Disney doesn’t have to be exhausting, crazy expensive, or complicated. Here’s how we did 4 days our way and had a great time!Read More
The post below on name-requesting teachers is circa 2016. I wrote it before my kids started school. I never published it because… my kids hadn’t started school. It was one of those rare occasions when awareness of my idealistic/self-righteousness kicked in before I put my foot in my mouth. I didn’t have the experience to back it up.
I didn’t publish it in 2017 because I became THAT exact parent. I name-requested (really name-required) Baya’s kindergarten teacher to match who Marin had had.
In 2018, I backed off and rolled the dice.*
Now in 2019, I’ll never say never but I’ve come back around to where I started. Name-requesting does more harm than good. And after dozens of conversations I’m convinced: It’s about us, not them- not our kids.
Exerting influence to get the teacher we want is about our familiarity and convenience. It’s a competitive mom sport like pre-season football. It’s about preserving (or advancing) our relationships, our status, and our sense of control. It’s not about their education. So let’s name-request if we must but call it what it is. It’s what’s best for us parents.
Why Requesting a Teacher Change Is Screwing Up Our Kids (Drafted in 2016, never published)
School is back in session across the country. This means there is a spike in excitement in many households, as well as in needless parental worry. It’s an emotional time for everyone in the house — not the least of which is us moms. Why are we all so anxious?
It’s because we all want our children to do well in everything, of course, but especially in school. To this end we do all sorts of things that we think will help our kids in their school careers, but that sometimes end up hurting them instead and making ourselves into annoying ninnies. Requesting a different teacher because you don’t believe they’re best one for your kid at school tops the list as a well-intentioned intervention that’s ultimately misguided and damaging.
Requesting a certain teacher that you trust (or at least know more about than the assigned teacher) seems like something a responsible parent would do, right? Of course, responsible parents take a keen interest in their child’s education and thus want the best possible teachers.
However, requesting (and getting) a teacher switch hurts kids and makes teachers and school administrators crazy at a time when they should be focused on kicking the school year off right. This request is like when your boss gives you a new side project when you’re already drowning in work. Or it’s like when you’re on a conference call while emptying the dishwasher when your toddler manages to shatter a bottle of red nail polish on the floor- a messy distraction that you just didn’t need.
Teacher changes hurt kids in the long-run because, in adult life, we rarely get to choose the people we work with. Let’s pause for a second and imagine how awesome that would be. Ahhh. Ok, back to reality because it’s not happening. Instead, setting up this expectation that we can be choosy about who we work with could give kids a false view of how the world works. The most successful professionals are skilled in getting along with and making the most of relationships with people of varying interests and strengths. Kids have the capacity to develop this skill from toddlerhood, and should be encouraged to figure out the best way they can to work with others — including their teachers.
Additionally, the request itself sends a strong unintended message about you to the school, the teachers, and your kid.
The school might flag you as high-maintenance or someone with expectations that need to be managed. Now, it’s likely there is already someone way more annoying than you- which is to your advantage. However, you don’t want lumped into the ninny category because you don’t want the principal to hesitate at all before reaching out. You want the freest flow of information possible between yourself and the school.
As for the teachers, you likely hurt one’s feelings while making another feel awkward and on-the-spot to perform to your liking. You don’t want this either. You want your kid’s teacher to be comfortable and confident in her abilities, and you want her to know that you feel comfortable and confident in her abilities. A teacher feeling bad or under a microscope doesn’t lend itself to outstanding job performance.
Perhaps most damaging is the message you send to your child. Consider pulling your child aside and saying “Honey, you know I love you but I’m not confident in your abilities. Unless I intervene and create the exact right conditions, I’m just not sure you’re good enough.” Hopefully, no parent would actually say these words out loud. But this is precisely the message your child absorbs as the subject of your meddling. You won’t always be able to make everything easy and ideal for your child, and she needs to know that.
The other thing to consider is that school administrators and teachers go to great pains to create balanced classes. What surprised me to learn is that administrators say they think as much about the match between student and teacher they do about the make-up of the class as a whole. They want a positive, cohesive peer group for all of the children because much of their experience is interacting with their classmates — not just the teacher. So, administrators design classes with kids at similar skill levels to form reading and math groups. They create classes with a mix of genders and races. They try to avoid lumping the handful of kids with behavior problems into a single room. And they even try to make sure each kid starts the class with at least one friend. It’s like arranging the seat assignments for your wedding reception times 1,000. It’s hard, and there are often changes made to classes right up until the last minute, because of late registrations and hiring. In other words: school administrators know what they’re doing when it comes to assigning teachers — certainly a lot better than you do.
Even with some awareness of the school’s complex balancing, moms still crave input. Moms in my community are often irked by the fact that they’re not told who their child’s teacher is until right before school starts. That’s intentional. Not only are there late changes happening, administrators want to reduce the amount of time they spend in distracting back and forth communication with parents like you when you lob that first email or make the call with the common line, “pardon me, but we’d like to discuss the possibility of moving our child to Ms. So and So’s class.”
If you think it’s just you making this request, think again. Some schools get dozens of change requests each year. If you’re thinking about requesting a change, consider this first.
You likely formed your opinion about the different teachers at your child’s school from neighborhood chitchat. Often, moms talk and issue each other stern warnings about certain teachers over wine at mom’s night out. Facts, context, and nuances become secondary to impressions formed by different families.
Other times, the information is your own firsthand experience gained from an older child in the house. This is equally problematic because all children are different, and teachers — like all professionals — grow and change each year. Because of these biases, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make a rational, educated assessment of the optimal teacher/kid match.
But that assessment is likely much better left in the experienced hands of the school administrators. What if there really is a teacher out there with a style that perfectly matches your kid? So what.
If you’re wrong, you lose. One neighbor of mine shared that she’d requested a teacher change because she learned that the assigned teacher was fresh out of school and inexperienced. In retrospect, she’s so thankful that the request was denied because her daughter had her best school year yet with the originally assigned teacher, who brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to her new job and was incredibly invested in each child.
If you’re right, you lose too. By denying your child the opportunity to build an important life and relationship-building skill early on, you’re forcing them to learn those lessons later on, in a more high-stakes environment. Or, even worse, they may never learn those lessons — making them poor communicators and difficult for others to work with.
The alternative to requesting a teacher change is to work with your child and their teacher, and play the hand you’re dealt, to the very best of your and your child’s abilities. Direct your energy to working with your child, the teacher, and the administrator, to make this the best school year yet for everyone. Appreciating and trusting your school builds confidence all the way around, and sends the best message to your kid, their teacher, and the administration: “You can succeed under any circumstances. I believe in you and support you.”
*Note: There was no actual risk here. We are so, so fortunate to live in a district where every teacher is Olympic caliber. We can’t go wrong.
We made it to Iceland and back. For this eager and anxious traveler, that’s a win.
In between the flights was some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. There were oohs and ahhs, lots of laughs, and a couple of whiny tears. There were hours and hours of family time, including hours and hours in the car listening to I’m on Top of the World, Baby Shark, and Run, Run, Rudolph. (Apparently, it’s not a summer vacation playlist without a couple of stray Christmas tunes.)
Our three mini adventurers crushed this trip. There wasn’t a single thing they couldn’t or wouldn’t do. But, none of that was really surprising. We expected it to be amazing, and it was amazing. The surprise was how easy it was.
Iceland is both unique and familiar. It’s a mashup of Montana and Northern California with all its big sky meets ocean cliffs drama. It’s also an island of contrasts. It’s lava and glaciers. It’s geysirs and waterfalls next to lakes as still as glass. It’s green pastures and black sand beaches. It’s simply breathtaking.
The Icelandic language is breathtaking in another way. It doesn’t matter, of course, because English is the default. It must be one of the only places on Earth where natives prefer to speak anything but their mother tongue-- because it’s easier! Words typically go on for 15+ letters with an indigestible string of consonants. They then add a bunch of meaningless dots and squiggles. Place names are the most impenetrable. Here’s something fun to try the next time you bump into an American recently back from Iceland. Ask them where they went. They’ll pause for a second and then say, “It was beautiful. Really beautiful.” They’re not not answering because they’re forgetful. They can’t say the words.
Getting around was super easy. We got a car at the airport and then the royal "we" drove around on the one road they have. While I didn’t drive a single centimeter of the trip, I’m assuming it was easy. There was only one time Brian had to tell the kids to pipe down in the back so he could concentrate. (We were trying to find KFC. It was serious.)
For the most part, eating was easy too. We bought breakfast and lunch stuff at the grocery store and ate dinners out at places guaranteed to serve cheese pizza and fried chicken. We didn’t fly over the Atlantic this time for the food. In fairness to the Icelanders I just offended with my comments about their f'd up language, everything we ate out was delicious with a bunch of healthy options. But here’s one random thing… it's the puffins. They’re, like, the national bird and are really cute. They look like a cross between a penguin and toucan. Every souvenir shop sells them plush or printed on socks, tshirts, and shot glasses. So, maybe it's just me but I thought it was weird to see them smoked on the appetizer list.
In terms of what to bring, I secretly congratulated myself multiple times throughout the trip for my exceptional packing. I usually bring way too much of the wrong stuff. So, I felt like this was an accomplishment worth celebrating (privately because, um, it’s a weird thing to be so proud of.) Anyway, we packed A LOT and used it all—from bathing suits to winter hats and gloves. If you’re planning a trip, pull your biggest suitcase into your closet, dump everything in, and then zip. You’ll be all set.
Our itinerary with highlights pictures is below.
Drive from Airport to Blue Lagoon – 21km/20 min
Drive from Blue Lagoon to Hveragerdi – 80 km/1 hour
Geothermal outdoor pool
Icelandic Horse Park
INNI | Frumskógar 3 | 810 Hveragerði |Iceland tel. +354 660-2050 | e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hverageroi to Thingvellir National Park (http://www.thingvellir.is) – 60km/55 mins
The Great Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfoll – 70km/1.1 hours
Kerið Crater – 56 km/45 mins
Drive from Hveragerdi to Vik – 142 km/1.75 hours
On drive over:
Mountain Hekla – Volcano
Thorsmork - Volcano
Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui Waterfalls
Skógafoss - Waterfall
Vík Apartments, Sléttuvegur 1-4, Vik I Myrdal, 870, IS, Phone: +3544871480
Rock arch near Reynisfjara beach.
Reynisfjara, Reynisfjall og Reynisdrangar
Drive from Vik to Reykjavik – 187 km/2.5 hours
Explore Reykjavik in afternoon
Reykjavik4you Apartments, Bergstaðastræti 12 Reykjavik 101 IS, Phone: +3547711200
Veg out with some TV
Perlan Museum with planetarium show about the Northern Lights and an ice cave
Return Flight at 5pm
You consider it successful when nothing unexpected happens.
Brian and I took the kids camping this weekend effectively ending a 8+ year hiatus from packing, tent-pitching, and fire-building that started around the time I got pregnant with Marin. It all seemed really hard (and unnecessary frankly) with little kids.
Last winter we decided we had sufficient voice control to keep them on the trail, out of the trees, and away from the fire. So with a new monster tent purchased and a site reserved, we told the kids. “Guess what?! We’re going camping next weekend!”
And, then you could actually see the question bubbles forming above their heads.
“Are there bears there?” “Will we see one?” “Will it eat us?” It went on and on with every possible iteration of that essential question. It turned into the longest running conversation about bears ever in the history of the world. We did our best to assure them there was no cause for alarm. It didn’t work. The inquisition continued.
When the weekend arrived, we got our stuff together and headed out. My mom says camping is like moving which is so, so true. You need something from every room in your house. The van was PACKED.
Within 20 minutes of driving into Shenandoah National Park out of Front Royal, we came across a bunch of stopped cars with people pointing at the hill. “A baby bear!”
I held my breath— both selfishly wanting to see one and not wanting to see one at the same time. Alas, the little guy disappeared before we spotted him so we drove on. No bear.
Checking into Mathews Arm, we were inundated with information on bears and how to store our food. The right answer is always c). In the locked car. Got it! So we parked, started to unpack, and put up our new tent. Even with “help”, it only took about 14 minutes. We blew up the air mattresses (oh yeah, we were not joking around) and made our beds. We spotted lots of beautiful butterflies but no bears.
We then headed off on our hike. The map said it was an easy, 1.5 miles loop that would take about 1.5 hours. At first, I thought it must be a mistake and then looked at the three pairs of short legs around me and figured they were exactly right. To our delight, there was about 90 percent less whining than anticipated. About halfway, they claimed to desperately need a break- which was really just a ploy to pick the M&Ms out of their trail mix. Reinvigorated, we made it back. No bears.
Then, there were multiple hands of Uno and a long game of “Amazon package delivery” in and out of the van. No bears.
We made dinner and went to the ranger program. Ranger Denise told us lots of funny and interesting stories about bears. But, we saw no bears.
We then made s’mores, brushed our teeth, and got settled in for the night. No bears.
The next morning, we woke up to gorgeous sunshine coming through the trees and birds chirping all around. As Brian made pancakes and sausage, Marin looked across the picnic table asked, “Did a bear get us in the night?” I was confused. Was this typically literal kid asking some kind of meta, surreal question thinking we were all sitting around a picnic table in heaven? She clarified, “No. Did one come to our campsite?” Nope, no bears.
As we’re driving out of the park, Linc in the way backseat reflectively says, “Hey, remember that red car yesterday that said they saw a bear but there was no bear? They were just wasting my time.”
I hear you buddy and am so glad. We needed this first camping trip to be completely uneventful. No surprises and no bears!
It's unlikely I'll be invited back to proctor the Math Kangaroo any time soon.
It started with Brian's completely unfamiliar (he never sets it) alarm blaring at 4am. It was only slightly louder than the pouring rain hitting the roof. I remember a kiss goodbye and wishing him a fun trip skiing in Colorado.
Then there was the daily kid shuffle. But, no problem. Everyone got where they needed to be on time- in the pouring rain.
Then there was the trip downtown to the Natural History Museum with Room 11. We had a lovely, lovely time looking at mummies and narwhals- while it rained and rained outside.
Skipping the bus ride back, there was the hustle over to one client meeting that I left early for another client meeting, and the another. All good. Everyone was in good spirits today- in spite of the pouring rain.
Then it was back to Virginia for a quick stop at Trader Joe’s and the dog food store. I then picked up Linc who used the sourdough baguette I'd just bought like a sword-- all the way home, in the pouring rain. As we're walking out the door to pick up Marin, Baya, and Nate, he starts complaining of a tummy ache. I'm like, "suck it up dude, we gotta go get the sisters-- in the pouring rain."
Oh no, what's that smell? The dog pooped on the living room rug?! Oh, of course. She hates getting her feet wet-- in the pouring rain.
No, it’s fine. We’re fine. I got this. Let's go.
Collect all the kids and get back home for a quick dinner*. I make the official call for everyone to go to the bathroom get their shoes on. We were headed back to school for some kind of weird worldwide math test- Math Kangaroo. Luckily for everyone involved (not really), I'd volunteered to proctor the test BACK IN SEPTEMBER when I didn't know it'd be 1) raining all day, 2) Brian would be away, and 3) Linc would have an ominous tummy ache. So, we HAD to go…..
….and then Linc throws up all over the dining room. Ugh. No. That's fine. We're fine. He's fine. Just need a couple paper towels and a promise to hold him the entire time.
Get set up in the classroom. Eager kids come in. Linc passes out on this beanbag and everything is good. It's all good, right? It’s almost over.
Oh no. I hear a faint, "moooooommmmmmm" at my feet and I know. Oh shit. He's going to blow. And, I can't lift and run like I used to. He literally spews puke all over himself, me, and the classroom and I leave a stinking, wet trail. He proceeds to throw up like 6 more times creating a sizable puddle outside of the door. Adults started gathering. They all had that twisted look you get when you're both worried and trying not to breathe in. An entire box is tissues and some bathroom paper towels were sacrificed while waiting for the custodian. Somehow kids are still doing math.
Eventually we made it out of the building- back into the pouring rain to home then into the bath.
Very soon this day will be over. I'll listen to the rain on the roof and hope, just hope to dream about mummies and narwals instead of... bleh. bleh. bleh.
*While making dinner, I thought ahead and put a bottle of Chardonnay in the freezer to chill. Of course, I forgot about it and came home to a completely frozen bottle!!! Ugh! Serenity Now!
Maybe one day I’ll look back and think this story is funny. But, right now I’m relieved, not laughing.
Yesterday morning, still blissfully unaware of the roadblock I was about to hit, I posted a little thing about joy. It was about how I missed it, how I wanted it, and how I was going to look for it in the small stuff this holiday season. Great, fine.
I then went upstairs to change into my running clothes. As I pulled on my shoes, a question came into my head- seemingly out of nowhere, “Hey you! Did your passport expire in October? I think it did. You might want to check.”
If you’re familiar with our travel plans, you might understand the system jolt and wave of nausea that came next. It was Thanksgiving Day. We were scheduled to leave for Paris the next day- my girls, my sisters, and my mom. It’s not something that just came up last week. We’ve been planning and talking about it for, like, MONTHS. I stood on the hamper to reach top of the closet, falling through the wicker top. I didn't care. I pulled down the fire-safe box, climbed out of the laundry, and confirmed my suspicion. Yep. My passport had expired on October 16, 2018.
Brian watched the scene (and my rising panic) from his side of the bed then shifted into superhero gear. He started with all the right words to turn the volume and intensity down the “I’m such a fucking idiot” loop spewing out of my mouth. He assured me everything would be okay and started planning.
Both on our phones and computers, we paid for services from a 24-hour passport company, made an appointment at the DC passport office for first thing Friday morning, called CVS to confirm they’d take a passport picture, and called United to check on alternative flights.
I then had to call my family. Gulp.
They were busy chilling Chardonnay and mashing potatoes. Sensing the urgency wasn’t about a missing Thanksgiving ingredient, they gathered around on the speaker phone to hear the news. There was a small gasp folled by a second of silence. And then, they too swung into action- more reassurances and more practical solution-ing.
Within minutes the bat call went out to every friend and family member associated with the State Department or anyone they’d heard of who’d needed a passport in a hurry.
The resounding answer that came back was, yes. It's possible to get a passport on the same day. "Just get there early, have all your paperwork, and be patient."
We agreed not to talk about it at Thanksgiving- as I wasn’t going to tell the girls. I couldn't tell the girls. I was facing one of the biggest mom fails in history. I couldn't stand it.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving and everyone played their part. Back home, worry set in again. Random memories popped and popped. I recalled a meeting here, parking there, a dinner conversation, and various phone calls. I kept asking myself, “why didn’t I think of it then? That would have been a great time to remember the expiration date. Why was it triggered the day before the trip while putting on my running shoes?" I don’t know but have a guess.
I couldn't sleep last night and wasn’t surprised. I had one shot.
At 7:45am this morning, I went through security at the big downtown passport office. I was greeted by an army of pleasant staff and an incredibly efficient operation. I kept looking for the person I'd have to plea and cry to. They seemed completely unphased and just did their jobs.
Three hours later, I had my brand-new passport in hand.
The last couple of months, I’ve had some intermittent anxiety and difficulty focusing. Feeling far from home or disconnected makes these feelings worse. Early one morning this past week, I was teary when I whispered a guilty thought to Brian. I wasn’t really looking forward to the trip. I know this sounds so totally awful and selfish and ungrateful. And, I’m sorry about that.
The funny thing, though, is this. The moment the trip was in jeopardy, getting on the plane became all I wanted to do. The anxiety and distraction evaporated. Perhaps it was the universe’s way of smacking me in the face with a little perspective- five days in a beautiful city with some of my favorite people in the world. I can do this.
In a couple hours, we are off. And for that, I am so thankful.
Given the whirlwind over the last couple of hours. I’ve decided to augment my little joy-spotting project with gratitude. I am so, so grateful. Grateful for Brian who is always on my team. Grateful to my family for their strength and positivity. Grateful for street parking right outside of the passport office. Grateful to the most cheerful CVS clerk who snapped my picture on Thanksgiving morning. Grateful to anyone who reads my ramblings. And, of course, so, so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with my girls, sisters, and mom.
Gros bisous! Until we meet again... in Paris!
If you’ve ever done something that sort of makes sense to you but is hard to explain to others, I can relate. That’s pretty much how I feel about my blog. This post is an attempt to frame it up a little. The Work Life Lab is a place to test, try, and explore ways to make work and life more satisfying. I believe taking ownership and responsibility for our outcomes is key. Woah. That got serious for a second. It’s really not like that. I mostly write about the things that make me smile and think WTF.Read More
Traveling with girlfriends is delightful and exhausting- especially if you’re an extroverted introvert. Here’s how I’m learning to survive and actually enjoy the time away with my best friends.Read More
Traveling with kids is too easy these days. Our recent spring break trip to New York with the kids is Exhibit A. Does anyone else remember the god-awful trips we took as kids in the 70s/80s? There were valuable grit-building lessons on the miles of road in a hot, sticky, boring van. Is all the technology really helping or hurting us?Read More
It’s horrible and heartbreaking and…utterly predictable. We had another school shooting. I’m just one of millions who are sick about it and trying to make sense of the senseless.
What I will say is that the reactions this time feel different. The voices demanding that “something must be done” seem louder and are coming from people I haven’t heard speak up before.
It’s the discussion of what that “something” is that has me thinking. The very serious, complex problem of mass gun violence is being met with a chorus of seemingly simple solutions. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the source of the violence is and how to fix it.
A. It’s loose gun laws and the NRA. We should out the motives of politicians who take their money and create stricter laws around gun buying.
B. It’s mentally ill people. The stigma, lack of training in recognizing symptoms, and barriers to care are real issues. We have to increase the quality and amount of mental health care service in this country, and make it more available to those who need it.
C. It’s the ease of getting into public buildings. More metal detectors at schools and government buildings would deter would-be shooters from even trying, and stop those who do try. We need to increase security and screening for all our public institutions.
D. It’s the lack of information. We still don’t fully understand why mass shootings happen, or what things could be done to prevent them from happening in the future. Research shines a light on the causes and effects. We need to further investigate possible causes and contributing factors like violence in the media, illegal gun sales, and lack of education.
Of course, saying that all mass shootings stem from one of these issues is a false choice. The right answer is E. All of the above.
What’s remarkable to me about this challenge is that we all agree on a desired end goal: No more shootings. No more senseless murders. And even with so much agreement, we’re still stuck on how to get to that end goal.
We’d be much further along if our answer to every proposed solution was “yes, and…” instead of “no, but…” The notion that there’s a single, silver bullet solution out there is as ridiculous as it is ironic. If only it were so simple.
The reality is that all these factors and many more contribute to the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Toxic masculinity, teaching young boys that violence makes them strong and empathy makes them weak, and an ever-increasing focus on incarceration over rehabilitation all contribute. Which means that our solution must be just as multifaceted if it’s to be effective.
So, while we’re waiting on God to answer our “thoughts and prayers,” isn’t there something else I can do? After all, I’m just sitting here—waiting while obsessively clicking the sad and angry emojis.
I can’t sign bills into law myself, but I can sign petitions, make calls, march, and vote. I can’t check someone into a mental institution, but I can advocate for more community mental health resources, seek help for those I know who are at risk, and speak-up when I see threatening comments and behavior. I can’t stand in front of the school every day and check credentials, but I can follow the rules myself. I can support budget requests for security. I can show up to city council meetings and write letters to the editor. I can make my support clear to our teachers and administrators. (In a moment of desperate imagination, I saw redesigned school uniforms redesigned with built-in bullet-proof vests.) I can’t crunch the numbers but I can support research and science that helps us better understand what causes and prevents mass shootings, and why.
As I write this, I feel some pressure to get this thought out while it’s still fresh. And then a little voice says, “Don’t worry. You can write this piece after the next one.” I don’t want there to be a next one. But there will be a next one as long as we hang on to the idea that there is a single (even big) solution out there.
Instead, let’s address all of the above.