About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a seven-year-old son and a wife living in Los Angeles. I was a public school teacher for twelve years until a chronic medical condition made it necessary to leave my teaching career.

I've always been described as "quiet" - really, I'm just biting my tongue. I've got lots to say, and lots of thoughts to share, I just prefer to write them. That's the purpose of this blog. Each Wednesday, I post a personal essay offering my observations and thoughts.

A few fun facts about me: I've wanted to be a writer since second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me a "book" with a yellow construction paper cover. I have never learned to whistle, have always preferred sunflowers to roses, and have spent my life living within the same zip code.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, DivineCaroline.com, RoleReboot.org, XOJane, and Brain, Child Magazine. Additionally, my personal essays have been included in several anthologies, including: The Barefoot Review, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World, Ka-Pow!, How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times, Breath and Shadow, The Grey Wolfe Storybook, and Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
I am a regular contributor at MomsLA.com, and you can also find me at Goodreads.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Feel free to comment and share my blog with others!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now What?

When I was in fourth grade, I watched the Challenger space shuttle explode, killing all seven astronauts on board - including a high school teacher.  I then decided I was going to be an astronaut.  In middle school, I made my decision even more specific - I would be the first woman to walk on the moon.
In high school, I volunteered in an elementary school as part of a course titled, “World of Education.”  I didn’t want to teach; I was tired of school and ready to be done.  The class was supposed to be an easy “A” for me.  And it was; except, I loved what I was doing.  I loved making a difference in a child’s life.
I decided I would become a teacher.
I went through college on a mission - to graduate and find a teaching position close to my home.  I did both.  And I have taught in the same elementary school for ten years.  
Now, I’m tired.  I’m burned out.  I’m frustrated.  I don’t feel like I’m making a difference.  I don’t feel valued or respected or appreciated.  And to make it worse, I’m a mom now.  So I come home from work after spending six hours with other people’s children and feel I have little energy left for my own child.  I feel like the best of me was spent doing things that I don’t want to do with people I don’t want to do them with.  (Does anyone ever really want to spend an hour discussing equivalent fractions or the rules for apostrophes?)
So, what do I do now?  I’ve got a three-year-old at home, and can’t afford not to be a two-parent-working-family.  The economy isn’t exactly booming and jobs aren’t exactly plentiful.  
I wanted a job, a career, that was meaningful and beneficial, that made a difference.  Teaching is supposed to do that.  I wanted a career to be proud of, that my son would be proud to say, “That’s my mom.”
Yet, more and more, I find myself intrigued by the idea of a more “simple” job.  “Simple” meaning you go to your place of employment, work your hours, and you’re done.  No work to bring home.  No papers to grade while I eat a bagel in the morning.  No lessons to plan after my son is asleep at night.  A job that would have a definitive start and a definitive ending time.
I really noticed a change in my thinking a few months ago.  Struggling with an on-going health problem, I realized that if I was told, heaven forbid, that I suffered some sort of fatal illness, I would not keep teaching.  I would resign.  I would not want to spend my limited time at my current profession.  But, time is limited.  I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t think this is how I want to spend my present.
“Dreams to Jobs” is the name of one of our fourth grade Open Court Reading units.  My students come from families who practice a myriad of jobs - ranging from housecleaning to nursing.  I inform my students that all jobs are important, all jobs matter.  And I mean it.   Now, as a ten-year teacher on the verge of burnout, I am reminding myself of this same thing.  The person who works at Coffee Bean is no less important than I am.  I go to Coffee Bean assuming someone will be working and able to prepare my beverage correctly.  I shop at Trader Joe’s with the assumption that the food will be properly displayed and a cashier will be operating the register so that I may pay for my groceries and go home.  Those jobs are important.  They matter.  Their importance (and stress level) is just different than that of a teacher’s.
As a mother, I think I want to spend my time differently.  I want my concerns to be more about my child than other people’s children.  I want to go home at the end of the day feeling like my work was appreciated and valued.  (I regularly thank any cashiers and retail employees I come into contact with.) 
When I was nine, I knew I would be an astronaut.  I was certain of it.  I was wrong.
When I was sixteen, I knew I would be a teacher.  I was certain of it.  I am.  I’m doing it.  
Now, I’m thirty-five.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.
But that’s the scary part ...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Lie Paved with Good Intentions

I lied to my son’s pediatrician.  
At my son’s last check-up, we were asked the usual questions regarding our son’s eating and sleeping habits and the number of hours my son spends watching TV.  And I lied.  I knew what the doctor wanted to hear.  And, for the most part, I am doing everything my doctor would approve of.  But “for the most part” is not all the time.  There’s actually no such thing as raising a child and doing something “all the time,” unless we’re talking about loving a child and showering a child with affection.
There are days when my son watches a couple of hours of television.  He may watch a “Baby Einstein DVD” while I am getting dressed for work.  He may want to snuggle on my bed and watch the same Baby Einstein when I come home from work.  And when my husband is home with my son, I know the two of them will be playing some Nintendo Mario game and watching multiple Michael Jackson concert videos.
There are other days when my son and I won’t watch anything.  We’ll play and read and tickle.  We’ll cook and paint and do everything but turn on a television set.  That’s life.  Some days are more “imbalanced” than others.
Some days I eat several servings of fruits and vegetables.  So does my son.  Other days, he doesn’t want to eat, except for multiple servings of chocolate pudding.  And bottom line, I want my son to eat so I will let him eat 3 puddings in one day.
My son primarily drinks milk and water, and an occasional fruit juice with his babysitter at the Farmer’s Market.  My son loves chocolate, ice cream, French fries, and tortilla chips.  My son also loves carrots, cucumbers, apples, and watermelon.  
For me, it’s all about moderation.  My son will eat a bowl of ice cream and tell me when he’s had enough.  My son will eat from a plate of Johnny Rockets French fries and let me know when he’s full.  That’s when I know I’m doing my job.  My son understands the concept of eating until you’re full and knowing when to stop.
Likewise, my son will sometimes ask to watch tv.  And he will sometimes be the one who asks me to turn it off so we can go work on his circus puzzle instead.
So, to Dr. K, I apologize that I wasn’t upfront with you.  Please know, our lie was not intended to be malicious.  It was just one of those incidences when telling a fib was easier than telling the truth.  The truth is my son is not drinking soda, not eating Happy Meals, and not watching television in the car.  My son does know his first and last names, the letters of the alphabet, and shapes and colors.
My son is happy.  He is healthy.  
That’s all I can ask for.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The A to Z List of Meaningful Foods in My Life

A Avocado.  My favorite sandwich is an avocado sandwich.  Simple - a roll, lettuce, avocado, and mayonnaise.  Pure delight.  On the flip side, pure fear.  I once cut the palm of my hand as I attempted to slice and de-pit an avocado.  
B Banana split.  The first time I ever indulged in this ice cream treat was during our trip to Paris.  In an Italian restaurant.  There is nothing about that sentence that makes sense, except the certainty that unexpected, unplanned things happen.  We knew where we were staying, knew what we wanted to do each day in the City of Light, but we had no idea where we wanted to eat.  So, we ate at the restaurant down the street from our hotel.  An Italian restaurant with comfortable food, a friendly restaurateur, and a banana split that was served lit up with sparklers.
C Chocolate chip cookies.  After the birth of my son, I was in a waiting game - waiting to see how my body would heal from the trauma of childbirth, waiting to see if I would need a blood transfusion.  In direct opposition to my agony, was my complete joy - joy spent marveling at the awe that is my son.  Enjoyment found in the mid-afternoon delivery of my snack - two warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies.
D Dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate by itself.  Dark chocolate covered raisins, almonds, macadamia nuts, or pretzels.  A staple in my pantry, in one form or another. 
E Eggs Benedict.  My absolute favorite breakfast meal.  Difficult to make myself and expensive to enjoy while dining out.  But on a road trip along the California coast, we ventured along Highway 1, in awe and in fear of the twists and turns.  We ate at a restaurant that offered us terrific views of the Pacific Ocean  and exquisite Eggs Benedict.    
F Filet mignon.  Although not a vegetarian, I am not a steak eater.  Except this particular steak, cooked at my favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach.  It is a steak that is soft and smooth like butter that seems to melt in my  mouth. 
G Graham crackers.  My sister and I took swimming lessons and after kicking and splashing and blowing bubbles in the water for an hour, our instructors gave us graham crackers as a snack.  To this day, when I eat a graham cracker (which isn’t often), I can still smell the chlorine.
H Hula pie.  On our honeymoon in Maui, we received a recommendation for a certain restaurant.  This eatery featured a dessert known as “Hula Pie” - some chocolate/ice cream concoction that I can’t remember fully.  I do remember taking the left-overs “to go” - back to our hotel room where my groom and I attempted to eat the left-overs with our bare hands.
I Ice cream.  Square scoops of chocolate from Thrifty’s Drugstore.  Two-scoop sundaes from Baskin Robbins.  Eaten at home while watching a movie - chocolate ice cream with chopped up bananas, chocolate chips, and chocolate syrup.  And now, the enjoyment takes on a new level, as I share bowls of ice cream with my son.
J Jelly beans.  My husband ate them during the labor and delivery of our son.  During our childbirth classes, fathers and coaches were advised to snack during the birthing process to lessen the risk of them becoming faint and light-headed during the time us mommies would need them most.  However, let’s be honest, ladies are doing all the work.  All the support and encouragement and reminders to breathe don’t actually compare to the process of “pushing something the size of a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon” (to borrow a quote from Look Who’s Talking).  And so, between contractions, my husband snacked on his jelly beans.
K Ketchup.  Ketchup on my french fries, on my hamburger, on my hot dog.  Cold, left-over Thanksgiving turkey dipped in ketchup.  Leftover meatloaf, unheated, and dipped in ketchup.  All this for a girl who doesn’t eat tomatoes.
L Lox.  Bagels, lox, and cream cheese.  One of my mom’s special breakfasts.  Maybe it’s just me, but the whole combination never tastes as good as when I order the meal from our local bagel shop.  Dollops of cream cheese.  Thick slices of lox.  A toasted bagel.  It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.
M Mocha.  Cafe mocha.  My first coffee house drink.  I was so intrigued by cappuccino and espresso; yet as a just-out-of-high-school student I had no idea what any of them were.  Cafe mocha was the coffee drink for me.  Chocolate.  Whip cream.  Not too strong.  And years later, the drink I would enjoy on the first date with the man who would become my husband.
N Nutella crepe eaten in Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.  My first trip to Paris had a few requirements.  See the Eiffel Tower and ride up (we made it to the second level).  See the Mona Lisa.  Sail along the Seine.  Eat a crepe in Paris.
O Orange juice for a brisk, healthy start to the day.  A mimosa for a celebratory start to the day.  I enjoyed my first mimosa while dining with my parents at a 50s-style diner.  Although I love the idea of them, mimosa consumption has been few and far between.  They just don’t fit with my 5 a.m. morning wake-ups. 
P Pizza.  More specifically, pizza topped with avocado.  My husband and I had taken the train to Santa Barbara for the day.  We didn’t own a car at the time but were eager to venture out of Los Angeles.  Everything went as planned until it was time to come home.  There was a problem with the Amtrak train farther north that was causing hours’ worth of delay further south.  We were stranded at the train station, waiting for a train whose arrival time was unknown.  We wound up ordering pizza from a nearby restaurant and eating it in the train station.  However, because we were in Santa Barbara, this particular pizzeria offered an avocado topping.
Q Quesadillas.  To celebrate Cinco de Mayo in my classroom, I bring in my electric grill and prepare cheese quesadillas for my students.  Some students are skeptical, having never tasted a quesadilla before.  Some students are critical, complaining about the lack of salsa or guacamole.  Some students are quite impressed and compliment my good cooking.
R Rice with melted cheese.  My mom made this dish for us.  And although I don’t know if this is accurate, I remember eating it more often on cold, rainy days.  Instant rice sitting on the stove, cheese placed on top, melted throughout.  A sprinkling of pepper.  It seems simple enough, yet whenever I try, my rice with melted cheese does not taste as good as my mom’s.
S “Scallops and chips.”  That’s what the menu said, in addition to the more traditional “fish and chips.”  Lightly breaded and fried, decadent scallops.  Found at a pier-front restaurant in Avila Beach, along the central coast of California.  An eatery over the ocean with glass-bottom tables so we could watch the show below.
T Tostada.  In seventh grade, I prepared tostadas for my family’s dinner as part of my homework for my health class.  It was relatively simple, everyone ate it, and I was able to incorporate a member from each of the main food groups.  Many years later, I would once again cook tostadas in my mom’s kitchen, although this time, eating with my family was the man who would one day become my husband.
U Upside-down cake.  I’ve never prepared an upside-down cake.  I’ve eaten cake right-side-up, upside-down, and on-it’s-side.  Cake is cake, and it’s all going in the same place.
V Vanilla ice cream.  Not my favorite and never my first choice for ice cream.  However, there’s something about a soft-serve ice cream cone from McDonald’s that breaks that rule.  That is one ice cream cone I will order and enjoy.
W Whoppers.  The first meal in our first apartment, eaten cross-legged on the floor.  I can still see my husband, grinning and wearing a white a-shirt.
X Xigua, the Chinese name for watermelon.  Watermelon-flavored candies.  Watermelon slices that tell me summer is here.  And watermelon juice that my son enjoys at the Farmer’s Market.
Y Yolk.  When I eat a hard-boiled egg, I don’t eat the yolk.  When I go out for breakfast, I order my eggs over-easy and enjoy using my toast to sop up the broken yolk from the plate.
Z Zucchini, fried and battered, and then dipped in ranch dressing.  Enjoyed at a fast food restaurant.  A meal that was most memorable because of the friend I enjoyed it with.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In the Land of 3

My son is three years old.
Three.  A full-fledged toddler.  He stopped being a baby a while ago.  Stopped looking like one when his baby face left and a big boy face revealed itself in its place.  He stopped sounding like one when he began talking in sentences, talking about Monet’s Waterlilies and butterflies being beautiful.
Now, “3” seems like this monumental number with so many different meanings in my son’s life (and my life, as well):

It began when I was pregnant.  Our health was measured in terms of trimesters.  
My son arrived several days early.  He was ready to join the world and chose to do so on an auspicious day - March 30th, or 03-30.  He shares his birthday with my mom and Vincent Van Gogh, for a total of 3 pretty incredible people born on that day.
Unlike myself, my son has three initials.  His middle name was easily chosen; it honors his late uncle, his daddy’s younger brother.  
There are three boys in our family - Ryan and his two cousins, Matthew and Christopher.
Our immediate family has three members - Ryan, Mommy, and Daddy.
At my son’s three-year-old check up, he measured 3 feet, 3.5 inches tall and weighed 36 pounds.  As if I could forget that he is now 3, his measurements are entirely made up of 3’s.
Lastly, Ryan received a tricycle for his birthday.  My son is now learning to be mobile on a three-wheeled device.  Watching my son “ride” up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, with his Toy Story helmet on, I began to cry.  My son is a little boy.  For ever on, he will be my “sweet pea,” my “angel pie,” but he is certainly no longer a baby.  We’re ready for the next batch of adventures awaiting us in the land of 3 and beyond.