Thursday, January 30, 2014

son, sun.

I sit back and watch.

30+ children. A newly hired, 5th-grade teacher thrown into the kindergarten jungle. She is kind and smart and she cares. But she has nearly 10 students with apparent but undiagnosed learning disabilities. 10 more with springs in their seats who can't stop moving. Their last teacher quit, leaving the students with the impression that he left because of them. He'd taken away pencils as a punishment in the first week of school so they'd not been writing. He'd stopped using Spanish because they weren't picking it up fast enough. He'd pushed parents away when he needed their help the most. So the new teacher has the task of bringing these students up to speed in every aspect of kindergarten proficiency, all in Spanish, a second (and virtually unheard) language for all but a handful of students.

I watch as she spends at least 10 minutes, five times a day, trying to teach them how to walk in a line.

I watch as she reminds them dozens of times to watch her so that she can give them one bit of information.

I watch her and I get to love her for what she gives for these children.

As a volunteer I wonder how I can help her. As a mother I wonder why I bring my son to school.
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I watch Ossi pick at the carpet and hum while she teaches.

I watch Ossi doodle pictures on his school work.

I watch him become so bored he almost falls asleep in his chair.

I watch him get in trouble for dancing when he should be sitting.

He's pretty "good" when I'm there, though.
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It's funny, when I get a chance to teach in the small groups, I talk the way I talk to him at home. I get super excited and silly. I have to apologize to the teacher all of the time for getting the kids too riled up. I just love to see their faces light up when my enthusiasm starts to rub off.

If I'm teaching and Ossi is in another group, his eyes are on me. He is smiling and giggling from across the room.

His teacher said that if she had more help or less students to care for she could be excited like me, but she doesn't so she can't. I can tell that she has that same light she wishes she could share. But it is her job to prepare them for first grade where they will be standing in lines and watching the teacher lecture.
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For English time she read the book "pushing" about what happens when we push things. I was dying inside. She asked the book's question "would be harder to push a toy truck in the sand or on a hard floor?" And none of the kids had any clue. I thought, we need to get these kids to the beach, pronto.

When did we start learning in books the things we should have learned in the sandbox?
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Ossi's teacher asked that we come in and have a conference with a school counselor to develop an IEP (individualized student plan) for Ossi. She was his advocate and mine the whole time as we established what we'd like to see for him in the educational system.

She said, "I hope that his future teachers will see his unique leaning style as an asset, not a liability." And I said that sounded pretty good, but in my heart I knew that any child who would was not a line-walker or eyes-on-me learner would not quite fit in the public school system.
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I love that his teacher told me about this video. She gets me. And she gets him. She actually has a son like Ossi in another class and is trying to help him find his path.

After the meeting with the school counselor I felt worried. Then I looked up and there he was, my son. Smiling. Smiling like the sun.
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And I wasn't worried anymore.
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life and school.

I dreamed I was Hawkeye. The world was in danger. I was vaguely aware that I'd stolen the truck I was driving as I plowed through the Philippines with my many weapons rattling around in the cab.

I pretended I was allied with the enemy to breach the center of their operations, which  happened to be the cosmetics counter at Macy's.  When I arrived I was bombarded with teenage girls and came to the realization that I was a widower father of seven daughters.

My mission changed. I urgently needed to find matching dresses for my seven daughters that they all liked and that fit them each perfectly, and I didn't even remember their names. I looked through my wallet for clues and found several baby photos.

So there I was. Hawkeye. The world was in jeopardy and I was walking through a department store, covered in arsenal, holding up baby photos to dresses and checking tags. 
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In the last two weeks, instead of doing my school work, I have been doing dishes for, making dinner for, going on drives to talk to, and thinking constantly about a couple of friends I am quite worried about. I've taken the kids to the beach, and to the swimming pool, and I've started volunteering in Ossi's classroom and researching new options for his education. Plus writing emails like crazy to solve a conflict, setting appointments and visiting people from church, and playing cribbage with Matthew in the middle of the night so that we get a second to be in love amidst the chaos.

I haven't decided which set of real-life-responsibilities is represented by "saving the world" and which alludes to "dressing my daughters for a party," but I do know that I feel the weight of each pull. Life and school. Different types of missions-impossible.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

life of riley.

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the end of flu feast.

It just so happens that the day the flu died at our house a very inspired person showed up with a box full of goodies. Oranges, strawberries, cookies, doughnuts, and KFC. Everyone got their favorite. Finn and Ossi ate the sweets. Evy and I devoured the fruit. Matt and his sister Katie tucked in the chicken. And Liam put away the mashed potatoes.

And everyone kept it down.

It was a flu season miracle.  
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though mealtime with the flu was pretty peaceful...
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oh, laundry.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

A new hero.

Sometimes I take things for granted. All the time, really. One thing I take for granted is the open door of secular knowledge while holding tight to my faith. I belong to a church that embraces both scientific truth and scriptural truth, for which I am becoming very grateful.

Of fascinating mention, I was reading about the scientific development and came across this quote by William Bernstein:

"When we look at the [facts] it becomes crystal clear that something happened... in the early nineteenth century. Before then, the rate of improvement in the lot of mankind was small and stuttering, and after, substantial and steady... Until approximately 1820, per capita world economic growth- the single best way of measuring human material progress- registered near zero...Then, not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever-increasing torrent; with each successive generation, the life of the son became observably more comfortable, informed, and predictable that that of the father."

Of personal interest to me, filling me with a great level of happiness, is the record of a divine manifestation of Heavenly personages to a farm boy in New York which preceded the the formation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which manifestation happened in the year 1820.

I believe that the Heavens were opened and inspiration from a loving Father began to be poured out upon the Earth for anyone who was seeking truth of any kind.

You know, religious people sometimes fear science. But if the goal is truth then why should we be afraid of truth seeking?

I just have to share this video because the imagery is awe-inspiring and the doctrines are thought-provoking:


So I've been reading up on Henry Eyring, the scientist who wrote the "absolute rate theory" and was a champion for the compatibility of scientific truth and spirituality. When other religious leaders of his time were advocating literal interpretation of the biblical creation story he stood boldly and kindly for the merit of discovery. I did not realize that his influence extended into my life a few years ago as I explored my developing belief in evolution as God's chosen method for creation. I am grateful to be the beneficiary of his work in both Chemistry and religion. I'll close up this post with a few of his thoughts that spoke to me. Maybe they'll speak to you, too.



"I am now going to venture to say that science has rendered a service to religion. The scientific spirit is the spirit of inquiry, a spirit of reaching out for truth. In the final analysis, this spirit is likewise of the essence of religion... I should like to say that true religion was never a narrow thing. True religion concerns man and the entire universe in which he lives. It concerns his relationships with himself and his fellow men, with his environment, and with his Creator... "

"There are some people who throw away the scriptures and restrict themselves to science and related fields. Others use the scriptures to the exclusion of other truth. Both are wrong. Latter-day Saints should seek after truth by all avenues with earnest humility. There is, of course, no conflict in the gospel since it embraces all truth. Undoubtedly, however, science is continually challenging us to think through again our conceptions of the gospel. This should go both ways, of course."

"The assumption that because a man understands something about the operation of the Universe he will necessarily be less faithful is a gratuitous assumption, contradicted by numberless examples. God, who understands all about the Universe, is apparently not troubled by this knowledge.

"Some people drift when they study, but some people drift when they do not study. If the Church espouses the cause of ignorance it will alienate more people than if it advises men to seek after the truth, even at some risk."

"It is interesting to recall that, in ages past, religious men felt that their faith hinged on the notion that the earth was flat. However, when it was found to be round, they discovered that their basic religious ideas had survived without perceptible damage. In fact, the greater underlying principles of faith were brought into bolder relief when the clutter of false notions was removed from about them."