Wednesday, June 27, 2012

COME AND FOLLOW ME

I am heading  into the new blog.

If you would like to follow me, in all my new anonymity, please e-mail me at

mamaaidan@gmail.com  and I'll give you my new blog address.

I hate to shut anyone out, but if you go to my parish, or see one or more of my children regularly here in Lansing, I ask you not to come along.  It is just that the children have begged for their privacy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MAYBE THIS IS ALL I MEANT, REALLY.....


THE THEME......

I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more. C.S. Lewis


Saturday, June 16, 2012

HAVE A NICE DAY!

OK - I have to do a little follow up.  How I love it when I write a post people want to comment on!  So much fun!

But, I just have to write a little more so I am absolutely sure no one thinks I am a curmudgeon.

I love a smile when it is genuine!  I don't want people to be surly, and I am really a very friendly person.  If I know I am going to encounter someone, such as a check-out person - even if I am not in a great mood - I try to summon up enough cheeriness to be kind and courteous.  But, so often, when I enter a place with greeters, I've forgotten about that feature of their operation, and feel ambushed.  That post was written after I went to Meijers very late one night, when I was not only exhausted but terribly unhappy and upset.  The greeter said, "Hello!"  and startling me out of my reverie, I actually had to fight back tears.  I suppose the rule of thumb ought to be - don't go to the store when you are that upset!  But, the effort to be friendly was almost impossible, and add to it that I had recently been told by someone who worked at this store as a greeter that their real job is to watch for shoplifters....well, it all seemed to be almost the last straw.

 I could just about say I'd wish every person on earth a "nice day" (though "nice" isn't aiming all that high, is it?) and I can even expand that wish to include all the evil people, too.  Why not?  But, I don't like anything that is FALSE.  If someone can be genuinely friendly to every one - and I know some who can - that is LOVELY.  But I don't want to see someone do an artificial version of friendly, then turn to someone and say something rude about the same person they just wished a nice day to.  And, I've seen that in the check-out lane, too.  In fact, I absolutely mortified one of my children one time, by sharing my opinion with an employee at McDonald's who did that to a disabled man.  To pretend kindness when you can't wait to say something nasty is false and worse than dignified silence (or even sullen silence) in my opinion.

I take it back - I don't wish everyone a nice day.  Rude drivers are exempted.  Actually, to be quite honest, I always utter a little interior wish that rude drivers would suddenly be struck with a really bad case of intestinal disturbance.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

CISKA'S BLOG

Ciska is doing a givaway.  She is a super blogger, a wonderfully bright and interesting young woman....and you should go visit her blog.

I have said thisbefore even when there was nothing in it for me....this time I have to admit that posting here gives me another chance to win!

FALSE POSITIVES

Sharing a little pet peeve here.

I detest artificial friendliness.  This is where Russia really has it all over Americans.  In Russia people do not paste false smiles onto their faces, or tell you to "have a nice day" again and again.  I suppose you might say they err on the opposite end of the scale, taking even everyday exchanges - in stores or at a business, very seriously.  I don't mind that at all, frankly.  When the lady responsible for handling the dry-cleaning at the hotel is hyper-solemn and businesslike, it gives her (and her job) dignity.  When the girl checking out at the grocery store, reprimands me for not bringing my own bags - well, she is right; I had been in Russia enough to know that I ought to carry a bag or two with me at all times.  (And who can't appreciate that thriftiness and environmental benefit?)


You might not get a smile, but you get good bread.

In Russia one of the things that I got used to, which initially surprised me, was what was I think the main job held by men - women seem to generally run the country, but in front of every business, it seems, there is a man.  He just stands there and watches (and.smokes). A sort of guard?  I never saw one accosting anyone, and they certainly did not seem to be there to help you.  I presume the idea is to discourage shoplifters - though there was also one at the hotel, where there was nothing, really, to take.  I did shock Ilya once, by asking one of these gentlemen for directions.  I shocked the man, too.  He truly looked dumbfounded, so perhaps the unspoken rule is that they are not to be addressed! 

Here, though, it is a different story.  In the front entry of far too many places there is someone who is actually placed there to watch for shoplifters, I'm told, but quite disingenuously, these people are called  "greeters".  And greet they do!  They greet you with a bright "hello" as though they know you.  As though they care about you.  As though it delights them to see you.  Since none of these things are true, perhaps there is some psychological ploy going on, intended to immediately put customers (oh, sorry - "guests") at a disadvantage.  Because, no matter if you are deep in thought, or trying desperately to recall the seven things you want to be sure to buy (ticking them off in your mind so as not to forget), or you might even be so sad you are just struggling to keep from crying - despite whatever it is that is going on with you - enter the store and you must suddenly snap to attention yourself, and be artificially friendly back. 

I hate it!

Part of that comes from having lived in a place where the effect that the big box stores are hoping to achieve (I think) was the genuine article.  If you live in a small town, where everyone knows - or is, at least, acquainted with - everyone else, then these greetings are legitimate.  When we were first married, we lived in a little town in Eastern Oregon - Heppner.  Everyone in Heppner at least knew of everyone else....  Even if you didn't really know someone, you were all in the "same boat" so to speak.  Living in that  rural area gave you immediately a lot in common with everyone else.  The town only had 1,500 people and it was an hour drive to anywhere bigger.  When people were born, or when people died, a little notice was put on the counter in all the main businesses.  People did matter.  People were individuals.  We had release time for religion classes, and if ever anyone noticed a little Catholic dilly-dallying by the creek rather than heading straight to the church for classes - I'd get a phone call!  So, when the checker at the grocery store gave you a greeting it was the genuine article. 

Maxim is working at Target now.  I was early to pick him up one day, and figured I'd pleasantly wile away the time by browsing.  I do enjoy browsing in Target.....but not that day!  Every couple of minutes someone would ask me if they could "help" me - or assault me with one of those artificial "Hi! How are you?" non-questions.  You can't really enjoy browsing if you have to keep stopping to speak to strangers.  I just wonder what they think they are accomplishing.  Comparitively, I am friendly and outgoing!  I'm pretty comfortable talking to strangers after years of doing theatre and touring from city to city, sometimes even boarding with different people every night.  Surely this stuff is even more comfortable for me than it is for most people?  But, I detest it!  It really felt as though I was being discouraged from just browing.  I began to feel that I was expected to either buy something or get out.  So, get out, I did.  I went to wait in the car.

I heard yesterday on some public radio program that recent studies have shown that people really do not like this.  So, I'm not the only one!  In  rating customer service, the artificial friendliness gets a business nowhere.  I'm now looking forward to this becoming common knowledge, allowing me to shop in peace. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

OBLIVIOUS

Everyone's reactions to that whole post-before-last, "Too Soft"  was quite helpful, honestly.

For one thing, though I added a few more details in the comments, in the post I didn't let anyone know enough about the situation for it to really make sense.  And, what I realized from thinking over your comments, was that I was embarrassingly oblivious to actual situation myself.

The truth of it all lies in the child:  

  • A child who is presently trying to cope with an ENORMOUS boatload of shame (to be clarified in new blog....just trust me for now).
  • A child who already struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a need to be perfect....particularly in written work.
  • A child who was a first-rate, self-motivated student until her school world (through no fault of her own) fell apart in the middle of sixth grade.  Then her emotional stability collapsed, preventing her from going to school.  It has been a long time since she did schoolwork and she is a much more fragile person now.


The truth of it lies in the school situation:  

  • FINALLY, only a couple of months ago, I got a home-based teacher set-up through our school district.  Anastasia's emotional stability is so fragile that being in a group of peers is not possible for her at the moment.
  • The teacher does not, as I would have presumed, assess the child and give assignments.  No; she goes to the teachers in the large middle school that Anastasia presumably "attends" and brings the assignments that the students who are attending class are given.
  • NOTE:  Anastasia has not had ANY of the instruction related to said assignments.  She has not has any instruction so far this year in those subjects.  
  • Craig or I sit in (or nearby) on the lessons; no instruction has been given by the home-teacher in any subject other than math.  Anastasia's understanding of the math is better than the home-teacher's.  (And mine.)
  • The only thing Anastasia got was the assignment to write a research paper, using at least five sources, only two can be internet, on Mad Cow Disease.  Include a Bibliography and footnotes.
  • Anastasia has never written a paper like this; she has not had an opportunity to practice any of the steps for doing this.
  • I can see how it seems to just make sense for her to get a "bad grade" on the thing....but how can she be expected to do something that she hasn't been taught? (Frankly, I didn't emphasize that in my post, because I wasn't really recognizing it, myself.  I was just blindly accepting what the home-teacher gave her to do without thinking about it at all!  Stupid. 
  • The entire situation is bizarre:  a few weeks ago I got a form in the mail from her school (a school she has never entered, mind you).  There were "comments" from each teacher.  The oddity here is that all of the teachers (none of whom have ever seen or taught her) wrote comments - even comments such as:  Anastasia shows creativity and initiative.  Really?  Only one of them wrote:  Anastasia has missed too much class to judge. Yeah, I guess she has!  The other five included comments that would lead anyone to believe they actually knew who she was. Including:  Anastasia is very attentive in class.  So, these people are going to give her a grade?  That ought to be interesting.

The truth of it lies in my connection to the whole school thing:
  • As is obvious from my not even considering that she didn't know how to do the assignment - I have not paid much attention to it.
  • My only desire was for her to "finish it up", get it "over with". 
  • I was somehow attributing to her my own ability to throw something like this together in an afternoon. 
  • I was forgetting that she had not the faintest idea how to begin, let alone how to carry on. 
  • Honestly, though I said I'd help, I was not available to help due to end of the year work burdens.  I was barely home, except to make dinner and take people to classes/appointments etc.
So, she shouldn't have been rude.  I need to teach her how to wake me up to things, if I'm unaware, by sharing her thoughts and feelings about something in words, (not by tearing up mail.)

And,  my little idea to give her a "reward" for doing the thing was STUPID.  First of all, I know the child.  Anastasia does not need rewards; she is one of those people who finds the reward in the completion.  Secondly, the headphones are one of the  strategies she uses to regulate herself - quietly listening to music, and retreating from the household noise.  

I was simultaneously laying stress on her while telling her she couldn't have her stress-reliever.

As regards school - I am not going to expect her to do a paper, when no one has given her any instruction in how to do it.  I have no problem telling the home-teacher that.  

As regards communication - We do need to talk about how to talk to mama when mama is overwhelmed.  Undoubtedly she thought I was too oblivious to be talked to but learning how to get through to someone who is "not getting it" is an important tool.  

Parenting trauma is hard. Being my daughter is no picnic sometimes either.



Friday, June 8, 2012

PAST HELP, PAST HOPE, PAST CARE

For most of my working life so far, I had the most extraordinarily wonderful situation, which I innocently wrote about before I had any idea that in the blink of an eye it could all be lost.

Prior to the merger of our parish with another, and a lot of changes in budgeting, staff and direction, I worked out of a big, old convent....me, the Adult Ed Director, a great man who I'd known for twenty years, and two wonderful assistants who were more like friends than co-workers.  The perfection included plenty of space for my children to be at work with me.  In fact, we could do just about everything there but laundry (which would have been a big improvement and definitely increased my productivity)!     I even had a big, spacious room I could use for sewing.  Sewing which t included banners and altar cloths, the occasional vestment and so forth, for the parish, but also personal sewing.  Everything worked.  I could put in unbelievable hours, involving my children in the work (church work - doubly beneficial!) and never feel conflicted or overwhelmed.  We could eat there; I homeschooled there.....it was more home than home.

I felt this wonderful building was key to my ministry, too - the living room space, formed into a wonderful parish library, was perfect for study groups and prayer groups and intimate meetings.  There were rooms upstairs that were just the right size to accommodate all the middle school classes.  There was a great big room upstairs which was perfect for the Knights of Columbus a few nights a month, but also just right for activities with the girls club, and Confirmation groups....socials, and conferences.  The children's birthday parties were held there.  Lydia practiced her dancing up there. That building was perfect for everything I needed to do and allowed me to develop a ministry that was warm and welcoming, that drew people in, made them feel at home, got them involved.

The new pastor didn't really see how it was used, I don't think...but I should admit there were issues with the building - the most important, probably, was the amount of money it cost to heat it.  Also, it was full of asbestos, which prevented it from being easily made handicap-accessible and in other ways brought up to code.  And it was not being brought up to code because they were'nt being entirely upfront about its zoning (it was still zoned "residential" and I felt that was hardly a lie!)  No matter the problems, perhaps it 'twas "a poor thing but mine own".   I loved the place.

Imagine if your family was suddenly told that you must live not in your house - but in a small hotel room.  That's what it was like, having to move.  BUT (a big but, let me tell you) I did have a job, unlike most of my colleagues.  I am literally getting sick to my stomach just writing this - that is how horrible the experience was... and yet, due to my colleagues' job loss on one hand (their loss was so much worse than my own, obviously), and the need to put on a positive, enthusiastic face to everyone on the other (what a great new beginning for our parish!), there was no way I could ever express the devastation all of this change had wrought.  So often I felt like Dr. Zhivago, who coming back from the front during WWI, finds that his beautiful home has become a communal dwelling, and, still in shock, he manages to tell the dour woman who is head of the "People's Housing Committee" that "It seems much more fair."  That scene always resonated with me, but all the more now....devastation that cannot be grieved.


See the little table in the far back?  That was in my
home when I was a tiny girl; this was the "playroom"
where Lydia kept her box of Barbies....and much more..
Dealing with a new boss, a new staff, an entirely new reality - to say nothing about Craig going to Korea for a year (how did I live through that year?) - I never really organized what was left in the old building.  Then, add to that, the building was opened up for the school, the Knights of Columbus, and (worst of all the Boy Scouts), to use for storage.  [The scouts were worst because, for some reason, they decided to adopt the room where I had been keeping all of my files, children's books, and most important records, into their own storage space, and though I wasn't there, I am pretty sure the way it was done was - "Hey boys, get this stuff out of here!"  because all of my most critical materials were thrown haphazardly throughout the building.....]

Well, finally, this year the parish manager rightly decided that the building was out of control - and asked each group to put their belongings in designated rooms by Memorial Day.  After that everything else would be thrown out. 

Things I need for work....gathered from around
the building and now in utter chaos - and way back
in the back - the oak table from my grandpa's house.
He was right; it needed to be done. But, I cannot begin to describe the pain.  Twenty years of spreading out in a building..... personal files (everything from my financial files to my children's records from Russia and my older kids' homeschool materials) the Russian school supplies, family heirloom furniture put into use there when my mom moved out of their home, all our program art supplies, fabric for banners and all my personal fabrics and craft materials, boxes of library books that don't fit into the new library, closets of first communion suits and dresses for parishioners to borrow, closets of saints costumes, preschool materials, our children's books...and on and on.  Just cleaning out the kitchen took me a day, and how many times I wanted to weep over the loss represented by a mug or a spoon or even an old potholder -  because each item had years worth of memories attached.  And the entire operation was a reminder that I no longer have the perfect life.  My job now prevents me from being a decent mother, my situation now prevents me from even doing my job as well as I feel I used to.

In this kitchen we used to have little luncheons.  Such great ideas came out of the time spent chatting in a relaxed way about our work.  There was a table where all my children sat to do homework.  I was in this kitchen when I first heard the news on 9/11.  Our Russian school made pelmeni in here, all gathered around the table.   When Lydia was little we had a cooking club - my favorite session was when we made about four different kinds of brownies using vastly differing recipes.  Our Sodality girls made pies in here to sell....  I first learned to use embossing materials at the table here.  Whenever I forgot my key, Aidan knew how to climb in the window....Such fun, such happiness, so many stories.....wiped clean.                                                  
Frankly, I have sat on this post a bit, because though I think it was one of the most well-written things I've ever posted here, it was  far too - well - sad. Self-pitying.  I couldn't read it over without crying and feeling powerfully sorry for myself.  And that's not right.

So, I cut a bit above and here's to a more appropriate conclusion.....

One of my favorite St. Louis Jesuits songs is "Wood Hath Hope"...words I should dwell on (I can't find the lyrics anywhere on line, so this is according to my memory.):

Wood hath hope
When it's cut it grows green again,
And its boughs sprout green again.
Wood hath hope.


Root and stock, though old and withered up,
And all sunk in earth corrupt, will revive.
Leaves return; water pure brings life to them
/And the tree lives young again.  Wood hath hope.


But, ah - strange thought -if a man could rise again.
Called home to a loving land,
We would have hope.


We would have hope.
Like a tree we'd grow green again.
And our boughs sprout clean again...
We would have hope.  

Somehow cleaning out that building did make me feel "old and withered up".....but I'm sure it will pass.

The end of the "old" building.....the end of the "old" blog.  But, there is new life on the other side. I have hope.

TOO SOFT

Christy just wrote a wonderful post about correction.

I have long realized that it is the "correction" piece that is the most difficult for me in parenting some of my children.   God made me compassionate; and somewhere along the line I realized that I resonate with the quote I read somewhere "To understand everything is to forgive everything."  And, for me to forgive is automatically to forget.  I can forget a child's (or anyone's) wrong-doing faster than the blink of an eye.

For example, a child will misbehave or disobey and I will give a consequence.... a likely example might be someone staying on the computer after being told to get off at a certain time.  I'll say that the next day they will lose their time.....but sure as sure, the next day I may have a vague memory that someone needed to be off the computer for some reason...but I can't recall who or why.  It is awful.  I recognize this trait as a blessing in many ways (I certainly can't hold a grudge!) but it isn't always.

And, in more complex situations, once I understand, and give instruction, I don't ever feel able to give any sort of consequence....  I'm never sure whether I ought to or not. Here is a recent example.....Anastasia has a couple of assignments she should complete to finish the school year.  She has been under an enormous amount of stress over some very serious issues, and is suffering more than I even knew. I am learning that she tends to work very hard not to share things that are painful.  So one afternoon I mentioned that she needed to finish the report and she said, "It's not happening!" I addressed that by keeping my cool and saying that it sounded to me like she was upset about it, and I said a few things to make the assignment seem do-able and said that sometimes having something to look forward to after a big effort could help motivate you.  So I offered a reward when she was done (new headphones since her present ones had stopped working.)  I deliberately left that conversation sort-of open-ended....I didn't sense that I could force her to make a specific plan without stressing her out too much. 

But, the next day she mentioned needing headphones and I cheerfully quipped that they were "on the way with the speed of a term paper."  Instead of thinking this amusing, she melted down in a way she hasn't in a long, long time - taking the mail and throwing it all over the driveway, even tearing a letter in two.  I was heading out at that moment with another child, and was REALLY glad to continue driving! 

Later that day, when she was regulated again... I brought up the term paper and her reaction to my mentioning it.  She immediately (instantaneously!) became disregulated and I could see her looking around for something to destroy.  I quipped, "Oh, let me get you some mail!"  I could see that she momentarily saw the humor and with that, her anger left but she burst into tears.  Crying is very rare for her. And she revealed how overwhelmed she is. It became clear to me that doing this paper may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and really... in the scheme of things, it can be dismissed.  So, I talked about her feelings, and how much better it might be to TALK to me, rather than snap and be defiant...how not everyone is going to be able to see through the defiance to something deeper, etc.  Then we talked about the underlying issues.

It was good, and later addressed in therapy....but I feel like maybe I didn't do my motherly duty in a) allowing her to go "unpunished" for being defiant, and b) allowing her not to do the paper.

From her brothers' point of view, I let her "get away" with things and am "too soft".

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BLOGGING ETIQUETTE

I rather think everyone has a different idea of what is appropriate in  blogville.  As I mentioned before, to me blogging is quite personal and I see a clear parallel to real life. 

I feel that the blogger is talking to me, and a small group of friends.  And, just as if we were leaning over the garden fence having a chat, or down in Coffee Bar after church, when they share, it seems to me to be good manners to respond.  I suppose, if you get right down to it, in every such group there are people who don't respond.  But, perhaps the difference is that in person the response is visible - you are listening, you are displaying some sort of reaction via your expression.  Thus, I feel more compelled to respond, even briefly, after reading a blog post, than I would to speak up in conversation.

When I read a blog which has a huge following - well, the image adjusts itself.  This blogger is standing at the front of a hall, addressing a large group.  But, as would be the case in "real life", not all people in the group respond.  Only some. They raise their hands and make a comment or ask a question.  For a popular speaker, lots of hands would be up, and people would make duplicate comments and I'd be sitting in the back wondering why it was necessary to say something someone else just said.  I often feel like that in the blogworld as well, though I have more sympathy for the duplicate comments simply because they help the blogger know that a lot of people are listening [reading].  Still, in a situation like this, it seems to be much more acceptable not to respond to every new topic.  In fact, when a blogger already has twenty responses, it almost seems rude to add more.....at least every time they post.  In those cases I am far more judicious in my comments.  I read, but don't comment.  A regular blog I read which fits this category is Christine Reed's  Smiles and Trials.  I probably respond more than I might to another blog this popular because I followed her from her early days, and in fact, we have a kind of relationship - i.e. we've spoken on the phone a few times.  Otherwise, I think I'd respond less than I do. 

If I run across a new blog, or one with very few comments, I will comment almost every single time.  It is not that I feel the blogger needs encouragement (though that may be true) but every communication deserves a response, and if I am receiving that communication I need to respond - most especially if I seem to be one of the few people in the room.  Here is where I'll mention a really gratifying thing which happened recently.  On Facebook I ran across a comment from Sarah, whose blog I read regularly a few years ago - in fact, somehow she was one of the first two blogs I read (hers and Christine's).  But Sarah stopped blogging, and was absent from FB too, and I would wonder about how she was doing from time to time.  So, when she suddenly appeared on FB I asked if she was still blogging - and in response she opened up her BRAND NEW BLOG!  In response to my interest!  I was so flattered.  And, pleased, too, because Sarah is a really good writer, and amusing too.  And, now she has a whole new subject - because her family has moved way out into the boonies.....and are exploring a whole new way of living out there.  I got to be the first reader of a whole lot of wonderful posts!  It was like getting a surprise box in the mail full of terrific gifts - and completely unexpected!  Do go visit Sarah in her new place

But then......there are more complicated situations.  Here is my real question for today.  If you find a blog that interests you, and you respond a time or two, but the blogger never seems to visit your blog and never in any other way recognizes that you commented on theirs......  Does that mean, "Go away and stop eavesdropping on my conversation?"  

I love comments!  When I get a comment from a new reader, I always head right out to visit their blog, and am always disappointed if they don't have one.  So, when I comment on someone's blog and they ignore me, does it mean I've been rude to intrude?  I am just not sure about this.

Monday, June 4, 2012

SEVEN QUICK TAKES

1.  Today I wrote the first post for my new blog.  Until I do a few "catch up" posts, though, I'm not going to send it out on its own.  The new blog is still on blogger, but I have an alias, as do the children....so hopefully, the feel of it won't be different, but the kids will be a bit more protected from the prying eyes of search engines.

2.  Last Sunday I hosted another reception for 200 after a large number of adults and children came into the church for the Feast of the Ascension.  One thing I learned (because we put on almost exactly the same meal as we put on for the Easter Vigil reception) is that people eat a LOT more at noon than they do at midnight!  I don't think anyone piled their plates at the Easter celebration, but I was horrified to see how people were piling it on last week.....those at the end of the line got pretty meager fare.  I was sorry about that.  Overall, though it went well and I kept reminding myself:  we were not running a feeding station for the starving!  If someone didn't get a heaping plate of food, it was not going to be the end of the world.  There was certainly cake and punch for all.

3. Aidan marched in last week's National Memorial Day Parade.  This was broadcast on a lot of stations throughout the country, but not on our comcast line-up, so we figured out how to have the streamed version from the internet display on our TV screen.  I have to say, nothing makes you feel quite as lame as spending a holiday watching a parade on TV!  But, watch we did - and the parade itself was very nice (just wish I'd been there in person)....I particularly wished this when the streaming stopped just as Aidan's group was going to show up.  Really.  I couldn't believe it either.

4.  On Thursday night Zhen's school had their end-of-the-year event.  There was the graduation of one HS student, a display of student learning, and prize-giving..  All the HS students had to give a speech.  I was a bit dismayed that though nine of them spoke on "The Value of Education" only one of them mentioned anything apart from getting a good job and making money.  I was startled, to tell you the truth.  I can honestly say that I never in my life looked at education as a way to acquire wealth. (Well - we can all tell that, can't we!)

Looks rather quaint, doesn't it?
5.  The elementary students displayed their memory prowess.  This teacher is quite old-fashioned, to many minds, but I like the emphasis on memorization, and I think both the things memorized and the memorization skills learned are hugely valuable.  Each student said their "piece" - Zhen recited the Preamble to the Constitution; other students shared the Books of the Bible, the Presidents, a number of different Scripture passages (for example, the entire nativity narrative from Luke - we're not talking short pieces, here!); one boy recited the Declaration of Independence, another the entire "Dream" speech of Martin Luther King.  The boy who shared the MLK is a pastor's son, and his dad must have been beaming - I was misty-eyed; he did a tremendous job and it was powerful.  Zhen's piece was comparitively small, but to my amazement, he followed my advice to say it "loud and slow", and every word was clear - including "traniquity" [which replaced "tranquility"] And all the kids had, over the course of the year, memorized all the pieces.  Pretty impressive.


As you can see, he was happy though.
6. I had another experience of inner misery at the prize-giving.  Now I am only too aware that Zhen is not going to win any academic prizes until he focuses on working a bit harder, and I am also really pleased that his teacher makes sure she gives an appropriate award to every student.  However, I think she ran out of time to think about it, because three students of the eight all got the same award "Most Improved" - and frankly, who wouldn't see the contradiction in that?  In her remarks, however, it was clear that his improvement consisted of beginning to work harder, so I guess that's good.  I asked him later which of the academic awards he would most have liked to receive....and he shared that he thought he would have gotten an award for Best Artist.  I realized - of course!  He should have! But she didn't give one. He is a remarkable artist.  And, then I recalled that Anastasia got an award for art when she had this teacher.  Beats me.  Maybe Mrs. A was more interested in rewarding his improved work-ethic.  (Though from my seat it felt more like a public announcement that my child was a lazy good for nothing for most of the year.)

7. S.spent Saturday assisting an electrician install electricity in someone's new addition.  Sergei has a real interest in this field, but this was his first opportunity to really experience it close-up.  He said it was awesome, and I am thrilled.