No Fear of Flying

I have been fortunate to be a part of a writer’s group that includes good writers and even better people. Today is the first of a three part series featuring the other members of my writing group.

Ronit, the LA lady, is the first up. For the past eight years, Ronit Fried-Mershon has been a stay at home mom in New Jersey. Prior to that she toiled as a television producer where she covered several stories of unruly fliers.

Whenever Ronit returns from a visit to LA, we know we are in for some hilarity, but we don’t know who the famous, nearly famous or connected person she will bump into. In addition, she has the best reading voice which can make characters and scenes come alive. I wish she could read this piece to you. Oh well – I am sure you will enjoy it either way.

Perhaps you recognize me. I am a parent who flies with her children – three of them in fact – across the country, several times a year. And you are someone who falls into one of two categories: The
Sympathizer i.e. You’ve been there, have kids, know what it’s like to fly with kids, and happen to like kids…or you are The Hater i.e. You hate kids, hate people who fly with kids and can’t believe you are a flying on an airline that actually allows children on its aircraft. But if you are reading this I presume you are a member of the former category.

The trick is to load up their backpacks with DVDs, handheld gaming devices, iPods, etc. Happy to have a long stretch of time to hone their hand-eye coordination courtesy of the Super Mario Brothers, and nobody telling them to do homework or chores, the kids bask in the solitude of their video games and movies.

Last year I flew from New York to Los Angeles with not just my three children in tow but also two more boys (ages six and nine). As we boarded the plane the boys quietly took their middle and window seats, settling themselves in with their Nintendo DSs and Leapsters. Along came an older woman to the row, whom I recognized to be some aging c-list actress. She audibly groaned “Oh great. I get to sit next to the kids.” And if that vicious comment were not sufficient, she snidely added, “You boys are gonna behave, aren’t you?”

After she made her obnoxious presumptuous comments, I decided I was going to ensure that her concern would not be the boys sitting next to her, but the offended mother sitting in front of her.

“Look kids, we’re sitting next to a Wicked Witch. Try not to sit too close to her as she might melt you or throw you into her boiling pot of soup,” I said audibly as I pierced my eyes straight into hers.

It is fairly common these days to hear of an unruly passenger/flight attendant/pilot, whose behavior precipitated an unscheduled emergency landing. The alleged perpetrator is ungracefully escorted off the aircraft and forced to find their way back via the confines of a police vehicle and much
ridicule. These alleged perpetrators are almost always of legal voting and drinking age, loud, boisterous and often intoxicated, and sometimes an occasional member of your run-of-the-mill terrorist cell. They are rarely over the age of ten, having consumed nothing more than some artificially-sweetened apple juice or the occasional sip of Coca Cola, and the only cell involved is the one on which they are playing Angry Birds.

I bear no patience for people, who pretend to be adults yet they lack manners to preclude them from thinking before they speak. The comments of this not-so-graciously ageing c-lister were premature.

The flight was uneventful, at best, as all the children were exceedingly well-behaved. The boys sitting beside her did not even get up to use the restroom during the flight. The only disturbance, ironically, came from ageing-c-lister. She spent the majority of the flight sneezing – much to the annoyance of all the other grown up passengers around her, not to mention the two little boys quietly perched beside her.

As we deplaned, the proverbial tail between her legs, ageing c-lister told me how nicely behaved the kids were – something I and all the other passengers seated around me already knew.

“Of course. They’re great kids,” I snapped. I huffed off, leaving her to offend the rest of the deplaning passengers with her endless sneezing.

“Yes they are,” I faintly heard her say.

And perhaps now, those last six hours allowed her to pass into membership of the previously mentioned former category – The Sympathizer.

Dumb Children

My children are dumb. You heard me. I am tired of mincing words, softening the blow. Dumb! That’s what they are.
Caring, diligent, patient, faithful. These are the types of traits I want for my children. Give me a little while and I can come up with many more. I bet you can do the same for your children.
However, my children are dumb. And I am guessing your children are dumb too. Don’t huff away or curse me. Hear me out.
Let me provide you with a sample conversation that proves my point.
“BR, come here.”
“Shh, quietly. I got to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“I said quietly.”
“Come here.”
“There’s only one chocolate left. Eat it now before SJ comes down.”
“Ok. Thanks.”
A minute later the chocolate is gone. BR goes upstairs and finds SJ happily watching cartoons in my room (SJ spends time in there than my and I but that’s another story).
“SJ. I just had the last chocolate. Daddy gave it to me.” (Best if read in a mocking voice).
“What? That’s not fair! Daddy!”
I come up the stairs. “What is it? What’s up SJ?”
“Why did you give BR a chocolate and not me? That’s not fair.”
If looks could wound, BR would be on the ground in some pain. “Why did you tell him that after I told you not to?”
“I don’t know.” He is not contrite in the least.
“SJ – I gave you one yesterday. Don’t you remember?” This does not soothe him. Now BR is upset because he did not get one the day before. He conveniently forgets the other treat he got.
Don’t think this is a one kid show.
“Yes, SJ you can stay up a little late to watch the end of your show. Just don’t go downstairs and mention it to BR.”
A couple of minutes pass and SJ is making one of his thunderous trips to the bathroom. BR hears the trip and comes running up the steps.
“Why is he still awake?”
“Daddy said I can stay up late and watch the end of Doc McStuffins.” (Best if read in a mocking voice).
The argument ensues.
One more example.
“Okay guys. We can start homework later. Let’s not advertise.”
SJ is unclear of my instructions. “What’s advertise mean?”
“Don’t tell mommy. It’s just between us. Both of you put a hand on top of mine. Remember, we’re a team. We’re a team. We’re aaaaaahhhh team.” Our hands going flying in the hair. “Now, remember don’t tell momny.”
My wife arrives home. Fifteen maybe 20 seconds pass before both children are spilling the beans. “Daddy said we could start homework late. Yeah, we just started a little while ago.”
I get a look from my wife. Uggh.

See, I told you my children are dumb. Sure, they read early, they are articulate, and they are inquisitive. However, they are dumb.
Can you imagine them being spies? Protecting state secrets, gathering information from a potential enemy? Remember the movie, Spies Like Us? They would make Ackroyd and Chase look like the best of the best.
See, I told you my children are dumb. Sure, they read early, they are articulate, and they are inquisitive. However, they are dumb.

Can you imagine them being spies? Protecting state secrets, gathering information from a potential enemy? Remember Spies like us? They would make Ackroyd and Chase look like the best of the best.

I think I know what the problem is. Why the heck do I keep telling them secrets expecting them to keep it? I know why. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. I’m dumb too.

Old House, New House

Today I have a guest post from a blogger whom I have been following for a while. No, I don’t mean in the stalker way. That blogger is Jessie Clemence, a talented writer. I look forward to her posts as her range of topics is so diverse. However, she often comes back to sharing bits of her odd self.

Jessie blogs from southwestern Michigan, where she lives with her husband and two children. She writes about parenting, marriage, and faith, all from a slightly nutty perspective. She has written a book on motherhood and faith titled There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse, which will be released on March 2, 2013.

When our daughter was a baby, my husband and I bought our first house. The three of us moved into the tiny little farmhouse and were happy as clams for several years. Never mind that the washer and dryer were in the kitchen, European-style. Never mind that the basement was perfect for a horror movie, or that the stairs wound upward in a spiral, too tight to fit much furniture and terribly dangerous for toddlers. We made it work. We even had our second child and tucked him into the cozy space with us. Really, babies don’t need much space. Their clothes are tiny, they have itty-bitty shoes, and they are happy to snatch all the toys their siblings already own.
But when our son turned about four, things became overwhelming. Suddenly he had big versions of everything his sister already had. We found ourselves with multiple pairs of snow boots, snow pants, and winter coats. Toys spilled out of tiny bedrooms and covered the living room floor. Books covered every horizontal surface. Our stuff, even the stuff we needed to live, was smothering us. The children grew physically, and their friends with them. Having a group of kids over was like trying to fit a pack of dinosaurs into an elementary gymnasium. The floor shook, and the walls vibrated.
We hit our limit this past summer and made drastic plans. We had a new house built and rented out the old one. I am deeply grateful for every inch of this new house. The lovely basement has carpet, sun-filled windows, and space to shoo the children when they get rambunctious. We can have a sleepover for ten girls with room to spare if I ever get up my nerve for such a thing. A bubble of giddiness wells up every time I go to the utility room with a load of laundry. I no longer have to worry that the cookies will be infected by dirty socks somehow.
And yet, there are things about our tiny old house that sneak up and surprise me with longing. I miss the way the cement of the front porch felt on my bare feet when the summer sun warmed it up. I miss the bathroom window that I used to crack open for fresh air, even in the cold of January. Come spring, I will long for the beautiful, fertile dirt of my old flower gardens. I lived with those small blessings for so long that they worked their way into me somehow, and now I find myself without them.
Well, I guess I’m not really without them. I can still remember what they felt like, and being thankful to have experienced them means I still have them in some fashion. And I know that as I live in this new house over the years I will grow attached to it. I will work the dirt, I will feel the fresh air through the windows, and it too will become part of me. I pray my heart will always be tender enough to let new things become a part of me, and grateful for the things that are already there.

Student Off Stage

I teach five periods a day. In addition, there is one period where I am assigned to do something around the school. For this school year, I have been in the auditorium during “0” period (the first of the day).
My main job is to sit in the auditorium, tell students to sit down and remove their hats. It is thrilling. And fulfilling. You can only imagine. During the magical time of 7:40 to 8:24, I sit on the stage and watch the students filter in. My main hope is that they will stay sleepy and not cause any problems. I am quite content to see them calmly ease into the day. This part of my job is generally easy. There has yet to be a fight and the students generally respond when I ask them to take off their hat. So, I use the time to go on the computer (blog), mark papers, review lesson plans, etc.
Something has occurred during this placid time of the day which I did not plan for. There are a few students that sit on the stage with me every day. We did not talk about it. They simply chose to do so. We talk about school, life – whatever is on our mind. This type of banter is my favorite part of being a teacher. When students are outside of the classroom and you engage them in one-on-one conversation or in small groups, they are different people. No longer do they feel the need to impress their classmates. It’s often like you are meeting a kid for the first time. He may certainly resemble the student you have in the classroom but there are differences. Good differences.
Tyrel is one of the students who sits with me on the stage every morning. He is an 11th grader. He was a member of my class in the Fall of his 10th grade year. He did reasonably well in the class. We had occasional clashes as he could be moody and temperamental. When we crossed paths during the Spring term, we would exchange a brief “hey.”
Now, Tyrel is a regular on the stage. He walks serenely down the aisle, shakes my hand, wishes me a good morning, and then proceeds to put his backpack down and eat his breakfast. Sometimes we talk – about homework, our weekend, whatever. Sometimes, we don’t. Yesterday, Tyrel told me he was having a challenging term. He will be attending a family reunion in the Caribbean with 11 of his mother’s siblings and their families. This upcoming trip was exciting for him and challenging him in terms of concentration.
When the bell rang, he and the others said good bye and headed off to their classes. The next time I saw Tyrel he was in the dean’s office. He was explaining an incident that happened earlier in the day. The long and short of it is that he hit a fellow student, Malik, in the head with a pipe. Malik was bleeding and was ultimately taken to the hospital. Apparently Malik had stolen something from Tyrel last term, was making fun of TYREL’s family, and was acting like he was going to steal something else. I happen to know MALIK: he is immature and not overly bright.
Tyrel calmly retold this story, aware of what he did wrong. He said he couldn’t take it anymore and was tired of hearing it. Before I went back to my classroom, I spoke to TYREL privately. I told him I was sorry about all that had happened. I hoped he would be okay. And I would be a character witness for him.
While walking back to my classroom, I was shaking my head. What will happen to Tyrel? How could he lose it like that? I thought I knew him. He’s not that kind of person. I am worried for my students.
*Please note names have been changed.