Thinking Outside the Software

Ever wonder what else you could do with the shapes tool in Power Point? Seems my kiddo did. Instead of asking for comic strip software, he decided he had just the tools he needed right inside Power Point.

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Pretty Sure The Email Didn’t Say This

This is what I get for asking Thomas to read me an email from the police department in case it was something I needed to send out in our city guide app: “Regarding the earlier bomb threat at Walmart – the bomb squad has searched the entire building. They found no trace of a device but did find an unidentifiable foreign substance. Spock and I are preparing to beam down to the planet for further exploration. Bones is making progress on a cure for the virus spreading throughout the ship…”. Sigh.

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Sorting Out A Stomach Ache

A phone call from the school at 11 AM always raises alarms for a mother, and I am no exception. I am one of those scraping-you-off-the-sidewalk kind of moms, no thanks in part to a very vivid imagination.

So when the phone rang this morning, my first fear was that my twelve-year-old was in the throes of a terrible asthma attack and had left his inhaler at home. I pictured him blue and gasping for breath, and I mentally started berating myself for not making sure his inhaler was in his back pack before he left for school. What kind of mother was I, anyway, that haranguing him about talking to his math teacher was more important than making sure he was prepared for every medical emergency?

All of this happened in the few seconds before I answered the call. It’s amazing how fast tragedies unfold in our mind within the vacuum of any actual facts or details. Instead of a panicked nurse on the other end of the line, I heard my son’s voice.

“Mom?”

“Are you ok?” I asked, relieved that at least he could still speak.

“Uh, yeah. I’m in the nurses’ office, though.”

“Yes, I could tell that by my caller ID,” I tell him. “What’s wrong?”

“I have a stomach ache,” he says. And then he continues, “although I’m not sure what’s causing it. That’s why I called you. I’m thinking it could be a virus, and that would mean I was exposing other kids to it where they would get sick. On the other hand, it could be from anxiety or stress. And it might be from boredom since all we’re doing in science is grading papers.”

I didn’t say anything for a moment, still recovering from panicked-tragedy mode. Finally I managed an “OK?” followed by a pause.

“I was hoping you could help me sort out what might be causing it, because if it is just boredom or stress, I need to deal with it and stay in class,” he explained.

And so I helped him sort it out with a few questions:
Was he running a fever? No.
Was he feeling like he might throw up? No.
Was his chest tight? No.
Did it feel hard to breathe? No.

And after the series of questions, he came to his own conclusion. “You know, I think it is likely boredom. I didn’t know for sure, but I think that’s it. I’ll go back to class now.”

The line went dead, and I stood there holding the phone. I wondered what the nurse thought about it all.

Then again, I’m not even sure yet what I think about it all.

Pardon Me, Sir

Photo credit: pickle from morguefile.com

My youngest, wielding a piece of paper in an attempt to push a spider into the tub: “Excuse me, sir. Pardon me, sir, can I invite you to perhaps travel this way? Oh, no, not that way, sir. Over here, sir. Pardon me, sir, I don’t feel you’re listening…”.

One of the best parts of being a mom is enjoying the fun, quirky view life we sometimes glimpse through our children. I freak out when there is a spider anywhere near. How refreshing to hear my son’s approach.

Dresscode Loophole

Nope. Nothing explicitly forbidding boxers, is there?

On the drive home from church yesterday, my twelve-year-old was a bit quiet in the back seat. The mom in me assumed he was processing some of the more inspiring thoughts shared in the past hour. I was just about to ask him what had inspired him the most when he finally spoke up.

“You know what I’ve discovered?” he asked.

My heart soared. Here was my youngest, turning his mind to serious subjects and growing up oh so fast. I shared a smile with my husband as I turned and asked, “What’s that, Honey?”

“I’ve discovered a loophole in our school’s dress code policy.”

Reality usually does just smack one right in the face, doesn’t it?

“So what’s that?” I asked, knowing that any discussion of deeper things wasn’t going to happen today.

“Well, the policy states that shorts have to be as long as your fingertips when you’re standing straight with your arms at your sides. The other day when I was in the locker room changing for PE, it occurred to me that boxers fit that requirement. And, you know what? I doesn’t say one thing about not being allowed to wear your boxers.”

Oh, my. Although we did talk about this particular talent being quite useful to lawyers, after a very long lecture about not testing his discovery, I’m thinking we nipped this particular experiment in the bud.

At least, I really, really hope so.

Saying What You Mean

Movie Clip From the movie Lloyd

Any time you receive an email at 10 AM in the morning from a teacher who has just finished teaching your son, it’s pretty much guaranteed that it won’t be to tell you how your darling child did you proud. It is usually because the teacher is so upset that she needs to get it off her chest then and there. And thus was the case this week when I received an email from my youngest son’s sixth grade literature teacher.

“Today in first period … ” it began and went on to describe the assignment given to all of the children, ” … out of the three myths we read this week, which was your favorite? Explain your answer.”

It seems my son took her literally and assumed that she really did want to know what he thought of her choices for reading material and thus gave an honest reason about why he selected the story he did as his favorite of the three. In fact, he did so with such clarity that his teacher felt compelled to immediately share his response with me  – and continued to share his response with each class she taught that day as an example of what to never write in an essay.

“My favorite story was the “Boy Who Flew” because it was the shortest,” my son shared with his teacher in his essay, adding that he hated having to read stories he’d already read before. But it was the part of his essay where he explained his choice as favorite that was the final straw for the teacher. “All the other stories sucked.”

Now just to be clear, I am in no way supporting his choice of words, and we’ve had several conversations about not using playground language in school essays. And he also wrote a letter of apology and apologized the next day in person, as well as doing the assignment over. But when my son arrived home from school, he was just as upset as his teacher had been, because he believed that the assignment and reaction were unfair. I explained to him that rarely does a teacher actually want their students’ unadulterated opinion even when they ask for it, that what they usually mean is “please describe in great detail the elements of each of these stories so I know you actually read what I assigned.”

My son’s response? “Then why in the world do they play games? Just ask for what you want, and I’ll do the assignment. I can do that, but you have to tell me that’s what you want. If you ask me for my opinion, then I’m going to think you actually want it.”

He has a point. In much of our lives, we speak in code. “Do I look fat?” is often code for “Do you still love me after all this time?”, just as “I’m so tired tonight” is usually code for “If you seriously think I’m in the mood for anything more than fuzzy socks and popcorn tonight, you have another think coming.” We rarely say exactly what we mean, and we want to hear the unfiltered thoughts of others even less often. But after raising three gifted kids who all have struggled with playing the games society expects us play, I have come to the conclusion that maybe my son’s approach isn’t so bad. You know exactly where you stand. In five words or less.

If The Teachers Aren’t Yelling At Me, I Must Be Doing Ok.

With the youngest home with me from school for the past couple of days, thanks to school conferences, I’ve acquired quite a few new Thomasisms.

I pointed out to Thomas a little 3-year-old carrying a shovel three times her size and working very hard. His observation? “That’s why they call them toddlers, not dawdlers. She hasn’t learned the art of dawdling yet.”

During his conference at school, in which he is supposed to inform me of how he is doing as 6th grade comes to an end.
Thomas: “I am doing much better in all of my subjects.”
Me: “How do you know that? How are you keeping track of how you’re doing in your classes?”
Thomas: “Two things. You tell me like every day, and if the teachers aren’t yelling at me, I must doing ok.”

In response to a complaint from his science teacher that he “spaces out” during class and doesn’t listen to other kids while they’re reading out loud from the text book. “Well, once we’ve read about a theory, how else am I supposed to decide if I really believe it if I don’t continue to think about it?”

During a mother-son excursion to the local museum of natural history, Thomas noticed a black and white cardboard cutout of a man in an exhibit. Without missing a beat, he said, “Oh, look at that guy. Now I know what they used for black and white movies – just plain black and white people like this.”