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Month of May Mothers: Project

After a few years of teaching middle school, I recognize the fact that by the time children are in 6,7, 8th grades, the Mother’s Day or Father’s Day project has lost its sheen. I usually don’t do a Mother’s Day project per se, but this year, the planning just fell right, because next week we’re starting state test “boot camp” as I like to call it (yes, they think it’s engaging). More on the state test later. Don’t start posting those comments yet.

Anyway, yesterday just seemed like a good day. I showed them the 1980s Mr. T homage to his mother, and they sat there, almost like hypnotized chickens, watching the spectacle and pageantry that were the 80s. Tube socks? Camo jean cut-offs? Mom jeans? Big hair? All that and more.

Next was my brief explanation that, I realize that by this time the woman who brought them physically into the world may not be a part of their lives anymore. Some have passed away, some have made other decisions. But please, consider some woman in your life that means a lot to you; an auntie, a grandmother, big sister, cousin, stepmother, etc. I told them I had one student who had a neighbor who really helped him and watched over him, and he wrote her a poem/note . They could use any of the materials in my room, (although I felt a little guilty because I had taken the “good stuff” home because of flood worries).

Here’s what happened: Many wrote poems, printed them out, and decorated. Many girls complained of recent fights with their mothers. I told them remember, you only have one mother, and she only has one of you, so try to make peace. (Oh, heaven help us, the mother/daughter relationship is a complicated one, to be sure.) Many wrote to another significant female in their lives, and some used the time to be their usual selves, whatever their usual is. One girl even chose to ditch her previous classes and sit on the bathroom floor with another; I’m sure that’s not the ‘gift’ her mother had in mind when she got the call from the administration’s office. (I can think of one or two of those type of “gifts” I gave my own mom when I was an adolescent.)

To help get one young gentleman started, we developed these questions, and used them throughout the day. You may want to ask them, too, if you’re writing your mom, big sister, auntie, cousin, grandmother:

What makes this woman laugh?

What makes her cry?

When is she disappointed in you?

When is she proud of you?

What does she do to help you become an adult?

What might you think when you’re an adult about what she did for you?

What indeed?

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Month of May Mothers: Mean.

mommiedear-thumbTwo days before Mother’s Day may not be the best time to talk about mean mothers. But not everyone is cracked up to be a mommy, just like not everyone is up to the job of daddy. The concept of “maternal instinct” has many examples throughout history – mothers finding amazing, adrenaline-fueled strength when saving one of their children, or that inexplicable pull a woman sometimes feels when she sees a baby or toddler to just hold it. But there are unfortunately plenty of examples when women with children do not seem to have this internalized mechanism that makes them go all “momma bear” whenever her cub is threatened. I don’t know why. When I look at teenage drama over what some consider a ‘mean mom’ though, the occasional, overly-dramatic mother/daughter fights usually exemplify this, I think sometimes they, the teenagers, really have no idea what a truly “mean mom” is all about. And, I don’t want them to know.

 Most moms love, love, love their children. Unconditionally. And even though they as adults may make some questionable life choices for themselves, they are trying their best, even though others may judge their best as not all that great. Parenting is a demanding, exhausting endeavor, with little appreciation, a lot of sleep deprivation, and spit-up.

So, even if you and your mom sometimes have the occasional disagreement, remember, she loves you. Give her a hug. Watch “Terms of Endearment” together. Life is too short to be mean.

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Month of May Mothers: Milk.


No, this isn’t a call about what or how to feed babies, or that remarkable mammalian characteristic. But it is about what mothers feed their children when the children start to talk. It’s about choices.

I heard a disturbing, and I guess somewhat unsurprising, NPR story yesterday called “Soda in America: Children and Families.” What shocked me was when one proud boy said he had had breakfast, and to drink he had pineapple soda. He thought because it said “pineapple” it was made from fruit, and therefore good for him. His thinking was correct, if indeed the drink had been made from 100% fruit juice, but alas, the content was not.

There are two big issues here:

1. Know how to read a food label, and APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE TO YOUR CHOICES

2. Don’t go for “easy,” but try to go for ” better.”

It’s not just about choosing to drink soda all day. It’s also about the fact that in urban areas, it’s a “food desert,” meaning there are no large grocery stores that carry a variety of healthy, relatively inexpensive foods. In many urban areas, convenience stores dot the corners, offering up an array of salty, sugary snacks: a lot of empty calories that cause heart disease, obesity, and other health issues.

I do not claim to eat all that healthy. I have been through stages where I’ve experimented with vegetarianism, whole foods, etc., but life and stress does enter into my eating choices. But instead of reaching for a Diet Coke, next time I’ll drink water; instead of carrot cake, I’ll have carrots. (I’m not that dumb, I just like cake.)

For example, today I brought an Arizona “Lite” Green Tea Lemonade. It has only 50 calories a serving, no fats, and 5% carbs (sugars). But I’m drinking the whole thing. It has 5 servings. Do the math: that’s 250 calories! I could have, and should have drunk that much in water today, for NO CALORIES, and my tummy, skin, and life would have felt better for it.

You read for your life, literally.

Food Label

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Month of May Mothers: Frida.

self-portrait-croppedYou lived in the unsafe shadow of a

Man who was a giant in size and

Appetites, with his own quiver of

Arrows to shoot through you like

Sebastian on a tree but your

Children are stronger for it, and live longer, for


Gracias, Senora, for confronting our self-images, staring back from the frame, we


our own face.

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Month of May Mothers: Parvarti

ParvartiThe Hindu goddess of love, and second wife of Shiva. She is Ganesha’s mother:

From Goddess A Day:

Ganesha’s first encounter with his father came shortly thereafter. Parvati had asked Ganesha to guard her cave and not allow any strangers to enter. Shiva, regretting his actions toward his wife, came to ask for her forgiveness, but Ganesha did not recognize him and would not permit him to pass. Shiva grew angry with this obstacle to his wife and, not knowing that Ganesha was his son, beheaded him. When Parvati discovered what had happened, her grief was immense, and Shiva promised to find a new head for his son. He could only find the head of an elephant, and used it to bring Ganesha back to life.

That must have been an interesting Mother’s Day THAT year, let me tell you! “Hey, um, sweetheart, I chopped off our son’s head, and replaced it with an elephant’s. But, he’ll be fine! Honey, you look fabulous in that dress. I made reservations!”

Parvati is all about forgiveness, and Shiva needs her grace and strength. But aren’t most moms about unconditional love for their families, even if there’s a nasty misunderstanding in caves?