in search of peace…just ask a preschooler!

I am a teacher of preschoolers…I work alongside an amazing team of teachers…we love, nurture and grow the leaders of today…and tomorrow, we encourage the writers, the artists, the musicians, the poets…we bandage future doctors and counsel future lawyers…we empower the beauty that is each child that we care for.

Over the past Summer we held a Peace Camp and each group was charged with writing a song about peace. We wrote about what peace is, where you may find it and how you may share it.  Here is the song that was composed by my group of children that in honor of MLK Jr. I have posted here in poetry form.  As you read it, may you feel the strength and power of the words spoken by 3-5 year olds.  May you be enlightened to hear the hundred languages they speak…

LET’S TALK ABOUT PEACE!

Let’s talk about PEACE
…and what it is….

Peace is singing!
Peace is my Mama!
Peace is a circle of friends…
Peace is petting my cat!
Peace is happiness and being with my friends!
Peace is playing…
Peace is a heartbeat…
Peace is hugging!
…and catching a fish!

Let’s talk about PEACE
…and where we find it….

Peace can be found…in the earth!
Peace can be found…in our hearts!
Peace can be found…in Mama’s hug!
Peace can be found…in my Daddy’s arms!
Peace can be found…in a good book!
Peace can be found…in my Mom’s heart!
Peace can be found…in the world!
Peace can be found…in our family…

Let’s talk about PEACE
…and how we share it….

We share Peace by playing with each other nicely…
We share Peace through sharing…
We share Peace with hugs…
We share Peace  by sharing your heart…
We share Peace by hugging people when they are hurt…
We share Peace by using kind words…
We share Peace in a smile…
We share Peace by showing love to people in all kinds of ways…

Let’s talk about PEACE and what it is, where to find it, how to share it…
Let’s talk about PEACE…      Summer 2011

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what is your dream…

…what is your dream?  Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream.  It was an amazing dream that has essentially changed everyone’s lives in some way.  As I write this, I am watching the PBS documentary about the life of MLK with my two beautiful coffee milk hued boys.  We are trying to make sense together of the events that took place just a couple of years shy of my own emergence into this world.  My discussion with them consists mainly of answering their questions… ‘Mama what is the KKK?’  ‘Mama why were people so angry at the brown people?’  ‘what was the burning cross Mama?’ with frequent interjections from my ‘non-fiction’ reporting five year old such as ‘Martin Luther King Jr. did not like fighting Mama.  He was a peaceful man’  and ‘the people stopped riding the buses Mama’.

We talk about purpose…my nine year old looks at me with a worried wrinkle between his eyes…’James Earl Ray didn’t have that Mama’.  I agree.  ‘If he had a better life Mama, if someone cared about him, then Martin would be alive to this day Mama!’  He says this to me with such strong belief in his voice.  We talk about what we have learned through the amazing preschool in which I spend my days.  We discuss how everyone makes bad choices sometimes and how we need to love people, to show others kindness and help them to make better choices…to turn it around.  How we help others and encourage others.

“…it was his way of life” is what one of Martin’s followers said.  ‘Non-violence, non-retaliation…Peace was his way of life.’
My daughter says, ‘He was a role model for all of us…if it weren’t for him we would not be together.’
MLK Jr. was a man who spoke from his heart.  He did not ask the question about what would happen to him if he did not help someone…he asked what would happen to the person he did not help.  I really work to live with this in my heart.  I strive each day to help others as best I can, to give the best of myself to help and encourage others that I encounter in my life.  My daughter often asks me to tell her the story about the woman I met in a shopping mall in South Africa.  While visiting my husband and his family, I went to a local mall with a friend.  I noticed as we pulled in, a woman that appeared to be not far from my age.  Her face weathered, the heaviness of her heart evident…the love for the barely clad baby in her arms so big I could feel it.  Her despair as evident as the beautiful blue african sky.  I had gone to the mall to find a few things to bring back to my family in Maine.  I used the money that I had to purchase three bags of items.  I bought diapers and wipes, washcloths and soap among other toiletries.  I also purchased cans of formula, clean water, baby bottles and clothing.  I added on bread and peanut butter and milk and many other food items.  I left the mall, walked to this woman and her beautiful baby and respectfully handed the items to her.  She wept and humbly accepted my small offering. She shook her head and questioned somewhat frantically what she could possibly do for me.  I looked lovingly at her and asked could I please just hold her baby for a moment.  She smiled and placed this most precious gift of hers in my arms.  I cuddled and smiled at this infant and poured as much love into her as I could in the moment that I held her.  I will never forget that encounter as long as I live.

In the words of my five year old…Martin said ‘I have a dream that someday, ALL of God’s children will hold hands together…’

So…what is your dream?
* above is a painting gifted to our family by our Pastor’s amazing daughter Jess…

…anyone know what that frozen thing is on the front lawn?

I have to say that I cringe when the weather gets chilly enough to merit wearing socks…I have 3-4 pair that I only look for a few months out of the entire year. Usually I know where they are and can locate them on days I need them.   My children on the other hand, have more pairs than I can count and they can never seem to find them.  This goes beyond the sock monster…the dryer ate them…they are balled up under the couch.  Apparently my children have inherited my distaste for socks.  I personally do not like them because if my feet are hot then I am unhappy.  I have a sensory dislike for socks. I take them off the first chance I get!   I think my body thermostat is in my feet.  (and there goes my ADHD brain playing the soundtrack of all of the funny quips I have heard in my life about my feet that are not unusually large by the way but an 8.5 U.S. or 36 UK).  When I was younger I recall my maternal Grandfather suggesting I just wear the shoeboxes!  He was also the one who asked me if I paid full price for the bathing suit I had purchased as a teenager because “clearly they left off half of the material”! Shout out to you Papa from whom I know contributed greatly to the person I am today!
Now there’s the Kimberly we all know…Ritalin not quite kicked in and full throttle on the shiny thing quotient!

And in the words of Paul Harvey, who I remember vividly listening to as I grew up…and NOW…the rest of the story…

Socks!  Back to socks!  My husband is the only one who can find his socks in our house.  Reason being?  He wears them 365 days a year…that’s just who he is.  My three children and I on the other hand…not so much.  Only in the coldest of months and certainly not longer in the day than we have to.  So as the cold weather approaches and socks aren’t entirely an option, the race begins.  I actually get sock anxiety at night wondering if I will find  the six appropriate socks in the morning to usher the three off to school. We should have a routine for this…but we don’t.  You see, the girl likes hers to match…not necessarily in color but in height.  She usually waits until we are almost out the door to look.  My first born son on the other hand will do anything he can to go without and doesn’t much care what they look like.  My second born, beloved five year old on the other hand is quite particular about the height and fit of his socks.  “they feel udgy, squishy!” he says while making a face and shaking his legs…he doesn’t care if they match, they just have to fit.  That is until the other day when he wore a pair of Daddy’s socks to school.  I confess that I pointed out to the teacher that greeted us at school that he had chosen them all by himself…the heel of the socks midway to his knees and the top of them well over the knee.  The teacher giggled.  Daddy was honored.  I was proud of my son for tolerating such a wonky pair of socks!
Can you relate to the sock drama?
Needless to say, I am thrilled to have a long weekend and at least three days to forgo the sock anxiety…
Here is the lovely picture that inspired this post that I dedicate to my first born and most amazing son, Thando! Hey look!  It is one of his socks…frozen solid on the front lawn!
I would also like to add a tribute to Paul Harvey…his ability to speak in pictures…my ADHD brains dream.  I could listen to a broadcast of his without distraction, always anticipating a quip near the end of his broadcast, his familiar chuckle and lastly…

‘Good Day’! (click to see video)

…i’d rather you smack me with a stick! words do hurt….

What we say and the words we chose to express ourselves make a difference.  Do you stand up for something that you feel is not right?  Do you speak out to change something that you feel from your heart is hurting others?  All of my life I have done this…one example was when I noticed the sign in our local video store/ice cream shop.  The sign referred to those lovely sugary things that you ‘sprinkle’ onto your ice cream as ‘jimmies’.  Many of you may have heard about the debate of sprinkles vs jimmies.  As for myself, I had heard of the debate…some say this just isn’t true and some say that the term is racist and refers to Jim Crow…particularly because of the color of the sprinkles…brown.

Let me be clear, it matters not where the true name came from.  Due to the fact that it has been identified as a racist term is enough for me.  I choose not to perpetuate it in any manner and politely asked for the term to be changed to sprinkles. The owner heard my words and changed the sign while I was standing there. I asked for it to be changed for many reasons…

When my daughter was an infant…and on the fast track to becoming a toddler, she was very into baby dolls.  During that time, there was a commercial on television that advertised this ‘fabulous’ baby doll with all kinds of amenities.  At the end of the commercial it asks for you to specify if you would like ‘dark’ or ‘light’…I lost it…it annoyed me beyond reason and I ended up phoning the company.  ‘dark’ or ‘light’? Are you kidding me?  Really?  You see, I am the proud cream Mama of three coffee milk brown babies and I am a little sensitive…I am also human and I was offended and concerned for the message these words were sending…for how they might embed themselves into my childs’ perception of herself.  ‘What does that mean?’  I vehemently asked the person who answered.  Needless to say, that person did nothing to hear my concerns and to this day I remain annoyed just thinking about it.  There have been many other times since then that I have spoken up about a situation that I felt strongly about.  (another time…another blog post)

Anyone remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me…!’ (to be followed with the sticking out of one’s tongue and hands on hips!)  I have come to learn in my life how untrue this is.  Words are VERY powerful and I choose to be aware of what I am saying and how it may affect others. At the end of the day, even if the whole debate about sprinkles vs jimmies is falsely pursued, the point remains that there are people that believe that it is a racist way to refer to the confection. If a word is hurtful then I choose not to use it.  This is the same reason that I choose not to say or tolerate other racist terms, sayings or inferences. I make it a point to ask questions in situations in order to educate others as well as myself.  I seek to understand why things are said and seek to help others realize the power of what they are saying…I find there are three general categories that I encounter:

1.  People who intentionally say what they want regardless of who it hurts  2.  People who say things without really thinking about the power of their words and 3. People who care whether or not they are hurting others with words and choose instead to encourage and build up out of kindness.

I will tell you now that I will do whatever I can to be in the third category…that’s just who I am.

In my family, we refer to people as brown and cream…not black and white.  My husband is not black…his skin is a beautifully bold deep chocolate gingery hue.  I am not white…a piece of copy paper is white…snow is white (except when it is peed on)…get my point?  I am cream.  Clearly my daughter is able to see through this lens.  Please take a moment to read the poem that I posted in an earlier post here.

Take a moment today to widen your lens around words you use and those you hear others using. Words are powerful!

Please take a moment to check out my poll…

…growing hearts part II

As some of you may know, I am the proud vessel of a quirky brain!  I have been working diligently to appreciate the beauty of ADHD and the role it plays in my life.  Part of being me is having a very busy brain…think large airport like LAX or better yet (and more imaginable) Trader Joe’s.  I find that when I have a lot to do, I cannot prioritize by importance, for instance, I have much work to do for the preschool conferences that begin next week.  This is what I should be doing at this very moment in fact, however, this is not how my brain operates.  Since last night, I was feeling pressed to write a post…which I did this morning. My brain was full…overflowing with the need to get it into evernote and on my blog. You see, I refer to this affectionately as brain spill.  If I do not spill it in writing, talking etc, it sits there.  (that is actually funny because the word sit implies some sense of stillness…far from the truth.) It stands in my frontal lobe actually and jumps up and down until I am so distracted that I have no choice but to address it so I can move forward with anything else.  I have found that if I choose not to honor this about myself, then things go awry…I become more and more scattered, accident prone and just plain no fun to be around.  A dear co-teacher  of mine has been speaking into this area of my life as me whether she knows it or not.  She has been guiding me to be more kind to me.  To honor and respect the Kimberly that she sees when she looks at me…  That being said, Here I am to finish the blog I started this morning so I can then move on to my conference report writing with focus and purpose.  It is kind of like sorting what is at the front of your closet because if you don’t, how can you effectively sort whats further in…makes sense!  Clearing the way a bit so you have more room…you with me? Anyone?

In continued honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his amazing spirit, I want to share a story of my daughter who is now a beautiful eleven year old. (I knew from the moment she ‘came out of my belly’ that she would grow me in ways I would never imagine!)

My daughter who came home crying of heartbreak when she learned about the history of slavery and more as we shared with her the history of apartheid. When she was nine years old, in the fourth grade, she was studying ‘brown’ history and literature. (brown and cream…get it?  People’s skin is shades of brown…)  They had focused on the poetic works of Langston Hughes.  My daughter wrote the following poem in response to her learning.  This was published in the school newsletter at the time and has since been published in a collection of literary student works.

Come Now People of Color

Come now,
People of color,
for one day we’ll be free of slavery.

Come all people with chai colored skin, coffee colored skin,
And skin as light as caramel.

People come with dark skin
The color of a brownie.

People with cinnamon skin and skin the color
Of sweet, sweet ginger.

Come people from cotton fields and listen
To the stories about the Underground Railroad and how people got to
Canada for freedom.

Come now, those with skin the color of sweet
Butterscotch and those whose eyes are as black as the evening sky.

Come now, for one day you will be free.
Until then, come and listen to my stories.
Come now, people of color.
~Z. Mngqibisa (authored at age 9)

Let us all take time EVERY DAY …not just on a day in January, to remember, honor and grow a little from the amazing power of those who stand for peace and for freedom.  May you be one of those people, may you know that YOU make a difference…and may your heart grow…

growing hearts…

Welcome to 2012! I know that I have been quiet and everyone has been on the edge of their seats for this next post…I have written so many and have a list of ones to write but last night, my youngest son said something that moved me to tears… and so this post takes precedent.
My youngest child who is five and a half and started kindergarten in the fall…you know the one if you read prior posts of how my heart was being ripped out on his first day of school and he was so ready to roll with it! He has been learning at such an amazing pace! The other night we were snuggled in bed reading and chatting and listening to classic Charlie Brown episodes on youtube (what can I say? we like to multi-task!) At one point I commented ‘true story!’ to which my youngest calmly added ‘that would be non-fiction’ mama. Great moment! And now…the rest of the story:

Martin Luther King Jr. day is this coming week and I know that the children are learning about his life and experiences. Here is where my youngest comes in…He walks into the kitchen where my husband and I are and matter of fact-ly states “Daddy, if Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t work so hard to have the laws changed, then Mama would boss you around and you would have to listen to her.” He then proceeded to explain that because Mama is cream and Daddy is brown that I would be the boss and Daddy would have to work very hard for me and not be treated very kind.” (don’t get me started on the whole cream and brown thing…it is a post in the writing). Let me just say that I am not white…never have been…not even on my palest winter day…I am cream thank you very much!

We have talked a lot with our children about the history of apartheid in South Africa and how the brown people did not have basic human rights under the apartheid laws and how we know this first hand.  We also talk about the history of slavery in the U.S.  We talk a lot about apartheid because my husband was born in South Africa and lived there until he came to the United States on scholarship for a degree in engineering. (we met and married in college) He was here in the U.S. when apartheid was finally legally ended in S.A. We talk about how Daddy, his family and all brown people were treated under this atrocious government.  We talk about how Daddy slept as a toddler tied to Gogo’s back so if their home in Soweto was raided in the night then she would not have to search for him to keep him safe as they fled…and how one night when he was older, a raid happened and he hid in the dog house and was not found but how his family was so worried until they found him safely there after the raids subsided…. and how when I visited South Africa, I talked with Gogo about it. Gogo is my husbands maternal grandmother and is such an amazing woman, it is a blog post of its own. Needless to say, I asked her one day as we exchanged recipes at her dining room table in Soweto, why the brown people of S.A. (who far outnumbered the cream people), never took up arms and just ended this maltreatment once and for all! Gogo is such a beautiful and gentle soul smiled at me and placed her hand upon mine and replied something like this, “You see Kimberly, we easily could have done that but that was not the right thing to do. Violence is not the answer and you see, we persevered and prevailed through peace. We stood strong in what we believe in and stayed faithful in God.” I was so humbled by her answer! That is one thing that I have always worked to instill in my children…to stand up for what they know is right…to encourage and be kind to others and accepting and compassionate to all.

Gogo and Mama

And back to the story…my beautiful son then proceeded to say, “and do you know that there was a brown woman who was on a bus and a cream person told her to move so they could have her seat? She didn’t move though and guess what…the bus driver called the police and she got arrested! Her name was…let me think…”
“Rosa Parks?” I asked. He nodded wide eyed. I add, “Did you know that when Daddy came to the United States that he met Rosa Parks?” (non-fiction moment!) My sons eyes widened more and I could feel his heart grow at that very moment…he just looked up at Daddy and smiled and then hugged him big!

My husband and I looked at one another knowing that if Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and so many other people had not remained true to their hearts, to what they truly believed was the right thing to do, then my husband would never have made it to study in the U.S…that he never would have met Mama and my son therefore as he is today, would not be. We smiled at one another, and silently thanked God and all those who work hard to this day to work peacefully for what is just and right.

Thanks for reading…and stay tuned for part II of this post…