Sunday, June 30, 2013

You Will Be Remebered

Change is in the air. In many ways, it's a good change. In other ways, it's sad. For Karen Gerhard, Principal of Ladera Ranch Middle School, it's an exciting and bittersweet change. After the great success and hard work of serving teachers and students, families and the Ladera Ranch community, Mrs. Gerhard is retiring.

The adventure ahead of her includes unlimited family time and the opportunity to watch her grandchildren grow into beautiful little people. It will also allow for time relaxing with her wonderful husband, who also happens be a principal and retiring, without the unrelenting interference of bell schedules.

While Karen Gerhard adjusts to the life of retirement, the community of Ladera Ranch will be adjusting to a campus without Mrs. Gerhard. (This is where the "sad" comes in.) Built in 2003, LRMS has 41 state-of-the-art classrooms, over 60 amazingly dedicated teachers and staff, and shares a beautiful campus with Ladera Ranch Elementary School and the Ladera Ranch branch of the Orange County Library. It's a one-stop-shop for all things learning for its approximately 1200 students. At the heart of it all is Karen Gerhard and she is adored and invaluable.

The teachers love her. They say she leaves her door open, always available to them. She supports their innumerable efforts of raising up middle-schoolers, (which is not an easy task). They say she's motivating and fair, an excellent administrator and that her shoes will be hard to fill.

The parents love her. They say she answers emails and hears their concerns. She has actual solutions to a wide array of issues and presents resources when parents need alternatives. They say she's approachable, friendly and sincerely cares for those kids...each and every one.

The students love her. They say she knows them and talks to them. She looks them in the eye, and not just because many of them are as tall as she is, but because she wants them to feel important. She makes their school a safe and fun place to learn. They say she's a great principal, treats them with kindness and smiles a lot.

So when a big change like this occurs, it's easy to focus on how uncomfortable and scary the unknown is, and how inconvenient that things must change. But the feeling around Ladera Ranch Middle School is different. Students, staff and parents alike are not dwelling. We are celebrating. Celebrating the career of a fabulous principal whose legacy is permanently emblazoned in the hearts and minds of the thousands of students, teachers and parents she met along the way. Congratulations, Mrs. Gerhard. You will be missed but more so, remembered.

{J}

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spend a Little T-I-M-E

I don't know about any of you married folk out there in reader land, but finding a regular date night or just time to connect appears to get more difficult as the years go on. My husband and I will be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. I asked him what he wanted to do and he just stared at me blankly like "you want me to think about that now?"

Let's be honest, marriage is H-A-R-D work and frankly there have been times when I just don't want to do the nitty gritty that needs to be done. Busy schedules keep us running. At the end of the day I look at my husband and think, "O... YOU." Our marriage has turned into a back burner relationship. It's there, simmering away but we've put the temp on low so we don't have to think much about it. Until of course black smoke is pouring out of the kitchen.

I have had the black smoke folks. It ain't pretty and it takes awhile to get rid of the damage it can cause. But, taking steps to move that very important "pot" to the front of the stove so you can really pay attention to it, will keep you from creating that damage in the first place. It does take a few sacrifices but if you're like us and have decided that your goal is to keep an intact, healthy family for your kids, here are some suggestions:

•Schedule date nights. I know that a million obstacles can get in the way but these nights could be as simple as checking in with each other for 10-15 minutes before you collapse, unconscious onto your pillow at night.

•As sad as it makes us, time is ticking away and those cute little children are on their way to being full fledged adults. They will live OUTSIDE your home one day leaving you and your spouse ALONE. Take a minute to let that sink in. What will that be like? Start paving the way for that relationship in the future by investing some minutes now.

•Re-new or re-read your wedding vows. This doesn't have to be an elaborate ceremony. It could be something that you do at the dinner table with the kids. Just make sure you are looking into the eyes of the person you have chosen to do life with. It's a reminder of what you committed to all those years ago and it could even be a little romantic.

These things take planning but like my daughter's music teacher says, T-I-M-E spells love. {H}

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Downside of Social Media

Hi friends! This post is the article that appeared in last week's OC Register. Since it was published, I have read three more articles on various blogs and news sites about Social Media and our teens and tweens. Jenn and I would love to hear any feedback or experiences that you have had with the various outlets available to our kids including Instagram, FaceBook, Ask.fm, KIK and SnapChat.

If you have a middle school aged child, chances are you have seen Instagram and Ask fm, two popular social media sites. I have many friends that use Instagram to post creatively doctored pictures of pets, children, and favorite items #cute.

It can be a fun way to express yourself. If you’re in middle school, it can also be a way to demean, degrade and otherwise humiliate each other. The crazy world of junior high is full of drama, turmoil, and hormones. The fragile ego of this age group leaves them susceptible to the fickle nature of friends who one day think they're the best and the next want nothing to do with them.

Enter Social Media.

In junior high years ago, we weren't alerted to every event that we weren't invited to and sent pictures of what we were missing. Yes, it was still hurtful to be excluded, but we could feel safe in our bedrooms where we were miserable without anyone knowing. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others, bring it right into the privacy of our homes and our teens are bombarded with it.

How about Ask fm? Ever heard of it? An "Ask me" page can be linked to another social media profile where it encourages others to anonymously ask questions. It’s harmless enough when the questions are “Which Disney princess is your favorite?” but in this era of “shock value” the questions can be quite disturbing, very racist, and even pornographic. There are no privacy settings and all comments can be kept anonymous. That often facilitates young people saying things that they might not say face to face or if their names were being shared. Inhibitions disappear and that can lead to dangerous consequences.

In the UK, three teen suicides have been linked to comments posted on Ask fm., just in the last few months. Schools across Europe and the US have sent letters home, urging parents to disable the site and stop its use with their children. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to report offensive and disturbing comments, or to uncover those behind the anonymous posts.

It is agreed across cyber safety websites that ALL social networking sites are not doing enough to protect children. Kids as young as eight have created Instagram accounts and may harmlessly post pictures of their school, bedroom, or favorite spots in town. It makes it too easy for child predators to find and stalk them. As parents, how can we protect them from the evil that lurks just a few clicks away?

First, become digitally savvy. Research new social media sites that have been created. Find out what their privacy policies are. Educate your children about being safe and smart when using these sites. Encourage them to be kind. A sweet friend from my son's Bible study group had some vile things posted on her Ask fm page. In response, they had a week long “fast” from Instagram and took down their Ask fm links. They vowed to only post encouraging things and to stay off Ask fm for good. Many of their peers are following suit.

The moral of this story? Get connected! Learn about the sites that your children are visiting, or will visit, and do anything necessary to protect them. You are the first and most important step in protecting your kids in this cyber social media jungle.

{H}

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Summer Fun = Financial Crisis?

Summertime and the feeling is...BROKE!

Wait...isn't it supposed to be "EASY"? Well, that depends.

The things that my husband and I love about summer are the same as many parents we know: we don't have to pack hundreds of lunches or drag cranky kids out of bed. We don't have to carpool to three different schools and we get a break from homework, projects and activities. Hallelujah!

But that's not all we love about summertime. We love that the kids play outside in the neighborhood ALL DAY. We love regular bike rides to Juice it Up for Congo Lime smoothies, walks to Hill Top Park with our doggy, visits to the Ladera Ranch Library for more reading material, beach days and pool days and sprinklers-on-the-lawn days. We love picnics and play-dates and barbecues - CONNECTING with each other. Those are the highlights of summer.

In the last few weeks, we've been inundated with fliers and emails about summer camps, enrichment classes, amusement park discounts and activities galore...all of the possible options to fill our summer to the brim. But we don't want to go into debt to "entertain" our children as though they're relatives visiting from out of state. We've scheduled a few things but we can't do it ALL. Even if we could afford a trip to every local amusement park, luxury movie theaters, trampoline centers and water parks, on top of surf, cheer and tennis camps...even if we could, we wouldn't.

If we schedule away the peaceful, easy months of summer, we'll miss out in the fun of being spontaneous, which is sorely undervalued in our busy culture. I don't know about you, but we want the freedom to enjoy a day trip just because, or say yes when the kids come up with a great plan. We also want our kids to find value in creating their own fun, like cardboard forts, neighborhood obstacle courses and fresh-squeezed lemonade stands. And nothing beats a Netflix-family-movie-night with real buttered popcorn, or lazy, lounging mornings with absolutely nothing on the agenda. If we overbook our summer, we will miss every bit of it.

So as you sift through the options, resist the urge to fill every free moment. As a family, decide on the definite musts. Make sure you take advantage of your non-scheduled time, don't forget the local, low-cost options, and enjoy a peaceful, family-bonding, fun-filled summer. Who knows, with the money you save, maybe you can start planning a family vacation for winter break. It'll be here before you know it!

{J}