Nature or nuisance?

It’s a matter of perspective.

A cattail grove grows along a bayou of the Thornapple,

a signpost of a healthy wetland habitat blocks your million dollar view.

Canada Geese nest along the edge of the neighborhood pond. Some elate at their arrival.

Others lament their messiness and aggression fearing for small children,

Coyotes comb the fields and river’s edge for prey encroaching on  a suburban

environment.

Is it nature we revere or a nuisance we fear?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

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Pets and Preferences

My husband, Dan, grew up without pets and he professed that he was not fond of them. My childhood was filled with cats and dogs. Over our 28 year marriage we have had fish, Chinchillas, Guinea Pigs, a Budgie, several cats and two dogs. Currently we have four formerly stray cats. I know.  It’s too many. But how can I turn them away when they come to my door looking for food and shelter? I already had a cat when I married Dan. He couldn’t say much about her because we were a package deal.  But it took twelve years until he would finally agree to a dog. And here’s the ironic thing. They all prefer Dan. And that makes me smile.

Book Stacks

Over the winter holiday I experimented with constructing a stack of books to look like a Christmas tree. I built it atop of the round table in the living room. Then I built one on the fireplace hearth in the dining room and yet another on the top book shelf in the living room. They have kind of become my favorite decorating tweak. It takes a bit of planning and revising. You don’t want to use just any book. I needed a nice squarish book for the bottom of the Christmas tree stack. “Night Watch: A  Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe” by Terrence Dickson was a great choice. Hard covers look best. They have great lines. “Tales of Mystery and Terror” by Edgar Allen Poe near the top. Next up book stacks by theme rather than shape. Food stacks in the kitchen? Coffee table stacks on the living room coffee table? I’m obsessed.

Each Kindness – Today

“This is what kindness does, Ms.Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.” Jacqueline Woodson, Each Kindness

  1. Dan got up early and made the coffee.
  2. Beth came into my classroom to let me know she would not be able to see my kiddos for reading support. She complimented me on my hair.
  3. Madison helped Kyler organize his desk.
  4. Mrs. Beene came in and offered to tabulate my March Book Madness voting results.
  5. Dan picked up tickets for tonight’s theater performance.
  6. Kerrie, my teaching colleague, continued taking my kiddos for MAP testing since she has a student teacher in her room.
  7. Kirsten showed me her dice game.
  8. The librarian saved the new copy of “Ivan: the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” for me.
  9. Madison helped picked up the boots that were left in the hall at the end of the day and toss them in lockers.
  10. Denver gave me a big hug as we sat through the Irish Dance assembly this morning.
  11. Sarah the intern helped me fill out my brackets for the NCAA tournament while I frantically ate my lunch.
  12. And Dan made a wonderful dinner with broccoli as a side. (I have been craving broccoli lately)

 

 

Date Night

Wednesday nights have evolved as “date nights” over the past three years. Only by happenstance have my husband, Dand,  and I dubbed Wednesdays as “date night”. It all really arose out of circumstance and convenience. Our eldest has been away at college and our youngest (now an Eagle Scout I say with unabashed pride) has attended religiously attended his scout meeting on Wednesday nights. My husband and I started taking advantage of these empty house nights by rendez-vousing at our local favorite bistros. We rotate between two local favorites that have completely opposite atmospheres. One has a “cheers” sort of vibe so that from the moment we walk in it’s table visits from the wait staff and updates on the wedding plans and the new puppy. The other is a litte more discreet. We take our regular high top table in the corner and receive only nods and knowing glances from the servers. Both places are lovely and understated. They both feel like a home away from home. Except at these homes I don’t have dish duty.

A Letter to Collin in My Class

Dear Collin,

The Kindergarten teachers warned me that you were mean to other kids last year. In September I got a phonecall from Harvey’s mom who told me you targeted Harvey all last year and it was a big problem. Harvey didn’t want to go to school and he was only in Kindergarten.  The teasing and name calling started immediately. I  worked really hard in the to make a connection with you. For a couple of months you were getting along with your classmates. But again recently kids have been coming to me, “Ms. Stegink, Collin is making fun of me” and “Ms. Stegink, Collin called me a _________” or “Ms. Stegink, Collin spit on me”. Collin, I called your mom today. She doesn’t know why you are being mean to the other kids. She says you tell her every day that you don’t like school. I feel so sad. Why are you so unhappy? I saw you so excited to read the “Who Would Win” books that came in our Scholastic order last week. It was the most engaged I have ever seen you. I wonder, are you mean to your peers because you don’t feel connected? Collin, tomorrow I promise I will start working on our relationship even more. I just wish you would give me a clue about how you are feeling. It’s day #118 of first grade and you and I need to figure this out. See you in the morning.

Love,

Ms. Stegink

 

 

Multi-tasking Teen

We used to make it a priority to sit down for dinner together every night. We did this right through high school even though sometimes it required us to eat really late. If the boys had band practice or a scout meeting they would have a sandwich before they left the house and we’d have a full dinner when they got home. But now that we have only one teen at home dinner has morphed into something else. When I got home from the YMCA tonight my husband had already left for his dinner meeting. My teenage son and I started negotiating dinner plans. He eyed the jar of al fredo  sauce in the cupboard while my mouth watered at the site of a can of Madras Sambar (Indian lentils). So, we made our own dinners. As I sat down to catch up bill payment, I glanced up and saw my son stirring a pan of sauce with his right hand as he read The Diviners by Libba Bray which he had propped on the counter. This multi-tasking teen makes me smile. He is as adept at fending for himself as he is reading. After all, these are two of his favorite activites.

A Cruel Tradition

Me: “Hey, Dan, it’s 7:19!”

Dan: “No, remember the time change?”

Me: “Then my phone didn’t change.”

Dan, stumbling out of bed and shuffling into the kitchen: “I’ll go check. Hey, Maxson. Get up. It’s 7:22. You wanted leave at 7:25.”

Me: “Can you turn off the light?”

Not my favorite way to wake up on a Sunday morning. Just when Dan was commenting last night how nice it is to be grilling outside at 7:00 p.m. in the light. Why do we put ourselves through this torture each spring? What are we saving? Not our sanity. Not our health. Not our health nor our lives. Studies show that in the days following our leap ahead there is an increased risk for auto accidents, heart attacks, stroke, and weight gain. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/daylight-saving-time-health_us_56314767e4b0c66bae5ae7f3)

Daylight Savings Time is someone’s idea of a cruel joke. That someone was Benjamin Franklin. He suggested it as a way to save money on candles. Well, I’ve got news for you. I haven’t spend much on candles lately. Can we please let this cruel annual tradition go the way of the kerosene lantern?

 

In the Moment with Two Seven Year Olds

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The day for my donated “teacher experience” had arrived. I was taking my students, Harvey and Tristan, to see a movie. It was “teacher experience” donation to the annual school auction. I purchased tickets to see Zootopia. In 3D of course!

As it happens I have been struggling with some teen parenting issues at home. As children grow older the parenting issues seem to become more complex. As I pulled into Harvey’s driveway I saw him come bounding out the front door and across the lawn. His mom followed him with two booster seats. She seemed almost apologetic. “Thank you so much for doing this.” I hugged her, “You have no idea how thrilled I am to spend the afternoon with two seven year olds!” I said.

We had such a marvelous time. While the experience reminded me of when my own two boys were little there was also something different about it. Today I felt very relaxed. Very in the moment. I think that when my boys were little I would’ve been a little bit stressed about things. Have I discovered what grandparents experience? My one concern today was to make sure the boys had a good time. As I looked in the rearview mirror, Disney Radio on the XM,  I saw the two boosters in the back, two little fresh-faced boys with 3D glasses still on their faces clutching half eaten bags of popcorn and a bucket of half eaten cotton candy, I know I achieved my goal.

How to be a Doting Mom from 400 Miles Away

I have always told my boys, “Fly. Be free. Fly from this nest and experience the world. If you decide West Michigan is the place you eventually want to put down roots, you can always come back.” So my eldest didn’t hesitate to choose a college 400 miles away. While most of my friends get regular visits from their kids on weekends or drive an hour to meet them for a quick dinner, I have to get creative to be the doting mom. His freshman year I tried to establish “the Sunday night phone call” ritual. I think it lasted a month. While I was counting down the minutes til Sunday my son was busy immersing himself in the college experience. I have learned that I can connect in other ways. Give me a laptop and access to Amazon Prime and I can hold my own in the doting mom category. Need groceries and can’t get to the store? I’m on it! Running low on socks? Can your laundry hold out two days? Heading to California for spring break? You’ll need some new clothes. Of course. Give me two days and you’ll receive your package. Is it exam time already? Cherry Republic Cherry Care Gift package with Boomchucka cookies will get you through those late night study sessions. While I cherish the visits I do get to have with my son, I have learned that love also travels well in a Fed Ex package.