AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Meat and Potatoes, Sofia, Tess

Raising Readers: Book Club, Full Plate Style.

Last July, I started a book club with some of my besties.

I chose three of my kids who had a similar reading level and I crowdsourced a book that they might all like. I downloaded the reading guide for the book here. We had multiple meetings at local restaurants where I had gift cards or coupons. Y’all, it was the highlight of the summer.

So, when summer was dawning on the horizon this year, these three lobbied to have a book club again. But, this time, all of their besties jumped on the band wagon. Initially, I divided the kids into two groups. But, once we got going, the tiniest of Full Platers also demanded their own book club. Now we have three going.

The kids are obsessed. When is our next meeting?!? Can I read ahead?!? Oh my gosh, mom! I can’t wait for you to find out what happens in the next chapter.

The “bigs” are reading Children of Blood and Bone. Here’s the free teacher guide I found to help prompt our discussions.

Juliana is the youngest of this group. She is a rising 7th grader, but reads at a high school level. Ally is not joining us this summer because of the aforementioned internship she has at an on campus preschool. Her internship includes room and board at a local dorm. We send her snaps like this one to let her know she is missed.

Their meetings were first. We’ve had three so far, because this book is a brick. The next meeting will be our last for this book. We’re taking suggestions for the next TBR (To Be Read). The kids love Black authors, and their favorite genre is definitely fantasy/magical realism. Dystopian novels are okay.

The “middles” are reading George. Juliana chose this for them. I love that an older kid is curating the bookshelf of the younger kids. I am using the reading guide from the Anti-Defamation League.

A note to readers of this post: Don’t message me with any outrage over my children being “exposed” to a book of this variety. That is my intent, all you haters. I want my children to know about people who are different than they are. Understanding the life experience of others is what combats hatred and cruelty. Reading this isn’t going to make anyone anything other than more compassionate. We need a little less hatred in the world these days. Should you choose to post a comment with malicious intent despite reading this warning, I will simply not approve it. If you continue to send ugly comments, I will start blocking IP addresses. The end.

Then the “littles” demanded a Book Club. Let’s be honest, they really just wanted the treats and the time with mom. Whatever gets you reading, right? I structured their club a little differently, because it includes two Deaf kids and I sign like a rising 1st grader.

Their Book Club occurs at home. It does involve a dessert. Last week it was a brownie bowl. We choose a brand new picture book. I practice signing it, in ASL, and voicing it simultaneously. That’s a stretch for me to focus on correct ASL grammar while voicing English. Lots of times I try that and slip into SEE (Signed Exact English). This week’s book was the new Pigeon book by Mo Willems!

We adore Pigeon around here.

When the book is done, everyone in our little group has to sit for three questions that check their comprehension. Gigi struggles with that because her language is so delayed. ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ questions are hard for her. ‘Who’ and ‘When’ are easier. This time she nailed both though. ‘How did the Pigeon get to school?’ ‘The bus! Same as me!’ ‘Pigeon was scared of school…why?!?’ ‘Maybe, friends…none. *insert sad facial expression*’ Nailed it.

They are loving this. I am loving this. It is a great way to connect with my kids.

–FullPlateMom, who is all about the connection, especially with her less than chatty teens.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Sofia, Tess

The Graduates

We’re one week into summer break now, and adjusting to our new schedule. It has been an extra adjustment to have me back home again, and in charge of moving the children place to place. Oh the places they need to move. So many places. We lost our 3rd driver last week.

Ally has a summer internship at the university. She is working at campus’s early childhood center in the Toddler Room. She is so happy about that, but the littles all miss her terribly. Isabel asks about her less than we thought she would, but that’s good. First, she is sure Ally will come back. Second, she is used to Ally coming and going. Ally has her own life. When you live in a large family, and have a huge heart, it is really easy to make your younger siblings the center of your universe. We want our bigs to have their own lives. Ally does.

Cam has a job at our local pool and is waiting to take Driver’s Ed until such a time that he can prove himself responsible enough to handle that. We have high standards in this house, especially when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. And, I have big feelings about 16 being the driving age. It seems so young to me. That’s just me though, I’m sure. Some kids are so ready. Some aren’t. He’s not.

Brady is playing tons of local venues with his drum line and his bands this summer. He just played at the Union Terrace last night. That makes him an official Madisonian, I think. He leaves for Band Camp tomorrow. He has few to no responsibilities in this house other than being the great entertainer that he is. We will miss that for the week he is gone. The house always feels so quiet when the great entertainer is gone.

AJ just graduated 8th grade. He is so ready for high school, especially for the athletics part.

Jax and Jules are now completely adjusted to middle school, enjoying swim team this summer and waiting for Sofia to join them next year. She is so ready, and she is SO done with 5th grade.

Bowen is getting ready for Paralympic Junior Nationals again in mid-July. He’s competing in short course swimming and made it on to a relay this year!

Tess is my crazy reader and can’t wait to continue passing reading levels and logging her books read this summer! She has dreams of her own Good Reads account.

Cate bid farewell to Kindergarten. With her went our constant enrollment in Room 4. This man has become like part of our family. To him, we say ‘aloha’, which is hello, goodbye, and we care about you all in one word. How does one say thank you to a man who taught all of your children?

Isa has completed 4K, and will move on to full-time Kindergarten in the same center-based Deaf education program that Gigi is in. She can’t wait. School is definitely her jam.

I am looking forward to a summer of them. I spend so much of my school year focused on meeting the needs of other people’s children. Now it’s time to focus on us.

–FullPlateMom, who is summer lovin’

Being a Transracial Family, Cam, FPM

Year one is almost done.

*Stock photo, not my school, or the school any of my kids attend*

This past September I began working in our local school district in the role of School Nurse. I know it seems like an odd move for me after working for myself for 2+ years. Not gonna lie, I miss the flexibility of making my own schedule. I miss making as much money as I did before I began working in a public school.

Our district is working toward the goal of having every school become a truly Trauma Sensitive School. I definitely want in that process. It is my passion. I also see so much being talked about in our district in regard to acknowledging our racial inequities. My kids have experienced both micro-aggressions and overt racism in their schools. I loved that this need for learning amongst staff was being acknowledged.

I accepted the job in July, and for the past 9 months, I have truly begun to love the schools I have been welcomed into.

Even though my own kids have been students in the district for over a decade, finding my place at the beginning of the year was so hard. The education world and the medical world are like two different planets. I would leave every meeting I attended thinking three things…”What just happened here?” “Why did it happen?” and “Why are these people the way they are?” I’m starting to figure some of that out. Again, completely different planets.

I adore the kids. Adore. them. I now have some of the funniest stories from some of the most creative elementary students ever to share with my own kids. We spend every night at dinner talking about the goings on in all six of “our” schools within the district. The first year of any new job is hard though. It’s uncomfortable to feel inept. This has been harder than any other year though, and at first, I couldn’t figure out why.

I hit roadblock after roadblock this week that explained a lot, and I think I finally have an answer as to why despite great successes and forward movement that it would be hard for anyone to dismiss, I feel so beat down. For awhile, I couldn’t put my feeling on why? I couldn’t even truly name the “beat down” feeling. That’s unusual for me. Part of my own training was focused on self-identification of my own struggles. I am good at identifying and addressing those so that I continue supporting others. But this feeling, it’s a feeling of sadness over…something…that I couldn’t quite put my finger on? I was able to name it once I was out of school for the day.

Before I transitioned to this role I used to chaperone my own kid’s field trips. Not every single one of them, but a few a year. This year, I have chaperoned exactly zero. That has left me with the very natural feeling of ‘mom guilt.’ I’m a work out of home mom, that feeling isn’t unfamiliar. I can hold space for it.

When the opportunity arose for me to chaperone a field trip for Cam, who is now a Sophomore in high school, as his pre-college group attended a conference on inequities in education, I jumped at it. Cam is enrolled in a program that will give him a full scholarship to college. He is in a track to become an educator. He hopes to teach middle school math. While not pressuring him into this, we are definitely encouraging it. Black, male, educators are precious and rare. They are needed. I know this firsthand.

During the conference, a panel presentation was scheduled. The panelists were local high school students who were going to discuss their experiences as students of color in our local high schools with the room full of educators in front of them. One of the panelists cancelled, so a fellow student asked Cam to join. I did push him to do this. Cam is finding his voice. That voice is necessary for him. He needs to be able to discuss, and share, his experiences with racism if he really wants to serve his students.

He got up there. For the first few questions, he let other panelists speak. Slowly, I could see him become more comfortable. He began to share, so maturely, some of his experiences. He shared what it felt like to be the only Black child in his Advanced Placements classes. He shared how it felt to integrate the Men’s Swim Team in 2017. Yes, he is the first Black Varsity men’s swimmer at his high school. He shared how he could see a need for change on multiple levels in his schools. Then he shared a story from school that he never told me.

He had been pulled aside one day after class, with three other Black classmates, and only three Black classmates, to be questioned about why the classroom smelled of marijuana. All of the white students, Asian students, and less brown kids had been excused. Only the three darkest children were asked to stay behind. “Why does it smell like that in here?” The students explained that the odor had been present when they entered the classroom. This explanation was dismissed, and for a solid five minutes, he and the two other students were asked repeatedly which one of them had just smoked.

Cam explained that he doesn’t smoke. He explained that he is a student athlete, a member of the Varsity Track Team, with his sights set on running in college. He explained that he has made a promise to his parents, and to his coaches. He explained he has a personal code of conduct along with an athletic code of conduct, to which he adheres. None of that mattered to this teacher. He had to explain all of that, when he owed no explanation to this individual. Finally, after a sufficiently uncomfortable period of silence, all three students were excused. As they all walked to their next classes, now late, they discussed how change isn’t coming fast enough. The adults aren’t creating change fast enough to stop the trauma of students who we are supposed to be keeping safe.

Later that night, I asked Cam why he hadn’t told me the story when it happened.

“It happens all the time, mom. I saw how much it cost you to try to make change on the swim team. Nothing really changed. It cost you so much. I saw what you went through when we got that letter. It cost us all so much. It’s better to not lose so much over these smaller interactions.” This was a small interaction to him. That broke my heart. What would be big to him?

We’re not moving fast enough to stop the trauma. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it from happening to my own son. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it happening to the students I serve every day in a place that I promised them would be safe.

There are so many stories to share. This is one of many of Cam’s stories. Brady has just as many. AJ and Jax have stories. Ally has stories. Juliana and Sofia haven’t even crossed over the line of being teenagers, yet, they have stories. Isa has stories she can’t even name yet.

Cam had the courage to share this story publicly in this moment. He is allowing me to share it here. The point of sharing it is not to seek retribution for the person who committed the act. She is still teaching. She will continue teaching. He knows that neither he, or I with all my privilege, have the power to change that. We know that if we tried to seek retribution for every act of racism we had seen this year, that we would be fighting constantly, and that fight would cost us so much.

Grief. That’s the feeling. It’s a sign of my privilege that it took me this long to name it. I am sure people of color have this feeling named and claimed. I have named it now too. And I will have to figure out how to move through it if any change is going to come from what my kids have endured, all my kids, at the hands of people I may interact with at work.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Phineas, Tess

It’s The Great Pumpkin!

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to.

Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football…

I got a popcorn ball.  I got a fudge bar.  I got a pack of gum.  I got a rock.  

By the way, whatever happened to the world war I flying ace? Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in his Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol.

You kept me up all night waiting for the great pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle!

Maybe not only a beagle!

–FullPlateMom, who hopes you all find your Great Pumpkin too!

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!