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The last day of school…

It’s the last day of school before the holiday break, and so the whole school is having a pajama day.  Everyone looked super cute, and as we were waiting in the class for the bell to ring, the teachers and administration gathered in the hall to sing carols.  It was so much fun.  I’ll admit, quite openly, that while I am excited for the break I am sad to know we are losing one of our two fabulous teachers.  Miss Begg is an intern, and is finished her time with us.

Unlike many interns, who find themselves overwhelmed, and stumble through their internship Miss Begg came in already ready to teach.  She so clearly has found her place with these kids, and has been such a wonderful addition to their class.  We were already super excited to have Ms. Jackson – who is one of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever known – but then to have added Miss Begg to the team?  It’s been absolutely fabulous, and I’ll be sad to see her go (as will the kids).  I’m also excited for her too, as I know wherever this journey takes her she is going to touch so many little lives.

Anyway…

Because tomorrow is Yule, we brought gifts for both Ms Jackson and Miss Begg today.  Normally it’s about a month before Yule and we start to plan.  We’ve made scrapbook pages, blown up pictures, given plants the girl propagated herself (wrote “thanks for helping me grow” on the planter)…  but only a few weeks into this year Lily-Ann told me she wanted me to make tutus for her teachers.  So that’s what I did.

The tutus I’ve made for Rhonda get borrowed and passed around between all the teachers.  They all just adore them.  And I’m thrilled to report that the two newest tutus were equally well received.  Lily-Ann and I both got big hugs, and I’m so glad to have made Ms. Jackson’s and Miss. Begg’s day.  The put them on immediately and began showing them off to the rest of the staff.  LOL  Lily-Ann was just tickled (as was I).

After putting on a Disney Christmas movie for the class to watch, the four of us headed into the hallway to snap a quick picture.  Everyone in their PJ’s (and tutus) next to the tree:

No-one in a kerchief, none in their cap,  but tutus and smiles, and my iPhoto app.

None in a kerchief,

none in their cap,

but tutus and smiles,

and my iPhoto app.

And because this is during the 30 Days of Disney…  Lily-Ann is wearing her velveteen Cinderella PJs.  😉

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DIY – Word Blocks

A little while back I came across the idea of using megablocks to help with phonics skills and fluency.  I thought it was a great idea.  I’ll try to find the website where I first saw it, and will share it when I do.  For now though, here’s our take on it:

Seeing how the girl has outgrown her megablocks and generally is using lego for building, I loved the idea of repurposing her old blocks.  So today I pulled out my label maker and her box of blocks and set to work.  This should give new life to all her old sets, that haven’t seen the light in several months.

I decided to put both a capitalized and lowercase version of the same word on each block.  This way, when we start worrying more about proper capitalization her blocks will still be useful for her.  Eventually I’ll be adding a whole lot more words – including many she has requested herself – as well as doubling up some blocks with words like is, was, it, and…  as many of them can be used twice in the same super silly, extra long, sentence.

We also decided to use many of her blocks with stickers on them.  You know how some sets (like Kai Lan and Diego) have themed stickers that get applied to some blocks?  Well, we’ve labeled those too – with Kid kid’s choice of words.  It can be nice for early readers to have visual hints when still working towards reading fluency.

So, here are our blocks.  I ran out of tape in my label maker, so had to stop a little earlier than I’d have liked.  But we still had enough finished to have a bit of fun.  Lily-Ann loved my “Dad was stinky” sentence, and I loved that her very first one was “Lily-Ann is cute”.  😉

 

Strawberry Cream Cheese

I love hearing how other people see my daughter.  I know how I know her to be, but how a child behaves at home and how they behave when Mom isn’t around are often two different things.  So the stories I heard from kid kid’s teacher today were very nice to hear.

Apparently, after coming back from a lesson with Mr. G (who teaches both music and phys.ed) the kids were telling Ms. W how one particular classmate had been bad.  They all reported in, one after another, how this classmate had not behaved and ended up in trouble.  Then one student said “Lily-Ann was bad”.  Their teacher stopped and with a quizzical look repeated, questioningly “Lily-Ann was bad?”  To that, she explained, came an entire chorus of  “No” or “Lily-Ann is never bad” and “Lily-Ann is good.”  LMAO  I guess it was just a question of one student’s Freudian slip.

We also talked about how she, as their teacher, gets a unique look into each of their home lives.  Through the things they say and do, she’s able to figure things out about each of their lives.  How one student must watch a lot of horror movies, and another is jealous of their sibling(s).  She continued to tell me, with a smile, how Lily-Ann is always there to help and encourage her fellow students.  How she is always supportive, even through creative play.  And how a couple of days ago she was playing in the kitchen center and told the student pretending to be the child how she, the mom, was preparing strawberry cream cheese because it’s sweet like they were.  And how she was going to make it from scratch by cutting up her own garden strawberries.  I’ll admit, I like the story of our home life that paints.  🙂  And it’s true.  I make her mini-bagels with yummy and sweet strawberry cream cheese because she’s sweet like a strawberry and it’s just one way I can show her that I love her.

My daughter isn’t just sweet and supportive though, she’s strong too.  And she’ll defend herself, standing her ground if you try to tell her otherwise.  I guess one boy has been teasing her, telling her he’s stronger than she is, trying to get her goat.  But she’ll just look him in the eye and tell him otherwise…  he’s gotten himself in trouble with the teacher a couple times now for insisting she’s not as strong as he is.  LOL

The kid isn’t one to back down if she knows she’s right, but she also knows how important it is to offer love and compassion to those around her.  It makes me proud to know these are lessons she has internalized simply by how we treat her.  It’s nice to know others see the amazing girl I do when they see her too.

Hailey’s Question

I volunteer in the girl’s classroom on Thursdays, and like any Thursday, I was there today.  I love that the kids seem to enjoy my being there.  They get extra attention, so it’s a good thing.  I always get a ton of hugs, they draw me pictures, I read stories, and I just hang out and listen to anything they feel is important enough to share.

Today, Hailey came over to me, with her hands on her hips, looking very serious.  She stood, looking at me for a second, one eye narrowed, before she finally spoke.  Then in a slightly accusatory tone she asked “Why does Lily-Ann always look so pretty?”  Pretty coming out with a little extra venom.  I thought for a brief moment (stifling my laughter) and replied “Well, I guess that’s just how she feels inside.”  Seemingly satisfied with my answer, she sauntered off.

5 Girls & 7 Boys – Gender and Sex in a Kindergarten Class

On Thursday my attention was drawn to a new part of the daily routine for the girl’s kindergarten class.  As soon as I saw it I knew I had to do something to have it changed.  Today was my first chance.

A simply drawn boy wearing a baseball cap, and holding a bat and ball, coloured blue with the word BOY.  His counterpart in pink with a pretty dress and holding a flower with the word GIRL sits beside him.  Both on the bulletin board next to the calendar, a counting chart, and other simple items used to subtly teach the kindergarten class basic numerical skills.

boy and girl clipart

The teacher touches the head of each student she deems as “boy”, counting as she goes.  “Seven boys.”  The number gets written on the wipe off board under the picture representing “boy”.  She then touches the head of each remaining child, counting.  “Five girls.”  That number gets written on the board too.  An addition sign gets added between them, and everyone counts on their fingers.  “Twelve kids.  Seven boys and five girls makes twelve kids.”

Now, my ideal kindergarten is gender neutral.  At this age there really is no reason at all to discuss “boy” or “girl”, what each means, and how we each fit into societies gender binary – at least not at school.  At the very least, if it can’t be a neutral space, it should be a equal space.  And these disgustingly stereotypical figures are far from that.  If we must count girls and boys, we need to ask the children “Who identifies as a boy?”  Then count the raised hands, marking the result under the word (no picture) BOY.  “Who feels like a girl?”  Then count those raised hands, marking those results under the word GIRL.  But I think we can do better.  Why reinforce a false binary by bring gender into question at all?  After all, there are more than two sexes, more than two genders (and the terms boy and girl can refer to either gender or sex, which just further muddies the water).

Why not ask “Who likes baseball?” and “Who likes football?” and add those two numbers.  Switch it up, and the next day ask “Who likes veggies?” and “Who likes fruit?”.  Every day of the week could be a different pairing of questions.  After all, we don’t need to come up with the same answer every day.  Some kids may vote yes to both, some may not raise their hand at all.  This way we practice our early math skills, learn something interesting about our friends, AND we don’t reinforce any false notions about gender or sex – which have no place in a kindergarten class to begin with.

I spoke to kid kid’s teacher about my concerns today, and I’ll be honest.  I’m not sure she understood my concerns at all.  She thanked me for bringing them to her attention – but it was very much a canned response…  what one could expect from someone who has never really given much thought to their own gender or sexual identity, someone with CIS privilege, who has lived in a very small, heteronormative box, their entire life.  While I don’t hold this against her, it does mean it may be time for a little educating.  Issues of gender and sexual identity are vitally important to the health and safety of our young people (and the adults they will become), and even something as simple as being told they are BOY…  simply drawn with a baseball cap, bat and ball, coloured blue…  can hurt, when that child knows -inside- it’s not right.

How-to Start a K-cup Starter Garden

A couple of years ago now, the girl and I talked you all through creating a toilet paper tube starter garden.  Now, I’m going to share another little crafty way of reusing some household waste to start your seeds this Spring.

I don’t know about you, but I LURVE my Keurig.  Seriously, freaking, LOVE my Keurig.  We use the reusable filter a great deal of the time, but it can be hard to resist some of those specialty drinks that only come in those wasteful little k-cups.  So this blog post should come as good news!  You can reuse them!  So go ahead and indulge from time to time – and then save your k-cups to make seed starters in the Spring.  😀

How-to Start a DIY K-cup Starter Garden

 

Step 1:  Gather your tools

  • scissors
  • k-cups
  • soil
  • seeds
  • spoon
  • bakery take-away containers

Step 2:  Strip down your kid(s)

Seriously!  Strip them down and put them in an empty bathtub.  They will get dirty, and a contained mess means an easier clean-up, and an easier clean-up means happy parenting.

Step 3:  Start cutting!

Using the scissors, cut a star shape into the top of each of your used k-cups.  Like so:

cutting up the top of a k-cup

Step 4:  Peel away the tops

Now, this really is optional, but it’s a great way for the little one(s) to be involved.  As you finish cutting the top of each k-cup, pass them to the nekkid kid in the tub.  Let them pull off the little metal bits (make sure to tell them NOT to use their teeth).  If they miss some, no biggie.

Step 5:  Dig a hole in the coffee grounds

Be careful with this one, use the back of the spoon or one of those EXTRA small spoons for stirring tea.  Dig out a hole down the center of the coffee grounds.  The grounds do not go all the way to the bottom of the k-cup, there is a hanging coffee filter in there so try not to puncture it or knock it down.  If you do, it’s not the end of the world…  it’s just not as nice for transplanting your seedlings later.

digging a hole in the coffee grounds

Step 6:  add soil

Hand the k-cup back to the kid(s) and let them fill the hole with soil.  Are we starting to appreciate the bathtub and the contained mess?  I thought so.  😉

Step 7:  contain your containers

Just like in the guide for the toilet paper tube starters, we’re going to use some more would-be garbage to hold our little starter garden.  Those crunchy, transparent containers you get whenever you get swayed in at the bakery by the yummy all ready made goodies are perfect little greenhouses!  So pop them in!

Step 8:  add seeds

Another great step to let the kids help out with.  Just add your seeds.  This go-round we’re doing a variety of lettuces so I just let the girl sprinkle them on.  They didn’t even need to be covered over with more dirt.

lettucy goodness - in seed form

Step 9:  water

Ummm..  yeah…  just water them.  😉

Step 10:  bathe kid(s)

Now let the water wash everything in the tub away, and enjoy the thrill of watching your new seeds sprout over the coming days.

Where is Christopher Now? (a video of Ivan Coyote)

Ivan Coyote was invited to attend Breaking the Silence this year as our keynote speaker.  Her down to earth stories and sense of humor speak directly to each person in her audience, making you forget the distance between the stage and yourself.  As if sitting down for coffee with a friend who just needed to talk.

In the clip I’ve shared below, Ivan tells a story about Christopher, a much loved family member…  about how her cousin inspired her to go into schools.  About how we all shit, it’s the great leveler, and how a poop story can get students and others to identify and invest in Christopher.  How it can get people to care.

Take a few minutes and watch Ivan tell her story.  It won’t take long, but in those few minutes, you may change for the better…  thanks to a little boy named Christopher.

I’ll be sharing more of Ivan and the Breaking the Silence conference in the next couple of days.  I have more videos, more pictures, and more stories.  All of which are so very worth sharing.  So I hope you’ll keep coming back to see more.  🙂

Sex, Gender, and How the Heck I Fit into it All!

When discussing something, relaying a story, or describing an event the logical place to start is at the beginning.  So, with the fifteenth anniversary of Breaking the Silence that would seem to be with Ivan Coyote’s performance on Friday evening.  I’ve got a couple clips that I know you’ll love.

Ivan Coyote speaking at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon Saskatchewan

…However, that’s not where I’m going to start.  I’m going to start at the end.  Or, well…  almost the end.  The last session of the day, before we all gathered for the conference’s conclusion:

“Sex, Gender, and How the Heck I Fit into it All.”

My session.

I had printed 25 of the handouts I’d created, expecting 15 – 20 youth.  We had 176 (it was 176 or 172, I can’t quite remember) registrants, and five options in each session slot.  And with a title like mine, I didn’t expect a huge turnout.  Not when competing against some of the amazing options that were presented this year.  I figured by printing 25, it would give me a little wiggle room, and also allow me to share a few copies with people who were in other sessions, but were still interested in the topics I addressed.

Walking up the stairs to find the room I was presenting in I passed two people who had veered off into the other upstairs lecture hall – I’d attended a session earlier in the day there (a great one by Jim Drake on personal narrative).  I kept walking…  And that was when I realized, the throng of folks walking up the stairs with me were headed into room 103…  into my session.

The room was already packed when I walked in, and more people kept coming.  I was shocked!  And I’ll admit it, I was suddenly nervous.  My throat swelled, my legs felt weak, my stomach did a little turn.  These are not feelings I was used to, however they weren’t entirely foreign either.  I remember them well from the days I first entered politics when I feared I wouldn’t be good enough, days long past now.

George Georget, a fellow member of the board gave my introduction.  He’d asked if there was anything in particular I wanted him to mention.  There wasn’t really, and I told him as much…  but I didn’t want to leave him lacking for something to say, so told him he could always just tell them I was a Mom and photographer.  I didn’t need to be worried.  He had plenty to say, all of it lovely.  I thank him for that.  🙂

I began by apologizing for my lack of handouts, and asked that they share in groups of two and three…  just so everyone could see what I was referring to.  I began handing them out.  Then realized it would be a lot more efficient to enlist a little help.  I handed some to Chance Briere, an absolutely wonderful young man I met this Summer and am proud to call friend, and some to a woman across the row from him and asked for their assistance.

Still feeling a little shaky, and surprised not only by the amount of attendees by also by their diversity (I was expecting youth only, but there was a brilliant array of ages, it was inspiring to see them all gathered for a session I thought would have such narrow appeal), I began to speak.

It took two or three minutes, but I found my voice…  the same as it always was.  Honest, open, and willing to talk about anything.

I didn’t expect the laughs, loud and openly shared.  I didn’t expect the cheers, unbridled and on point.  I didn’t expect the types of questions, asked with heart and intention.  I didn’t expect to inspire or to move people…  but that seems to be what I did.

Very honestly?  I was presenting a mainly informational session.  I knew I wanted it to be more of a discussion than a lecture – but I came prepared with an activity, just in case questions were slow to come.  I didn’t realize that I would touch lives, or give people hope they didn’t arrive with.

To everyone who came up to me afterwards, to shake my hand, to get a hug (or two or three), to share a story, to ask for help…  THANK YOU!  I appreciate each one of you.  You are truly amazing people.  You have touched my life.  You have inspired ME.  And to all of you who wanted to do the same, but for whatever reason felt you couldn’t.  Thank you for being there, for listening, for asking questions, for returning my smiles when I met your eyes during my talk.  I know I won’t change the world, but I believe that you can.

Now, for anyone who would like to see it, here is my handout.  Please feel free to share it wherever and with whomever you like.  I only ask that you refrain from editing it or claiming it as your own.  😛  If there is interest in a printable version (do let me know if that’s something you’d like to see) I’ll find the best way to make that available.

The Gingerbread Person - on Assigned Sex, Sexual Desire, Affection, Expression, Gender, and Orientation.

The Gingerbread Person on Assigned Sex, Sexual Desire, Affection, Expression, Gender, and Orientation.

Teaching about Sex and Gender in the Classroom

Shortly I’ll be presenting at a few high schools as well as at Breaking the Silence.  I’ll be talking about sex, gender, identity and the labels that can help or hinder us as we discover ourselves and how we fit on the spectrum.  I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll be covering, but I really would love to hear from you on the subject.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the gingerbread man diagrams that have been floating around the net for the last couple of years.  There have been several different incarnations of the drawing, and I’ll be creating my own for my presentations too.  Basically it just maps out the differences between sex, gender, expression, and orientation.  By having this type of illustration handy I hope to equip everyone who is there with the proper language – as that will go a long way to facilitate discussion.

What I’d like to know from anyone who’d be kind enough to reply is this:

If you were, or are, a high school student what would you like to know but might be afraid to ask in a classroom setting?  What would you want to know about sex?  about gender?  about gender expression?  about sexual orientation?  Is there something you wish you knew?  Is there something you do know that you wish others knew?  What would you want discussed that you might be to embarrassed to bring up with a room full of people watching?

I want to ensure that those who need the information, get it.  But if I don’t know what questions people have, I may miss something important.  This is basic information that schools haven’t often given students a chance to learn – information that people often have to discover on their own – feeling alone and insecure.  I want to arm youth with the power that comes with knowledge, and knowing that no matter where we fall on the spectrum, that we’re all totally normal with the potential to be awesome!

gingy from shrek

OMG!

I honestly never thought I’d see legislation like this passed during my lifetime.  It was too much to hope for.  Let’s hope that California merely leads the way, and soon the rest of North America follows.  It would be a dream to have my daughter and her friends grow up learning about the amazing LGBT men and women who led the way to freedom, and those who who still continue the fight for equality.

 

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/07/california-assembly-approves-landmark-bill-that-would-require-teaching-of-lgbt-history/

 

I honestly have tears rolling down my cheeks over this.

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