Monday, December 10, 2012

The Midas Touch

I didn't realize that when we got to this page he was wincing.  It seemed like a fairly benign rif on the King Midas story.  His best friend turned into cheese.  I am not giving anything away by telling you that Tweet, the bird, was restored to his birdlike ways.  Happy ending.  I bundled up the kids with last kisses and shuffled them off to bed.  

As I was attending to Nor for some reason or another, when I turned around to see that Spence was sobbing.  The hard sob where you cannot breathe.  I rubbed his back as he sputtered out "I just can't get the picture of his best friend turned it cheese.  How must he feel?"  I picked up his body from the bed and he curled around me.  I stumbled back into my room.

We cuddled, nose to nose.  His tears dribbled onto my cheek.  I walked him through the story, told him that after bad moments comes good moments.  He was not appeased.  Still struggling to breathe, he sputtered out, "I just keep thinking of you...your you would feel..."  His voice devolved into muffled cries.  I held him tight, told him how after losing my mom I finally got to get this wonderful life now.

I also wanted to say that I was cuddled, loved, listened to, that I was held close in the hearts of those who were left behind.  I just didn't want to lie.  Parenting when your own childhood was a litany of traumas tears at your soul.  Fills you with guilt, makes you think by sharing bits of your life you are fraying the innocence of your sweet babes.  Where's the road map to navigate through this land mine?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

All the way down 38th, Nora pleads for me to drop her off first. I patiently explain that it simply will not work--Spence needs to be at school by 7:30, I need to get to work and the environment needs us to conserve gas. She just wants to show off her big brother to all of her friends at school.

This happens every day.

 I pull up outside of Bancroft, where the other parents line up to drop off their kids. I jump out of the car to open his door and to guide him to the sidewalk. I kiss the top of his head and marvel at who he is becoming.

Every day.

He stops outside the car and presses his hand to his lips to blow kisses. I return them, trying to meet the quickness of his hands and the intense look in his eyes. He starts to climb the steps and pauses at the first landing. He turns quickly and beats at his chest and points at me. I'm never sure where that gesture came from, but I am so thankful for it. He waits until I repeat it.

Every day.

He continues to climb the steps until he is at the top. Nora begs for me to roll down the window, if it is not down already. She yells out, "When we get home, we can play puppies!" He nods and smiles. She continues, "Or something you like to do. Like spies." He hollers down, "Yes! Or something we both like...puppy spies!"

This happens every day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Maker of Medicines

Every once in a blue moon, there are these moments where I think I can glimpse his future.  He'll turn a particular direction, the light will illuminate his profile and I see a 30 year old in front of me.  Or he'll speak about something and the air switches, it tingles, my arms turn into goose bumps.  Something about it speaks about something beyond.

Spence has been obsessed with making medicines as of late.  His wise and wonderful teacher, Ms. Niky, taught him to make a simple tincture of plantain leaves and oil.  To him, it was magic.  His mouth dropped open and he said, "This is the most wonderful thing I can ever imagine."  She was moved.  He came home and proceeded to practice making medicines for all that needs soothing.

Weeks later, he still talks about the magic of healing.  At the preschool picnic, Ms. Niky pulled me aside to recount the event again.  "I think he might have a gift for herbology."  I told him what she had said.  "Mom, could there be something as wonderful as a job that makes medicines for all sorts of doctors?"  When I remarked yes, his brain started turning.  I could see it through his wide eyes.

The air changed.  Could be nothing, but it certainly was a magnetic moment.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Goodbye Art Guilt!

I am sure you are already doing this.  I am always just a bit late to the party.

I have started to photograph and keep blogs of my kids art projects.  So easy to do with a smartphone (just download Blogger and sync it with your phone).  I no longer have the art guilt of tossing art.  If you are not doing it, I suggest you start. 

Spencer's Art

Nora's Art

Monday, April 9, 2012


Neomarxist ignoranus when someone breaks your nose and bashes your head against the pavement is that great bodily harm? Does one have the right to defend themselves or if a "black" person is attacking then that is just what you get for being perceived as "white"?
Does "black" privelege include the right to assault "white" people for looking at them wrong? Does "black" privelege include the right to call RACISM on every event and instance of life?
You are an idiot racialist and if you taught in my school district I would be doing everything in my power to have you fired.

This was a comment I received on my lesson on antioppressive education and Trayvon Martin.

After crying, I saw that this was another great opportunity to discuss resistance in our world.  I don't know this person (or at least I don't think I do), but I can hear how threatened s/he is to transformation of the world.  I know that s/he has yet to read or hear about Freire and the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."  It is only when the oppressed work with the oppressor that humanity can be assured for us all.

I brought these words into my class so that these future teachers can think through resistance.  How do we respond?  How can we break through the fear?  It was a great conversation, even if every single one of them probably believed that they would not face such resistance where they want to teach. 

It is a call for us all to continue to work with people that resist.  People that feel backed into corners and resist true opportunities for healing transformation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What is your vision of social transformation, and how far are you willing to go in your capacity as classroom teachers to achieve it?

Even as the news swirls around the senseless death of Trayvon Martin, I am keenly aware of the many other black and brown bodies that are sacrificed for the maintenance of white supremacy.  How do we prepare teachers that are able to meet the oppressive world and sustain the energy to work for substantive change?  How can I, I as a teacher educator, help to nurture future teachers to realize their potential as change agents?

I found a great article here that helped me form my lesson.

This was my response with my capstone Education class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. We had already read the first two chapters in Troubling Education by Kevin Kumashiro in preparation for this lesson.

I.  Reconstruct what you understand about the killing of Trayvon Martin as a diagram in groups of 4 or 5.   
  • How did race work here?  How did race and politics intersect?  Draw the description on your diagram. 
  • Thinking about hook’s term “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” how do you see this at play in this tragedy? 
  • What’s not being said here?  What still needs to be asked?
II.    Video of his classmates walking out.  Think deeply about what happened prior to this walk out that was not supported by administration.
  1. What is the responsibility of his teachers in the face of this tragedy?  What should be expected of them to act?  
  2. What are the expectations for teachers across the country to teach/respond to this tragedy?  How can teachers help students of color analyze oppression, their rights and organize for change?   
  3. Brainstorm at least five different lesson seeds.What do you still need to know?
**One Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin at U of M:  Thursday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m. **

III.  Journal:  What is your vision of social transformation, and how far are you willing to go in your capacity as classroom teachers to achieve it?
Underline parts that you wish to share.  Read the sections you feel comfortable sharing.  Ask follow up questions as necessary.

Keep thinking about your response as we continue working.

IV.  Return to the early discussion.  How should we best teach about Trayvon and this tragedy?  How could our lessons work for change?

Let’s lay some key definitions:
*  Other:  In many ways, Trayvon was viewed as inherently Other that night.  His age, skin color and dress all contributed Zimmerman to see him as Other.  Opposite.  Foreign.  His status as “Other” threaded in as the legal response (and law) affirmed that status of Other.
*  Problem with Binaries--Black or White:  How do these binaries reify oppression?  How was Zimmerman cast in a binary with Trayvon, even as it was perhaps more complicated?
*  What is normal?  How does normality affirm this tragedy?

Kumashiro discusses four different approaches to antioppressive education:  Quick mini-lesson/refresher on chapter 2 of Troubling Education.
  • Education for the Other 
    • Problem with how we define and understand what the Other is and who she should be 
    • Power dynamic--still created by the powerful to alleviate the suffering of the Other (for, not with) 
    • Change: adjust  or create spaces to meet the needs of the Other.  This maintains the status as completely Other or suggests assimilation; culturally relevant pedagogy
  •  Education about the Other  
    • Changing, supplementing, enriching the curriculum
    • What is defined as “normal?”  
    • Knowledge inside and outside the classroom--impartial, marginalized;  problem with the “hidden curriculum. 
    • Knowledge as partial is critical--it rests on a notion that you can never fully be the expert 
  •  Education that is critical of privileging and Othering 
    • This acknowledges the power imbalance and structural element 
    • "Pedagogy of positionality”  
    • Structural elements seem to posit that it has the same general effect on individuals...not true and can lead to further oppression
    •  Crisis can lead to resistance
  • Education that changes students and society 
    • This rests on the belief knowledge is partial; identities shift; oppression is citationally reproduced 
      • Share story of my 8th grade student Julian, the brilliant boy who resisted knowledge of slavery as it was only reproducing the oppression within him.  Pause to wonder how Trayvon was as a student. 
    • How does discussing these stereotypes and oppression reify them?   
    • Supplementation:  which to cite and add to the definition; Change means not just to ban harmful words or histories, but to add to it, supplement, and make it new.  
      • Think through the word "queer."    
    •  There is no perfect curriculum; no perfect resource:  Rather, there are questions that inspire critical responses. 
    • Ethics of Crisis 
IV.  Jigsaw: Separate from your home team into four new groups to dig deeply into one of these four approaches to antioppressive education.
  • Help each other understand this approach.  Dig into the text.  Surface quotes that can add to your discussion.
  • What questions emerge?
  • Explore the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.
  • Share examples.  How would this look in practice?

Go back to your homebase team.  Take one minute for each person to share their new nuanced understanding of the approach to antioppressive education.  Ask questions.
Return to our responses as to how to respond to the tragedy of Trayvon Martin.  How would you categorize your lesson plans with these four responses?  
Add to each of the four categories a lesson seed idea.

Take a moment of quiet.  Be with your thoughts.  Listen to what you are thinking.  

Who would like to share?

How do we think about the crisis that can come for our students?  How do you manage it, if it happens?

Return to your earlier journal.  Think about what you wrote.  Consider the different approaches to antioppressive education.  Journal.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sneaky Seamus

Teeny tiny potatoes!
Green muffins!

The leprechauns snuck into our house last night.  Who can blame them?  We left tiny round rocks on the drain board.  Leprechauns can't help but turn those round rocks into potatoes and leave behind green muffins for good measure. 
Seamus the Leprechaun also promised trickery during Spence's birthday party this afternoon...keep an eye out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I am trying to hold on to all of the scraps of conversation that appear like shiny pennies in my path as I rush through life.  Every time Spence opens his mouth, I want to furiously jot down every word in a notebook.  Perhaps I should get a tape recorder and lurk to steal away every word.  This is a beautiful age.  Just like every number before and I suppose every number from here forward.

He's a full hand today.

Usually, he wakes us up by cock-a-doodle dooing.  He didn't this morning, but I hope I can always hear that in my mind as he grows older and forgets to do this.  He bopped into bed between Dave and I this morning and he listened to us warble (me: warble, Dave:  sing) Happy Birthday.  When discussing the prospect of presents, he turned to us and said, "I just want you guys." 

How do I not swirl up and lose myself in those words?  Could there be anything finer?  Doubtful.

When presented with a birthday pancake with a candle, he looked up full of love and said, "Thank you, mama.  Thank you!"  The words...fairly run of the mill words.  But, ah!  The tone.  If I was still a 4th grade girl, I would be able to decorate the words with bubbly cursive and hearts at the bottom of the exclamation point to communicate the tone.

At lunch, he ordered grilled chicken and a salad.  "Now that I am five, I think I will like salad now."  He proceeded to chomp on lettuce and the light green part of cucumbers.  "Maybe I will drink coffee now too," he said barely able to contain the giggles.

We wandered into Sweets on Marshall.   Mindful of the allure of sugar, I reminded him to use your eyes, but do not touch anything.  A few steps in he turns and looks at me a wee bit mournfully.  "We have a problem, Mom.  I can't seem to stop touching the floor." 

Happy Birthday, Spencer. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

There will be fairies tonight.

We tied the muk on the tree for the fairies today.  It had been a long time coming.  There were ample conversations about how the muk was not good for her teeth.  (The threat of braces seems hollow when you are 3.)  We chatted about how muks are very important to babies when they don't have words, but less important when you are able to talk about how you are feeling.  We lured her with promises of chapstick (which she calls "chopstick"). 

She is cuddling 12 tubes of glittery lip gloss tonight.
Growing up can be hard sometimes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


In most ways, I cannot believe Nora is only 3.  How has it only been three short years since she turned our life so much sweeter?  It feels like she has been with us for much longer.  Perhaps it is a sign she is an old soul, so comfortable on this earth.

If she had her druthers, she would subsist only on pasta with Parmesan cheese, yogurt tubes, 'yogurt with a spoon,' and Clif bars.  She wants to be a butterfly when she gets older. 
Or maybe a ballerina. 

She loves me, Papa, Spencer, Dallas and daffodils.  Nora is a gifted storyteller and practices daily...hourly really.  Lately, she has been taking to recording all of her thoughts in little notebooks.  Working carefully at writing, although she is more interested in creating her own symbols. 

Her rainbow party was quite a hit.  She screamed with joy when she saw the decorations.  Rainbow themed food, rainbow aprons with shiny jewels and puff balls, and of course lots and lots of stickers.  It was a strict "only Addies" guest list, with the only exception being Bubbeh.

What a day.  What a kid!