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February 2008 entries

Just who is Gabriel??

I have to vent a little here.  Since Gabrielle was born, our doctor's office staff has insisted on calling her "GABRIEL" as in the boy's name.  Yes, Gabrielle is the female version of Gabriel, the archangel who announces the impending birth of the Christ child to Mary (, and that was certainly part of the reason that we chose the name for our daughter. . .Gabriel 

BUT I was a little annoyed when I received a voicemail message today from our doctor's office in which a staff member chattered on and on about needing to reschedule "Gabriel's" appointment and "his" new appointment time.  I mean, come on. 

Gabrielle's middle name is Rebekah, which is in honor of my paternal grandmother, Reba Hershey, and in honor of my father, Ken Hershey, who originally wanted to call me by that name when I entered the world ill-equipped to be "Dennis Michael."  As you know, my mother won that debate and I became "Denise Michelle" instead.  We took the spelling of Rebekah from Genesis; Rebekah is the wife of Isaac and mother of the infamous brothers Jacob and Esau.  It was at Rebekah's prompting that Jacob hoodwinked his aging father into giving him Esau's birthright.  The name Rebekah literally means, "to bind; toRebekah ensnare."  Perhaps an odd choice for a little girl, but the connection to my family superceded the allusion to the scheming of the Old Testament character.

I suppose I should be accustomed to people totally missing the point with our children's names.  When I was pregnant with Aidan, Michael and I poured over The Dictionary of Saints, especially considering the names of the Irish saints and their stories.  We decided on Aidan because of his commitment to the poor (he once received a horse as a gift and promptly gave it to the next peasant he saw because heSaint_aidan didn't want to be above the people) and his zeal for knowledge (he established the first monastery at Lindisfarne, Ireland). 

We chose Michael in an obvious reference to Aidan's father, but also in honor of St. Michael the Archangel (now that I think of it, I suppose that if we have a third child, we'll have to work in "Raphael" somewhere so we hit the trio of archangels mentioned by name in the Scriptures!).  Michael

Image our dismay when someone asked us, after learning Aidan's name, if we named him "after the character in Sex in the City." 

All Quiet on the Western Front

Aidan went to Grandma Tina's for the night.  Just before they left, Aidan put on his coat.  Gabrielle walked over to the coat rack and said, "Coat."  She didn't get it.  When Aidan puts on his coat, she does too...where did he think he was going without her? 

She got over it quickly, and just before bed, she said something in baby gibberish which I think could be translated, "Can we get rid of Aidan?  This was fun."  :)

Mike and I both commented on how quiet and lonely it was without little Aidan jammering around about his dinosaurs.  I never understood how some parents can't wait to get away from their kids.  Aidan and Baby Elle are our life . . . what would we be without them? 


A Visual Aid

I've already written about the phenomenon of Holocaust fatigue, but what I encountered today in one of my English classes went beyond fatigue to irreverence.  I was explaining the concept of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a psychological theory that Maslowis illustrated in a pyramid in which basic human needs like food and water are at the foundation.  Once these needs are met, we worry about safety and security; next, love and belongingness; next self-esteeem; next what Maslow calls self-actualization: What is the meaning of life?  Why am I here?  What am I called to do?  The theory basically states that we can't ask those meaning-of-life questions if we aren't sure where our next meal is coming from.  This is what happened to the Jews in the concentration camps that Wiesel describes in Night.  Sons turn against their fathers for a scrap of bread, a ladle of soup.  Why?  Because when we are so deprived of our physical needs, we transform into primal beings and survival is paramount.

This is (and I flatter myself here) a pretty interesting and engaging way of discussing this book.  During my English 10 class today, I had a student make an irreverent and frankly, disgusting comment about the crematoria utilized to exterminate Jews.  I was astounded.  I grabbed a framed 5 by 7 photo of Gabrielle from my desk and held it up for each student to see.  I told them to take a good look at her, that Gabrielle is 1 year old.  In the beginning of Night, a Jew tells Elie that he saw SS soliders toss infants like Gabrielle in the air so that they could use them as target practice for their machine guns.  In another passage, Elie describes seeing with his own eyes children, just like Gabrielle, just as innocent and beautiful, burning alive in ditches made by Nazi soldiers.  My eyes were not the only ones with tears in them as I asked my class what could possibly be funny about this situation. 

After a significant silence, we continued with the discussion.  I can only hope that something I said today sunk in.  I felt even more validated about teaching the Holocaust as I drove to school this morning and heard a piece on NPR about Kenyans speading hate-mail via cell phone text messages.  Tribe versus tribe, hatred for another race or creed, it is the same old ignorance, only this time, instead of messages dropped en masse from military airplanes, we have high-speed technology propogating hatred and violence. 

I have faith in the ability of Wiesel's book to change lives.  Remember the student I wrote about who said she didn't get why we had to keep talking about the Holocaust?  I asked her yesterday if she felt differently after having read the book, and she said . . . YES!  She said she had no idea that it was like this.  She said that The Diary of Anne Frank paled in comparision (and rightly so -- I think that Anne Frank is read at the 8th grade level).  She told me that she was moved to tears several times, and that Night made her rethink how she discriminates or judges people in everyday life.  Yes!  A victory indeed. 

Happy Birthday, "Big" Sis!

My sister, Jennifer, is well...I won't say how old she is...but she was 30 last year.  ;)  And I can't even call her my "big" sister anymore because she is now skinny-minny and I think size 2 is baggy on her.  She has lost 170 lbs in the past two years! In addition, she is works in a very challenging job at Children and Youth Services in Fulton County, PA.  She is also married to a nice man named Tom, and she is the mom of my awesome nephew, Dakota, and she is working on her master's degree. 


Happy Birthday, Jen!

a.k.a. "Aunt Jen" :) Aidan saw the picture, and said, "Mommy, that's Aunt Jen...she's your sister...and Baby Elle is my sister...and Aunt Michelle is Daddy's sister...and ...." then he pretty much named every pair of siblings with a sister that he knows of.  :)

Why I Don't Watch TV: An opinion piece for the school newspaper

          When a sophomore journalism student asked me to write an opinion piece for the school paper, I knew immediately that I would write about why I don’t watch television.  The fact that I don’t have cable (we do have a TV; we just use it to watch DVDs) has come up in several of my classes lately.  One student even went so far as to say that I am “depriving” my children by not having TV in the house.  So, what’s the deal?  Why don’t I watch TV?

            Think about this:  the most commonly heard complaint from people in our society today is that don’t have enough time – we are all so “busy” that we can’t seem to keep up with our work, our relationships, our communities.  Yet, somehow the average American manages to spend more than 4 hours a day watching television, according to A. C. Nielson, Co.  To make matters worse, approximately 66% of households eat dinner with the TV on.  How can we have meaningful conversations if we give the television more attention than we do each other?  Do we know the people we live with?  We all know what’s going on with Brittany and her custody battle and we are all so “moved” by the “tragic” death of Heath Ledger, but do we know each other?  Do we know what our parents or siblings are dealing with on a daily basis?  Do we care?  It is ironic that we avoid experiencing real life so that we can watch “reality” TV. 

            As a mother, I refuse to allow the television to speak more to my children than I do.  I find it troubling that by the time children reach elementary school, they will have witnessed more than 8,000 murders on television.  What good can come of that?  Does America need elementary school students who are desensitized to the value of human life?  My sophomore classes are currently studying Night, the beautiful memoir written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.  In Night, Wiesel tells the haunting story of his experience in Nazi labor and concentration camps; he describes the effect of men dehumanizing each other and ceasing to value human life.  When people can watch murder after murder on TV (or in real life, as was the case during the Holocaust) without blinking, we have lost respect for humanity.

            In addition to messages sent within television programs, I am concerned about filtering the content in advertisements.  Next time you turn on the tube, pay special attention to the commercials.  What are they assuming about you as their target audience?  Most often, advertisers appeal to our weaknesses – they will tell us that we are too fat and we need their product to lose weight, or they will tell us that we are too ugly and need their services to become beautiful.  Do you really need someone telling you that you are inadequate all the time?  Why are we such gluttons for punishment?  Look at the number of pharmaceutical commercials – why do we constantly need to medicate ourselves? 

            Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that all TV is evil, or that every home should be cable-free like mine.  I do think that we need to take control of what enters our minds.  I leave you with the following statistic from an organization called TV-Free America:

“Percentage of Americans who can name the Three Stooges: 59.

Percentage of Americans who can name at least three Supreme Court Justices: 17.” 

Can you really tell me that TV-watching isn’t a problem in our country?


I forgot this one...

Have you heard the Bob and Tom skit about the Star Wars figurines? (Yes, I am mentioning Star Wars here -- those of you who know me know my refusal to watch Star Wars...And this is another case in point -- why watch the movies if I get the cultural references??)

I digress.

Anyway, one of the funniest lines in the skit comes from the die-hard fan critiquing the newly remastered version of the film...when the CGI character enters the scene, he yells, "FAKE!" as if a science fiction character weren't fake to begin with.  Long story short, when Aidan fake-cries for attention, I call out, "FAKE!" (This would be better if you could hear me saying it...)

Today -- he totally "FAKED" me!!  We were playing the age-old game of "dogpile" (a.k.a. jump on each other and pretend to squash the person on the bottom) and I was feigning an injury.  Aidan's compassionate response?


Snow Day!

Wow, being a teacher is a pretty nice gig in the winter, isn't it?  Today, school was cancelled because of the weather, and I had the opportunity to hang out with my husband and kiddos.  We caught up on some scrapbooking and just plain had fun.

Tonight at dinner, Aidan asked Mike to blow on his hot food "more faster" so Mike practically hyperventilated on Aidan's plate.  Aidan said, "That was the silly thing I ever see in the werrald."

You fill in the gaps.  :)

Baby Elle is our little daredevil.  She insists on standing on a small plastic chair in Aidan's room to look at his "fsssh" Sharkbait (err...Sharkbait #2 and Goldfish #4? 5?).  She climbs up and then looks over her shoulder at us with this devilish glint in her eye as if to say, "I know I'm not supposed to be up here, but I'm so cute you don't care!"  She is going to give us a run for our money, that much I know.

And despite the snow, we received an awesome care package from Pappy and Grandmom-mom Hershey -- thanks for the 6 pairs of jeans for Aidan and 2 outfits for Gabrielle!  Aidan's 3T closet is now perfectly stocked, and his 2T pants are in storage.  :)  As Aidan would say, "You're the best in the werrald."

Oh, one last funny story -- Aidan is now saying, "Of course" instead of "yes" or "ok."  Example:

Me: "Aidan, can you please put these towels in the laundry basket?"

Aidan: "Of course, Mommy."

Me: "Thank you, sweetie bug."

Aidan: "Anything for you, dear."

NO LIE.  That was a transcript from an actual conversation I had with my three-year-old politician, I mean son, today. 

Are you kidding me?

In my teacher mailbox today was a paper asking me to select 8 senior girls to nominate for what amounted to a glorified beauty pagent.  We were to select girls who possessed "poise, charm, personality and ever-present awareness of her appearance" in addition, we were to keep in mind that the girls need to be unmarried and without children.

I can't remember the name of the contest...something about PA and Laurel Highlands or something.  I am paraphrasing most of the requirements because I left my paper at school.  I am going to email the teacher who sent it out what the heck it is.  I refuse to participate in something so shallow and degrading.  Women have made so much progress toward being treated equally that I cannot believe that contests like this one even exist.  Same goes for Miss America, etc. 

And why does this country continue to judge women based on superficial criteria?  Because we (women and men) perpetuate this nonesense.  I already lamented on this blog earlier this year about the inequity of the Homecoming Court at MHS.  The Queen was selected by first having the teachers select their favorite senior girls, then by having the student body vote based on who the teachers selected.  And how were the males honored at the Homecoming Dance?  Best Defensive Lineman and Best Offensive Lineman of the football team.  What a discrepancy!  The female place of "honor" (debatable) was based on popularity and let's be honest, good looks.  The male was chosen because of merit and performance.  Why can't the female court consist of star female athletes who earn their position on the same playing field, so to speak?

I could go on and on about'll probably hear more about gender issues this summer because I'll be developing my new elective for the 2008-09 school year: Gender Studies in Literature, Film, and the Media.  I am really excited about teaching the course -- it is designed for juniors and seniors, and I have been told that 39 students signed up for it!!  Wow!