September 27, 2002
" Rest in Peace: The "I Can't" Funeral"

Donna's fourth-grade classroom looked like many others I had seen in the past. Students sat in five rows of six desks. The teacher's desk was in front and faced the students. The bulletin board featured student work. In most respects it appeared to be a typically traditional elementary classroom. Yet something seemed different that day I entered it for the first time. There seemed to be an undercurrent of excitement.

Donna was a veteran small-town Michigan schoolteacher only two years away from retirement. In addition she was a volunteer participant in a countrywide staff development project I had organized and facilitated. The training focused on language arts ideas that would empower students to feel good about themselves and take charge of their lives.

Donna's job was to attend training sessions and implement the concepts being presented. My job was to make classroom visitations and encourage

I took an empty seat in the back of the room and watched. All the students were working on a task, filling a sheet of notebook paper with thoughts and ideas.

The ten-year-old student next to me was filling her page with "I Cant's".

"I can't kick the soccer ball past second base." "I can't do long division with more than three numerals." "I can't get Debbie to like me." Her page was half full and she showed no signs of letting up. She worked on with determination and persistence.

I walked down the row glancing in student's papers. Everyone was writing sentences, describing things they couldn't do.

"I can't do ten push-ups." "I can't hit one over the left hand fence." "I can't eat only one cookie." By this time the activity engaged my curiosity, so I decided to check with the teacher to see what was going on.

As I approached her, I noticed that she too was busy writing. I felt it best not to interrupt.

"I can't get John's mother to come for a teacher conference." "I can't get my daughter to put gas in the car." "I can't get Alan to use words instead of fists."

Thwarted in my efforts to determine why students and teacher were dwelling on the negative instead of writing the more positive "I Can" statements, I returned to my seat and continued my observations. Students wrote for another ten minutes. Most filled their page. Some started another.

"Finish the one you're on and don't start a new one," were the instructions Donna used to signal the end of the activity. Students were then instructed to fold the papers in half and bring them to the front.

When the students reached their teacher's desk, they placed their "I Can't" statements into an empty shoe box.

When all of the students papers were collected, Donna added hers. She put the lid on the box, tucked it under her arm and headed out the door and down the hall. Students followed the teacher. I followed the students.

Halfway down the hallway the procession stopped. Donna entered the custodian's room, rummaged around and came out with a shovel. Shovel in one hand, shoe box in the other, Donna marched the students out to the school to the farthest corner of the playground. There they began to dig.

They were going to bury their "I Cant's"! The digging took over ten minutes because most of the fourth graders wanted a turn. When the hole approached three feet deep, the digging ended. The box of "I Cant's" was placed in a position at the bottom of the hole and then quickly covered with dirt.

Thirty-one 10-and 11-year-olds stood around the freshly dug grave site. Each had at least one page full of "I Cant's" in the shoe box, four-feet under. So did their teacher.

At this point Donna announced, "Boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads." The students complied. They quickly formed a circle around the grave, creating a bond with their hands. They lowered their heads and waited.

Donna delivered the eulogy. "Friends, we gather here today to honor the memory of 'I Can't.' While he was with us here on earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others. His name unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building- school, city halls, state capitols, and yes, even The White House.

"We have provided 'I Can't' with a final resting place and a headstone that contained his epitaph. He is survived by his brothers and sisters, 'I Can,'I Will' and 'I'm Going to Right Away.' They are not as well known as their famous relative and are certainly not as strong and powerful yet. Perhaps someday, with your help, they will make an even bigger mark on the world.

"May 'I Can't' rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen."

As I listened to the eulogy I realized that these students would never forget this day. The activity was symbolic, a metaphor for life. It was a right brain experience that would stick in the unconscious and conscious mind forever.

Writing "I Cant's," burying then and hearing the eulogy. That was a major effort on this part of the teacher. And she wasn't done yet. At the conclusion of the eulogy she turned the students around, marched them back into the classroom and held a wake.

They celebrated the passing of "I Can't" with cookies, popcorn and fruit juices. As part of the celebration, Donna cut a large tombstone from butcher paper. She wrote the words "I Can't" at the top and put RIP in the middle. The date was added at the bottom.

The paper tombstone hung in Donna's classroom for the remainder of the year. On those rare occasions when a student forgot and said, "I Can't," Donna simply pointed to the RIP sign. The student then remembered that "I Can't" was dead and chose to rephrase the statement.

I wasn't one of Donna's students. She was one of mine. Yet that day I learned an enduring lesson from her.

Now, years later, whenever I hear the phrase, "I Can't," I see images of that fourth-grade funeral. Like the students, I remember that "I Can't" is dead.
September 24, 2002
On the goal of writing:

The goal of all to find and communicate the truth about an experience or subject. The purpose is never to make points or win contests; the writer should not attempt to 'sell' himself or herself, and certainly should not be interested in selling ideas to anyone. No writer of deliberate discourse should try to force readers to
accept opinions not based on evidence, and the writer should not make an elaborate show of presenting 'both sides' of some presumed argument to readers, while ignoring the facts.

Dr. Richard Mezo
wow! It's not even 9 a.m. and everyone that is supposed to be is out of the house.
September 23, 2002
Remember that post at the beginning of Sept about the stupidity of the death of one of my friends? Regarding the stupidity .. from an editorial There is no reason for any club to punish members for wanting to join. It is speculated that it was a hazing ritual.

Her story made CNN. I wouldn't have known except that hubby was doing his daily news read and found the story for me.


I did a Google Search and came up with these:

The Daily Titan:

Ventura County Star:.,1375,VCS_122_1426298,00.html


The Hilltop (Howard University): You may need to register to get to this article.
This morning Joy had her first taste of cereal. I went cheap and bought Carnation's cereal that comes in a can just like it's formula. Just to try it. Joy loved it! Rice and Banana flavor, kinda sweet.

I decided today would be a good day to try it with her since she kept smacking her lips while I ate my cereal, even though I had just finished feeding her. So I made about 2 teaspoons of cereal, added water to make it just a little thicker than formula, and proceeded to feed her. I think she likes gumming the spoon too. I nursed her a little more (my daughter, the Hungry Hungry Hippo), put her in the swing and within in 5 minutes she was OUT! Hallelujia, she's napping :)

The link above (Joy loved it) is to pictures of her first meal. I took the shots in between her eating. It would have been a lot easier if the shutter button was on the left. :) (I'm definitely a righty).

Now, time for me to shower and maybe get a chore or two done before I have to go pick up the kidlet. It's Park Day!
September 20, 2002
I just saw something very disturbing on The Other Half (so I watch daytime TV while feeding the baby). One of today's guests was a woman touting the benefits of extra-marital affairs. This being opposite to the rabbi they had on Monday (I think) who was giving ideas on how to re-light the fire in your marriage.

But Judith Brandt was saying that 1) affairs were to be expected and 2) stay together till the kids are grown. Now, Danny B. (of Partridge Family fame and infamy) mentioned that adultery was like burping at the table -- it just wasn't done. How could she write a book that gave an etiquette to the practice??!?? And laugh about it! Danny is reformed and very much in favor of monogamy, BTW.

Until very recently I was a skeptic that we were living in the end times. I had heard that phrase all my life. But just watching daytime TV, it's amazing how *depraved* the American public is. I don't care if you don't participate in the behavior shown -- we all watch it. From Jerry Springer to Survivor to any other titillating show that interests our baser desires. I don't watch Jerry, but I did at one point and now it's getting to the point that I think getting rid of the TV is a great idea, even if I miss some of the shows that I have come to love, but even they are going down the drain morally. Great stories, very little intellectual or moral value however (how much skin of T'Pol's can we show on Enterprise and how many cuss words are we allowed now? Let's see, who's going to terrorize and kill in Smallville this week). There is nothing " ... true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Phil. 4:8) on TV anymore. At least not during Prime Time. I mean, what happened to being able to watch these shows with your kids? I want to be able to watch a show and not have to edit it for my son (don't repeat that, cover your eyes, cover your ears .... hrm, maybe we should watch a VeggieTales video tonight).

There is very little on television that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, containing any virtue ..... I can go down the list, now that I think about it, of shows that I do watch and enjoy and realize that I don't enjoy them as much as I used to. I don't want to become a voyeur of depravity.
Smallville Torch : Articles Perhaps our generation doesn't understand well enough what it means to lay down one's life for the greater good. Maybe we're missing the idea of service. We look up to athletes, entertainers and businesspeople who work for self-glorification and to maintain their own celebrity. Maybe the real heroes are those who leave behind family, friends, boyfriends--and girlfriends--to give of themselves for us.

Ok, so there might be a few good things in Smallville. The above is excerpted from the Smallville Torch in an article "written" by Lana Lang.
September 18, 2002
I HATE teething!!!!! Yesterday was worse, but today I have spent most of the day in bed (I made it first) with my daughter beside me, feeding her and trying to keep her asleep. She seems to not want to take more than a 20 minute nap, and well, I can't do much in 20 minutes. 10 to make sure that she *is* asleep, 5 to decide what I should do, and another 10 trying to get her *back* to sleep after I move her or my arm from under her head (math never was my best subject). And then we start all over again.

I finally gave up around 1. I lay down beside her, put a light blanket over us and decided I should get my nap in too while feeding her. I think we both slept for at least a half hour. Then it was time to wake up because Josh would be home soon. Now that he is, I feel like I can get things done around the house.

Maybe I should look into getting a Mommy's helper during the day. I always had help with Josh because my grandmother and aunt were around .... and he was a lot more content to stay in his swing. His sister .... has a mind of her own :)

Ok, time for a little email and a LOT of laundry.
September 17, 2002
The one thing I do miss about homeschooling is that I didn't have to worry about begging neighbors and relatives for money for my son's school. There is so much pressure put on these kids to sell. Not to mention the incentive junk. I remember doing fundraising in 6th grade, to raise money for a trip to Catalina Island. This was above and beyond school curricula and to make sure that parents of us 6th graders wouldn't have to pay through the nose for this trip. It was a great experience (CIMI, not the fundraising). Then again in High school. I can't remember what that was for, but it was selling See's Chocolates, so all I had to do was give the box to my dad and he'd come home at night with the money. Chocolate bars are so much easier to sell than Wrapping paper! And you get your product right then!

But now kids have to fundraise for books, computers, and playground equipment. How wrong is that??? What is the state doing with money that is supposed to be earmarked for education?

At least the school is in the 21st century. You can look through the catalog online and call favored student to place your order :) Ok, off to email friends and family and beg for money :)
September 15, 2002
Baby Milestones

Now she is trying (fairly successfully) to sit up. She's doing a pretty darn good job of the tripod (looks like a gorilla sitting says Josh) position too! :)

I love this!!! This girl should be glad in light of all the things that have been happening to children of all ages this past year (remember Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis, not to mention the more violent child abductions that have been getting coverage).

DEAR ABBY: I have a serious problem. My father is unreasonably strict. I am 16, and he won't let me do hardly anything. He will not let me go places unless there is parental supervision at all times. To make matters worse, yesterday when I was dropped off at a girlfriend's house, he made my mother go to the door to meet her parents! They weren't home, so I was not allowed to stay. I had to get back in the car and my parents drove me home. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.

My father is the king of the household and whatever he says goes. He's impossible. Help. -- TEEN HELD CAPTIVE IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR CAPTIVE: You are cursed with parents who love you. Every teenager should have the advantages you have.

P.S. Be assured, you will appreciate your father's "strict" attitude when you are older and become a parent.
September 12, 2002
A very cool idea

BookCrossing - Home - FREE YOUR BOOKS! You've come to a friendly place, and we welcome you to our book-lovers' community. What is BookCrossing, you ask? It's a global book club that crosses time and space. It's a reading group that knows no geographical boundaries. Do you like free books? How about free book clubs?. Well, the books our members leave in the wild are free... but it's the act of freeing books that points to the heart of BookCrossing. Book trading has never been more exciting, more serendipitous, than with BookCrossing. Our goal, simply, is to make the whole world a library. BookCrossing is a book exchange of infinite proportion, the first and only of its kind.
September 10, 2002
When it rains, it pours. I had been teasing Tim some few months ago that now most of the trials with his family were over, trials with my family would start. This isn't exactly a trial, but it is a tragedy.

My father called this morning and asked me if I was sitting down. He had that somber, distinct tone of voice that let's you know someone has died. I've heard that tone a lot lately. I was expecting him to tell me that my grandfather had died. But it wasn't my grandfather. It was one of my friends. My father's best friend's youngest daughter had died during Pledge Week. She drowned. I'm still in shock and part of my mind is screaming "It's not FAIR!"

My father asked me to call my brother and tell him the news. He and Kenji were like brother and sister. Telling someone that one of their best friends is dead, and stupidly, tragically dead (stupid reason!!!!!!!!) is not fun.

Kenji and I liked to spar verbally. She grew up in Missippi and when she was about 11 or 12, her family moved out to Northridge; The Valley. She couldn't understand the Valley culture or white people/Southern California culture. We weren't black enough. Especially me. Mainly because I tended to like Asians and White guys, I spoke correctly and well.... just didn't act Black (blame my parents if you must, I just couldn't conform to what society thought Black People should dress and act like).

But she could do my hair :) and after a while I didn't mind being teased by her. The best part was when my dad told me that she was dating a white guy at UNLV.

We lost touch when I went off to college. My dad kept tabs on all of us and kept us informed about each other, but I haven't seen her since my high school graduation. Later I heard that she had married (I don't think it was that white guy) and I thought she had graduated. Maybe she had and was going back to work on her Master's. ...
September 9, 2002
Now class, I want you to repeat after me "It's ok for President Bush to invade our privacy" .. yeah right! Can I move to Canada yet? Or maybe even Australia. I think I could deal with the seasons being reversed.

About Citizen Corps Operation TIPS, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, will be a nationwide program providing millions of workers who, by the nature of their jobs, are well-positioned to recognize unusual events with a formalized way to report suspicious activity to the nearest FBI field office.
Well, one thing's for sure. Our house is really well insulated. It's about 45 degrees outside this morning and it's a toasty 70 degrees inside. And I haven't even touched the cooling/heating system.

Another day, another week. We did a quick evaluation of Josh's first week of school and came to the conclusion that teachers make a huge difference in how kids perceive their school experience. (I know, that's a well .. DUH!)

When put in lists of pros and cons, Orenco stands out because Mrs. B teaches there and her style fits Josh's learning style better. We'll see how this week goes.
September 5, 2002
Another SNAFU by the school today. Yesterday, the principal called and told me that that bus stop would be 231st and Birch. We met the bus driver there a few minutes ago. He told us, that wasn't on his list of stops for our neighborhood, but the one where I saw kids congregating this morning was. He'll speak to the principal about it. Though it also may have been a SNAFU by the Transportation Services office. Either way, this wouldn't have happened if the school district had common sense and let the kids in our neighborhood go to the school that is practically across the street (I mean, come on, 2 blocks away!) Instead they would rather spend time, money, and gas to bus kids 5 miles away.

Not a big deal if West Union was a magnet, and one that my child wanted to go to, but it's not.

I also had to remind Josh that this wasn't the teacher's fault. Why? Because he has made it his goal to make sure that everyone at West Union knows that he doesn't like it there and wants to go back to Orenco. He had a plan of bad/troublesome behavior all worked out. Yesterday afternoon I thought it was pretty funny and clever. But then Tim and I reminded him of the consequences and let him know that if he behaved badly and got a bad reputation, Orenco might not want him back. So I think he will behave *crossed fingers*.
September 4, 2002
It's 9:40 in the morning and my day is already shot.

We woke up around 6:30 a.m. and I was full of confidence that I would get my son into the school I wanted him in and that he wants to go to. Ah, how naive I am when it comes to bureaucracy. First given the run-around (somewhat) by the Orenco principal. I was told by the front office that they would *love* to have my child and that they need parents who care and want to volunteer (I am of said group now that I have the time). But, alas, the principal over at West Union was denying all the transfers coming from our neighborhood. (Grr, now the site shows West Union Elementary, but when we signed we were told Orenco would be the school)... but I digress. ... So I was told that my best bet would be to go to West Union and talk to the principal there. Now mind you, I haven't really spoken to the principal of Orenco except for yesterday afternoon when I was trying *not* to get Black and irate at this man.

So we go over to West Union, which is 10 minutes away driving and waaaaaay out in the countryside. Points taken off there, it's in the boonies! (yes, we live that close to countryside). The school is older, and dark and you could watch Josh's face fall the more of it he took in.

I got in to see the principal and we chatted a bit. He explained to me that they have 5 empty classrooms at the moment (ok, fine, but do you have the staff and resources to fill those rooms even if you had the kids? -- I should have asked that while I was there). And that the agreement was made 2 years ago, before our development was built and demographics actually made, that West Union would get the kids on our neighborhood even though directly west and south of us the kids go to Orenco. West Union was planning on our neighborhood to fill out their classrooms (most of the kids here are newborn to pre-school, there aren't many school age. Guess they forgot to take that into account).

I explained that my son has been registered at Orenco since the middle of August, that he attended the first day there and that we would both prefer that he stay there.

So the principal phoned the principal at Orenco and they agreed to a compromise of a 2-week try-out at West Union. Josh wasn't pleased and neither was I, but they won't be able to say that I was un-cooperative. I get the feeling that they hope we'll become accustomed to West Union and not put up a fight. Well, they don't know me and they definitely don't know Tim.

Josh is determined to not spend more than a week at West Union. He looked on the verge of tears when we left.

Now the kicker. Apparently Orenco is really full, and it seems like it is. There are plenty of kids there whereas West Union only has 300 kids for all 6 grades (if that many, enrollment is low --at least that is what the west Union principal told me enrollment was). But the 3rd grade has the same number of kids that Josh's class at Orenco does. So there is no loss and no gain directly for my son. His teacher in both schools has the same burden of work.

I would prefer that Josh go to Orenco because 1) it makes sense, the school is 2 blocks away versus the almost 5 miles that West Union is. 2) It's a nicer and newer school and 3) it's convenient for me.

I would be concerned about academics, but I don't know much about either school right now. I have the prejudice that a newer school with new equipment and excited teachers is a better learning environment than an older one with non-excited teachers. I also have the feeling that given the current budget shortfalls I'll be after-schooling Josh anyway.

Oh, and Josh is out of school for the day. Neither school cares that he attends today. Just so long as he goes to West Union tomorrow. Right now I am tempted to just keep him home again, but I need the mental break! I love my child too much to homeschool him right now. It's already stressful having him home and having my whole plan for the day screwed up.

Ok, time for me to get ready to go. I have a ton of errands to run, most involving the DMV. And we have to go back to Orenco to get his school supplies! Why can't they let this *one* kid stay where he is???!!!!

*Names have been withheld because I am a nice person. It's enough that I gave the school names.

Links: How to get the right education for your child by Malkin Dare

The Big Book of Home Learning by Mary Pride.
September 3, 2002
I got Josh off to school -- in time no less. Met his teacher, she seemed a little harried ... and managed to ask her if she needed/wanted parent volunteers. She said she loves them. I figure I might as well do it so I can see what my child is learning and keep an eye on him :)

As we got into the classroom the teacher had 4 items listed on the white-board. 1) Where to put your lunch (there's a microwave in the classroom, I wonder if I can send him to school with things to be re-heated) 2) What to do with some of those community type school supplies (the paper, Kleenex, baby wipes and film). I had actually put the paper in Josh's binder. Hope she doesn't mind. It's not like the supply list said that the paper would be used community style.
3)I forget what 3 was ..... and 4) start your "Fun Book".

There are two Joshes in his class, and I think both of them have a last name that begins with H. This is going to be an interesting year. I hope he doesn't get stuck with a lot of busywork (yeah right). And I hope we can both enjoy it.

Kinda nice starting the day out early. I have the whole day ahead of me to either waste or get a lot done. I'm aiming for something in the middle. Now it's time to shower and run errands.
So, tomorrow is the first day of school, and part of me is excited. Remembered excitement from when I went to school and actually enjoyed it. Once I got into magnet schools, there wasn't much that I disliked about school -- except maybe the long bus ride on hot days, but that's another story. I'm also excited because it's a new phase in our life. I mean, how much time in a day will I now waste?

Josh and I have tried homeschooling, and I think we want to do it again, but with a little more preparation. This past year was enlightening: Josh and I have *very* different learning styles/teaching styles. That caused all sorts of clashes. Then there was the parent vs. teacher role (how do I assert authority when I am being both?) and of course "My teacher didn't do it that way" and "You don't teach me" -- "What do you mean I don't teach you?". It finally dawned on me that it was my style. I wasn't at a black(white) board lecturing.

We finally settled on a compromise of me reading and quizzing him orally, which seems to be the Charlotte Mason method, but if I do that I need to be a bit more strict about it. If we don't homeschool again I think we will find a way to get him into a private Christian school. Sorry, I just don't trust the public school system in this state (See related article)

But I digress (in a big way!) -- the point of this particular rant is school suppiles. I have yet again had to shell out $$$ (though not the arm and leg it has been in prior years) for school supplies. As I was putting together Josh's things for the morrow I realized that throughout elementary school, I only had to bring a backpack, folder with paper and pencils. Paints, crayons, etc. were always in the classroom. I may need them at home for various projects, but that was usually just some colored pencils. The cut backs are ridiculous. Parents are now having to pay for items that may be used in a "community" setting in the classroom. What are our taxes going to????? We still pay property taxes, what are they used for? Especially since they are re-assesed every year (or is it every two years). Very frequently. ... and I got distracted and lost my train of thought. More on this rant later :)

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