Category: Children

School + May = Field Trips


Wouldn’t it be fun to be a kid again for a day?  Think of how many options you would have when deciding how to spend your afternoon.  Your choice would likely be tied to either an amazing personal experience you would like to have again or something you saw other kids do that you always wanted to do yourself.  Answers to this question vary significantly among adults because children are not born into the same opportunities.

One thing I admire about our public school system (and many others throughout the nation) is that they are making strides to ensure that children have equal opportunities when they are at school by providing free breakfast for all students, free or subsidized lunch for those in need, a standard uniform program and communal school supplies.  There are still areas that can improve, especially in regards to extracurricular programs and individualized transportation, but we have come so far!

A couple of years ago, I chaperoned my son’s 3rd grade field trip to LEGOLAND, which was enthusiastically discussed throughout the whole year leading up to it.  He almost didn’t make it since he made a very noteworthy attempt to rip a tooth out of his mouth that was deeply rooted into position, resulting in an infection.  I told him that we wouldn’t be able to go to the field trip because he was in a lot of pain.  As the concerned parent, I wanted to get it extracted as soon as the office opened.  The negotiations began.  “Can’t you just give me a bunch of medicine and I won’t even complain once,” he begged.  This field trip meant the world to him.  Lucky for him, the field trip gods were on his side because the dentist could not see him until the afternoon.  Off to LEGOLAND we went and he made good on his promises.  The fun of the day erased the pain until we made our way to the extraction chair.

I was pleased to meet the kids in his class about whom he had spoken all year.   Two of the boys I was looking forward to meeting were not on the field trip.  When I inquired, the kids told me that their parents couldn’t afford to send them to LEGOLAND for the day.  I was crushed.  I wish I had known because the other parents in the class could have pulled together the funds to send them.  Wouldn’t it be great if EVERY child could go with their classmates on their annual field trip?  Every child should.

This year, I reached out to my son’s teacher to make sure that all of his classmates could attend Universal Studios and discovered that one student did not have the financial means to go.  The teacher had already reached out to the school’s bookkeeper to see if any funding would be available to pay for this child’s ticket and the school found the funds to send him.  I commend the teacher for jenerously taking the extra time out of her incredibly busy day to look out for the needs of that one student.  That is what makes exceptional teachers exceptional.  My hope is that this boy will look back on his childhood and remember that AWESOME day at the theme park when he got to ride rollercoasters and explore, just like all of the other kids.  I am sending a check to the school to cover his cost and the teacher let the bookkeeper know that the funds she identified can be used to send another child on a class trip.

Experiences are what make memories and those memories help define how we ultimately reflect upon our childhood.  As adults, we have the opportunity to positively impact the experiences for our children, with our children being our community of children.  Let’s communicate with our schools to look out not only for our own, but for other children as well.

Wouldn't it be fun to be a kid again for a day?  Think of how many options you would have when deciding how to spend you...

Read More »

GIVING, Old-School Style

Plaid skirts

My parents are both hard workers; the importance of a strong work ethic was instilled in us as small children.  I couldn’t wait to get my first real paycheck…so much so, that I got my first job working after school at my church rectory when I was in the sixth grade.  I attended a K-8 Catholic School in San Francisco’s East Bay.  Adjacent to our bright little fortress of religious solitude lingered a largely intimidating public high school, full of scary older kids who loved to torment us younger ones, easily identified by our plaid.  The campuses were separated by a simple chain link fence.  While our faculty did their best to protect us from interactions, it wasn’t uncommon to see teenagers approach our students during recess to offer them “candy” or say something mean to try to make them cry.

My new job required me to get a work permit, which was available at the High School.  I soon learned that the things you want most in life often require courage.  I mustered mine up, tuned out my surroundings and diligently marched next door.  No high school students were going to get in the way of my newfound adulthood, my entry into the great community of taxpayers and my contribution to the family enterprise.

The job consisted of answering phones, assisting with dinner service to the priests and directing the homeless to shelters as the evenings grew colder.  If the high schoolers were scary, then the homeless were terrifying.  Only responsible girls with thick skin were offered the opportunity to work there.  One would wonder why a church would hire such young girls to work in that part of town into the evenings.  Three reasons: 1. Our parish was rather poor and couldn’t afford more skilled workers.  2. The rectory manager had a child with down syndrome, whom she had to care for after school hours. And, 3. Rumors of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Oakland were beginning to spread, so boys were not offered positions that could allow them to be alone with priests.  Capable female child labor just made the most sense.  And I was grateful.

Since I “held political office” and had sports practice after school, I worked the late shift.  It worked out well because my dad’s office was rather close and he could pick me up on his way home.  Our little administrative team got to know each other very well over the years, transitioning projects and hanging out until the early shift’s ride would arrive.  It had been almost 30 years since I last spoke with any of those girls, but I never forgot them.  We were the tough ones.

Facebook has allowed us all to easily connect with people from our past.   Last year, I was contacted by one of my fellow “secretaries.”  She was moving to Florida because she got a great new opportunity with her employer of the last eight years.  Being from California originally, I was the only human being she would know in the Sunshine State.  She got settled in, set up the new office and, suddenly, their industry took a turn for the worse.  Regardless of the hours she was putting in, her paychecks never came.  She continued to work, keeping the faith that they would make good on their commitments, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep food on the table for her kids.  She reached out to me for advice and insights into the support network within our state.   Our economy over the last decade has provided us with many examples of how bad things happen to good people.  It can even get the strong girls.

The night I got the call, my heart was heavy.  I got into bed and opened up the April issue of The Oprah Magazine, and began reading “20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Now!”  Question 5 – What do I really want to do all day? – “Hmmm…maybe I’ll skip that one since I already know the answer is ‘Take a miracle pill that allows me to eat every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s without gaining weight.’”   Needless to say, I continued to read.  In the article, Maureen Taylor, career coach and CEO of SNP Communications (Smart Nice People),  states that to choose the right career, one should “think back to when you were in second grade.  Some psychologists believe it’s around that age – the first period of time many of us can remember – when we become individuals, when we fully grasp the meaning of right and wrong.  It’s also when we tended to gravitate toward what makes us happy.”  She goes on to remind us that we are still the same people.

I began to reflect on some of my amazing elementary school peers, people who expressed a spirit to serve and valued jenerosity at a very young age.  These are kids I admired…kids who pushed me to be better.   I realized that the same things I liked about them then, I still liked about them now.  The article was a reminder that, like me, they are still the same people.  I reached out to two of the boys who also knew my old friend from the rectory and asked for their help.  They both jenerously jumped at the chance to provide assistance and together we sent her $500 for groceries and gas.  I got a call last week.  She got a new job and things are looking up!  No doubt…she is still one of the strong ones.  That hasn’t changed.

Time goes by and even though we don’t always keep in touch, close childhood friends stick together.  Dolly Parton, who released her 42nd album today entitled Blue Smoke, reminds us of the same through her duet with Kenny Rogers entitled “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”  True.  Very true.

My parents are both hard workers; the importance of a strong work ethic was instilled in us as small children.  I couldn...

Read More »

Love, Dad

father and son

Some of you may have seen a reply to one of my Facebook posts this week about a boy named Trevor and his father, Ray. It was such a touching story about love that I couldn’t just let it get lost in the Facebook world. When asked how someone you know shows their love, my friend Rita posted a story about her son, Trevor. Here’s what she wrote:

I’ll tell you a really sweet story of how my son uniquely showed his love for his father. Trevor asked his father one evening why he tells him he loves him so much throughout the day. Ray responded, “because when I was growing up my father never told me that he loved me, so I want to make sure that you know everyday how much I love you.” Later that evening Trevor called his dad upstairs, and there on his father’s bed, Trevor had placed a post-it note that read, “I love you Ray! Love, Dad” It still chokes me up thinking of how God placed it in my son’s heart to do such an overwhelming gesture of love.

Children who are loved just assume that every parent loves their children. This little boy took it upon himself to make sure his own dad was finally told that he was loved by his father. It was obvious to him that his father was loved. God has a funny way sometimes of letting us know that we are loved. It may simply be an oddly familiar smile from a stranger, a tender butterfly kiss from a baby, a cozy snuggle session with a pet, or even a message through the innocence of a child like Trevor. The signs are all around us. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and you will see a message that will let you know that you are loved. For those who give love will receive love. You just have to pay attention. There are signs everywhere!

Some of you may have seen a reply to one of my Facebook posts this week about a boy named Trevor and his father, Ray. It...

Read More »

Have I Told You Lately…


My husband went to Rod Stewart’s concert in Las Vegas last year. Rod told the crowd that the song “Have I Told You Lately (that I love you)” was originally written by Van Morrison as a prayer to God. After listening to the song for years, I never made that connection, but it is clear after actively listening to the lyrics. Since this is Valentine’s week, love is all around us. I listened to Rod’s version of the song today, as I often do, and I realized that more often than not, the answer to his question is “no.” You can’t say “I Love You” too much…and you can never hear it too often either.

I am reminded of another lesson about love from a scene in the 1983 movie Terms of Endearment. In the scene, Debra Winger’s character, Emma Horton, is about to die of cancer and has her final conversation with her oldest son, Tommy, who has expressed a great deal of anger and resentment towards his mother. She says:

“I know you like me. I know it. For the last year or two, you’ve been pretending like you hate me. I love you very much. I love you as much as I love anybody, as much as I love myself. And in a few years when I haven’t been around to be on your tail about something or irritating you, you could… remember that time that I bought you the baseball glove when you thought we were too broke. You know? Or when I read you those stories? Or when I let you goof off instead of mowing the lawn? Lots of things like that. And you’re gonna realize that you love me. And maybe you’re gonna feel badly, because you never told me. But don’t – I know that you love me. So don’t ever do that to yourself, all right?”

Sometimes, we need to let other people, especially our children, know that WE KNOW that they love us. That is a wonderful gift. Giving love is important but acknowledging other people’s gift of love is also a gift in itself.
Growing up, my dad often asked us, “When is the best time to say I Love You?” And his answer was always the same…”Right Now.” So let’s spread the joy this week and let people know that they are loved. And tonight, when you tuck your kids in bed or kiss your partner goodnight, let them know that you know how much they love you.

My husband went to Rod Stewart's concert in Las Vegas last year. Rod told the crowd that the song "Have I Told You Latel...

Read More »

The Lighthouse Project

The most challenging project I had to complete as a child was our fourth grade California Mission replica.  I had to visit Mission Santa Barbara, take photos and rebuild it to scale using some materials that were not so easy for a fourth grader to apply.  My mom and I agonized over it for weeks and she finally helped me bust it out over a couple of LATE nights.

My son is in fourth grade and it seems that regardless of which coast you reside on, big projects exist at this grade level.  His assignment was to create a model of the Alligator Reef Lighthouse near the Florida Keys using 50% recyclable materials.  It was due today.  After the usual two weeks of agonizing over it and two weekends out of town, we found ourselves making the required trip to the craft store earlier in the week and attempting to assemble it all last night.  But, guess what?  This working mom has a job and I had to head to a business mixer to represent my organization last night.  Luckily, I live down the street from The Hesslers, a family full of inventive boys who fix the neighborhood’s broken items, build underwater dock lights and are often seen blowing things up in the front yard.  Working women, especially those of us in fundraising roles, know that the key to success is utilizing your network.  So, at 6:00 Brooks arrived at the neighbors house to have the boys “oversee” the construction of his project.

Alex the Engineer helps Brooks construct his lighthouse JUST IN TIME!  We love our neighbors!

Alex the Engineer helps Brooks construct his lighthouse JUST IN TIME! We love our neighbors!

When I arrived at 8:30, it was near completion and was much more AMAZING than anything I could have delivered…working lights and all!  Of course parents were encouraged to participate as minimally as possible, so I accomplished that by delegating (and paying out some “babysitting” dollars).  Today, my son beamed as he brought in his lighthouse, created alongside some of the cool “big boys” of the neighborhood.  $100 in supplies & fees later, along with a lesson in resource utilization, I must admit that I was happy to have gotten out of the delivery phase.  It truly was a gift to myself!

The most challenging project I had to complete as a child was our fourth grade California Mission replica.  I had to vis...

Read More »