Friday, May 27, 2011


Yesterday, Lili was "spoken to" by the counselor about her style of dress. She was very upset that she was asked to dress "normal" for the rest of the school year. The counselor then emailed me about the conversation. She says Lili's outfits have become a distraction. This annoys me, because it shouldn't be Lili's responsibility to make sure other kids are not distracted. It also bothers me because Lili's fashion sense is nothing new, so I'm not sure why it is an issue now.

Here is Lili this winter. She does not dress crazy in order to get attention at school. This was taken at Papa's house while she was getting ready to go play in the snow.
 This is an outfit Lili wore shortly after Christmas. Santa put the skirt in her stocking, so how bad can it be?
 This is another outfit she wore in the winter. The leggings were a Christmas present.
 This outfit was worn in the Spring:
 Another Springtime outfit:
 The studio where Lili dances had tutus for sale for a fundraiser. I bought her two of them and she was over-the-moon excited to wear them. And what this girl can do with just two tutus!

 The gun didn't go to school as part of this outfit. But parts of this one were her dance recital costumes. I paid enough for the darn things, I figure she might as well get some use out of them!
 She didn't wear these shoes when she wore this outfit to school. And she has on shorts under the tutu. But this one apparently garnered her some attention from boys (according to the counselor...Lili said she didn't notice any extra attention.)
 And this is the outfit she was wearing yesterday when the counselor told her she was distracting other students.
What you have not seen in these photos is her poofed hair, the tiara she loves to wear, and the make-up and glitter. That is because I am not really fond of her wearing make-up so she waits until she's at school to put it on. And she has a pretty heavy hand. And she LOVES glitter. Lots and lots of glitter. But Lili is a straight-A student. She is responsible and respectful. She is helpful and caring. So I choose not to make a big deal of the fact that she likes to layer glitter on her face.

Now, I can see that if you stretch the dress code you could say the tiara is a hat. And if that is the case, she shouldn't wear it. But I do not see how anything else she has worn violates the dress code. The counselor said in her email that she spoke to Lili at the request of teachers. If the teachers thought she was violating dress code, they should have just told her to change. I think the problem is that they just don't like what she's wearing.

So basically, my daughter's school is disrespecting her right to individuality. They are asking her to conform. Too much of public education is about sameness. I am so proud of Lili for being quirky and unique and confident enough to show it. I am regretting that in my return email to the counselor I agreed that Lili wold CONFORM for the rest of the year. I am not happy about crushing my child's spirit, creativity and individuality. It makes me sad that the school would ask me to do that. I am sad that the school obviously doesn't appreciate my child as an individual. And I don't know what will happen next year. But I will not let them change my child just to suit their idea of what is acceptable.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What is a Mom Worth?

If you add up all the jobs a mom does, how much should she be paid? According to ABC World News Tonight, she's worth just over $61,000. But that is only for the very basic things that mom does: childcare, driving, cooking, cleaning, party planning, and a couple other smaller jobs. But for my mom, these tasks are only the beginning.

My mom is also a seamstress. She sews clothing for me, for my girls, for their dolls. And if I need anything mended, of course, I take it to her. My mom is also an interior designer. The only project I have done in my house without her help was painting my living room. And believe me, you can tell she wasn't there. She's painted a moon mural, a castle wall, a frog pond, and stripes...lots of stripes. She's hung wall paper and sewed curtains and pillows and bedding.

My mom has been a laundress. When I was first married and had a tiny washer and electric drier that took forever to dry a load, I would take my laundry for the week to mom on Friday. She'd have it ready when I got out of work. And later, when my appliances were big enough but my water was terribly rusty, she'd wash my whites weekly so they didn't become oranges.

My mom has been a nurse. Beyond the normal jobs of taking temps and dispensing medicines, when I was a kid, she'd soak my sunburns in ice water and vinegar. Her hands were so soft. And after I grew up, she came and stayed with me after each of the girls were born, being the one to get up in the night and bring them to me in my exhausted state. She also took care of me after two serious health issues: a car accident and a surgery with complications, putting up with not only me moving back home for short stays but also bringing the girls with me. She had to cook and clean for us and change bandages and help me shower.

My mom is not a 9 to 5 mom. She's an on-call, on-demand mom. She's there to answer questions and give advice and encouragement and comfort. She has a way of listening and remembering, thereby getting me the best presents for birthdays and Christmases. $61,000? I don't think so. My mom is truly the most gifted, generous, wonderful mom. You could pay her $61 million, and though I'm sure she'd accept it, it still wouldn't be enough. Even words aren't enough for my mom. While I can tell you all the things my mom has done for me, the power of what it has meant to me cannot be explained in words.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teachers Make All the Difference

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and even though I am a teacher (thanks, self!) or maybe because I am a teacher, I want to take some time to recognize some of the teachers who had profound effects on my life. Of course my first teachers were my parents. My mother taught me so many lessons, I wouldn't even dream of beginning to enumerate them. In fact, given that Mother's Day is this Saturday, I will reserve a post just for her. Ditto for Father's Day, also on the horizon. (geez, is this year 2011 speeding by for everyone else?!)

When I was a young adolescent, a teenager, and then a young woman, if you were looking for me at family gatherings, your best bet would be to find the smallest children and I would be among them. I grasped every chance I had to hold babies. Truthfully, that included asking complete strangers in the grocery store if I could hold their babies. And people were either more trusting then, or I just had an air about me, because 9 times out of 10, they would let me. But it was at one of these family reunions that my future was cast. My Great Great Aunt Genevieve, a wonderfully generous and beautiful woman who had taught kindergarten for over 30 years in the town where my father grew up, told my mother and grandmother, as they all watched me entertain the extended family youngsters, that I was going to make a great teacher one day. I don't know about the great part, but it shows the power of language, praise, and recognition, that 30 years later I am a teacher and I remember that she said that about me.

When I was in the third grade, Mrs. Feutz was my teacher. I always thought she looked like an angel: blond wispy hair, a gentle touch, and a voice that lulled you with comfort. I had a hard time in third grade learning how to tell time on an analog clock. I'm not sure digital clocks even existed at the time so it was probably pretty important that I learn this skill. And because it is usually pretty darn easy for me to learn new concepts, the fact that I was struggling with this caused me to have a break-down right in my third grade classroom. Mrs. Feutz sent me to the hall and of course I was sure this was the end of my school career. I must have thought she was going to reprimand my behavior--that's what teachers do, right? (After all, I did skip the story of my kindergarten teacher--when asked what I wanted to be in kindergarten, I said, "A teacher, so I can be the one to yell.") But I wasn't scared. Somehow I knew even being in trouble by Mrs. Feutz wasn't going to be a bad thing. And of course, Mrs. Feutz was that kind of teacher who understood that sometimes kids get frustrated and can't control their reactions. I don't remember what she said to me that day. I do know that she taught me how to read that darn clock!

I would love to share all of the stories of teachers who meant so much to me, but nobody would want to read for that long. And if they did want to, I'd make it into a book and maybe make some real cash off it. But let me give you some highlights:
Mrs. Newberry who told me after I was grown that she had expected me to be a journalist because of my writing abilities. I still have the poetry anthology I made in her 6th grade classroom.
Miss Frost, the first year creative writing teacher who helped me and my best friend Laura navigate the rough waters of best-friendship in 8th grade.
Mr. Adams, my high school English teacher. I can still recall verbatim several comments he left on some of my writings, though the papers are long gone.
Mrs. Lange, my high school Spanish teacher. I didn't stick with Spanish long after college, but she's the reason I pursued a minor in the subject.

And teachers need teachers too. So lastly, I'd like to tell you about Norma. The first teacher I ever called by a first name, even though she's a doctor (I'd wear that title right out if I had it!) Norma was my mentor and teacher during graduate school when I was working on my Masters degree in Middle Level Education. If I am a great teacher today, I owe much of it to her. I am a kinder, more patient, more humane teacher because of her. I had a class with her during the time when those WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets were so popular, and as a class we decided that it would be much more appropriate to have WWND bracelets. We measured everything about being a good teacher on the What Would Norma Do scale. Norma had so much faith in me that I am now assisting her and teaching in the same program she taught to me so well.

So on this Teacher Appreciation Week, thank you to all you teachers who open your hearts and share your gifts to create successful, responsible, and happy adults. May you one day find the riches you so deserve right now.