Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top 10 Reasons Why Kindergarten Has Kept Me on My Toes In the Last Week

I've always wanted to be a teacher.  I remember playing school when I was a kid, grading fake worksheets on the scrap paper my dad brought home from work and teaching lessons to my stuffed animals and Barbies on the dry erase boards that hung in my toy room.  I veered off my path a bit when I went to college and majored in psychology, but my career path ultimately ended in the teaching profession.

When I got my Masters degree in elementary education, I envisioned myself teaching 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade.  I'm certified to teach K through 6, and I swore I'd never take a job teaching either K or 6.  Well guess what I'm teaching now.  Yes, the universe has a funny way of rewarding us.  I am indeed a kindergarten teacher. 

I'm not crazy about the grade level, but I have to admit it's not as bad as I expected.  I attribute my change in heart to the fact that my own children are close to this age, and I get it.  I understand how to speak the kindergarten language because I understand (for the most part) my own kids.

But there are always times when being a kindergarten teacher IS as bad as I expected.  Like the past week.  And I thought I'd share.

Here are my...

Top 10 Reasons Why Kindergarten Has Kept Me on My Toes In the Last Week

10)  A little girl asked me how old I was.  I answered with my typical response: "How old do you think I am?"  "Well," she said.  "I don't think you're 100 yet.  I'm guessing 90."  Hmmm, I better try some new night cream.

9)  I filled out yet another assessment for a student being tested for ADD.  I often wonder why it's so prevalent these days.  I hate seeing kids struggle at such a young age.

8)  I love eavesdropping on my students as they pretend play, but sometimes it's unreal what they say and do.  "Let's pretend we're pregnant."  "Ok, I'm going to the hospital to have my baby now."  "I'm not having my baby yet.  Wait for me, I'm going outside around the corner to smoke a cigarette and then I'll have my baby."  I don't even know what to say about that.

7)  One boy grabbed another boy's pencil right out of his hand.  After playing tug of war with the pencil, the original owner was stabbed in the chest.  Went through his shirt and broke the skin.  Both boys sobbed hysterically for a good 15 minutes.  (This contributed to 50% of #6 below.)

6)  At one point the other day, there were 4 kids crying at the same time in my classroom.  That's WAY too many tears for me.

5)  A student's mother called the school to request a conference with me.  I called her back to schedule a conference and listened as she explained that it was about time we met up to discuss her child's progress.  I bit my tongue to keep myself from reminding her that she failed to show up for her scheduled appointment on the school-wide conference day back in November.  We agreed on a day and time and hung up.  90 seconds later she called me back to reschedule.  As I hung up for the second time I realized I had carelessly called her from my own phone.  Great, now high-maintenance parent has my cell phone number.

4)  I held out my hand to help a student with his work, and he sneezed on it.  Twice.  It was nice and wet with lots of snotty germs.

3)  The classroom was almost completely silent as the students worked independently on their workbooks.  Suddenly, a boy stood up and started singing "Moves Like Jagger" at the top of his lungs.  It was accompanied by a little dance.  Try getting your class back after that.

2)  One boy was sitting on the floor, quietly reading a book.  Another boy stormed over, slapped the unsuspecting boy across the face, and started screaming.  Why?  Because he wanted the book.  I hate telling parents news like this.  What parent wants to hear that their 6-year-old can't control his anger?

1)  A student was in la la land, zoning out and squirming instead of completing his seat work.  When I asked him why he wasn't working, he said, "My butt itches."  I was stifling my giggles when I suddenly noticed that only one of his hands was on the table.  I don't think I need to tell you where his other hand was.

Can't wait to see what the next week brings...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lump Sum or Installments: I'll Take My Separations in Installments Please

My husband was gone for the better part of a week.  Then he came home for 48 hours before departing on his next trip.  He came home again for a frenzied 8 hours before saying another good-bye.  When he returns from this one, he'll have a couple of weeks at home before heading out yet again.  And when he returns from that, well, the pattern will repeat itself.

I have to say, these short bursts of hellos and good-byes get on my every last nerve.

Lengthy deployments suck for so many obvious reasons, but they have the advantage of providing a certain degree of predictability.  You know your husband isn't coming home for a long time.  You can establish a daddy-less routine with your kids.  You can live your life on your own schedule.  You only have to say good-bye once.  The separation is handed to you in one lump sum, and although it's never fun, at least you can create your own sense of normalcy.

The small installments of separations are different.  They're disruptive.  You can't establish a routine because your schedule revolves around his.  Just when you've adjusted to your husband being gone, knock knock, he's home again and dumping his dirty laundry on your floor.  And it needs to be washed NOW.  Because he has to repack those uniforms in the next 24 hours. 

You're so excited to spend a weekend with your husband, but that time isn't exactly quality time.  After all, you only have 48 hours for you to do laundry, for him to catch up on sleep, and for both of you to explain to the kids why daddy has to leave again even though he just got home.  Any semblance of a routine you established while he was gone gets thrown out the window until you have to put it back together when he leaves again.

But as disruptive as the separation installments are, I'm certainly not going to complain about being able to see my husband a handful of times during short, rushed visits as opposed to not seeing him at all.  In this military lifestyle, we have to take what we can get!  Those separation installments may be frenzied starts and stops with repeated good-byes, but I remind myself that they also come with repeated hellos. 

So long lump sum deployments stay away!  I'll take my separations in installments please.

What about you?  Do you prefer a separation lump sum or installments?  Do you think the installments are disruptive or do you welcome the chaos?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Advocating for Our Military Brats: How Do We Cross the Military/Civilian Divide for Our Children?

It's no secret that military families tend to believe that the general public doesn't fully understand our lifestyle.  But as I wrote in my latest post for Blue Star Families, I'm beginning to think that we can help people understand us simply by opening the lines of communication and sharing our stories.  We're all adults, right?  We're all capable of verbalizing our feelings, right?

Well, not exactly.  What about our children?  How do we help our precious military brats when civilians don't understand them? 

The other day a mil spouse friend of mine was seeking advice on Facebook.  Her husband is deployed, and she lives in a non-military town.  Her daughter was inconsolable at school, missing her daddy so much that she couldn't stop crying.  And there wasn't a single adult at her school who was able to help her.  When my friend questioned the administration about what had happened, she was told that no one at the school was trained in working with military children.

Now my friend is wondering how she can help educators understand the unique needs of a military child.  I sat down to compose an answer for her, but I found myself at an odd loss for words.  Odd because I'm both a teacher and a mother of two military brats who have endured deployments.  But as a teacher, I've only had 1 student who had a deployed parent, and his behavior never changed.  And as a parent, I've seen only minor and temporary behavior changes in my children while their daddy was gone. 

Despite the fact that I earned my teaching degree at a university in a military town and the fact that I currently teach at a school in a military town, I've never been trained to cope with, as my friend put it, the unique needs of military children.  The only reason I feel capable of understanding my military brat students is because of my experiences as a parent of military brats.  But what about my co-workers who have had no personal experiences with military families?  How would they deal with a student who was inconsolably missing her deployed daddy?  My co-workers are all fantastic teachers, most with way more experience in the classroom than I can claim.  But most of them probably have no idea about those unique needs of military brats.

So how do we advocate for our children?  How do we speak for our young military brats when they don't know how to speak for themselves?  How can we help their educators/caregivers understand their unique needs?  What kinds of resources can we share with them?

Military OneSource is a great place to start, both as a resource for ourselves as military families and for educators learning about children in military families.  Printing out online articles for teachers to read and directing them to websites like Military Child Education Coalition, Military Kids Connect, and Sesame Street for Military Families are also helpful.  But most of all, I think we all need to remember the most basic means of crossing that military/civilian divide: communication.  Inform teachers before your spouse deploys so she can start looking for behavioral changes at school.  Share the books you're reading to your child at home (you can find some of my favorites for both kids and adults here).  Describe what methods of coping are working at home for your child, such as Daddy Dolls, deployment journals, or as my friend is trying, art therapy.  Keep the lines of communication open and encourage teachers to do the same.

Our military brats do indeed have unique needs because they are unique children with unique challenges.  And they need and deserve all the advocates they can get.

Have you ever had to advocate for your military brat with educators or caregivers or other civilians who just didn't understand?  What advice can you share?  Please chime in here or join my Facebook discussion!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 10 List of My Kids' Cutest Quotes

Kids say the funniest things, don't they?  And I think it's my duty as a parent to write them all down and periodically share them on my blog.

The other day I was cleaning out my Word documents and found the list I started about a year ago of the funny things that come out of my kids' mouths.  It was so much fun to reread their quotes and relive those moments.  You probably won't find them as hilarious as I do because sometimes you just have to be there, but reading every single one of these again cracks me up.

Here are my...

Top 10 List of My Kids' Cutest Quotes

Big C = 7 year old boy
Little C = 4 year old girl


Little C playing with her princess diving sticks in the bathtub: "I'll save you Princess!" said in a husky prince voice. 

"No thanks," she replied in her princess voice.  "I will help myself."


Me to Big C as he chews on a vitamin that I didn't give him: "How did you open the vitamin bottle?  It's childproof."

Big C: "I read the directions on the cap."



Me to both kids as Mr. RC tries to get some work done on the computer: "Don't bother Daddy.  He needs peace and quiet."

Little C screaming as she runs around the house trying to find him: "I'll bring him peace and quiet!!!!!!!!!!"

Big C after falling off his bike: "I hate gravity."


Me in response to Little C mumbling in the backseat of the car: "Are you talking to yourself?"

Little C, nodding: "Myself knows what I mean."


Big C looking at a book: "I think this picture is of Mars.  But no one has ever been there before."

Me: "How do you know that?"

Big C: "I read it in the newspaper."

Me: "You did?!"

Big C: "No I'm just kidding...I read it in the Economist."


Little C pretending to be a waitress: "Mommy, what do you want to order?"

Me: "I want to order no screaming, screeching, shrieking, or whining."

Little C: "You can't buy that.  We don't sell that here."


Me after Big C's baseball practice: "Big C, you have a great swing, but you have to keep your eye on the ball."

Big C: "I do Mom."

Me: "But you need to watch the ball come all the way to you."

Big C: "But Mom, I can't.  That's when I close my eyes."


Me on a particularly whiny day: "Honey, why do you whine so much?"

Little C: "So I can put you out of business."


Me on one of my longer days: "I'm done being a mommy today."

Big C: "You can't quit.  You're going to be a Mom forever.  Even in your grave, you're going to be a Mom."

Do you write down the silly, funny, precocious things your kids say?  What are some of the best of your kid quotes?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Another Manic Monday

Yes, it's just another manic Monday.

Is Monday killing you?

(And I apologize for getting that song stuck in your head.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Story of Good-byes: Raising Military Brats

"You know who my first girlfriend was?" I was minding my own business, grading papers at my desk during free time the other day when one my students decided to pour his heart out to me. 

"Your first girlfriend?"  I asked, stifling a chuckle.  "Hmmm, no I don't think I know who your first girlfriend was."

"My first girlfriend was Sara.  Do you know Sara?  I really loved Sara.  I wanted to marry her.  But she goes to a different school now.  I don't know where she is.  Who am I going to marry now?"   I reached over and gave my heartbroken little friend a hug for losing the love of his life.  "I wonder who my next girlfriend will be."  Then he shrugged his shoulders, and poof, he was off to build a Lego masterpiece with his buddies.  Ahh, the resilience of a 5-year-old. 

I watched the boy laugh with his friends, and I imagined his life as he grew up.  This wouldn't be his last heartbreak.  This wouldn't be the last time a friend left to attend a different school.  This wouldn't be the last time he lost track of friends.  I knew this because, like my own children, he is a military brat.  His life is destined to be filled with good-byes.

My kids have already said lots of good-byes.  At almost 8 years old, my son has lived in 5 different houses in 2 different states and 2 different countries.  My daughter, at 4 years old, has lived in 3 different houses in 2 different countries.  They've said good-bye to friends who were PCS'ing, and they've said good-bye to friends because of our own PCS'es.  They've seen friends come and go, and they've seen old friends make reappearances in new locations.  Yes, the military lifestyle is filled with good-byes.

Luckily my children don't remember most of these good-byes because they were both too young to remember our last PCS move, and so far we've been successful at homesteading at our current duty station.  This is actually the 3rd year my son has attended the same elementary school!  That's highly unusual in military life.  And I'm so grateful.  We've managed to keep the good-byes at bay.

But there's no guarantee how long we'll be here.  And there's no guarantee how long friends will be here.  In fact, our family will soon be saying good-bye to friends we've already said good-bye to once before.  But this second farewell will be much harder than the first.  This time my kids are old enough to understand what good-bye means.  This time they're old enough to miss their friends.  This time I have a lot more explaining to do.  This time will be tough because I'm going to be just as devastated to say good-bye to my own friend as they will be to say good-bye to their friends.

As I've said good-bye to friends in the past, I told myself it wasn't good-bye, it was see you later.  Deep down I knew that some of those people would resurface later in my life and some I'd never hear from again.  It's easy to rationalize these good-byes as an adult.  But it's not so easy for kids. 

Whether it's one of my kindergarten students saying good-bye to his first girlfriend or my son saying good-bye to his Bey Blades battle buddy or my daughter saying good-bye to the only consistent playmates she's ever known, I try to remind these amazing children, these sons and daughters of service members, these military brats who didn't ask to be a part of this crazy lifestyle, that it's not good-bye.  It's always see you later.  One day our paths will cross again.  In the meantime, we'll keep in touch and meet some new friends along the way.

I hope that my children's good-byes are limited.  I hope that the good-byes they do have to say become life lessons in appreciating friendships and working to maintain them no matter how geographically challenged they may be.  And I hope that they're always as resilient as my 5-year-old student as he searches for his next bride-to-be.

Have your military brats said many good-byes?  How do they handle it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top 10 Interesting Search Keywords That Have Brought Readers to My Blog

How many times a day do you Google something?  Have you ever Googled something and wondered why your search landed you on particular hits?  Well, I wonder the same thing about some of the Google searches that land people on my blog.

A few months ago I discovered the "Stats" button on my blog, and I have to say I'm fascinated by it.  It tells me how many hits I'm getting on my blog, my most popular posts and how many hits they're getting, URLs that people click over from, the countries people are reading from, and yes, the Google search keywords that lead people to me.   Most of the keywords aren't surprising considering what my most popular posts are.  But some of them are just wacky and head-scratching.  Here are my... 

Top 10 Interesting Search Keywords That Have Brought Readers To My Blog

10)  Ranting military wives

9)  Dear Santa I'll buy my own sh*t

8)  I hate surprises control freak

7)  Klutz and proud

6)  Exists my brain

5)  MILF cougar

4)  Limbo game mosquito

3)  I jingle his dog tags

2)  Animal pooper

1)  I am crawling and cuddling your body

Have you ever looked up your blog stats?  What funny search keywords bring readers to your blog?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bridging the Gap Between Military and Civilian Worlds

I've been a columnist for Blue Star Families for almost 2 years now, but lately I've been a major slacker with my contributions.  Hopefully you'll be seeing my face there more often, starting with my latest post that went live today called "Bridging the Gap Between Military and Civilian Worlds." 

I would love to hear your feedback!  Do you think there's a gap between military and civilian worlds?  Whether you are part of a military family or not, have you ever tried to bridge that gap?  What were the results?

***If you're interested in reading some of my old columns on Blue Star Families, click HERE for a list of all my posts.***

Friday, January 13, 2012

We Could All Use a Break Every Now and Then

My 7-year-old son woke up yesterday morning complaining of a sore throat and asking to stay home from school.  He rarely complains about stuff like that, and he never asks to stay home from school.  So I went down the normal mommy checklist, and the only ailment he could come up with was the sore throat.

"But Mom, I don't want to go to school today," he continued to whine.  And after several attempts on my part to figure out why he wanted to stay home so badly, he finally admitted: "I just need a break."

I didn't know what to say because quite frankly I needed a break too.  I wanted a break just as badly as he did, enough to be tempted to pretend I didn't know he was faking just so I could have a mental health day.  But I knew I couldn't give in and teach him it's ok to feign an illness.

"Sorry buddy, you have to go to school today.  But we have a 3-day weekend coming up so we can both have a break in a couple of days."  I think I was just as bummed about having to go to school as he was.

Fast forward 30 minutes, when our entire family is dressed and fed and minutes away from piling up in the car to head out to school.  I'm brushing Little C's hair, and I hear this weird coughing/gurgling sound.  I race into my bedroom and see Big C sprawled out on my bed, gagging.  Next thing I know, I'm watching my son, the one with a sore throat who needs a break, vomiting all over my bedroom floor. 

After leading him to the bathroom, I went downstairs for cleaning supplies.  Mr. RC, who apparently needed a break too offered to stay home with Big C.  "No, it's ok, you go to work," I said.  "I'll stay home." And then we both practically ran to the phone, fighting over who was going to call in sick.  I'll call in!  No, I'm calling in!  No, that's ok, I'll stay home! 

Yes, we could all use a break every now and then.  And yesterday we all got one.  Mr. RC and I tag teamed our sick days, each working a half day so we could switch off staying home and tending to the sick boy.  Oh, and that sick boy?  Not so sick as it turns out.  When I got home at noon for my sick child shift, my men were lounging in bed eating Oreo cookies.  I don't know exactly how Big C was able to spontaneously produce vomit at just the right moment, but if I'm not careful, I might have a Ferris Bueller on my hands. 

Have you ever let your kids stay home even though you knew they were faking an illness?  Do you ever take mental health days off from work?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy 2nd Blogoversary to Me!

Today is the 2nd blogoversary of Riding the Roller Coaster!

Two years ago today I stepped my baby toe into the waters of the blogging world.  I had never read a blog before, and quite frankly, I had no idea what I was doing or what in the world I would write about.  Never in a million years did I imagine I'd still be blogging 2 years later.  But here I am, celebrating my 2nd blogoversary and still going strong.

2nd anniversaries aren't usually as momentous as the 1st, thus this blogoversary post isn't going to be as celebratory as last year's.  But I sure had fun going back and reading MY VERY FIRST BLOG POST and then rereading my 1ST BLOGOVERSARY POST and reminding myself where and how it all started. 

My life has changed in so many ways since Riding the Roller Coaster was born.  I'd love to sit down one day and read through my whole blog from start to finish, all 490 posts of it.  But since that walk down memory lane won't be happening today (who has time to read 490 posts?!), I'd like to instead take a minute to thank all of you.  Whether you're a new reader or one of the few who has stuck around since the beginning, thank you for reading and commenting and sharing your own stories.  Thank you for your support, your advice, your encouragement, and your friendship.

Here's to another year of blogging!   Cheers!

Monday, January 9, 2012

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Monday,
You are my Kryptonite.  My weekend was going just fine until you crept up out of nowhere and made me have to think about lesson plans and packing lunches and wearing clothes that aren't athletic gear.  Please stop ruining my weekends. And please pass quickly today.  Tuesdays are so much kinder than you.

A Weekend Junkie

Dear Compression Socks,
You are the coolest thing to enter my running world since the adjustable sports bra.  You may not be pretty, you may cause other runners at the park to dart strange looks my way, you may be almost as difficult to put on as Spanx, and you may be ridiculously expensive, but you have made running a whole new experience for me.  I don't care how silly you make me look, you are my new love.

Yours forever,
Happy Feet

Dear Dr. Seuss,
You are the focus of the thematic unit for my kindergarten class this month.  And I just wanted you to know how awesome you are.  I bow down to your rhymes.  I am in awe of your ability to entertain children while simultaneously sending your adult readers hidden messages.  (I have to tell you how much my students love your book Yertle the Turtle and how much I love that the book is actually about Hitler.)  Your words live on great one.

A Huge Fan,
Thing 3, I mean... A Grateful Teacher

Dear Mental Block,
Please move.  I'd write more. But you're in my way.

A Creatively Challenged Writer

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Art of Shutting Up

My first week of graduate school.  Behavior Management 101.  The assignment was to answer a question posted online and then respond to two other comments within that thread.  Being the overachiever that I am, I was one of the first in the class to respond, and I checked the website repeatedly in anticipation of other classmates' posts that I could respond to.  I was shocked when another student posted a response that was opinionated and offensive and downright stupid.  Of course, I responded with my own thoughts and maybe with a few fancy words that may or may not be synonymous with curse words.  Within 24 hours, the thread had grown so contentious with other classmates taking sides that the professor deleted the entire thread, reprimanded us all for not abiding by online etiquette, and started the assignment over with a different question.  We were all aspiring teachers.  And that was our first lesson in Behavior Management.

Did I regret my response that I voiced from the safety behind my computer screen?  Yes I do.  Do I wish I had allowed myself to stew for an hour away from the computer before posting a response?  Of course.  Do I wish I had just shut up and walked away the bigger person?  Absolutely.

And that is when I learned The Art of Shutting Up.

I'm pretty active on Facebook.  In fact, I probably get most of my current event updates as well as social interaction via FB.  But as much as I love Facebook, I realize that it's a breeding ground for negativity, hurtful opinions, and the snowballing of hostilities.  It's very easy to hide behind a computer, just as I did in graduate school, and spew out a whole bunch of brain vomit without thinking before typing.  And once you hit that POST button, it's out there, and people are already responding before you have a chance to regret what you've written and figured out how to delete it.  Before we know it, our words have gone viral.  All it takes is a few people to copy and paste or click on that share button.  For better or for worse, our opinions are shared.  And there is no professor, no referee, standing by to monitor our words and give us a do-over.

There's always interesting chatter in the military spouse Facebook community.  From the SpouseBuzz post about comparing complaints, to the news about the president's plan to downsize the military, to the annoucement of the dates of the MilBlog Conference, Facebook has been abuzz lately with passionate opinions and equally passionate responses.  It's so easy to get sucked into the drama, whether we agree with someone's thoughts or vehemently oppose them.

After my graduate school experience, I learned to take a step back before offering up my own snarky response that accomplishes nothing but feeding into other people's childish behavior and exhibiting an inability to fully think through an issue and tame my own emotions.  I made a fool of myself that first week of school, and I think of that harsh lesson every time I consider responding to an offensive post on Facebook.  Pursuant to the Art of Shutting Up, I now bite my tongue, remind myself not to take offhand comments personally, and allow a full hour to pass before posting a response.  Usually, by the end of the hour, the urgent need to share my thoughts has dissipated.  And if that desire does still remain, then at least I've had an hour to compose a more refined reaction than the knee-jerk one I would have initially posted.

As much as I believe in freedom of speech, I also believe in the importance of shutting up, especially when it comes to the viral rantings and ravings on Facebook.  But when the rantings and ravings carry on, and the ability to keep my mouth shut and be the bigger person gets too difficult to maintain, I also firmly believe in the UNFRIEND button.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: 1001 Things to Love About Military Life

So I just read this book

and it was awesome!  Want to learn more about it?  Check out my book review over at the Homefront United Network!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wife on the Roller Coaster Meets Semper Fi Momma

Today fellow mil spouse Semper Fi Momma is announcing the launch of her new military lifestyle website.  And I'm excited to say that I'm her featured guest author for the big opening day! 

Button Love

So what is the site all about?  It's a lifestyle website powered by military wives writing in the shared passion to bridge the gap between the civilian and military worlds.  The site will share posts about a wide range of topics including parenting, deployments, marriage, decor, and recipes.

So make sure you head over to Semper Fi Momma today!  Check out my post called Life Lessons as a Military Spouse, and then stick around awhile to visit with Semper Fi Momma.  I'm turning my comments off here so you can go share some comment love over there.

***If you're a mil spouse and you're interested in being a contributing writer for Semper Fi Momma, please email her at laura@semperfimomma.com.  The more the merrier!***

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