Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Sorry for the paltry post, but I was in Las Vegas this weekend, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. (I know, woe me, right?)

I’ve been putting in some long hours at work. Hopefully, I’ve had at least a couple mornings to sleep in and return rejuvenated in all aspects of my life. The kids are off from school the next two weeks and home with me while I work. I’ll let you know how that goes…

What’s up with you?

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About Elisa

I am a journalist and online organizer who is the co-publisher of this blog. When I am not online, I am shuttling around my two kids, an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

73 thoughts on “Monday Morning Open Thread

  1. Here are 3 good things today:

    1. Baby’s been smiling at me :)
    2. My good friends set up a project to raise money for one friends’ husband’s home village in Nigeria (where his mother and brother live). The village has no clean water, and we raised more than enough, 10 days ahead of schedule, to restore power to the well and give them clean water, as well as provide rice for some of the widows. So yay!
    3. Dh is working on the login issues and he thinks it was because he tweaked some settings last week but will give it another once over to make sure that was all it was. The interview went well, thanks for the well wishes!

  2. I know we all have ways of fooling ourselves into feeling safe, and here is mine: at both my kids’ schools, each classroom opens to the outdoors. It’s a Montessori thing. But the likelihood of getting trapped by a gunwielding crazy is smaller when every classroom has an escape route.

    On the other hand … the only scare came when there was a gun-wielding robber OUTSIDE the school as he ran from cops after a gas station hold up, and the kids had to take cover in the inner hallway while the chase took place in the woods outside the school.

    So there’s that.

    • Wow, that’s unusual for a midwest school. In California, all of our elementary school’s where I lived opened to the outside, there were no interior hallways. The rooms did connect to one another, though. Our Montessori school has the typical interior classroom doors, but it used to be a (very small) public school way back when.

      The only way I’ve been able to keep my chin up and go about my days is by likening it to auto accidents. I’m in danger of an auto accident several times per day, and yet I fearlessly get in the car over and over and do my best to be a defensive driver. At this point, I see gun violence being not a faraway, happens-to-other-people, crazy random news story, but something that we will experience personally at some point. Not if, but when, and how the hell can I prepare us? Just like a fire escape plan at home.

      • My son’s school was built to be a Montessori school, and my daughter’s school use to be a church that they remodeled to be a Montessori preschool. But the regular elementary school across the street from my house looks just like the Newtown school, has about 700 students, and has an inner and and outer ring of classrooms, with only a few doors to the outside.

      • That is the way our schools are here, all halls are outdoor and classrooms only open to the outside. Their procedure though for this type of situation is still to lock the doors and stay inside. They’ve practiced lockdowns and actually there was one when my DS1 was in kinder with someone in the neighborhood who was running from police after a robbery.

        It sounds like you are more mentally prepared than I am. Even though it happens all the time now I still am going to be profoundly shocked if it happens here.

        • Well Ds’s school, like everything in pittsburgh, is at least 100 years old. Although its absolutely lovely, it wasn’t built for this type of thing. Ironically though, being in the city makes me feel safer because they’ve always had pretty tight security. and a good percentage of the teachers are male. I know, it doesn’t really matter but I feel like his gym teacher, or his transportation director for that matter, could tackle an intruder. I know, it’s a safety fantasy but let me keep it…

            • Gets the kids on and off the buses, takes care of bussing, supervises the student safety patrols, recess duty. I’m not sure if all the schools have them or just the magnets (which pull kids from all parts of the city as opposed to just one neighborhood).

          • DD’s elementary school is pretty old, too. The footprint is fairly small, but it’s a big brick 3-story building. Its layout and it being 2 blocks from the fire & police department (cops are constantly patrolling the area) and in our “downtown” vs. a residential “quiet” area makes me feel a little better. I feel like someone who was trying to break into the school (it has a camera & buzz-in system like Sandy Hook) would be noticed by the amount of foot traffic that’s usually around.

            Mostly I guess I don’t feel like there is anything they can do, though, and that’s a terrible feeling. The principal sent a letter out and said to tell young children that it was a bad person who did the shooting, and they are gone now and I can’t happen here. Um, lie. This town exactly the type of place these school shootings KEEP happening.

            • I am kind of surprised your principal did that.

              Our district just sent out some information including this guidance for parents:
              What can parents do to address the reactions of their child to a crisis situation?
              Speak to your child regarding the crisis and provide him/her with accurate information regarding the crisis in a language that he/she can understand.
              • Allow the child to express his/her thoughts and feelings without the fear of negative judgment
              • Reassure your child as much as you can while being truthful.
              • Reassure your child that you will continue to “be there” for him/her as long as needed.
              • Offer additional affection in the form of hugs and other physical contact.
              • Plan to spend additional individualized time with your child
              • Monitor the adjustment of your child. If the initial responses to crises persist, contact the teacher, principal, counselor or a physician for guidance.
              • Limit the amount of media exposure

              • Actually, it was the superintendent now that I look again. The principal’s letter (separate) had a similar point-by-point message to the one you posted.

                The line about how it wouldn’t happen here may really be geared toward small children who may just need comfort and not 100% blunt truth, but I just thought, nope, not going to say that part because I don’t believe it’s true:

                “I am also sure some of you are wondering what you should say and do to help your children through this experience. The most important thing to keep in mind is for your children to see you are calm, not afraid, and for them to maintain their regular routines. Coming to school tomorrow and continuing with their typical schedules will help them a great deal to move on. Children are resilient, and it is important you listen and respond based upon what is age appropriate. For younger children, hopefully, you can keep them away from the news, but if they do hear about this tragedy and ask questions, you should keep your response simple and reassuring. By telling your child there are unfortunately some bad people in this world who do bad things, but we are lucky they do not live around here, can be all they need to comfort them. Assuring them with confidence they are safe and will remain safe will, for most children, ease any concerns. For older children, you will want to listen to their concerns and try to answer them honestly, also assuring them of their safety. This is definitely one of those times when less is best, and again what most children need to hear is the confidence in their parents’ voices when they tell them they are safe.”

                • What I was taught was pretty straightforward- “little- littles” (under 7) don’t need to be told anything as they’re too small to understand and/or process the emotional complexity that they’ll encounter with a tragedy of this scale. If they come to us already knowing some pieces of information, offering them simple reassurance is best because they can’t process a lot more than that. (It may feel awkward to grown-ups to say “You’re safe here- that happened a long way away,” but that may end up being the best way to help them process in the immediate moment and telling them something more ambivalent won’t be of much use to them.) Older kids (8-12) can benefit from a longer conversation about the why’s and the ways adults try to keep them safe and the ways that we can’t control everything, but they’ll need more emotional support as they deal with their thoughts feelings. (They’re emotional reactions can be all over the map and may seem disconnected from the actual event, but be prepared for a higher level of drama and more need for connection with adults.) Teens may over-personalize the events, finding ways to make them about themselves and then reacting on a very personal level. They need to talk, talk, talk, talks. (I think it’s interesting that FB seems to be ground zero for that kind processing.)

    • My husband’s coworker actually put her kids into private school mainly because they didn’t feel comfortable with the open campus. But I’m inclined to agree with you; I prefer our classrooms that all have doors on opposite sides of the room, one or both of which lead outdoors. At the schools I attended in the northeast both doors always opened onto the same interior hallway. As PoB mentioned, lockdown drills keep kids in the room. But at least they have the ability to flee in the opposite direction. Small comfort, maybe.

  3. I know that social media is how people process things these days but when tragedy strikes, personally or nationally, this Yankee clams up and doesn’t talk about it and FB is … a bit overwhelming for me right now..I respect people’s opinions on all sides of the coin but … oh it’s alot. And I fully acknowledge that its probably only alot for me b/c I “process” this stuff internally or maybe in small conversations with Kelly or Liza and for this cold yankee stoic it feels like an assault on my carefully guarded walls right now… — the inside of my cheek is raw from biting it.

    • well I am not a Yankee but I second this. So I haven’t watched any news and am reading only a little bit about what happened. I can only pray that some changes to gun laws and how mental illness is dealt with come from it.

      • I have read several articles about it, but this morning I had NPR on in the car and they were discussing the funerals of the children, what the children liked, how many bullets etc etc and I had to turn it off.

        It is really weighing on me. There have been a lot of shootings, but this one in particular is just really hard to deal with.

        • it’s less the articles it’s the reactions to the tragedy that feel like too much — I tend to grieve very silently on any scale and it’s just a lot coming at one on twitter and FB right now

        • Yeah — there’s something different about this one. Maybe we all identify a bit with the defenselessness of those first graders? Or with the adults who were trying to keep them safe?

          I didn’t even realize how much I was dreading work on Monday morning until I walked in to the main building and saw our very tall Christmas tree, all lit up. It lifted a big weight off my heart. Corny, I know, but all those pagan rituals about using extra lights this time of year to keep us from going nights? They have something going for them.

  4. Strep again and Urgent Care screwed me. I went in on Sat and had a throat culture and they told me not to start antibiotics until the test came back and that they would call on Sunday. They didn’t call until today so I could have had 3 doses of antibiotics by then and instead I’ve probably been infecting everyone including my husband with the weakened immune system. Gah. I should have just started the antibiotics before the test came back like our family physician had me do last time due to my husband.

  5. Curious about the schools with classrooms that open to the outside — particularly those who open only to the outside. Are the outside doors normally unlocked? Our school safety plan relies heavily on the fact that there is one entrance where everyone must enter, all other doors remain locked. Entrance directs you through the office where you have to sign in with your license being scanned to check against sex offender lists. Then you get a name badge (print out of your drivers license photo and name and where in the school you are authorized to go).

    Just wondering if those doors to the outside are all locked during the school day?

    • Our school doors are unlocked when kids are around. They only lock the door if the room is empty so nobody can enter and take the teacher’s computer or whatever. (The kids’ stuff generally isn’t even in the classroom – they have hooks outside they hang their backpacks on.) I have just opened the door and walked into classrooms many many times.

      • You are “supposed” to stop by the office if you are a visitor during the school day (not before or after school, but midday) but there really is no way they could enforce that. They can’t even see people coming and going. There are front, back and side entrances to the campuses through the neighborhood and no fences or gates around the campus.

    • No, the doors are not locked during the school day, though some teachers lock their rooms during recess and assemblies. Visitors are supposed to sign in at the front office and pick up a badge but it would be very easy for someone to just walk in off the street – I’ve done it many times. In fact now that I have kids at two different schools I routinely park behind one child’s school, which means I walk through the playground and the middle of school to reach the office at the front.

      My son went to Jr K at a private elementary that had enclosed corridors and a locked front door, where the secretary had to buzz people in. I honestly don’t see how that’s any safer – I feel better about where we are now, with wide open spaces and a great deal of visibility.

    • All the doors at my son’s and daughter’s schools have one access point from the outside–the main foyer, where you must be buzzed in to enter. The doors that lead directly into the classrooms are locked from the inside, so you can exit but not enter. As security goes, it’s pretty good, especially at the preschool, which has a heavy wooden door (formerly a church). My son’s all-glass foyer, however, would not stand a chance against an assault rifle even though the door is locked.

      • I responded to our principal’s letter with a question about the glass. He mentioned the cameras and buzz-in system at our school, and I replied wondering what they could do about the glass. Maybe nothing? They may be up to the fire codes — if there is safety glass or bars, it could hamper fire rescues.

        • I’m hoping the fact we’re a crunchy granola peace-loving Montessori school means there are less gun-collecting preppers in our midst. Of course, that may also make us a target …

    • Front door is the only entrypoint not locked through the day – although the side doors have passcard things so the teachers/staff can get in and out if they take the kids out. Everyone enters through the front door and goes right past the main office.

    • At our schools, the elementary classrooms have two doors, both to the outside, on opposite sides of the room. The one on the street side is usually locked during the day, so you’d have to walk around to the playground side to enter the unlocked door.

      I am not inclined to go into full fortress mode. School attacks remain rare. The malaise that settles over a campus that has a fortress around it is real. Most of the measures people propose aren’t actually all that effective against a determined shooter. There is value in protecting the classrooms against a casual person just walking in and disrupting it (regardless of intent) and in being aware of the people who come and go. We have enough trouble getting parents to communicate with the school; I’m not thinking bulletproof glass would help.

    • Wow, that’s quite a process. Anyone can walk in off the street to my campus from at least 3 directions. If you’re an unfamiliar adult someone will notice fairly soon, but you could easily get the jump on someone if you chose to be stealthy.

  6. The front door at DD1’s school is not locked during the day, and there’s no security guard standing there. It was something I liked about this school, compared to the one in our neighborhood. Now I’m not so sure. When you walk in, there’s a sign that says to check in at the front office, which is just to the right. The receptionist sits there and sees you walk in through big windows, but I’m not sure she’s 100% attentive to who is coming and going. Maybe she is during the school day, but during the beginning or end of the school day it feels like kind of a free for all. It seems like someone could easily slip in during a time like that. I also don’t like that her classroom this year is only about 3-4 in from the front door. That’s not a good feeling today at all. They have a decent lockdown plan, but would her teacher have time to implement it? I am trying to not spend a lot of time thinking of that.

    I was also noticing DD2’s daycare today, how parents are always holding the door (that has secure keycard access) open for each other. It’s one thing in the morning when you are going out and an adult is coming in with a child–that seems pretty safe. But how many times have I forgotten my key at pickup time and someone has let me in? It’s a big enough place that I don’t know all the parents, not even close. And yet I let people who are standing there in when I’m going out. It feels kind of expected and like it would be rude not to. I know I wouldn’t let someone in who was brandishing an assault weapon, but how would anyone know if someone is dangerous or not?

    • Oh, that’s exactly what I’m NOT thinking about here at the office today. Bacon Baby’s setting is just like your DD2’s day care, and we have a similar culture of letting folks in with us. Now, mind you, we are starting to recognize the other parents who drop-off at the same time we do (and presumably, DH recognizes a lot of the parents at pick-up time), but you know….it could be one of them (or one of us, in theory) who acts.

      I am choosing not to think about this too much, or we’ll end up barricaded in our home and never going anywhere for any reason. And that’s bound to be worse, on balance.

      • I agree. What are our options, realistically – keep our children in windowless vaults until they’re old enough for a concealed carry permit? My grocery store doesn’t have a buzzer and background checks, and while the kids are (usually) with me I’d be no more effective against an armed lunatic than the average school secretary.

        • Oh I totally agree with you both–I don’t think there’s a way to make sure our kids are 100% safe and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like what we would come up with if we tried. There are so many ways we are all vulnerable in the world that we normally just overlook (or live in denial about). Events like this just make me realize how easily punctured that denial really is.

          I’m kind of an unproductive mess today. I’ve avoided going down the rabbit hole until now, but I’m there. My colleague’s gorgeous and smart and sweet 16 yo daughter was just hospitalized last night because they found a suicide note she was working on on her computer. So sad for them all. DD2 is approaching the age DD1 was when we almost lost her, which brings more anxiety with each passing day. Sometimes the vulnerability of our kids just really really gets to me. Physical illness, mental illness, violence…sometimes it just seems like too much to live with and move forward. And yet we do, because we have to. But I really want to crawl under my covers and not come out.

          • Scooch over, I’m coming in with you. I don’t want to be paranoid and I really try to live fearlessly but my God. The principal standing outside of the schooll this morning greeting the children made me burst into tears.

            • Ugh. Hugs to you and everyone.

              Friday happened to be Maya’s last day of school before winter break.

              I am so grateful for that right now. After the CT shooting and being locked down in that mall on Saturday, I don’t know that I could have handled sending Maya off to school today. I am alternating between “nothing really happened, we were never in any real danger” and “WTF am I saying, some guy shot 50 bullets off very close to where I had just parked my car. It’s a miracle no one was hurt.”

              Then I read this piece, and more tears. Ugh,

              • Wow–that was a great piece. I wrote Lucy’s 1st grade teacher an email this past weekend and I think she appreciated it, but it wasn’t nearly as well-written as this.

    • not thinking about it at all.. going on.. bringing liza to school, working all the time in a crowded public theater.. and just going about life. doesn’t help to think about it or imagine it so I don’t and I won’t.

      • I wish I could just not. My DH basically said the same thing, “just don’t think about it and don’t read the news” when I complained about feeling sad. It wasn’t that easy for me today, though. At least it didn’t FEEL easy to resist today for some reason. I’m not good at just buckling down and working on other things when there are upsetting thoughts intruding. Tomorrow I’m not going to try to work at home, I think I need more structure and people around to be less likely to wallow in despair. And I have a few errands to run, so that’ll be good. I think it’s a combo of Connecticut, but also my colleague’s daughter and thinking about our close call with Lucy. Life is just a lot more fragile than I want to pretend it is.

        • it’s very fragile… but I can’t let that rule me… Liza said “I’m scared that could happen here” and I just said “you can’t be.. we get up we go to school, we go to work and we love each other and we carry on…” My heart breaks for what happened and the pain of those families is immense… but I just have to separate my empathy and sympathy for them and what they are enduring from my life. It’s just the only way how I know how to be…

  7. I had tried over the weekend not to hear stories about the individual children because I thought it would just be too painful — then heard this afternoon that one of the little boys who was killed had a twin sister. I had been thinking about that earlier today, how would my kids deal with it if something happened to their twin, and then heard this story. My heart just keeps breaking.

  8. How much do I love that DS (11) just sent me his letter for Santa? I think this is my favorite part:

    Before i get to my christmas list, i need you to clarify something. is it that the reindeer can fly on christmas eve or that they are born able to fly or there is invisible ground underneath them?

  9. I have a mama brag that I want to share, because I need to remember that there are good things going on. Jess’s teachers told me yesterday that they’re very proud of her because she’s taken on a real leadership role in helping the kindergarteners transition into first grade. Our school is a multi-age classroom model, where the kindergarteners are in a class together, but then the classes are mixed 1-3rd graders and 4-6th graders. It’s got plusses and minuses, like everything else, of course.

    Well, they have an orientation program to step the kindergarteners up, and apparently, Jess has taken some of the kids under her wing to assuage their nervousness. The teacher told me of one particular incident, in which Jess went up to a little girl who was crying, put her arm around her shoulder and said, “there, there, let’s go find something that you’ll enjoy doing and we can do it together.”

    Made my heart sing, it did.

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