Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Mommy, the Fearness Came Back"

As I was getting ready to take my son to my mom's for the day, he came into my room and timidly squeaked, "Mommy, the fearness came back."

And, with those five simple words marks the beginning of the end of my son's innocence.

He isn't a sheltered child, by any means. I allow him to watch TV, carefully chosen shows with the occasional splurge, like his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We go to the movies when there is an age-appropriate movie playing. He even has his own little Innotab game system; since he's only four he doesn't yet play Nintendo or Playstation. And, we go out and about on a daily basis, experiencing life outside our carefully secured home.

None of these experiences had ever given him cause to feel fear, though. Not just the cautionary fear that keeps us from touching something hot or jumping off a cliff, but the kind of fear that creeps into your psyche, cementing itself into your very core; the kind of fear that is weighing down my once carefree and fearless little boy. Up until a couple of weeks ago, my son had managed to maintain his sense of safety and security, not knowing that life can be wrought with paralyzing fear. He loved his alone time, relishing in a basket of books while I showered or playing out back in his sand box with just our dogs to keep him company.

Now, noises and sounds that used to intrigue him, pique his interest, and draw him towards their source for further investigation, send him running the other way. He won't go to his bathroom by himself, nor does he play alone in his room anymore. When I try to send him to enjoy some alone time, I am met with the sharp pain of "Mommy, the fearness came back!" Not only does it hurt me to see him afraid, but his shame in being afraid shows on his sweet little face! Even though I tell him it's okay to be afraid, I want to encourage him to face his fears.

After this morning's declaration, I sat down with my little guy to find out where this "fearness" came from. Turns out, he had watched a documentary on the Chupacabra with my dad a couple of weeks ago. I don't think my dad realized it would frighten him the way it has, and maybe he didn't even realize my son was there watching it (my dad often falls asleep in his recliner while watching TV :-). So, I did what most parents would do, I assured him there was no such thing as a Chupacabra, that the TV show was make-believe. I also reassured him that, even if there was such a creature, it would probably be more scared of us than we are of it. To really bring it home, I told my son there was no way our dogs would let anyone, or anything, get close enough to hurt him.

But, to this little four year old who, while he understands that cartoons aren't real, the Chupacabra most certainly is! No amount of reassurance could convince him otherwise. Which brings me to my dilemma! I want to be there for my son, to comfort him, to protect him, but to what extent? I believe in giving my son the space and the freedom to work through his own problems, to figure things out on his own; I always have.

When we are at the park and another little boy pushes him, I don't address the little boy; I tell my son he has every right to tell that little boy he doesn't like being pushed and to please stop. I want my son to know that he has a voice, and I want to encourage him to use it!

When my son is working on a complex puzzle, I contain my urge to rotate that one final piece he just can't seem to make fit; allowing him the confidence-boosting satisfaction of discovering it all on his own!

While I would never want my son to hurt himself, I do gauge certain circumstances and, if the most he will get is a cut or a bruise, I let him figure it out on his own. Like learning how to ride a bike: if I'm always there to hold him up, he will never learn how to "fly".

I want to be there for him when he needs me; pick him up when he does fall down; comfort his sensitive nature when the world breaks his heart.

Since he won't play in his room alone, I moved his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Secret Sewer Lair, into the living room. It now perches on our brick fireplace so that he can play with it in the presence of the dogs and me. But, I don't want to smother him, deny him the opportunities to develop his inner strength, or shelter him from the irreplaceable lessons of making mistakes and getting hurt.

So, how do I protect him from the potentially chronic fears that develop into phobias, but at the same time nurture his sense of adventure and passion? What do I do when "the fearness comes back"?


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

UDL and Differentiation: The "what", "how", and "why" of learning

In trying to understand the dynamic relationship between Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiation, it helps to first understand how the brain works. In keeping with the multidimensional approach of differentiation, the CAST website provides visual diagrams of the "three primary brain networks", showing the "what" (fact-gathering), "how" (organizing and expressing ideas), and "why" (engagement and motivation) of learning.

Meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse student bodies, teachers must consider the following:

How to present new information:

Prezi Presentation

Tapping into students' prior knowledge:

Present.me PowerPoint

Implementing strategies to engage and motivate students:

I would like to close my response with links to Edutopia videos highlighting schools and teachers who bring authentic learning experiences to their students:

From Worms to Wall Street: Projects Prompt Active, Authentic Learning

Keeping it Relevant and "Authentic"

I look forward to our class discussions on UDL and Differentiation!


CAST. (n.d.). About universal design learning. Retrieved from 

Edutopia.org (2014). The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved from 
Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2011, January 14). Differentiated instruction 

       and implications for udl implementation. Retrieved from


Waterman, T. (n.d.). Differentiation and technology. Retrieved from

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today's Slice Came to Me at the Gas Station!

I waited all day for my slice to come to me, and wouldn't you know it - it came to me at the gas station!

Share Your Slide of Life

On my way to pick up my son, I decided to stop for gas. As I stood there, in the frigidly cold wind, holding the pump - my car has an inverted gas tank so I have to stand there the whole time holding the pump upside down - I watched the parade of cars and trucks and trailers streaming by. I've always been fascinated by the comings and goings at gas stations, wondering where each person was hoping their full tank of gas would take them!

These musings brought to mind the road trips my ex-husband and I used to take, filling up our tank and ice chest at the gas station. We used to pack the trailer and truck, load up Sammy Sue and Saint, and just take off, driving as far as our tank of gas would take us! With a portable house, we used to set down roots wherever we could find a place to park: along the banks of the Colorado River, nestled among the pines in North Woods, the Safeway parking lot in Carmel!

Reminiscing about our previous road trips made me miss being married; not that I miss my ex-husband who, by the way, isn't my son's father, but that is usually the first thing people ask when I talk about my ex-husband, so I thought I would get that out in the open! What I do miss is having someone to share my life with; the little moments like holding hands, grocery shopping, or keeping each other's feet warm under the blankets. I miss having someone to help carry life's burdens and pay the bills; someone to lean on and to laugh with.

As much as I miss having a significant other, though, I don't think I'm ready to find one! As a single mom, all my time and attention go to my young son (and my dogs), and I don't think I'm ready to share myself! After long days of tending to, caring for, and loving my three children, I barely have enough energy left to pop the cork on a bottle of wine and write my blog posts!

I'm also afraid of starting over. At 43, I've been through the first dates and the no call-backs and long-term break-ups; I've started over more times than I care to count. I am enjoying the freedom that comes with being single, and I get to raise my son the way I see fit. So, for now, I'll leave my reverie at the gas station pump because I have a four-year old to pick up, feed, and get to bed. And, if I'm still awake, a glass of wine to drink while I write my Slice of Life!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My First Child Doesn't Walk on Two Legs

Most of my blog posts are written about my son and being a single mom to him. But, before he was even a thought in my mind, I had a child! She wasn't born from my womb, but I couldn't love her more if she had been! So, here's a blog post dedicated to my first child, my first baby: Sammy Sue...

Sitting here in our backyard with Sammy Sue, I think about the years I spent mourning the loss of being a mother. After three years of trying and three miscarriages, my marriage ended. Already pushing my late thirties, starting over seemed impossible. I would never find someone, have enough time to get to know him, and be able to get pregnant before the inevitable "clock" wound down. But, as fate would have it, I was wrong, and now that I am a mother in the traditional sense, I can't help but realize I had always been a mother!

As I sit here brushing Sammy Sue's fur, I can't help but wonder what makes a mother? When does one become a mother, and to whom do we mother? Thinking back on our years together, I realize Sammy Sue gave me everything I needed to be a mom: someone to love, someone to care for, and, at times, someone to discipline :-)

Reaching farther back into my mothering memory bank, I realize I was a mother to countless birds that visited my backyard bird feeders; I mothered the plants that needed my care and attention; hell, I even mothered the little rollie pollies on my morning walks, as I tenderly scooped them up from the sidewalk and placed them safely in the grass.

Mothering isn't just about birthing a child, it is about giving a part of you to everything you've ever cared for; it's about leaving this world a little brighter, a little safer, and a little more beautiful than how we found it.

Since this is a blog post dedicated to my Sammy Sue, here are some of my favorite pictures of her...

Slice of Life Tuesdays

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giving Voice to Your Birth Story

Journals: memory keepers; dream catchers, memoirs...

Journals provide a safe place for our dreams to take flight, or for our wish-upon-a-stars to be heard.They are the keepers of secrets, protector of what we shield from the outside world. A journal is a place to give significance to what others may deem insignificant.

Like many others, I have a long history of half-filled journals, left hungry on forgotten bookshelves. From my adolescent years through dating drama to multiple miscarriages and divorce, I have feverishly, with great vigor and renewed commitment, journaled with the hopes that writing would bring me peace, love, and healing. Perhaps these are only accomplished when journals are filled.

I have had a variety of journals, for a variety of reasons. Some held blank pages but whimsical covers, to elicit my creativity...

...others might have been less flamboyant on the outside but still full of life on the inside...

...still, others were more serious and stoic, used for my academic musings...

...more often than not, my journals had specific purpose...

But none compared to the magic and mystic of this one...

In all my years of writing in journals, I had never once filled one from end-to-end; until, I journaled to my unborn son. For so long, I wanted a child but had become resolved to the fact that it would never happen; until one Saturday morning, the Saturday before Mother's Day in 2009 to be exact! The night before, I was having a cold beer with dinner, but the taste of it repulsed me, so I left it. Then, sometime during my sleep that night, I awoke in a cold sweat. Waking up that Saturday morning with mild nausea, I could no longer ignore the signs, so I took a pregnancy test...positive! After trying to have a baby for years and suffering multiple miscarriages, I wasn't convinced; so, I took another test...positive! And, yet another...positive!

For the longest time, I just sat there, looking at all three pregnancy tests on the floor. Through so much time, so many heartbreaks, and all the tears, I found myself pregnant...and single! I couldn't comprehend what was happening so I turned to the one constant, loyal companion I have ever known...writing!

There was a journal I had been saving for months; for what, I didn't know, until that moment! I rummaged through my dresser drawer, pulled the journal out, and wrote my very first entry:

Saturday, May 9th
Hi Baby,
Today is Saturday...come to think of it, its the Saturday before Mother's Day, and I just found out I am pregnant with you! I'm supposed to go dirt bike riding today but even something I've loved for so long pales in comparison to what I am feeling right now. I will gladly give up dirt bike riding to have a healthy pregnancy! 
I can't believe I'm writing this to you! I can't believe I'm pregnant with you! I'm so happy but...I'm also terribly scared. I have wanted you for so long and I almost gave up, but here you are! This is only the first step, though; we still have to get through nine months of pregnancy and a painful childbirth, which I am terrified of, by the way!
I just can't believe it! First thing Monday morning, I am going to call the doctor and make an appointment. I will do everything I can to make sure we have a healthy, happy pregnancy :-)
I love you so much already,
And that was the beginning of the first journal I wrote in from beginning to end!

I knew this would be my only chance at pregnancy and motherhood, so I wanted to savor every moment. I wanted to remember every seemingly insignificant detail, and the only way to do this was to journal.

I could have started blogging at that time, but, for me, the actual act of writing pen on paper made the journey more intimate and meaningful. I felt like it was just the two of us taking those first steps together, and I wasn't ready to share my son with the world!

Through journals, we live the lives others tell us we can't, and we tell our stories. In my journals, I held the child I was told I would never have! In my journals, I lived a love story so fierce and intense, the world forgot Romeo and Juliet! Now, I journal for the sake of writing. Why do you journal? How will you give your birth story a voice?