Posts Tagged With: childhood

I’m gonna to miss you, Mr Spinney

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times that simultaneously broke and brought joy to my heart.

Caroll Spinney is retiring.
I feel like another little bit of my childhood died.

For those of you that don’t know, Mr Spinney is on Sesame Street.
We never actually see him because he’s

and

Oscar is my spirit muppet. He taught me it was OK to be grumpy sometimes.
Big Bird is every six year old we’ve known. Full of love and wonder.
I know that whoever takes up the mantle will be wonderful. But he won’t be Mr Spinney.

I’m reminded of when Mr Hooper died. Big Bird was sad, he didn’t like it. The Sesame Street grown ups reminded him that he had his memories of Mr Hooper.
(start watching at 4:10)

Well, I’m sad, and I don’t like it. But I have my Carol Spinney Big Bird and Oscar memories. And what a treasure trove they are! It’s been fifty years since he first donned that giant bird suit. Fifty years since he first maneuvered that grouch in the trash can. We’re so lucky we had him on our televisions and in our lives.
Whoever’s up next has some great big feet and a trash can to fill.

Thanks, Mr Spinney for teaching and learning with us for all these years!

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Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Grandaddy’s house

I grew up in this house.
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I always consider this my home, but never actually call it “home”. I only ever call it “Grandaddy’s house”.
My room was the window above the porch and the first one on the side of the house.

Grandaddy and my grandmother moved to this house from N Barton Street in Arlington when my mom was three or four. So that was 1947 or 1948. It was built in Falls Church. A post war, GI bill-sort of neighborhood called Tyler Park. The house is on the corner of a street with a big hill and a relatively flat street that dead ends into a church.

It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. We rode our bikes all around, up and down the hills. We played touch football and kickball and soccer on the open lawn of the church. We played on the playground and sledded down the hill at Tyler Park. Later on, when I was in middle school, it even had one of those brown Fairfax County Park Authority signs. (Why did I remember that?)

Last Saturday, YBW and I had an errand day that took us farther from home than normal. It started with me craving arepas on Friday. The closest Venezuelan joint is in Falls Church so I created an entire day around eating this food.
Saturday took us to Tiffany’s to leave my bracelet to have the new charm attached. Then to the jeweler to see about sorting the fact that my wedding ring is a teeny smitch smaller than my engagement ring. The goldsmith was precious and assured me it would be perfect when he was finished.

Since we were in Falls Church, I decided to take YBW to where I grew up. I know where he grew up, my girls went to the elementary school literally across the street. I’ve been there and seen the addition and listened to his stories. Even tried to find his family’s hand prints in the concrete of the end of the driveway apron addition.
I love that feeling of seeing and beginning to understand where he comes from.
It was time for us to experience that with my early life.

I told stories of landmarks that are gone or of new ones that sprang up as we drove from the actual City of Falls Church into Fairfax County but still ‘Falls Church’. I was amazed how excited I was to share my young life with him! This is where I went to second and third grade before they closed the school. It was Fairfax County’s Child Find building when I was last in this area. (About ten years ago.) But now, it has beautiful new additions and is a much needed elementary school once again.
Careful, the turn you want is on the curve in the road right across from that huge stone wall…

I forgot how narrow the streets are in Tyler Park. These mostly are yards with no driveways, so cars park on both sides of the street. So many of the little cape cods have been built out into huge living spaces to accommodate the large families now residing in them.

When we got to the top of the hill there was a car behind us and we couldn’t stop to look at Grandaddy’s house so he listened while I talked and we went down towards the church to turn around.
This is where my friend Jennie lived. Her mom left their family. It was a big deal in the late 1970s. Her grandmother still lives up the street across from the park.
Oh look! We used to sled on that same hill!! Hmm. I remember it bigger.

Here’s Grandaddy’s house now.
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That whole bit in the back of the house is an addition. The original house stopped where the roofline changes pitch. It struck me as interesting that the new owners built this huge addition but left the original metal casement windows.

I have great sadness that all the beautiful trees are gone. Two huge maple trees in the front yard. The one on the left of the sidewalk I could climb high enough that I could see all the way down the hill to Graham Road. The apple tree in the side yard that had long ago stopped producing apples but stood beautiful and proud anyway. All the gorgeous flowering shrubs. Mock orange and azaleas and hydrangeas. Pampas grass, forsythia, and flowering vines along the fence in the side yard. The sweet shrub and hosta that flourished in the shade along the left side of the house.

Here’s the house from the front. You can see where the porch used to be. There are two windows upstairs on the front of the house now.
20160130_161801.jpg

I could see people moving around inside through the storm door. I teased YBW they were feeling a whole lot of WTF? that I was leaning out the car window taking photos with my phone.
Honestly there was a part of me that wanted to boldly knock on the door, explain I grew up there and ask to be let in to look around. I didn’t though. Partly because of the language barrier. Partly because I wasn’t sure I could bear it.
I have wonderful happy memories of growing up and being loved in that house. But that was when it was Grandaddy’s house, and it’s not really his anymore. Hasn’t been since 1992.
It belongs to those new people. And with my whole heart, I hope they’re having a wonderful life there.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

shouting from my soapbox

I saw an article this morning on Scary Mommy: Our Kids Don’t Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess.
A Kentucky kindergarten teacher got a $12,000.00 grant to install ‘pedal desks’ in her classroom for (wait for it…) “when kindergartners get tired of sitting still.”

I BEG YOUR PARDON!?! (or: WHAT THE EVER-LOVING F**K!?!)
Kindergartners are five and six years old! Five and six! Is there ever a time when they DO sit still? They need to move their bodies! Their brain development relies on that!! How can they be expected to learn anything ‘strapped’ to a desk?
Is this simply another example of the misunderstanding about recess? Recess is about social interactions and imaginative play in addition to movement and exercise. Some of the most important social-emotional development happens when children play together freely.
Recess is a time for unstructured play. Children learn to respect and appreciate each other’s feelings by cooperating and taking turns. They understand that there is a natural give and take to play. If play is designed by one child and doesn’t evolve in a way the all the children like, two things can happen. They’ll either walk away which forces the change in play or they will discuss the changes they’d like to see. More often than not, the entire group will work together to create play that pleases everyone. These children practice negotiation and cooperation without even realizing it.
I’ve focused on social and emotional development and completely ignored the benefits of play to gross and fine motor development. But that seems more obvious to me.

Children need to move their bodies fairly regularly! I’m forty four years old and need to move mine often!
A classroom can and should be a place where you can move about and have different kinds of learning centers.
I know it’s hard to “meet each child where s/he is” but it’s easy to create a safe and authentic learning environment where students and teachers can move their bodies to help the teaching and learning process.

I started kindergarten in our country’s bicentennial year. I realize things have changed since then.
I remember my kindergarten class had a housekeeping area, a “writing center”, dress-ups, blocks and interlocking bricks for math. Sometimes we sat in chairs at big tables and other times we sat in a circle “Indian style” on carpet squares. We got read to and we honed our social skills through play. I could already read and write when I started kindergarten, but that’s just me. I remember loving being at school. It was fun and I actually realized I was learning. I was in half-day kindergarten and there was time for learning, snack, AND recess!

Thing 1 and Thing 2 had individual desks and chairs in their kindergarten classes. But they were grouped into fours in the center of the room to make room for the play based learning centers. Interestingly they were similar to the ones I talked about in my kindergarten classroom. There was a math center with big and little blocks and clocks to play with. I loved that! Little and big hands to move around the numbers. There was a writing center with crayons and markers and colored pencils. (Any scribbling is the beginning of writing.) There was a little kitchen and a mirror and babies.
Thing 1 was in kindergarten twenty three years after I was and there was still learning through play in kindergarten classrooms. Her teacher told me: I need them to walk into my classroom and be able to recognize their name and write it in some way that I can read it, even if it’s not right. I need them to be able to recognize number up to twenty. I need them to know their colors. The rest is up to me and the first grade teachers.
Thing 1 could do all those things, even though she wrote her nine letter name in a mix of capital and lower case letters. She was already reading a little. She was the only white girl in a class of nineteen kids. I was thrilled that she was going to experience that much diversity!
(There were 33 countries represented in our elementary school of 500 students.)

From the pedal desk article:

“Our kids need recess, not pedal desks so they can move while they work like little bots. Seriously, is this real life? Why are kindergartners even sitting in one place long enough to need pedal desks? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves.”

I believe in asking that question. But the people answering it are not educators. They don’t know what’s best for children. Here’s a thought: what if we have educators creating curriculum and education policy? Politicians designing this country’s curriculum can’t see past test scores. Gotta keep up with the Chinese and all that rot.
But in Peter Gray’s article, Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less, he writes:

“Educators in East Asian nations have increasingly been acknowledging the massive failure of their educational systems. According to the scholar and author Yong Zhao, who is an expert on schools in China, a common Chinese term used to refer to the products of their schools is gaofen dineng, which essentially means good at tests but bad at everything else. Because students spend nearly all of their time studying, they have little opportunity to be creative, discover or pursue their own passions, or develop physical and social skills. Moreover, as revealed by a recent large-scale survey conducted by British and Chinese researchers, Chinese schoolchildren suffer from extraordinarily high levels of anxiety, depression and psychosomatic stress disorders, which appear to be linked to academic pressures and lack of play.”

What’s sad is teachers have no real choice. This woman was trying to make the school day better for FIVE and SIX year olds(!!) while accomplishing the unrealistic and inappropriate goal the government set for when these children leave her classroom.
There is something inherently wrong with this country’s education system. How many lives will be negatively impacted before something changes?
Childhood was snatched away from children. They’re forced to learn and do things at ages when their brains aren’t actually developed to do them. This skips natural and necessary building processes in the brain! And they can’t go play!
My heart breaks.
And my hackles go up!

Categories: education, love, me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Say it proud!

Rick Bragg writes a column for Southern Living Magazine titled “Southern Journal”. This journal entry for May is called “Donkey Business (How I went from a proud rancher of bulls to a jackass man)”.
Mr Bragg writes about feeling a bit ashamed about being a writer. He writes that he feels other southern men judge him for not having a more manly profession. In the column, he explains how his family’s property had Hereford cattle until one day his mother asked to sell them off because she’d been chased by one of the bulls.
Like most good southern children, boys especially, he wasn’t about to disobey his Mama and the cattle were no more.
Which resulted in him no longer being able to tell folks he “raised bulls”.
Apparently, his Mama then decided the land looked lonely and wanted miniature donkeys…wackiness ensues.
And now when Mr Bragg is asked by some “real man” what he does, he tells him he’s a writer because he surely doesn’t want folks to know they are mini donkey on his family’s land.
(P.S. Mr Bragg, you are a beautiful writer, shout it out with pride!)

This struck my funny bone. The humor and telling of the story.
It struck my heart too.
Once upon a time, I was a very young stay at home mom…not college educated…”just” a mom. These years were the happiest years of my life, which I would trade for absolutely nothing and sometimes wish I could revisit. But I remember being in groups of people and when it came time to share what I “did” I would say: I’m a stay at home mom.
I wouldn’t feel prideful when I said it, I would feel less than.
I knew it was the most important job I would ever have. I knew I wanted to raise my own children. I knew I wanted to be the person they could trust most in this world to keep them safe.
But at that time I assumed the “rest of the world” with their fancy degrees and their office jobs would just look down their noses at me.

I remember the first time someone looked at me with awe when I told them what I did. Clearly the “rest of the world” understood the dedication and love and work that went into being someone’s (Two someones.) mommy all the live long day.
I saw respect in that face. The respect I had earned through my hard work at this labor of love. The respect I deserved.
It took me a while to understand how to reconcile the way it felt. It seemed to me that I might be viewed by the “rest of the world” as someone of no importance because my worth wasn’t in my job like most of the people I knew.
Only it wasn’t my worth that was in my job. I had the most important (and lifelong!) job in the history of all jobs. My job was to help, create a foundation for the girls to build their lives upon. My worth was irrelevant in my job. My job was to start them on the paths to their own worth.

It wasn’t much longer I didn’t hesitate to say I was a mommy. When I tell people now that I was a stay at home mom for fifteen years, I say it with pride and joy. I say it as though nothing I’ve done (as “work”) before or since matters a fraction as much.

I’m forty four years old. It took me a long time to stop comparing myself to the “rest of the world” probably longer than it should have…but that’s a story for another day.
I am me. The me I am because of the live I’ve lived. The choices I’ve made. Being a mom made me stronger than I might have been otherwise.

Sure, they might be miniature donkeys instead of Hereford cattle…but they’re my mini donkeys. And I’m their Mommy.

Categories: me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

on the advice of Nick’s father

Whenever I begin to compare my life to that of someone else, I’m reminded of Nick Carraway’s line at the beginning of Gatsby: In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”

I’m using the concept rather loosely, less in the way Fitzgerald intended and more along the lines of considering each of us comes from a different place. It has nothing really to do with having, or the lack of “advantages”, and everything to do with point of view.
Each of us is raised with a certain set of values based on our environment and the life experiences of the people who raised us. We take those values and adapt them as we gain our own life experiences. We raise our own children based on these values we were taught and modified for them to continue the process.

I sometimes fail to remember, or perhaps simply take into account this very important advice. I think about the people I know and, I think rather naturally, compare myself to what I see of them. Of course this is futile as we seldom see the reality of an individual, but what they choose to share with the world.

We each behave based on that initial set of values we learned as children, even though we’ve changed them here and there to fit our new world view.

I am accused of being extremely judgmental.
I am a little…to deny this would be a bold face lie. But I’m nowhere near as judgmental as get accused of being.

I question everything.
This can be misconstrued because I ask questions in a way that may not always reflect my desire to understand. I question everything partly because I was brought up in an environment in which questions were ignored or left unanswered and I have a life-long compulsion to have answers. Partly because I’m curious and want to know and understand. I especially want to understand motivations for behavior.
This creates a goodly bit of friction between YBW and me. I ask to know and he hears my question as criticism. Occasionally I ask to criticize, again this goes back to what I experienced as a child, which is no excuse. It is however, the truth. I ask to understand the motivation, the thought process behind it…whatever the “it” is.

When I look at other people and see the differences I have nothing to base my opinion on other than the “advantages” of my upbringing. So I don’t understand why they do or don’t do things. I don’t understand what motivates them. I can only compare it to what I know and understand, what motivates me. I don’t think that’s judgmental.
The stubborn part of me doesn’t feel I should have to rephrase my curiosity so as not offend. Perhaps it’s not stubborn, perhaps it’s that bit of me that was stunted in my childhood. Perhaps because I couldn’t ask questions and get answers, I’m much more inclined to question everything? (The question mark at the end of that sentence is not lost on me.)

I am, have always been, interested in human behavior. The whys and wherefores of the way we behave, make choices, socialize, raise our children. I’m still learning everyday what motivates my behavior, some aspects I accept, some I realize need improvement. But I’m still asking questions. I’ll most likely go to my grave asking questions.

I must remember that I was brought up very differently than some of the people I know. That we will function in completely different ways.
I must remember that though I’m curious to their whys and wherefores I have to be mindful in the way I ask questions.
I must remember that I did have “advantages” that some people didn’t have.
I must remember that I am capable of many things and needn’t compare myself to anyone else.

Will I remember these things? Will I always act upon them?
Most likely not, but if I simply pay attention…I’ll make progress.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

cherry pie, high heeled shoes, and unconditional love

Once upon a time there was a little red haired girl.
She loved books and babydolls, green army men and Barbies.
She wanted to be a mommy and a teacher when she grew up.
She loved scrambled eggs and cherry pie.
She loved to play dress up…especially with high heeled shoes.
She had a great big laugh, way bigger than her little body could even hold.
She had her tonsils taken out and also had scarlet fever.
She wrecked her bike…a lot.
She was an excellent tree climber.
She loved to swing.
She loved the smell of lilacs.

She is me.
I am she.

Now I am a grown up red haired girl.
I still love books and babydolls and Barbies.
I am a mommy and a teacher.
I still love scrambled eggs and cherry pie.
I absolutely love high heeled shoes.
I still have a great big laugh.
I had LASIK and a hysterectomy.
I’ve never wrecked my car.
I miss climbing trees.
I don’t love to swing anymore…it makes me queasy now.
I still love the smell of lilacs.

That little girl had some seriously great adventures…some not so great, but she learned from them, the good, the bad, the indifferent. She learned how to become me. And she worked hard to learn how to love being me. I’m grateful for every little thing she experienced.

I remember being her.
I am being me because I was her.

Occasionally, I realize I should treat the me I am now the way I want that little girl to be treated…with kindness and respect and an unending supply of unconditional love.
I realize we should all experience that kind of love.

And get to wear high heeled shoes.

Categories: love, me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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