Sorry, #R.L.Stine, BUT I Had to Laugh

zombieOctober is the month of scary, and what better way to intrigue my fifth grade students than with a spooky thriller. Something about Zombies, something by the best-selling children’s author R.L.Stine. And based on past experiences, with other groups of students, kids love this stuff. They literally sit on the edge of their seats, wanting more, telling me, begging me to keep reading. “Please don’t stop, Mrs. Romero!”

So, there it was, mid-October, pre-Halloween.

I pulled out the Zombie book, held it up for them to observe the gruesome twosome on the front cover, building up excitement. “Wanna get freaked out!” I bellowed. “Oh, yeah!” everyone shouted back.

Several students raced to the light switch. “No lights?” they simultaneously crooned in low growling voices. “Yes!, Please?” their counterparts hollered, everyone looking to me for the final vote. “Of course,” I calmly said.

First and foremost, background knowledge necessitated a 10 and 11 year olds understanding of what they knew before I began the titillating tale. “Raise your hand if you know what a zombie is.” All hands shot straight into the air. “Okay then. How many of you are familiar with the TV show The Walking Dead?” All hands popped back up. “Cool beans. So….who actually watches the show?” Everyone. For a moment, I took a silent pause, thinking these fifth graders have the upper hand here. I have never watched the show. Never will. (Just doesn’t interest me, in case you were wondering.)

Alrighty then.

Many kids clung to each other, opened their eyes wide, dropped their jaws, and held their breath throughout each chapter, yelping for more when I left them hanging, stopping the story so that we could move on to more educational avenues. But, after about fifteen chapters several outspoken kids began to claim, “So predictable. Boring”, only because nothing ever really happened. Lots of buildup, sure, but it always turned out to be a skinny friend grabbing someone’s shoulder, not the boney hand of a monster, or the hot, bad breath of a dumbfounded character, not the foul stench of a dead person sneaking up, who was just about to chomp on the neck of the unsuspecting. I agreed with those students, but in silence, so as not to deter the kids who hadn’t quite grasp the concept of boring read.

So.

It was four days after Halloween. And I had had enough. I was so over the story, the supposed zombies, and nothing really happening – and plus I had Thanksgiving on the brain. You know, being thankful for what you have not preying on the fears of others. Scary was so last month!

Seriously.

So, that’s when I exclaimed I was going to simply breeze through the rest of Stine’s zombie story, and read only the quotes. And boy, unexpectedly, I cracked up!

As I was reading, I kept questioning the validity of the story line – “The zombie ran away from the guy? Come on. Class? You Walking Dead people? Really? Would a zombie run away?” I laughed, uncontrollably. Seriously, tears sprung from my eyes. The kids laughed because of my laughing.They caught on, grabbed hold of my antics and began having as much fun as I was, sadly at the expense of Mr. Stine. (Sorry, dude.) A spooky tale, told in a darkened classroom, with the sound of laughter. Who would have thought?

“Oh, geez!”, someone called out when I read the part about a girl who was finally freed from the basement, no longer human, but a full-on, grossed-out, ugly zombie who was mad that she had been locked away for so long. I just had to demonstrate what she looked like. I knitted my brows, squeezed my eyes, and pierced my lips. I threw my hands in the air, and walked away with a swivel of my hips, shouting ‘What-ever!’ The students busted out roll-on-the-floor laughter.

“What-ever!” they repeated.

“So fake!” someone added. The kids began comparing the book to the TV show, not realizing (or maybe just not thinking about it) that both were equally fake. Meaning, the show, though maybe more realistic, is just as silly (presumably). Which made me laugh even more!

In the end, when the final word, in the final (finally!!) chapter was read, the students cheered and clapped, just as the end-of-the-day bell blared.

Am I Awesome, or What?

IMG_4149Today, this very afternoon, not more than an hour ago, my fifteen year old son, a person who is, daily, trying to define himself, wanting to be someone who makes a difference, in life, and possibly beyond, a young boy wanting to be good while at the same time working so hard at not being a negative distraction, thanked me, his one and only mom, for instilling in him the feeling of being cared for, and cared about.

“I want to thank you, Mom, for listening to me, for letting me be myself, and for letting me have my say. Thank you for making me feel valued.”

Oh, yes he did. He said that to me. My complicated, yet very loving, six foot tall, basketball playing teenage kid.

He thanked me for letting him thrive, grow, and develop into his own person. And then he reached his hand out to me, a sort of gesture. “Seriously, thanks.”

All I could do was smile.

And continue to listen, like I always do, and watch him as he seemed to be digging deep within himself trying to fully understand who he, himself, is, and what kind of person he wants to be. Now. And when he grows up.

He’s only a sophomore, a boy in high school, but the way he feels and thinks is way beyond his years, and I don’t let any of those feeling slide pass me. No way. No how. Instead, I grab hold, whenever he stands, or sits, before me, whenever he says, “Mom, can we talk.”

dear 16

IMG_2074Being sixteen isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be so hard either. Hold your head high and toss your shoulders back. Relax your mind. Soul. And body.

Smile. Always smile.

To my sixteen year old self I write,

Believe in who you are. You don’t need to be like her. Or her. Or even her. You have as much to offer as they do. Maybe more. And what’s so bad about that girl. The one over there. The one everyone seems to be avoiding. She’s just being herself. Just wanting what we all want. Friendship. Go talk to her. She will appreciate your kindness. It’s not about popularity, but rather about integrity. So, just be you.

Speak up. Talk. It’s not hard at all. Just ask questions. People like to answer what they know. So ask them about themselves. Their life. Add to the conversation by incorporating your life stories. Your thoughts. Your feelings. Your dreams. Your desires. Your wants. They’d like to get to know you, too. They would.

Go out. Have fun. Enjoy hanging out with people. All kinds of people. From all walks of life. Stop worrying about what everyone is thinking. Who cares? No one, really.

I’m telling you, all the downs will make the ups so much more rewarding. Remember that. Life is a series of lessons. Lessons to help mold who you will become, the person you inherently believe in. A person who cares about others, about life and the passionate passion entwined in your every day life. Humor will sustain you. Being real, being true to yourself, will be a driving force. A matter of fact. And you, of all people will understand fully, truly, that anything can happen anytime. Anywhere. To anyone. So, simply enjoy your young self. Laugh a lot. Out loud. For the world to hear. To experience. And when you fall into bed each night you will know, without a doubt, that there is so much more to life than being an insecure sixteen year old girl.

The working woman. The stay-at-home mom.

IMG_0279Friday night. I’m exhausted. I’m slouched on the over-sized faded denim sofa, watching TV. My eyelids droop ever so slowly. Yet, I can’t sleep. I will need to pick up my youngest kid. Unless he calls, asking if he can spend the night. I’m a working mom. I’ve been in the classroom all week teaching. This. That. And the other.

As I readjust my slumped position, I begin to reflect on my summer life. The one I lived only a few weeks ago. My life away from the school setting. The days I was a stay-at-home mom. Oh, how I enjoyed waking up at a ridiculously late morning hour, like 7am, rather than my working hour of 5am! With coffee in hand, I’d watch recordings of Dateline, Modern Family, and Say Yes to the Dress.
When Brad would wake several hours later (if he didn’t spend the night anywhere), I’d whip up his favorite breakfast – pancakes, eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice – instead of quickly dropping a granola bar next to his cup of coffee. We’d talk. Shoot the shit. Discuss something new. Or revamp something old. Summer days. Days I truly feel connected. Devoted. Stellar. Like a mom.

I know I have the best of both worlds. Staying at home, working, engaging, and being involved is just as beneficial and rewarding as working outside the home. My family needs time with me just as I need time with myself.

And, so, I know, without a doubt, that the Friday night slump will soon pass, bringing forth renewed energy so that I can spend the evening writing up lesson plans for the following week, along with offering Brad and PB and J for dinner.

Writing.

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“Are you done yet, Mom? You said we will watch a movie together.”

Her son is sitting, waiting patiently.

Her face is aglow from the light of the computer.

“One minute. I just need to edit this. Make sure it makes sense. I’ve got to include all the important details,” she responds, not looking his way. “It really has surprised me how much time it takes to write one piece,” she adds, to herself.

But, then.

Finally.

She’s finished.

“Movie?” she questions.

“Yeah. But hold on. I am working on something,”  her son answers.

His eyes are focused on his laptop’s screen.

“Okay. Let me know when you are ready.”

She looks back at the desktop computer.

Opens her post.

Re-reads it for any errors.

Makes sure it’s coherent.

She finds a flaw.

Or two.

A misspelled word.

A sentence that needs a pronoun.

“Mom? I’m ready,” her son says.

“One minute. I just need to edit this,” she mumbles.

People In Review

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People who are different, live a different way, are usually people misunderstood.
Misunderstood by the uninformed.

The uninformed feel they need to do something.
Anything.
To help the misunderstood see the light.
Whatever the light is.
To change their way.
To live.
Normally.
Like the uninformed do.

Yet, if the uninformed were to take a step.
To become informed.
The misunderstood would no longer be misunderstood, but rather interesting.
In a unique way.
A different way.
A good way.

People should live the way each chooses.
Whatever makes them happy.
As long as it’s not harmful to others.

In turn, maybe the world would live in harmony.
Maybe.

#instyle

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever wondered where you get your sense of style from and why you choose to dress the way you do? As of today, after reading a piece – Women & Clothes. Discuss. – in September’s issue of Glamour, I found myself considering my own personal style.

Suddenly my thoughts raced back in time.

In my mind’s image, I see four young kids. Me, the only girl, and three of my brothers, two older and one younger, looking like quadruplets. Each of us had some version of long, blond hair, angular faces and blue eyes. But the best part of that image is that the four of us were wearing blue jeans and white t-shirts.

As that youthful tomboy, I wasn’t thinking about style. I just wanted something to wear that was functional while I crawled in the dirt, navigating my way through nature-made tunnels in the local park. Or, when, on hot summer days, I’d drop down onto my hands and knees, dirtying my clothes, when inspecting trapdoor spiders.

Without realizing it then or for many years thereafter, it was those no-nonsense blue jean days that had determined the way I choose to dress.

When I became a mom and started dressing Liz, my daughter, I began incorporating the concept of layering cotton shirts and blouses, not only for her, but for myself also, giving our outfits a more creative look. While she was dressed up in layers of colorful concoctions mixed with her personal style of pretty headbands and interesting necklaces, I preferred, and still do, simple layering of two or three different pieces of clothing over my jeans. Different colors. Different prints. As Liz grew, adapting her own style, she too maintained the layered look, only she preferred to add a touch of interest by using unique accessories and standout stylish shoes.

The clothing I wear, the clothing we all wear, tells our story. Mine is that I am a simple person, a person who lives one day at a time, not taking anything for granted, instead living, as best as I can, a positive, carefree, no-nonsense life style.

And so it is, today, the here and now, that when asked where I get my style from, not only does it come from my youth, being a tomboy, from the simplistic look of jeans and a t-shirt, but I also look to Liz, who has perfected a style that I adore, a style that is all the rage, a style I will continue to wear regardless of a season’s must-do, or don’t.