Roaming with Dinosaurs

In the eyes of my children, I am ancient. I must have been living when Dinosaurs roamed the Earth. That is the only plausible explanation of how I could have grown up without smart phones, tablets, Facebook, Youtube, Apps, Google and Siri. (Just to name a few.)

For those of you who share in my struggle to explain life before the modern age, I thought you’d enjoy watching this.

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Reflecting on dental visits: Then & now

As I compare my girls dental visits to those of my past, I am struck by 3 differences.

Scale-My childhood dentist had a Pac Man machine in his office (there I go dating myself again). And I thought it was awesome! But now when I walk into my my girls’ dentist’s office, I think I may have been deprived! The main area has several video game consoles along with several television screen playing some kid-friendly movie.

Fear of Dentists-Back in my day, if you were afraid and struggled when the dentist had his hand in your mouth, you ended up strapped in and laying flat on your back. I had a cousin who was absolutely traumatized by this experience. When my youngest began going to the dentist (around 18 months…the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends kids begin going after they get their first tooth or by their first birthday), the dentist was extremely patient. She let her sit on my lap, showed her all of the tools and used big sister to demonstrate how she cleans teeth. This is how several visits went. And now at age 6, my daughter loves the dentist. And for those times when children do get anxious, let’s say when they are having a cavity filled, they can sit back in a the chair, headphones on and eyes affixed to the television screen in the ceiling.

Timing-Braces are a rite of passage. And when I was a kid, most people (myself included) didn’t get braces until high school. But things are different today. A few weeks ago, my 9 year old got her first set of braces….That’s right, I said first set. And my daughter isn’t alone, a number of classmates and friends have braces too. (*Note that I said “first set”. After 18 months of braces to correct her bite we will take a small break from braces until all of her permanent teeth come in. And right around middle school, we will go in for round two. This time to ensure she has a picture-perfect smile.)

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It’s about the little things

Parenting in the modern era is hectic. And admittedly, the chaos often gets the best of me. When I am really in the thick of things I stop and remind myself that one day I will miss being this busy. I will miss the bickering, the piles of laundry overflowing in the corner and struggling to pull together a quick and semi-nutritious dinner.(Ok, maybe not the piles of laundry.)

Perhaps one of the things I will miss most is a little ritual we initially developed around the dinner table–High, Low, Funny. Going around the table, youngest to oldest we each recount the best, worst and funniest parts of our days. It is a small glimpse into the lives we live outside of our family. And it’s a time when we laugh, offer encouragement and applaud achievement.

Admittedly, we don’t always eat dinner at home or even together. But we can play High, Low, Funny anytime and everywhere. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, pause take a deep breadth and find a moment to make those small connections matter.

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What’s in that?

When I was a teenager (I’m going to date myself here), a McDonald’s cheeseburger was 39 cents. That’s right, I said cents (you can’t even find that symbol on my keyboard). At some point I began to wonder, what is in a cheeseburger that only costs 39 cents?

Flash forward…now I am a mother of school-aged children and my pondering over 39 cent cheeseburgers has evolved into $2.50 school lunches. I began to wonder, what’s in those lunches? And I came across a startling fact– once you factor in operational costs like labor, equipment, transpiration and material the actual amount spent on food is roughly $1.00! Can you really make a child a nutritious meal for a dollar?

According to Alice Water’s, owner of Chez Panisse, a globally renowned restaurant known for its locally-grown, organic ingredients, the answer is a resounding NO!  In a 2009, Op-Ed in the New York Times Waters estimated that it would cost roughly twice as much ($5.00 per child) to provide a kid with a healthy meal.

We have a long way to go, but living in San Joaquin County where fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful, we are well-positioned to move further away from processed and closer to “real” food. In fact, Lodi Unified already offers a fruit and veggie bar as part of their school lunch option. And last time I walked through the cafeteria I was tempted  to grab a salad for myself.

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Embracing my inner soccer mom

Before I became a mother, the term “soccer mom” conjured up images of an overly zealous mother who drove a mini-van with the little family stick figures on the rear window. When I heard people use the term “soccer mom” it never seemed to be a compliment. And as someone who is neither an athlete nor a sports fan, a soccer mom is the last thing I imagined I would be. Any yet, nearly a decade later here I am, a full-blown soccer mom driving all over Northern California in my SUV with my little stick figure family prominently displayed on my rear window.

How did I get here? Well, it started innocently enough. My husband and our preschooler were butting heads and I found myself caught in the middle. They needed something of their own; something that didn’t involve me. Soccer was it.

From the beginning my husband was all in, volunteering to coach a team of giggling 4 year-olds—a challenge that proved to be a little more difficult than he (or we) had anticipated. We kicked into problem-solving mode and were reading books, watching YouTube videos and talking to more seasoned coaches. And eventually, we found a way to make practices fun while also ensuring that the girls were learning basic soccer skills. I like, no need, order and so I found myself managing the team logistics. Soon this turned into becoming a full-fledged SYSA (Stockton Youth Soccer Association) volunteer—an age group coordinator to be exact. I found coaches, made teams and dealt with complaints. (Did I also mention that I can be a bit of a control freak?) Before I knew it, recreational soccer had turned into competitive soccer. And off we went.

If you are the parent of a student athlete, you know that this is exhausting and, often, thankless work. Who really wants to wake up at 4 AM on a Saturday to pack snacks and load the car? And yet, I do it willingly and usually without complaint. So why have I jumped into the role of soccer mom? A recent blog post “6 words you should say today” by Rachel Macy Stanford summed it up beautifully. At the end of the day I participate in this insanity because, “I love to watch you play.” I have grown to love soccer, not because I’ve developed an appreciation for the game but because I have developed an appreciation for what the game has given my daughter. Through the years I have watched her become more confident, assertive and silly both on and off the field; and so I enthusiastically and gratefully embrace my inner soccer mom.

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LCAP is more than 4 letters: It’s a call to get involved

About a month ago, I attended a meeting at the Lodi Unified District Office and was astounded to see that I was one of only a handful of people there to represent the interests of more than 30,000 students.  So, I’m taking a moment to explain LCAP.

If there is an acronym parents should know right now, it is LCAP. No, it’s not a new texting acronym.  It is the Local Control Accountability Plan and it is important. The state has given districts more flexibility in how they spend money. In exchange, the state wants to know that districts, parents, students and community members have worked together to  create a plan that will help the district achieve goals set by local and state priorities. The state priorities extend beyond academic goals and include things like parental involvement, student engagement, attendance and school climate. Why is it so important? For the first time, districts across the state will have to link their LCAP to the district budget. So if you want to have a say in the priorities your district sets, how your district will go about meeting local and state goals and how district funds will be used to meet these goals, then now is the time to get involved!

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Science by starlight

Ll We’ve all heard that our kids need more STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). And I agree—they do need more. Too often children are intimidated by these subjects or feel that lessons are too far removed from their daily experiences. So it is especially important that we find ways to bring STEM to life—a way to make children understand the tangible value of STEM education. Admittedly, I love geeking out with my girls and when I find an opportunity to get my girls excited about learning, I seize it.

A few years ago my family attended “Astronomy in the Park,” a nearly free event at Oak Grove Regional Park (you have to pay for parking). The evening’s star party was hosted by the Stockton Astronomical Society. Their passion for the sky was contagious. Members had vast knowledge of the objects we were observing and enthusiastically shared their knowledge with the girls. Each telescope had been carefully set up so that we could easily ooh and aah as we viewed the night sky. And when we got cold, we went inside for more astronomy-themed learning.  Our girls dropped “asteroids” onto the “surface of the moon” and observed the craters left in their wake. They had stars painted on their faces. In fact, the girls enjoyed it so much that I now coordinate an annual star party at our elementary school so that they and their fellow classmates can learn by starlight.

Astronomy in the Park is held monthly on the first Saturday after the New Moon. To learn more go to:

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