Showing posts with label school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label school. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A syllabus for summer vacations to remember



This "Because I Said So" column first ran in The Commercial Appeal on May 26, 2011.
A syllabus for summer vacations to remember 
Another school year has come to an end. If yours was anything like ours, the year was one of ups and downs, overall good grades, some conduct issues, large and involved projects and plenty of homework.  
School days are, by necessity, rigid in their schedules and run smoothly because of their rules.

Summer days are not.

So, to my kids, and to yours if you wish, I give you your summer syllabus.

First, take your school pants, the ones with the knees that are frayed and worn thin, and rip the legs off there at those knees. This is your summer uniform.

Next, go outside and stay there until called in. And then complain that the day is over. Catch fireflies. Explore the woods. Build a fort. Tear it down and build another. Spend an entire day reading comic books. Have your fill of snow cones. Learn the names of the birds in your backyard. Drink from a hose. Track down kids in your neighborhood and get to know them. Read "Tarzan, the Ape Man" beneath your largest tree. Spread wildflower seeds around your neighborhood. Build a sand castle. Laugh at the tide the next day when that castle is gone. Build a kite. Fly a kite. Use chalk to make a sidewalk mural an entire block long. Go barefoot. Everywhere. Learn new songs and sing them. Draw a picture of your house every day and color it a different color each time. Camp in your backyard. Write a story. Write a poem. Plant a garden. Wash your neighbor's car. Go whole days without putting a shirt on. Play in the rain. Shoot 20 baskets in a row. Eat new foods on a blanket on the lawn. Drink lots of lemonade. Make your own popsicles. Eat a popsicle for breakfast. Read your parents' old encyclopedias; they were the first Google. Conduct a census of the squirrels. Climb trees. Oil a baseball mitt. Dig a hole. Read the funny papers. Watch a Marx Brothers film. Forget where you put your video game. Roast marshmallows. Count the stars. Lie in the grass and listen to the cicadas; you'll be adults the next time they sound like that. Make mud pies. Operate a lemonade stand. Nap in a hammock. Run through a sprinkler. Visit the zoo. Stay up all night and watch the sunrise. Tell ghost stories. Build a birdhouse. Ride your bike farther than you ever have before. Swing on a rope. Find some shade.

I understand the concern for lazy children and the fear that the Chinese or Canadians or whatever group is currently overtaking us in math and science scores will be studying these next two months. But maybe we as parents can go this summer without thinking of us vs. them. Maybe we can look at these long summer days through the eyes of our children and remember just how quickly it all slips away.

Kids, soak up these days, and be sure that at the end of the season, when you're back in your desks and your teacher asks, "What did you do for summer vacation?" you can answer honestly, "Everything."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Because I Said So: I want a second chance to be a band geek

I like that geeks have taken that word - geek - and empowered it. It has come to be synonymous with "aficionado" or "expert" or "enthusiast." It's become a term spoken with pride. Middle and high school students who put all they have into practicing their instruments and honing their skills have everything to be proud of, from the time spent alone in their rooms with a folder of sheet music to the rousing concerts they put on for friends and family.

I didn't realize this when I was a student at Kirby High School. I had friends who were in the band - Chris, Carl, Rich, Jo Lynne, among others - but I thought of it as just another class they took; a foreign language I could never hope to test well in. It wasn't until my oldest son picked up the alto saxophone, later making the switch to baritone sax, and his brother took up the clarinet, that I understood what goes into being in the band. There is class during the day, then practice after school, then practice here at home. There are shows to prepare for, All-West to obsess over, and smaller ensembles playing around town. I was impressed.

At a concert at White Station High School last year, the jazz ensemble played and it was amazing. I'm a jazz fan and it's rare that you get to hear it played live. Even at such a novice level, the music sounded full and the players were having fun. It gave me the idea for a story I pitched to Memphis Magazine on jazz in Memphis which should be in the June 2013 issue.

While researching that story, I came across the story of Manassas High School and its rich tradition. It's where so many artists - Jimmie Lunceford, George Coleman, Charles Lloyd - got their start in music, and middle and high school is where many musicians first pick up an instrument. It's just that important. The school band room, marching field and auditorium are where students find their confidence and their voice, their passions and, for some, a career. They learn teamwork and responsibility, the importance of practice and the rewards of effort.

This week's Because I Said So column champions the geek. I only wish I'd understood more of their language when I was in school.

Wanted: a second chance to be a band geek 
The story was all over my social media feeds last week. The principal of a low-performing school in Roxbury, Mass., let his security staff go to help pay for more arts teachers. It was another of those stories I ignored at the time, knowing that if I found I was interested in reading it later, then it would be there; stories have a way of circling around and coming back to us. And this one did just that as I sat in the audience twice in the past week for my sons’ band concerts at White Station Middle and High Schools. It’s the type of setting where a story on the importance of funding arts programs in schools might be set to the music of Gershwin. 
If you’ve never been to a concert at that level, it is nothing less than extraordinary. I wasn’t in the band in high school. Band geeks, that’s who was in the band. It turns out there is no shame in that. Just the opposite: It’s a moniker worn with pride. There may be no other instance of students working so closely together with their teachers than in a school auditorium as they give a performance everything they’ve got. They all have a stake in it. They’re all trying to make this thing — this arrangement — sound as whole and as perfect as possible. To do such a thing takes more than mere talent: It takes teamwork. 
Many of the professional musicians I know all came to their instruments through their secondary schools’ band programs. How many adults today do you know who can show a direct line from middle school to their careers? The conductors on stage this past week — Mr. Wright, Mr. Guinn and Mr. Scott — are the Pied Pipers of our children, leading them into something that, even if they don’t make a job of it, they will use in some way or other their entire lives. 
In a recent conversation, Dru Davison, performing arts coordinator with Memphis City Schools, hit on the ability of music to facilitate all learning when he spoke of the many jazz ensembles in the schools and the art of improvisation. 
“You can recite someone else’s piece of music, or you can take everything you know about music and create your own, and that kind of creativity and innovation is really what employers are looking for,” Davison told me. “It’s about being college- and career-ready, and if you have kids in a jazz band, you know that they’re showing up on time for every rehearsal or else they can’t perform.” 
That school in Roxbury, Orchard Gardens Elementary, has shown a vast improvement in its test scores, in its morale and in its security issues even without the aid of a police force. They’re working as a team now — students, teachers, administration — to make their arrangement the best that it can be. 
If I had it all to do over again, would I be a band geek? You bet I would. I would be awful, mind you, but I would try my hand at the saxophone or the clarinet or maybe even the tuba. In lieu of talent, I sit in the audience as a music lover. 
I’m a proud parent of public schoolchildren, and I’m with the band.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Because I Said So: Teach kids to enjoy city with family

The kids' spring break was a couple of weeks ago and I had big plans. I was going to get on a plane by myself and fly to Antigua where I would charter a sailboat and wend my way down through the Caribbean. Those plans didn't pan out - didn't even make it out of my head - so I opted for a "staycation" instead. I loathe that word, but there it is. I hate it almost as much as the word "blog," yet stay we did. And we cationed, I suppose. And now, I blog.

G & S dig Isaac Hayes' ride
My plan was to see the city, to introduce the kids to where they live, from what they are molded and what it is they should cherish. I wanted to see Sun Studio and the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Botanic Gardens and the Mississippi River itself. I wanted to stroll around the grounds of the Dixon Gallery & Gardens and maybe watch the ducks march at the Peabody Hotel. I wanted soul food from the Four-Way Restaurant.

Fate, however, conspired against us. There was some sickness and days of rain and cold. And, all of these things are quite expensive to do, so we had to be choosey. We visited the Stax Museum of American Soul and had lunch at Dino's Grill, now celebrating their 40th year in business (congratulations!). There was a chalk festival at the Brooks Museum of Art, and some time at the Memphis Zoo.

It was a nice week without much structure as is our wont. And there was plenty to learn, and to relearn, about the city and all it has to offer, from music to food to friends and family. Everyone everywhere, given the chance, should get on a plane sometime and head to the islands and, if you can't do that, then get out in your city and explore. You never know what you might learn.

Last week's Because I Said So column:

Teach kids to enjoy city with family

The week before last, for about half a week, it was springtime in Memphis. Remember that? Temperatures in the 70s, sunshine, the
saucer magnolia in my front yard even dared to show its colors. Luckily for my kids, that was during their spring break, and we took full advantage of it.

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art held a chalk art festival with folks creating their own works of art on the plaza in front of the museum. Kids got into the act as well and turned the concrete into a rainbow of butterflies, puppies, squiggly lines and shapes. It looked as if spring had fallen upon Midtown alone and blossomed in chalk dust.

From there, it’s only a hop and a skip to the Memphis Zoo. A short trip unless it’s 70, sunny and spring break. The line of cars waiting to get in snaked through the park and down Poplar. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to see the snakes. Or, more accurately, they wanted to touch a stingray. We never did make it into that exhibit; the lines there were too overwhelming for impatient children (and adults). We’ll make a special trip for the rays.

The highlight of the week for me was a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum is a treasure trove of soul, blues, styles and grooves. My kids laughed at Isaac Hayes’ hats and boots; they dug his car with its fuzzy floor and gold detail. They swayed and strutted on the dancefloor in front of a floor-to-ceiling episode of “Soul Train,” and they marveled at the display of black Frisbees. “Those are records,” I explained.

My favorite part is the short film shown at the beginning of every visit. I’ve seen it before, and it never fails to bring a lump to the throat. Stax, in its heyday, rode a wave of hits, fame, funk and, most inspirational, family. Steve Cropper, legendary guitarist for Booker T. & the MG’s, says in the film that when you walked into Stax, you were family. Color did not matter. Until it did. When things turned after that tragic April 4 in 1968, a day we’ll commemorate next week, neither Stax nor the city of Memphis would ever be the same.

In the 10 years since the museum opened, though, that tide has turned again. I saw it two weeks ago in a museum where black and white, young and old, all studied the rise and fall of a great American sound. We laughed at the size of the collars, wiped a tear at the story of a plane crash and danced to the same beat. In a park across town on another day, my kids sidled up to others from throughout the city to revel in color. At our world-class zoo, where there was once a day of the week set aside for black-only visitors, multitudes of all ethnicities wandered.

Last week saw the official first day of spring, though the predicted snow the following day said otherwise. Either way, the long winter hibernation is over. It’s time to get out and visit your city, wherever you live; learn what it holds, its history good and bad, and enjoy time with family that you know, and that you have yet to meet.
© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Because I Said So: Good deeds can help get us through tragic times

I wrote yesterday's Because I Said So column one week ago today. I had in my head a silly idea where I would come to the defense of Christmas carols, those ditties that become stuck in our heads from Halloween until sometime in early March. I love them, but I know there are others who avoid them at all costs. It's a shame, many of them are good, simple songs with a common denominator and nostalgic flavor we can all take comfort in. My hope was to make you laugh, a little Christmas gift from me to you. When the news started rolling in about the violence in Newton, CT, though, I lost my taste for funny. As the numbers climbed, I lost my voice for singing. I walked up the street that day to meet my kids after school and seeing them walk towards me was like hearing those first few bars of Nat Cole singing "The Christmas Song." It lifted me up, but only for a time, there were too many parents - both in Newton and around the country - grieving. So I sat down and wrote this version in about five minutes, it just poured out of me like a song.

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth.

Helping out can allow us to reclaim holiday spirit
This being the last column before Christmas, I had this funny little bit planned, in the defense of Christmas carols, that much maligned music genre that pops up earlier and earlier each year.

I walk my kids to school in the mornings, and during this, the most wonderful time of the year, we sing on the way there. My youngest daughter has been leading the caroling lately with favorites "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "O Hanukkah" from her school's holiday program.

The column was going to be funny and light and possibly a little off key.

And then last Friday, after walking and singing them to school, I went on the Internet to learn that two Memphis police officers had been shot and that one, Martoiya Lang, a mother of four, had died. About the same time, news started coming in about a school shooting in Connecticut that would eventually leave 26 dead, including 20 children.

All of the funny went out of me. All of the music left my voice. What was left was a void and the indescribable urge to see my children, so that I practically ran up to the school at the end of the day.

The acts, of course, are senseless. The fact that they were perpetrated on a mother of four, on the children of so many, is unforgivable. It throws a pall on the most wonderful time of the year, doesn't it?

That day, though, my kids hadn't heard the news. We walked home, and while one daughter prattled on about her class' Christmas party, I heard my 6-year-old, bringing up the rear, singing "Silent Night."

Silent night, holy night.

Mister Rogers, everyone's neighbor, once said that when the news was scary, his mother told him to "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping," and urged us to tell our children the same. And we have, my generation, through Columbine and 9/11 and Virginia Tech and every other unthinkable tragedy that comes to us within seconds through today's technology.

As adults now, and parents, we shouldn't just look for helpers, but we must also be the helpers. There are people in our community who need help, whether from a sudden, inconceivable act of violence, or through a long season of neglect. This is the time to begin helping, during this most wonderful time of the year.

All is calm, all is bright.

If your child is safe at home today as mine are, sitting on the floor beside the tree in anticipation of next Tuesday, watching SpongeBob, eating a Pop-Tart, making a mess, all of the things I make light of here in this space, be thankful and be gracious. Hold them tightly, and do your best to put that music back into their lives.

As I write this, news is still pouring in fast and furious, and things could change, though not necessarily for the better. More bad could happen between now and the day this runs.

But also a lot of good could happen. That's up to you, and it's up to me.

Sleep in heavenly peace, and Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Because I Said So: Blood pressure numbers go up with math homework



A couple of years ago I started going for regular checkups with our family doctor. There, among a maze of beige hallways, waiting rooms, exam rooms and bathrooms, various fluids are extracted, body parts are handled and questions are asked. It's like some sort of safe and sterile torture chamber with a copay.

That said, I'd rather go through having blood drawn and urinate in a cup once a day rather than deal with homework time around this house. There are some kids who take to it easily and urgently, almost aggressively. And then there are others who need ... prodding. The first graders at Richland Elementary School are given a packet of homework to be completed by week's end. That makes for a busy Thursday evening. The idea, of course, is to do a little each night, but a little each night would, indeed, cause my blood pressure to skyrocket dangerously.

She's a smart little girl, my first grader, and Procrastination is her favorite subject. It's difficult for me to be too upset by this, however, because the idea for today's Because I Said So column on the misery that is first-grade homework, came to me as I begrudgingly sat down to write the column at the last minute.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing for a living. It's just that I hate writing for a living. Eudora Welty said, "I like to have written." Being finished with writing is the greatest feeling in the world as is, I'm sure, being finished with homework. The trick is to get to that point, to pull yourself (and your first-grader ... or third-grader ... or sixth-grader) up over that mountain of textbooks, worksheets, pencil shavings and projects, to the other side. That's the side where serenity lives, the side where my blood pressure dips down to a normal, healthy measure.

Please enjoy this week's Because I Said So column:
The hardest thing about kids: Math homework
A word to the wise today for new parents out there: Take your eyes off your sleeping baby just long enough to read this column. She'll be fine; they rarely up and roll out of a crib or burst into flames. And she'll still be just as precious when you return,
What you should know is that there is a time coming that will make you forget who that sparkling newborn come forth to brighten your lives ever was. My fellow veteran parents know what it is and I apologize now for any post-traumatic stress you may suffer when I tell these new mothers about the mother of all headaches: a first-grader's homework.

Is there anything more dispiriting, more threatening to our blood pressure, than sitting at the dining room table trying to induce a 6-year-old to focus — please focus! — on this next math problem? The induction of labor might be a more pleasant experience.

Walking? Piece of cake. Talking? It's only natural (though be aware that once it starts, it will not stop). Learning to ride a bike? The worst you might end up with is a broken bone, and it won't be yours. Even the teens and puberty, driver's license and prom have nothing on that half-hour … hour? … You'll lose all track of time trying to teach your child about time.

The table, normally the site of tranquil family dinners, becomes a battleground, the only weapons a stubby pencil, wrinkled worksheet and a fleeting grasp of the most basic in mathematic fundamentals. I point, again, at the problem at hand and read it aloud to my daughter. She's there with me, physically, but her mind is across the house with her siblings, or in a pineapple under the sea.

When I finish reading, she looks up as though surprised to find me there, and then she answers: "Four?" No. "Eight?" No. "Three." An exasperated look. "Two. Twelve. Four?" When it becomes too much, when the intensity over these integers becomes more than I can bear, the answer is, at long last, shouted: "Five! It's five!"

And then we both just sit and stare at each other because, once again, it's I who blurted it out.

Our homework session ends when I stand to leave the room as she writes an "S" in the wrong blank.

I love my daughter. Perhaps I don't say that enough in this space. I love all of my children just as much as you new parents cherish that ball of drool and gas sleeping in its crib beside you (I know you haven't even left the nursery), but this one might not be cut out for academics. She's more Frankenstein than Einstein these days.

But we're working on it together, and throughout first grade I expect her grades to rise as steadily and as high as my systolic pressure.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Because I Said So: Grade-school lunchtime a real eye-opener for dad



While dropping G off this morning, I was called out by the principal of Richland Elementary School because of today's "Because I Said So" column. It seems she began the day with phone calls about it. I wrote about having lunch with G in their cafeteria last week - the smells, the food, the ominous silence.

Mrs. McNary took it all in the manner it was intended, laughing along with my desperate attempts at humor, but she also wanted to explain. Richland was built in 1957 by the progressive architect team of Bill Mann and Roy Harrover in a style that must have looked as futuristic then as TV dinners. Mann and Harrover were also responsible for the Memphis International Airport and Memphis College of Art among other well-known buildings. As contemporary and cutting edge as the school certainly was 55 years ago, things change. I don't know if the walls, floor and ceiling of the cafeteria became more acoustically cantankerous or if children have become louder since then, but Mrs. McNary told me this morning that a parent once took a decibel meter into a lunch and the needle was off the charts. They had an architect come in to study it for possible sound dampening measures and were told that it would cost close to $100,000. In lieu of spending that kind of cash, they opted for making half the lunch period silent.

This seems reasonable. I'm sure there is concern for the children's hearing long term and we've all been to too-noisy restaurants, that's never a pleasant dining option. G told me that day that they weren't allowed to talk while they eat because they might choke and I laughed out loud at the reasoning (I was shushed). A certain amount of control needs to be had at all times to prevent chaos and, I'm sure, once it gets beyond a certain point, there is no returning to normalcy.

The kids seemed happy and ate well in their antique/futuristic school, and that's what is ultimately important. I had a good time at lunch with G and her friends. Kids are funny in groups and for a limited amount of time. I hope you will find a quiet place to sit and enjoy today's column.

Grade-school lunchtime a real eye-opener for dad
I had a lunch date with my youngest child at her school last week. She was Star of the Week for her first-grade class, an exalted position that affords her, along with acting as emcee of her own daily show-and-tell, the honor of eating in front of me.

It's an interesting thing, sitting with a table full of 6-year-olds. I recommend you all try it at least once. One time should just about do it.
Walking into an elementary school lunchroom, for me, is like walking through a portal back to my youth, such is the power of the sense of smell to memory. It's that mixture of food smell with feet smell; that oddly comforting yet nauseating scent that is anything but appetizing. Lack of appetite was not a problem as it was only 10:15 a.m., lunchtime for Memphis City Schools.

Also not a problem because these kids were not sharing. The lunch box buffet laid out in front of me offered a tempting, yet off-limits feast of lunch meats, tubes of yogurt, grapes, cookies, cheese sticks, potato chips, mayonnaise, apple slices, crackers and juice boxes; I provided my own hand sanitizer.

The first-grade students were required to eat in total silence for the first half of the allotted lunch period, a policy I'm not on board with. Lunch should be the one place, after recess, when kids are allowed to socialize and laugh and cut up with each other. I understand the need for control of small children; I have four of my own. Without control there is chaos and possible mutiny, but I found the apron-clad wardens walking the line to be a bit much.

The kids I ate with last week were a chatty bunch, too. When, at the halfway point they were released from their shackles of shushes, we discussed summer vacation plans, loose teeth, tofurkey, big sisters, throwing up and middle names.
I asked the kids around me if they ever trade lunches the way I used to.

"We're not allowed to," my daughter said. "We'll get moved to another table."

What we have in the lunchrooms of local elementary schools is a failure to communicate, and solitary confinement is the preferred deterrent. It seems that a lunch spent in the box for these tiny Cool Hand Lukes is what keeps the room quiet.

"But only if we're caught," piped up one of her friends who shall remain nameless, but who will surely be at my table for our next lunch date.

Such hushed hegemony isn't exclusive to Richland Elementary, where I dined last week. It was the same scene when our kids were at Downtown Elementary several years ago. I'm not sure whether it's a Memphis City Schools policy or a practice the principals share at their regular district meetings. I picture them sitting around an enormous conference table, bottles of ibuprofen in front of them, popping them like Chiclets and sharing trade secrets for ways to infuse their schools with sweet, sweet silence.

Can we blame them? I just described the post-bedtime ritual at my house, and possibly yours, assuming you're also washing down the Advil with a glass of wine and soaking in a bath of antibacterial soap.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Because I Said So: Season of transition a fashion nightmare



My mother will take great pleasure in this week's "Because I Said So" column because I mention that my sons wear jackets to school regardless of the temperature. I did the same thing as a boy and it drove her crazy. I know it drove her crazy because it drives me crazy to see them leave the house with them on and then return home, when the mercury is hovering in the 90s, still wearing them. They say their schools are cold, but I've been in both of their schools in the past week and did just fine without an extra layer of fleece.

Today's column is about the transition from summer to fall, and the requisite lengthening of sleeves and pant legs that comes with cooler weather. For the smallest children, it's as though I'm asking them to hunt and kill a caribou, skin it, tan the hide and fashion their own winter wear.

I'm almost certain I've written a very similar column before, maybe last fall if not the fall prior, but that's what being a parent is, isn't it? It's that endless repetition of seasons and laundry and fits and tempers. For some reason, with each change of the season, I think it's going to improve. I really believe that this year I'll say, "You should wear long pants and a sweater" to whomever the youngest might be and they'll say, "Good thinking, sir, I'll go change into that right now." It's folly to think they'd ever call me "sir." And it's the blind optimism – or shortness of memory – that makes parenthood work. We have to think each year, each season, every day, will get better and easier because if we didn't we'd go mad; or madder.

So pull on your woolen socks, slip on your favorite cardigan, have a seat and enjoy this edition of "Because I Said So."

Season of transition a fashion nightmare

I just returned home from walking a few of my kids up to school, and there was something in the air this morning. It wasn't the apprehension of a looming quiz or the incomplete homework stuffed into backpacks, not this time. I walked on one side of my daughter, holding her hand, while the crispness of autumn touched the other. The sun was lower in the sky at that early hour, and we all remarked on the temperature difference from the previous day's walk.

It isn't cold, not by any stretch, but the thermometer does herald cooler days, days when we'll be donning coats and hats and gloves for the two-block walk each morning.

For now, though, it's simply cooler out, a refreshing respite. Perhaps a light jacket or sweater will suffice; a pair of long pants, certainly. Not for my daughter, though, not yet. For a 6-year-old, these are the days (weeks?) of transition. This is the end of the shorts and short sleeves, the end of sandals and skirts, but it's going to take some time to get used to such a sartorial shift.

Genevieve refused leggings worn beneath a skirt this morning, based solely on color. Navy blue? Not school sanctioned, according to her. The same jacket she wore every day last winter, in and out of school, is suddenly not a proper uniform cover-up. Not that sweater, no, not ever. "But they actually call it 'sweater weather,'" I pleaded.

Her parents, of course, don't know what they're talking about when they assure her that she can wear blue pants, that she can wear that very same jacket she wore only six months ago, that the sweater looks cute on her. But how could we possibly know anything?

This fight doesn't apply to the boys. To be fair, though, my sons have been wearing fleece jackets to school all school year — a year made up mostly of the month of August — as if their first class of the day is Intro to Igloos. It burns me up, literally, to see my son walk in at the end of a school day wearing an admittedly school-appropriate jacket, when the heat index is 103.

I've asked my sons not to wear jackets when it's still so hot outside, but they say their classrooms are cold. I tell my daughter she should wear one because it's cold in the morning, but she says it will be hot at dismissal. I stop talking. I need to have faith that somewhere, maybe in the pockets of that coat, they carry with them the common sense to stay warm or dry, to not succumb to heat stroke in the name of — or the profound lack of — fashion.

When we got to school this morning, we met up with Genevieve's friend, a little girl wearing navy blue pants who seemed comfortable in the morning air. I saw the opportunity to make a point. "See those pants, Genevieve? What color are those?"
The look she returned was chilling.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Because I Said So: Dinner table conversation a test of dad's knowledge

I could write a different version of today's "Because I Said So" column daily given the range of topics my kids come up with. Just last night we discussed The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, The Cay by Theodore Taylor, Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, bad words, school and dreams we've had. It doesn't seem like supper should take long enough to eat to have the been able to cover so many subjects but, believe me, it does.

Please enjoy today's column, because Middle-Aged Man says so.

Dinner table conversation a test of dad's knowledge
Suppertime conversations around our table often jump back and forth in topic like a poorly edited film. Non-sequiturs are served as a side dish to fried chicken and pot roast. Talk of school and television, upcoming plans and the gossip of friends are revealed like the striated layers of a casserole.

The other night the subject of superhero powers came up. Specifically the question was "What two superpowers would you want if you could pick?" It's the sort of palaver a palate might appreciate with a Southern staple of meat and two.

The kids bandied about the obvious choices — flying, invisibility, being really small or really fast. Me, I told them my superpowers, if it were up to me, would be a tolerance for lactose and to shape shift into a morning person. Such is the secret identity of Middle-Aged Man.

Kids, on the other gloved hand, consider themselves immortal and dream to flaunt that immortality with an ability to fly or jump or to be unseen as they lurk from room to room.

I flew to the kitchen mid-meal to refill a wineglass and returned to suggest, "X-ray vision!" not realizing the talk had advanced with a new question: "What country, other than this one, would you want to live in?" My superpower exclamation was met with super sighs and eye-rolling, you have to be quicker than Flash to keep up with the plot points around this table.

Italy, France, Brazil, England and Greece were all mentioned in this category. I'm pretty sure someone suggested Florida. The conversation devolved into a stereotypical discussion of accents, informed more, I'm afraid, by years of viewing "The Simpsons" and "House Hunters International" than anything learned in school. The kids are conversational lightweights at best.

It occurs to me now that I probably should have visited my own wish list for powers upon this nascent Jobless League of America. What would I imbue them with were I to inject a Super-Soldier Serum similar to Captain America's into their meatloaf? Invisibility is a possibility, though super silence might be better.

I leapt to the kitchen to slice more bread (and to top off the wine) only to return and hear my son talking about Middle-earth. "That's not even a real place!" I scoffed, imagining him applying for a passport and visa. But they'd moved on without me to a discussion of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," something I know even less about than gamma rays or the value of the euro.

There are many times I'm left out of the main course of discourse altogether; times when the incongruity of subjects leaves me standing still and unable to keep up, like a Hobbit attempting to walk up a mountainside of mashed potatoes.

Eating with kids is not a dinner party of high society talk, but a whirlwind of issues and debates that require a superhuman attention span. Stan Lee tells us that "with great power comes great responsibility." I tell you that with a great big family comes great suppertime confusion.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Because I Said So: Launching youngest daughter in first grade has its hurdles



As a kid growing up with books of science fiction and black-and-white movies ful of creatures and oddities from outer space, my entire universe consisted of Earth and Mars. Sure, the Moon was there, but the Moon is a neighbor, as familiar to us all as the property fence or a dog's bark. But Mars is the next neighborhood over, familiar for its proximity, yet alien with its different trees, styles of houses, cars and people who look just like us, though they're not neighbors; not completely.

And yet Mars is close. Certainly close enough for alien beings to fly a saucer over for a cup of sugar or to sit on the porch for a spell and, eventually, eat that neighbor's dog. It's close enough for me to have thought as a kid that we Earthlings would one day put a craft, if not a person, on Mars. It was doable. Of course it would be possible, we put a man on the Moon and Mars is just around the corner from there, isn't it?

Probably a stranger concept to a 7-year-old boy than one day touching the surface of Mars is parenthood. Being a father was an entire galaxy away from where I was, and as alien as whatever that was that came from the ship at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. At that age, there is no way a parent could understand what we feel, our fears, our interests, our complete inability to comprehend time and distance in outer space. And yet, when I took G to first grade last week and she melted into me with tears and pleading not to have to go to school, I knew exactly where it was she was coming from. It wasn't Mars, or even the Moon, it was a time and a place I remember well. It's another world called Childhood and it is as strange and exotic a place to me now as a planet called Parenthood seemed to me 35 years ago.

We're all explorers going through new worlds blindly whether those worlds encompass another planet, another continent, the next street over or being responsible for another little life. It's all exciting and, we find out, it's all very reachable. What we need to do is keep our eyes and ears open, learn as much about the landscape as we can and try to enjoy the ride.

This week's Because I Said So column from The Commercial Appeal:

Launching youngest daughter in first grade has its hurdles
Last week, I scattered my four kids like comet tails and left them with their various teachers at their various schools. For the older kids, this is old hat, they're pros who have been at this for years. They may not like it — in fact they don't — but they understand the routine and joined the countdown to the launch of another Memphis City Schools academic year.

But then there's Genevieve. She's the youngest and the most spirited, some will say. A challenge, her parents say. Things did not go well that first morning of first grade. There was a lot of clinging and tears, and even some desperate pleas for her sentence to first grade to be commuted. Alas, I left her there in the capable hands of Mrs. Armstrong and the whole Richland Elementary crew.

I came home, walked the couple of blocks back, and turned on the Internet to see that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity had landed safely the night before. Space exploration fascinates me, and I was enthralled watching video images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, as the rover touched down and the scientists went crazy with exultation.

That celebration was rightly deserved. Those people landed a buggy on a planet 35 million miles away with more ease and less drama than I had landed my daughter in a first-grade classroom two blocks away. Granted, they're rocket scientists and I'm only a parent, and parenting isn't rocket science. Or is it? Maybe when scientists come upon a complex theorem that becomes easily proven, they say, "Well, it isn't parenting."

Adam Steltzner, a mechanical engineer with the laboratory, said the rover's landing "is the result of reasoned engineering thought." Reasoned thought is as unnatural to a 6-year-old as space travel. When told that school can be fun or that it won't last so long or that her friends will be right there with her, all she can imagine is an endless expanse of black sky, a vacuum of loneliness.

Upon re-entry into the school's atmosphere, while dodging other children and supply-laden parents, my daughter began to break apart, the heat from the classroom too much to bear; the promise of another school year built up until not even her protective khaki jumper could withstand the pressure and she exploded in a barrage of tears. And what could I do? I'm helpless. I'm a parent. I'm ground control, yet I failed to keep her grounded in any sense of safety and serenity, while floating there among her friends and siblings.

They call it the "seven minutes of terror." That's how long scientists had to wait upon Curiosity's entry into the Mars atmosphere before they found out whether their rover was intact on the surface of the planet. It takes us about seven minutes to walk to school in the morning, but I had to wait seven hours to find out that Genevieve did eventually compose herself, that she acclimated to the foreign surroundings of first grade and that her own curiosity about it all proved to be stronger than her home's gravitational pull.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Because I Said So: Facing the new frontier (high school)

C, first day of kindergarten (2003)


I remember the beginning of high school. It's what makes it so difficult to believe that in just a few days my son will be a freshman in high school. I remember all of the larger-than-life worries, the drama, the heartache and unease, the lack of confidence and wonder of it all that I felt then. What a mess.

But perhaps it's different now. Maybe high school, and the ages of 14-17, are fun and simple and carefree these days. I'll just tell myself that because one of the treats of having kids is the chance to see the world through their eyes and to relearn life from their point of view day in and day out. And then they become teenagers and you're left thinking, "This? Again? But I've already done all of this."

When I become nostalgic, it's for an earlier time when I was seven or so and climbing trees in my front yard, riding bikes around the neighborhood and wasting time in front of three channels. If I have to go back, send me there. Or to the year I turned 40. Forty isn't so bad. But not high school, thank you. I'll take 1977 over 1987 any day.

As my oldest child stares down into the maw of high school, I take a look back for today's Because I Said So column to his first day of kindergarten (it seems like only yesterday) and find I owe a debt of gratitude to the great teachers he's had over the years. I wish I could have listed them all in today's paper, each one deserves it. He's a good kid and will do just fine at White Station High School, but as he registers and gets his notebooks and pens and lunch together, I can't help think to myself, "Better you than me, kid."

Facing the new frontier (high school)
Around this time in 2003 we started going to Downtown Elementary School. (This is how parents talk: "We" go to Richland Elementary or White Station Middle or Downtown Elementary. I haven't sat in a formal classroom setting since the late 1980s, but no matter; at some point it just becomes simpler to explain our kids' activities as a collective.)
Nine years ago we began school when I dropped my oldest son, Calvin, off for kindergarten. I'd been taking him to day care every single day for years and it had not gone well. Those mornings were full of screaming and clinging and pleading and teeth gnashing, by the both of us. I had little hope that day one of kindergarten would be much better.
But something happened that day and I don't even know if it was him or me or his new teacher, Mrs. Porter, but I got lucky. She and I stood talking for longer than normal due, no doubt, to my need for reassurance. The point came when Calvin seemed to grow so tired of standing around listening to us with his oversized backpack and overwhelming curiosity weighing him down that he wandered off by himself to find his assigned seat. There were no tears and only a wave of his hand in farewell. Thus began his educational career.
That little boy who surprised me that day with his courage and initiative and impatience with long-winded adults will walk into his first day of high school next week. I won't be there with him because that's just not how it's done at this stage and age. There will be no reassurance from his teacher (for me), no handholding, no oversized backpack. All I can hope is that we've done a good job through these first nine years of school, that he's taken to heart the lessons taught by Mrs. Porter and Mr. Scott and Mrs. Erskine and Mrs. Brenneman, and all of the other wonderful teachers who have influenced and guided him over the years.
I try not to write too much about my 14-year-old here; he deserves his privacy. It's a shame too, because in that hour he's not sleeping or eating, he's really quite engaging and funny. But this milestone deserves mention as it is a momentous occasion for our collective, it's the next big adventure in parenting.
As a student at White Station High School, Calvin will be dealing with a workload he has never known; with the constant reminder that every test, every grade, every club joined will have bearing on his college career and then his eventual career. Mixed in with that, there will be peer pressure and driving permits and proms and the whole high school caste system to negotiate. He will face growing pains unlike those that have propelled him to his nearly 6-feet tall.
It's a time I wouldn't wish on anyone, and yet I'm willingly sending my child into that roiling, bubbling gumbo of uncertainty.
We begin high school next week. Wish us well.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Because I Said So: Freedom best part of summer parenting

Is there anything more anticipated in our relentless, 365-day marathon than the end of the school year? Christmas, maybe. Birthdays, perhaps. But even as adults, we can sense an excitement in the air as the seasons change and the days on the calendar tick down to summer vacation. In all the years as children, with each lesson and rule being hammered into us until we don't have to think before we multiply or label a part of speech, this time of year has become second nature as well.

I felt it last week on the last day of school when I picked up the kids and we stepped off the curb of school property for the last time. I was giddy - giddy! - with the knowledge that we could sleep in the next day and lounge around, and not have to think about homework and lunches and school uniforms. Sure, I have to keep working as I always do, but it's a far less stressful day knowing my kids are playing and relaxing nearby.

I also looked back at the school year as I stepped off that curb, and I think I did a pretty good job. The kids made it to school every day (not perfect attendance, but really, really good attendance), they had something to eat, their uniforms were clean, they had two, matching shoes on their feet. All in all, not too bad.

In this week's Because I Said So column, I actually grade myself. I do this before my kids can do it for me, and I declare myself: average.

Enjoy!

Freedom best part of summer parenting
The school year is over, and it was a good year with advances made, focus maintained and lessons learned. The grades are just beginning to roll in, and I could not be more proud. I've given myself a solid B-minus in School Year Parenting for 2011-12.
It wasn't perfect (it never is), and I'm no show-off, but I did manage to prepare just north of 750 sandwiches since last August. I found socks, washed uniforms, located shoes and walked the kids to school. I napped. I read to my daughter's kindergarten class once. OK, sure, it was only once, but one is more than none, and that's good math. I also helped my kids with some math homework.

My weakest subject was probably handwriting. Specifically, in putting my handwriting on the many forms that Memphis City Schools requires for our kids to take part in any activities. There was a mountain of paperwork in my inbox, and no way to get to all of it, not with all of those sandwiches to be made. So some papers were late, and some never made it to school. Or they made it there, but were tardy.

There were forms for field trips, for projects due and projects done, graded homework, quizzes to be signed and notices of fundraisers. I put these things off, set them aside and forgot all about them.

The first rule is to always show your work. Well, here it is, beneath this pile on my desk, still.

There were tests, too. Spontaneous questionnaires by people I'd run into at Lowe's or Kroger -- "Papa quizzes," if you will -- and I was expected to know the answers. "Sixth-grade ... baritone saxophone, Japanese and Spanish, soccer ... 14 years old ... TCAP ... peanut butter."

School-year parenting is different than summertime parenting, isn't it? During school, there are rules and regulations to adhere to, time schedules, adults standing at the front of the room telling you what is and is not acceptable. But in the summer, I can do what I want, when I want. Mostly. As long as the adult at the front of the room says it's OK.

During these 10 weeks of summer, we will sleep late and eat at all hours of the day. We'll go outside when the sunshine calls and come in for television and naps when the shade begins to vanish. I will still make sandwiches, and I will still walk with my kids, but I won't have to sign the forms to say they can go to the zoo, I won't have to wake them before sunrise, and they can spend whole days with no shoes for all I care.

Summertime Dad will get an A-plus. I can feel it. I've been studying for this since late last year, somewhere around sandwich No. 220. I've memorized the formula, I've solved for X and found that X marks the spot. And that spot is poolside, where I'll be with a cool drink in my hand and working on a passing grade at passing the time. 

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer Days



I've been working on this week's column which is all about the end of the school year and beginning of summer, just as it was last year at this time (and probably the year before that). It got me to thinking about last year's column, so I descended the creaking, iron staircase to the second basement level and the Because I Said So archives to retrieve it and share it again with you.

Happy summer, everyone.

A syllabus for summer vacations to remember
Another school year has come to an end. If yours was anything like ours, the year was one of ups and downs, overall good grades, some conduct issues, large and involved projects and plenty of homework. 
School days are, by necessity, rigid in their schedules and run smoothly because of their rules.

Summer days are not.

So, to my kids, and to yours if you wish, I give you your summer syllabus.

First, take your school pants, the ones with the knees that are frayed and worn thin, and rip the legs off there at those knees. This is your summer uniform.

Next, go outside and stay there until called in. And then complain that the day is over. Catch fireflies. Explore the woods. Build a fort. Tear it down and build another. Spend an entire day reading comic books. Have your fill of snow cones. Learn the names of the birds in your backyard. Drink from a hose. Track down kids in your neighborhood and get to know them. Read "Tarzan, the Ape Man" beneath your largest tree. Spread wildflower seeds around your neighborhood. Build a sand castle. Laugh at the tide the next day when that castle is gone. Build a kite. Fly a kite. Use chalk to make a sidewalk mural an entire block long. Go barefoot. Everywhere. Learn new songs and sing them. Draw a picture of your house every day and color it a different color each time. Camp in your backyard. Write a story. Write a poem. Plant a garden. Wash your neighbor's car. Go whole days without putting a shirt on. Play in the rain. Shoot 20 baskets in a row. Eat new foods on a blanket on the lawn. Drink lots of lemonade. Make your own popsicles. Eat a popsicle for breakfast. Read your parents' old encyclopedias; they were the first Google. Conduct a census of the squirrels. Climb trees. Oil a baseball mitt. Dig a hole. Read the funny papers. Watch a Marx Brothers film. Forget where you put your video game. Roast marshmallows. Count the stars. Lie in the grass and listen to the cicadas; you'll be adults the next time they sound like that. Make mud pies. Operate a lemonade stand. Nap in a hammock. Run through a sprinkler. Visit the zoo. Stay up all night and watch the sunrise. Tell ghost stories. Build a birdhouse. Ride your bike farther than you ever have before. Swing on a rope. Find some shade.

I understand the concern for lazy children and the fear that the Chinese or Canadians or whatever group is currently overtaking us in math and science scores will be studying these next two months. But maybe we as parents can go this summer without thinking of us vs. them. Maybe we can look at these long summer days through the eyes of our children and remember just how quickly it all slips away.

Kids, soak up these days, and be sure that at the end of the season, when you're back in your desks and your teacher asks, "What did you do for summer vacation?" you can answer honestly, "Everything."
Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg

© 2011 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shirt Happens

My mother sent me a text a few days after the start of the school year and it was one of those texts where I could hear the laughter in the few words on the little screen. She sent it because she'd just seen the first day of school picture I'd posted on Facebook, the one with my kids standing in front of the porch steps, still sleepy, dressed for school and with backpack, lunchbox and hoodie.

It was the hoodie that did it for her. It was the start of the school year, August, and the temperature that morning must have already been in the 80s. Yet here was my teenage son wearing a hoodie for his walk to school.

When I was his age, we called them jackets, and I guarantee I would have had one on, too. I complained about C wearing his without even realizing I was looking at my own 13-year-old self. And this is what set my mother off. And then it set me off, laughing along with her text because it had come full circle.

Shirt
I don't know what it is, this need to cover up. For me back in 1983, it might have been an uneasiness with my changing, gangling body; a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. None of this was new to me, nor is it new with C, it's all part of being an awkward adolescent.

I don't wear the hoodie/jacket all the time now. But now I have a shirt. It's different shades of brown, a couple of pockets, and worn thin at one elbow. I call it my writing shirt because it helps me write. Not really, of course, but that's what I tell myself. There are no characters in the pockets, no plot line up a sleeve. Trust me, I've looked. It's just something comfortable I like to put on that gives me the sense that I'm about to do something, it's like Superman's cape or the prologue to any great story.

I'm not even sure where I got the shirt. I think it was a gift long ago in the age of grunge from my sister-in-law. It rarely leaves the house, worn and unsightly as it is, and is almost never worn in the summer months. But this time of year, when the temperature dips into the 50s, it comes back out and I ease into it the way I might ease into that great story. Hopefully.

I've been told by the women in this house that this shirt is what not to wear. Its very existence has been threatened. These are people who would seek to expose Superman's secret identity, to erase that prologue. I don't need the shirt to write any more than I need pencils or a thesaurus. It's simply another tool in my arsenal, a cloak to drape over my awkwardness at putting my thoughts and feelings on paper for the world to see.

These are moments like adolescence all over again, and I say use everything you've got to help you feel comfortable with it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Because I Said So: Eat, sleep, go to school: forgettable life of a teen

When I started writing this blog, my kids were 9-, 6- and 5-years old. One of them wasn't even born yet! Now, as they get older and increasingly more private and awkward and, frankly, embarrassing, it becomes more and more difficult to write about the specifics of them for the public to read.

But it's also part of my job.

I wrote about C for today's column. Not just about him, but about all teens everywhere. It's hard raising a teen, but it's even harder to be one. Can you remember it? Being a teenager and having to deal with school pressures, peer pressures and parents? I wouldn't do it all again for a hundred dollars.

So this column is about my own 13-year-old, but not just him. It's about me and it's about you and it's about all of those cute little kids out there who are growing and morphing into something truly odd and a little frightening: the teenager.
There is an oddity inside my home. Under my roof lives an alien creature nearly 51/2 feet tall and all arms and legs. And feet. It communicates through a series of grunts and shrugs and text messages. There is a very good chance it is either eating or sleeping right now.

It is the teenager. I don't claim to have discovered the species. It's not the first of its kind, I know, but what scares me is that it is not the last, either. Not by a long shot. By my calculations, we will eventually have three living and eating in one house all at the same time.

The horror.

Where can enough food be found? What will conversations sound like with bleary eyes buried in phone texts and only a guttural growl à la Chewbacca given in response to a cheery "good morning!" (at noon!)? Will clothes one size too small be in fashion by then?

My current teenager is forgetful. This is in the case of "Don't forget to take out the garbage" and not "Don't forget there's chocolate cake." His lapse in memory is a recent development and one that is not at all welcome. Dealing with career and family is difficult enough. It's frustrating having to deal with myriad wants, needs, complaints and whining, and then come home from work to get it all over again from a house full of kids. Selective amnesia is of no help whatsoever.

I'll admit I was caught off guard. A rookie mistake. I was stymied by my otherwise good kid's sudden case of scatterbrain, unsure of how it could have crept up so suddenly and with no warning. And then I attended open house at White Station Middle School. I spent an entire day one evening moving from classroom to classroom and visiting all of his eighth-grade teachers so they could illustrate what a day, a week, a semester in their classes will look like.

Most of the teachers began their presentations with "As your child has probably told you ... ." Only they didn't follow that up with "... I'm hungry." What they followed it up with was an overwhelming list of upcoming projects, syllabi, schedules and expectations.

Suddenly it all made sense -- the insouciance, fatigue and lack of concentration. Sitting in a desk with tennis balls on its metal feet, my own mind was bombarded with the memory of what it was like to be that age. The students experience a daily stream of facts and figures, essays, fictional and historical characters, theorems, formulas and hastily eaten lunches. There is bell work, class work and homework. There will be a test on this.

Sip from the fountain of youth and once again be so young? No, thank you. Not if it means being made to drink from a fire hose of knowledge for 180 straight days. It's a pressure I'd blocked out until that open house, a scab best left unpicked. I only wish that, like a teenager, I'll be able to forget it all again as soon as possible. And then take a nap after another snack.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at uurrff.blogspot.com. Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: facebook.com/alleygreenberg

© 2011 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

My Server Ate It

C informed us tonight that, for his CLUE class tomorrow, he has to have some photos of things that define him. I stomped around here wondering what kind of teacher assigns a project to be done over the Christmas break and cursing that very teacher.

[editor's note: please understand, if that teacher is reading this, that I didn't really question or curse you and that this is all just for effect.]

It was finally mentioned by C that the project was actually due the Monday they got out early from school due to the threat of ice just before Christmas break, and that he didn't have it for that day, either. So it isn't really due tomorrow, it was due a couple of weeks ago ... but I digress.

He laid out some things that are typical C and I took the photos and then I e-mailed them to him. Now, this was the first I've ever heard that he has his own Gmail address. Apparently they set them up in computer club. Therefore, it's also the first time I've e-mailed his homework to him.

It struck me that it would have been a wonderful thing, when I was in fifth grade, to be able to e-mail homework to myself at school. Because, I can tell you this, there would have been untold number of technical difficulties with my e-mail. "My homework? Well, I e-mailed it to myself, but it didn't come through for some reason."

The "faulty" e-mail would have freed up my evenings and taken a large amount of blame off of my obviously underfed dog.


For some reason, a die defines C. Probably has something to do with the family from which he comes.