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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Her Llama invitation

“I want to have a llama program and llamas for bring a friend night,” my daughter, the new president of an urban 4-H club, told the planning committee last fall.

A city girl turned Future Farmers of America member who participates with a Livestock Club and raises backyard chickens, she wants to study agriculture. After seeing a llama program last year, she’s been obssessed with them.

I stayed out of her way to see what she would do.

She asked the church hosting our meeting’s permission. They said yes.

She scheduled the llama lady. Then she messaged the head leader it was set.

I called to give him warning before he saw her email. Dead silence on the phone. “She told us she wanted it in the planning meeting,” I explained.

“But I didn’t think she was serious!” he answered.

“You’ve known her for years. If you don’t tell her no, she does what she decides. If you do tell her no, she may still do it,” I told him.

I knew the girl who designed her 5th birthday cake with an erupting volcano on a Pacific island filled with palm trees, with cowboys and Indians fighting in canoes off the coast didn’t joke. (Yes, I decorated it.)

The church called. Because the meeting room had carpet, they wanted tarp on the floor.  She assured them and me that the llamas wouldn’t poop indoors. And she packed our tarp.

She drew a llama graphic and created a Facebook event so members could invite friends.

As we spread the tarp, I gasped in panic that it was close to a denim couch. “Won’t they eat the denim couch cushions?” I asked.

“Mother. Llamas are related to camels, not goats,” she admonished me in her strictest voice.

I shut the classroom door, worried the llamas would get loose and charge through the church halls.

Meeting time began. The llamas stayed on the tarp. They did not escape. They did not eat the denim couch. And they did not poop indoors.

And several kids brought friends.

Huge sigh of relief.

A leadership lesson smacked me when it was over.

If we want to groom teen leadership skills in a changing world, sometimes we have to give them space to try their outside the box ideas.

Some fail. Others work. All teach lessons.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Hakuna ma-llama!

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Fifteen years ago, I knelt in a hospital chapel, begging my unborn son would survive the day. My husband and I had a blood incompatibility (PLA1-). Our babies have neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia. My body destroys baby platelets in utero. We were going to have a PUBS, to transfuse platelets. It was early enough in the pregnancy that if anything went wrong, he would die.

Before dawn, as I prayed, a lady walked in, prayed in the front row, raised her hands in the air, and left silently. I will always believe she was an angel. I felt like Hannah, begging for a child, and her prayer being answered in church. My prayer that day: God,keep my son safe.

When our teens went white-water rafting, I begged God again. I watched rafting youtubes after the left.  When I saw the crashes, I stormed heaven again. When they made their first ski trip alone, I prayed them through the day. My prayer: God, bring my children home unharmed.

When we went hiking in the Smokies and my teens took a trail without telling us, I prayed. My ankle was sprained; my husband had helped me manage the Laurel Falls trail with a cane. Our kids didn’t want to go at my slower pace. When we got to the top of the trail, they were gone. My husband left to find them on the higher trail, while I sat on a bench, with my cane, waiting till they were found. For two hours, I waited. My prayer that day: God, bring my family back home. That was followed with prayers of God, how do I get back down this mountain if they don’t get back soon and Lord, I gotta go, there is no bathroom, and please help me not wet my pants.

Then they leave on bus trips. I fuss details and tell them survival strategies from my travels. I watch them board the bus and wait until the bus leaves. My prayers have now changed.

Hannah had a son and when the time came, she let him go to serve Elijah. When Samuel left, he heard the voice of God and discovered his calling.

Now it’s my turn. Let go of my children, a step at a time before they leave for college. When they leave now,  they may discover their calling. Their story has become their own, and I’m becoming a background pray-er.

Now my prayer is: Please God, help them hear your call so I know they’ll always be home.

Hopefully that prayer won’t be followed by, Lord, help this middle-aged mama not wet her pants.

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THAT Mom

The only thing scarier to a teen than mom’s saying, “I wanna be your friend on Facebook” is when grandma says it.

How do we avoid becoming THAT mom? We often learn Facebook while or after our kids do, without parenting role models. I was on Facebook a year before my kids were, and I taught workshops on family Facebook safety. Here’s what we did:

  1. Stay legal. Facebook Terms of Service don’t allow users before age 13.  Teaching a kid to lie about a birthdate for faster gratification is not smart. Facebook users under 13 place Facebook in violation of federal statute. Underage kids who get caught get kicked off.
  2. Be friends. On our kids’ 13th birthdays, they started Facebook, and mom and dad were their first friends. A local prosecutor friend was their third. “Why does HE have to be next?” our kids complained. If he was their friend, they might think twice about posting something stupid. That would help protect their personal brand. Check privacy settings monthly because their settings change.
  3. See but don’t be heard. Much. Watch what’s posted, but don’t comment or like everything your kids post. The less you post, the more likely you are their friends will friend you.  Teens think adults who comment or like too much are creepy stalkers. If you have a smartphone, subscribe to their feed and photos. 
  4. Be vigilant. If another adult tells you to look at your kids’ postings, do so.  Once, I warned a parent something looked off. That’s when the family discovered their 15 year old had friended an out of state predator.
  5. Beware the games and apps. I no longer have time for games. When I first started, I accidentally sent a Valentine postcard that said “I love you” to my husband. And my friends. That posted on their walls. Including teens. I spent an afternoon deleting them.
  6. Veto if you can. If your kids post something stupid, try to get them to delete it. I told my kids if they post something on Facebook during school hours, I may correct their grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.  It works better if I tell them privately than post the correction publicly.  Any band or movie whose name includes a 4 letter word or “sex” in it cannot be mentioned.
  7. Encourage. One of my favorite role model moms – online and in real life – posts on each of her kids’ walls on Facebook at least once a month, “I love you.”

Being a mom of teens online is comparable to real life. Watch, encourage, admonish sometimes, and always, always love them to pieces.

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Diary of a Mom

Baby – did I used to take showers? When will she start talking? This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much work.

Toddler – She’s talking! Tells me no sometimes! This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much running. 

Preschooler – Now she talks back. Just when I think she’s ok, she’s tried something new or made a new mess.  She told me I’m the meanest mom on the planet cause I told kids no when I chaperoned her field trip. This is the hardest part of parenting because we juggle watching with letting her explore.

Elementary – Can she ever take a breathe when she’s talking? This is the hardest part of parenting because I’m driving her everywhere all the time.

Middle School – She talks to her friends but doesn’t like to talk to me. This is the hardest part of parenting because of her attitude.

Early High School – She tells me how wrong I am and how right she is on a daily basis. If I had known how hard this part of parenting was, I would have planned a different life path.

Later High School – Some bad days, some good days. I choose my battles. In just over a year, she’ll be in college. This is our last time together before she leaves. This is the hardest part of parenting because we have so much to do before she leaves home.

College – We left her at her dorm today. I cried. Will miss her and wouldn’t trade a minute of my life as mom. 

Well, wouldn’t trade most of the minutes of my life as mom.

My life as mom hasn’t ended. It just changed.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says “and so it came to pass” instead of “and so it came to stay…”

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Please answer the question at the end of this blog: was my son busted or not?

I’m a huge advocate of finding ways to incorporate social media into the classroom. Twitter offers a world of real time opportunities to build peer connections and learn from brilliant people all over the planet. To that end, I enjoy Mondays when I have time to join the #smcedu chat and encourage social media clubs on college campuses.

The ways teachers can leverage social media to enrich classroom experiences are endless. 

But there’s another side to the coin. In my spare time, I lead a teen discussion group on classical literature; my son is one of the members. When the new Facebook groups debuted, I decided to create a private group for the teens involved (and their parents) so we could exchange study helps, assignments, and answer questions.

Today, I posted a link to a study guide to help them read The Iliad. My son immediately commented that the link was one ugly website. Problem: he commented during school time, which means he was playing on Facebook while he was supposed to be working on Algebra. I immedad iately commented under him – why are you on Facebook instead of math?

So my question is: did I bust him for goofing off during official school time? Or was he learning in a different manner from previous generations? 

And for students: would you revolt if you started getting assignments from your teacher in a study group on Facebook? Or would you appreciate getting information in a place you already surf?

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How could I get teens excited about ancient Greek literature?  Specifically, how could I help my 14 year old son who loves robots lots more than reading get Plato? As I sat on a back deck today, the sun beamed among the trees. I suddenly saw how to help get Plato’s cave. 

I called the teens outside and told them to pull chairs into a line, facing the house’s outer wall.  Then I told them their legs and necks were bound; the only thing they could see was the blank wall.  Sunshine was behind them, but they could not see it. We could make shadows with the sun, onto the wall of the house, but shadows were different from the real thing. This was our version of Plato’s cave.

One girl was “set free.” She walked behind the row of chairs and could see the sunshine.  I told her to note all the things she never saw because all she had known was a wall. Like the prisoner in a darkened cell, the sunshine would take some adjusting.  After she had explained it, I told her to go back to her chair to sit with the others.

I asked her what it felt like to return to the chair to only see the wall.  Depressing. I challenged her to explain what she had seen to those who had only seen the wall.  She struggled to find words, and the teens played along as good skeptics.   She was now the philosopher who had seen things the others never realized.

As a conclusion to the exercise, I noted Plato’s observation that if those who had always been chained got the chance, they would most likely kill the philosopher.

After the real live exercise of Plato’s allegory of the cave, the kids got it.

We sat in the sunshine after that, and I thought about how this applies to us. We think we know the whole universe, and then we see a light and realize we’ve gone from Kansas to technicolor Oz. If we then return to our old wineskins, we struggle to explain to those who’ve never seen the light what we’ve encountered.

Our challenge is to explain what the light is such that people will listen instead of kill us. Those ancient philosophers are more than just a bunch of dead Greek guys. 

Are you in a cave? Have you turned around to see the light? If so, did you share what you saw with others?

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My kids have been involved in robotics contests the past 4 years.  They enjoy them, and I love the varied skills learned in a single contest.  First, there are the technical skills: a problem is presented, and a whole team has to work to solve it.  Physics, mechanics, engineering ingenuity, and computer programming are all key elements.  Second, there are team building skills: team members must learn to communicate and work together.

Besides being a parent, I’m a 4-H leader in Evansville, Indiana.  4-H has a major emphasis towards science, engineering, and technology and has a national goal of inspiring 1 million new scientists for our new century.  I began the process to have a robotics project in our county. 

A robotics project wasn’t enough, however.  We needed a club that focused on technology.  I didn’t want a robotics club; when Edison invented the light bulb, were there light bulb clubs? It’s more than robotics.  Our information revolution is the biggest transformer of world culture since the Industrial Revolution, and I wanted our kids to be ready to be the best riders in the world Technological Rodeo.

So we began a Technology Club.  (Actually, the kids in the club voted they didn’t like that name and renamed it Tech Club.)  At each monthly meeting, we have a different workshop topic in engineering, electrical science, aerospace, computers, and physics.  Each member tackles a 4-H project in one of those areas and gives a demonstration each year in one of those areas.

Our county sends several teen 4-H members every summer to participate in science and engineering workshops.  I hope, with our club, we raise the interest in those workshops and the knowledge base of those who participate.

We also organize our county’s robotics contest. The last 2 years, the contest has mirrored other contests in which my kids participate, with teams competing against one another.  Our contest is an impromptu design contest;  kids don’t know until they arrive what the challenge is and have limited time in which to complete it.

This year’s contest adds an element almost out of a reality show.  In addition to the team contest, we will have judges observing the competitors individually.  They will evaluate the competitors both in problem solving and team building skills.  And they will award an individual champion in each of 3 age divisions. I have not seen another robotics contest try this twist and am curious to see how the experiment works.

Problem Solving:

  1. Understands challenges presented and develops strategies to overcome them.
  2. Develops a good robotics design for the challenge.
  3. Assists in robotic programming to meet the challenge.
  4. Demonstrates strong troubleshooting skills.
  5. Is able to make needed adjustments to robotic design or problem solving.

 Team Building: 

  1. Participates on the team.
  2. Communicates constructively with other team members, actively listening to them.
  3. Encourages participation of all team members; pulls strengths from individuals to build a better team.
  4. Takes good care of robot and its parts.
  5. Treats everyone in the robotics contest in a respectful and supportive manner.

My goal is to teach the 4-H members to not only strive to win but to strive to win well.  We’ll know later tonight whether my experiment to mix up the contest is a success or an epic fail.

Either way, our leaders and our club will learn by doing.

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