Sunday, July 14, 2013

getting older... my grandmas and I

Most summers our family trip to Michigan includes going to visit my grandmothers.  Seeing them only once a year, makes their aging and my own so much more present for me when I am with them.  Listening to my kids talk to their great grandmothers about our family history, looking at old pictures on the walls and spending time in the same houses I spent time in as a kid makes me feel that life is ephemeral, fleeting... before I know it, they will be gone and this part of where I come from won't be there any more.  How can I stop time from barreling forward?  Enjoy my kids being young, enjoy my pain free body and my husband at my side.  I am sure that my grandmothers cannot believe that they have lived for almost a hundred years.  When I spend time with my grandmas, it makes me feel like I should slow down, worry less about meaningless problems and call and write them more often.  I ask them a lot about their life stories because I want to remember.  I want to hear it from them.

My Grandma Jacqueline Cotney is 88 years old (top photos).  She is my mom's mom and they share a birthday.  She was an only child and so is my mother.  She was raised in Port Huron, Michigan surrounded by extended family.  Her mother worked as a seamstress and was a single mother until she married my grandmother's stepfather.  Her family relocated to northern Michigan. She came to Detroit to work where she met my grandfather downtown.  He worked as a heating and cooling technician and eventually got a job at a General Motors parts factory where he worked his way up to being a foreman.  They had my mom, moved around a bit and eventually ended up in Westland, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  After my mom was married and had my brother and I, they moved to Algonac, Michigan into a house that my grandfather built himself.  It is on a canal that connects to Lake St. Clair.  My grandmother still lives in that house.  My grandfather passed away a few of years ago.  My grandma is involved some local community groups and depends heavily on friends and neighbors for assistance since she has no family nearby her.

My Grandma Juineta Glenn is 92 years old.  She is my father's mom.  She was born and raised in St. Mary's, West Virginia near the Ohio River.  She married my grandfather when she was 17 years old and had four kids.  My dad is the youngest.  They moved to the Detroit area where my grandfather worked drilling wells and eventually became a master plumber.  They lived in a low-income part of Farmington Hills called Hell's Half-Acre which had large, almost rural lots (the neighborhood no longer exists).  They always had a garden and lots of undeveloped land to roam around in.  They relocated to Howell and then eventually to Gladwin which is in northern central Michigan.  They bought a cattle farm and raised beef cattle and hay to feed them.  The farm has a forest in the back where my dad has hunted deer since I was a child.  My grandfather passed away last year after being with my grandmother for over 70 years.  My grandma Glenn still lives in this farm house and rents out the farm fields to other farmers.  She drives, bakes and makes a lot of quilts.

I am grateful that I get to see my grandmothers but I wish I was closer so that I could see them more often and help them.  When I was younger and could have spent more time with them, I didn't realize how important it was. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Our Science Expo and why public schools can be a wonderful place

The last two weeks have been filled with a lot of excitement at Jove and Miranda's school: author's celebrations, a Mother's day breakfast in Miranda's classroom and the Spring Showcase (Science Expo, Art Show and Book Fair).  I organized the Science Expo part of the Spring Showcase and so, in addition to helping Miranda and Jove with their projects, I have been busy finalizing preparations for the Big Event all last week.  I am a little tired, but very happy.

The Science Expo was a roaring success: so many families came out, we had over a 100 students do science projects, their were live animal and mineral displays, Jupiter's amazing chemistry show and a make-and-take area with slime and UV bracelet making.  When we came into the school last year, I had the dream of reviving the school's science fair and with help from other parents and administrative support my dream became reality and exceeded everyone's expectations.  Which means, of course, it will become an annual event. Yay!

After working in and around my kid's school this week, I am even more convinced that it is a great place to be and excited to be a part of the Roxbury community.  I feel like people disparage public schools and their teachers, and, interestingly, some of these people don't even send their kids to public schools.  Both the school system where I work and where my kids attend are very socioeconomically and ethnically diverse which means they are subject to scrutiny that no mostly white, all (upper) middle class school would ever receive.  Please, don't ask me if the school my kids go to "is a 'good' school or if it is 'safe'?" because all it shows is your own bigotry (and yes, I have been asked these questions too many times to count).  We chose Stamford Public Schools because the schools are racially integrated.  We believe in integration.  I believe the only way that equality will thrive is to stand side-by-side with all people. 

I know as much as anyone else that there are some very ugly (and ridiculous) trends in public education like the focus on high stakes testing and punishing teachers who are committed enough to teach struggling students, but these trends have little to do with how teachers or principals work, what they stand for and how they view students.  Many of us in the school system feel as critical of these trends as the people that criticize public schools.

So, as Gandhi said,  be the change you wish to see in the world.  If you want public schools to be better, make them better. Public schools, as a social institution, reflect our collective values and desires and if we have two unequal school systems, based on social class and race, what does that say about us?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.     

 From the Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

 Outtakes from the Mother's Day Breakfast in Miranda's class with the best kindergarten teacher in the world.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

family life.... fall 2012 until winter 2013

 Miranda: loving kindergarten, excitedly losing teeth (6 so far and another is loose as we speak), singing and dancing all the time, reading all over town and proudly moving on to more complex books, dancing ballet, swimming and doing gymnastics, loves to make art and crafts (her "go to" activity), helps me cook and bake, Jove's constant companion on woodland adventures, full of hugs and cuddles and makes us all laugh and smile all the time

 Jove: rocking third grade, reading a lot of complex books about science (doing his famous person project on Darwin!), into drawing, tired out most evenings from kickboxing, grappling or gymnastics, learning piano, loves math and puzzles, cultivating good friendships with some very nice boys, spending many days building a fort in the woods near our house, he has a big heart and is a very good big brother and friend
 All of us: Most of our family time is spent together outside on hikes or outings, enjoying our home and yard, getting together with friends and family, eating good meals, learning together: reading, doing projects or experiments.  
We stayed home for Christmas and my parents came to visit.
We had a few great days in the city the past few months: we took Jupiter's dad to the Natural History Museum in September, in December we took the kids and Tati to their first Broadway show The Lion King and in January we went to see a Beatrix Potter exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum, the main library of NYC ( I love libraries!!) and Bryant Park.  I have mostly overcome my aversion to the crowds of New York City and learned to appreciate all that the city offers.

Darwin: our mini-Australian Shepherd.  The day before Hurricane Sandy hit last October, we drove up the Berkshires in MA to get him from his breeder.  He is now five months old and getting bigger.  We had a scare a week ago when he suddenly became limp and listless and he was been diagnosed with Lyme disease.  He is one the mend (and medication) and back to his rambunctious self.

Mama: my time is spent enjoying my family, feeding all of us and coordinating our family life.  I am teaching two biology classes and one section of AP Environmental Science this year.  I often grade in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning which means I am pretty tired most of the time.  I love coffee a little too much.  I am not sure how other moms who are teachers deal with all of the work but I find that the day is not long enough to do everything that needs to get done.
I am really grateful for my extended family and friends: my parents (across the miles), my mother-in-law, my brother, my husband's family, my best bud Sara and her family, our neighbors, school friends and growing connections in our new town.  I feel very lucky.
    I have earned 9 credit so far this year bringing me up to 27 credits towards my 30 credits beyond my Master's and I have re- realized how much I love school. Only one more class to go this Spring.  I love field ecology and science in general.
I run and go to Zumba class once a week. I haul wood every morning, stoke the fire, take out ashes and compost, let the dog out, feed the bunnies, etc.  I read the New York Times every weekend, listen to NPR in the car and read a lot of non-fiction.  I have a pretty big passion for children's literature and spend a lot of time exploring libraries and books with my kids.  I hope/plan to write books for kids when I retire and I have been working on my ideas.  I also think about teaching college...


Papa: Always searching for the best and most convenient devices and products to enhance our quality of life (he could work for consumer reports), taught Jove basic construction skills building our tree house, always chopping and hauling wood,  running and interested in barefoot running, teaching AP Chemistry for the first time, busy being super dad, making homemade pizza, enjoying his craft beers, surfs Reddit and keeps me informed of all important or hilarious trends.

Jupiter in the apple orchard with our good friend

My brother Jason (or Tio Jason as he is known here).  We are happy to have him with us.