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Passion, Chaos, Love, Parenting, and Life

Updated on April 7, 2016
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Dana has been an English teacher at both the high school and college level for 12 years. She is also a mom of twins and an advocate for IF.

Rules for Dirt Road Driving

We live on a dirt road...which is the highway bypass FOR LOCAL TRAFFIC. Which also means that we have stupid people that get lost and can't drive on a dirt road. Or we have big trucks who try to take a short cut and are just jerks.

1. Slow it down. You do not need to go 75. Actually, the speed limit is 55, and you should go slow if you like your tires.

2. You still have to drive on the right side of the road. I know there are no lines, but that doesn't mean the whole road is yours.

3. There is wildlife. Lots of it, pay attention

4. There is farm equipment. It doesn't move fast. This is there space, and they feed you. Respect that.

5. Cows. They will hurt your car.

6. When it rains, dirt makes mud. Which means you are going to really have fun. Just don't do it.

7. We live here. Slow down and pay attention. We have kids, dogs, and livestock.

Kids, play, and boundaries

Kids learn from so many things. They learn by watching, by doing, and by hearing. Kids are like little sponges. Every single one of them is different. Yet, they all need similar things. Kids want to learn, they want to explore, they want to take risks. However, what happens when they are forced into a situation where they can't.

My house is less in turmoil that it has been recently. We are working very hard as parents to calm that. We have also gotten some answers. We have an ADD diagnosis. So, now I have a place to start. I am one of those people that has to know what I am dealing with so I can attack it.

I can handle this. I can research the hell out of it and come out on the other side with knowledge and a plan. That is my personality. We can give our daughter the tools she needs to be successful and to manage this. Her dad understands and is right there with her and for her. He has walked in her shoes.

With this diagnosis, my mind got to thinking. How much of what we see in kids with ADD happens simply because we do expect them to sit still for hours on end? Then I started comparing. As an elementary school kid, I had an hour of recess a day. My kids have half of that. I also had PE, music, and art. My kids have PE and music. They have 30 minutes a day of unstructured play time. This is the only time they can run around like wild apes, well sort of. They don't have jump ropes, no four square, no tether ball, can't play kickball, or any thing of that nature. Recess is even a little structured for them. They can't really be kids and learn to solve anything on their own because someone might get hurt.

Guess what? Kids get hurt, they have to learn to stand up for themselves, they have to learn to work together. If they can't do that without an adult watching over their should in grade school, how on earth are they going to make good choices in high school?

As parents some of us have gone so far to the bubble wrap side, we have forgotten that kids need to be kids. We are hampering their ability to make decisions and learn to problem solve. Let them go to school with mismatched shoes. I bet they can find it next time. My daughter got put in the car to go to daycare once in her undies because she wouldn't wear anything but her purple butterfly dress. It was dirty. She got dressed very quickly.

Kids need to have boundaries, but they need to be able to test them. They need to understand boundaries exist for a reason. They also need to be able to create their own when they feel it is necessary. Without these things we create kids that are dependent on us to make all of their choices for them. As parents when we do that, we are creating a major problem when they go out to a party in high school and they have never made a choice on their own.

Think about it. The more our kids have the ability to have free play the more they are going to learn to make good choices. They are going to make some bad ones too. That is where we come in as parents and talk them through those. We have to help them establish their own boundaries and let them live in ours. We have to help them understand consequence when they cross the ones we have set for them.

The best thing we can do for our kids is love them.

They say it takes a village, but sometimes the village is too much

It does take a village to raise a child. However, sometimes the village oversteps boundaries and invades. How do we as parents handle it when the village won't stay at bay and comes barging into your home and every aspect of your life?

I am not sure I have all the answers for that question. Actually, I am not sure I have any of the answers. What I do know is this, the village that it takes, must understand that the family must come first.

Parents sometimes have to do things that are in the best interest of their children and families. These things are not always popular with the rest of the village. What the members of the village fail to understand is that had those boundaries that were established earlier been respected these more drastic measures would not be necessary.

Drastic measures are not fun for anyone. They are hard decisions to make and harder to enforce. When the village lives in very close quarters, it makes for a very uncomfortable and tense living situation. In the course of life things happen and people grow and change.

Boundaries are necessary in families. They are even more necessary in very large families. Without them, at least one member of the family is going to become a doormat. When that family member has had enough and establishes some boundaries, they become the bad person. It is at this point that the village becomes too much.

In our village, we have become to much. There is little room to breathe and lots of room for judgement. My thoughts are this. We are all our own people. I want to be judged for the person I am, not for where I sit on Sunday morning. Just because I may do things and raise my children in my own way, does not mean that I am doing it wrong. I want to raise compassionate, caring, happy, and healthy kids. I cannot do this if there is constant conflict and judgement of their father and I in our village.

So here is where I am drawing my line in the sand. People make mistakes. No one is perfect. Before passing judgement, look inside. To keep my family spiritually and mentally healthy, we are going to walk away from the conflict. Those that choose to live in constant conflict choose to live in an unhealthy manner. I choose not to live that way any longer.

Youth sports and coaches...

Yesterday was a fantastic day for us around here. It was also a day that had so many teachable moments. As a parent, teacher, and former coach you have to latch onto those and run with them. Not just with your kids, but with those around you that need to see them and hear them.

Sitting mat side at a tournament that is win or go home, brings out every emotion you can imagine. One would think that it is the wrestler that goes through the majority of the emotions. I am here to tell you as a parent and a former athlete, I was way less tense as an athlete. Anyway, things happen in wrestling, lots of them.

Wrestling is rough. There is no other way around it. Kids get hurt, they bleed (tampons will stop a bloody nose mat side, just a side note) they cry, and the list goes on. Kids also learn what it means to be a good sport on and off the mat from their parents and coaches.

Watching a win or go to state match on mat 7 that was very intense is going to give me my example of the day. These boys were 12 and under. Both were very good wrestlers, one hurt his ribs at some point during the third period. At this point the wrestler choose to continue. He lost. At the end of the match he shook hands with his opponent, the referee, and the opposing coach. He showed wonderful sportsmanship in the face of defeat. His coach on the other hand, was disgraceful. One coach went to shake his hand, and he blew up like a roman candle. It was horrifying.

These men are supposed to be providing a good role model for our children and young athletes. They are who our athletes look to when they are in need of encouragement and kind words. It is them that are going to help guide and mold them into adults and good sports. This kind of behavior does none of that. Instead, it gives them the model of distrust the feeling that it is alright to lose our temper in the heat of the moment.

I have coached for years, and I have been upset at bad calls. As an athlete I have been upset. I have made bad calls as a referee. However, sportsmanship was always enforced. This is the most important lesson we can teach our young athletes and children. How you win and lose shows much about your character. It is so important that we teach them to do both with grace and dignity.

As for this coach, I really hope he see the error of his ways and apologizes for his behavior. His first concern at that moment should have been for his athlete, not accusation. As for his character, I would not want my child to wrestle for him. I love passionate coaches, but I also want someone that has character and grace.

We move on to State next weekend. All I wish for my son is for him to do his best and have fun. At this age, that is what is about. At all ages that is what is about. When it stops being fun, it is time to hang up the headgear.

Some wounds never scar over

At one point in my journey with and through infertility, I was naive enough to really believe that once I had kids I would be healed and be able to move on. I was very young and stupid then. I wish someone would have told me many things when I started this never ending journey.

My quest for kids did end with the birth of twins. My struggle with infertility did not. This thing is a monster. It changes a person. I have found my strength in places you would not expect to find it. I have been judged by those closest to me. I have lost close friends because of IF. They don't know how to handle it, so they don't. They don't have to. That is their choice, it doesn't make it hurt less when they walk away, but they can choose to.

Just recently I was with some girlfriends and they were chatting about kids and getting pregnant. Two of us have been through IVF and have kids, one of us is still struggling, the rest had babies the old fashioned way. The conversation made me sad. It also made me realize that I am always going to have a hard time with statements about trying to get pregnant and "have you tried this or this?" Or my personal favorite, "it will happen when it is meant to be." That statement is one of the meanest things I have ever been told in my life. You could call me every single horrible name you can think of, and it is better than telling me that.

Things that were hard when we were trying and going through IVF and FET cycles, are still hard. That teenager that gets pregnant makes me cry my eyes out. The woman who gets her children taken away for neglect breaks me. Baby showers, nope still can't do them. It has been eight years and I still can't go to a baby shower without a serious pep talk from my husband. I skipped both of my sister in laws. Distance was the best excuse there. I could have done it, but it would have taken another piece of me.

The result for so many of us is this. We are broken. Permanently broken. The person we once were is gone and we can't get her back. We want to, but she is long gone. Somewhere between the diagnosis, the standing on your head after scheduling sex, the endless probes with the love wand, shots, blood tests, and negative pregnancy tests we lost part of ourself.

Out of the ashes of my disease and the treatment, I have emerged stronger. I am very different. As a women, as a wife, as a friend, and as a mother. Yet, here I am. Still fighting for me, for my family. There won't be any more babies for us. My body has made sure of that. I know that I am very blessed. I also know that without this struggle, I would not have found my strength. I also wouldn't have found the irreplaceable sisterhood I have. Without them, I never would have made It.

Teacher funnies...

Should I say it or not?

The anwser is probably no, but I usually say it anyway. Why? Well, mostly because I am a big kid. I remember being a high school and college student. Which also means the teachers I learned the most from were honest. They were honest about everything. They taught not only the subject they were supposed to teach, but they taught me about life.

Now, I teach developmental reading and writing. I LOVE what I do. I get to work with the kids that the regualr system lets slip through the cracks. FYI, there are way more than the system wants you to think there are. Those wonderful teachers that are doing the best they can just can't do it all with no money, no support, and a cubic butt load of new standards. I digress...

The things that reach kids, well what are they. Honesty. When you are standing in front of a room full of high school or college kids, they do not want things to be sugar coated. They want to know. Chances are, they already know. Don't tell me not to say "sex" because we don't want to give them any ideas. Guess what? They know what it is and chances are they are partaking in that particular activity. Hate to be the bearer of bad news for those educators and parents that think their children would never, they will. They do.

Let's talk about teaching something as simple as grammar, strike that grammar is super confusing. For the sake of this, let's make it easier. Punctuation and capital letters! YAY! The little funny above, well read it well. In one sentence, you are helping someone get down from their horse. In the next sentence (because you forgot to capitalize a proper noun) you are helping someone do something very icky to a horse. If you have ever been or are a farm kid you get the icky part.

My personal favorite, teaching Shakespeare. Why, well because his stuff is super sexually charged or super bloody and gory. Say "sex" or "penis" in a room full of high school kids and they pay attention. Works everytime. Everytime I tell you. It is so much easier to get them to understand Romeo and Juliet when they understand that the characters were 16 and 13 and wanted to get married just to have sex. It also makes it more fun to read when they understand all the dirty jokes.

In our current educational climate how do I deal with the "helicopter parents"? Well, I don't anymore. I don't teach in the high school anymore, and I miss it. I loved it. I love what I do now, and I don't have to worry that a parent is going to be upset becasue I said something about sex. Hopefully, parents of college kids know that sex is a very real possibility. They do right?

As teachers we need to stand up for our own rights to teach the way we want. I am not saying go all out rogue and have a total potty mouth. I am saying that somethings are essential to the understanding of literature. Literature mimics life. Life involves lots of things that may not be super mainstream. Women wearing pants weren't mainstream at one point, and I am writing this in jeans.

I am also saying that I am not going to tell the engineer how to build or design something, so stay out of my lesson plans. I have always invited people into my classroom. Come in, hang out, take part. Learn with us. We have fun. It looks crazy and it totally is. However, those students walk out knowing more about English and life than they did when they walked in.

Am I failing my own kid?

My daughter's teacher called me the other day, and my whole world turned on the side. I know she is struggling. Not because she is having a hard time with the material, but because she is having a hard time focusing, listening, not being "Chatty Cathy", and everything said to her she takes super personally.

Now we have entered the "how do I help her learn to help herself?" phase of this whole process. However, before I can do that, I have to know what is the matter with my kiddo. Things like ADHD and vision therapy have been tossed at me. Now as a teacher I have the ability to take the bull by the horns and take charge. With her, I feel like I am flailing and wading through Jell-o.

I feel like I have taken my ability to help students for granted now that I am in this situation. I have no idea where to start. You have to start to finish though or get any answer. I know that. I also know that she can't keep feeling like this.

As her mom, I also have learned this, those that you think you can lean on...well, you can't. Everyone has a different opinion on what is wrong and what I should do. Instead of listening to everyone else as a parent, you have to listen to your own instincts.

I have done my research and I am pretty sure of the outcome of the appointments we have this week. I also know that there is no quick fix for any of this. I do know that I am the mom that will love her through this and will fight with her through this. Not for her, because she has to learn to fight for herself. I will fight with her. One of the greatest things I can give her right now is support and love.

One of the things I need to give myself is time and patience with myself. Sometimes we forget that we are human too.


When education fails us

I spend part of my life teaching developmental reading and writing at a local community college. I love what I do. Teaching is part of my heart and soul. However, as the years go on, I am noticing a trend. This trend is very concerning to me. I have students who cannot do very simple things. Things that should have be grasped in first and second grade.

Last night, I was helping my own kiddos with their reading homework. They are working on theme. They are in second grade. I couldn't help thinking, "why in the world are they working on something as complex as theme when most of the time kids this age have hard time with main idea?" What are we doing to our children and our students if we are not allowing them to fully master a simple concept before we move on to much more complex concepts.

I have taught at the high school, junior high, and now the college level. I am familiar with the Common Core. While I do see the need for standards in education, there needs to be balance. As a country we have become so concerned about those test scores that we have forgotten what is important. Kids. They are important. What are they mastering and are they really learning it. Can they really tell me what this story is about? If they can't, we failed them. They didn't fail us, we failed them. We need to be teaching so kids can learn.

Education is the business of teaching kids. Not testing kids. It has become the business of testing kids. I cannot count the number of tests my second graders take on Fridays. It is unreal. With all the new standards and all the stuff they have to know, they have to take that many to cram all that information into their little brains. However, what are we really teaching them?

As parents and educators we are teaching them how to do it and forget it. We are not allowing for retention of information. There is no way that a second grader can master all of the reading concepts, let alone all the other concepts, they are supposed to.

As teachers, we need to be diligent that we are making sure the students in our classes are mastering concepts. Not just talking about making sure they are getting it. We have to make sure they have it. It breaks my heart when an eighteen year old freshman in college cannot tell me how to find the main idea. I should be teaching them how to annotate a text or how to write an effective research paper. I should not be teaching them how to write an effective sentence.


When it floods in West Texas..

Breaking the cycle

At the point you realize how you were treated as a child and how you are still treated at points are not ok, should and needs to be the point you decide to break the cycle. Through the whole thing that is happening at this point, I have come to the unsettling realization that I have been under fire for everything in my life. I have had so many expectations placed upon me. Those expectations came with the condition that if I lived up to them, those around me would love me. Growing up in this environment, does damage to a child, teenager and adult.

So, it is with this knowledge, as an adult and a parent, I choose to parent differently. I have the ability to love my kids without placing expectactions on that love. They are mine and since they are mine, I get to do what I think is best for them. I love them no matter what "color" they bring home from school. I love them even if they make me want to drink a whole bottle of wine by 3 in the afternoon. They are mine. I do not need someone who placed conditions on love for me, and required perfection from me to tell me how to raise my children. I am doing just fine. They are happy, healthy, and well adjusted. So how do you go about telling your parent to leave the parenting to you? Well, here is where life gets complicated.

My parent is not like normal parents. Instead, this person has mastered the art of the pity party and the quilt trip, This person has also mastered the art of finding every single thing possible wrong with another person all while failing to see any of the errors in them. So the second you confront, you lose. Instead, I must look within myself and find the strength to love myself.

It is also important to never let my children think that I only will love them if they are good enough. Or let them be afraid of me. I do not want them to grow up in fear. I want them to grow up in a home with the ability to have open conversations about so many things. Love, sex, music, money, literally anything. I think that if we can really talk to our kids we can open the doors for so much. As parents that is what we should be doing, loving them unconditonally.

Betrayal...

It happens all the time. I know that. People are too trusting and want to believe in their fellow humans. More so they want to believe in their family members. Sometimes that is the most foolish thing one can do. I should have learned long ago, that some cannot be trusted. They are sharpening that knife for the next time they can stab you with it. Oh and stab you they will.

It may seem like a little thing, however in the grand scheme of things, those little things add up. Over and over again. You put it behind you, you trust and once again, you end up battered and bloody.

So this is where I have decided to end this journey with some of the players in this game. I cannot put my heart through this anymore. At some point the best thing you can do for yourself is to pick yourself up, pull the knife out of your back, and move on. Family should always be there for one another, sometimes that isn't the case. Sometimes you have to cut the strings and take care of your heart.

Sportsmanship...teach it...learn it.

It is about the kids...

As a parent there is nothing worse than watching your child have their heart broken. When the cause of that heart break is another adult it hurts even worse.

This time it wasn't my child, but the child of a close friend. This young man suffered a nasty injury last wrestling season and has stuggled, as most most athletes do, to come to terms with the fact he is in a brace. his parents have taken every precaution to make sure the injury is healed and and his elbow is a ok to wrestle. he does have to wear a brace for the next two years. So here comes his first match this weekend...the officials tell him he has to add more padding and he can participate. They do, and the officials still will not allow him to wrestle. I wonder if they understand how their actions affected this young man in that moment. It is so hard as an athlete to come back from a major injury and get outside your head, and then for someone to tell you the protection for that injury isn't ok, well that is devastating. It is more devastating when you are a young and have trouble handling the emotions that are rolling around in your body.

Wrestlers have a passion for their sport at such a young age and it is so wonderful to watch these young men learn and grow. As families, we become part of a larger family. Not only did it hurt him and his family, it hurt those that may need to have braces later. What are we telling kids about respecting officials if those same officials refuse to respect a child that is injured and is trying to come back from that injury. Not only do they not respect the athlete, they refuse to officiate a match where that athlete is going to be participating? As parents, coaches, and officials we are supposed to be teaching sportsmanship. This was not sportsmanship. This was bullying. I was embarrassed to be an adult in that moment. Kids get hurt, they heal, and they should be allowed to compete even if that means an elbow or knee brace.

When teachers think like this, the world could be a really cool place.

I vividly recall my first teaching assignment. Speech and Drama in Southwest Nebraska. I grew up in Northern Colorado, where labels were abundant. Every student was in a group, they could move between groups as they saw fit, however, they were assigned to a group by their peers. My teachers and the administration never seemed to buy into the labels. The “theatre kids” were different. They dressed different, acted different, thought different, and some of them were good friends of mine. I remember thinking; “I know nothing about speech and drama.” Yet, there I was.

Upon teaching those first seven years, I was confronted with every imaginable label. I loved them all regardless. I still love them all. I also taught German the first six years and then gained a Freshman English class. That was the class and still is the class that I think about when I think of kids that get labeled unfairly. That group of kids was a diverse group. I had twenty-six students in that class, and right about half of them qualified for some sort of special education service. They were the kids that couldn’t pull up their pants, had skulls on their shirts, heard my “no boobs, no tushies” speech more than they cared for. There were also about five gifted students in that class. I constantly heard from other faculty that I should not do this or that with them, simply because it was out of their reach. I should give up and just baby-sit.

Having someone put my kids down is not something that goes over very well with me. I believe that all kids have it in them to be successful, given the right environment and the right tools. So I told the other faculty that. I made enemies. I didn’t care. My administrator was behind me. My co-teacher was behind me. I believed in me.

I told my students, that I wasn’t going to let them make excuses for themselves, feel sorry for themselves, or see themselves the way others saw them. They got to be who the wanted to be. They didn’t believe me. I am a little thing and don’t look scary, until I am. Then one day, they believed in me, and themselves.

We started the semester with personal narratives. We read Frederick Douglass The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave as we journal and wrote our own narrative lives. Through this process, I got a feel for their reading levels and writing levels. I did find out I had as low as 4th grade and as high as 12th grade. Writing came naturally to some and others struggled. It also gave me the opportunity to teach grammar in a way that did not involve worksheets. The discussion that we had about the labels slaves were given simply because they were black was amazing. I was so impressed at this group of misfits. I knew it was in there somewhere.

We then moved on to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This is the novel I got hammered on for teaching to this group. I had a teacher tell me that a group with that many struggling readers could not possible read such a difficult text. I think she forgot that the readability level is fourth or fifth grade. It was a great book for them. I tied it to Douglass and to the discrimination that some of them felt daily. This was all about grounding them in the literary experience. It was awesome. Watching this group of kids bloom and come alive in class was so rewarding. They had an environment that was non-confrontational and where they were free to be themselves. If that meant they were a rock star in their head, then so be it. Some of these kids had barely passed eighth grade English and we had been told that they were going to beat us up. No one beat me up. Instead, they learned to love reading, writing, and they learned to trust a teacher. They are still some of my favorites.

After Lee, with Board permission, I taught Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. All I had to do was tell them it was challenged and every single one of them read it. Kids that had not read a book on their own since fourth or fifth grade. They loved it. Again, we tied into the labels that were in the novel and they identified with the characters in the book. This particular novel is so full of labels that they jump off of the page at you from the moment that you open the novel. One of my students told me that he felt like his life was that way. I later walked down the hall and heard another teacher telling a class with some of these same kids that they were good for nothing in life but flipping burgers at McDonald’s. I hurt for them, and that made me work that much harder to look past the labels that they may have walked into my room carrying. During this unit, I pulled in several different tasks. I made them journal about prejudices they had encountered, things that they could do to help those in need, they drew, they wrote, they sang, they did so many different things that were simply amazing. The talent that was in that room stunned me. I was also stunned by the way the kids were doing in my class, by the way their parents were reacting to their grades, the way I was teaching, and the way their high school career was starting out.

As the year progressed, these kids became my kids. I knew their fears, their triumphs and when they fell. They are still my kids. They are the kids who make teachers cringe when their names appear on a roster. I do a cartwheel, not literally of course. I love them. They work for me, we have an understanding. They know that I nag them like no other because I love them and I know what they are capable of. They worry when I stop complaining at them. Through all of this, I have gotten a label myself.

It is something that is difficult for me. I grew up in a rather unassuming home and school, so this label is not something I care for. I am not into labeling anyone simply based on the clothes on their back or the color of their hair. Goodness knows, some of my own friends look fairly scary. It seems that some of my peers have taken to juvenile measures of eye rolling, sighing, and put downs about me and my classes of “misfits.” They just don’t seem to understand how I am getting them to actually work. I believe they think I am just giving them good grades. In reality, they are working their tails off in their own ways. I am just playing to their strengths.

Teaching is about being unassuming. Assume something about a child and they are going to prove you wrong, nearly every time. Give a child the chance to learn and excel. Just because they have a Mohawk, a skull on their shirt, or might have done something you don’t agree with last night does not mean they are a bad person. They just walk to the beat of their own drum. I like the beat of my own drum and who cares if our beats don’t make music to everyone else. It sounds fabulous to me.

Just some musings on what is going on with my kid!

So when you think you have a handle of this mom thing, you find out you don't. Not by a long shot. What happened to coming home and being a happy kid? Nope, not at my house. We have a serious case of seven year old PMS. I know you don't think it sounds like a real thing, but I swear it is. Not kidding, not even a little bit.


I thought I had until at least twelve before I had to deal with, "Everyone made fun of my hair!" Or shoes, or clothes, or fill in the blank. Or my personal favorite from this week is the fight over when her birthday is. What the hell happened here?


Did aliens come get my sweet little girl out of her bed last night and give her drama queen hormones? Right now as I wait for the bus, which by the way will have been a disaster I am sure, I am mentally preparing myself for anything that could have got wrong at school today.


You can't prepare for it, because what could have gone wrong in second grade today is nothing like what went wrong in second grade in the 80's. Our biggest worry was this neon or that neon. Let's go back to that, maybe not the neon part, but the fewer worries part.


Yet, I will wait, and hope that today she is just 7 and not 7 going on 17.

My Gymnastics Princess

Gymnastics...

Being a gymnast is hard. You strive for perfection. Being that gymnast's mom is hard too. Every week, I watch my little girl fight herself for that perfection. I love that she loves this sport so much. I love the trips just her and I. I get to spend quality time with just her, and she needs that. She is also learning to manage her fears and her expectations. She is learning how to set goals for herself, and how to be part of a team. Those things are invaluable lessons.

© 2016 Dana

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