Thursday, July 24, 2014

Big Surprise Follow-up

Thanks for your support on Monday's post. Thanks for sharing the link, spreading the word, and especially thank you for signing the petition. Every single voice matters.

I received some questions about my project. Next week, I will post some new information that addresses some of these questions, but today I wanted to share two video links with you.

The term gifted child is often misunderstood by parents, educators, and students. Sometimes it appears threatening, or exclusionary, or elitist. Here's a quick video (put together by gifted kids) to dispel myths about gifted kids. Myth 4 addresses "All children are gifted" from a gifted child's perspective (3:26)--comparing stellar academics to stellar athletes.

Many people only see the great side of giftedness--the "bright" side. There is a really hard, dark side to being gifted--lack of self-esteem, struggles with social skills and fitting in, bullying, and biases held by others who have limited experience with gifted kids. Dr. Dan Peters does an excellent job explaining some of the developmental issues faced by gifted kids. "[Giftedness] doesn't excuse behavior, we have to understand behavior. All too often these kids are misunderstood" (0:28). A little social skills training could help gifted kids fit in better and curb some of their quirky behaviors in class. He also addresses some of the biases held about gifted kids--that if they're so "gifted," then they must be good at everything all the time. His comments on this issue are enlightening.

I created a new link on the For Mesa's Gifted Kids website--links to these videos and a few more clips that give a better perspective of what it's like to be a gifted child and ways that education can be changed to better serve the needs of all students.

Please share this new information with those around you--Facebook, Instagram, a phone call to your grandma's best friend.

And please, please, please--if you haven't signed the petition, please add your support. If your kids haven't signed it, their opinion counts just as much as an adult's, maybe even more. They know what is working and what isn't, and letting their voices be heard will ensure that their ideas are considered as we effect change in MPS.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Names Omitted to Protect the Guilty

I don't know how it all began.

Frankly, I never do.

I heard shouts from the family room, unpleasant pitch and tone accompanying the name of one of my beloved children.

I rose from my computer, not ten feet away, to investigate the commotion. I entered the room just in time to see a white Wii controller fly from the hands of one son and connect with the face of the other.

I had been talking with a friend during this exchange, and I tried to minimize the skirmish as much as I could without completely turning into Mad Mom in front of her. I turned off the TV and sent the kids downstairs, hoping that it was Wii battles that had made the boys turn into little monsters.

Ironically, my friend wasn't the only visitor in the house at the time. Five other neighbor kids were here, and when banished to the basement, they had all started a round of Ninja Fight. I don't know exactly how to play Ninja Fight, but I know it involves a lot of intermittent yelling, throwing soft balls, and sneaking up on foes.

Not two minutes after I'd sent all of the kids to the basement for a self-regulated riot, I could hear one son's screams reverberating up the stairs--a scream full of pain and tinged with injustice. Through his simultaneous attempts to inhale, shriek, and accuse, I pieced together bits of the story--"Dad's white pole," "not fair," "I didn't do ANYTHING!" "hate him."

This was it. Mom had been pushed too far. With my friend still present, I reached down for my son's face, forced him to look me in the eye as he sobbed, and instructed him to go downstairs, send his brother upstairs and all of the friends home.

He knew they had crossed the line when he heard, "send all of the friends home." Renewed accusations of "That's not fair!" and "It was all his fault!" echoed from the stairwell as he descended to the basement with the horrifying news that play was over for the day.

My other son made it up to my presence, and as soon as he rounded the corner, he turned on the sob story of his own--"I was ambushed" "He MEANT to hurt me" and the tried-and-true "But it wasn't my fault!"

I may not know how it all began, but I can give you a step-by-step explanation of how it all ended.

After all the friends had left (including my own), I headed up the stairs to where the culprits had been imprisoned. Both boys were sent to their beds--one atop the other--where their forced silence brought glares of hatred for me and for each other. In a deadly quiet voice, I lectured them. I voiced my disgust at the way they had treated each other. I asked them if they were embarrassed, and when they each shook their head no, I expressed my humiliation at their behavior.

Down came their sentences. Along with no friends for the rest of the day, each boy was to go downstairs, grab their journal and a writing implement. They were to each write four separate pages in their books: 1) an entire page of "I will not fight with my brother"--no abbreviations allowed, 2) an entire page of what they had done wrong in the situation, 3) an entire page of what they should have done differently when they felt like they'd been wronged, and finally, 4) an entire page of what they love most about their brother--and it had to be sincere. There was to be no talking to each other, no touching each other, and if these two requests weren't followed, then both boys would be sent to bed at 7 pm. No exceptions.

You'd think I'd sent them to Alcatraz for their crimes.

They were completely silent. They did finish pages of writing. They did soften in their attitudes towards each other.

And within the hour, they were begging to watch a movie together and stay up late eating ice cream.

I know that one day, these two little dudes will acknowledge all the time the deep love they feel for each other. They have the rest of their lives to be buddies.

For now, they're still learning how lucky they are to have a brother.

Good thing I already know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Many Pictures from the Pool This Summer

I usually take a million pictures poolside every summer.
For some reason, I was in the pool more often but my camera was absent.
These are a few of my favorites. Moms love kisses from their boys.
Sometimes, when it's late afternoon or after dinner, we head to the pool for a quick swim. Sometimes, the kiddos just wear their underwear as they strip on the way to the water.

Evie learned to swim this year--and she's our most recent entry in family cannonball contests off the diving board. Pink goggles and brown limbs all curl together into a tight little ball before making an unimpressive but amazing splash. She's quite proud of it--"Micah taught me!"

It may seem strange in other parts of the country, but most AZ kids are proficient swimmers before they enter kindergarten. It might have something to do with being in the pool at least three times a day all summer long. Maybe.
I love having a pool in our backyard. I used to think it was quite an extravagance, since I grew up in southern Idaho where we didn't even have a community pool. If you ever fly over Phoenix, you'll see aqua kidney-shaped puddles in most yards, no matter the neighborhood. With temperatures this week headed over 110*, there really is nowhere else to be outside other than in the water. Unless it's a movie theatre.
Nathan and Ellie were a little timid around the water at first, but they acclimated almost as quickly as their little bodies bronzed up.
I wonder if they look really tan to all of the Idaho people now that they're home again.

Hyrum finally reached the height requirement for the diving board at the public pool. I call this photo, "Mom, are you sure you're watching??"
Evie also reached a milestone this summer--height requirement to go down the twisty water slide. She's such a scaredy cat, that I knew she'd back out at the top of the slide. Lucky for her, no one else was in line, so I walked her to the top of the slide, the lifeguard gave the signal, and I dropped her into the chute before she had even a second to reconsider. She kept looking up at me the whole way down, but she made it--without a single tear. Plus, she said it was "Fun." I think she meant it.

Ah, the joys of AZ summer. They are few, but at least there are a few.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Surprise Revealed

A month ago, I posted this enigmatic statement on my blog:

I am working on something even bigger, beyond the scope of grad school and academia and theory. It's so far out of my comfort zone that every time I think about it, I get that pit-in-my-stomach feeling. I have to be prepared to be wrong, and that's scary.

It's time to reveal my big surprise. Here it is--a new website/blog. If you'd like to visit the new blog, here's the link:

I have put my whole heart and soul into this project. I believe in it.

The blog is only the first step. I intend to approach the gifted education administrators with a proposal to completely overhaul their program--in the entire district of over 63,000 students. I have formed a group called For Mesa’s Gifted Kids that needs your support. If we can assemble a core group of vocal supporters asking for change, then I expect the administration will listen. Please take the time to read through the website and sign the petition, adding your voice to others who agree that MPS should reevaluate how our gifted kids’ needs are being met. 

For those of you in Mesa Public Schools--past or present students, parents/grandparents/guardians, or teachers--please take the time to read and review the site. Tell your family and friends and children. Share the site on your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram--whatever your social media choice may be. It's time to make a difference in Mesa, and with your support, we can effect that change. Those not in MPS, you're welcome to visit and leave comments as well. I would love to hear what works in your districts and what doesn't--what you'd like to change and what you'd never like to lose. More support=more possibilities.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or on the new blog. I look forward to your responses.

Time to put up or shut up.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday #28--It Fits Now

Three years ago, I somewhat reluctantly acquired a new title--you can read about it here.

It's strange what three years can do. 

Just like the arrival of my own children, I feel my heart stretch and embrace each new grandchild. I love learning who they are, what they like and what they hate--and loving them.

As their grandma. 

That's right. I'm their grandma. Gran D. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Family Tradition Dating Back at Least a Decade

Mesa Community College conducts a musical theatre workshop every June. For two weeks, kids from all over the valley come together to sing, dance, make friends, and share their love for the stage.
In two weeks, the talented directors take squirrelly 5-17 year-old kids and transform them into a performance troupe.

Micah hasn't shown any desire to participate, until this summer. 
He was the youngest in the entire group, and he didn't love it at first.
He changed his mind as the songs morphed into mini shows and the kids became his friends.
In fact, it's been almost a month, and just yesterday he started singing one of his MCC songs--"Mesa, Arizona" (a very cleverly rewritten version of The Music Man's "Gary, Indiana")--adding, "I'll know these songs the rest of my life."
On the other hand, Miss Lily was, as they say, "Born to Entertain." She has participated in the workshop since before kindergarten, and the second that spotlight goes on, so does she.

Remember the theme song from "That Thing You Do"? She was one of the groupies swooning over the guys.
I think my favorite number from the show was "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. That song makes ya wanna move, doesn't it?

All of my kids have performed on that stage, and Micah has already decided he will be back next year. Can't wait--gotta keep that tradition alive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First Family Photos

New baby Annie and her new parents.

Tucker and Karli are completely in love with this little girlie.
 Daddies have a special role with their daughters--their first love, the model for men in their life.
Tucker will be those things for his daughter, with a ton of silliness and fun thrown in!
You know you're thinking of Rafiki right now.

Annie is so lucky--not every baby gets serenaded with Italian arias and German Lieder as lullabies.

Now they're a family.