Saturday, April 28, 2012

Things Your Child's School Counselor Wishes You Knew: A Message for Parents

I realize that this is the second post in a row with a guest writer, but as you can see from the change in the title of my blog - life has been rather insane here of late. I do have several of my own posts - recipes, ramblings, educational preschool ideas, maybe even a book review or two - in the works for you. However, I just couldn't wait to post this fabulous article written by my friend J.

Since I posted Words and the Single Woman ( a follow up to my own Stop Saying That, Please) I realized what a fabulous opportunity this blog affords for people with various life situations and areas of expertise to share their knowledge.

I asked my friend J, who is an outstanding school counselor, what she wishes she could say to the parents of the children she counsels. I thought her list was beyond brilliant. I personally plan to print this out and read it periodically to remind myself of what I, as a parent, need to do for my child.

Thanks to J for sharing her wisdom!

Things your child’s School Counselor wish you knew: A message for parents
-You are the most important person in your child’s life – not their friends, not their boyfriend/girlfriend, not their teachers – YOU! You have the most power and influence to steer your child’s life in a positive direction – please use that power and influence wisely.
-Your words have power. Children believe the things they are consistently told. So, if a child grows up hearing that she is “stupid,” “worthless,” or a “mistake,” there is little that I can do or say to change her mind.
-You cannot wait until your child is a teenager to try to discipline him/her; it is too late at that point. Please learn to tell your child “no” when it is necessary; it won’t hurt them, I promise.
-You cannot be your child’s friend, at least until they are an adult. Someone has to set limits, and it needs to be you. Your child is less likely to respect a parent who tries to be their friend. They, inevitably, will act like you are torturing them when you set rules and consequences; but, they actually crave structure and consistency. Stand your ground on the issues that matter.
-As difficult as it is to accept, some children have learning disorders or mental health issues that must be addressed. When I contact you to let you know I have concerns about your child, it is not a personal attack on your ability as a parent.  Please don’t take it personally. I am calling because I care about your child and want them to have the best life possible. These disorders are not your fault – you didn’t cause them – but, you simply cannot ignore them. Don’t be afraid to take the help that is offered to you.
-Bullies are real, but they are not as plentiful or as powerful as you may think. Your child’s best defense is a strong sense of self-worth and the level of trust they have for adults. I promise you, the school WILL address these issues, but we have to know about them.
-Your child’s teachers really do care and want your child to be successful, but we cannot do our job to our fullest potential without your support. After all, we are all on the same team.
-Your child will lie to you. Let me say that again to make sure you understand – your child WILL lie to you. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent or that you have a “bad” kid; the self-preservation instinct is strong, especially for teenagers. So, please don’t believe everything your child tells you about the school or their teachers, and I promise that we will not believe everything your child says about you.
-Electronic devices (phones, computers, video games, etc.) are a privilege. You are not required to provide these to your child, and I would strongly encourage you to monitor their activity while using these devices – and be prepared to take them away from your child if he/she can’t use them responsibly. It will be a battle, but, trust me, your child’s safety and innocence are more than worth it. While we’re on the subject, Facebook and other social media sites, are NOT designed for children. You wouldn’t believe the things that children say and do on these sites! You need to know all your child’s login information and check their site frequently. Make sure they have activated all the security features possible to protect their privacy. While these sites have gotten more secure, an active and involved parent is the absolute best security measure.
-When buying clothing, please remember that your child is just that, a child. I am appalled at the clothing that I see some of our female students wearing. I am trying desperately to help them preserve their self-image and learn to respect their body – clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination of a young man does not help in this regard.
-Children who succeed – academically, socially, or emotionally – are the ones who have a solid support system. Love them unconditionally! You will not always like the choices they make, but do not allow your love for them to waver. Tell them, often, how much you love them and care for them – it makes a HUGE difference – trust me.
-Children will model your behavior. I realize that everyone has different views and opinions. However, please do not teach your children to handle their anger in a physical way or to use inappropriate words (curse words, racial slurs, etc.) when involved in a conflict. Those things are a violation of school rules and will receive disciplinary consequences. Please do not be alarmed or upset when you get a phone call that your child is in trouble for these behaviors; the school rules are clear and consistently enforced.
-As a parent, you have the most difficult and most important job on the planet – I get that. You will make mistakes – learn from them and move on. And, please don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – because you will need it – we all do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Words and the Single Woman

A couple of weeks ago I posted about things that people need to stop saying to me since I have become a working mother. I wanted to make it sort of a feature, to allow others to post about their own niche in life and what words make them feel disparaged. The ultimate goal is to be more respectful of people in all walks of life.

I put the offer to guest blog out; the first response I received was from my friend L. I was curious what she would have to say because she occupies a very unique position. L is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics; she is single with no children. Christian ministry in America is a world that is largely dominated by married, hyper-conservative, men. What things does L have to deal with as a woman in that world?

I found her comments insightful, and I hope you will too. Although some of them are specific to Christian women, there are many that I think would hit home with any single person. These are L's words and thoughts, and I ask that you respect them even if you don't agree with them.

Stupid Things People Say to Single, Never Married Women without Kids…

1. It’s Sunday. The pastor is encouraging people to pursue missions or some other avenue of God’s calling and directs the message toward, “All you single people and the youth group…” I am 34 years old. I teach graduate students. Many of my best friends in life are 10-20 years older than me. The one time I was part of a church singles group, the group had physicists, biologists, NASA employees, actors, teachers, physical therapists, accountants, and professional chefs. Our youth group days, although memorable for some of us, were over. Being single does not make me less mature than someone who is married and, therefore, deserving of being grouped each Sunday with the middle school and high school students (even great kids that they were)! It also doesn’t mean I have zero responsibilities and am automatically more free to pursue God’s calling than someone who is married. Being single simply means I’ve had different life experiences. I still have a job (sometimes multiples ones), bills to pay, a home to care for, relationships to maintain and people whom I must protect and care for—often doing it alone. When I’m sick, I take care of myself. When I come in at night, there are dishes, laundry, meals to cook, and trash to take out—and, unless I have a housemate, there’s no division of labor. It ain’t high school and it sure ain’t middle school, and answering God’s call sure isn’t giving up “nothing” in comparison to others. Treating single people as less makes no sensetheologically. First of all, is it only the people you see as “less” than yourself (implying they have less to give, so it should be easy for them) that you want to consecrate to God? Secondly, the doctrine of imago Dei should tell us that all who are created in God’s image are valuable, so quit treating single members of the human family as less than your equals (and young people, too, while we’re at it) or as less than adult, implying they are fancy-free with no responsibilities.
2. “When I was single, I was really selfish. You should get a relationship, so you stop being selfish.” Guess what? If you say something like that to a single person (tying their moral virtues solely to marital status, without even looking at the fruit of their life), you are are likely still selfish…. and insensitive… and just plain rude. Most of the single people I know are far from selfish. They volunteer, they pray for others, they call their friends when they’re sick or going through a tough time, and they care deeply about others. Would you like us to point out how selfish you are, when you take no time for your friends, expect them to babysit so you can go out (assuming that they have no life), or idealize the single life to meet your own unmet needs in your relationships? No, of course not. Such a generalization would not be fair. It’s certainly not fair for anyone to categorize a whole group of people as selfish. Jesus, Mother Teresa, and the Apostle Paul were all happily single, my friends. And, by the way, it’s also not really good to treat marriage like a detox treatment for “moral character flaws.” That might be...ummm... well, selfish.
3. “You must not be good with kids” or “I could never listen to advice about kids from someone who doesn’t have any” or “You should volunteer in the nursery and get some ‘motherhood’ practice” or anything along these lines. First of all, I’ve worked with several hundred kids on a professional and volunteer level. I might know a thing or two about getting them to take a bottle, changing diapers, or discipline techniques that worked for me. I’ve logged a lot more hours with kids than many parents do before having their first one. Secondly, the church nursery for one hour on Sunday isn’t motherhood practice—don’t make me a sinner or spiritually and immature and being married doesn’t make a person sin-free or spiritually and emotionally mature. Also, having different life experiences does not make me in any less need of a job or less qualified unless you want all applicants to be exact clones of your own life experiences. No one’s life experiences will be exactly like yours, but if they are a mature individual, who can emphasize with others, care deeply for them, and they have a decent amount of problem-solving skills and wisdom, God can use them, regardless of marital status.
9. And let’s not forget comments on the other end of the spectrum (ironically, sometimes from the same mouths): “Since you’re single, it shouldn’t matter when you take your vacation, if you have to work overtime, etc.” I have people who want to spend time with me, too. I have plans. I deserve to be treated with respect. The division of labor in the workplace should never hinge on marital status, but on job skills and qualifications. If I work there, I should receive the same privileges and consideration as anyone else.
10. “When I finally surrendered to God, he gave me the mate I desired.” The last time I checked, singleness was not a state of sin, nor was the desire to love and be loved. Quit implying that someone has a superior relationship with God based on marital status or that there’s some kind of magic, “spiritual formula” to getting married—God is a God of mystery, love, and goodness. I’m not single because he’s punishing me, and you’re not married, because you have some special knowledge of him that I haven’t figured out.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Steak Marinade

Moving to the United States for university meant leaving behind many of my favorite foods - meat pies, real chips, pumpkin leaves,  tomato sauce flavored crisps, Crunchie bars, steak and kidney pie, nsima, chambo, Chombe tea, bakery fresh bread, sausage rolls  - a good mix of post colonial Southern African dishes (not to mention the Korean, Indian, Portuguese, and real Chinese food restaurants I had to leave behind). I was very, very excited when I went to Steak and Shake for the first time and saw steak burgers on the menu. I envisioned what I knew as a steak burger - toasted, buttered bread sandwiching a delicious, juicy steak topped with tomato and onion. Imagine my surprise when my order came and a hamburger was placed in front of me.

"Excuse me," I said, "I ordered a steak burger."

"That is a steak burger - it's made from steak," the waitress answered contemptuously.

"No. This is not a steak burger. This is a hamburger. I don't care what cut of beef you use, when you grind it up it becomes mince. When you make mince into a patty and grill it, you have a hamburger. This is not a steak burger!" my answer seemed to further confuse the waitress (probably because she had no idea what "mince" meant - I had not yet learned to use the American term "hamburger meat.")

I do not eat at Steak and Shake anymore.

If I want a steak burger, I make it myself. I was happy to learn recently that my favorite cut of beef - silverside - is known as bottom round in the US. It is not cut as thickly as I would like, but it will do. This morning, I had one for weekend brunch. I chose to forgo the tomato and onion because my pregnant stomach just wanted buttered toast and steak.

I marinated my steak in a concoction I got from Better Cookery entitled "Sir Edward's Vest British Steak Marinade Ever". It was quite good (although I will say, I do prefer my usual marinade of Worcestershire sauce, chili oil, salt, and pepper just because it is what I am used to. ) You may click on the Better Cookery Link to see the instructions. Here are the basic ingredients.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 can diet or regular Coke
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
2 tbsp chives

Now, if I could just make a decent steak and kidney pie....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Simon's Stash

Simon's stash for last week -

1. Speech therapy tools
2. Worksheets with colored pencils
3. Coloring sheets with crayons
4. Stickers and paper
5. Cotton ball lamb craft (Easter theme)
6. Jello mix
7. Mickey mouse puzzle ($1 from Dollar Tree - about 1 out of five puzzles I get there are warped, but they are so cheap it isn't an issue)
8. Memory game
9. Dr. Suess door knob hanger (for Read Across America)

We had great celebrating Dr. Suess all week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Few Valentine's Day Ideas

A few random Valentine's Day ideas.

These are the Valentine's Simon made for his friends.

I got the idea here. It took us several nights of work to get 14 of them completed. We started out by tracing his hand repeatedly, then I took a night cutting out hearts, one night was gluing down the hand with thumb and forefinger, one night gluing down the other two fingers, and one night adding glitter paint. We were quite pleased with the result, and it was excellent reinforcement of his ASL (American Sign Language).

This is a craft Simon made at school...

And a cute crayon melt Valentine he received from a friend....