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, June 27, 2012

The A to Z List of Things I Am Zealous About

A Affection.  I tell my son that Mommies never run out of hugs and kisses.  I don’t think you can tell a child “I love you” too much.  And I apply this belief to my students.  Even after teachers are told not to touch their students, I do.  I hug them, kiss the tops of their heads, share high-fives, and give a pat on the back or a shoulder squeeze during a lesson.  Children are children, and I believe there is great comfort and reassurance derived from the human touch.

 B Books.  I have been a book lover for as long as I can remember.  I remember escaping into the worlds Beverly Cleary created for Ramona and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High.  As a teacher, every classroom I have taught in has a designated library corner, complete with comfy pillows and an abundance of books.  I believe every child should own new books, I believe books make wonderful gifts for every occasion, and books should be treated carefully.

C Coupons.  I watched my mom shop with coupons out of economic necessity.  When I moved out on my own, I followed in her footsteps.  My finances are much better now, but even so, I don’t grocery shop without my coupons.  I work too hard for my money to over-pay for salad dressing or paper towels.  

D Dinner.  Dinner isn’t fancy in our house, but it is a family event.  I start my day earlier than my husband and son.  Lunches are spent at work.  But dinner is our chance to sit as a family, and as much as we can, we do.  Whether it’s chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, most dinners are eaten together.

E Education.  As a teacher, and life-long student, I think the most important thing we can do for society is educate ourselves.  All things fall apart without an education.  Somehow, someway, someone (hopefully) will realize that education is a domino effect - and once you start cutting education, all aspects of our society will suffer.

F Family.  Over the years, my family has changed.  I’ve lost some relationships (silence is powerful) and gained others (my four-year-old son).  For my family, those I am in contact with, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them.  I would step in front of a train for any of them.  

G Guns.  I am strongly anti-gun.  I just don’t see why most people need one or what good can come from owning one.   

H Hate.  I don’t like the word.  It’s an ugly word, especially when used to express your feelings about a person.  In my classroom, we don’t say the word - whether we’re discussing social studies, Hitler, or a classmate.  We “strongly dislike.” 

I Identity.  I was never a person who wanted to be like everyone else.  As an adult, I don’t want to be the woman who looks like all the other women walking through the shopping mall.  I am proud to have my own identity, to be me.

J Jewelry.  My parents have pictures of a preschool-age-me wearing a plastic necklace, plastic clip-on earrings, and plastic bracelets.  The material has changed, but I’m still the same jewelry-wearing-Wendy.  I own a multitude of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.  I take pleasure in matching my accessories to my outfits.

K Kids.  No child was asked to be born into this world, and once they are here, it’s our responsibility to take care of them, nurture them, provide for them, and support them.  Child-related charities receive regular donations from me.  

L Love.  I don’t think you can tell someone you love them too often.  For those I love, I tell them, always.  I tell them during phone conversations and in person.  I write it on emails and cards.  

M Manners.  It seems so simple, yet they are so often over-looked.  Saying “please,” “Thank you,” and “excuse me” really do make a difference.  People respond more positively when you interact with them in a more polite manner.  I am constantly reminding my fourth-grade students to ask for things, “May I please get my bottle of water” rather than “I forgot my bottle of water.”  

N Not smoking.  As an asthmatic, smoking wasn’t an option.  I didn’t like the smell, didn’t understand why people wanted to smoke.  I saw it as a waste of money.  It made your breath smell, your clothes smell, and your lungs turn black.  Then, I fall in love with a man who smokes.  He did quit thirteen years ago, and I am adamant that my son will know why we don’t smoke and why he shouldn’t smoke.

O Obeying rules.  You can call me a “goody-goody” if you want, but I really do believe that most rules should be followed.  When the sign says “no left turn,” that means everyone.  When a parking spot is designated for the handicapped, a car should be displaying the proper placard, and there should be someone inside the car who legitimately needs the placard.    

P Pattern, practice, routine, schedule.  Call it what you will, but I have one.  For many areas of my life.  I have a pattern for planning my weekly meals based on what’s in my kitchen, what’s on sale each week at the market, and what coupons I have available.  I have a routine for paying my bills each week.  I have a routine for tucking my son into bed each night.  Life is so unpredictable, so uncertain, that I like to give myself the illusion of some sense of control over certain situations.

Q Quality time with my son.  As a teacher, I generally leave the house before my son awakens.  By the time I come home, I’m craving time with my son.  Our time before dinner is our time - our time as dictated by Ryan.  Sometimes it’s puzzles.  Sometimes it’s playing pretend, sometimes it’s reading the same book over and over.  Whatever it is, it is he and I.  Me showering my son with hugs and kisses, telling him I love him, I missed him, and how glad I am to see him.

R Respect.  That was the only rule my eleventh-grade chemistry teacher insisted on.  It encompassed all areas of classroom behavior.  It’s what I try to instill in my students on a daily basis.  I’m not as interested in a child’s test scores as I am about a child’s character.  The world would run so much more smoothly if we all just treated others the way we’d like to be treated.

S Safety.  With my son and my students, I am big on safety.  Shoelaces need to be tied.  Helmets worn.  Seat belts buckled.  We walk facing forward.  We sit with our chairs flat on the ground.  And, it’s not just our bodies we need to keep safe.  It’s our feelings too.   So, we don’t say mean things, things that make others feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves.

T Teaching.  As much as I complain about it, I am passionate about teaching.  I believe every child has the potential to be respectful, to be honest, and to demonstrate progress.  My frustrations are with parents who don’t support the work I am doing, with a government that doesn’t acknowledge that everything begins with education, with indifferent children, and with people who have never taught wanting me to be held accountable for how well a child bubbles in a multiple-choice test.  

U Understanding.  As much as I can, I try to explain to my son and my students the reasons for my “no.”  “No” you can’t stand on the chair because you might fall.  “No” you cannot go outside without your shoes because you might get a “boo-boo” on your foot and then you won’t be able to play and jump and run and walk.  I know I tend to respond better when I’m given an explanation instead of a flat-out refusal.

V Vacation.  I think I anticipate vacation more than my students do.  By the time summer rolls around, I’m exhausted.  Teaching is not a job that ends at 3:00.  It doesn’t have clear-cut days off - my mind is always lesson planning, thinking about something I have to prepare or purchase for my class.  Vacation is my time to slow down.  Focus on my family and myself.  A time to sleep, a time to spend more of my days doing things I really want to do.

W Writing.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, always dreamed of being a writer.  It’s only been within the last few years that I’ve begun to consider my writing career more seriously.  I attend classes.  I write several times a week.  I submit my work.  I publish a weekly blog.  I ordered business/contact cards.

X X-mas.  Christmas isn’t a religious holiday for me.  It also isn’t an excuse for me to go into debt.  Instead, Christmas is cinnamon-scented pine cones, a fresh-cut tree decorated with my son and husband.  A gingerbread house with icing dripping down to the side.  Thinking of thoughtful gifts for those close to me.  Holly wreaths, twinkle lights, and a sense of magic in the air.

Y Yearly and monthly pictures.  I got the idea from my sister, who used to take her sons to the portrait studio to take their pictures each month and then each year on their birthday.  Working full-time, that plan didn’t fit into my schedule, but I still wanted to document my son’s growth.  Each 30th of the month, a new picture of Ryan is taken and hung up.  And each year on March 30th, I update his “birthday frame” with his latest.

Z Zero tolerance.  Most people would describe me as patient, understanding, and forgiving.  And, I like to think I am, for the most part.  But, when it comes to someone hurting a child, then I have zero tolerance.  I can excuse certain thefts (a parent has to feed a child); however, I have zero tolerance or forgiveness for an individual who would willfully inflict pain on a child.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


   I’m a lot like Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail.  We both like books and Starbucks.  And we both tend to become a bit tongue-tied when provoked.  

   I like to consider myself good with words, but writing is different.  Writing allows me time to contemplate, to choose my words wisely, to revise and edit if needed.  In the heat of the moment, when confronted with someone who angers me, I tend to be at a loss for words.  Later, like Meg Ryan’s character, I will agonize over all the things I could have said, and didn’t.

   An example - I need to find a reply for those people who verbalize their opinion that I really should have another child.

   Truthfully, I had always thought I’d mother two children.  I wanted my children to be each other’s playmates, to be each other’s friends, supporters, confidants.  Now, thinking about my own relationship with my siblings, I realize that having siblings is no guarantee those close relationships will develop.

   Within the first year of Ryan’s life, I knew I wouldn’t have another child.  I knew our current lifestyle, including my job as a public school teacher, left me exhausted and I couldn’t be the kind of mother I’d want to be to two children.  I also knew that my marriage wouldn’t survive a second child.  Having a baby was a big change to my marital relationship and while there were times that I never felt closer to my husband, there were other times when I had never felt further away.

   And, for two years now, I’ve been on this medical odyssey that has resulted in an autoimmune disease diagnosis.  A disease that requires me to be on multiple medications, all strictly prohibiting pregnancy.

   I’m blessed with a happy, healthy son.  Ryan is my joy, and I am proud to be the mother of an only child.

   Recently, Ryan and I were shopping at Ralphs.  In the checkout lane, the cashier asked if he was my first child.  “Yes.”  She asked if I was having any more children.  “No.”  She said I should, that Ryan needs a little sister.

   I looked at her with my teacher look.  I wasn’t sure how to respond without making a scene, and without having to answer Ryan’s questions about why Mommy was upset.  
I do not know this woman except that she is an employee at my local supermarket.  I was speechless that someone I didn’t know would be that bold, that brazen with what she felt I should do.  

   I don’t want to, and I can’t.  And, let’s not forget that getting pregnant does not guarantee that Ryan would have a little sister.  It’s just as possible he’d have a little brother, instead.  

   I didn’t answer this woman.  I was tongue-tied, and I really need to come up with a good comeback for the next time I’m in this situation.  Because, I’m sure there will be a next time.  More and more, it seems that people are losing their sense of tact, decency, and manners.  

   Because we were married for nine years before Ryan was born, I dealt with the question of “When are you having a baby?” for years.  Now, the question has become, “When are you having another?”  After I say “I’m not,” most people will stop asking.  Most, not all.  And next time, I’ve got to have an answer on file.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The A to Z List of Ryan

      Ryan is my four-year-old son.  As his mommy, I admit I’m biased, thinking my son is the most beautiful, most amazing, most charming little boy there is.  Hopefully, my list of Ryan will remind you of your own “little person.”
A Affectionate.  This does not mean Ryan showers me with hugs and kisses all the time.  There are days I come home from work and Ryan runs into my arms.  There are other days I come home, and Ryan tells me to leave.  There are days I am given a spontaneous hug and other days when I am given a slap on the arm for no apparent reason.  Ryan is big on touch, on closeness, on “show Mommy” - all signs of affection.  

B Bright.  My son (who does not yet attend pre-school) was starting to read before his fourth birthday.  My son remembers lyrics to songs and dance moves involving spins and turns.  He has learned street names and the location of Indonesia and Australia on the globe.

C Curious.  Ryan wants to know “What’s that?”  He wants to know where something was bought, why something looks the way it does, and what will happen next.  

D Dramatic.  A fall and a scrape on the knee will pre-occupy Ryan for days.  A game that doesn’t go quite his way, will result in a sad face, a bit of a sulking, and Ryan flopping himself down face-first on our couch.  (Of course, a minute passes, and he’s fine.)

E Entertaining.  There is no movie or television program that compares with watching my son.  I love to see what he’ll come up with next.  Sometimes it’s re-enacting Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, other times it’s pretending to be his My Gym teacher, and still other times he’s off in his own world, pretending to serve flavored juices and donuts (things Ryan doesn’t eat).

F Fearless.  Ryan will stand on our king-size bed, and fall backwards with no fear of falling.  He will try any activity his teachers at My Gym introduce.  He doesn’t know failure.  He knows some things are “trickier” than others, but, thankfully, that doesn’t stop him from trying something new.

G Growing.  Every day it seems that my son is growing exponentially - height and weight of course.  But also, Ryan’s cognitive abilities, his verbal skills, his behaviors.  My son is becoming a “bigger little boy” - one who can do more and more things himself, one who wants to do more and more things himself.  

H Happy.  The sad truth is that not all children are happy.  I see it with my students.  When it comes to my son, I know he’s happy.  I know it by his spontaneous laughter, the way he’ll start to move and groove to a “song in his head.”  

I Impersonator.  My son mimics Grandpa with his declarations of “Excuse me, while I kiss the sky.”  Ryan changes his voice to sound like his friend Duck from Word World, he puts on a black hat I used to wear and tries to do a move like Michael Jackson.  

J Joy.  Ryan is the joy in my life.  When my health is precarious, when my job is unsatisfying, when my relationships are challenging, there is Ryan.  My joy.  Nothing else I will do in my life will compare to being Ryan’s mother.

K Kissable.  I know there will inevitably come a day when my son admonishes me not to kiss him in public.  Or kiss him at all.  But hopefully, that day is far into the future.  For now, I can’t be near my son without showering him with kisses - the top of his head while we’re having dinner, his tummy when I’m helping him maneuver into his shirt, his tushie after a bath, his feet while we’re tickling on the carpet.

L Learning.  My son has not yet started pre-school, but he is learning.  He knows his letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.  He’s reading.  He’s spelling.  Ryan is like a sponge, soaking everything up around him.  Tell him once, and it’s enough.  The information is stored in his memory bank.

M Musical.  My son loves to sing and dance.  Sings along to the Bangles and Neil Diamond, dances to Aphex Twin and Miles Davis.  Ryan remembers song lyrics, and is always performing an interpretative dance to the music he hears.

N Natural.  I love that my son is my son, without being concerned what other people think.  He’ll start dancing in the middle of the book store and not worry who is watching.  He’ll turn his head away from the bank teller, refuse to say ‘hello’, and not worry that someone might think he’s being rude.  He’s just being Ryan.  I hope no one ever tells him he shouldn’t dance in public, no one tells him to stop singing at the top of his lungs.  I hope he always feels confident in his skin being himself, being Ryan.

O Observant.  Ryan notices Mommy’s purple toenail polish, and later will comment when Mommy’s purple toenail polish is chipped.  Ryan notices that we have moved a Van Gogh print to a different wall of the house.  (Luckily, Ryan doesn’t notice when I go through his toys to discard those that haven’t been played with in quite some time.)

P Powerful.  Ryan and I play “squish;” it’s a wrestling/tickling game.  But he’s powerful.  I’ve gotten hit and kicked, sometimes in the spirit of fun, sometimes because Ryan’s angry.  And little children are surprisingly strong.  It hurts.  It bruises.  

Q Questioning.  Ryan doesn’t really ask “Why?” like other toddlers do.  Instead, I am asked where things come from, what items we need to buy at the market.  Ryan asks about the differences during each season.  He asks about the musical instruments he hears playing during a song.  

R Rhythmic.  Ryan can hear the beat in a piece of music, and clap along.  He can tap his foot or bob his head in time to the music.  He tells me he wants to learn to play violin when he gets bigger (he also mentions guitar and piano).  I don’t doubt his ability.  

S Stubborn.  Ryan comes from a family of stubborn individuals - his parents and his grandparents.  He follows in our foot-steps.  Sometimes, Ryan wants to do something himself, and it will take many attempts until he can close the flap on the raisin box just the way he wants to.  Other times, it’s Ryan who wants to open our front door, but the weather has made it stick a bit, and he absolutely refuses to accept help.  And then, of course, there are the moments when Ryan doesn’t want to put on shoes or socks, or change his shirt.  Then it’s a battle of wills.  (Mommy wins - some things are non-negotiable).

T Technological.  It’s almost instinctual, and maybe it has something to do with the fact that Ryan’s daddy works for Apple.  But Ryan is quite comfortable opening Safari and finding SesameStreet.org, looking at photos on the iPad, dancing to music on the iPhone, putting a DVD in the player and turning on the TV.  

U Understanding.  In my son’s four years of life, he’s known for two years that Mommy has boo-boos.  He has to deal with a mommy who regularly visits the doctor, a mommy who needs to rest, a mommy who can’t do certain things, a mommy who has to take medicine throughout the day.  If there’s a bright side to my medical condition, I like to hope that it’s helping Ryan become more empathetic and understanding.

V Velvety.  Soft, strokable, creamy, dreamy.  Those adjectives describe Ryan’s skin.  I love to feel my son’s arms, his legs (that are growing hair like his Daddy), his tummy, under his chin.  Everyone spoke of Ryan’s soft skin as a newborn, but I’m delighted to find he’s just as soft, just as dreamy as a pre-schooler.

W Wacky.  Ryan likes to “squish” his Daddy’s feet.  My husband sits with his legs extended, Ryan plops down, tummy-first, and buries his face in Paul’s feet.  Ryan then proclaims Paul’s feet are stinky.  We’re not sure where this wacky habit came from, but it’s Ryan’s.  Endearing, cute, and weird.

X Extraordinary.  I unabashedly admit that Ryan is the most extraordinary child I have ever known.  I think he’s beautiful, funny, smart, and sweet.  He is, in Grandma’s words, “an exceptional child.”

Y Young.  Because Ryan is four, I can get away with telling him some things don’t work because they’re charging.  He doesn’t yet know that things can still be used while they charge.  I can fib and tell my son that the fossil museum is closed, when really we just can’t go on that particular day because we have other plans.  I will get away with these tricks while I can because Ryan won’t stay this young, and this out-of-the-know, for much longer.

Z Zestful.  Ryan seems like he functions from an endless supply of energy and vigor.  I wish it was bottled to sell for parents, so I could keep up with him.  I never seem to run as fast, or as long, as Ryan.  My body tires from dancing much quicker than his does.  On the flip side, it’s nice knowing that by the time I come home each afternoon, Ryan still has the energy (and the desire) to play with Mommy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


   They say everyone has scars.  Some scars are just more apparent than others.  My technical-scar isn’t all that noticeable, actually.  It’s on my left calf, up in the back, closer to my knee.  It’s the result of a muscle biopsy from last year.  The physical scar has healed rather nicely.

   But, I have other scars too.  I have prominent veins - red, blue, and purple on my legs.  They snake down and around, from my thighs to my feet.  They are evidence that there is something wrong with my legs.  They are a visible reminder that my legs are damaged.

   Other scars I hide.  I hide them behind my eyes, inside my ears, beneath my skin, and in my heart.  I can still see my red, swollen left calf, motionless on a hospital bed.  I can hear the scraping sound of my walker as I stumbled from the bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I can feel the needles that were injected in my stomach when I was in the hospital. 

   I do my best to hide my scars.  I don’t wear skirts.  I try not to talk about my medical drama.  Many of my co-workers don’t even know that I’ve been struggling with a medical condition for almost two years now.  

   But, while reading Barbara Abercrombie’s Writing Out the Storm, I came across a passage written by Laura:  “I love my scar.  Scars are tangible proof that we have healed.”

   Last summer, I did wear skirts.  I celebrated the fact that I wasn’t in a hospital, and I wasn’t relying on a walker or a wheelchair as I had the summer before.  It occurs to me, now, that I was celebrating my scars.  My legs were scarred, but they were working.  I was still hopeful that the worst was behind me.  

   A year later, I’m not sure if I’ve already experienced the worst or not.  I’ve gotten frustrated, angry, and sad.  And I became pre-occupied with my scars.  I’m self-conscious about the way my legs look, and I lost focus on what’s really important - I’m walking.

   I have to remind myself that I’m dealing with a disease.  A disease that is unpredictable and chronic.  A disease that has left me scarred.  I can’t erase any of my scars; the ones you can see, and the ones I carry around with me.  They’re a part of me now, like my brown eyes, the beauty mark on the left side of my mouth, and the birthmark on my right forearm. 

   Now, I do know that it’s time for me to get out the skirts.