The Father of My Children

19 06 2011

The father of my children has not, to my knowledge, spoken to either of his girls today.  He’s been outside, putting gates to the garden fence  that I suggested “we” build, and outside in the summer is not a place where he’s likely to bump into his girls.  He’s not the kind of father who revels in fatherhood.  As a matter of fact, when we found out we were having a girl, his comment was, “Oh, good.  That means I don’t have to bond.”  He really isn’t a kid kind of person, which is okay, because I have that part covered.  Yet his love and influence on his girls is undeniable.

It wasn’t long after we got married that I realized he wasn’t the sentimental type either.  Matter of fact, we were in the airplane heading out on our honeymoon when he remarked, “Boy, am I glad this marriage is over.”  Had he been sitting in front of me, I’d of kicked him.  Of course, he meant to say “wedding.”  Ceremonies make him nervous.   So do special occasions.  Our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple came and went without so much as a card.  It took a few days of hurt looks for him to catch on, which is why on the next available holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, I was presented with a brand-new Kitchen-Aide mixer.  He has improved with age; he doesn’t forget Valentine’s Day anymore.  Just last February he reminded me that it was my turn to give him the twenty-year-old box of chocolates that we’ve been passing back and forth every V-Day.  Most of the time, I’m the one picking out gifts for Christa and Annalise.  Yet his gifts, when he does give them, are much more memorable.

Last summer, Annalise totaled Christa’s car.  After determining that no one was hurt and the car was still drivable and structurally sound, he began the healing process for Christa (with her beautiful ruined car ) and Annalise (who as a new driver was ego-wounded) and the Toyota 4-Runner (a great car when viewed from the driver’s side; not so much from the passenger’s side).   After determining that it truly wasn’t cost-effective to take the car to be fixed at a body shop, Brian spent evenings scouring the Internet for parts, even spending a precious weekend day driving around the state with his father in search of junkyard parts.  For several weeks, he spend his evenings banging out bumper dents and applying putty to smooth it all back again.  Months later, with major help from his father, the 4-Runner was back on the road, in Christa’s hands and looking good.  In the process of fixing the 4-Runner, he had soothed the wounds within Christa and Annalise as well.

In awe, a boyfriend once asked one of the girls  how Mr. Eberhard knew how to fix cars so well.  “He just does,” was her answer.  I know better.  When we were first married, there was lots of gnashing of teeth and leaking of bad words in the garage as he taught himself how to fix what needed to be fixed.  Yet he didn’t give up and pay someone to do it for him.  He learned to use Google and Youtube to get information on anything he needed to know.  He asked his father.  He talked with friends and co-workers.  In the end, though, it was his determination and ingenuity that got the job done.  Another lesson, another gift.

Once the girls hit middle school, their Math and Science lessons were out of my league.  So on those nights that tears were imminent as homework became too frustrating, Brian, who had himself put in 10-12 hours of work already, pulled out the textbook, taught himself the skill, then worked with the girls.  As Golde said in Fiddler on the Roof, “If that’s not love, what is?”

At dinner tonight, Brian did have a chance to talk with the girls.  No, more like listen to the girls; he doesn’t do much talking.  Christa mentioned that she had not been able to find out what books she would need for her classes in the Fall.  Brian didn’t say much, but in the evening while the rest of us watched a movie, he was on the computer.  He not only found what books she needed, but ordered what he could online.

They say you marry your father.  I think I came pretty close.  My wish for our girls is that they are able to find someone like their father, someone who models love, caring, ingenuity, and determination as well as the myriad other traits that Brian has that make him a wonderful father, husband, friend, and man.

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The Best Gift

16 06 2011

Already it seems like the end of school was forever-ago, but only two weeks have passed since the last day of school.  That last day was filled with tears and smiles as we said good-bye to our fifth graders, most of whom we had had for two years now and all of whom were heading for middle school.  My desk was piled high with gifts: beach towels, lotions, gift cards, all the usual teacher gifts that say, “We appreciate all you’ve done.”  A warm feeling of accomplishment filled the air: in my students for having survived yet another year of school, and for me that my job with this group was done.   Yet amidst all the gifts, one stood out from the rest, although I didn’t realize it until I got home.  There under all the fancy gift wrap and pretty bags was a plain envelope, addressed To Mrs. Eberhard,  inside a story handwritten in pencil, with lots of misspellings and punctuation mistakes.  It was, quite literally, the rest of the story.

You see, about two weeks before, our class had been lined up outside the P.E. room door.  One of our students (I’ll call her Tara) noticed a hole in the cement wall and wondered why it was there.  I suggested to Tara that there was probably a story inside that hole.  Tara got that “lightbulb” look on her face, and at lunch and later at recess I noticed she was hurriedly scribbling away on a small notepad.  On the way in to class after recess, she read to me what she had written:  the start of a story about several children who had found a portal to another world in their P.E. wall.  Interesting, I thought.  Maybe next year I’ll take the kids for a walk around the school to look for stories.  Then in the bustle of wrapping up the school year, I forgot all about her story, assuming that Tara’s interest would also wane and the story would be left unfinished.

Not so.  In the envelope that last day of school, I found the rest of the story.  And it was quite a good story, too.  Her voice shone through as her characters discovered made an exciting discovery, the story built to a climax, and then loose ends were tied up.  Through it all, her sentence structure, vocabulary, and word choice were clear evidence that somehow, some way, Tara had become a writer.

When Tara had come to me at the beginning of fourth grade, her writing was basic at best.  Short, choppy sentences.  Phrases that didn’t make sense.  Between her poor handwriting and even worse spelling, many times I could not even read what she had written.  The change did not happen overnight, nor was it a simple path of me teaching her a skill and her learning and applying it.  Without realizing it, I had turned her on to reading by introducing her to American Girl books.  Her mother related to me that instead of having to drag Tara to the library and force her to read books, now she was devouring books as though they were chocolate.

Yes, I had taught her writing lessons that gave her the building blocks of writing.  Yes, I had used mentor texts to point out how authors applied their craft.  Yes, I did model each skill as I introduced it to the class.  But I would have blinders on to say that I made the change in her, that I had made her into a writer.  Tara’s transformation was the result of six years of consistent, directed teaching.  It was the result of a school media center that stocked children’s books that appealed to a variety of interests.  It was the result of former teachers maintaining an interest in their students, encouraging them to continue striving for that next level of excellence.  It was the result of a school environment that valued achievement, but at the same time valued the worth of each student, no matter how gifted each was.

No better gift can a teacher be given than evidence such as this story that she has made a difference in the life of a child.  But, if I may be critical, I must point out that the envelope was labeled incorrectly.  Instead of reading, “To Mrs. Eberhard,”  it should have said, “To Aiken Elementary.”





Buzzards in My Oatmeal

16 06 2011

Last January, I was outside talking with the neighbor kids, when I noticed a flock (swarm, cloud, bunch?) of buzzards slowly circling overhead.  Okay, they weren’t really buzzards, they were black vultures, but calling them buzzards seemed to fit better, somehow.  It was an eerie feeling, watching about 20 of these big black birds, some circling one way, some the other, scarcely flapping a wing as they caught the late afternoon thermals.  The kids and I watched awe-struck for a moment, and then I reminded them that we should keep moving, lest they take us for road kill!  Later, I got to thinking about how a child would view this event, and I sat down to write this free verse poem.

Buzzards in My Oatmeal

Yesterday as the sun sank across a rosy sky

we craned our necks at

dozens of buzzards circling overhead,

weaving

and

soaring

in the evening breeze.

You held my hand tight

and

told me with a wink

to keep moving

or

those black-winged creatures might

snatch up

my little child self

for their dinner.

This morning,

I stirred my raisins

round and around

in my steaming oatmeal,

and

I saw buzzards.

Is it any wonder I can’t sit still?





Hello summer! Hello world!

7 06 2011

Today is my official second day of summer.  After a long season teaching fifth grade,  I’m ready for a break.   I’ve been working nonstop since last summer preparing to teach a new grade level, always a challenging task, but especially for me since I like all my ducks in a row, all the time.

Weekends during the school year are sips of water; summer is a tall glass of sweet ice tea.  I enjoy teaching, but I need some time to step back and look at the world around me.  I get so focused on lesson plans, grading papers, and finding ways to reach my students that I miss out on the rest of the world.  I enjoy writing.  Having this blog will allow me an outlet for my literary urges, with the added benefit that some living human out there might actually read it.

In this blog I will be writing about teaching, naturally, but also about my life as a mother of two teenaged girls, my mild adventures in the outdoors (Alaska in two weeks!), family stories and history, and observations about life in general.

Hello summer.  Hello world!

Blessings,

Beth