Last evening, after finally coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to take a run, I decided to take a walk instead with Jeter. I made my usual offer to the boys to see if they cared to join me but was met by their usual response – no, thanks. I got myself warmly dressed and cued up a Pandora station of standards/vocal jazz and popped my earbuds in. Just as I reached for the doorknob, Quinn had a change of heart and decided to accompany me. Faster than I’ve ever seen him move, he had shoes and coat on and off we went.
There was something about walking in the foggy night that made for a cozy, not creepy experience. As we walked along Whitehall Road, we talked quietly, sharing my earbuds as we listened together to Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Our conversation was filled with talk of which houses we admired, how challenging Jeter could be at times and how cool his new clip-on flashing light is. Funnily, I thought the light was shaped like a heart,* while Quinn thought it was a bone. He was correct but I was graciously given permission to think it was a heart if I wanted to. Sweet.
We stopped at his school’s primary grades playground and Quinn shared memories of playing there “years ago.” We talked about how in just a couple of years he’ll moving on to middle school and how fast time goes. As we neared the end of our walk, he found a series of puddles irresistible and made an attempt to leap them, with mixed success. His landing perfectly illustrated why so many of his pants have blown out knees. He is adorable.
Once home, after suggesting that we “do this again soon,” he continued to charm me with all that he had to say. Like: “What do you want to do? Watch a movie and sit on the couch eating ice cream?” and “Why does everything happen when you’re three? Grandma Sheila died when I was 3. I made a lot of my life decisions when I was three.”
I am so looking forward to our next walk.
*probably because of my love for the person who gave it to Jeter
How much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?
As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*
That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.
I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.
This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.
*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).
Many years ago, Quinn was described by his grandmother as formidable. She was so right, he most certainly is. There are some other words that can be used to describe my forever baby boy – relentless, sweet, affectionate and funny. In honor of his 10th birthday, please let me share a few moments and memories which truly define my youngest son.
Quinn is sensitive and thoughtful. Unlike our current spoiled dog, Jeter, his predecessor, Cassidy, wasn’t given bed privileges. Recently, Quinn asked if it would be ok to place the urn containing Cassidy’s ashes on the bed just so she would know what it was like to sleep there. Pretty sweet, right?
Quinn is articulate and well-spoken. During one of our regular evening battles to complete his homework, he asked me to not yell at him. He explained to me that he is motivated by happiness and love. His self awareness is impressive and I can only hope that both of those emotions will always be present, in excess, in his life.
Quinn is growing up too fast and his sense of humor is often a bit too mature for his years. Having two older brothers makes for an abbreviated childhood, I’m afraid. Please don’t ask about the South Park fish sticks episode that prompted a call home from his teacher. Last week he told me that I had to stop treating him like a baby because he is “practically double digits.” I understand the inevitability of Quinn growing up but I really wish it could all slow down just a little. I think he’s mighty fine already.
Filed under birthdays, Boys
Many years ago, there was a girl who once jumped out of her second story window to sneak out of the house and go to a party. The landing on the concrete slab front porch wasn’t as light as she would have liked and her ankle took quite a turn, an injury that was only compounded by the subsequent 2.5 mile walk to town. By the next morning, her ankle had swollen to twice its size and was quite painful.
Since that long ago time her ankle has never been the same. Sometimes it randomly twists out of place, always taking her breath away. Each time it happens, it never fails to remind her of the lasting effects of being a dumb teenager. Live and learn, if you’re lucky.
What’s the connection between a permanently, albeit mildly, damaged ankle and a pain in the neck, you ask? Well, this girl is now a grown up with teenage children of her own. Apparently, the teenaged idiocy gene is something shared with her children. Case in point – one of her children (unnamed to protect his
idiocy innocence) recently was inspired to dive head first into a snow bank. Despite the remarkably powdery quality of the snow, he hurt his neck and shoulders. Badly.
Days later, he is still walking with a stiff neck and erect spine. He reports that while the pain is somewhat diminished, it remains pretty intense. Maybe that will remind him to not be so reckless in the future. I really hope so. There are enough ways to get hurt in this world without trying so hard.
In 2001, I accepted a librarian position at Mohonasen High School. Although I only remained in the district for three years (the position which I currently hold became available and I had to go for it), I made some wonderful friends, worked with some cool students and was introduced to some great music. One English teacher, if you can imagine, during my brief tenure exposed me to Jeff Buckley, Wilco and the White Stripes. Talk about getting an education!
My middle son was a toddler when I got a bootleg of the White Stripes’ Elephant and the song Seven Nation Army quickly became one of the songs he always requested in the car. Repeatedly, of course. It didn’t matter because I wanted to hear it, too. Loud.
Fast forward a dozen years or so, New York City, that same son and I walking up 7th Avenue. We were on our way to catch Jack White at Madison Square Garden… My son is tall, maybe 6’1″ and he looks comfortable. It’s the third weekend in January that he’s been in the city and it shows in his confident stride. He’s got a new phrase he’s been running recently, “you be you,” he says. I love it.
I think I was 15 at my first show at the Garden, just like he is. Unlike Griffin, I never went to a rock show with my mother, not even in my imagination. Never. I understand that taking your kid to an adult-ish sort of venue can define one as a “cool” mom, and it’s a term I’m okay with except for the fact that I think it’s too small of a name.
You see, I take my kid(s) places that we both want to go because I’m a person who has interests. When my sons and I share experiences together we always learn something – about each other, ourselves, something. I love my sons, even adore them at times, but they aren’t my entire world. They’re who I want to share my world with. That’s what I want my children to take away from our outings and shows, trips and vacations.
As far as Friday night’s show in NYC, it was very much like time spent with my guys – really fun and not quite as much as I would have liked. Absolutely memorable.
Three day weekends should leave those fortunate enough to have had 3 consecutive days off feeling relaxed and satisfied. There definitely were some moments during the 72 hours which prompted some pretty positive emotions, but the overwhelming sensation I’m experiencing right now is simple exhaustion.
As I am inclined to do, I scheduled the weekend pretty tightly. My agenda included a ski, some yoga, a house party or two, and a whole lotta driving the Lilly boys where they wanted to go. All in all, the weekend was a success, but not everything went as planned. I mean, really, does it ever?
Lesson 1. Plans need to come with alternatives, options and flexibility. Sometimes the unexpected is welcome, like running into someone special at a party. Those are the moments we’ve got to hold on to.
Saturday I dropped my middle son off at the train station in Poughkeepsie. I resisted the impulse to get out of the car and walk inside with him to help him get his ticket and find the right track for NYC. Griffin’s independent trip to Grand Central Station was the second leg on his journey to his first show at the Beacon. Upon his arrival in the city, he met his older cousin and he went to see a jam band that his father assures me I would have hated. He loved it.
Lesson 2. My children are growing up and I need to encourage the pursuit of entertainment and adventure, even if the thought of sending my 15 y/o son to Manhattan solo is scary. It’s time.
Sunday, my oldest child took the train from Albany to meet me in Poughkeepsie (I had spent the night with friends nearby). We immediately got on the road for an epic trip to Elmira College for a Monday morning tour. The roads were insanely icy as the rain fell on highways that were ever so cold and the drive took much longer than expected. After our visit on Monday, Liam decided that while Elmira had a lot to offer, it was probably too far away from his family for him to continue considering it as an option for the fall.
Lesson 3. Often the road to where we want to get to is treacherously slippery. Sometimes, once we arrive we find that the place isn’t really where want to be. The thing is, you’ll never know unless you make the trip.
The day we first met Jeter
The youngest of my “boys” recently celebrated his first birthday and, while the occasion was a happy one to mark, I also noted the date with a tinge of sadness. That year certainly went quickly. When I thought about the number of years we got to love Cassidy (12.5) and started doing simple math in my head, I got a bit melancholy considering how few more years we can expect Jeter to be our baby. It simply doesn’t feel like nearly enough.
I don’t dwell on the lack of how much time remains, but I do find myself conscious of it. I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. The older I get, the more I value it. What to do with my time and who to spend it with are two of the most important decisions I make each day. What once seemed infinite has definitely evolved into being one of life’s most precious gifts. It’s true, time is a present and I’ve vowed to become even more discriminating about how I use it.
When it comes to time, how long are you willing to invest in someone? What length of time would you give a person to show you their very best? A week? A year? Or, are you of the mindset that we’re all works in progress and it is acceptable to wait forever? It’s a tough call, one we each have to make (and live with) ourselves.
How do we ever know if we’ve done the right thing(s) with our time? As my oldest son gets ready to make decisions about where to continue to his education and to leave home, I wonder how the time of our living under the same roof went by so remarkably fast. Is he ready? Did his father and I sufficiently prepare him for what comes next? Was our time together well spent?
Is there a way to ever truly know? Or, maybe a means to just slow down the clock?