Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Build a little bird house in your soul

Spring has arrived in the Mountain West. The daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are blooming. The apple and cherry trees are covered with sweet-perfuming flowers. And the weather changes by the minute: 70 today, snow expected within 36 hours.

And it's nesting season as well. A small house sparrow has built her nest in the faux forsythia wreath we have hanging next to the front door.

The boys eagerly await the chirps of hungry baby birds.

I dunno about you, but I think this nest at our front door is a pretty good omen!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Change Comes to Those Who Wait

Saturday, I found myself sitting next to my friend Kerri in the auditorium of West High School. We were delegates to the 2010 Salt Lake County Democratic convention. It had been 22 years since we last sat next to each other as delegates: the 1988 Utah State Democratic Convention, which we also organized - as we had the 1986 county convention.

It was a little surreal to be back at a convention again. The process I used to know like the back of my hand has changed and evolved. A whole knew troop of young, enthusiastic people are now running the show. They could have been Kerri and me in an earlier time, scurrying around trying to fix a problem that at the time seemed like it would be the end of the world. (No one seems to remember that it was my decision in 1986 to hoist the misspelled banner that announced the covention...or even that the mistake occurred.)

I saw several people whom I knew from my earlier days, many of whom are now the grand men and women of the party.

But something else has changed outside the confines of the political parties.

Kerri and I sat next to each other to hear the presentations of the candidates for the County Council District 1 race. (The County Council is similar to a County Commission or Board of Supervisors, depending on where you live in the U.S.)

This is an important race for those of us who live in the first district because in this state so horribly gerrymandered, this district is one of a few truly "safe" Democratic seats. Whoever the nominee is will be the next Council member.

And I think Kerri and I both sat with pride at the historic event we witnessed: all three candidates are openly gay men. All three. Each man took his turn on the stage surrounded by endorsing officials, family members and their same-gender partners.

One of the candidates was introduced by a handsome young man as, "the man I have chosen to spend with rest of my life with." Another candidate's adult son spoke of the courage his father showed to come out as a gay man.

And whereas these candidates are Democrats, and this district does consist of the most progressive areas in the state, this is still Utah, and this is welcome change that honestly, 20 years ago, I would have never believed would happen.

What can I say? Change comes to those who wait!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Do Pigs Make You Sneeze?

Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say, "If you can read this thank a teacher?" I always found it a very thought provoking reminder of the importance of teachers in our society. Even though it didn't actually pertain to me. I learned to read before ever stepping foot into a classroom. My mom recognized my interest in reading and taught me herself.

Reading came easy to me.

But it didn't to Gus. Imagine: something that had always been so easy for me, always such a source of joy for me was a struggle and a burden for him.

As parents we did everything "right" - we read to him constantly as a toddler, we gave him educational games, we encouraged him. When it became clear that his Kindergarten classmates had advanced, with most of them reading by the year's end, through the kindness of a total stranger, we were able to enroll him in the U's first-grade readiness program during the summer.

There was improvement, but not enough. The director suggested that we hold Gus back and have him repeat Kindergarten. We sought the sage counsel of my cousin Sundee, a just-retired elementary school principal, who told us to listen to his Kindergarten teacher and promote him, but be prepared to offer him all the extra help he may require.

His first grade teacher almost immediately added breakout reading sessions for him. We arranged for our wonderful friend Cassie, a reading specialist, to work with him twice a week. We worked with him as well.

I'd like to say that did the trick, but it wasn't until Gus was diagnosed with ADD that the breakthrough really occurred. Within two weeks of being treated, he started really reading. At his last parent - teacher conference, Kelly and I beamed at his progress report. He'd gone from being dangerously behind to being basically on par with his peers.

He's still not quite there yet, and he's still getting all the extra help, but every day we're seeing more and more improvement.

But here's the best part. He loves reading...at least to Niko. Their favorite book was a gift from our friend Aimz, Pigs Make Me Sneeze.

I can't express how it felt to see Niko grab that book the other night and ask Gus to read it to him. I watched Gus tackle page after page, all the while his little brother roaring with laughter.

Gus reading another book by request...