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May 2013 entries

Cold and Rainy!

It's hard not to want some pizza on a cold and rainy day like today! I put a mozzarella and arugula frozen pizza in the oven and didn't eat the crusts.

I could almost instantly tell the difference between a wheat-full meal and a non-wheat meal. My stomach is fuller, but not in a good way.

But, I really like pizza. I suppose we need some Ben Franklin wisdom here: "Everything in moderation."

Cold and Rainy!

Do I Have a Wheat Belly? Egad!

When I got pregnant with Liam, I weighed about 12 pounds less than I do now. I have never been able to reach that pre-Liam weight. (Yes, one theory is that it's all his fault.) Even when I trained for my half-marathon this fall and my running was regular and included distances in the double-digits. Lately, my running has suffered a bit because of my schedule: fall play turned into spring musical turned into spring sports for the kids. But, I am not "inactive" by any stretch of the imagination. I am the mother of three very busy kids. Even though people tell me that they can't see the 10-12 pounds I've put on, I know it's there. And I know that as I get older, it's only going to get more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. I've also noticed a decline in energy and an increase in fatigue.

I stumbled upon a best-selling iBook called "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis. Perhaps you've seen him on Dr. Oz's show, or on any variety of television features lately. Dr. Davis is a cardiologist who recommended that his patients cut out wheat to combat pre-diabetes and diabetes conditions. Why wheat? Because whole wheat bread raises blood sugar index as much as or more than table sugar. I was surprised by that. Aren't we always hearing how we should increase our whole grains? Dr. Davis's book outlines the history of what is now our modern wheat -- it's not our grandmother's wheat, that's for sure. Those amber waves of grain are about 18 inches high now.

Wheat also has an effect on the brain which is similar to addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. Wheat is used as a filler in many, many food precisely because of this addictive effect. Make people want to eat more = make more profit. The logic is not difficult to follow, really.

As I started to read "Wheat Belly," I found his discussion of modern athletes to ring true. Dr. Davis found himself overweight despite running 3-5 miles several times a week and following the commonly prescribed pyramid diet. When he advised patients to cut the wheat, guess what happened? They lost weight, their symptoms (lethargy, IBS complications, rashes, chronic headaches and joint pain) disappeared. He was focusing on their blood sugar levels and discovered amazing side effects. When those same patients re-introduced wheat into their system, they noticed an increase in their symptoms.

I have decided to attempt the wheat-free (or as close to it as possible!) lifestyle for a week. I showed a TED talk by Google engineer Matt Cutts to my rising juniors last week. As part of their summer journal assignment, I've encouraged them to try a variation of his 30-Day challenge -- I made it a 7-Day challenge instead. His philosophy is simple: small, manageable changes are more sustainable. Time becomes more meaningful because life is being lived deliberately.

I will track my progress here on my blog. I've started the day with scrambled eggs and black coffee (the black coffee is a story for another day...quick version: a student who is a barista at Alabaster taught me that if the coffee is good, I really don't need cream or sugar).

AP Final Grading Time

I love reading the 10-page finals my AP kids write. I require them to keep a portfolio of their writing all year. In their final, they must analyze their best and worst essays, revise their worst essay, then reflect on their growth as writers, as readers, as students. Reading what they observe about themselves is rewarding, to say the least.

"My view on life has honestly changed for the better, and I thank you for that, Mrs. Connor. Thank you for making me a better person and especially a better reader."

Day = Made

Detective Mrs. Connor

I've been noticing a rather strange habit among my male students. Some wear elastic hair bands on their wrists. I keep asking them why, and haven't heard a satisfactory answer until today.

Me: "Ok, what's up with the hair band? Seriously."

Student: "I just wear it."

Me: "That is not true. You don't have long hair. Why do you have that on?"

Student sheepishly grins, looks down. "Well, my girlfriend makes me wear it."

Cue the high wattage light bulb above my head.

"Oh my goodness! She marked you, didn't she? It's a sign to other girls that you are taken, isn't it?!"

Student: "Well, um...yeah."

Me: pausing, gloating with smug satisfaction.

Student: "So, can I go to my locker now?"

Detective Mrs. Connor

Too Much Self Esteem?

This may be a controversial post, but I'm not going to apologize for it. Let me begin by staying the obvious: I love my children with my whole heart.

But, I will say this: we over-praise our kids in society in general. This does not apply to every child, to every family. I am simply commenting on what I notice from time to time.

Perhaps this illustration will help. On Sunday, Aidan and his fellow First Holy Communion classmates participated in the crowning of the Blessed Mother statue after mass. Here is what they were expected to do: behave at mass (seated together as a class), walk down the aisle before Father in the recessional, go outside and stand respectfully. One girl from the class assisted in handing the wreath to the 12th grade girl who placed it on Mary. We sang one verse of a hymn and said a prayer.

Now, is it appropriate to let the kids know they performed to our expectations? Yes. Positive reinforcement is a valuable tool. But, the tendency I've noticed is to gush, "Oh wow!!! You guys did such a great job!!! You are so amazing!!!"

Job? What job? They behaved as children should behave in public. They accomplished no great feat. If anyone deserves a little extra praise, it's Katie, the girl who actually did something during the ceremony.

Am I against praising our kids? No, but I say let them actually do something remarkable before we start gushing. Here's why: when we over-praise normal behavior, we send them the message that our expectations for them are woefully low. When we over-praise normal behavior, kids accept those woefully low expectations.

At the same ceremony, some of the 12th grade boys sitting in the pew behind the second graders behaved like a bunch of clowns. During the most solemn parts of the mass, they were whispering and joking. Three adults reprimanded them at various points in the service. This same group of seniors are praised constantly for being senior theologians and for coming to Sunday school classes (dare I say this is normally expected behavior?). As Aidan insightfully noted, "They are supposed to be the role models. Quote, quote."

Maybe those senior boys are reaching the low expectations that have been set for them. Maybe we have failed them in some way for praising them when we know deep down they are capable of so much more.

I know that kids are capable of truly remarkable things. I have students who learned of a friend's tragic death and then took the stage to finish the last act of The Crucible. I have students who deal with hiding their poverty and help their parents pay bills in the well-off town of Montoursville. I have students who face graduation with little parental support in their chosen fields of study. I have students who have buried a parent yet go on to star in the musical. I have students who accomplish what they only dreamed was possible.

And I believe that part of the reason is that their teachers, mentors, coaches, and parents do not accept mediocrity as the final draft of their life's essay.