Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Pollards!

In lieu of holiday cards by snail mail this year, I've decided to go digital. Quick notes on our year:

Shane- Our baby turned seven this November! He continues to be the major athlete, loving soccer and baseball and trying roller hockey with his big brother this winter. He also started piano lessons this fall and played his first recital. He adores his first grade teacher and continues to be a sweet and loving boy. The kid is obsessed with all things Lego, Pokemon and video games.

Bobby- Bobby has been a busy eight year old! He has played roller hockey all year and has improved on his skills tremendously. This is his second year of playing piano and he has been doing awesome! He wants to move on to guitar next. Bobby is doing great in third grade, loves Lego building, collecting Pokemon cards and playing with his friends.

Kelly- With this fickle economy, I had to say goodbye to my writing gigs for a few publications in print and online. I stayed busy with the boys and by joining the school PTA board and working as a crossing guard and yard duty this fall. I also started piano lessons with the boys! I'm hoping the writing picks up in 2012, but meanwhile you'll find me keeping the kids safe in the school crosswalk and playing soccer/baseball/hockey mom!

Robbie- Robbie continues to manage two garbage company shops in the East Bay. He works long hours but enjoys the challenge. He has also done quite a bit of work on our house, installing new floors and doors and lots of painting.

We want to wish all of our family and friends a peaceful holiday season and a wonderful new year. And for a final laugh, the boys wanted to send you all this holiday video:

Happy Holidays!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Further Impressions on "The Race to Nowhere"

I wrote about the documentary by local film-maker Vicki Abeles in the March issue of Bay Area Kids. The honest and eye-opening interviews with parents, teachers, education advocates and the film-maker herself were so rich, I couldn’t possibly include all the information in my article.

One subject I didn’t have the space to dive into is the tragic suicide of Bay Area thirteen year old Devon Marvin in 2008.Her mother Jane made the brave choice to share her experience in the final cut of the documentary..

Devon killed herself over a bad math grade. This tragic act demonstrates the immense pressure our students face. Devon’s mother attended a screening of a rough cut of the film. After witnessing the audience’s response to the message, she offered to be interviewed in the hopes of informing other families struggling against our culture’s pressure toward high achievement.

The footage of her vibrant daughter is heartbreaking. Of her interview, Vicki says “I’m grateful she had the courage and trust to share her story. She reinforces the message about the importance of talking to our kids, stop pressuring them to have good grades.”

Marvin shares her daughter’s story to show what happens when things go to far, how life can fall apart in an instant.

“We want parents to be aware of this type of silent suffering. Suicide is a complicated issue, it’s hard to point to one cause as a culture. We need to examine the unhealthy environment and how it contributes to mental health,” Abeles says.

Pleasanton teacher Lennis Sadler, who also has three children, adds to this sentiment.

When I asked her if she questions any of the movie’s claims about education in America, she said:

Not for a moment. I am living it. My friends are living it. The messages that really made an impact were:
Students doing everything possible to get an A, and forgetting subject matter the minute the test was over.
Students staying up really late to finish projects.
Students learning how to cheat.
Students taking drugs to stay up.
Students being expected to have above 4.0 GPA if they want to get into a good college.

She continued:

“I think we are obsessed with competing in a global market. ...All we are doing is robbing them of their freedom, their childhood, and making them into stressed out young people who feel they have to do whatever is necessary to be successful.”

What happened to instilling the love for learning, just to absorb the world around us? Opening children up to possibility, creativity and open ideas?

Kerry Dickinson, a Danville mom and homework advocate, says schools should be teaching children how to be ‘world citizens’.

What can we do to protect our children from the pressure and this society of high expectations?

Abeles said all the little changes add up. Lennis Sadler reducing her homework in her second grade classroom is one of them. Kerry Dickinson scheduling an appointment with a school administrator to question the normal standards of homework in her district is another. Jane Marvin opening a door into her grief in order to help others is another.

Take a stand in your home, your classroom, your community.

“It was not until college, when I chose my own career, that I took ownership of my future, and that I started learning for myself, not others,” Sadler says. “That message has been lost. We are forcing students to try to achieve so high so early that we are burning them out before they even get to college.”

Vicki Abeles says it’s so important for parents to jump off that treadmill of what is expected, to question everything. No one else will advocate for your children’s rights but you.

If you are reading this now, you may want that change. Go to a screening of the movie. Share it’s message with other parents and with your child’s teacher. Talk to your child about school and learn to back off when it’s clear she is overwhelmed. After watching the film and talking to other parents and to Abeles, I want more than ever to protect my children from those high expectations and pressure to be perfect. I want them to love learning and school, but I don't want them buried under piles of worksheets after logging in six hours at school. I want them to stay children for as long as they can.

To learn more, visit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Goof Off Son....A Leader???

I'm blown away by this one. But then again, not really.

I just published a column about how my 7yr old son has been going through this painful (to me) phase of outrageous goofiness. I'm talking goofy expressions paired with silly, high pitched voices and weird, galloping walks around the house. He's like a zoo animal.

Except, apparently, at school.

This is the kid that has spent his last few years in school losing recess time on several occasions and one memorable trip to the principal's office for his behavior, mostly stemming from his clownish nature.

Second grade has him turning over a new leaf. His teacher has come up to me a few times, complimenting Bobby on his focus and his natural tendency for academics. She pulled me aside yesterday at the playground with yet another rave. She called him the "L" word. I had to peel my jaw off the pavement it had dropped so far.

He's a natural born leader, she says. My son, my crazy son, with a rap sheet that includes mooning his preschool class during circle time and making raunchy armpit noises and calling his classmate a nimrod in the first grade.

My son is a LEADER and an ACADEMIC. I'm in shock still....

Monday, October 11, 2010

A New Start, New Determination

This is my vow right now to start blogging again about life in the trenches with my crazy little men. With one in kindergarten, the other in second grade, this promises to be another season of fun, mishaps and tons of love. I hope you'll follow along!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Competition and Homework?

Bobby and Shane both have a serious competitive streak. Life is a game to them and they are determined to win it! Usually this levels to a mild annoyance in my everyday life when seeming insignificant things take on massive dramas. And then, those competitive tendencies will shock me.

Take Monday, as an example. Bobby brought home his homework packet for the week. Instead of grudgingly taking out his homework at the normal time, he initiated school work on his own.


He worked through two worksheets, the minimum allowed before I'll excuse him to play. Then he breezed through another two worksheets.

Very strange.

I told him he could stop. He just shook his head. Apparently, one of his buddies in class mentioned last week that he had finished his entire homework packet long before the last minute scramble to get everything done.

Aha! The motivating factor: he wanted to beat his friend at homework. I think I'm liking this!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cheers to a New Decade!

Here I am, stumbling out of the haze of Christmas madness and New Year's party mode. And I can't believe I'm starting a new decade in my lifetime with two healthy boys and a husband in tow. Who would have thought? While the 2000's (is that what we call them?) were dominated by my Cinderella wedding, two births stacked very close together and years of fumbling with diapers, potty training and sleepless nights, I can say that 2010 feels like the freshest start I've ever had.

Shane will start elementary school in August. My freelance career is slowly blooming and can only grow as the boys log more hours at school and me at my cluttered computer desk. No longer can I blame colicky babies and midnight feedings for my lack of pitching articles. Surely I can come up with other excuses: sports commitments, sick kids and saying yes too often to working in the classroom. But I'm determined to start this decade with a kick.

I cringe even thinking of this: at the end of this decade, my boys will be teenagers. So where will I fit in all of this morphing as they grow into adults and move toward independence away from me. So much of the last decade was defined by me meeting every need. How much longer will i get away with checking off that handy box of caregiver on those summons for jury duty?

I'm not sure what shape our lives will take on over the next ten years, but I'm thrilled to jump on the ride and I can't wait to post updates here...hopefully more regularly than I have been lately. My excuses are running out!

So I hope everyone enters this new decade with inner peace, health and enthusiasm of what is to come. I know my family will!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Where has the time gone?

I can't believe I haven't posted since October. Since then, I've managed to survive Shane's birthday party (a success), hosting Thanksgiving and putting up the Christmas decorations. The boys are thriving in school and are finally into the new routine and I'm even thinking of adding an extra half day of school to Shane's schedule. What we are looking forward to this month:

*My dad visiting from South Carolina and an early Christmas celebration with him.

*Christmas break from school! Ok, more like the boys are looking forward to this and I'm wondering what I can plan to keep the fighting to a minimum. Baseball camp perhaps?

*Another year of both the boys fully believing in the magic of Santa. How many more years can I get away with the "Santa is watching" bribery?

*Celebrating the season with my awesome family and friends.