our last day with our day care provider…

yesterday, we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives…our day care provider…

given the impact this woman had on our lives, i am re-posting (below) a post i shared more than 3 years ago…

everything in this post is still true today…or, more true…meaning, you just need to “times” all of the good shtuff i said below by ten thousand (x 10,000) and then you’ll be close to just how much my wife and i love and appreciate her, our day care provider…

note: in the first version of this post, i didn’t give out her actual name–for privacy reasons–but i’m gonna do that now…because if you’re out there (in the twin cities)–looking for a place for your kids–look no further, sign up today!!!

thank you, stefanie berge/sharon (owner/operator of tender heart childcare) you’re the best around!

to see what i’m talking about, please keep reading…

before i was a teacher, i worked with kids in many different settings…coming through a gauntlet of years in youth work & (now) teaching, it takes a lot to impress and inspire me in this field…

but, i have been truly impressed and inspired over the past 3+ years…

with our in-home day care provider…

and yes, i said in-home daycare provider!  …in-home daycare programs are often regarded as marginal, “fly-by-night” operations that may be alright in an emergency….but not as a “serious long-term consideration”…because people think that “they’re just not as good as centers” or a mom/dad staying home with their children…nor are they viewed as “safe places”–you get the feeling that this is one of the most horrific decisions you can make for your children–tantamount to sending a kid cross-country on an orphan train (esp. from my parent’s generation) …like your kids will end up abducted, abused, neglected, abandoned, in the emergency room, dead in the street and on the nightly news if you leave them there!!!  i heard the world saying, please report to the shame corner and turn in your parent card, now!

…this is not the case with our person, sharon–yes, her name has been changed to protect the innocent–or in the many cases of parents who use amazing in-home daycare providers each and every day…anyways, my wife did the first drop-n-go routine, through a river of tears (mind you, this is a person who cries over  the voice🙂 and i did the job three days later…and this is what happened…

i entered the house, took off my shoes, and proceeded downstairs to find my children…i was excited to see them…arriving downstairs, i made eye-contact with my son and daughter…they recognized me and smiled…but, they weren’t that excited to see me…they stayed where they were–by the side (son) and in the arms (daughter) of sharon…i thought, what the hell is this?!  i’ve been your father for nine months–you think that was a piece of cake–i was there when you were colicky, when you wouldn’t sleep, when you had that “projectile shit”–the rapid fire, .50 caliber shtuff that ‘took out’ the nursery room door–and this is how you repay me…how dare you?!  i mean, i had envisioned my children running from sharon, bounding towards me–their father–with outstretched arms (press play on can’t hold back by survivor)…but, it didn’t happen…so, i made funny faces, talked to them, waved for them to come to me…but still, they stayed with sharon…so, i hiked back upstairs, put my shoes on, went out to the van and grabbed the wonder bar…so-to-pry my children off of their in-home daycare provider!

…since those early days, we’ve seen and heard all about the amazing things they’ve learned from sharon…sign language, “how to wear a helmet with style”, music, how to pronounce their “t’s”, please and thank-you’s, “how to help”, potty training–you name it…she is unbelievable …so, let me just take this moment to say…thank you, thank you, thank you, sharon…for teaching our kids, for loving our kids like that…i am impressed and inspired…you’re the “+1” to my wife and i, you’re the best around…

i swear

i have a language problem, and anyone who knows me knows it’s true–it’s no secret…it’s been something i’ve been trying to work on since we’ve had children–and there was one day, in the not too distance past, when i knew–things had to change…here’s that story…

it was a day after many long weeks–we had sold our house and just moved into a new house–and at the same time that we were dealing with that major life transition, my wife and i were trying to keep up with our kids and our jobs…anyways, one day after work, i picked up our kids from daycare and headed home–they were tired from all of it, too…and it showed in their behaviors, as they were crabby with each other and with me for the whole ride home…

[author’s note: when we got home my kids were demanding snacks and juice and having to go to the bathroom and 100 other things…meanwhile, i was running through a mental checklist in my brain of what we had in the liquor cabinet, because daddy was going to need some “juice”, too!  🙂 ]

so, here’s what went down on that fateful day in october…

jack: daddy, i have to go poopy.

me: go ahead and head into the bathroom, i’ll be in there in a minute.

he goes into the bathroom and gets to work and i get grace some juice and a snack…

jack (after a few minutes): daddy, i’m done!

daddy (walking towards the bathroom): o.k., i’m coming. 

jack: can you wipe me?

daddy: yep.

i say this as i turn towards the toilet paper holder…unfortunately, i don’t see any toilet paper on the holder…i look to the basket where “backup paper” is kept and it’s empty, too…then, i hear my son’s voice again…

jack: can you wipe me, daddy?

me: yes, jack.

then, i hear my daughter crying for more snack from the other room…and i shout to her…

me: in a minute, gracie.

feverishly, i start going through the cabinets, looking for the almighty tp…it’s not looking good, i can’t find any…and i hear jack again…

jack (impatiently): daddy, i need to be wiped.

daddy (more impatiently): i know.

frustration is mounting on all sides when i go to the last cabinet…no dice…no toilet paper in there either…and that’s when i say it, that’s when i swear…

me: fuck!

i realize i’ve said it “out loud”, but it’s too late…because jack speaks up again, to my chagrin…and this is how it goes…

jack: fuck!

[then again]

jack: fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck!

[then]

me: no! no! no! no! no!

eventually, i locate some tp in our bathroom and use it on him and get them their snacks and juice…and eventually, everything settles down…

but, deep down, i know that parent fail #76 just happened…

in the months that followed, i tried, really hard, to regulate my language…that experience was enough to startle me into some efforts for better behavior…i mean, having my son mimic me like that, like a little mockingjay–what the fuck?! 🙂

then, recently…i was startled again, when i heard my daughter say…

oh my God!

when i heard her say that, i stopped right in my tracks (again, i was making them their after day care snack) because she said it like an expletive–not in a praise to the Almighty kind of way…

here’s our exchange…

me: hey, now…we don’t say that.

gracie: oh, o.k.

me: we say, “gosh” or “golly”, right?!

gracie: o.k.

me (not really wanting to ask): where did you hear that?

jack and gracie are silent and then look at each other…then, gracie sings…

oh my God, i’m coming home.

at first, i don’t get it and am a bit confused…

me: what? wait?! from the song we play?! 

[we have an i-home where we play all kinds of music, and what i realized–in that moment–was that she was referencing a song called, “Oh my God, I’m Coming Home” by the christian musician david crowder.]

after a short conversation about the differences between singing it like the way he does and using it in everyday life as an expletive, my kids go off to play and think/say nothing of it going forward…

but, i’m still worked up about it, i’m still ticked…mostly at david crowder…mr. pop-christian musician...in my mind, i envision confronting him and throwing down…damn you, crowder, damn you!

since the most recent incident, i have mixed up the playlist…and substituted in–“Mama I’m Coming Home” by ozzy osbourne…

rock on!

🙂

vows

so, i had this dream (about a week before the “good friday” story in the last post)…

i was wandering around some foreign land…and met up with stephen (one of the youth pastors at our church–the upper room)…he brought me back to the church, to his office…which was completely bare…no office supplies or wall hangings or much of anything…just a desk and a chair…and a Bible…

i didn’t say anything…

but stephen said…

God knows what you have promised.

then, he said…

it’s right there in Psalm 36.

then i woke up.

a couple of things:

  1. as surprising as it sounds, i don’ t usually dream about stephen;)
  2. i don’t usually have “religious dreams”…and i didn’t grow up in a faith tradition that focused on that kind of thing.

when i woke up, i was rattled…and i couldn’t resist looking up Psalm 36…and, believe it or not, there was some stuff in there for me–stuff that’s important for me as a husband, father, son, brother and teacher:)

parent fail – good friday

i think enough time has passed…

i think enough time has passed to tell you this story…without it being a complete and total sacrilege…

so, there we were…

getting ready to go to church on good friday…

and we find ourselves in a conversation with our kids, our four year-olds…about Jesus dying…actually about Jesus being killed…

my wife: so, today you’re going to hear about how Jesus died.

me: actually, that Jesus was killed.

our son: Jesus died? Jesus was killed?

me: yes.

our son: who killed him?

me: some people who were not very nice.

our son: were they bad guys? were they bad ninjas?

and that was the end of the conversation…as my wife and i looked at each other knowingly–“well, that went well”…

[and chalked up parent fail #85]

march madness

during one day in march, i took my kids to the mall to run around (because it was cold out)…and once they saw the toy store it was all over, game over…

or maybe, it was game on

once we crossed the threshold of the store, all i heard was…

i want this, i want that…

from superheroes to legos to games…it was a non-stop barrage of begging and pleading…then, after an hour there…i pulled them away, and we went to another store…there were some toys there, too…and it began again…

i kept thinking…

what happened to my sweet children?! where have they gone?!

i fought off those punches, too…and left the mall…without buying them a single thing…as we left, they were whining and unhappy–and i was smiling and happy…even though i felt a little bit like the bad guy…and even though it wasn’t an easy or fun thing to do…to repel those requests…it’s not…it’s not the peak of the mountain for a parent…but, a little rise, a hilltop, when it turns out…and i’ll take it!!!

i mean, they must have asked me for a toy at least 1000 times…and i must have said “NO” in equal measure…

but at the end of it all, the score was…

daddy 1 – 0 jack & grace

it may not seem like much, but it was a huge victory…and a bigger one for them (later in life)…

now, don’t get me wrong…i’ve been “played” before (like a fiddle in the devil went down to georgia)…manipulated by my four year-olds…lost out to their wishes and will before (it’s crazy how early they learn those skills–how early we learn those skills)…but, i keep trying…and on that day in march, i thought to myself…i won this round–we won this round…

all along, as they were working me over…i kept hearing that voice in the back of my head…it was the voice of dr. david walsh, parent and child expert…encouraging me, reminding me…

we say “no” to our kids because they can’t say “no” to themselves–in doing so, someday they will be able to!

thank you, dr. walsh!

lessons in love (for my son)

it’s taken me nearly 44 years on the planet to understand what it means to love a woman…here’s some of what i’ve learned, jack…because you might want to know what that might mean for you–if “loving a woman” is something you want to do, or choose to do yourself someday–if not, that’s another conversation we can have–regardless of what path you take–know that you’ll get the same love and embrace from your old man, cheers!

  1. know yourself…take time to examine and evaluate the things that you’ve said and done…learn from the past…sometimes your heart gets broken because of things they’ve done…but, sometimes it gets broken because of things you’ve done–from the way you’ve been living in the world, guaranteed.
  2. love yourself…see and “believe in” the good that’s in you…no man can have love for another person while at the same time despising himself.
  3. let her know that she’s your queen…court her, pursue her intentionally (and in a healthy/’law-abiding manner’)…listen to her, show up in her life when it counts, give a timely gift, treat her right, woo her–to win her over and beyond!!!
  4. women are not disposable objects that were put on the earth to please and entertain you, son–treat them with love and respect…’call out’ men who don’t.
  5. only say, “i love you” if you really mean it…those words carry a lot of weight.
  6. balance – if all you’re doing is spending time with your “special one”…then, that’s a problem …now, if you’re anything like your old man, when you do fall for someoneyou will fall hard…it’s gonna happen…and you’re gonna lose your mind for a minute (at this time, you will most likely start to see cartoon versions of blue birds flying around and chirping as you randomly and uncontrollably burst into song–zippity doo dah day!)…it’s o.k., it’s a good thing to have those feelings and emotions–but, don’t forget to share your time and love with your friends and family, too!
  7. date one person at a time.
  8. reciprocity – no romance is 100% fair or equal…but, most good ones get close–if you’re doing all the work, making plans, showing up in her life, etc…and she’s “phoning it in” and “treating you bad” — that’s a red flag, son–so, cut her loose, “break it off” and move on.
  9. don’t play games – if you’re not “into her” or “not feeling it”–have the balls to tell her that to her face (never “break it off” by text or email) and move on.
  10. when your heart gets broken, and it will–(privately) share your pain with those “select few” family members and friends you trust; you will know who they are–not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing this shtuff–they will be there for you; and keep your distance from her–physically, socially, online, phone, etc…trying to pursue her beyond this point doesn’t do a damn bit of good and makes you look like an idiot.
  11. and if/when you “mess it up” (in how you’ve treated her)…step up, be a man, own it–and apologize for the harm you’ve caused.
  12. sometimes, “i’m sorry” doesn’t cut it…and what happens is a product of not knowing yourself and not dealing with yourself and your shit (this one goes a lot to #1, but probably pops up at other points as well)–because eventually, your shit will rise to the surface – – my shit has a long history of flying out sideways  🙂  [if some of your issues keep resurfacing, keep coming up…then, have faith, be brave, and do the right hard thing–talk to a trained professional counselor–someone who is qualified to advise you and who doesn’t have an axe to grind].
  13. you can talk to me, too…anytime, anyplace…in joy, in pain, in exuberance, in sadness, and in all those “in-between” times…you can ask me anything–and i mean anything…i’ve been there, believe me…and i’m still here, i’m still standing.
  14. trust God, trust the process.

i love you, son.

dad

[this is the tip of the iceberg for the things that i hope to impress upon my son regarding this topic (as he gets older), most of the other things “not listed here” are not for public consumption–they are private matters, personal ones, that are just for me and jack–but today, you get a glimpse behind the curtain…so, enjoy–and have a happy valentine’s day!]

kickstart my heart

it’s new year’s eve…the end of one year and the beginning of another…a time to think back on all that’s happened…a time to reflect on life…

with that in mind, let me tell you one of the best stories of 2015–it happened about four weeks ago…

so, there i was…

out on the street corner in downtown minneapolis, waiting for a cab to take me and my friend, LA, down to the motley crue concert — final tour, baby! 🙂

and there’s a couple (husband and wife) waiting for a cab right by us…so, we start talking to them…small talk…which normally i hate…but, i’m “super-amped”…i’ve always wanted to see the crue in concert (and my amazing wife got me a ticket for christmas!)…and, here i am…in this surreal place, within hours of the metal storm that will ensue…so, i engage…

turns out, that the couple we’re talking to is going to the concert as well…they make special mention of really wanting to see the opening act–alice cooper–which takes me a little bit off-guard…i’ve never heard anyone say that before 🙂

anyways, i don’t judge it (i’m seeing motley crue, after all;)…and they seem friendly and as excited as we are to see the show…so, we continue to wait for the cab, which takes way longer than it should to pick us up…so, as the conversation goes on, it turns out that they’re from the town that i teach in…so, right away, upon hearing that, my shields go up, i pull back and regard them suspiciously…

and i think to myself, do they know my school?!

[LA recognizes this reaction, he’s seen it before…occasionally, i’ve crossed paths from community members and parents that are familiar with the alternative/career-technical school that i teach at…usually it turns out o.k., but you never know how it’s going to go–because of our school…because despite having amazing teachers who do amazing things for students…we’ve been fighting some negative perceptions and stereotypes for years…as an example, some of the reactions we get sound like this…oh, you work at the ‘alt-school’ (the tone lets you know what they really think–that it’s not a real school, it’s not real education, it’s just a place for outcasts and throwaways)]

and i know it’s coming…the what do you do for a living question…so, i come clean and tell them where i work…

[at this moment, i risk a side glance towards LA and i can tell that he’s ready to jump in and change the subject, if need be–possibly even throw down, if necessary…he’s a good man to have watching your back, if things get tense]

and then, the most unexpected thing happens…

immediately, the woman’s eyes light up…and she smiles…

[important thing to note here–she seems sober 🙂 ]

she goes, NO WAY–WE LOVE THAT SCHOOL–YOUR SCHOOL SAVED MY SON’S LIFE (turns out he was a student at my school a couple of years back and he and his family had some really tough years)–anyways…

she gives me a hug (i’m pretty sure she’s sober, seriously 🙂 …the cab arrives…and that’s that!

so, with that story in mind, i’d like to raise a glass to all my colleagues–here’s to you and the work you do! cheers!

happy new year and rock on!

name game

early in the semester…i was digging in…trying to guide my students and get ’em all moving in the right direction…you know, this is when they want to go their own way (press play on the fleetwood mac song of the “almost-same” name)…this is when they want to “buck you”…test you…see what you’re made of…

well, it was the last class of the day…and i had move three kids to new seats within 20 minutes because their behavior “told me to”:)

i was getting impatient and just wanting them to listen…and i didn’t think that was too much to ask?!

but it was…because when you’re at this point…it’s on, baby, it’s on…and, one student is always going to push it further…take it to the limit…and you’re always going to push back, even harder…

so, he started acting up…a young man in the back row (yep, back row crew)

so, i looked over the room (there wasn’t a lot of extra space with 40 kids in my classroom) and identified a spot for him to be moved to and said…

brandon, i want you to move up here.

he didn’t move…so, i said it again…with a little more edge…

brandon, i want you to move up here–to this seat. 

he didn’t move.

i couldn’t believe it!

so, i went again…

brandon, i want you to move up here, now.

he didn’t move…and after an uncomfortable silence…another kid piped in…

his name is bradley.

i cursed myself.

then, i said…

bradley, please move up here.

[which he did]

later that day, i thought about how i messed it up and about the importance of knowing kids’ names…and it made me think of someone i know…

it made me think of one of my wife’s best friends…

her name is nikki and she knows just how powerful it is to name someone…and she’s got it down to a science…she always makes a point of calling a person by their name…not only at the “meeting point” in an interaction, but throughout an entire conversation…i’ve never seen someone do that before–never, ever…but, it is an authentic, genuine, intentional thing…it’s something that captures your attention right away…it’s something that makes you want to listen…

it’s the kind of thing that you want to replicate, to mimic in your own life once you experience it…but, no one does it quite like nikki…

anyways, knowing kids’ names is really important, for a lot of reasons…not just during times of discipline…but, more often, when you want to start building that rapport, that trust…things that you need to have to do the job…calling a kid by their “right name” makes all the difference in the world…

season of wonder

when the kids and i got home a few days ago…

they started playing with the nativity set, like they always do at this time of year…

and like in years past, some “other friends” showed up…this year it was R2-D2 and a ninja…

immediately, the ninja started calling for help (the part of the ninja was being played by my son, jack)…

help! help! i’m trapped in the lasers!

Jesus’ mother and R2-D2 (both played by my daughter, grace) replied…

hold on! we’re coming!  we’re coming to save you! we’re the only ones that can!

i interjected…

wait, what about baby Jesus?!  can’t He help, too?!

grace replied…

no. they’re the only ones that can save him.  

🙂

merry christmas and may the force be with you!

post #100 – surveillance

yesterday…

there was a kid in my class who was being mildly disruptive during “reading time”…i had warned him a couple of times, but he wasn’t heeding my words…

since there wasn’t a lot of time left for reading …maybe 5-7 minutes…i sent him out to the hall (instead of sending him to the ISS program) and said…

i want you sit out there, right there (pointing to the mid-point on my classroom wall) in the hallway, where i can see you, where the video camera is.

i could tell he was a bit puzzled, so i walked out of the classroom with him…when we were both out in the hall and he was seated on the floor, i pointed up to the ceiling, to the small camera above my head and said…

see that, that’s a video camera…that’s how i can make sure you’re reading–i can see you on that camera.

i left him in the hall for a minute, then i went back out there and said…

you’re a little out my view/picture…move down the hall a foot.

he did…he got up, gave a weary stare to the camera, grabbed his backpack and book, and moved down the hall…thinking that i could see him on my laptop…

which i couldn’t…of course…the only people who have access to the video feed are the school resource officer and administrator…but, he didn’t know that…

[my goal was to separate him from his classmates while simultaneously making sure that he didn’t “make mischief” in the halls–mission accomplished!]

about 6 minutes later, i brought him back into class and we went ahead with the rest of the day — no other students were in on it, or really even knew what was happening…i’m not into the “shame game”, people! yet, it was still a jolly good time for me, myself and i 🙂

who says you can’t have fun as a classroom teacher these days?!

cheers!

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