Friday, October 30, 2009

Babies or Puppies

For as many hours of my life as the puppies are sucking away from me needing my care, I have restrained myself from saying too much about them. But very, very soon they will be leaving us for their new homes; and I was feeling a bit joyous at the prospect of having some fun money melancholy at their imminent departure. So, I began to ponder as I scrubbed the floor of the puppy pen while trying to hold my nose and keep from gagging. I have some friends for whom a pet fills-in for a young child, either because they are single, their children are grown, or they just prefer it that way. So, what exactly are the differences?

1. Feeding: puppies eat from a bowl on the floor while babies dump their bowls onto the floor.
2. Potty training: puppies go anywhere anytime you clean it up, babies do the same just with a diaper attachment.
3. Attention: puppies whine for it and babies cry for it, but you can shut the door on the puppies.
4.Bathing: babies wiggle and squirm, puppies do the same but with grip-action fur

5. Babysitting: babies overnights can be costly, but no one will volunteer to sit for 11 puppies
6. Cuteness factor: this one is a dead heat.
7. Cuddle factor: while both are cuddly, with a baby you wonder what's in his pants and with a puppy you wonder what's on his paws, nose, head - ok all his body parts.(yuck)

Each baby type has its draw backs and attractions. Maybe if I had 11 babies at once I'd shoot myself in the head I'd feel differently. But though I will be sad to see them go, I will really be ok with them going. Most days I can't say the same about my children

Monday, October 26, 2009

Testing Questions

The State Test. It is a phenomenon that brings out a strong opinion in almost everyone. Should there be a test that measures student performance? What should be the measure? Is it fair? etc etc ad nausea um.

My opinion on testing is fairly simple and straight forward. Yes, there should be tests. It seems pretty obvious to this simple person that when you teach something you need to assess if the students have learned it. (though I am of the firm opinion that a test score is simply a snapshot of a student - not a portrait of progress)

And that brings me to my point. There is a debate here in Sunnyland that teachers are spending too much class time teaching to The Test. Hmm. Let me see if I can get this straight. The "great minds" that make-up the powers-that-be have decided at each grade level there are certain skills and knowledge that each student should learn and exhibit. Ok. Next, teachers are taxed with imparting said knowledge to their students. It is just such knowledge that the curriculum is designed to cover. Sure, makes sense so far... Next teachers design interactive and engaging lessons even at the expense of any sleep to spread said knowledge far and wide. Still with me? They teach, practice, and test these skills. THEN students take state tests that cover the same skills. So, where is the problem?

This is precisely the point at which I always become lost. How can a teacher be accused of teaching to the test when the "great minds" said it is just such material teachers should be covering in the classrooms? Was the teacher supposed to wait until spring to start teaching these skills? What would they rather students learn in LA - weaving? Maybe LA teachers should teach football plays 101 for a few weeks each fall and to hell with the elements of literature or author's purpose. Maybe they should make tests that cover bizarre trivia. Because walking into a test completely unprepared is just exactly how we want children to prepare for the future.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Joy of Reading

It's Friday, so that means there are many great posts here at Fatherhood Friday on DadBolgs. Click either link for a journey to some great blogs.

When I think of books and fatherhood some images come immediately to mind.

There was the time my dad gave me The Velveteen Rabbit and inside the cover he had even written an inscription. This was as shocking as anything in my almost 5 years of experience. My father actually wrote in a book - for me. In the evenings we would sit in the living room and he would read me that story. A picture book with chapters, very grown-up for a girl who had not even begun her elementary school career.

Much later there were the times the same man would insist I stop reading and spend some time in the sun. Obviously pre skin-cancer worry days. Having nothing against the sun, I would gladly drag my reading materials out to the lake and read there.

The second inscribed book from my father came at my confirmation. It was the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, bound in leather with gold-leaf edges. It was a mark of my "growing-up."

These are books I still have today and cherish. I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories many times, but they are a comforting friend that can ease me to sleep after a stress-filled day. I have shared the story of a much loved rabbit with my own children, even sharing the picture I drew of my dad after his inscription.

Now, I listen to my husband read to my children. Listening to them laugh along with Dr Seuss and worry about Wilbur's fate are new reminders of the impact a parent and a good story can have on a child.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Different View

Youngest began kindergarten this year. Now for a child who has spent all but the first 4 months and a few summers in daycare you would think that kindergarten is simply an extension of school. Well you (and I) would be wrong. It began as a place that put fear into her young heart and had her shaking with enthusiasm. To enter the "big kid" school where there is reading and math, tests and homework was her marker that she had in fact made it, to what I am not sure, but she seemed very excited to have done it.

With this excitement in mind we diligently scour her Friday folder each week. She insists on overseeing the entire operation sharing each paper with us, explaining the nuances of the assignment that we are too old and dull to see for ourselves. So it happened that Hubby stumbled upon the first worksheet and was unable to shield the surprise and shock from Youngest. His apparent displeasure, as evidenced to our young 5 year-old by his questioning of the work, sent her into tears of displeasure. He soothed the child and let the matter drop. 

It was a while later before I had a chance to sort through the mountains of paper that come home from school look at her work. I should probably mention that while I am an involved parent, I am not obsessively so. In sorting through papers alone, I am a skimmer. But this paper caught my attention. At first glance something appeared "off." My brain seemed to say, "hey! hold on, look a bit closer." The paper was an innocuous sort of beginning sounds with animals pictures and the word minus the first letter. The student was to write in the first letter and then there was a space beside each word to copy the entire word. Normal kindergarten fare. Except that my daughter had copied each word in its mirror image. 

Yep, we are talking The Shining, REDRUM style backwards. (with each letter being backwards as well) It was truly amazing. When my brain processed what it was I was seeing I actually ran to the mirror to hold the paper up, and sure enough in kindergarten scrawl there were the words clear as day. When asked about the paper, Youngest glumly replied, "I know, I did it wrong." And yes, technically she was right. But, how amazing it seems to me; that mirror-style backwards is even a option to her brain. Of course I won't be taking her to any secluded winter retreats.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Complaints and Other Usless Things

I have a confession to make. There are afternoons that I leave my job in an absolutely foul mood. The massive cuts placed on our budgets combined with the increased needs of the students due to economic stressors and massive flu absences have created additional strain on everyone. For the large part, I avoid the "moan areas." There is no pay-off to complaining about conditions, so unless you are looking for a solution I will only nod politely and move along. Thankfully, I have a great team and together we try to find solutions that will work for us. Ways to share the load and people in whom we can confide without fear of complaints turning into a moan-fest. 

But yesterday was incredibly busy. With one demand after another falling on our shoulders. So, it was in this weakened condition I found myself driving home. I was irritated and frustrated. Wanting badly to vent, I reached for my cell. Unintentionally I was on the verge of dumping all my woes upon the shoulders of a friend. Whomever I chose to call at this moment would not be solution-focused. Sure she would listen and sympathize, but she would be left feeling bad for me without that being my intention at all. I dropped the phone, call unmade. 

I replayed the day in my head and added all the items I could not complete and would move to the next day. I considered how I would help a new student who absolutely refuses to pick up any sort of writing or reading device. How I can possibly keep students current with week long absences due to flu. How I can stay effective and energetic. In other words, I was wallowing. 

Driving along fuming at myself for not knowing all the answers and preparing myself to face the chaos at home, I happened to look into an opening in the trees. Here there was a shaded area housing a field of wild flowers. Just that glimpse and my shoulders released, my stress began to abate. It is truly a wonderful world and the beauty is all around us. I just needed to look around.

ps: There are several such areas and today I made sure to look at each on the way to and from work. ahhh - nature's release.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Defending Hearth and Home

I spent many nights being the only adult in the home at bed time. Hubby worked a 3-11 shift for a few years here and there, and with over-time (who can ever pass that up?) I was often alone at bedtime. These days have passed and now it is a very rare occasion for me to be the night guardian.

A few days ago Hubby and Teen began a weekend get-away in Chicago. Leaving me to work and slave protect and care for the littlest ones at home. The first night was not awful, largely due to my mind and body being preoccupied with caring for Youngest's current illness. Sheer exhaustion outweighed any concerns of crazed family killers breaking in and I was able to sleep after checking all doors and even peering into closets with relative comfort.

Due to the doctor and dropping in on family, we arrived home at bedtime on the second night. The kids rapidly went through the bedtime rituals and were both soundly tucked-in (to my bed). I did a quick house check and settled-in to watch some TV. After exposing my mind to science fiction and murder, I was ready for bed. Struggling to maintain space and covers I began to drift. Secure in the knowledge that we were locked in, safe. Only to be jolted to a sitting posture when a particularly loud noise blasted through the house. I struggled to identify the noise and realized it was Daisy (the dog)getting in and out of the puppy-pool to feed her offspring. Talking myself down, I remembered that both children were with me and therefore defended and that the house was locked up tight after all.

Friday morning saw the usual burst of activity. Boy had left his shoes in the car and ran out to get them, I was throwing some form of sustenance into lunch boxes, and Youngest was singing and talking to the puppies. Frantically herding the crew to the van, I was doing a quick search for my wallet (it also holds my keys). Boy notices my actions and says, "Here Mom. When I went to get my shoes these were hanging outside the door." Sure enough he was holding my keys and wallet. Oops!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Accident Prone

It's Friday and that means it's time for you to visit DadBlogs to read some great posts and maybe share a few!

Urination. That seems to be the developing theme of my week. Receiving the call from the school that Youngest had an accident on the way to the bus proved only the kick-off event. She was placed in the school's aftercare program with Boy, and I was to pick them up there. Following a detailed conversation with the school nurse about the occurrence of kindergartners and accidents (apparently it is a very stressful time) I flew up the expressway from work, because I really didn't want to have to pay for more aftercare than was absolutely necessary.One accident dealt with, too many more to go.

I cleaned Youngest up and had her all ready for soccer practice. Just before leaving the house I insisited she go potty. At this point it was made clear to me that it hurts to go potty. Hmmmm. Definitely a problem here. She took care of business and we left for the fields. After 45 minutes of practice we were back in the van when I mention to Youngest that we need to stop for milk etc. She screams that she can't, she needs to be home RIGHT NOW or she will have an accident. Now, bathrooms are never conviently located for quick access in stores, so we turn down our street and are pulling in the driveway 2  minutes later. As I am unlocking the doors she begins to cry. Accident number 2 in the van. Fun.

Cleaning her up, again, I come to terms with the idea that I will need to get her to the doctor tomorrow. This is very bizarre behavior and surely signifies an infection. Youngest is now in jammies and I leave her with Boy so I can run out to grab a gallon of milk. No accidents. Phew.

I begin to pour cranberry juice down Youngest's throat and feed them both dinner. After a decent interval, we do the bedtime routine complete with a potty stop. Since the house is unusually empty - Hubby and Teen being on an excellent adventure in Chicago - Youngest won't sleep in her bed and has planted herself firmly in the middle of mine. Sometime durring Criminal Minds she comes barrelling through the door, passing up a perfectly good bathroom located near the foot of my bed for her convience, to use the kids bathroom. Just as she hits the door - yep,  you guessed it, another accident. More cleaning, changing, and it is back to sleep.

Upon heading to bed, I realize it would be very unfortunate to wake in a wet bed. So, I move Youngest and Boy (who has now also taken residence in my bed) back to their respective locations. I coax myself to sleep in a house noticably devoid of people. Waking at 2 to a child is almost always unpleasant. This night, would prove no different. Between sobs that her bed is wet I manage to clean her up again and strip the bed. All I want to do is sleep. But where to put Youngest? My desire to wake wet has not increased with time and I cast my mind about searching for a solution. There are no pull-ups in my home. There are diapers for nephew, but he is one - they will surely suffocate Youngest. Hmmm. I look under the sink and AH-HA!

I tell Youngest I am going to put something in her panties in case of emergency. Catching a glimpse of the item she exclaims "But you said those are for ladies!" 
"Well, they are," I admit. But go on to explain that it will just sit in her panties in case a few tinkles sneak out. So, with Youngest wearing a maxi-pad we were both able to get a few hours of rest. Neccessity is the mother of invention - right?

ps. She did have an infection is now medicated and hopefully recovering soon. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Soccer Season Kicks Off

Saturday morning began at the soccer field. Youngest was playing her first game ever. And Boy was to play his first game in a new age division. The excitement was almost enough to get them to the field on time building as we rushed from the house bright and early.

First up was to be Youngest. She was decked out in new cleats don't ask - Goodwill must have gotten the older kids' shoes and shin guards. She was raring to go. As the game began we sat on the sidelines and watched the team of 5 & 6 year olds wave celebrity-style at all the parents assembled. The coach blew the whistle and there they stood. Looking at one another for direction. The clueless leading the lost. 

Eventually things got rolling and the kids were kicking the ball and running around the field. The frantic parental yelling could have been mistaken for boisterous cheering from afar. But as one approached the field it would clarify to directions. "Kick the ball." "Go the other way!" were popular cheers. Parents who had never met were rapidly learning all the players name, as it became clear that the players responded to directions best when names were used. It was an energetic game with the parents giving it their all and the kids running from one end of the field to the other - regardless of the possession or location of the ball.

Next up was Boy's game. Here was a notable difference in the activity of the parents. Fewer were the shouts of encouragement and absent were the directions. The play progressed with directions from coaches alone and was watched by a largely silent crowd. It was a more professional game with better planning and teamwork. Missing the noise and energy of the previous game, I was able to focus on the skill and attention Boy has developed. I take heart that Teen's seasons always began like this, and as the season progresses parents will learn names and will soon be cheering and engaging in the game.