Life Replays: Remembering 2nd Grade

Last night I attended Open House at Issa’s school. She began second grade, Tuesday. My second-grade year began 32 years ago at North Hill Elementary, which is in the Rochester Community Schools District and to the west of where I currently reside.

What has me recalling those days when I was nearly eight? Issa’s teacher asked parents to recall and share two different memories — favorite subject and favorite memory– from second grade. We didn’t have to speak in front of a classroom full of peer parents. Whew! But, we did write these memories — in marker —  on big, yellow sheets of paper plastered to dry-erase boards at the front of the classroom. So, the teacher has us all on record.

Fave Subject in 2nd Grade

Remember that shopping mall scene in A Christmas Story? Ralphie waits in Santa’s lap line for hours. He wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas; and Santa is his go-to-man for making his dream reality. When it’s his turn, his mind goes blank. This happened to me as I approached one of the big, yellow sheet on the dry-erase board. I settled on a subject and and stepped forward to write. Then, I froze. What was my favorite subject in 2nd grade? That was ions ago. It certainly wasn’t math. Yuck! Science bored me. The pressure was on to remember. I had to write something. So, like Ralphie, I went with the first subject that came to mind; spelling. I was and am a strong speller. But, my fave subject was and is writing.

Fave Memory

This one was easier to recall and share. In fact, I was delighted to admit my fave memory is one Issa will appreciate and relate to. My favorite memory was taking an afternoon field trip in the spring to a pond at a church that neighbored my school. I attended this church growing up. Our mission that day was to catch toads, frogs, salamanders or any other creature that resided in the pond. So, there we were with nets, buckets and other items necessary for making successful captures. We were going to take our finds back to the classroom for further study and examination. Science is Issa’s favorite subject; and she very much enjoys learning all she can about amphibians, reptiles and insects. We are regulars at several local nature centers and at our neighborhood pond.

Check this out. Two years ago, a former second-grade classmate shared our class composite on Facebook. Now, I am sharing it with you. Can you guess which one is me?

kateschannel -- Kate -- Aug. 27

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Well, here I am. The first day of school year 2011-2012 is done. It is history. Issa made it her bus stop, school and classroom on time. The morning was absent of the usual household drama about eating breakfast, getting dressed, finding shoes, or loading the backpack.

How do you feel as a new school year begins? I feel excitement, hope, motivation, apprehension and wistfulness. These emotions are similar to those I feel when a new calendar year begins. The only difference is those I am experiencing this morning are not induced by too much champagne.

Excitement. I woke without the aid of an alarm, downed two venti-size cups of coffee and showered all before 6:o0 am. This prompt, orderly, readiness for each school day will fade in about six weeks and will be replaced with missed alarms, cold coffee and sporadic showering.

Hope. Beginnings such as a new school or calendar year are all about opportunities and possibilities. All missteps, grievances, grudges, bad report cards, teacher notes and calls from school are all forgotten or put aside. Each student — including my own — are on equal footing today. Anything is possible. The same is true as new calendar years begin. I am a positive-thinker. I envision success. As the school and calendar year continues, my hope does not fade. It is constant and it is forever.

Motivation. When I enter a new situation — such as a new school year — my energy level kicks up a notch. Ambition propels me to volunteer in the classroom, host play dates, cook fabulous dinners, and sign up for after-school enrichment classes. As the freshness of each school year fades, I lapse into a more comfortable rhythm. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t succumb to laziness, serve Twinkies for dinner, slip up on deadlines or let others down. But, I think less about impressing others; and set goals that are more realistic for myself and my family.

Apprehension. The word “new” says it all. New school year, new teacher, new schedules, new friends, new lessons, etc., etc. There are feelings of unease because so much is unknown. I am unfamiliar with Issa’s teacher and schedule; and I am unsure of how Issa will respond to challenges and pressures this academic year.

Wistfulness. Time flies. As it does, my children and I continue to mature. We live, have invaluable experiences, and learn. While I would not hinder progress, I sometimes wish for power to push a slow-motion or freeze-frame button on select life scenes. Every moment experienced with my children is unique and unrepeatable. The first day of the 2011-2012 is done and over with. It is history.

Four Truths About the Bus Stop

The time spent might be viewed as trivial. It only amounts to about five or six minutes each weekday morning and afternoon. But, waiting at the corner bus stop with my fellow parents is one ritual I look forward to rekindling on September 6. Four reasons include

1. Style spotting with fashion-forward, trendy moms with a mutual love for shoes, outer wear, bling and other types of eye candy.

2. Parenting tips and heads-up on school news from those with children who are older than mine; or who work in professions that make it easy for them to get advice that works.

3. Get to know my neighbors. During the summer months, there are neighbors I don’t see very often. So, when school starts in September, bus stop conversation lends itself to impromptu social planning as well as the opportunity to learn about the many hidden talents my neighbors possess: one is incredible at designing her home and at photography, another is very crafty and artistic; a third is successful at keeping her children healthy and in school; and a fourth is a wonder at time management.

4. New recipes. I have to admit my favorite new recipe came from Riff’s bus driver at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year. She’s the one who gave me that awesome recipe that calls for Nutella. I have made those cookies at least five times this summer.

More Summer Please!

kateschannel - Meet Woody. Look at that face.

Hey there! Three more Mondays to go. It’s back-to-school for Issa and Riff on September 6. As the days click on, I realize I want more summer. This happens to me every August. I go through the same mix of emotions. Part of me longs for the structure school encourages as well as some consecutive hours to get “stuff” done. Another part wants to keep swimming, playing, reading and watching fireflies from my back patio.

As I started organizing my home this weekend for a new school year, I clicked through the photos on my camera. There, I took a second look at all the fun we had swimming, fishing, partying, taking nature breaks, visiting family and friends, and fixing up our landscape.

kateschannel - Riff cools off on a nature break
kateschannel - Catch and release at our local pond.
kateschannel - This happens at our tea parties.
kateschannel - Issa overcame her fear of jumping in the water at swim lessons.

Schools Out in 8.5 Days

As I write this post, I feel the warm summer breeze and I see blue skies and sunshine. Alice Cooper‘s song, Schools Out, is playing in my head. In 8.5 days school is out for Issa and Riff until September. I look at this timeline with a mix of happiness and terror.

The images of play dates, trips to the beach, backyard barbeques, swim lessons, firework shows, stargazing, and enriched learning opportunities give me plenty to smile about. I think back on my time during elementary school. Those long summer breaks were heaven. However, those images of long summer days and starlit evening skies, also give way to a reality of less time to accomplish household tasks, run errands, write, socialize with adults, and relax.

For some weeks, I thought about sending Issa to a summer day camp at her elementary school. After doing the math, the cost is equivalent to about $1/hour if she went every day for the six weeks the camp is open. This camp would have given her more structure, social opportunities and learning experiences. But, the thought of her spending so many hours away from me during her “vacation” made me feel sad. After all, “vacation” means a break from the normal, the structure and the routine. It’s a chance to re-charge and to refresh. It’s also a time for activities we don’t have adequate time to enjoy during the confines of the school year; and for more whimsical tendencies. I love having more flexibility with the when and the where.

The reality of less adult time, just means I am gaining skill at adapting. There will always be change; and it won’t always give me 8.5 days of notice.

In closing, I thought you might enjoy links to posts about traveling and summer time with children from other parenting blogs I read. These are all supportive resources that offer up plenty of smiles. All Happy reading!

Dances with Chaos

The Laughing Mom

Life From the Trenches

A Rant for Today

A part of my brain says I have no business to gripe. There are others nearby and far away with challenges greater than mine. What’s the big deal? The deal is this. What good does it do to keep a rant close to my chest? The thoughts in my head need an escape before they are put to rest. So, here it goes . . .


It’s the last day of school for the week. I was thinking about fun for the four-day weekend ahead. So, I dress in haste and hurry to the kitchen. There, with my venti-size coffee in hand, I prepare a breakfast of eggs, toast and oatmeal for Issa and Riff. Then, Issa cried out. My superstar scholar said she felt icky and wanted to stay home. She loves school and never wants to miss a minute. But, her tired face and rising temperature insisted I call the school absent line.

Cleaning Frenzy

Ants have been trying to invade my house for days. Upon inspection of my kitchen this morning, a small number had broken through my lines of defense and marched onto my kitchen counter. I don’t use this counter segment for prepping or serving food. But, the appearance of these little a**holes whipped me into a cleaning frenzy that began at 8:00 am and has given me little pause. BTW, I finally sprayed some ammo — thanks to replenished provisions supplied from my husband — to issue a more menacing assault on ridding my home of these little sh*ts.


In addition to battling six-legged pests in my kitchen and treating a sick child, I cheered for multi-tasking success as Riff stepped out the door for his bus on time. As I opened the door, I saw the bus zoom away. WTF? It was only 8:55 am. The bus wasn’t due for another five minutes and doesn’t usually arrive until a little after 9:00 am. Plus, the bus driver is awesome. Of all mornings, why did he have to be early, today? Or, why did all my clocks have to be five minutes behind?

Just In Time

“Suck it up, Kate!” said my sister’s voice playing in my head. “There’s no time to whine.”

So, that’s what I did. I ignored my whiny inner voice and shrugged off the morning of debacles. Then, dialed Riff’s teacher — to say we might be late — and loaded my two into the car for a quick — but safe — race down the street. I made the drive just in time. Riff didn’t miss a minute of class; and Issa didn’t have to leave the warmth of our car to trek into the school office. The urge to push re-start on today dissipated and I went on my way.

What Does Buddy Say?

Sheesh! A dog sure has to rough it these days. Couldn't the people build me an outhouse?

When is this rain going to stop? I don’t have fins or webbed feet. Plus, the people forgot to buy me a snorkel for Easter. Heck. I don’t even think I received an Easter basket this spring. What is the world coming to? Going potty in these downpours is not for me and not my idea of summertime fun.

365: Defiance Test

April 14 – Both of my children test me. Each day, I receive at least one pop-quiz on a range of subject matter. In mid-March, two weeks prior to spring break, my daughter Issa, began administering — without notice — the first section of the advanced defiance exam. Must be she feels I have proven myself in the beginner and intermediate levels; and I need to be challenged. She has even recruited Riff to help create problems for me to solve. It is so delightful to see evidence of teamwork among siblings. Here is a sampling of the problems I found on this test so far.

1. Issa defies direction — given multiple times — to practice a classroom presentation at home.

Solution: After the third day of resistance, I decide she needs to learn from her choices; and I relent on my direction. The choice to rehearse is now at her discretion. Page 666 in that parenting survival guide said this is the answer. But, it’s not.

2. A mega meltdown results from Issa’s frustration with her disastrous classroom presentation. She is defiant and disrespectful toward her teachers.

Solution: I discuss in simple language about making choices; and reminded her she could have chosen to practice her presentation. She did not. So, now, privileges — such as playing computer games and watching television — are now being taken away. Great effort. But, this is not the answer. Try again.

3. Issa throws a rock at a friend and pushes a different friend down at recess, Tuesday. The teacher called me to report these incidents and to say Issa had also been defiant and disrespectful toward her learning center teacher. The teacher sends a note home with Issa for me to sign acknowledging the problem. Issa attempts to throw away the note to prevent me from learning what I already know. What the cuss?

Solution: The teacher and I decide to use a behavior chart to track Issa’s defiant and disrespectful behavior. Also, I had another sit-down with Issa. In addition to suspending privileges, I reviewed, in simple language, my three basic house and school rules: 1) Be respectful 2) Tell the truth 3) Use words, not violence to solve problems and to express strong emotions. I explained, she must follow these at all times. Her rewards for doing so will be lasting friendships, trust, and successful problem-solving. Additionally, she can expect reinstatement of privileges such as going to Dairy Queen, dirt-pile sledding, and attending Zhu Zhu pet meetings with her friend from next door. The “professor” is reviewing this answer and is expected to get back with me, soon.

Remember those tests in high school and college when you could make a cheat-sheet — one page — front and back — with anything and everything necessary to ace the exam? After more than eight years on this very spirited journey, I am still filling in my parental survival cheat-sheet. It is crammed full, but still doesn’t cover half of what I need to know. Plus, how I am supposed to know the answers? Some of the material being thrown at me wasn’t covered in those manuals from the OB/GYN.

Life on Friday: A Snarl Unleashed

It happened in my kitchen at 7:00 am, today. My daughter’s school bus would be at the corner in one hour. She needed to eat, get dressed and clean up. My son was losing it because he wanted raisins and wouldn’t get them out of the pantry. Our dog, Buddy, needed out and more water.

Before I could reach for my venti-size coffee, a rare but very audible snarl escaped. What was that? It sounded like a low rumble from a lioness or panther. I looked around. Who did it? Our dog, Buddy, was waiting for someone — anyone — to fill his water dish. While impatient, he hadn’t reached hysterical begging, yet. So, I concluded it must me.

How could this happen? It is a sunny, beautiful Friday. After a quick, self-psycho, analysis, I had my answer…simultaneous, impatient demand for my undivided attention. It is number one on my Top 10 Snarl List. My 10 include people, behaviors, and music that are most likely to elicit a snarl or two from me.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to exchange snarl lists with those we love and with strangers? That way the intensity and number of snarls could be reduced and serve as a catalyst for world peace.

BTW, be sure to see the link below on how to snarl properly.

Three Tips for Successful Snarling.

Thoughts About Jobs and Parenting

Last night, my husband and I helped my daughter prepare a show-and-tell presentation for her first grade class. The presentation was about the jobs we have, how these jobs help our community, and the tools we most often use to perform our job functions.

About The Jobs. First, we are parents. Secondly, my husband is also an electrical manufacturing engineer for GM and I am a writer. As parents, we love, teach, nurture, comfort, cook, clean, organize, play, discipline, and help our children explore their world. As a dad, my husband teaches our children how to build model cars and how to launch rockets. He also wakes on Saturdays at 7:00 am to make pancakes and watch movies with them. As a mom, I comfort our children when they’re puking pizza or having nightmares. Also, I host play dates and go on magic quests. At GM, my husband researches and develops advanced technology, parts and processes for passenger cars and trucks. I have written hundreds of new business development proposals as well as copy for marketing materials, which helped small and large business owners gain new clients.

Helping Our Community. As parents, we help our children participate as positive, active, and informed members of our local, state, national and global communities. We do this by encouraging interests, fostering strengths, and practicing what is learned in school. My husband’s contributions at GM help the automaker develop affordable, energy-efficient vehicles to reduce oil dependence and to save the planet. Writing enables me to inform, to advocate, and to share with the goal of helping others.

The Tools. As parents, our tool is a TLC-kit, which is at the ready at ALL times. It contains a phone, calendar, tasty health food, good books, music, toys, a computer, camera, pen, money, car keys, and adventure plans. The tools my husband uses at GM are innovation, a solid work ethic, a love for technology, intelligence, adaptability, eagerness for learning, and top-notch social skills. My writer tools mirror many of those in the TLC-kit; and a brain that does not have an off-switch.


I am thousands of miles away from the devastation and chaos in Japan. It is a beautiful, sunny morning north of the “D”. My children are at school and I have yet to start on my daily to-do list. I keep thinking about Japan. The enormity of the situation there eludes me.

What can I say? There are not any words coming to my head. It’s impossible to know specifically what is being experienced. Can anyone imagine losing it all within a matter of minutes? I can’t. Urban landscapes and seascapes that were once thriving with life and activity are leveled and silenced.

A FB friend shared these NYT photos. I believe these are the best at telling the magnitude of loss in Japan. They capture the fragility of life; and how quickly it can be altered to a unrecognizable scape.

While on a date with my husband Saturday, we discussed earthquake activity in the Midwest portion of the US; and speculated on how unprepared this slice of the world is for a crisis. Just look at what happened in the Gulf leading up to and following Katrina and the BP oil disaster.

What to do? It’s human nature to put off preparing for future crisis situations; especially when my life has not been disrupted. There are so many more immediate “to-do” items competing for my attention. But, I thought Jamie Lee Curtis offered some worthwhile advice in a blog she posted Saturday on the Huffington Post. None of us know when disaster will strike. Wouldn’t it be better to be ready?