Together is a Wonderful Place to Be (Being Thoughtful, Informed and Brave About Race)…Days 77 and 78 mo mo

Our country is suffering. As we navigate a “new normal,” as a result of a national pandemic, my heart breaks over the injustice and inequity that has plagued our nation for centuries. The recent death of George Floyd and countless others is wrong and intolerable. We can do better. For our children and for the future of our country, we must do better.

To my black friends and neighbors, although I know I will never fully understand, please know that I stand with you. I lift you and your families up in prayer. I will continue to implement an anti-bias classroom when teaching my young daughter and learners across our country. I care about you. You are not alone.

I stand with the peaceful protesters and pray that justice will be served, progress will be made and no more innocent lives will be lost.

The Anti-Bias Curriculum– My interest in the anti-bias curriculum began when I was taking graduate courses in curriculum and instruction some twenty years ago. As an early childhood educator who taught in a diverse classroom (with multiple races, languages and cultures represented), I needed help in creating a better environment for my students and wanted to become the teacher they deserved. Louise Derman-Sparks and her contributions to the anti-biased curriculum caught my attention. Derman-Sparks challenged me to reflect on my own practices and to do better. I implemented changes in my classroom and began to look at life in a new way, embracing opportunities to discuss our differences and having natural conversations with my inquisitive students. I examined my curriculum, restructured my classroom library (making sure I included books that represented the diversity in my classroom and not just books about animals and white people) and I discontinued celebrating “traditional kindergarten holidays” that were culturally inappropriate. 

“Because the realities of prejudice and discrimination begin to affect children’s development early. It IS developmentally appropriate to address them in our work with young children.” A quote by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen-Edwards

Below are some resources for families and educators

On the subject of race. This is simply a sample as there is a wealth of material available. I invite you to share the websites and resources you are using with the children in your life by clicking on the comment section.

prettygooddesign-too-young-to-talk-about-race-v4-single

The above graphic was put together by Pretty Good Design. CLICK HERE for a list of resources on their website in talking to your young children about race. Don’t be silent!

I watched this Zoom discussion titled, “Talking to Kids About Racism” a few days ago. Led by Dr. Kira Banks, with a panel of both black and white participants. I found the discussion helpful. CLICK HERE to watch.

Embrace Race– The Embrace Race website contains articles, lists and action guides to help us raise a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed and Brave About Race!

We Stories  We Stories engages white families to change the conversation about and to build momentum towards racial equity in St. Louis through the use of children’s literature and discussion. We Stories just launched their first national cohert.  

Inclusive Story Time– A website with information on children’s literature that contains diverse characters, authors and illustrations, Inclusive Story Time helps you raise conscious kids by diversifying your bookshelf. 

I am proud to be part of an organization that stands for justice and equality for all.

Come, Lord, Restore Us…Day 76

As my family of three worshiped virtually in the comfort of our family room, this new choral piece expressed what has been on my heart and mind over the past few days. “Come, Lord, Restore Us,” spoke to me as my heart continues to break over the suffocation of George Floyd and the pain, hurt, anger and unrest present in our country today.

CLICK HERE to listen to composer, David von Kampen perform the anthem. I pray it brings you some peace during these uncertain times.

History in the Making…Day 75

On Saturday afternoon my family of three gathered around the TV and watched a historic event. On May 30, 2020, we witnessed the first launch of NASA astronauts on American soil since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011 and the first private company (SpaceX) to launch people into orbit. SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, crewed by astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, successfully launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, with plans to dock with the International Space Station.

The launch was a welcomed distraction during an unstable time in our country. Watching the launch took me back to my 1980’s childhood when my elementary teachers would pull out the “TV on a cart” and we would gather with other classes in the hallway to watch the Space Shuttle launches. It was always a big deal and something they didn’t want us to miss. I was in junior high in 1986 when the Challenger exploded while taking the first teacher into space. I have vivid memories of watching the tragic footage during lunch as administrators wheeled TVs into the cafeteria. I will never forget that devastating day.

From my first visit to the Kennedy Space Center at the age of six, to my years as a a young educator spending multiple summers teaching a space themed summer camp, I have always been fascinated with the space program. I hope this historic voyage ignites something positive during a time when our country is filled with anger and sadness.

 

A Fence is No Barrier to a True Friendship (Who Are the Dogs in Your Neighborhood?)…Day 74

My daughter and I take a walk around our neighborhood almost everyday. It’s one of the many positive things that has come out of being quarantined for months. I lace up my walking shoes, she puts on her helmet, grabs her scooter and we’re off! We usually follow the same path by exiting our garage and walking North so we can visit Girlfriend.

Girlfriend is a dog that lives in our neighborhood. She barks at anything that moves, is turning grey around the muzzle and has a difficult time walking down the deck stairs to great us as age appears to be winning a race she didn’t sign up for. Sometimes Girlfriend’s furry housemates, Cookie and Pooch, join in the hello that always includes sloppy kisses, a back scratch and lots of love!

At first the dogs barked non-stop when they saw us but with each passing day, that changed. With my dog loving daughter insisting on stopping each time to give them attention, they began to recognize us and now when they see us they no longer bark, proving that a fence is no barrier to a true friendship. Over the weeks we met their owner and learned their real names. The names listed above were crafted by my daughter. We found out all three dogs are rescues and that Girlfriend’s name is actually Lady.

Although Lady (Girlfriend) is far from the prettiest dog in the neighborhood, a mutt with fur missing in several places, my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. They share a special bound that stretches beyond the exterior. I’ve heard people say that angels come in different forms. If that is true, we found one covered in fur that appeared just when we needed her. Lady (Girlfriend), thank you for helping us get through this time of uncertainty by bringing us joy, friendship and slobbery kisses!

My daughter made a drawing detailing one of the many visits we have had with Lady (Girlfriend) during the quarantine.

A Beautiful Birthday Celebration…Days 72 and 73

Yesterday we celebrated my mother’s birthday. Birthdays are a big deal in our family and nothing was going to keep us from recognizing Nana’s special day, including COVID-19!

The pandemic caused Nana’s birthday celebration to look a bit different this year. Thanks to my daughter, Nana received a homemade gift made out of recyclables due to stores being closed and my daughter unable to shop for the perfect gift. When we went to pick up Nana’s birthday cake, we found our order waiting on a table outside the bakery and we simply picked it up with no human contact. Since Nana’s favorite restaurant was closed, Pops prepared an Italian feast for all of us to enjoy. And instead of blowing out the candles on her cake, Nana fanned them out with a homemade fan crafted by my daughter! This is defiantly a birthday to remember!

Nana extinguishes her birthday candles with a homemade fan, lovingly created by my daughter.

From drive-through graduations, birthday parades, virtual trivia nights and streaming church services, spring celebrations throughout our world have been altered due to the pandemic. New traditions are being established as we find creative ways to recognize these important life events. And through it all, nothing is stopping us from celebrating!

To Dance or Not to Dance? Integrating Into the World After Quarantine…Day 71

My daughter’s dance studio opened up last week. Following CDC guidelines, the owners worked long and hard creating new procedures to keep everyone safe. They even released a video with step by step directions on how to enter the building, move about the building and what exit procedures would look like. From using antibacterial gel, wiping down surfaces and walking on green tape placed 6 feet a part, to creating socially distanced “parking spots” for dancers to place their gear and assigning dancers a spot to dance that is 6 feet a part, they carefully thought about everything. CLICK HERE to watch the video.

After months spent in quarantine I thought it would be easy to return to our beloved activities, but it wasn’t. My husband and I thought long and hard on whether we would send our little one to dance. After calculating the risks and reviewing the well thought out procedures, we determined we would send her. Then the time came to hop in the car and go and I couldn’t bring myself to grab the keys. Knowing we would see Nana in a few days made my mind race at the thought of putting my mother at risk. Why does this have to be so hard?

Another week has come and gone and I am faced with the same dilemma…to dance or not to dance? I reviewed the procedures once more and after two months of isolation, my daughter went to dance class. She happily walked inside, looking forward to something “normal” being brought back into her life. I was a mess the entire time. It was the first time in over two months I have been separated from my mini me and I experienced separation anxiety. Something I never expected.

An hour later my daughter emerged from the studio with a huge smile on her face, something that had been missing for months! The video prepared her for the new expectations and allowed me to help her process the changes, making my daughter’s return to dance class a success! As we continued our day she explained, “Today was the best day ever!” Fully unaware of the difficult decision her parents had to make, she was filled with joy and the innocence of childhood. Although some won’t agree with our decision, please know we did what we felt was right for our family of three.

This is the first of many decisions our family will make over the coming weeks and months. As states begin to open up and we find ourselves integrating back into society, like me, you might feel uneasy. COVID-19 has changed our world and even the familiar will feel unfamiliar. During this difficult time please be responsible, follow recommended guidelines and show kindness and compassion to your neighbors as they make decisions they feel are right for their families. And remember, you are not alone, everyone is in this together.

Taps Across America (A Social Distancing Memorial Day Weekend)…Day 70

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to learn more about the holiday while teaching my daughter about this special day. What’s the history behind Memorial Day? Why do we celebrate it? Who does it honor?

According to the USO website, Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors service members who have died in military service to our nation. It’s roots date back to the post-Civil War era and was originally called Decoration Day, when citizens placed spring flower memorials on the graves of fallen soldiers. In 1868, General John Logan declared that the first ever National Decoration Day would take place on May 30. Over the next few decades, the day transitioned to being called Decoration Day to its current name of Memorial Day. In 1968 Congress passed an act declaring that Memorial Day be celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May and in 1971 the three-day weekend for federal employees was established.

Today, unfortunately, Memorial Day is associated with the start of summer, swimming pools, cookouts with friends and discount sales. I want my daughter to grow up knowing the real meaning of Memorial Day, a day where we honor the men and women who died serving our country.

Taps Across America COVID-19 is making most Americans spend this Memorial Day social-distancing. Parades have been cancelled and many Memorial Day ceremonies and celebrations aren’t taking place. Steve Hartman, a CBS journalist, began a campaign called Taps Across America, where he encouraged trumpet players across the country to play taps at 3:00 pm local time to honor our fallen service members and to play tribute to victims of the coronavirus pandemic. My daughter and I were thrilled when my husband, a trumpet player, decided to participate. He has a history of playing taps on Memorial Day, having spent his high school years, rising early and playing at VFW ceremonies throughout town. Today, this Noteworthy Daddy played taps on the front porch of his parents home, while family members, neighbors and friends, listened on and kept proper social distancing. After a moment of silence, everyone spread out their lawn chairs, ate some pizza and simply enjoyed being together.

Memorial Day Books– Picture books are a brilliant way to teach children of all ages. I found a book and a short cartoon that helped my daughter understand why we celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Golding is a captivating book about a mom who takes her son to his first Memorial Day parade. The surprise is seeing his grandfather, who is a decorated war hero, in the parade! CLICK HERE to read the book. CLICK HERE to watch a video that explains why we celebrate Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day was like no other. Filled with honor and remembrance, sunshine and showers and social distancing with our neighbors. We will never forget.

Living Generously, “Small Business, Supporting Small Business”…Day 67

We are all aware of the financial struggles many small businesses are enduring during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a way to support a local small business, my mother in law bought me a gift certificate to one of our favorite local restaurants for Mother’s Day. During the quarantine we have ordered curbside from Syberg’s a few times as a way to support a local business and to ensure that our favorite wings would be available when we are ready to eat out again.

Living Generously– A few days after my Mother’s Day surprise, I saw a post on-line from Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, another local small business, stating they would match a gift card purchased from Syberg’s (up to $50) as a way to support a fellow small business during this unusual time. All that was needed was a copy of the receipt. With nothing to lose, I emailed the receipt that accompanied my gift card and forgot all about my submission. Imagine my surprise when I received a personalized note and a $50 Syberg’s gift card in the mail from Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning! A huge thank you to Kimberly Donahue, the owner, for participating in the “Small Business, Supporting Small Business” initiative. The Noteworthy Mommy and her family are grateful for your generosity! 

 

 

Now What?… Day 66

Our school year is over and summer vacation has officially started. As I sit here thinking about the days ahead, all that comes to mind is…Now What?

As states begin to open back up many uncertainties remain. And our media is no help as it is flooded with mixed messages and different opinions. Early on I thought once the stay at home order was lifted things would go back to “normal.” Now I know that transitioning out of isolation will be a gradual process. Through the transition we will need to continue to practice social distancing. Will we be required to wear masks? Hand sanitizers and extra hand washing will be imperative. So many unanswered questions remain… Will swimming pools open up for the summer? What will worship look like when our church reopens? Will we have VBS in person this year or will it be virtual? Will schools conduct professional development sessions and will I train teachers this summer? What will the 2020-2021 school year look like?

Among all of the unknowns, one thing is known, the pandemic is something we have never experienced before. As we transition back to “normal” we need to be accepting of others, allowing every person, every family, to enter back into society in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We shouldn’t judge others but focus instead, on what feels right for our family.

I continue to find comfort through God’s word and am reminded not to worry about tomorrow. Although COVID-19 has changed our world and the summer continues to hold many unknowns, we will get through this together.

End of the School Year Celebrations… Days 64 and 65

Although the last two months of the school year brought the unexpected, the 2019-2020 school year is one we will never forget! Although it was unprecedented and filled with great adaptation and a few tears along the way, our school year ended with the closure we were desperately seeking. Over the past two days we had proper summer send offs with a memorable visit with my daughter’s preschool teacher, an end of the school year car parade at Zion and a new tradition with water balloons and pizza!

End of the Year Memories– I’m happy we had an opportunity for a private send off with my daughter’s preschool teacher and assistant when we went to pick up my daughter’s end of the year bag. Although my daughter will be leaving preschool and beginning kindergarten in the fall, this isn’t goodbye. She is simply moving to a new classroom down the hall and will continue to see her beloved preschool teachers at weekly chapel and at special assemblies. And when our church opens its physical doors, we will worship together once again!

It was bittersweet to open up the red bag filled with memories of my daughter’s last year of preschool. When we got the bag home we found a children’s bible with a special inscription inside. Along with an extra set of clothes, preschool master pieces created on construction paper, summer wishes and a portfolio full of growth and learning; was a container of Clorox wipes and an interview my daughter had with her teacher over Zoom, titled, A Preschooler’s Perspective on a Pandemic. She says she misses her friends most of all and when the pandemic is over she looks forward to play dates and spending the night at her grandparents house. Although she misses school, she has enjoyed spending time outside and learned to write letters to authors and have birthday parades. Her answer to finding a cure for COVID-19 is medicine and Jesus’s healing hands.

Items from my daughter’s red bag.

Special Early Childhood Closing Chapel– The marvelous preschool teachers at Zion Lutheran School recorded a special closing chapel for their students. Sitting socially distanced on the alter, in our sanctuary, we joined in when they sang and danced to familiar songs the children had sung throughout the year. They shared best wishes and recognized the children moving into kindergarten. They ended by inviting us to join them in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, something we discovered my daughter could do independently when we began virtual church in March. CLICK HERE to view this special chapel.

Car Parade– End of the year car parades are the popular way to bring closure to a school year that ended virtually due to a pandemic. We enjoyed decorating our car for the school wide parade through our school’s parking lot. It made us smile to see all of Zion’s teachers, support staff and administrators waving and wishing us well. At the same time we were sad because we miss our Zion family so very much and the parade was simply too short! We hope everyone has a safe and happy summer and we can’t wait until it’s safe for us to be together again! CLICK HERE to view part of the parade.

New End of the School Year Traditions– Last week one of my daughter’s dear friends left a bag of water balloons on our doorstep. During normal circumstances they would have asked friends to join them for an end of the school year water balloon / pizza party. Since COVID-19 kept that from happening, they gifted us with balloons so we could have our own party. We had a blast playing with water balloons and ordered pizza for dinner. Next year we look forward to this new tradition and celebrating with school friends will be the best part!