Monday, November 29, 2010

Sending Sick to School

You could probably tell from my article about sending kids to school sick ("To Send or Not to Send") that I was fairly emotional about the topic. With flu season around the corner, I am stressed already that my children, God forbid, will get sick again. This school year I have already received 2 of those ‘letters’ even though we had sorted out the problem with the first that arrived. I really have broken a personal best! I mean, are we really at threat of being sent to jail because our children don’t live up to the system’s healthy expectations, or do you think like me that it is too extreme a threat?
I have on a few occasions sent them to school with a sniffle and quite honestly felt guilty, but what can you do? Someone somewhere has devised this grand plan of attendance percentages, and Mr. or Mrs. Jobs-Worth implements it, giving no thought to the reality that our schools are like public gathering places for germs to latch onto on another and spread the good word so to speak. Am I alone in feeling that this is an issue within the system that needs to be re-addressed? Anyone got any amazing ‘sick’ stories to tell? Or are you a teacher that has a view on this? I would love to hear from your side, too. Do you mind having sick kids in your classes, or would you prefer the parents keep them at home?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our Schools are Cooking

By Dawn Tolson
Whilst I was writing my review of the children’s cookbook in our latest 4Gaby issue ("Williams-Sonoma, The Kid's Cookbook"), it occurred to me that there is something missing in our schools. In England we were taught to cook, yes I said it, we WERE taught to cook. Boys and girls alike, we all took basic cookery lessons. It was compulsory in the lower grades and then when you came to choosing your options (in the UK you chose your exam options in Year 9 which is equivalent to our 8th grade), cookery or as it was called, Domestic Science, was a curriculum option. I wonder whether the obesity problem here in the U.S. could be reduced if we taught our children the art of cooking.
At present it seems easier to visit McDonald’s or Burger King for dinner and even fool ourselves that having apple pieces with a fried burger full of cheese and mayo is a healthier option. Jaime Oliver, world-renowned English Chef, started a foundation in the UK whose mission is to raise awareness of the importance of nutritious food and cooking to children and vulnerable groups. He changed the school’s meal system and has started this process in the U.S. I for one hope that he makes it to North Carolina!
What do you think? Do you teach your kids to cook?
Do you think a cooking option at school is a good idea?
How did you learn to cook? Maybe you were taught at school and it is just our ever-evolving school system that has changed; if so, what do you think of that?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Get a Cheap Workout

By Mary Alford-Carman

When I wrote “Packaging With Care,” I couldn’t help but think about shopping in general, and shopping at the grocery store has convinced me that I don’t need to join a gym. I have a very active lifestyle, thank you very much, because I shop at the Superstores for groceries, and it’s a workout tried and true. Think of it, rolling the cart, lifting and bending and putting items into the cart, taking them out to put them on the cashier’s conveyer belt, picking them up and depositing them into the cart and then rolling the cart to the car. Yet we’re still not done.

Now it’s time to put them in the car, drive them home, take them out of the car into the house, and, finally, take them out of the bags and lift, bend and twist to put them up. Workout complete.

Does anybody else find that shopping for groceries is the major workout of the week?

How do you handle it with coupons, children, long lines and the time it takes to get it done without stressing?

What is your least favorite part of shopping in your household?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shopping is Good for the Soul

By Mary Alford-Carman

After music and writing, I have to confess that shopping is high on my list of things I enjoy with the exception of when I was fitted for a bra as discussed in my essay “My Cups Runneth Over.” Going to the grocery store becomes an adventure because I’m never sure of who I’ll meet or who I’ll talk to. I’ve had some of the most memorable conversations with complete strangers and sales clerks. Some of these moments are like little snippets of my life history -- like the time I bought diapers, a girl’s pair of shorts and Geritol from the local Wal-Mart, and the cashier and I wound up talking about how busy life is with children and how many different directions you can get pulled in, especially considering the vast age ranges between my two children.

One thing leads to another and you start to share, not just your circumstance, but sometimes even your innermost feelings. A lady was in front of me purchasing a black dress at the department store and it was evident that she was crying. I pressed a tissue in her hand and we wound up talking about the loss of her mother. Having lost my own Mama, we had an immediate connection, however brief, but just as powerful as some from a lifelong friend.

What does shopping do for you? Have you ever walked out of a store thinking it turned into more than you expected? Is shopping a social event for you? I think I’ll go shopping and see what happens today. Wanna come?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joy to the World - School Projects

So raise your hand if your child has a project due at school and you're trying to start thinking about the holidays...yep, timing really is everything. The essay, "Four Words to Ruin the Day" is basically my frustration over projects. First the disclaimer, I am all for education. Whew, now that I have that covered, here are a few holiday time project suggestions, and I'd love for each of you to add your own suggestions:

1 - Your child should demonstrate problem solving - have your child determine what your mother-in-law REALLY wants for Christmas.
2 - Your child should demonstrate creativity - have your child come up with a decent present for his/her mother. Points will be deducted if it has to be plugged in (unless a smart phone or MP3).
3 - Your child should demonstrate patterns and colors - have your child decorate the whole house in one day while singing carols...without developing new know the words your husband uses when stringing the lights.
4 - Your child should demonstrate organizational skills - have your child arrange family holiday visits across three states and several blended families. Anything less than ten complaints will receive a grade of A+.

Any others - just looking to help out the school system here...So what helpful holiday projects would you like to see assigned this season?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bullies - Words Do Hurt

I haven't been honest enough regarding bullying. I wrote "A Kind Place to Sit" as a way to pay tribute to the people who didn't bully. But the reverberations of being bullied can continue on through your life. I am a 50 year old wife and mother. I have a very satisfying home life with a great husband and typical teenage boys. We have a lovely home, and I have very close friendships. And yet, to this day, when I walk into a room full of women, I am scared. Now intellectually I know that if they dislike me or disapprove, they will resort to the slightly more civilized method of cold politeness, and simply not include me in their gatherings. But it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that they will not like me because I am too weird or anxious in their presence. Why am I that way? Because I was conditioned from a young age that I would be excluded, made fun of, even circled and teased. So like Pavlov's dog, I expect little and receive less. Being bullied is not something you easily recover from, and as one friend who was also bullied put it - even though I appreciate the adult I became, I can't help but feel that they took something from me. Did you experience bullying? Who terrorizes you? Has it impacted your life? Has it impacted your children's lives? And how do we stop the bullying and exclusion of others? Why do we find it so hard to accept each other as unique and wonderful in our own way?

Monday, November 8, 2010

One Flew out of the Cuckoo's Nest

In "Flying the Coop," I realized a few things…like I know how to move, but I don’t know how to stay. Like it’s a romantic’s choice to keep flying away. Like the result is that precious few things remain, and few things remain precious. Like riding off into the sunset can be fun, but you leave a lot behind.

This month’s Oxford American features an essay about suburban drain, and the word “solstagia” was coined, referring to our especially American lack of place, and our soul’s nostalgia for it. I can trace my wanderlust, which was really a craving for home, back to second grade when we moved from Connecticut to North Carolina, and I never felt part of. Funny thing is, Connecticut was not my family’s home; upstate New York was, and because of my lovely summers there, that’s where I longed for most of my life.

Have you moved a crazy amount of times, and how do you feel about it?
If you prefer staying in one place, why is that?
If you Goodwill and garage sale, what’s your best find?
For me, a purple can of paint is in hand every move. What’s in yours?
Do you live in a place with a sense of place?
Do you long for a certain place?
How can we create that feeling of being at home no matter where we happen to live?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Listless and Free

My latest column talked about the sabbatical my chronic list-making took ("The Surprising Sabbatical of My Lists"). The new routine of no-routine in summer caught me with my list down, and I reveled in it. The gift of a gift card also had its way with me, so my normal grocery list got thrown out the window. Along with my son out of school for summer, I also started a job that required I be gone half the time, which took up so much mental space that I forgot to list make (although I probably needed it more). Things were left undone, but I didn’t mind. Freedom from the list, listless, we enjoyed our free time.

Did summer stymie your to-do lists, or did they change in nature?
What was on your beach reading list? Really.
If you went from SAHM to working Mom, did your lists change?
Or, alternately, if you went from working Mom to SAHM, did they change?
What was on your summer vacation list?
Do your children make lists?
What in the world of Target would be on your list if you received a gift card?

On a completely random note, what do you think of the new ruling that 4-year-olds can now be sued, the little criminals?