Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day Jitters!

Across the country many children are heading back to school today. Most likely they tossed and turned throughout the night, but still managed to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. They brushed their teeth, washed their faces, and got dressed without you having to prompt them even once. After all, they've been waiting to wear their new clothes and the hottest athletic shoes for weeks now. Most likely they don't want much if anything for breakfast. And assuredly, they don't want you walking them to the bus stop. Lugging their favorite sports team or Taylor Swift backpacks loaded with sharpened pencils, notebooks, and bagged lunches, off they go! Maybe you shed a tear or two, but chances are you let out a huge sigh of relief and return to a second cup of dark roasted coffee and the newspaper. You don't have to be at work for at least another hour!

The schools have been in frantic preparation for months now. Principals, teachers, cafeteria workers,  and maintenance staff have all been carrying out their specified duties in order to make the first day of the 2014-15 school year run as smoothly as humanly possible. Room assignments went out in June so unless a child is new to the area, students pretty much know where to go and how to get there. As the halls begin to fill up, sounds of laughter and anticipation float through the air. Spirits are high, expectations seem reachable, anything is possible.

Jitters at the start of any school year come with the territory.  I like to think of them as the fuel needed to rev up the educational tanks of each and everyone connected with the learning process. Sure the kids are hyped, but the teachers experience the same type of anxiety as well. Not knowing the capabilities of students that have been entrusted to their care, they must be vigilant from the get-go. A top priority for them is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every child and formulate an individualized plan so each one can grow and excel throughout the year.

In particular, teachers should  be on the look-out for socialization development. The shy kids need help with forming connections with their peers. The class clowns need help realizing they don't have to always be "on" to be liked. And the bullies need to learn that putting somebody else down doesn't elevate their status one bit. Actually these kids suffer from low self-esteem more than any other group and should be the focus of their teachers' understanding and professional expertise.

Principals suffer first day jitters, too. Having to contend with a large number of students is a piece of cake compared to the supervision of both new and seasoned teachers, the concerns and complaints of anxious parents, the execution of smooth-running cafeteria schedules and overseeing the operations of the entire building. At times like these, I'm sure many principals yearn to be back in the classroom.

And finally, the parents. Perhaps your jitters outweigh any of the groups already discussed. Once again you've handed your precious sons and daughters to folks you don't really know. You believe you're doing what's best for your kids, but somewhere inside there's a little voice telling you to be on alert. Listen to that voice, not because the teacher has done anything to merit your distrust, but because it's possible that he or she could. Although the percentage of "bad" teachers is very low and most of these dedicated professionals deserve our deepest respect and admiration, you, the parent, need to be involved with your child's education from the first day of school until the last. Get to know the teacher well. Be in communication with the teacher on a regular basis, support the teacher's efforts towards benefitting your child, and don't be afraid to ask questions when the need arises. By formulating a strong bond with the teacher, your jitters will definitely subside, and the entire school year will be rewarding for everyone!

On your mark, get ready, get set, GO!  This new school years holds the promise of great things to come.
If everybody involved maintains the same enthusiasm they experience on the first day of school, the sky's the limit!  Good luck!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Every human being goes through puberty so what's the big deal about making it the central theme in my latest novel? According to my daughter, Joy, the title, Pimples and Periods (When We Were Kids, Book 3), is going to put a lot of people off. Really? Although classified in the juvenile fiction genre, this tale is appropriate for ages 9 to 99! You're either close to being pubescent, are currently going through the throes of puberty, or can remember that time in your life as if it were yesterday.

Not only do I give accurate information about the process, but infuse a ton of humor to make readers see puberty for what it truly is, a Right of Passage. Girls are told about what happens to their bodies and why those changes are occurring in a delicate, sensitive manner. Boys learn why their voices change, why hair starts growing all over the place, and, the possibility of outbreaks of unsightly acne. In this tale, suggestions as to how to deal with ugly zits comes from such unreliable sources as younger sister, Betty Lou and Uncle Tom. However in My Letter To Readers, I direct kids experiencing skin problems to talk to their parents and find a professional to help eradicate this condition with effective treatment.

Our society today proclaims transparency at every turn beginning from the White House down to the everyday mom and dad who are proud to say they can talk to their children about anything. Really?
I don't know, but a number of young teens either lack even the most basic knowledge of what their bodies and emotions are about to experience, or have erroneous information they've gained from their peers.

Why parents feel so uncomfortable about "the talk" in our modern world remains a mystery to me. For this very reason, as a life-long child advocate, I was compelled to write Pimples and Periods to offer valuable information on the topic of puberty to both teens and adults alike. It can be used as a stepping stone to initiate conversation. In the back of the book I provide 10 Talking Points that cover just about every aspect of this Right of Passage. By using this helpful insert, your discussion with son or daughter can actually be informative and fun at the same time.

To me, Pimples and Periods, was the obvious title choice. I can't imagine calling it anything else and that anybody would be put off by it. Really!

Monday, August 4, 2014


A little more than two weeks ago my three adult children and their families came into town. Not unusual because they all make a summer visit but not necessarily at the same time. By the morning of July 19th we had 11 people in our house ranging in age from 78 years down to 15 months. My daughter, Joy, and her family of four were due in about three o'clock. Without much in the way of mathematical skills, I'm sure you figured out that that would make 15 rowdies eating and sleeping together in our three bedroom home. Out of this number, 6 were boys, ages 1-11 and 1 girl, age 8.

On Saturday, after awakening, washing up, and attempting to get themselves breakfast, the grandkids took to the backyard to conduct wrestling matches while the so-called adults plunked themselves down on the patio to set the agenda for the day. Though the plans for the morning were sketchy, we'd agreed to hit Kennywood Park after Gabe, the youngest, woke up from his afternoon nap. Right about then, Kaden, 7, was calling a penalty on Liam, 7 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Of course, Liam denied any wrongdoing and claimed his cousin was a baby. Somebody hit somebody with a hard ball and somebody was screaming bloody murder. After a while I purposely forgot who was being the aggressor and who was being aggressed. I find it's better to keep my sanity that way.

My younger daughter, Kristy, decided the best course of action was for the dads to take their kids to White Oak Park, a county green space, where their little darlings could let off some steam and hopefully stay in one piece before going to Kennywood. She suggested they stop along the way for a burger and then we'd have a more substantial meal later on at the park. Once they left, peace returned to the valley.

Kristy, Kelly, my daughter-in-law, and I sat outside and talked and laughed for at least an hour or two. Finally Gabe woke up and Kristy called her hubby, Todd, to get a bead on their location. They were still at Sumac Grove, the kids were having a ball running through the raindrops and didn't want to leave, so we decided we'd meet them there and head out together for Kennywood.

My husband and I drove our own car because if the baby tired at the park, we'd bring him home while the others stayed to continue riding the coasters and the other death-defying attractions. As we rode towards the back of White Oak, we noticed picnickers partying under pavilions because of the misty rain. I announced how badly I felt for them even though they seemed unphased by the weather.

Upon reaching Sumac, I spotted my son's truck parked among tons of other cars. I told my husband how rude it was  of our kids to have taken up space in an area that had clearly been reserved by other's for their own purposes. When he stopped the car and got out, I assumed my hubby was going to apologize for his family's inconsiderateness. Instead three of my grandsons came running to the passenger side and were yelling something I couldn't quite understand. As I opened my door, they screamed, "Happy birthday, Grammy!" In no uncertain terms, I told them it wasn't my birthday and to get in their dad's vehicles so we could proceed to Kennywood.

But, as I looked around I spied my daughter,Joy standing with a crowd of family and friends smiling from ear-to-ear yelling, "We gotcha!" and then bursting into the birthday song followed by the Ole Gray Mare. Now my 70th birthday isn't until September so they had hatched the perfect plan to pull off a surprise party which they hadn't ever been able to accomplish before. I've always been the one to plan our celebrations and the one to surprise just about everybody in the family at one time or another.

The food was sensational, the games, robust, and the many well-wishes truly enjoyable. I received wonderful greeting cards, lottery tickets, and unexpected, but greatly-appreciated gifts. But what was and will always remain closest to my heart was that my children, their children, my family, and my friends took the time to celebrate my life in such a glorious, sneaky way. "We gotcha!" thrilled them to no end, and I must tip my hat to all of them since I never had a clue!

We partied hardy, cleaned up the pavillion, and headed back to our house. For the rest of the evening, the adults talked on the patio, the kids ran around catching June bugs, and the baby slept peacefully in the pack-n-play. Around midnight everybody found their spots either in a bed, on the floor or in a chair ready for a good night's sleep. I think they all dreamed of the look on my face as I realized they'd actually pulled the wool over my eyes. And, I'm sure they considered their dreams sweet!  I know I did!