looking at what appears to be the effect of a series of demonic interventions and you can hear Billy and Sally chanting the Dr Seuss pronouncement "there is no way to clean it, no way at all."

Then, of course, something ELSE happens that you couldn't have possibly foreseen. Someone gets sick. Someone trips and spills a bowl of stew. Someone forgets the top isnt' screwed on their OJ when they start to shake it. Someone wants something from a high shelf not knowing there is the remnants of an older person's miniature painting foray on top of it all. Then you aren’t just looking at a mess that is cat-in-the-hat proportions, you’re looking at a breath-taking conglomerate of fearsome chaos.

You don’t even know where to start; the nasty disgusto mess that was thrown on top of everything? The disordered clutter that makes everything look messier than it probably is? The things you want to throw away? The things you want to save? The things that must be salvaged even though they are covered in I-don’t-want-to-know? The things that the other humans cherish and will rage if you get rid of?

There is a way to clean it all. The first order of business, however, is to make the very real firm choice to do it. Make a commitment to getting this done. Whether you resolve to tackle it throughout the night or you decide you need to call on reinforcements, the point is that YOU are in charge of making this happen and so you must put on your adult-y pants and start getting drill sargeant about it.

Once you know you are not going to procrastinate anymore - and for me that means imagining that someone is coming over to my place RIGHT NOW - you need to pick a priority and get started. Here is a list to help you figure it all out (feel free to adjust it to your liking).

1) Anything biological in origin gets dealt with first: blood, vomit, feces, garbage, dirty dishes, whatever - do it FIRST and do it to completion.

2) Take out the garbage. Do not do anything else until there are at least two garbage receptacles free.

3) All paper trash goes next. I call this kippel. It is all the paper that seems to accumulate on its own. Most of it is stuff you don’t care about and will never miss. A thing to keep in mind is: if there are layers of kippel, then the deeper in the pile you go, the less likely you’ll need, want or miss it. Therefore, the deeper into the layers you go, the more you should be automatically throwing stuff away without even looking.

4) As you are grabbing paper and throwing it away, you will come across little items you had forgotten about or didn’t even know existed - put them aside in a pile. if you have a bowl or basket, use that. try not to get distracted by the little things - you can squeal with delight over finding a long-lost tchotchke later, right now, just get it off the floor or table

5) DO NOT stop to clean something in depth that you happen across unless it is an object you can immediately use to clean more. Do not decide now is a good time to wipe down the counter when there are dishes all over it. Do not start organizing your books when you haven’t dusted the shelves. Do not scrub the dining table before it is completely devoid of objects on it. Just clear a space if needed and keep moving.

6) Move around the room in an orderly fashion, taking a trash can with you and any gathering items you might be using. I’ve seen people sit the gathering item in the middle of the room and just toss things into it but that isn’t such a great idea unless you have a perfect lay-up shot. You want to fill the gathering item, not create an identical mess on the other side of it.

7) Once you have one subsection clear, resist the urge to fill it up with things from other areas.

8) Making piles is a great way to organize as you clean but you must be very rigid about adhering to that system - do not get up in the middle of organizing and start putting things away from one pile - you are bound to find things that don’t belong in that pile AND you will be walking all over the place making yourself tired before you are halfway done. Just keep piling until there’s nothing left to pile. Then begin sub-piling. One pile per corner of each room (or one pile per room depending on how big your rooms are) any time a pile is big enough to fall over? Make sub-piles.

9) Have a special place for sentimental items. DO NOT LOOK AT THEM. just put them in the place they go until you are done. The sentimental pile is LAST. Always.

10) Enlist help as soon as possible. Have specific jobs for your help or else they will mysteriously disappear (the help, not the mess).

Cleaning a mess, no matter how scary, is a job and like all jobs, it can be tackled with efficiency and energy. Remain calm, take stock of where you are (every so often), stick to your plan of action and do not give up.

And afterwards, reward yourself. Wine. I hear wine is really great.

A middle-aged mom who cleans houses in order to pay for her education habit. She is currently single and available for dates or tributes. Chocolate, flowers or cruise runs are all happily accepted. While she writes our popular Ask a Cleaning Lady column, she writes about all topics with sensitive wit on

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day -- 2014 edition

Today, my children went to school.

One of them came home calling it Incas day?

I don't even know.

I do know that Columbus Day is not a part of the first grade curriculum in first grade.

And I'm okay with that.

I mean, it's barely historically correct anyway, and I really don't feel like having to explain what "smallpox" blankets and "biggest douches ever" mean to my six year olds.

So, thank you, Florida School system.

Thank you for ignoring this day.

I remember, up until ten years ago, when I was in college the first time, we all got the day off. That changed.

That's good.

But more needs to change.

History can no longer be taught as "the victor writes the books". We are a global neighborhood now. We are fully entrenched in what every other continent is doing. Therefore, our history and their history blend together.

Because they are the same history.

And for every "victor" there is a "loser". And their history matters. And it's getting louder.

And we need to pay attention to it.

Because history shouldn't be the cutesy stories of a midnight ride in 1776 or sailing the ocean blue in 1492.

Not anymore.

Not when "the unknown enemy" has become, you know, a person. Like he always was.

So, yes, thank you.

Thank you for ending the ridiculous fluffy lies you were content to regurgitate for centuries.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The soccer conundrum

Yesterday, the girls decided they'd rather fight and squabble then get in the car nicely to go to soccer.

It was butt in the morning (as soccer does), they were all decked out in their uniforms, had eaten breakfast, had their water bottles. Their daddy and I were all ready to go. It was going to be a nice family morning. Only not.

Right at 8:45 a.m. one twin kicked the other twin in the head instead of strapping in. And I got out of the car and walked away. Carlos made them get out, and they all went inside. After my busting butt to get them ready and asking them repeatedly to just sit down and strap in the car, I was done.

Carlos gave them the opportunity to apologize to me and nicely go to soccer. They flat-out refused. (Haha, wow, they think they're something, eh?)

So, we stayed home.

And I was confident in that decision. My daughters' hour-long tantrum, their shock, their disbelief at their inability to make it better by trying to barter good behavior with me validated me.

Then, online, some people brought up a very valid point.

Soccer isn't like an individual trip to the park, or even like a playdate where the other mom will understand that your monsters are being monsters and plans need to change.

By not attending the game, we left their team two players down. And since it was 15 minutes before start, we couldn't give notice where anyone could see it or make preparations for it.

That sucks.

Should natural-consequence parenting take a hit when an entire team may be counting on your participation?

I thought about this for a while.

I decided, that at this age (six), parenting needs to override team commitment. My kids are too young to understand delayed punishment. I can't say, fine, let's go to soccer now, and then you're grounded for the rest of the day, or whatever. They'd be like, why? And they honestly wouldn't get it.

And I paid a billionity overpriced dollars for the privilege of dragging my butt out of bed on a Saturday to get them there, all so a bunch of kids can run in a huge beehive-like fashion for an hour.

I am obviously still upset at letting people down. The coaches are parents, and they work really hard for our kids. But I let my kids know that they let their team down, and we can't let this happen again. And I'd rather them learn this now, and be firm about this, so that I don't have to do it to them (or their teammates) when they're older.

And when they are older, if they're still kicking each other in the head when we get in the car, they'll go to the game. Then they'll be grounded for the next foreseeable future.

Because COME ON, ALREADY. You cannot just kick people in the head.

That's what the internet is for.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Come again, doc? -- Contributor Post

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters T and F and by the number 2.

T is for testicles. T is for testosterone. T is for trembling tearfully, totally terrified. But mostly, T is for twins.

I’ve been joking with The Cricket since pretty much the day we met about how she doesn’t want to have kids with me, because twins run in my family. It’s a bit of an exaggeration; when I say they run in my family, it’s more of a quick walk. There are currently two sets of boy/girl fraternal twins in my almost immediate family: my cousins Rick and Sue, children of my dad’s brother, and my brother’s kids, Zach and Taylor. It’s not an epidemic, by any means.

Also, you’ll note I said fraternal twins, as in the product of two eggs being produced. So technically my male relatives had zero to do with the making of said twins. But it was a fun joke, nonetheless, and I enjoyed the way she would roll her eyes at me when I would say it. Especially when I would say things like “Kennedy sperm don’t wait for a second egg to drop, they swim up and grab it!”

So when she told me she was pretty sure that she was pregnant, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to increase the frequency of the twin jokes. I was still cracking jokes as we sat in the doctor’s office for the first ultrasound. The doctor was chuckling good-naturedly, clearly feeling sorry for what Cricket had to put up with, when she suddenly stopped, turned pale as her lab coat, and said “Why would you say that about twins?!” I assured her that I was just joking, that I liked kidding with Cricket about twins, that I wasn’t serious. She turned the screen our way and said, “Well, it’s not a joke anymore.”

F is for father. F is for forty two. F is for freaking out. F is for frequently fainting and falling face first onto the floor. But mostly, F is for fuuuuuuuuuck...

Come again, Doc? What’s that you say? There are how many? Fuuuuuuuuuck...

Hey Mom and Dad, you’re gonna be grandparents again. P.S. There are two of them. Fuuuuuuuuuck...

Hey honey, I’m going after work to pick up a second Pack & Play, and I found a double stroller with matching car seats on Craigslist. Fuuuuuuuuuck…

F is for failure, as in me at fatherhood.

F is also for find, as in I know we’ll find a way.

F is for finished, as in my theater life for the foreseeable future.

F is also for figure, as in we’ll figure it out.

F is for fortune, as in how much this is going to cost.

F is also for fine, as in I promise we’re going to be fine.

F is for fear, as in what I feel in my bones.

F is also for fun and fantastic and fabulous, as in the times we’re going to have as a family. And that, my friends, moves all the fear further and further from the front of my mind.

And what does the number 2 have to offer?

2 is the number of times per minute that my brain shouts “TWIIIINNSSSSS!!!” at me. 2 is the number of condoms I’ll be wearing from now until the day I die. 2 is the number of babies headed my way. But mostly, 2 is the number of people I’m drinking for between now and May.

Wish me luck.


Jerry Kennedy is (in no particular order) a fiancee, stepdad, writer, actor, director, singer, and web dude living in The Greatest City In the World, Sacramento, CA. His hobbies include reading, skateboarding, falling off his skateboard, drinking, karaoke (especially after drinking), and making love at midnight in the dunes on the cape. You'll find his irregular ramblings about life, the universe, and everything at

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ask a Teacher - What's the Price of Standardized Testing?

Standardized testing has become a growing tradition in public schools across the nation. In 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. A major objective of this act is that by the 2013-2014 school year (last school year), all students across the entire country would be proficient or higher. The idea of "proficient" was set individually by each state with a myriad of standards covering reading, writing, and math over all 50 states. States strove to reach the unattainable goal of proficiency as the deadline swiftly approached.

With the goal of "proficiency" there was no incentive to teach to higher levels as being above grade level carried no benefit for schools or districts. Students who were performing below proficiency, even with a host of issues influencing their performance such as placement in Exceptional Childhood Education programs (what you remember from your school years as Special Needs), identification as an English Language Learner, gross differences in socio-economic status, and other obstacles, were targeted to reach proficiency at all costs while their proficient or higher peers were left with squandered potential. Children who were incapable of reaching proficiency were shortchanged by being taught the test and those who were beyond capable were short changed by never being challenged at an appropriate level.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This Act then funded an education initiative designed to encourage "innovation" and education reform in struggling states. This initiative was called Race to the Top. With the deadline for nationwide proficiency four school years away, states were encouraged to overhaul their education programs and curriculum. Points were awarded for accepting and implementing the newly created Common Core standards, turning around "persistently low achieving"schools, and other education policies. The reward was desperately needed funding to the tune of millions of dollars that could be awarded to states from federal funding. In an effort to win the money, my own state instituted an education audit that cost taxpayers thousands while teachers interviewed to keep their own jobs before dozens of teachers per school were displaced and rehired at other schools in the district. An elaborate game of shuffling the deck left schools gutted and teachers disheartened and burnt out. In 2010, Waiting for Superman came out demonizing the public school system and public school teachers alike. A profession that already sees half of new teachers quit by their fifth year became a target for politicians and talking heads. Would you want to be a teacher?

As the new standards were accepted by more and more states, a secret war went on to create the perfect test for accountability. There is no one great test for accountability yet. Instead there is a virtual smorgasbord of testing that happens throughout the year thanks to a combination of accountability and the goal of College and Career Readiness. Students take End of Course assessments (called EOCs) in all core content areas, math, English, science, social studies, starting in sophomore and ending in senior year, the PLAN, the ACT, On Demand Writing testing, COMPASS for the unlucky seniors who didn't hit benchmark on the ACT, KYOTE for the unlucky seniors who couldn't pass the COMPASS either, and on and one. The game of standardized testing is a billion dollar a year industry. There are so many tests and so many varieties with schools hoping to achieve points to show how good they are.

The price of standardized testing as it currently stands is too much. The goal of accountability is fine on its own, but the implementation has been a mess that does little to help our students who need it most, turned those who would be excellent teachers away from the profession, and cost the taxpayers billions.

Emilie is a high school English teacher with two children. She holds a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Secondary Education. After completing student teaching at an urban, Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) school, she was placed at another PLA school in the same school district. Her Ask a Teacher column can also be found over at Teaching Ain't for Heroes.


Monday, October 6, 2014

That time I came fairly close to dying and thought I was just being lazy

If you know me at all you know lazy really isn't in my lexicon. So, this weekend, when I "just didn't feel like getting out of bed", I gave myself a really hard time.

"Don't feel like getting out of bed?" I asked myself as I lay there with my head under the pillows. "Sounds like someone wants to use the weekend to her advantage and play hooky from being a housewife. Because, oh, you have it so hard, wah wah wah. Have to do dishes and laundry and go grocery shopping and to kid soccer games. It's SO HARD to be you. What is your problem?"

Still, I lay there. (Although, don't kid yourself, all of that gone done except the grocery shopping and that's only because my husband wouldn't let me go. You'll find out why in a sec.)

I was seriously peeved at myself. Unlike the flu, what I was / am suffering from currently comes with a side effect of "malaise" which means "feeling washed out / off." So, I wasn't feeling sick. I wasn't even feeling too tired to move. I was literally feeling washed out. I wondered at one point if I was actually suffering from depression (not having ever experienced true depression, I have no idea how it would affect me. I was grasping at straws. I just don't lay in bed for "no reason", and yet there I was. I was searching for an explanation. From my bed, where I refused to leave, no matter how much I yelled at myself.)

I got no school work or writing done. I could not bring myself to care enough to sit upright to do it. Also, sitting was painful.

The malaise, which I thought was a separate issue, was actually a symptom of this other thing (that I'm not telling you about. Just think about the grossest thing you can imagine, make it ten times grosser, and that's basically what I'm dealing with.)

Anyway, by mid-Sunday, I could no longer bend down. I had to ask my children to get the laundry I had folded and placed on the floor because I couldn't reach it. I still thought this was separate from me wanting to be a lazy ass this weekend, but not being able to bend over, on its own, is reason enough to seek care, so I went to the weekend walk-in.

Again, I won't go into detail, but yesterday ended up being the worst medical day of my life. And I've had twins via emergency c-section, so...

When the doctor finally looked at me, she could not believe I was up and about at all, couldn't believe I had driven myself there, and couldn't believe how advanced the situation had become. And I'm just there like, what? I mean, I know I feel kind of off, but really?

Yes, really.

I have to be pretty careful for the next  little while, even, until I see a surgeon about this. I have watch my temperature, and make sure I don't get super sick or die of an infection. Awesome. Totally have time for this.

When I got home, I felt slightly better, and mentioned going grocery shopping, and that's when my husband was like, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU.

I'm glad he's around, because that would have been stupid. I mean, so we need milk? It will be okay for a second.

And that's the main point of this whole thing, even though it's all been about me and a rare, odd thing that happened to me.

It's applicable to the general audience, particularly to the moms out there.

Sometimes, be it a medical emergency or not, you're going to need time to recharge. A nap, a coffee away, even a whole weekend.

It's not laziness. You aren't lazy. You're so very hardworking, and you come down really hard on yourself, and there's no need to.

It doesn't matter the reason, and it won't be a permanent personality change.

If you need a break, speak up. Let your loved ones know. They will understand because they know and love you.

And, honestly, if you find yourself doing something totally out of character, don't try to bully yourself out of it. There is most likely an underlying cause, be it pure exhaustion, some kind of illness you hadn't bargained for, or, you know, a mammoth killer infection trying to take your life while you're busy calling yourself a lazy sack of shit.

Make sure you look around every so often, take stock of who you are and what your life is like. And then, give yourself a break. In all senses of the phrase.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...