The Magic Classroom

IMG_4941There has been a lot of talk around here this year of our youngest and our oldest. And yet somehow, in the midst of the chaos swirling around him, The Middle One kicked this year’s butt.

I don’t want to take anything away from this kid. He is quietly determined to be the best version of himself he can be while somehow not sweating the small stuff. For every argument we have or sassy remark he makes to me (and there are many) he has an equal number of polite, intelligent, leader moments with his school peers and teachers. He is a great kid and he may not think his dad and I notice, but boy do we talk about him a lot before bed every night, our conversations usually in the “man, aren’t we the luckiest to be that kid’s parents?” theme. So, let me be clear, he gets most of the credit for his incredible year.

But (and this is a giant but) I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge The Middle One’s teachers. They are, quite simply, magic. We’ve been through the 4th grade twice now and the first time around we quickly learned the power of “Mr. Magic and his teaching partner Miss Magic”. Every single night at dinner our oldest would start with “today Mr. Magic did…”. Every. Single. Night.IMG_4787

As annoying as you’d think that would get, we never minded because she always told the stories with an inner glow that can only come when one is inspired, in this case, from excellent teachers, so we let her go on, and on, and on…

Needless to say, this year we were looking forward to another great experience with Miss and Mr. Magic because we already knew how incredible it would be.

Or so we thought.

Something different happened this year. While The Girl experienced the wonder and joy of a classroom with  enthusiastic and passionate teachers, The Middle One got something even more; he found his spirit.

My boy is a quiet fury. He’s dependable, honest, loyal and beautifully sensitive. I know everyone thinks these things about their kids but I have three of my own and this one’s different.  He’s hardest on himself but also holds the world up to the same impossibly high expectations he tries to meet. As you might imagine, the world disappoints him often. Despite all these great qualities, he’s the quiet middle child sandwiched between a girl who never met a microphone she didn’t like and a sweet-faced, blue-eyed boy with a hugging problem. This sometimes means The Middle One goes unnoticed (by everyone but me, kid).

It would be understandable if Mr. & Miss Magic Teachers treated our boy like he was just the next King in line. The Middle One would have been used to that. But they did not. Instead, in addition to the rock operas and  read alouds, the challenging math theorems and wax museum projects that will undoubtedly be indelibly etched on the kid’s brain, these teachers also took the time, from the first minute, to really SEE our boy and help him to share himself with the world.

MomTrendsDPThey did not treat The Middle One like the next King in line. Instead Mr. & Miss Magic treated him like the remarkable young man that he is, giving him opportunities to shine in his own light, not one he has to share with his siblings. They asked great things of him, proving they thought he could handle the job. They recognized the leader we’ve always seen and they nudged (and sometimes pushed) him into that role. They communicated with him the reasons for their high expectations and they made it very clear they were sure he could grow into the person they were telling him they saw him be.

The result? My boy, who has spent every year of school managing a new nervous tic, spent all year confident and calm. He loved every minute in his fourth grade class, even the uncomfortable challenging ones. He has smiled more than I’ve ever seen (except maybe when he was two and having all the fun). He is unafraid on stage, whether it is reciting or singing, he commands the mic like his sister came out of the womb doing.

He is still loyal and dependable and so, so very kind. He is intelligent and independent and will make a great leader someday. What I am grateful to his teachers for is that now, he knows it too.

There is magic in a classroom with great teachers at the helm. My kids are living proof.

This Kid, man.

InAnnieA million years ago I used to dream of being on stage. I didn’t want to be famous. I didn’t even want to be known. I just wanted to grow up and sing and dance and act on stage in front of a live audience who felt moved in some way.

But I was chicken.

Not at first. At first I was brave.

First time in NY. Bitten by the bug.

First time in NYC. Clearly I passed on that love.

In Junior High,  I had the supporting role in The Little Princess and then at the last minute the friend with the lead didn’t want to be the lead so I stepped in because of course I had memorized everyone’s role. I wasn’t chicken then. I was Sarah Crewe, The Little Princess, and I loved every damn second of it. I loved the auditions and the rehearsals and all the work behind, in and on the stage. I thought for sure that was what I would do for all of my life. I thought I was pretty ok at it, and did I mention I loved every damn minute of it? Because I did.

A few years later, when field hockey happened during fall plays and softball during spring musicals, I settled only for acting classes in high school, not real acting in school productions. Thank goodness our church youth minister was silly enough to try to put on a play. That year, I got to be Sally in Charlie Brown’s Christmas and I loved every second of it, even the parts everyone else hated, I loved because they meant being around theater and that was enough for me.

But it was only church, not a scary school performance where I had to go up against real actors. I was Sally to my best friend’s Lucy. She was the lead in Anything Goes at her high school and she killed it. Her voice was better. Her stage presence was better. I was afraid if I wasn’t like her I’d never make the cast. I was afraid I didn’t shine like she so I never even tried out. She was brave. GirlPlayRehearsal

Me? I was an athlete. Because that’s what Ritzs did. They played sports. Not acted. So I accepted my fate at 14 that I would need to find other dreams because even though I loved acting and singing,  Ritzs didn’t act or sing. I threw myself into every other aspect of live theater. I know shows. I know technique. I was the nerd in college who went to see the student lead performances and traveled out of town for theater performances. But I never acted beyond sorority skits. Ritzs don’t act.

But Kings? They do.

I married the male lead in Anything Goes (different high school) and thanked my lucky stars every day that he was A)straight  B)supremely confident and C)had strong genes to pass on to our kids.

She's got my face, but his sass.

She’s got his eyes and his chutzpah.

Flash forward a lot of years to tech week at The Girl’s first show outside the safety of her school. She came to us months ago and said she found an audition in New York City. She said can we go? We thought, is it too soon? Is she ready? Can she handle rejection or even acceptance on that large a scale? We’ve tried to be laid back for her. Keep it fun for her. Not foist any of our dreams undiscovered on her. So far, she has tried it all and loved every second of it.

In the end, we decided yes. We said ok. She tried out, without a head shot and with a resume we put together on my laptop the night before. She tried out, without dance shoes, but instead Chuck Taylor’s that she danced her heart out in. She felt totally prepared. I felt worried she wasn’t at all.

I made her dad take her. He is brave, like she.

She got in. Ensemble, but still very in. She knows everyone’s role.  She’s the young kid in the old kid cast. She’s in and she’s so very brave.

For weeks she has schlepped in and out of the city for hours on Sunday. She’s missed soccer games and school dances and birthday parties. She’s done homework on the train and been cranky every Monday morning since rehearsals started on Sunday many weeks ago.

rp_dance-recital-and-G-seedlingreview-143.JPGThis week, she will be here every night until dark when we will ride the train home for nearly two hours and go to sleep hours after she should. This week she is giddy with anticipation, almost as if noticing for the first time she is about to be in a play not far from where that picture above, of pure NYC glee, was taken not so many years ago.

This weekend, she will be on a stage in New York City performing in a cast of wildly talented kids, surrounded by her adoring fans. And, man does she have adoring fans.

For three shows, I will likely weep and weep with pride, like I’ve done at every performance since she was old enough to stand on stage. For all I ever dreamed about when I was a kid was being on stage in New York City, and all I’ve ever worried about since having kids is pushing my dreams on them.

It seems I couldn’t even dream about how much better it would be to watch my kid be on a stage in New York City than to do it myself. I couldn’t even conceive the joy that comes from seeing your kid be brave and chase her very own dreams. I may not have been brave enough to chase all of mine, but I did something right in teaching her to get the heck after hers.

I’m so proud of this kid. So, so proud.

She is brave. She is bold. She is my dream come true.

A dream come true.

A dream come true.

Old Kid Revelation: Travel Companions

It's hard not to have a clear head here.

It’s hard not to have a clear head here.

A funny thing happened last week. The Husband and I went on a dreamy vacation to Florida’s Singer Island. We relaxed with my sister and her friend. We had adult conversations. We worked out every morning at our leisure. It was lovely, except for one glaring surprise. I missed my kids. Like, a lot.

Let’s be clear, I always miss my kids a little when I’m away, but if I’m being really honest, I usually cherish time alone in a hotel room somewhere far away. Last year, when The Husband and I took this same trip, for the first time alone in 12 years, I ate up every second of it and did not wish for any of those seconds that our children were sharing it with us. This year? Totally different. I had fun of course, but I spent nearly the whole time thinking how great it would be if my kids were sharing it with me.

So weird for me but a total testament to where we are in our lives. No one needs a diaper changed anymore. No one will melt down during cocktail hour. No one is getting sand in my boobs when they reach for me on the beach. (No kids anyway.) Instead, these small people that share our house aren’t needy anymore, but rather, a lot of fun.JupiterLight

They would have loved the soccer goals set up on the green space right next to the pool. They would have risen early every day to see the schedule of crafts and games for their taking. They would have squealed with delight over not one, but two nights of s’mores around the fire pit. I facetimed them daily and gave them a tour of the grounds every time. We all agreed if they were with us, we would have laughed, and splashed and had a grand old time, because they are fun and funny and pretty great travel companions in the end.

Heck Yeah.

Heck Yeah.

So, in what The Husband has deemed “The Summer of Cristie” because it’s the last one I’ll ever have with only a mildly full plate, I will use my time to incorporate as much travel with these little people as possible. We’re road trippin’ as much as we can in the next few months because we love it and we’re good at it and these days won’t last forever. So, we’re hittin’ the road-mom and kid style.

And I can’t wait.

Hiding From the Label

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

Sometimes, my being a former teacher is a detriment to my children. Normally, when they come home with stories and tales, I ask for or give them the teacher’s perspective before accepting their cries of injustice. They hate that. Always, I put myself in the shoes of the person at the front of the class before making any judgements as a parent. I KNOW parents get a different side to the story then what really happens. I know this, so I temper everything I hear from inside those classrooms with a heavy dose of perspective.

Sometimes, that may not be what’s best for my child.

We’ve struggled, all year with The Baby and his behavior in school. Simply put, (although, there is nothing simple about it) he doesn’t want to do much of the work and often acts out in increasingly loud and violent (to himself) ways in frustration. This frustration with school isn’t entirely new, but the behaviors have reached a level that must be addressed for the sake of everyone involved. As a parent, I want to wrap him in a blanket, carry him out and either begin homeschooling or fork over my entire full-time salary for a different school immediately. As a former teacher, I know there is more to the story, and so I go through the steps necessary to figure out how this kid can stay at this school without damaging himself or others in the process.

This is not an easy task.

We’ve been to the specialists. We’ve met with the teams. We’ve changed diet and routine. We’ve sought answers at every turn. We’ve hashed out plans and accommodations. We’ve read and written emails, some helpful and kind, some downright nasty. I’ve been proud of my behavior sometimes and others, embarrassed by it. I’ve been frustrated, confused, angry, sad, elated on the good days and just plain wiped out on the bad. Our big-hearted little dude has worked his head off trying to manage his moods and figure out how to best live in an environment that is clearly not suited to his character.

GriffOcean2We’ve heard all the labels. We’ve even gotten one, this one from the second psychiatrist, in order to proceed with the special education process to hopefully make school a little less torturous for student and teacher. No one, most of all his parents,  is entirely sure the label fits this boy,  and the accommodations that go with it are inconsistent at best, but it’s there so we proceed.

Here is the problem, we, his mom (the former teacher) and dad, think we know exactly what’s up with our kid, but with my history in schools, I’m afraid to say it out loud, for it’s often a dirty word in education circles. Continue Reading