Monday, June 30, 2008

Reading and Writing, but please, no 'Rithmetic!

I have my friend Kiana to thank for getting me started on blogging. You'll see her blog, Kids, Dogs, and Ticks, listed under my favorite links! She always has such neat features on her blog. I need to sit down and ask her a lot of questions about how she added them!

Today I changed my template and added a new background, which I think reflects my love of flowers better than the simple green one I used to have. I'm sure I'll continue to play with it and change it, as I learn more about how to format the blog!

I've always loved reading (another passion I share with Kiana) and writing, so this will be a good opportunity to get some of my thoughts out on "paper," so to speak. Just please don't ask me to do any complicated mathematics! Unless it has some practical, real-world application (like cooking, or planning a garden), I just don't want to know about it!

Right now, I am really, really in need of a good book. The last few I checked out from the library didn't do much for me, and the one I borrowed from a neighbor definitely wasn't my style. I like books that really make me think, with characters that I could believe are real, and would even like to get to know. I like a good romance, or a mystery, or even science fiction, as long as it is character-driven, not focused primarily on the technology. In fact, one of my very favorite books is science fiction, called The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. If anyone has a favorite they'd like to recommend, I would be thrilled to hear about it!

Note to self: must find a good book club. There is nothing I like better than discussing a thought-provoking book, whether I actually liked it or not!

The End of T-Ball

T-ball has drawn to a close for the year. Justin's game tonight was really typical: the kids were playing in the dirt, racing each other for the ball, and even occasionally fighting their own teammates for it! I love T-ball. . .there is just no performance pressure, no one keeps score, every kid gets to bat every inning, no one has to sit on the bench, there are no strikes or outs. It is just plain fun, and such a great way to introduce the kids to the basics of baseball, without the burden of dozens of rules, and exceptions to rules. At the end of the season, every kid gets a medal, and walks away feeling like a champion.

Now, as a teacher, I often have mixed feelings about "everyone wins" situations. I understand that hard work should be rewarded, and that not all children have the same talents or abilities. I have seen kids quit putting forth effort, or not challenging themselves, because there is no motivation to press for excellence if weak effort gets the same reward as total commitment. However, I have also watched the pressure build in baseball for my older son, as each year new rules are added, and more is expected from them. He still loves baseball, but now, as a boy entering fourth grade, there is a lot more performance anxiety. He knows he gets only 3 strikes. He knows his coach will take off his hat and cover his eyes, shaking his head, if he throws it to first when he should have thrown it to second. He knows the pitcher is going to throw it hard, and try to make him miss.

As a parent, I want my kids to grow up learning how to deal with failure as well as success, and to learn that hard work pays off. I want them to learn the value of practicing. I want them to know the thrill of attaining a difficult goal. I want them to be well-prepared for real life as adults, not sheltered from disappointment. At the same time, I am a little sad to see them leaving the stage when they have such great self-esteem, and feel like a real winner no matter what. This is when my job as a parent gets hard: when I have to make my children understand that I am so proud of them, and the effort and hard work they expend, even if they DO strike out, or lose a game, or even space out and miss a play entirely. I am proud of them for getting out there and trying, instead of sitting at home afraid of failure.

When my kids grow up, I want them to remember their mom as their #1 Cheerleader.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Strawberry Fields

My good friend Debbie told me that she and her son went to a U-pick strawberry farm, and got quite a bounty of strawberries. Boy, did that bring back memories of my childhood! My dad was a pastor, and when I was about 5, one of his parishioners had a U-pick strawberry farm. He invited us to come pick as much as we wanted each year. My mom, my brother, Lee, and I would all load up in the car and spend a few hours picking. I will never forget the feel of soft strawberries smashed under my knees, or the smell of the straw they spread between the rows. Most of all, I will never forget my brother lobbing soft, rotten bombs at me from several rows away, or slipping them down inside the back of my shirt and then patting my back to send the sticky ooze sliding down my spine. Gotta love brothers.

Anyway, today I got on the phone with the owner of the place Debbie recommended, and loaded up my own carful of kids to go strawberry picking. We'd only intended to pick enough for a load of jam, but there is something about that row, stretching out endlessly before you. You say you will stop with just one more handful of berries, but then, just beyond you, you see a cluster that beckons. Next thing you know, you have 5 buckets of berries, and juice staining your hands, knees, neck (from swatting the gnats that are attracted to the tropical fruit-scented sunscreen you oh-so-wisely applied before picking), and, of course, your mouth.

Justin was not so keen on the whole process, since he is not a fan of strawberries, but Matthew really got into it. We started talking about all the strawberries we've purchased at the grocery store, and how they are so big and lovely to look at, but have so little flavor compared to these little bombshells. We talked about where they might have been grown, who picked them, how long ago they were picked, how they traveled from far-away states to our little corner of the world, and how old they were by the time we got them. It was a real eye-opener for him. He decided that the life of a berry-picker was not for him!

All in all, we picked 29 pounds of strawberries, many about the size of my fingertip. I didn't fully appreciate the impact of this until I began hulling them. Do you know how many tiny strawberries it takes to make a cup? And how many caps and stems you have to remove? Matthew and I together hulled about 1/3 of our batch tonight, totaling about 22 cups, and just sighed at the sight of all the berries we didn't even begin to get to. Next time, moderation will be the word!

It will all be worth it, though, when in January we pull a box of strawberries from the freezer and put a little piece of summer in our mouths.

Note to Debbie: I wonder if you can make strawberry wine?

Fun Quiz: What kind of flower are you?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

I found this quiz on another blog, This Garden is Illegal, and thought it was fun! The only question I found really frustrating was on what kind of gift you would want from your significant other. None of them seemed appropriate! Anyway, I am a snapdragon, which is good, because that is one of my boys' favorite flowers. I just hope they don't pinch my cheeks to make me open my mouth, as they do to the snapdragons we plant each summer!