May 25, 2015

Pretty Braids...

Today I would like to talk about beauty and bada$$ery.

"Pretty" has historically been kind of a tricky term for me. Growing up I wasn't really interested in being pretty in the same way as a lot of the girls I knew. I was more of a tomboy. I pretty much hated wearing dresses and dress shoes, and wasn't interested in spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. I wanted to be presentable (usually...), but not at the expense of the other things I wanted to do, such as pretty much anything other than standing in front of the mirror. I didn't give too much thought about what this meant for my future, but I definitely felt out of place about it all, and wondered if at some point I would undergo some sort of transformation whereby I would suddenly start wanting to wear more feminine things, or stop wanting to be so dang comfortable all the time, or something.

Well, back troubles pretty well permanently destroyed my desire to wear heels, except in rare circumstances, and otherwise over the years my philosophy on dresses ebbs and flows along with my fashion sense motivation. Somewhere along the way I decided that maybe I just didn't care. Except when I did. It wasn't too terribly disturbing, just a little confusing. And I still married a good man, and built a family, and am living what I consider a full life, so it worked out alright.

A friend of mine in grad school said something that brought things into better focus for me, though. One of three sisters in her family, she told me something she thought her dad had done really well. From the time they were wee little sisters, whenever they'd get dressed for an occasion they'd go parade around for their dad and he would ask them if they felt pretty. And over time they developed a saying in their family: "A girl's gotta feel pretty." So when I would compliment her fashion sense she'd respond with "A girl's gotta feel pretty."

I love that because it doesn't define a "pretty box" for all girls to fit into. It leaves the individuality to the girl. If she wants to take the time to be more conscientious about her appearance, and wear accessories, and product in her hair, and heels, and whatnot--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. If she's more like, say, me and prefers to wash, scrunch, throw on a tee and go--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. And of course all the girls on either end and in between--bingo. Gotta feel pretty.

I'm not sure if it's because of my previous hangups with the word, but if I'm being honest I never cared all that much about "pretty." What I really wanted, even if I didn't have the words for a long time, was sassy. Or edgy. Or bada$$. I could say I wanted to be like a rock star, but I'm not quite that punk. Plus I'm part hippie, and I don't know any true hippie rock stars.

Besides, the number one adjective I've heard to describe me is Cute. I'm pretty sure I also have hangups with "cute" as a description of me...but as time goes on I think it's probably more that perhaps I define "cute" differently than a lot of the world. Because pretty much the only thing I'd call cute about me is my adorable petite stature. But whatevs.

After all of this, at the age of 37, my hair has finally grown long enough for braids. I mean, I've braided it before, but the ends were always kind of short and wouldn't really stay up in anything but a single French braid. Now my hair is at its longest ever, and the tails actually hang down properly. So when I'm in the mood I put it in two low side braids. And on the weekends for my long runs, I go all out and do two French braids, and as I'm trotting around the neighborhood with my two braids, and my sock-less feet in my zero-drop running shoes, and I think "Man, I'm bada$$."

I'm pretty sure I also define "bada$$" differently than a lot of the world as well. I mean, my hairstyle is closer to Laura "Half-Pint" Ingalls than Amanda (effing) Palmer, so I really can't explain how that translates to bada$$ instead of cute. But I can tell you that when I have those adorable braids, I feel taller, faster, sassier, and like I'm sticking it to the man in some greater way than my messy bun or boring low ponytail. Maybe it's something inherent about being a grown-up wearing braids, I dunno.

So now, our family has adopted "Do you feel pretty?" for Tiny E, and "Do you feel handsome?" for the boyz. Because regardless I think it's a good thing to encourage the young'uns to go for the look/feel they're hoping for. Most of the time, anyway (we did have to implement an underwear rule).  And for the moment, Tiny E's favorite look is to put on a twirly dress so she can be "bood-ful."

Which of course I can totally get behind. After all, everyone knows twirly dresses are bada$$...

May 22, 2015

Thank You...

The boys' school year is winding down this week. They've brought home grimy crayons and pencil/marker boxes, and piles of papers. One had a little container of grape jelly smushed in the front pocket of his backpack; the other a pile of crushed acorn shells.

For the most part, the papers went into the recycle bin, but they had something that caught my eye and made me pause. Each had his own grade-level equivalent of a journal in one of those mottled-cover composition books.

His Highness had a second grade writing/drawing journal. Each entry contained half a page of handwritten words with half a page of illustrations. There were several that were obviously started by a teacher prompt, several relating to dinosaurs, and, I assume, several teacher prompts which were expertly finagled into dinosaur-related entries. Because, dinosaurs.

The Littler One had a reading journal. There were some handwritten words, but mostly colorful worksheets that had been cut out and colored and glued into place. Little matching games connected words to pictures. Flaps lifted to reveal words, pictures, and drawings. The progress of the school year, new papers being carefully glued in each week, doubled the thickness of the book. I could see what my boys had learned; how they had been engaged and thoughtful in their work (some days more than others).

Look, I'm no Common Core fanatic; at best my feelings are neutral about the whole thing. What I want to point out, though, is that amid a lot of controversy and argument and OPINIONS about how kids should learn, about how things are SO different than when we went through school, and a lot of what's going wrong (and yes, there's plenty to work on), there are things going right too. There are lots and lots of caring, gifted teachers who are teaching these children like a BOSS, and there are lots and lots of kids doing hard work and learning well.

I offer this up gently, knowing friends who have struggled mightily to provide their kids with the right educational options for them, and public school was not it. People failed them and "the system" didn't come through for them when they needed it. It is real and true.

But still...for others, it works. I read an article about a sad tale of a kindergarten where the children sit at desks and write all day, and I think definitely we should go storming into that school and shake things up a little, because it doesn't have to be that way, and it ISN'T that way in many many places. In kindergarten this year I watched kids sit and write a little. I watched them move around the room to different learning centers, working with their hands, advancing those fine motor skills with cutting and gluing and folding and painting while they learned about numbers and reading and writing. I had the immense privilege talking with them as they sat on the alphabet carpet, bursting to tell me ALL THE THINGS about the story we were reading together. I helped them take reading quizzes about stories they chose themselves. I watched them dance and sing and move. I also got to chase a group of them running like banshees on a scavenger hunt through the hallways before we worked out the logistics of how not to do that.

In second grade I got to take them to lunch a few times. I got to read to them in funny voices. They showed me how to work the smart board so I could show them the pictures on the projector. I got to give them reward points due to compliments from other teachers about hallway behavior. I got to see how their teacher taught them to care for one another, and how their teacher cared for them. She sent them home with a memory book of the year. They wrote entries about their field trips and projects, and she added photos and bound them into real, actual books using donations and her own funds.

In both cases, the kids oogled over Tiny E, showing the little visitor how things worked in the big kids' classes. I saw two young teachers caring about their students, pushing them to do hard things and cheering for them the whole way. I saw them correcting and being strict, sometimes with humor and always with an underlying gentleness that said, "I am FOR you, and you need to stop this nonsense right now." Because these children are capable of a LOT of nonsense.

You know what else these children are capable of, though? These children are capable of doing hard things. They are capable of building reading and writing journals over a school year. They are capable of attending 3 schools in 3 years (not ideal, but reality sometimes), making good friends, and thriving as they grow and learn. It also turns out they are capable of catching actual fish using some twine tied to a paper clip with a piece of hot dog on it (who knew??).

This is all to say thank you. Thank you, teachers of my kids, for those little journals, and for all the things this year. Thank you for letting me in and sharing a little of the process with me.  Thank you, friends of mine who are professional teachers, for staying in this hard profession and offering up your gifts to our benefit. Thank you for managing them well, so that you can spend more time teaching. Thank you for putting up with the nonsense of standardized testing, and conflicts, and paperwork, and all the extras that drain the joy out of the good parts. Thank you for challenging them, and for doing more than what is required to make learning more interesting, and sometimes even fun.

May your summer include lounging poolside with umbrella drinks...

May 20, 2015

Ankle Deep...

I read this really great article today, which of course got me thinking about my own family because it fits us well.

I also read a comment by the mother of a kid who has indeed found a passion at a young age, and gets herself ready for practices and commitments and whatnot, even while her parents have kept options open for taking breaks or trying other things. I think it's totally cool when that happens, and I'm all for supporting kids' talents and such; but my experience has been closer to the article. Historically, we Skerribs are generalists. We dabble in many areas, and our knowledge is widespread and ankle-deep.

These are my big 3:

--The closest thing I have to a passion is running, and I didn't catch onto it until eighth grade or so. It didn't earn me any money for college (or ever--thanks for nothing, running!), and I devote at most a few hours per week to it. Still, it is the thing that has stuck with me the longest; the thing that I do regardless of our location or circumstance, and will keep on doing as long as the good Lord lets me (Please God let it be until I die, sharp and feisty, at age 85. Amen).

--I love playing the drums, and I enjoy being part of a music group...but I wouldn't call it a passion.

--I love keeping this blog and writing out my thoughts and ideas. I like playing with words and reading about grammar and stuff...but I wouldn't call myself passionate about it.

These are the things I am currently dabbling (or considering dabbling) in:

--Learning Dream a Little Dream on the ukulele

--Learning Spanish via Duolingo on my phone (and OMG I just learned that I can sign on to the website and my progress is there too!)

--Piano (sometimes)

--Geocaching (sometimes)

--Doodle Stitching

--Bullet Journaling

These are the things I have pursued (or dabbled in at least a teeny bit) before:

--Teaching high school math, and all things learning/education

--Sewing baby slings

--Painting basketball court-sized maps on school campuses


--Motorcycle riding

--Knitting (which I should never do again)

--Crocheting (which I will leave to those more capable than myself)

--Playing the flute (ugh, that was not for me)

--Cross stitch



As a friend of mine once said, there's a lot going on "in there," meaning my head. I love learning and trying new things. I watch Dirty Jobs and, with the exception of the episodes involving snakes, think "I could totally do Mike Rowe's job!" Sometimes I wonder, had I picked something earlier on and stuck with it, what that might have looked like. Sometimes I wish I could narrow things down a little, because I can get a little overwhelmed with all the things I still want to try out there.

I try not to get too worked up about it though. I've found that for the most part, if I take things a day at a time and be aware of opportunities as they float by, that I get to be part of some pretty amazing, if random, happenings. For example, when I have been talking about taking Spanish for years and then suddenly it turns out there's an app for that. Crazy.

That's all to say, if you or your kid has a passion, then I say go for it. I think it's a beautiful thing to love something enough to put your heart and soul into it. If not though, neither the above article or I think you should freak out about it. I'm not sure if there's some great conspiracy out there, but if you're not bent on only one certain college, it turns out there are plenty of quality schools that don't require a professional resume of achievements by the age of 18. Seriously, admissions will take care of itself (tuition, on the other hand, is a little more complex).  Go and enjoy what you enjoy.

After all, there's so much to explore, why not take in as much as you can?

May 12, 2015

We Interrupt This Post...

I'm working on a post which involves an indirect mention of Mama Cass Elliot, and I found this video of Mama Cass and Julie Andrews doing a duet medley of Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Mind. Blown. the question is how many more videos to watch before I cut myself off and go to bed like I should if I want to get a good sleep and kick this cold sooner than later.

The struggle is real, people.