Friday, January 30, 2015

Common Cold, Lice and Flu...Oh My!

Having just recovered from my own bout of the flu I decided this would be a timely topic.

No, I am not going to talk about vaccinations. I am pro-vaccine. I choose to protect my children against diseases any way I can and I feel other people should too, if they are able. That is all I am going to say about that.

What I want to talk about is those nasty little germs that invade our lives on a regular basis.

Classrooms are a Petri dish of germs. With a concentration of 30 kids to a room it is a Herculean task to keep the bugs at bay. Schools should buy stock in hand sanitizer and Lysol. By the way, those are supplies we are very grateful to get because school budgets don't often allow for them. They don't even fill the soap in my classroom on a regular basis! It is even more difficult for classrooms that are portables, and have no sinks, to control the germs.

What we ask of parents is to keep the germs at home, where you can minimize them much easier than we can. If your child has a fever, is vomiting or has diarrhea, please keep them home! These are the obvious signs that your child is contagious. Even if they have perfect attendance, even if they have a test to take, even if they say they feel fine - if they are not free of the three things mentioned above for 24 hours - Keep Them Home!

Side Note: If your child says "I don't feel well" but has no signs of illness, send them to school. Most teachers are happy to keep an eye on them and if they take a turn for the worse we will give you a call!

Now on the other side of the coin, I know it is hard to keep kiddos home when they are sick. If you are a stay-at-home mom it means a change to your routine, which never really goes well for anyone! It means crankiness and crying and cleaning up things that make you sick as well. 

Although...I do tend to enjoy the extra cuddles I get when my kids are sick. This is also when I know they really are sick because they do not like to cuddle!

If you are a working mom then it means taking time off work, which is not easy for a lot of people, or trying to find a babysitter at the last minute - plus there is an added bonus of having all those germs hanging out with you and the rest of your family for the day, which might mean more sick time. Yay!

Whatever your situation is, plan for the inevitable. Kids get sick. Don't let it throw off your Mama Mojo! I am lucky enough to have my mom close by if my kids get sick but I know that is not typically for a lot of people.

One of the biggest challenges for me is the clean up afterwards. Changing all the bed sheets, washing all the laundry, cleaning all those lovies...and don't forget to replace the toothbrushes! All this takes soooo much time. And in the process I am usually picking up enough of those germs to shut down my immune system for a week or so. But as I am sure you know all too well, moms don't get sick days. (BTW, do any of you notice how the whole household goes to hell when mom gets sick?)
Aren't they adorable? Plush Microbes & Bacteria @ 
 On the specific topic of lice: They can be difficult to get rid of. Typically kids can go back to school the next day if they can pass an inspection at the school nurse's office. Whenever we have a lice case at my own school we check the whole class to make sure it hasn't spread. (Makes me itchy just thinking about it!) Make sure that you bag up all your child's stuffed animals, bedding, pillows and such to suffocate the lice that might be hiding out waiting to infect your child again. 
I had one student who would get cleared and a week later show up again with the lice. It had nothing to do with the cleanliness of her home. It turns out that the little buggers were hanging out on the couch pillows and her mom didn't even think to check anything but the bed pillows! Be very thorough when ridding your home of these pests! Also remind your children not to share clothing items, hats, hair brushes or similar items at school - this is the best way to pass those pests around.

How do you plan for sick days? What tips and tricks do you have to stay healthy? How do you stay sane during sick days?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Funny Friday - Inappropriate Gifts

I open presents from my students after the Christmas rush. I do this so I can sit down and write thank you notes as I go. I am terrible at writing thank you notes even though I am very grateful for every gift I receive from a student or coworker!

This last Christmas I received the usual candy and mugs but one present took my breath away - in a very heart-stopping way. It was a beautifully wrapped gift, as I opened it I started to chuckle nervously. I pulled out a silky, lavender lingerie bag! It was colorfully stitched with an outline of a bra and panties on the outside.I thought about shoving it back in the gift bag and tossing it out immediately. I did not want to know what was in that bag.

My husband insisted that I should at least open it. (I think he was looking forward to my reaction.) Very slowly I opened the bag and peeked inside. Whatever it was, it had white polka dots. I reached in and pulled out the silky item. As I let it unfurl, I realized it was a scarf! [HUGE sigh of relief]

Talk about a heart attack. How was I going to write a thank you note for what I thought was in that silky bag?  Let the awkwardness ensue...

Sample Letter:
Dear Student,
Thank you so much for the undergarments you bought me for Christmas! You know just what I needed. It is my favorite color. I will think of you each time I wear it. I hope you enjoyed your holidays with your family!
Your Teacher

My husband and I talked about how I might need to start showing this commercial in class before any major holidays.

I can't wait for Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ban the Cupcakes!

Cupcakes have become Public Enemy #1.

Every news outlet is talking about it. School districts all over the country are asking parents to not bring cupcakes or other sugary sweets to school for their child's birthday or other class parties. My own district took this on several years ago. They even sponsored a poster contest to get everyone on board.

As a parent my first thought was:
"Thank goodness I don't have to worry about making/buying cupcakes for 35 kids!"

My second thought was:
"What do you mean I can't bring a treat for my sweet baby girl on her birthday?!"

I love to bake. I made cupcakes for my daughter's preschool class but by the time I got them to school my Frozen themed cupcakes looked like Olaf spent too much time out in the sun. I just reminded my daughter that some people are worth melting for!

My takeaway lesson was no more cupcakes from me, I will be looking for an alternative this year, and I am not so heartbroken schools are asking parents to lay off the birthday treats!

As a teacher I have never been against cupcakes or other treats for birthdays. If a parent wants to celebrate their child in the classroom then I have no problem with it. I only ask that we celebrate at the end of the day, right before class is over, so that the celebrations do not cut into class time. We have so few, precious hours to educate our students and cupcakes are a yummy, but huge, distraction.

I do have to add that it is important to check with your school to see what is okay and what is not. You don't want to show up with cupcakes to be turned away at the office. I did have this happen to a parent one year and I felt bad that she had gone to all that work but there had been several notices sent home regarding our birthday policies.

If it turns out your school does not allow it then you are off the hook! One less thing to do! Just let your kiddo know that it's the school's fault for not letting you make those 35 cupcakes with fondant My Little Pony characters each handcrafted to match her classmate's personalities!

Photo via Zoey Cakes

After you check with the school then follow up with the teacher. Often the office does not know what is going on in the classroom on a particular day. This will help strengthen your relationship with the teacher by showing respect for her time with his/her students.

My own opinion about sweets in the classroom is that kids should be taught moderation. A cupcake every now and then is not a bad thing. One cupcake will not make them fat. One cupcake will not make most kids hyper.
Check out the article below that explores this topic more fully:

I also believe that parents should have the ability to decide if/when their child eats sweets. It is your child after all! Talk to your child about what to do when a parent brings in a sweet treat.

If you want to bring a treat for your child on their birthday, be it cupcakes or anything else, don't be afraid to speak up!

Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to Birthday Treat Alternatives!

P.S. DO NOT bring a cake with no plates, forks, napkins or some kind of slicing utensil! It only makes for a mess and a grumbling teacher.

What are your thoughts about cupcakes in the classroom? Do you have any awesome alternative ideas that your kids love?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Funny Friday - Tough Guy

Living and teaching in southern California has its advantages. One of my favorite things about our school buildings is that there are no indoor hallways. Every classroom opens to the great outdoors. We have a grassy area just outside my classroom with a scrub oak right in the middle. I have watched that oak grow over the years into a nice shade tree which is home to many kinds of birds.  

One year we had one of those birds join us in the classroom. This is not unusual but that particular year there was a boy in my class who had a great tough-guy act. (I teach 6th grade so my kiddos are just starting to try out their "big-boy pants".)

As the bird flew in, he scoffed at the students who were shrieking and ducking as it buzzed by their heads. He made a very loud declaration that everyone was overreacting. 

"It's just a little bird," he said. 

Just as he said it the bird clipped by the boy's head, we heard the most high-pitched shriek of them all, and suddenly the boy had disappeared under his desk cowering because of that little sparrow!

Luckily he was easy-going about it. He learned to laugh at himself a little bit more and that he didn't have to be the tough guy all the time. It helped me remember that even though kids try to act tough they are still kids. The "toughest" ones are usually the ones that need the most love and kindness!