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 25, 2012

The A to Z List of Kids

A Accessible.  Children are friendly; they want to talk (especially about themselves and their interests).  Young children,particularly, are open to new experiences; they are sponges, soaking everything up.  As such, they are the fastest and most natural learners.

B Boisterous.  This is one of those great words that can be a positive or a negative.  Children are lively, animated, and spirited - all synonyms for boisterous.  They can also be unruly, wild, and loud - more synonyms for boisterous.

C Curious.  Little ones will bombard adults with questions of “Why?” and “How?”  They want to know, to understand, to figure out.  And at a young age, children still believe that the adults in their lives know what they’re talking about.

D Determined.  Young children don’t give up very easily.  They are determined - “me do” is a popular refrain.  A child wants to be independent, wants to tie his own shoelaces, open her own box of raisins, get dressed “all by myself.”

E Effervescent.  The synonyms for “effervescent” perfectly describe children - bubbly, vivacious, happy, energetic.

F Fearless, to a certain extent.  Children have fears, sometimes irrational fears of imaginary monsters lurking under beds or in closets.  Those aside, children are, for the most part, fearless.  They will try the newest, fastest roller coaster.  Hop on a skateboard or scooter.  (Much to parents’ consternation, this fearlessness does not automatically extend to trying new foods).

G Gregarious.  For the most part, children are social creatures.  Their friends are vitally important to them, especially as they get older.  

H Honest.  Children will tell you when the meal you’re prepared for them is “yucky” or when my earrings don’t match my necklace.  They’re not trying to be mean; they’re being honest.

I Imaginative.  Children invent whole worlds, whole conversations.  Boxes become rockets and a laundry basket becomes a time machine.

J Jovial.  The younger they are, the more jovial children tend to be.  They are happy, and a young child (especially) is easily entertained, readily displaying a smiling countenance.

K Kinesthetic.  Children need to move their bodies.  They learn by doing.  They express themselves through movement, use their senses to take in their surroundings, and internalize this information through their bodies.

L Learners.  Kids are inherently curious and they want to learn how to do things.  They may not want to learn what the state of California dictates I teach them, but they want to learn how to do things, why things work the way they do.  And if a child learns about something he/she is excited about, that child remembers.

M Miraculous.  I think it’s the perfect word to describe a child.  Biology can explain cells reproducing; I think only a miracle accurately describes the birth of a child.

N Natural.  Kids are who they are.  They don’t worry if their outfits match, they never stop to consider if they have food stuck between their two-front-teeth.  Children are naturally self-confident, assured of their attractiveness, their competence, their talents.  They don’t stop being themselves until someone (usually an adult) tells them there is something wrong with them.  

O Observant.  children see and hear all.  Even when the adults around them attempt to whisper, attempt to hide a conversation, a present, or a package of cookies, a child knows.  Nothing seems to escape the eyes and ears of a child.

P Pure.  Children aren’t born knowing color-differences.  Children aren’t born knowing any prejudice or hatred.  It’s the adults in their lives that corrupt them and taint them and rob them of their purity.

Q Quotable.  It has been said countless times that children say the “darndest things.”  It’s true.  You can’t make up the things a child will say; adults aren’t that creative.  For my son, it’s phrases like “hunkback whale” and “eight, nime, ten” that bring a smile to my face. 

R Resourceful.  When a child wants something, he/she doesn’t give up easily.  When something doesn’t work as originally planned, a child will find an alternative method.  Children do what they need to do to get the job done - or most likely to play the game they want or eat the snack they’re craving.  

S Spontaneous.  Children don’t always think before they act (which is not always a bad thing).  They respond.  They react.  They feel, and act accordingly.

T Tireless.  I’ve been interacting with children for most of my life.  I have served as a babysitter, tutor, teacher’s assistant, teacher, and now mother.  And no matter how old I am, or in what capacity I’m serving, a child’s energy always surpasses mine.  I wish someone could devise a way of bottling it and selling it.

U Unpredictable.  You don’t always know how a child will act.  You can’t always predict what will set a child off.  Children’s moods change, rapidly.  What works on one day may not work another day.  What soothed a child yesterday, may startle that same child today.  

V Vivacious.  Children are inherently animated and lively.  Little ones, especially, can take the most mundane task and turn it into a celebratory event.

W Willful.  Stubborn.  Obstinate.  Pick your synonym, but most children can be described this way.  A child wants something and they want it now.  They want it their way.   

X Extraordinary.  Children are growing up with pressures and dangers and situations that were unheard of when we were children.  And still, they smile and laugh.  I give my students credit for getting out of bed each day and coming to school; the challenges in their personal lives are that difficult.  

Y Youthful.  Children aren’t afraid to be silly, they aren’t afraid to laugh when they’re happy, cry when they’re sad.  They are full of life.  They know how to play and how to enjoy the moment.  (Things adults seem to lose as we get older).

Z Zesty.  Children are spirited.  They are enthusiastic and energetic.  They are passionate.  They like and dislike with equal intensity.  They represent the beauty and hope and best that the human species is capable of.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prescribing Hope

   I recently re-watched the film Patch Adams starring Robin Williams.  Patch Adams speaks passionately about medicine and health care.  Some of his beliefs include: 
  • doctors should do more than treat a disease.  Doctors should connect with the patient.
  • doctors shouldn’t just be trying to prolong death, but should be attempting to improve a patient’s quality of life.
  • laughter should also be a part of a patient’s treatment.
   I’m thinking of these ideas because they contradict the way most doctors interact with me.  On this medical journey of mine, I have encountered numerous doctors.  Most don’t use my name when speaking to me.  Because I’ve been sent from one “specialist” to another, most are not familiar with my history - the doctors I’ve already seen, the tests I’ve already undergone.
   As my levels of frustration and hopelessness are rapidly increasing, I have turned to  an alternative treatment plan.  In addition to my counter-full of pills, I have begun acupuncture treatments.  Me, the girl who does not watch when blood is drawn, is voluntarily having needles placed in various parts of my body, all in the hopes that something will work, somehow my body will get some relief, and I will feel like myself again.
   It’s too soon to tell if the acupuncture is working.  But my acupuncturist has the right idea.  Before we begin, she talks to me.  Sits down, looks me in the eyes, and talks to me.  Asks me about my health, my eating, my sleeping, my family, my job.  She asks about all the parts of me because they do all influence my physical health and well-being.
   On my second visit, my acupuncturist asked me about my optimism level, with 10 being highest.  She asked if I was at a 10?  a 5?  a 3?  I had never thought of the situation in those terms, but I was honest and told her I was probably a 3.  The longer I suffer in pain, the longer I go without feeling any real relief, the more dejected and forlorn I become.  And I’m sure Patch Adams would say that those feelings aren’t helping my health.
   So, how do I fix it?  How do I do something about my attitude? 
   I don’t know.  I just know I’m not giving up.  I have a son.  A now four-year-old son.  That’s all the motivation I need to keep at it, to keep searching for answers.  And, as an added bonus, my son always knows how to make me laugh.  And it’s been said, laughter is the best medicine.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Being Wendy

   I recently purchased a children’s picture book - for myself.  Being Wendy by Fran Drescher.  I admit; I was first intrigued by the title.  There are only a few claims to fame for fellow Wendy’s:  my name is said to have been invented by J. M. Barrie for his “frendy Wendy” character in Peter Pan, and I’ve got a hamburger fast food chain that shares my name.

   When I was younger, I didn’t always like my name.  A girl can only be teased about fast-food hamburgers and it being “windy outside and Wendy inside” so many times.  As an adult, I still wish people pronounced my name with the short-e vowel sound, making it Wendy, instead of the short-i vowel sound, making it Windy.  There is a difference.  

   Being Wendy is the story of Wendy, a girl who doesn’t want to choose to wear one box for the rest of her life.  In her hometown, the rule is :  “The Boxville way is to choose a box for the rest of your days.”  She doesn’t want to just be a teacher, just be a police officer, just be any one thing.  Her ideas and her dreams are too far-reaching, and one box just won’t work for her.

Lucky for Wendy, she’s got parents who believe in her and support her.  (So do I).

You’re a very special girl, Wendy,” said her dad.  “You have a lot of different talents that make you you.  And that’s a good thing!  You should do anything and everything you want.  We all should!”

   Wendy and her parents ditch their boxes and move to Freedomland.

   It’s not that easy for me.

   As little-girl-Wendy, I knew I wanted to be an astronaut.  I also knew there would be many other things I would do - I would travel and live abroad, I’d write, I’d learn to swing dance, I’d garden, I’d live by the ocean.  

   I changed, life happens, and as adult-Wendy, I feel like my world has closed in certain ways.  I became a college student.  A wife.  A teacher.  A writer.  A mother.  And as the years go by, and my to-do lists and number of responsibilities grow, the harder I’m finding it to be, or do, all the things I’d like to be and do.

   Me, being the Wendy I am, I try to wear all my boxes at once.  Mommy-wife-teacher-daughter-friend.  Sometimes, I can juggle and do it all.  Other times, I shortchange something in the process (usually myself - my sleep, my peace of mind, or both).

   I bought this book as a reminder, a reaffirmation.  I can’t be confined to just one box, and I shouldn’t be confined to just one box.  Some days, it may feel like I wear one box more than another, but it doesn’t mean they’re not all still there, and all still a part of who I am as Wendy.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The A to Z List of Things I Question

   One of my college philosophy professors once said that a truly wise person can admit when he/she doesn’t know something.  I admit it - there are a lot of things I don’t know, a lot of things I don’t understand.  Here is my A to Z list of things I question.
A Attire.  Adults make their own money and will buy what they want.  But, kids’ attire is another story.  Someone is buying the clothing these kids are wearing.  Someone is letting a child come to school with a shirt that proclaims “Homework kills trees.”  Someone is purchasing short-shorts for girls and t-shirts that proclaim, “Here comes trouble.”  Why?

B Bathing suits that reveal more than my underwear.  Some neighbors like to sunbathe outside in their teeny-weeny bikinis.  Frankly, I don’t want to see everything they’re showing.  But there’s not much I can do but not look.  It’s allowed.  Yet, if I went outside in my mis-matched bra and underwear I could be arrested for indecent exposure.  Why is it that bathing suits have become an item of “clothing” whose sole purpose seems to be “How much can I get away with showing?”  Why do women want to show everything?

C Curse words.  Somehow I missed it - missed when it became acceptable for certain words to be said on television, during the day.  The “b” word comes to mind; the word my sister and I referred to as a “female dog.” 

D Digital billboards.  There are enough distractions on the streets.  Why are drivers bombarded with multiple advertisements, and now this new wave of digital billboards with images that change every few seconds?  Aren’t we supposed to be watching the roads, checking our mirrors, looking out for pedestrians and cyclists?

E Easter’s observance.  I am not a traditionally-religious person, but I do understand that both Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays involving Jesus.  Why is it that Christmas has a fixed date but some years Easter is observed in March, and other years it falls in April?

F Footwear.  I have read that the foundation for the human body is our feet.  Why then do so many women teeter around on high heels?  I’m not talking about pumps, I’m talking about mega-high heels.  Your whole body is off-balance and improperly aligned.  

G Games.  Specifically, violent video games.  The Nazis were real.  War is real.  People fight, innocent people die.  All these facts seem to run contrary to the purpose of a game.  I thought games were supposed to be fun, a form of entertainment, a source of amusement.  

H Hang-Ups.  If someone took the time to dial the phone, let it ring through, and listen to my out-going message, why not take the extra few seconds and leave a message.  I cannot always get to the phone.  Leave a message - tell me why you were calling in the first place.

I Indifference.  I don’t understand how people cannot care.  I know the world may seem like one big mess, and it can be a bit overwhelming, but we’ve all got to care about something.  For instance, how in the world do adults still smoke in front of young children?  How does an adult drive a car without all children buckled safely and legally?    

J Jam, jelly, and marmalade.  What is the difference?  I know it’s been explained to me, on more than one occasion, but I can’t keep it straight in my head.  And really, does it matter?

K Kids’ items.  Having a child is expensive.  Diapers alone add up.  Then there are all the things that babies and toddlers need - car seats and booster seats, high chairs, potty seats, bed rails, step stools, special plates and cups and utensils.  Why then are so many kids’ items so expensive?  Kids’ clothing rivals the prices of adults’ clothing.  And let’s be honest - kids’ clothing doesn’t last - kids outgrow it, they fall and rip it, or they stain it.  

L Love.  The easiest love I know and understand is the love for my son.  It was instantaneous - from the moment I learned I was pregnant.  The love I have for my son is unwavering and fierce.  The love I have for my husband is not as easy; the person you romantically love can cause you great ecstasy and great heartbreak.  The person you love the most can be the person who hurts you the most.  In my mind, that person should be the last person who hurts you, but romantic love isn’t simple, and it certainly isn’t always easy to understand.

M Meal delivery.  Why is pizza often delivered to one’s home or business?  Pizza is best served hot (at least the first time around).  Yet, businesses work with the added stress of delivering food (I’m thinking of pizza and Chinese food, for example) that must reach its customers in a hot, fresh state.  Why isn’t someone delivering sandwiches?

N Narcissism.  All people are self-absorbed a certain amount, sometimes.  But there are people who are completely oblivious to those around them.  I’m talking about the people who double-park their cars without the thought that they may be blocking the way for someone else, or the people who place their shopping cart dead-center in the aisle without regard to the other shoppers in the market.  Our planet is big, but our population is many - probability dictates that our actions will certainly impact someone else.

O Outward appearances.  There are whole department store floors designed to sell women cosmetics because we’re not enough the way we are.  We’re not beautiful enough, young enough, thin enough, blonde enough.  Just women, mind you, not men.  Now, I wear lipstick, I periodically polish my nails, but that’s about it.  I don’t want to be younger.  I want to be my age, I’m fortunate to have 36 years worth of experiences.  I want to celebrate that.  And while there are certainly things about my outward appearance that I wouldn’t mind changing, I am who I am.   

P Phonics.  I didn’t make the spelling rules - that’s one of my first disclaimers to my students.  Why don’t letters always maintain their sounds?  Why is a “c” sometimes sounding like a “k” (as in coffee) and other times it sounds like a “s” (as in Cinderella)?  Why does a “g” sometimes sound hard (as in gopher) and other times it’s soft (as in giraffe)?  

Q Quadrilaterals, specifically the rhombus.  In fourth grade math, students (and their parents) learn that a square can be a rectangle but never vice versa.  Students learn that the shape they have commonly referred to as a “diamond” is now a “rhombus” - a quadrilateral with four equal sides and equal, opposite angles.  Why not just teach kids the term “rhombus” from the beginning.  Why make math more complicated than it already is?

R Restrooms, with “energy-saving upgrades.”  I’m talking about automatic flushing toilets, hand dryers (I miss paper towels), and automatic sinks.  Do they really save water?  I wonder, especially when a toilet flushes while I’m in the midst of taking care of my business or the hand-dryer finishes its cycle and I’m forced to use toilet paper to try and finish drying my hands. 

S Streets change.  Here in Los Angeles, I can drive down Sunset Boulevard and be in tourist-heavy Sunset Strip.  Drive west a bit more, and the tattoo parlors, eateries, and clubs have given way to multi-million-dollar mansions.  How does one street evolve that way?

T Tardiness.  I know - things happen - accidents on the freeway, intersection lights that don’t work, flat tires.  Life is unpredictable, but those incidents are exceptions; they’re not everyday occurrences.  Somehow though most people think it’s okay to be late, it’s okay to keep a teacher waiting for a conference, keep a friend waiting for dinner.  It’s not okay - but a genuine apology goes a long way in making things more right. 

U Upside-down bottles.  Ketchup bottles are now being made “upside-down” - it’s a matter of allowing gravity to do its thing.  Why hasn’t this trend spread to shampoo and lotion bottles?  I wind up turning the bottles upside-down anyway, seems to me Suave should be doing it.

V Vehicles.  Gasoline is over-priced.  We’re running out of oil.  We’re concerned about our environment, our ozone layer and smog.  Why then are large, tank-like cars still manufactured?  For most people, they’re not necessary.  Most people don’t need them to haul heavy cargo.  Most people aren’t transporting people or things that couldn’t fit in a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.  Stop producing those cars.  People will buy something else.  They can’t buy them if they’re not for sale.

W Wealth.  Some people have more money than others.  It’s always been that way.  How much money does one person need?  Shouldn’t there be some sort of a cap on the amount of money one person can have, or what they can spend it on?  Does anyone really need multiple cars or a handbag that costs thousands?  I can’t afford those items, and it doesn’t mean I’m not as hard-working or as deserving. 

X Xylophone.  When you’re teaching a child the alphabet, there aren’t a lot of items that start with “x.”  So the xylophone is the object most closely associated with the letter “x.”  Except, xylophone sounds more like a “z.”  The “x” sound you hear in “box” and “fox.”  So, why confuse a kid?  Spell xylophone with a “z,” and be done with it.

Y Youth, and things people do in their “youth.”  I’m thinking of tattoos and piercings that, let’s face it, won’t look the same when someone is in their 60’s.  Why would anyone want to stretch out their earlobe?  Why put a spike in your chin?  (Yes, this is the letter where I appear judgmental.)

Z Zombies.  And vampires and werewolves.  I don’t know where or how this preoccupation began, but suddenly, every other television show or movie seems to involve characters of the zombie persuasion.