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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

#WalkoutWednesday

It was interesting to follow all the news today about the National School Walkout day. Some schools were very supportive of the students' desire to make a statement; some schools tolerated the walkout but didn't exactly support it; and some schools denied the students an opportunity to join together with other kids around the country so their voices could be heard. Detentions, suspensions, truancy reports: kids, and likely adults, were punished in different ways.

The thing that made me shake my head, though, was the social media memes and posts from parents who were obviously against the whole idea. I mean, I'm not shocked that some adults found the walkout ridiculous because they tend to be the same adults who call Generation Z spoiled snowflakes who can't handle anything. I read posts from numerous parents who said they went to the walkout themselves just to make sure their children weren't participating.  One parent even said she told her son before school that if she saw him outside during the walkout period, she would "whip his ass in front of all of his friends." Classy.

Then there are the people who post the meme about how kids should just be kind to one another at school instead of doing the walkout because kindness can cure any ill. Don't get me wrong: kindness is a vital part of a happy and healthy existence. I think our world could use all the kindness it can get; however, it's not a panacea, and in our hearts, we all know that.

What I realized is that I envy the parents who feel there is no need for a walkout, that things are fine the way they are. It must be a wonderful feeling to wake up every morning in a cozy bubble of rainbows and puppies. When their kids head off to school, they probably feel completely at peace because nothing bad could ever happen where they live. Everyone smiles and bluebirds perch on beautifully blossoming trees when they're not helping princesses clean little cottages. At night, doors are left unlocked while families eat popcorn and read in front of a roaring fire. Such a lovely vision. I envy those people because I would love to thrust my head in the sand and keep the fantasy of a perfect world at the forefront of my mind. Sounds nice, right?

Instead, I live in a quiet, albeit constant, state of gnawing despair.  Every morning, I send out wishes and hopes to whatever deities or higher powers choose to listen to me to keep my children safe because I know what can happen. Our school system is no stranger to violence, so I can't pretend that we are completely sheltered. I trust our administrators to do the very best they can to protect our children, but I'm not so naive to think that's always enough.  Why? Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Red Lake. That's just in the last twenty years, and it doesn't even include universities.

I choose not to live my life in complete fear because that isn't living, but I cannot completely erase the insight that when I watch my children get on the school bus, I am sending them to a place that may or may not be safe, that may or may not become a target for a bad guy with a gun. My kids live in a time when school shootings are commonplace. They will never know a school that doesn't have a buzzer and a camera at an entrance that is flanked by bulletproof glass.They have grown up with the Internet, Taylor Swift, and lockdown drills.

I support the students and the adults who participated in the walkout today just as I support those who couldn't participate due threats of repercussions. I support the parents and community members I saw today in front of our local high school. What I can't support, though, are people who continue to insist that everything is hunky dory. We cannot maintain the status quo and expect anything to get better. It's time for change, big, BIG change, and I have faith that the kids who agree that they have had #Enough are the kids who will reconstruct the nation.

Every town for Gun Safety
March for Our Lives

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The ISTEP can kiss my...foot

It's no secret that standardized testing has spiraled out of control. Starting in third grade, students throughout Indiana take the ISTEP test, Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress.  Teachers start a lot of lessons with "This will be on the ISTEP." They prep, they assess, they prep, they assess. The students are reminded to be on time for testing, to eat a healthy breakfast, and to get good sleep. This is the way our state wants to check in on our children: test them. Choose the right answers and impress us so your school can get money. C'mon kids, go out and make the fat cash.

I hate these tests. I hate that our kids are made to feel that they have to fit into a certain box in order to succeed. Pass, Pass Plus, and Fail: that's all they get. There is no grey area, no room for individuality, no chance to show different types of intelligence, and no time for different points of view. We spend time teaching kindness, and fairness, but we test them on nothing but memorized facts: fractions, punctuation, state capitals, elements.

We decided to opt out of testing this year for Lottie. She has spent the last three years stressing over the test; no, she stresses over the results of the test. She does her homework with an intensity that should be reserved for heart transplant surgery because she knows the information will be on the test. Then the questions begin. Will she be held back if she fails? Will she be forced into remediation? Does failing make her dumb? Will we be mad if she fails? What if she's the only one in her class who doesn't pass? Will the other kids know? These are the thoughts of her eleven year-old mind.

Imagine our shock and disgust when we were told that our district doesn't allow parents to opt out of standardized testing. Not. Allowed. (Odd how there are other parents who have done that exact thing throughout the state, but no one here is allowed to rock the proverbial boat. Apparently the Fourteenth Amendment isn't recognized 'round these parts. Odd how a former superintendent of an Indiana school system assured me that Lottie couldn't be forced to take the test and that his system never punished students who did opt out. Odd that the IDOE doesn't have a policy on opting out because it knows it legally can't.)  I'm a product of this school system, and I was even hired once upon a time to teach in this system. We moved back here, in part, because I had faith that the schools were the best we could find. I thought this system would be different and treat its students like real people instead of statistics. Mea culpa. Big time.

I can't even keep her home on testing days because she'll be made to take the make up tests as soon as she returns. We have to put our daughter in the middle of this ridiculousness because someone in some office who has no idea or memory of what a real classroom is like has decided that we don't have the right to refuse an assessment that only assesses test-taking ability and not true knowledge.

So, anonymous person, let me tell you about my daughter and what she knows. She knows kindness and compassion. She can make you laugh like no other. If you're sad, she'll do whatever it takes to make you feel better. She can mimic any voice with absolute precision, and she can climb any tree in the world. She loves Taylor Swift, gymnastics, slime, her friends, and her family. I'm pretty sure her dream is to open an animal sanctuary for any poor creature who needs a home. She wrote a Valentine to her brother that would make you believe in magic. She is happiest playing outside with the wind blowing on her face. Her favorite books have scary plots, and she is counting the days until she can see an R-rated movie without my permission. She's easy-going and adaptable, and she knows how to let loose and have fun without caring how it looks. She wakes up with a smile on her face every single day. She knows so much more than you can assess with a computer. She is the sun and the moon, the brightest star in the universe. You don't have to love her, but if you meet her just once, you will.

If the district is so set on having Lottie take this unnecessary, useless, irresponsible test, it will get its wish. Fair warning: she will do it her own way with our blessing. If the district doesn't like it, it can take the Jumbotron and all of its other priorities and stick it where the sun don't shine because one thing my girl knows for certain is that in our family, we value hard work, joy, and heart more than test scores.

34 problems with standardized tests
Diane Ravitch: Why all parents should opt their kids out of high-stakes standardized tests
ust Say No to Standardized Tests: Why and How to Opt Out 
Truth in American Education
8 reasons to opt out

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An apology

To the parents and families and loved ones and friends of the people killed in the attack in Florida, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that when you said goodbye to your child or spouse or parent yesterday, it was the last time you would see them.

I'm sorry that the last memory you may have is yelling at your child to get moving so he wouldn't miss the bus.

I'm sorry that instead of planning a Valentine's Day dinner, you're planning a funeral.

I'm sorry that the teachers had to use their lockdown training to save lives instead of teaching geometry or history or The Scarlet Letter.

I'm sorry that teenagers and adults alike had to cower in classrooms, closets, hallways, and bathrooms, all the while listening to gunshots and screams of terror and wondering if they were next.

I'm sorry that the people who survived the slaughter will never, ever be the same.

I'm sorry that the many lives lost will never have a chance to be completed.

I'm sorry that the shooter was able to obtain his gun legally.

I"m sorry that all we seem to have to offer you are empty thoughts and prayers.

I'm sorry that the term "yesterday's school shooting" even exists simply because we have to differentiate it from the one that will happen next week or next month.

I'm sorry that Columbine, Pulse, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and all of the other massacres haven't been enough.

I'm sorry that we have elected officials whose real constituents are dollar bills.

I'm sorry that the biggest elected official urges students who are lost or alone to reach out for help while simultaneously cutting our country's education budget.

I'm sorry that citizens cry that their right to own guns is more important than the right to keep our children safe.

I'm sorry that it's never the right time to talk about gun control.

I'm sorry that absolutely nothing will bring them back.

I'm sorry that we have failed you.

Moms Demand Action
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Every town for Gun Safety

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

4,015 days

My sweetest,

Eleven years ago, you made me a mom. It wasn't an exactly auspicious start considering I didn't even know I was in labor, but once you arrived, I knew I would never love anyone the same way that I loved you.


 From the beginning, you have kept me on my toes. When you were little, you were a runner; you didn't see any point in walking somewhere if you could run. These days, you prefer cartwheeling your way through the world. It's a rare occasion on a night at home if you're not doing a back bend, a crab walk, or a front walkover. I have no idea where you got your flexibility because I know it's not from Dad or me. For sure.


This past year has been all about gymnastics, making slime, going to sleep away camp, beauty experiments, and trying anything new. Not everything has been a rollicking success, but that never seems to bother you. You have the rare ability to laugh at yourself and ridiculous situations without taking yourself too seriously. I love when you try out new accents and spend the evening talking like an old Russian woman or Hermione Granger. You have an ear for language, and I hope that's something you continue to enjoy. Your imagination is enormous, and I get such a kick out of hearing the stories, thoughts, and questions that come out of your brain.

You continue to take such good care of the people around you. Whether it's other kids at school or me or your brother, you tend to put everyone else first. You want everyone to be safe, healthy, and kind, and you show them through example. One day at school last semester, you wrote letters to the custodians at school to thank them for taking such good care of the building and the students in it.  Your heart is big enough to hold the world inside it, and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow as you get older. Malevolence is simply not in your vocabulary, and you fight for injustice, no matter whether it's real or perceived, with your whole being.  I truly admire your willingness to see the best in people. You're not a pushover, though, and you know how to stand up for yourself.


In the next year, you'll be starting middle school. Thinking of middle school years makes most people shudder, so I know exactly what is coming. What I want for you more than anything in the world is for you to hold on to who you really are, no matter how hard it may get. You're so beautiful and good, inside and out, and you see life through rose-colored glasses.  There are going to be people who tell you to see the world for what it really is, but I say ignore them. Life can be any way you choose to see it, and I hope that you're always able to find the sunshine.  Don't ever let someone else tell you what to do or who to be: you are amazing just the way you are.  Find your tribe of people who are kind and who make you want to be a better person. With good people by your side, you can do anything.


I'm beyond proud of you, baby. You bring so much joy and laughter and weirdness and hope to our lives. I'm infinitely grateful that you're mine.

I love you,
Mom






Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ms. Minerva, if you please

On Veteran's Day this year, we bit the bullet and got a dog. We knew we wanted to rescue one, and I had been scouring rescue sites for weeks. When I saw that she was born in Kentucky, I knew it was meant to be. Thank you to 2X2 Rescue!! So far, she has been an absolute joy and perfect addiction to our crazy family.  As I have gotten to know her and she has become used to the routine chez Wells, I have noticed how much getting a dog, especially a young one like Minny (Minerva McGonagall Wells) is exactly like having a toddler in the house again.



1. She follows me around all day, every day.
2. If something is going on, she needs to know about it as soon as it's happening.
3. She is picky about her treats.
4. Sometimes her play goes over the top and turns into hysterical jumping and play-biting. When that happens, I know it's just a matter of time before things go completely upside down.
5. I find myself thinking about her bathroom habits WAY too often.
6. She can't be outside alone. The couple of times I have tried to attach her least to a lead on the zip line while I am outside working, she has escaped and run. She thinks it's a hilarious game: I do not. My new nickname for her is "Doug Henning."
7.  She gets a pouty and sad look on her face when we tell her she cannot jump on people or play with Judy or eat off our plates. I just know she is thinking I'm the meanest mom in the world.
8. She cries when Lottie and Dallas go to school because she knows she'll be stuck at home with me, the meanest mom in the world.
9. She puts every bit of snow she can into her mouth, and she loves to roll around in it.
10. If there is a puddle or a pile of leaves on the street, she will jump in it.
11. On occasion, she will bark for seemingly no reason. I have no clue what she wants at those times, and I wonder if she just wants to hear her own voice from time to time.
12. When there is a crowd at the house, she can't sit down and relax because she HAS to make the rounds every five minutes to make sure no one has forgotten her existence.
13. She hits her head at least twice a day and just keeps playing.
14. Every person or animal she meets is destined to be her new best friend.
15. Kisses are her favorite thing to give.
16. Sometimes she runs so fast that she slides on the hardwood floors.
17. When things get too quiet, I grow suspicious.  Usually that means Minny is chewing something she shouldn't, or she has somehow gotten out of the house.
18. She can go from zero to one hundred in four seconds flat.





Happy first birthday today to our sweet, nutty, loving dog.  We all love you so much.  Well, except Judy. She will never love you; the best we can hope for is grudging acceptance.


And as Mimi says, someday you'll grow into your nose.  Until then, #embracethesnout.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Enough

Like the rest of the country, I woke up this morning to the tragic news out of Las Vegas.  I was heartbroken that this had happened once again, but quickly, my heartbreak turned into pure, unadulterated anger.  When will enough be enough?

It wasn't enough after Columbine.
It wasn't enough after Aurora.
It wasn't enough after Fort Hood.
It wasn't enough after San Bernadino.
It wasn't enough after Sandy Hook.
It wasn't enough after Pulse.
It wasn't enough after Charleston.
It wasn't enough after any of the horrific massacres that have happened in the United States because there are basically too many to name.

And last night in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country.  Is that enough for you?    Fifty lives lost.  Over four hundred people injured.  How about that?  Enough?  Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters: people listening to country music.  One night, one minute, and the lives of countless people are forever changed. It *IS* enough. It just is.

Prayer is lovely, don't get me wrong.  But the time for prayer after something this disgustingly appalling is long past.  It's time for action.  I know that people shoot people and guns aren't entirely to blame, but automatic weapons sure make mass murder a hell of a lot easier, don't they?  Those weapons have no place in our society because nothing good can come out of having them. I don't particularly care if you quote the Second Amendment to me because the world today is quite a bit different from when that was written, and everyone knows it.

Use your soul for prayer if that makes you feel whole, but you need to use your brain to make some serious choices about what happens next. If the statistics don't scare you, you're not doing it right, I promise you that.

Research.
Propose new laws.
Run for office.
Vote.
Decide that enough is unequivocally enough.  We are better than this, America; we have to be better than this.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

3,285 days

My sweet boy,

Today you are 9 years old, and every time I write a birthday post for you, I have no idea where the time has gone.  It seems like not long ago at all when I held you for the first time and watched you sleep.  I remember wondering what on earth I was going to do with a boy, and little did I know that you would inspire within me such a fierce and enduring love.








This has been a year of change for you, I think.  You are slowly but surely growing up.  You are still hesitant and cautious when it comes to new things, but you're more willing to try them now than you were a year ago.  Last year, you said, in your old man wisdom, that you thought Cub Scouts was too dangerous because there were arrows and bb guns involved.  I knew you wanted to do it, but there was something deep inside that was holding you back.  This year, you casually mentioned that you were ready to try Scouts, like you had never had any qualms about it in the past.  I don't know what changed in your mind, but I'm excited for you to have a new experience.  You are jumping in the deep end of Uncle Matt's pool with abandon and riding rollercoasters while you scream with joy.



You have become somewhat more confident in yourself and your abilities.  You still get easily frustrated when you can't do something right away, but you are allowing yourself some grace time to learn and make mistakes.  If you hurt someone's feelings, you are more forthcoming with an apology than you have been in the past, and I'm so proud that you are really learning to think about other people's feelings.  Dare I say that you are learning to relax a little, too?  You are always going to be someone who thinks about things deeply and often for a long time before wanting to talk about them, but I feel as though you are taking more in stride these days.


When it was time to go back to school, no one could believe how tall you had grown over the summer.  It won't be too long before you surpass Lottie, and then soon after, me.  I actually wore your slippers around the house one time for the whole day before I realized that they were yours, so your feet might overtake mine sooner than I think.  The summer brought you a sprinkling of freckles on your nose that you hate for some unknown reason but that I find swoon-worthy. Your hair is darker and longer, so it makes you look like a teenager!  Thank goodness your beautiful blue eyes and your dark, long lashes haven't changed because they are one of the things that melt my heart.



Although you have grown in so many ways, you are still the sweet boy I have always known.  You are just as happy with a good book as you are a video game.  You love to spend time with family, and you're up for any adventure than I plan.  Something as little as a new pair of pajamas can make you beam from ear to ear.  I hope that you continue to find joy in the small things in life.  Your kindness and love to the animals in our lives is boundless.  You love to lie on the ground with Sally and gaze deep into her eyes, and you are gentle and loving with Judy.  I know that when we ever get a dog of our own, you will help me take such good care of it.



I'm probably easier on you than I should be because you're my baby, my last child.  You will be the last one to leave the nest, if you ever do, and you're far more sensitive in most respects than anyone else in the house.  Maybe I should be more firm, maybe I should make you do more that you don't want to do, but my instinct tells me that it wouldn't be good for you.  What I have learned about you in the last nine years is that you'll get around to doing everything in your own way and in your own time.  You won't be pushed, you won't be cajoled, and you won't change your mind unless you feel like you are ready.  That can make parenting you difficult from time to time, but as an adult, I think those qualities will all serve you well.


I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of you.  You are your own person, and with each day that goes by, I appreciate that more.  You bring a unique joy to our lives that I couldn't live without.

I love you the most,
Mom