Autumn Approaches

back to schoolThe days are shortening, the leaves are starting to turn color, and anticipation grows for parents and children alike for the first day of school.

Stores are crowded with tired parents and children stressing about choosing cool clothes to make them fit in.  New school supplies are a thrill at any age.  I bought a new spiral notebook this year just to feel like part of the game.  school supplies

Backpacks make a garden of color on Target and Walmart walls with the selection getting bigger every year.  How did we ever manage carrying multiple books on our hips?  And, how come boys never had as many books to carry as girls?

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Covering our school books was one of my favorite tasks every year.  The kitchen table was piled with books, brown paper bags, and tape.  Being able to make a tight fitting book cover from a paper bag was a true skill and one to be proud off.  I remember the smell and the feel of the covers as I stacked the finished books.  In those days doodling on the book covers was an art form.  When your boyfriend’s name changed, you had to make a new book cover.

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Look at this clever book cover…woo hoo!

Oh…the excitement of going to junior high.  You thought you would never adjust.  Just when you loved junior high the most, it was time to move on to senior high and even greater anxiety.

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Stay-at-home moms will get to enjoy a few extra minutes of quiet time before trying to coordinate everyone’s new activities and starting the chauffeur game.   Working moms will look at their calendars in fear of having to work late and business trips that will take them away from the school activities they want to share with their children.

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Do you think this mom is ready for school to start?

I wish you all happy times and please do not text or talk on the phone while driving your children.

Which is more important, the phone call, or your child’s life?  No brainer!

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The Gift

I was given a gift today.

This morning I made a hasty decision to run some errands.  This is not unusual for most people but for me it is because it’s 50 minutes one-way to do what I needed to do and frankly, I don’t enjoy the drive unless I have a book on tape to listen to.

 

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We live in a remote area with few full-time residents, no pay phones and no cell service.  As I approached the gate to exit our development I noticed a little boy standing alone in the parking area on the other side of the road.  I quickly glanced at the clock which read 10:20 and the thought flashed through my head that it was far too late for him to be waiting for a school bus. Our forecasted high for today is 14 degrees and it could not have been above 10 degrees that early in the morning.  Red flags of concern were waving violently in my brain.   I rolled down my window and asked the little boy if he was waiting for his mommy.  I was approximately 15 feet from the boy and couldn’t hear what he was saying so I turned into the parking area.  He had on an orange winter parka with the hood pulled up loosely over his head but no hat and no gloves.  A heavy backpack hung from his shoulders and there were two plastic grocery bags on the ground near his feet. The one bag appeared to have bags of snack foods and through the plastic of the other bag I could see two, white, gift bags with red valentine hearts on them.

I asked again if he was waiting for someone.  He was visibly upset and chattered quickly trying to explain.  Unfortunately, the child had a speech impediment which made it hard to understand him.  I did get that he had missed his bus, today was the Valentine’s Day Party at school, and that he thought he had been waiting for about half an hour.  Our conversation was rather disjointed and tears were welling in his eyes.  I asked if I could take him to school.  He quickly agreed but I could not understand his answer as to which school he attended.  Becoming impatient with me he started to gesture with his hands which didn’t help.   By now I was more concerned about him being cold and me wasting time, so I got out of the car and helped him into the passenger seat.  Thankfully the car was warm.  Not wanting to upset him further I calmly asked his name, of which I only got his first name John which he had to spell for this silly woman.   He did not know were his mother had gone or her telephone number.  The tears were very close to brimming over as he explained there was a 2-hour school delay.  Ah ha, that explained why he was at the bus stop so late.  I asked if there were other children who usually waited at the same stop and he said only one other boy and he didn’t know where he was.  I could tell he was annoyed with my questions and inability to understand him.  When I asked if he could direct me to his school he snapped he had told me the name of the school and that I had not heard him.  God love him, I got it this time!  He was upset because this was the first time he had ever been late and he even told me it had never happened at two other schools he had attended.  I told him I hated to be late too and when I had missed my bus it always upset me.  Sharing his fear helped, he started to relax and the tears dried up.

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More red flags waving in my face!  Of course, you’re wondering the same thing I was thinking at the time.  This child had not hesitated to get into a car with a stranger.  My emotions were starting to rise and my heart was beating faster.  Single digit temperature, no hat, no gloves, you drop a child and don’t wait to see them get on the bus, he doesn’t know a telephone number, and he has gotten into a car with a stranger.  I took a deep breath and decided I would walk him to his classroom and have a talk with his teacher.

The school was only about a mile away and as we approached we saw buses pulling in which meant we were not really late.  If my calculations were right, John had probably come pretty close to his estimate of standing alone in the cold for 20-30 minutes. Never having driven onto the school grounds I must have been going too slow because John was directing me with excited anticipation.  There were buses everywhere and of course no where to park so I pulled into a no parking zone.  I said I would walk him to his room but John was over me by then.  When I used the excuse that I wanted to help him with his bags he assured me he was fine and he pointed to the woman directing children and buses and told me she had a badge.  I wasn’t sure if he meant he was safe because she was there or she would arrest me.  Of course, if you know me, you know I don’t take orders from anyone and especially second graders.  In a flash I was around the car helping John with his backpack but he beat me to the crosswalk and dashed into the building.  I walked to the crossing guard and asked if she knew John.  She nodded and gave some noncommittal answer.  I explained what had happened and asked if she would please ask his teacher to tell the mother what had happened in the hope it would never happen again.

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As I drove slowly off the school property tears filled my eyes as I thought, what if?  What if I had not stopped to talk to the UPS driver delivering a package to our house?  What if I had not back-tracked to make sure I had closed the garage door…yeah, do this all the time.  Did these things time it perfectly for me to meet John?  What if it had not been me who stopped to talk to John and had been one of the three perverts on Megan’s list who live in the area?  What if it had been some other pervert?  What if no one had stopped at all?  What if John tried to walk and got lost?

So you ask, where is the gift?  The gift is that God entrusted me with the care of this child and for that I will be eternally grateful.

WARNING:  If you have children and are thin-skinned read no further!

I know parenting is a hard job.  I know that snow days and starting time delays are an inconvenience.  I know what it’s like to be exhausted from everything it takes to maintain a home and family.  However, I also know, there is nothing, absolutely nothing more important than a child’s safety.  If you have children, you have the responsibility of doing the very best you can for your children until they are grown up and even then you will still worry about them.  There is no excuse for allowing your child to stand alone at a bus stop and especially in cold weather.  If your employer doesn’t understand why you were late to work then you need to find a new employer because your children must always come first.

Take your child to the bus stop and wait until you see them safely on the bus.  If you drive or walk them to school, make sure there is an adult to escort them into the building before you leave.  If you take your child shopping, to a park or for ice cream, never take your eyes off them.  Never let your child go to a home where you do not know and trust the people who live there. Drill your children on your telephone number and home address.  Teach your children a password or phrase that they must hear from anyone who would pick them up from school or activities.  No password…then teach them to run as fast as they can to a safe place.  Be suspicious of EVERYONE.  If you see someone acting strangely around children call the police.  It’s better to have to apologize than to see a child’s face on a missing poster.  And those teenagers…whew, God Bless You!  What they say and what they do are very often two completely different things.

In closing, I pass my gift to you.  You have been entrusted with the most important gift in the world, a child.  Don’t abuse this privilege.  Don’t ignore this gift because it will be gone sooner than you can imagine.  Most importantly, do not give anyone the opportunity to harm your gift or take it from you.

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 Have I scared you?  Good.  Keep this fear close, it may save a child.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Many, many years ago when I was in elementary school we didn’t have teacher’s aides or traveling teachers who taught music, art, and physical education.  What we did have were teachers who did it all and still found time to give us parties, Christmas programs, and really fun projects.  It was those special things that we looked forward to.  One of my favorites was making a valentine box.  I distinctly remember looking at a plain shoe box and having no idea where to begin.

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I can’t throw away an oatmeal container without feeling guilty that some child needs it!

 

In those days, we had only the basics materials with which to work; colored paper, glue, and if you were lucky a paper doily and crepe paper.  Mommy Note: Crepe paper color runs when it gets wet and using glue makes for sticky, colored fingers.  I felt inferior because the other kids’ boxes were more beautiful than mine.  Happily, I have gotten over that with no psychological damage.  Surprisingly, the boys really got into this project and came up with very inventive designs.  There was one little girl who always out-did everyone else with everything she made.  To this day, I’m pretty sure her mother hired an artist for her projects because I’ve yet to see third grade work that equals hers. I didn’t know until I Googled valentine boxes that the tradition has continued.  If I was amazed at the boxes in my elementary school, I was speechless at the pictures of boxes made by children today.  They’re valentine boxes on steroids!  And, I must say, more creative than ever.

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The best part of the Valentine’s Day tradition was giving and receiving valentines.  Poor Dad had to make a special trip to the store so that we could pick our valentines to give friends.  They were inexpensive and not fancy, but I loved the little envelopes.  Again, that little girl who always had the best valentine box had the expensive valentines, urrrrr…okay maybe I’m not over it!  Before signing my name, every valentine was carefully chosen for a particular friend by the cute little animal or in the case of boys, the least romantic message on the card.  Separating the valentines in this manner made for a large pile of questionable valentines that eventually had to go to someone or I would not have enough!

 

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I swear I remember these exact valentines.

The teacher would give everyone a list of the names of all the children in the class to make sure no child was forgotten.  On one hand I wanted a valentine from someone special, and on the other hand I knew if a boy wrote anything other than his name on the valentine my brother would never let me forget it.  Thankfully, the boys had no interest in doing any such thing; well, maybe one or two.  There were two boys named “Jimmy” in our class which made for a bit of confusion at times like this.  Yes, you know the feeling…which one was it…the one you wanted it to be or the other?  Most exciting were the special items tucked inside the envelope; heart candies with messages like “Be Mine,” or if you were really lucky a stick of gum which you were not allowed to chew in school.  If you got one of those heart shaped candies that said anything close to being “mushy,” you had several options.  You could quickly shove the little heart into your mouth and destroy the evidence or you could reveal it only to your very best friend and hope she kept her mouth shut about it.  I usually chose the former.

When my children brought home valentines with minuscule heart confetti, that I picked up for weeks, I found that less than clever.  Whoever came up with that idea obviously didn’t have children or had a cleaning lady. Those little hearts rank right up there with Easter grass and Christmas tree needles!

Going back even further than my childhood, as hard as that is to believe, the Victorians had beautiful, romantic, over-the-top valentines.  These were very typical of the Victorian saying, “too much is not enough.”

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 Look closely, they too used paper doilies!

 A Little History On Victorian Valentines

In the language of St. Valentine’s Day, a red heart symbolizes a holiday of love and romance.

Lacy valentines of the Victorian era reached their peak in the years 1840-1860. On delicate lace paper hand-painted motifs such as; cupids, birds, flowers, hearts, and darts may be enhanced with chiffon, silk, satin, tulle, or lace. Novelty valentines might feature a tiny mirror, an envelope, a puzzle purse, or a slot to hold a lock of hair. There were valentine checks drawn against the Bank of Love, and valentines printed to look like paper money. One of these looked too much like a real five-pound note and was quickly recalled.  Some valentines were decorated in watercolor or in delicate pen and ink. Often the handwriting was a thing of beauty as fine penmanship was considered a form of art.

I found the puzzle purse valentine very unique.  Following are the instructions for you to make one at home.  Using your very best handwriting, write a message or a poem and/or draw pictures of your favorite things.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make one for Mom and Grandma.

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Google Valentine’s Day projects for more ideas.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 Don’t forget International Book Giving Day also on February 14th.