We are NOT Joking Around, Here

This summer I have been getting lots of advice on the impending baby situation that will be happening this fall.  

Highlights of this advice have included:
  • A friend's marathon diaper tutorial that I like to refer to as, "More than Any Person Should Ever Know about Cloth Diapers!"
  • The suggestion from a homeowner whose house we were thinking of renting, when it was revealed that the second bedroom would actually be used to store her furniture, "You could put your baby in the doorway."
  • Baby stores' fantastic advice on the limitless ways I should spend money on my baby (one such way: a device that straps on to your belly and flashes lights in patterns to your unborn baby while you sit back and picture the future genius applying to colleges at age 5)

Another valuable source of baby information came from my third graders at the end of the school year.  Last month I posted some of their advice here (including Ammari's advice on what size baby I should aim for), but the students had plenty more to say on the subject of babies.

I think they might have been a bit concerned that the survey I gave them signaled an apparent lack of knowledge on my part of anything having to do with babies.  "We are a little worried for you" some of their advice seemed to say.  "If you are asking eight-year-olds for advice on babies, clearly we need to start at the beginning.  If nobody has told you this yet, BABIES POOP AND PEE CONSTANTLY.  We kind of thought you might have known that, but in case you didn't, just plan for so much poop you wouldn't believe.  We are NOT joking around, here."

It's not like we haven't discussed bodily functions plenty in the third grade.  In fact, it is precisely having taught elementary school for many years that has prepared me for a wide variety of bathroom-related situations, from bathroom accidents in class to animals pooping out plants.  There have been unexpected things found (and report on!) in the toilet as well as names of feminine hygiene products accidentally blurted out in class.  Loudly.  On two different occasions.

Nonetheless, I was asking the third graders for advice, and they did their best to educate me on what I'll be in for.

"They use the bathroom a lot (in their pants).  They need a lot of diapers."

OK--they use the bathroom a lot, I'll remember that.  And in their pants is what you're saying?  That is gross, but got it.  Note to self: Get diapers.

"She will probably poop on you if you take her diaper off." 

Good to know.  Revised note to self: Get diapers.  Put them on baby.  Do not take them off baby.

"Make sure they don't poop when you're asleep."

"Be ready with a diaper at all times."

"They poop a lot!"

"Have 1,000,000 diapers."

Right.  Based on how many of the kids chose diapers (and the contents of said diapers) as their top advice priority, I'm thinking there's got to be something to this advice.

Some of the other suggestions and cautions on the kids' surveys extended the theme of establishing baby basics.  "Judging from your naiveté of the whole diaper dimension, we might need to make a few things really explicit for you, Ms. Sarah."

"Don't put the baby's room under a staircase because you can bump your head."

Well, I was thinking of the Harry Potter treatment for raising our little one, but will now consider myself advised on the appropriate nursery location. 

"Don't drop the baby!!"

Check.  I can see how that would be less than ideal.

Written again, on the reverse of the same student's paper, in bold letters and in "Seriously, I mean it" style with gigantic exclamation points:
So to recap: Just do whatever Megan did for diapers, beware of belly devices promising genius for $39.95, do not ever (ever!) drop the baby, who should be wearing a diaper (or multiple!) at all times, in her room which is not to be placed under a staircase.  I will try my best.

Brought to You by the Letter T

Some words are so much on your mind, that they're always just a hair away from being pushed down the direct-to-mouth chute and landing out in the world.

For example, if you're eight years old and you're thinking about poop, the chances are extremely high that the word "poop" is going to tumble out of your mouth.  Now the kid next to you is thinking about poop, and has to say the word as well.

While reading Charlotte's Web aloud, with Wilbur's and Fern's and Templeton's names floating around near the direct-to-mouth chute, it's easy to accidentally call a student by the name of juicy, delicious-looking farm animal.

Kids needing to ask me a question reach in and hastily grab the first word they encounter.  "Mom!  Can I pass out the lunches since Sylvio's not here?? Ahh!  I just called my teacher 'Mom'!"  Once in a while the grabbing for a word is so arbitrary I even get called "Dad" or "Grandma."

This hasty word selection phenomenon is dramatically heightened when playing The Letter Game.  During our morning meeting activity, or a drama class warm-up, the kids put their minds to the test to see how many words they can name that start with a particular letter - no repeats.  When it's your turn, you just grab the next "L" word that floats into your consciousness and blurt it out.  If it's not the fourth time that this same word has been attempted, and if it's actually a legitimate term, any word is fair game. 

Well....almost any word.

A couple of months ago we were playing this game with the letter T.  By the third time around the circle, several kids were out after failing to produce a word that met the two criteria.  When Dylan's turn came up again, he corralled all of the T-word possibilities in his brain, and fished out one that was a legitimate word and had definitely not been used before.

"Tampon!" he exclaimed.  With the exception of one other student who let out a shocked noise, and a teacher who kept in a shocked noise and made a note to touch base with Dylan after the game, we were on to "transform" with no discernable pause in the action.  I mean, the game has to stay moving after all!

Surprisingly, this was actually the second time that I've had to talk to a student about not randomly blurting out the word "tampon."

When Do They Become Awesome?

I'm pretty much a rock star with siblings.  If I pass the first grade in the hall with Tyson's little sister Maia, there are very loud whispers of, "That's my brother's teacher!"  A half dozen pairs of wide eyes follow me as I walk by.  I pause and give a casual look back, lift my sunglasses, toss my hair, and sign a couple of autographs.  Maia nearly faints.  The paparazzi snap away.

Many younger siblings revere their older siblings' teachers simply by virtue of how amazed they are with every aspect of that third grade brother or sister.  A kindergartener will come upstairs ("That is how amazing my sister is--she has to go up the stairs to get to her class!") to trade a mistakenly switched lunch bag with her sister and will stand at the doorway working up the courage to enter such an unbelievably grown-up classroom.  "They are such big kids up here," she'll say to the friend who has escorted her up the long staircase to the scary but amazing third floor, "They have the big chairs!"  Not to brag or anything, but we do learn cursive in third grade.

The older siblings, however, don't always feel the same way.

Towards the end of the school year this past year, my lunchtime conversations with students seemed to revolve largely around babies.  Tips for how to get them to go to sleep.  Name suggestions.  Tips for how to get them to stop crying.  More name suggestions.   

Image: open clip art - darren beck
One day over sandwiches, the topic turned to babies crying.  Based on his experience with his now five-year-old younger sister and his general third grade tendency towards giving advice, James shared that babies don't even cry so much when they're really little.

Ammari chimed in, "After that they cry a LOT!"  I added, "Yeah, and then when they're two they just say 'no' to everything."  James and Ammari nodded in agreement.

Since James' little sister was approaching six years old, well beyond the ultra high-maintenance phase, I figured he would be an expert on when younger siblings get past the cry-all-the-time stage and the Terrible Twos.

"So....when do they become awesome?" I asked.

James replied, "I haven't found out yet."

How to Be a Kid

Why?  WHY do seven-year-olds feel compelled to sharpen the metal end of a pencil?

WHY does the first letter of your writing require a little stick figure man to prop it up? (Well, other than the fact that "This is heavy," as the little man explains.)

WHAT are you going to do with those pencil shavings you are saving wrapped in an index card?

Well, wonder no more!  Hanna and Tyrica have created an entire manual for how to be a kid.  OK, so the "why" questions are not actually answered anywhere within their book and might just be unknowable.  But they do cover quite a lot of procedural information related to all things Kid.

Highlights of steps to living this "hard and easy" life of kids include:

*Text if you want to.
*Beg and plead (if needed).
*Make science at home.
*Don't fight unless playing.

That last one, though, comes with a note: "Only fight if they're obnoxious/rude or your enemy.  In that case, KNOCK EM OUT."

Hanna and Tyrica have also laid out the pros and cons of childhood for their readers:
As I write this from a hot tub (just to rub it in that I am a grown-up and I can!), watching forlornly as children flip themselves into a pool (because I'm a grown-up and I can't!), I still wonder, though, WHY one would ever need to include a little man to support the letter I.  Perhaps Hanna and Tyrica will come out with a sequel.

Well That is Certainly One Way to Put It

If you're out of school, we'll want to know where you've been.

Were you visiting your cousins in Cleveland?  Was your car stolen?  Did your mom have a baby?  Can the situation be described as "glove controversy" or "hair trauma?"

If it was a Thursday, Keisha and Deja were missing you for the weekly game of Spying on Kids during recess.  Michael might think you were actually just in the closet the whole time and Dominic has made you a "Get Alright Soon" card.

One day Selena came back from having been out of school for a few days and handed me a small booklet with a color photograph on the front.  Sadly, her grandmother had passed away, and Selena had gone to the funeral in South Carolina.

"Wow." I said, after looking at the picture and reading the short biography of Selena's grandmother.  "She sounds like she was a really special person."  I handed the booklet back, but Selena insisted that I keep it.  She had plenty more of them, she said.  "That's for you."

"Oh....thank you Selena.  I'll...I guess I'll just put this right up here on the closet door where we can see it."  I cleared some space in the ever-rotating collection of drawings and notes on the closet door and stuck the photo up with a magnet.

A couple of months later, Selena and I were trying to find her missing assignment in a pile of papers on my desk.  Something caught her eye and she looked up.  "Hey!  It's my grandma!" she exclaimed.  I followed her gaze and saw the picture peeking out from behind a smelly-marker card from a student.  "We have her at my house, too."
image: heartlandurns.com

"Oh--you have one of those photos of her on the wall at your house, too?" I asked absentmindedly as I continued rummaging through the stack.

"Yeah," Selena replied.  "And they burnt her so we got her in a box."

(May Work, May Not)

One important skill when working with children is to be able to manufacture and sell The Next Best Thing when The Actual First Best Thing has gone terribly wrong.

One year, the Actual First Best Thing was a field trip to go skating.  Clearly, ditching any tests to get on a bus and slip and slide around all morning on some ice was a great plan.  Unfortunately, when the mechanisms that create the frozen wonderland of slipping and sliding malfunctioned the morning of the planned trip, Actual First Best Thing melted into a sad puddle of disappointment.

Think, think!  I told myself when I got the news from the rink.  I cannot break this to a class full of expectant would-be ice skaters by saying, "Actual First Best Thing is not happening, children.  We have been let down.  Now take out your vocabulary books."  I must quickly manufacture a Next Best Thing and then sell the heck out of it as the replacement. 

Fortunately, sock skating around the gym was a cost-free, set-up free, materials-free, miracle of a  Next Best Thing.  Phew!

This skill is no less important with blog readers.  I'm afraid I have let you down with the Actual First Best Thing that one tunes into a blog for.  You know, um, blogging.  Yep, that is precisely what I haven't done in far too long, but how about the Next Best Thing--sock blogging!  Or maybe that was just a situation-specific Next Best Thing trick....

The Next Best Thing to having kept up with posts sharing funny kid stories over the past two months is that I'm back with a new post every week for the next two months!  Yep--tune in every Monday throughout July and August for new kid stories and quotes.  I've got a stockpile! 

On with the typing of things onto the computer!  At least, I think that's how I remember this whole blogging thing working.  After all of this ado, we're now getting to the actual post within this extended post.

(May Work, May Not)
Recently, I've taken a couple of measures to generate some pretty excellent blog material.  Measure # 1: Get pregnant.  Measure # 2: Tell third graders I am pregnant.  Measure # 3: Give third graders survey to ask for their advice about babies.  It's all for you, readers, and has paid off pretty well.

Third graders keep extensive stores of advice on hand for really any situation you could think of, just waiting for someone to ask them.  Over the years, I've had the opportunity to benefit from eight-year-olds' advice about love, Parent Night furniture arrangement, nutrition, travel, and marriage.

The subject of babies is no exception to the list of topics about which kids will liberally advise.  Most of the baby advice I received was heavily focused around diapers and crying (as my life will surely be as of October....).

Caden, though, was adamant that the most important thing to know about a new baby is what job she will do.  To accompany this advice, he illustrated an extremely complicated picture of, well, it is unclear.  However, after much analysis I have determined from at least one section of the illustration that Caden's fear is that if I don't choose a career path for the baby immediately, she will end up with a trash can on her head playing football.   You know--the profession of that.

Ammari alone provided as much advice as the entire rest of the class combined, and I am determined to follow all of it.
  • Always celebrate birthdays for more fun.
 Yes--I am definitely going to celebrate the baby's birthday.  I mean, who doesn't like more fun?

  • Have good times with the new person in the family for life.  
There is a certain resigned tone to this one.  "This kid is going to be around for a looong time whether you like it or not, so you better have some good times with her."  But at any rate, I will plan for good times.
  • To stop a baby from crying, turn on the vacuum cleaner (may work may not).  
I appreciate the disclaimer on that one.  Ammari is under no illusions that these tips will reveal any magic solutions for a crying baby, and wanted to prepare me for the possibility of failure.  But with all the good times and more fun, there will surely be hardly any crying anyway.

This is perhaps the best advice of all.  None of my baby advice books (by supposed professionals!) ever made this suggestion, which I feel is a definite oversight on their part.  I am making it my mission to indeed have a small baby.  Surely they have got to be easier to take care of, and I can only imagine how pleased I will be with Ammari's advice and my decision to follow it once labor rolls around.

See you next Monday!

Boring but Cute

There is nothing like moving to a new apartment to highlight the most un-fun features of being an adult.  My husband and I moved out of our apartment this week and are currently on a road trip across the country to our new pad.  This process has been chock full of those "being an adult" tasks like Cleaning the Oven (a task which we managed to put off for 7 years until this sparklingly clean oven would be enjoyed by not us), Vacuuming the Closets, and well, Cleaning the Everything.

The main up side to adulthood, of course, is that you get to use hot tubs.  At least, that seemed to be the one salient benefit of being a grown-up according to Hanna and Tyrica in their book, How to Be a Kid.  In addition to their list of pros and cons of being a kid, the girls also laid out a summary of life stages.  Essentially there is a fantastic period of work-free glory days sandwiched between long stretches of boring.

At least babies get to be cute and boring.  We adults just get strict and boring.  And oven cleaning.

I'm Going Out with Number 14 !

   The classroom number system: Know it, love it.  It just makes it so easy when all of the kids have numbers - We're on a field trip and I panic for a second that we've lost someone - I can run through all of the numbers in order in no time flat and make sure we've got everyone.  We line up in number order.  I can easily call #1-5 to line up, #6-10, and so on.  The pockets where kids turn in their center work is numbered so it's very clear whose work goes where.  The cubbies are numbered.  The mailboxes are numbered.  And they can stay labeled exactly the same way for the following year!  
   Sometimes when we arrive at PE before the PE teacher's ready, we even do some math with the classroom numbers.  "6 x 3" I call out, and Zachary, number 18, jumps up.
  It's a time saver, and in a way it's like our own special code...for...well, I guess some of the kids take it as a code for encrypting love notes....

  Love notes, eh?  But it's not Valentine's Day!  True, but in third grade, every day is an occasion to write a love note.  Or a kind of complicated "You're going out with her so I'm going out with him" note.


Samuel Alito Thinks I'm Funny

Today I received THE.  Most.  Amazing.  Card.  EVER.