5th Grade – The Home Stretch

My 5th Grade School Picture

My son is a fifth grader. 

School started yesterday, which means this will be Ryan’s last year at his elementary school and then it’s off to middle-school.

But I don’t want to rush ahead.  We have 180 days of fifth grade to experience first.  And like in years past, I’d like to share with you memories of my own fifth grade year.  (To remind you, you can click here to read about my fourth grade experiences and click here to read about my life in third grade).

I had the same teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.  Ryan has had a new teacher each year.  My elementary school went up to sixth grade, so unlike Ryan, at this stage I wasn’t yet looking ahead to middle school.

And though I was in fifth grade back in the 1980s, one thing remains the same.  All fifth graders are still required to complete the fifth grade physical education fitness test.

Unlike Ryan’s school, my elementary school didn’t have a physical education teacher.  When I was in elementary school, our classroom teachers took their classes out for P.E. once in a while, usually on Fridays, and usually as a reward for good behavior.  We didn’t train and practice for this physical fitness test.

Luckily, Ryan’s school has a group of physical education coaches.  They have been training for this test since kindergarten, slowly building up the endurance needed to run a mile.

And when it comes time for this test, I’ll give Ryan the same words of encouragement I always give him for any test: Do your best. 

Because really, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter what you’re being tested on, that’s the only thing you can do.

Summer Reading

A photo taken a few months ago showing Ryan and I browsing at the library.

We’re coming to the end of summer break.  In our family that means school resumes next week, as does afternoon homework and a note packed into my son’s lunchbox each day.

Our summers usually consist of:  one family trip (we were in Santa Barbara and Cambria this year); numerous museum visits (including LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, the Norton Simon Museum, the Getty Center, and the Skirball Cultural Center); and lots of reading.

My ten-year-old son just completed the reading log required for the public library’s summer reading program.  We never tell Ryan what to read, or insist he sit down and read each day.  He just reads.  Sometimes alone, sometimes together — on our patio, on our couch, at our local Coffee Bean.

And looking over his list of books makes me smile.  Ryan read about LeBron James and King Tut.  He read joke books and books based on Pixar films.  He read about Katherine Johnson and Buzz Aldrin.  He read about Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.  He read about Nintendo’s Mario and Curious George.

It’s been a good summer.

Parenting Color-Aware

Three sets of legs, three different skin tones. One family.

I am a mother.

I am the mother of a son.

I am the mother of a ten-year-old son.

I am the mother of a bi-racial, ten-year-old son.

My family’s racial identity is not always up front in my mind, and yet I am in no way color-blind.  Click here to be re-directed to MomsLA.com to read my recently published essay “Parenting Color-Aware (The Opposite of Color-Blind).”

It’s A Different World

My double-digit son with his new iPod Touch and chocolate birthday cake!

The other night, my ten-year-old son and I were having a discussion about technology.  Specifically, how it seems like many of the kids in our neighborhood and in his last class at school have things he doesn’t have — namely a phone.

Ryan is ten years old.  I take him to school and pick him up each day.  He doesn’t travel anywhere without an adult.  There is no need for a phone.  (We did give him an iPod Touch for his 10th birthday).

I asked Ryan who he would call if he had a phone.  He listed me, my husband, and my parents.  I asked him if he needed a phone, and he told me no.

Then he asked me how old I was when I got my first cell phone.  I told him — I was in college, commuting on six buses a day, a roundtrip travel time of 3 1/2 to 4 hours each day.  My parents gave me a cell phone that looked like a brick.  With it came strict instructions not to use the phone unless, heaven forbid, there was a real emergency.  Otherwise, always keep some quarters in my backpack, and use a pay phone when needed.  (I never used that phone).

That is not the world in which my son is growing up. 

And that got me thinking about a post I wrote for MomsLA back in 2013.  Click here to read “6 Ways My Son’s Childhood Is Different Than Mine.”

Moments of Happiness

A few months ago, a good friend gave me Option B written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.  I’m about halfway through it, and already have quite a few Post-Its tagging pages.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, there has been an awful lot going on in our family during the last couple of months.  The other night I read a few passages in Option B which really impacted me, and I wanted to share them with my readers.

“When we look for joy, we often focus on the big moments.  But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity.”

“Paying attention to moments of joy takes effort because we are wired to focus on the negatives more than the positives.  Bad events tend to have a stronger effect on us than good events. “

“Even when we’re in great distress, joy can still be found in moments we seize and moments we create.  All of these can provide relief from pain.  And when these moments add up, we find that they give us more than happiness; they also give us strength.”

And, I’d like to take it a few steps further and share with you three moments that made me happy this past week:

  1. Driving in our car, my ten-year-old son sat in the back seat, singing along to “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies, but doing it our family-way — substituting “Oh Ryan” for “Oh Sugar.”
  2. My son and I watching Apollo 13 (again), and applauding when the three astronauts safely splashdown.
  3. Sitting on our patio the other night after dinner as my son and husband ate bowls of chocolate ice cream, and I sat and watched — our giant pinwheel spinning, a hummingbird, and “my guys” on our glider.

It’s a good reminder that when things seem hard, or scary, or overwhelming, moments of happiness are all around us.  We just have to pay attention to them.

Readers, I’d love to hear from you.  I invite you to share your recent moments of happiness in the comments section below!

 

My Son

Ryan and Grandpa a.k.a. My son and My dad at the King Tut Exhibit

Last month, my family visited the King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibit at the California Science Center.  While we marveled at the artifacts (many of which have never left Egypt before), my ten-year-old son, Ryan, kept focusing on King Tut’s young age when he became ruler of Egypt.  King Tut was only nine years old, earning him the nickname “Boy King.” 

We joked with my ten-year-old son that he was a year behind.  Actually, I think Ryan is a great mix of innocent, little boy and mature, young man.  But in many ways, I fear that my illness has somewhat colored his childhood, prompting him to have experiences and knowledge I didn’t have when I was his age (and younger).

Because Ryan only knows me as I am now — a mommy who has an illness, whose legs often hurt, who takes a lot of medicines, and who sees the doctor fairly regularly.

It got me thinking of a personal essay I wrote last year for www.Mother.ly. Click here to read, “My Son is Already Becoming My Caretaker – And It’s Both Heartbreaking and Inspiring.”

Simply Sun-sational

It doesn’t get much better than this — an amazing sunset, the ocean, and a hug from my son. Cambria, June 2018

Our family doesn’t regularly make it a point to stop what we’re doing and watch the nightly sunset.  Once in a while, we’ll notice the splashes of orange and pink in the sky; we’ll come to the window and admire for a moment or two before continuing on with our nightly routines.

But in Cambria, people do regularly stop and watch and marvel at the sunset.  We were there recently (we go once a year), and on our first night there, we weren’t granted much of a show.  The day had been extremely foggy, and most of the sunset was hidden from view.  But on our second and final night, we were gifted with a glorious show.  The temperature had dropped considerably (my son was quite entertained by my chattering teeth), but the cold was well worth it.

On that note, I’d like to encourage my readers to try and make a point of witnessing a sunset.  It’s important to stop and stand in awe of the beauty that surrounds us.  It really does help put things in perspective.  If perhaps the view from your home isn’t the best, then click here and take a look at a post I wrote last year for MomsLA.com for a list of some fantastic sunset-viewing spots all around Los Angeles.

Looking Beneath the Surface

When you first look at the picture above, all you see is a lush, green hanging plant.  But if you looked inside, if you looked down at the soil that is hidden by the leaves, you’d find more than a plant.  You’d find a bird sitting on her nest.  And in that nest, if the bird flew away, you might get lucky to spot the baby birds in there.

A week or so ago, we discovered the nest when I was watering our plants.  I accidentally startled the mama bird, and after she flew away, I saw four small eggs tucked into the nest.

Those eggs have hatched, and now this plant on our back patio is home to a bird family.

Yet when you first walk by, all you see is this plant.  “Our” bird family is hidden.  Just like my autoimmune disease.

It’s funny how the mind works, but discovering this nest, listening to “Tweet Tweet” (my son’s name for the mama bird), has got me thinking about a piece I wrote for MUTHA Magazine. Click here to read my personal essay, “Can Acknowledging My Weakness Actually Be a Sign of Strength?”

Who Is Wendy Kennar?

My ten-year-old son enjoys reading the “Who? What? Where?” Series.  If you’re not familiar with these non-fiction books, they are biographies of famous people (both historical and contemporary figures) as well as books about well-known places and significant events.

On the back cover of each book, is a series of questions related to the book’s subject.  This week, I thought I’d borrow that format to share a few things about me:

Who Is Wendy Kennar?

— A little girl who always liked to wear plastic jewelry around the house and pretend she was a movie star.

— A college student who didn’t have a car for half her college years and relied on six buses a day to commute to and from California State University Northridge.

— A mother with an invisible disability.

** All of the above

It’s all true.  And you can click here to read my personal essay “Parenting With an Invisible Disability” at MomsLA.com.

A Doable Dream

I am in the middle of reading Eric Maisel’s A Writer’s Paris (though we have no immediate plans for a trip to Paris).  I love how Mr. Maisel describes Paris:  You feel at home in Paris because the things that you care about – strolling, thinking, loving, creating – are built into the fabric of the city.

My husband and I first traveled to Paris in the spring of 2005, and along with evoking a desire to return, reading this book has also made me stop and think about the technology we used then compared to what we rely on now.

On that note, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the ways technology has changed and the ways it impacted our trip.

 

— During March of 2005, the billboards around Paris were advertising Apple’s newest product, the Shuffle, a product that isn’t even made any more.  Now billboards (at least here in L.A.) advertise the iPhone X.   

— We stayed at a small, but clean hotel in the Opera District.  In addition to complimentary breakfast, the hotel also had a computer in its lobby that guests could use for free.  Of course, we’d have to wait our turn, but once the computer was available, we were able to send emails back to my parents in California.

— At some point during our trip, our 35mm camera broke.  I worried that the film inside would be ruined, and the pictures we had already taken would be forever lost.  And I was heartbroken that we wouldn’t be able to continue taking photos of our trip.

— Our first stop in Paris (after finding our hotel) was the Eiffel Tower.  We marveled at the size, at the number of people, at the elevators taking us up this monument.  (We made it to the second level; the third level was closed due to wind conditions we were told).  And on that second level, we found a pay phone.  It wasn’t easy to figure out, but we did eventually manage to make a phone call from the Eiffel Tower to my parents in Los Angeles.

Back then, my husband and I were both twenty-nine years old.  We explored the city relying on my two years of high school French and a guidebook.  No guided tours and no smartphone.  But we did it.  Because as Mr. Maisel writes, “Paris is a doable dream, and your writing is a doable dream.  Both require the same nurturing and the same attention, the same courage and the same perseverance.