Sunday, September 30, 2012

First Religious Lesson - Religion is Open to Interpretation

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Since my daughter is now attending public school, and no longer at a Catholic school, she is now enrolled in religious education once a week.  And since she brought home her CCD workbook, I thought, great, let's take a look together.  And it was very cool.  There was the "Here's the church and here's the steeple" finger play instructions, a place to color in a rainbow over Noah's Ark, and poems.  Let's read one now called "Hurt No Living Thing" by Christina Georgina Rossetti:


I am not alone in my crazed
quest.  I know exactly what this
stick figure is wielding in her
hands (it's a pheremone trap)
Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty... "Oh, dear"... wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

The "oh, dear" was my interjection.  See, ever since we bought an infested package of dates from the Indian emporium Patel Brothers, I've been waging an intense moth-extermination regime.  I bought pheremone traps and moth balls, Oxo containers that cost $17.99 (!!) a pop, and any time I see a larva or moth I make a big production out of killing it.  My battles with the moths are legendary, and are very well known by my daughter.  So, how does one reconcile insane anti-moth mommy with the lovely poem above and its moral message?

This is war!
So, we learned about the interpretive nature of religion right off the bat.  See, what they mean not hurting moths is, don't hurt the ones minding their own business.  But, I'm sure the author doesn't want moths eating all of her oat bran and popcorn, right?  Also, surely the author eats meat, so she didn't mention pigs and cows in that little ditty, did she?  And, another thing: plants are living, too, so does she not eat vegetables nor trample on grass?  Does she let termites eat her deck and mosquitos feast on her juicy thighs and so on?  So, yes, I sucked the magic right out of that poem, but hopefully not out of her religious education.  There are so many difficult topics to explain to young children regarding religion; I know as a child I hated the ambiguity and the downright contradictory nature of it, and I gave my poor mother a lot of grief doing my CCD lessons.  Any readers have any suggestions for avoiding trouble on this topic?



Friday, September 28, 2012

Cutting an Acrylic Circle - Reworking a Bentwood and Cane Table with Paint and Acrylic

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Hello, loyal readers.  I can't imagine my audience, since this blog has the same focus as its author: scattered.  A little miniatures, a bit of home improvement, some projects, and a lot of venting about teaching.  Please comment or like my blog so I can know what you're hear to read!
Thanks, Jean Kelleher for the
photo

Today, I bring you a project.  There is a once ubiquitous small side table made of curved wood, possible bamboo, with a caned top.  One day, probably close to a year ago, I found one in bad condition in the garbage on my way to work.  Here it is, looking forlorn and a hopeless wreck:




If it's not silver, it's pink.
The finished product. 
The sides are a bit dusty
So, of course, this project involves spray paint.  I chose pink.  But, finding a new top was the biggest part of this project.  Now, I spy quite a bit of plexiglass or acrylic or lucite or perspex - whichever name you use to refer to it - on my daily path.  It is sometimes a panel from a lighting fixture, or a window, or part of an old shelving unit.  In any case, I have a supply on hand.  I traced one of the wood circles onto the plexiglass and used a soldering iron (a hot knife would work as well) to cut it out.  Then, I used a pair of pliers to remove the melted plastic that hardened into a crust along the edge of the circle (shown in video below), and sanded the edges smooth.  For now, I just have the circle lying on top of the table, but perhaps someday I will attach it more firmly with a silicon bead.  The cost of this table was free, since everything I needed I already had on hand.  It is occupying a place of honor in my basement right now, and will soon be covered with random junk and toys.  Pretty stylish basement junk-holder, don't cha think?



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charters versus Democracy - They're Unamerican

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Once in a while, I come across an article that makes many points that I have been trying to make, usually written more articulately.  However, I was recently forwarded an article that discussed a thing I have never heard of, namely parent-trigger laws.  The article frames this quite falsely named "empowerment" rule in a review of the movie Won't Back Down.  Now, as a teacher, I am not impressed with any of the "earnest and dedicated teacher inspires hard luck kids to succeed despite push-back from teaching veterans" genre that too often is portrayed in films about teaching, which promote the idea that the only thing inner-city kids lack is good teachers that care and everything will be solved.  Poor children's problems cannot be erased by one good teacher.  This movie promises to be as unrealistic whilst simultaneously being dangerous, which is one of the reasons I plan to miss this one.

It's a movie, I get it.  It is "inspired" by actual events.  I remember when movies were "based" on actual events.  It's not meant to represent reality.  Having actually seen the film, Liza Featherstone points out the union-bashing that I fully expected.  But, more than that, she notes that the parent-trigger laws that the movie promotes as a form of empowerment are actually, in the long-run, disempowering.  These laws allow a school to be replaced with a charter if 50 percent of parents agree to it.  But charter schools are private, and not beholden to the public, the parents, nor the students.  They are motivated by moola.  And by choosing charters, the parents in the movie, and other parents exercising the trigger law, are disempowering themselves in the long-term.   In the end, Mrs. Featherstone writes, "the emotional experience of Won’t Back Down is, for the viewer, not unlike that of the best propaganda. As we cheer for [the main characters], we are rooting against ourselves, against our own capacity for self-governance."

What Are Your Next Steps? Putting Responsibility for Learning Completely on the Teacher

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Every year, teachers across the country are subjected to Quality Reviews (QR), Joint Intervention Team (JIT) and other highly subjective, political walkthroughs by an evaluator.  It is torturous for the educators involved.  The evaluators seem to relish making teachers squirm, asking them seemingly impossible questions.  One loop of questionning involved the early dismissal of Catholic students so they may attend religious education.  The visitors wanted to know what the teachers did with the remaining students.  Was it instruction, or just busy-work?  Oh, that's easy, of course we are doing instruction.  But, then, what about the kids who are not present, aren't they missing out on instruction?  This one is a little harder to answer, so let's say, no, it is enrichment work.  Aren't the absent students missing out on this enrichment work?  No, it's enrichment, it isn't crucial to their learning.  Uh-oh, so it's busy work?  The evaluator has you right where he wants you: you cannot win this.  It doesn't  matter that it is not the teacher's policy to allow certain students to leave class; teacher's are held responsible for everything nowadays. 

Last year, I was grilled by an evaluator about the "next steps" I take when a child doesn't understand a topic.  I have a parent phone call log a mile long, I post each child's progress on a website, and I break down lessons to a point where I need an atom-smasher to break them down any further.  I have students who don't do a blessed thing and their parents don't care.  None of this can be used as an answer to the "next steps" question.  If you answer that you use one-on-one help, the follow-up question is "what would your next steps be if the student still didn't understand the lesson?".  If you answer that you stay after school to tutor the student individually, the response would be "what would your next steps be if the student still didn't understand the lesson?"  If you reply that...; well, you get the idea.  As if teachers are not under attack enough, we are subjected to this excruciating verbal cruxifiction.

She is a true angel, however, even
her "next steps" didn't help Marcus.
And most teacherscannot take a
failing child into their home.
After this painful observation and interaction with the evaluator, I really did start to think of the "next steps", and it seems to me that the only possible answer that would stop the endless loop of the same question would be to adopt the child in question.  There are so many children with horrible home lives, and more than once I have envisioned bringing some into my life full-time, although I have never seriously pursued that.  Imagine my reaction, then, when watching the fantastic documentary on PBS's Frontline, "Dropout Nation", when one of the administrators of a "last chance" high school took a 17-year old who was arrested for dealing drugs into her own home.  This woman, Brandi Brevard, had three young children of her own.  She was counseling the student, Marcus, on strategies he could use to get to class (he lived one block from the school, so, hmmmm, an alarm clock?) and to stop using marijuana.  She would call him to wake him, went to pick him up in the mornings, and hunted high and low for him after he was released from jail, but this did not help him solve the problem.  So, for her, the "next steps" actually were adopting or at least feeding, clothing, caring and sheltering one of her charges.

How many last chances should we give
 Marcus?  At some point, shouldn't he have
to take responsibility for himself?
So, the happy ending to this program was that Marcus, the drug dealing student, kept the straight and narrow and graduated without incident, right?  Wrong.  Two hours before the end of school on the last day of classes, Marcus hit another student.  Mrs. Brevard told him on the phone, "You're done".  The program ended there, and it didn't ask what her "next steps" were.  But, earlier in the program, when two other students ended up dropping out after above-and-beyond care and understanding and life-skill coaching, the principal explained that some students don't "buy into" all that the school does for them.  And that is the problem: the students don't hold up their end of the bargain.  What's next?

I liked Marcus, just as I like all kids.  However, teachers cannot be held accountable for everything.  Young people make bad choices.  Some of them learn from these mistakes, such as the one student, Marco, featured on the program who did graduate.  Others blame everyone and everything else, and they keep making the same bad decisions.  Are educators supposed to assist every child that doesn't help him or herself?  Because, at some point, you have to say "enough is enough".  If I teach a lesson to the class as a whole, and some students choose to disrupt, distract and thwart me, should it be my problem to force them to learn?  Should I then take my time, time away from other students and my own family, to teach them one-on-one because they chose to not pay attention?  I say no.  Some kids fail.  We don't have an education crisis, we have a parenting crisis.  We have a responsibility crisis.  But I'll never tell the evaluators that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Importance of Modeling for Children and Students: Español de Maestra

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As a teacher, I understand the importance of modeling.  No, I don't mean the type of modeling that Tyra Banks does.  Kids learn primarily by copying.  That was underscored in my family when my husband honked the horn, and my then two-year old daughter reflexively responded with a crystal clear "Fucking asshole."  If you want your child to read, read yourself.  If you want your kid to have good table manners, model them. 

I am having a bit of difficulty, though, with the "delaying gratification" policy, which involves not catering to your child's every demand right away, with modeling.  Let me explain.  When my daughter asks me to see the surprise she has for me (and, usually, the surprise involves her coopting something of mine in an unintended, and unpleasant, usage), I usually tell her that I will be with her in a minute, because I am in the middle of something.  But, then, when I ask her to, say, brush her teeth or get dressed, she tells me to "wait".  Hmmm.  This seems like a no-win scenario.  I don't want her to think my purpose on earth is to serve her every whim, but she turns the tables on me and makes me wait!!!

Gandhi was famously approached by a mother who wanted him to speak to her child about avoiding sweets.  He agreed, but instead of telling him to not eat sugar, he asked the youth to return in a few days.  When the child returned, it was only then that Gandhi asked the youngster to refrain from eating so many sweets.  The mother, confused, asked the Great One why he didn't just ask the child to avoid sweets the first time; why did they have to return in order for him to ask her son to refrain from snacking?  He replied that, when he was first asked to tell the child to curb his sweet-tooth, Gandhi was still enjoying confections himself.  "I could not ask him to stop eating sweets so long as I had not stopped eating sweets".

And, so it is with parents.  If you have bad habits, your children will imitate.  The old "do as I say, not as I do" line never worked, and never will.

I'm pretty sure my
Spanish comes across
 something like this
 care tag
One of my main goals in the classroom is getting students to try.  If math is not their forte, that's okay; If they try it, eventually they will become better.  And, so, I model that with my Spanish.  Most of my pupil's parents speak Spanish and no English, so if I am to communicate with them, unfortunately it is me who has to attempt to speak another language.  The fact that this is true is, of course, not new to anyone, but it does highlight one of the problem those parents have stressing the importance of education if they themselves haven't bothered to learn the basics of the language of this country.  So, I end up stumbling my way through my "español de maestra".  Am I fluent?  No.  Do I sound ridiculous?  Yes.  But am I trying?  Yes, and my Spanish is slowly improving, despite many, many silly mistakes.  I can never remember that "antes" is before and "despues" is after.  I have once told a parent that there is homework every god: "dias" and "Dios" are awfully similiar.  And, just today, I told a parent that the signature was "borracho" instead of "borrado".  The latter means "erased"; the former is "drunk".  Oh, yes, my students enjoy hearing me mangle the language.  But, like Gandhi, if I am to ask my students to try something that they are not good at, I have to do the same.

Fixing Worn-Out Shoes with Glitter

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So, what does one do when their favorite pair of shoes becomes banged up and run down?  For me, I love the heel and the wearability of my Gabriella Rocha Mary Janes.  But, since they were my "go-to" shoe, they suffered the wear-and-tear of a child's pair of sneakers.  My pair of dress shoes had suffered rips in the patent leather, as well as wearing of the finish on the buttons and heel (especially the left, driving foot), and were looking generally shabby.  Time to toss them, right? 
On the left is the torn up, original finish.  On
the right, the sanded surface.
Of course not.  It's time to glitterize.  First, if you have a patent leather shoe, you cannot paint or glue anything onto the surface, since it is shiny and slick.  So take a fine- to medium-grit sandpaper to the finish, as I did on the shoe to the right on the picture to the left.  Next, modge podge it, baby, and then throw on the glitter!  When it is completely covered in glitter, seal it with a clear topcoat.  Good as new!!!


New, improved shoes!
A few warnings: the glitter version will be stiffer than the original pair, so you might want to ease into wearing them post-glitter.  And, second, glitter finds its way everywhere, so you might want to complete the bulk of this process outside!  Even after you seal the shoes, glitter does come off, so keep that in mind.

I love the shape and silouhette of my Mary Janes, and, although I prefer the patent look, I am glad that I can still get some wear out of them.  And, what could be fancier than glittery-tootsies? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Latest Hair-Brained Project Preview

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I have many, many math manipulatives, which I acquire primarily through the trash.  At the end and beginning of every school year, as teachers are forced to change rooms, many teachers throw away things that are not useful to themselves.  For instance, in something I consider almost a crime, I tossed many books that I used last year for independent reading.  This year, my room is a fraction of the size of my room last year (literally a fraction, and smaller than a third) and I do not have the space to keep them.  That, and, as many of you remember from this blog, the students did not exactly take the best care of them.  In any case, last year, I saw a social studies teacher throwing away some math manipulatives, and when I said I was going to pull them from the trash, he showed me two entire closets of manipulatives that he was going to dispose of next.  Well, I got out my handy little cart (that I also took from the garbage), and I hauled those things out of there. 

I took the blocks to
make something akin
to this.
So, one of the things I gained from this instance of good-timing was many, many, many wooden cubes.  They are provided in a kit, and since I have snap cubes, which, in contrast to the kit blocks, stay together when the students are building rectangular prisms, I do not use the wooden blocks.  But, never fear, I of course had a plan for the rejects.  The idea originally involved building a mono-chromatic version of something along the lines of the picture to the left, but when I wanted to show my daughter my vision, I googled "block art".  Well, let me tell you, there is a whole host of new ways I can take this.  Below, I've posted some of my inspirational pieces.  A quart or two of wood glue, some graph paper templates, a spray or two of paint, and a lot of time and patience, and my latest masterpiece shall be revealed.  These projects keep me sane, I swear.  Some could argue that they keep me just on the safe side of the cuckoo dividing line.  Without my cockamamie schemes, life would be dreary and monotonous.  So, now I'm excited!

Friday, September 14, 2012

How Many Mies Gieps are Out There? - The New Educational Gestapo

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She was fortunate that one of the
arresting officers was from her
hometown, otherwise, Mies Giep
could have faced a concentration
camp for helping the Frank family.
When I was 19 years old, I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.  Since then, I have often wondered what would I do if I faced danger in order to help someone survive.  I know I'd like to say I'd risk my life to help others, but, having thankfully never been in that difficult position, with very real concerns about my own family's well-being, I cannot say for sure. And, let's be honest, many people do far less for others under far less treacherous conditions.  There were very, very few Mies Gieps in Nazi-occupied Europe, afterall. 

I would never compare my plight to that of the young, frightened Anne Frank, but have been thinking a lot about the reign of terror waged on our country's educators and teacher's different strategies for self-preservation, and there are similarities between it and the tactics of the Staatspolizei.  People who do not accept the brainwashing are deemed traitors, and those in power are on the lookout for the disloyal.  If you question the propaganda, you will be terminated (very close to exterminated).  No ideological subversion is permitted.  People are scared, if not for their lives, at least for their livelihoods.  Teachers look around or close doors before speaking, speak in code, mistrust everyone, and generally live in fear.  Before you know it, we will be meeting in obscured alleys wearing trenchcoats and fedoras.  The atmosphere is toxic, and it is an intentional campaign from the top and their lackeys.  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that those in power, our politicians, are slowly brainwashing our citizens into behaving in ways that suits their means. 

A former KGB espionage expert, Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, describes the four steps the USSR employed to socially engineer a people with "active measures", so that, despite a preponderance of evidence, people can no longer reach reasonable conclusions.  First, demoralize the populace, which he estimates to take 10-15 years, or the amount of time it takes to educate a generation.  Of special interest to me is his mention of the students' "soft heads" and lack of moral principles.  The next step is destabilization, which takes 2-5 years, in which you work on the essentials such as foreign relations, defense, and economy.  After that, crisis, which up to 6 weeks, and finally, after a "violent restructuring of power structure and economy", you have the cynically named "normalization". 

To make an analogy with the current state of education is not at all difficult.  The easiest corrolation is, of course, demoralization and "soft heads"; I see these first hand every day in and out of the classroom.  And, even educated people who do not work in a classroom believe the lies that the education "reformers" spout, despite an avalanche of evidence that charters don't work and punitive measures against teachers cannot erase a child's history of neglect and poverty.  Second, addressing the destablization, well, our weak economy needs no explanation.  Have we yet reached a crisis?  In my mind, yes, but we are not yet at normalization.

I have noticed that teachers are a paranoid lot.  They are constantly worrying about what they say and to whom.  They will tell you who they trust, and who goes ratting people out.  And the teachers who are chosen for persecution, many will avoid them.  You do not want to be seen with them, for fear that the administration may see you as commiserating and fomenting dissent. 

Which brings me back to Mies Giep.  It is impossible to know anything until you are faced with the scenario.  So, please, those who blame teachers for all of society's ills, until you have walked a mile in my shoes, do not judge me or my colleagues.  And, unlike the Frank family hiders, I try to curry favor with the powerful, and hesitate to align with the unfavored, and I am not proud of it.  But, at least I am not a hypocrite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Strikes on Decline - The Chicago Teacher Strike

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It is big news, the Chicago teacher strike.  There were times when strikes did not garner national attention.  Part of the reason for the story gaining such coverage may be due to the fact the strike is in Chicago, our nation's third largest city, and not in the 70-student strong Mitchell School district in rural North Central Oregon.  But, even so, teacher strikes are becoming rarer, and I think this contributes to the press coverage this event is receiving. 

You just don't see this anymore, and I'm not
talking about afros, beards, and reverse stitch
leisure wear
When I was a child, in the 1970's, teacher's strikes were a constant threat (if you were a parent; if you were a child they were a frequent tease).  Today, it is rare if you hear of a strike occurring.  When I lived in Paris in the 1990's, there were so many strikes that I remember a nurses' protest joining up with a theatre performers group on the Boulevard Raspail.  And, the day I left Paris, there was a baggage handlers strike, so I had to schlep my own bags, which I gladly did in the name of workers' rights (and I HATE schlepping baggage).  On many occasions, the RER, the Réseau Express Régional, or public transportation, would strike and everyone had to walk, which was like a bit of an adventure for me, with all the Parisians on the street.  It had become the norm for me again to experience strikes.  Since I returned to the U.S., I have not once been "inconvenienced" by strikes.  Can you think of one time that you were?  I hope they still "fait la grève" in Paris. 

First the strike, then the revolution, then change
Strikes and strikers are not evil.  Some people who advocated for and organized strikes include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and César Chávez, and our own country's rebels protesting British rule.  They are a powerful tool for change and keep the majority from becoming serfs for the ultra-rich.  Teachers should be respected, and the American people should support the Chicago teachers' strike.  Frederick Douglass famously said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” and also "Without a struggle, there can be no progress".  In other words, we won't get anything without asking, and even then not.  Strikes keeps the power differential, if never truly balanced, at least not in the territory of master and slave.  If that is unAmerican, well, then, I guess I should retake my civics classes, because I thought it was. 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Reasons Kids Should Not Rush into Adulthood

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Your parents won't let you stay up late, they don't like your friends, they don't want you texting, they won't let you wear THAT.  God, they're so mean!  It would be great if you were living away from them, then you could do whatever you want.

But, once you are an adult, you can't switch back.  Maybe the fact that you do get to text at all, and that you didn't have to earn the money for the thing they won't let you wear will look like a pretty sweet deal once you get a taste of adult life.  Kids, don't rush being an adult.  Sex, drugs, baby mama drama: there will be plenty of that for the rest of your life.  Enjoy doing kid things.  Play with dolls, play dress up, play house, but for God's sake, don't have kids, dress slutty, or move out on your own until you are educated and employed.

Some reasons that adulthood sucks:

The image of him with scissors up his
nose was deemed less adorable
Hair:  Yes, men and women shave.  But, boys, you should know that you also will be fighting a nose, ear and eyebrow expansion the likes of which you can only imagine.  And girls, there is no end to the places that you will need a hair removal regime.  Eyebrows, underarm and legs are obvious, but other areas of concern include your chin, toes, bikini area, sideburns, your upper lip, the area beneath your belly button, nipples, and depending on your ethnicity anywhere you have a mole, or your arms.

And then there's math, often accompanied by legalese.  Oh, if you think you do too much math now, just wait until you start learning about call margins, mortgage points, APR's, tax brackets and overdrafts.  It may all be mumbo-jumbo to you, but I assure you it's all as mind-numbingly dull while still as dazzlingly complicated as it sounds.  And it is all integral to being an adult.

Smells: from your underarms, from your mouth, from your feet, from your privates.  Adults are not as naturally fresh as kids.  Also, if you, and by this I actually mean you, kiddo, don't take out the garbage, clean up from dinner, scrub the tub, do the laundry, swab the toilet, change the linens, mop the floor, rake the leaves, snake the sink, inventory the refrigerator, and a host of other menial tasks that you think is beneath you right now, well, you'll have a host of other smells as well, none of them good.

Sex: okay, this is a good part of adulthood.  But, there are consequences to sex.  I know you think you have heard it all: disease, unwanted pregnancies, a bad reputation.  The least of these troubles is a bad reputation, but once you get that, you'll be a pariah with the goody-goodies, and your new friends will be all be part of the bad crowd, and the bad crowd has sex, so it won't be long before the other two consequences happen to you.  And I'm sure you think I'm wrong and that it won't happen to you.  It will.  Steer clear of random sex, and be very carefully with whom and how you fornicate.

This is less glamorous when you have to
do it yourself everyday at 5:15 a.m.
Which brings us to babies.  Girls, especially those from homes where there is not enough love, are usually in a rush to start their own families.  The cute little babies will love you unconditionally, or at least that's what you think.  You won't be at all like your parents!  And, how precious are infants?  You cannot wait to have one.  Well, wait.  For the love of God, wait.  First of all, there will always be drama with the father.  Always.  Second of all, babies are outrageously expensive, and require 24 hour care.  Babies don't take holidays.  You will broke and isolated and sleep deprived.  That is the reality.  And, finishing your education will be difficult, if not impossible, so your child will not attend a good school (because that takes cash, or political connections), and your child will meet the wrong types, and your child will hate you.  Sooner than you think.  They grow up so fast, and they get attitudes even faster.  And, you will be exactly like your parents, and you will understand.  And they will refrain from telling you "I told you so", because they love you. 


So, children, enjoy being a child.  It will end all to soon, and you will look back on it as the best part of your life.  Yes, that is correct.  Your life is as good now as it will ever be.  Trust me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

On the Eve of Kindergarten - An Ode to My Little Girl

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Baby of mine, this week you start kindergarten and officially become a kid.  No longer a baby, toddler or preschooler, you are now a "big kid", the next stage is tweendom.  I write this today as your mother, your biggest admirerer, and your greatest fan.  Little girl, may you someday know the joy you brought me when I learned I was about to have a baby; may you face the fear and eventual pride of childbirth.  I know you will be strong in those first days as a new mother, and you will know what it is to love too much a small part of you, fragile yet resiliant. 

You were always in ahead of your time.  Your father and I were not together very long when I became pregnant, and you arrived five weeks before your due date.  You always spoke clearly, you behaved so maturely, and were so tall that very few people believed us when we would tell them your actual age.  You always possessed an ability to reason, and you already read fluently and have a vocabulary of a high schooler.  Part of the reason that you are an only child is that we know that any sibling of yours would never measure up, because you are perfect; however, it saddens me greatly to not be able to give you a sister or brother.  You are kind, you are enthusiastic, and you bring smiles to all who meet you, but especially me.  Your whole demeanor is so lovely and innocent that I cannot help but smile at everything you say and do.

I would freeze you in time, but then I wouldn't get

to experience the joys you hold for me next.
Today, only five years old, you have such a wonderful future in front of you.  Laura, you can be whatever you want to be.  See the world, enjoy life, and learn always.  The world is a beautiful and wonderful place, with so many interesting people, places and ideas.  You have made me so proud, little lady.  You have been a wonderful child and you have exceeded my hopes.  You are my shining star.  I love you!  Mom.
 

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