Thursday, August 28, 2008

Women and assertion

I am a feminist. I believe that women are equal to men, but not the same as men. Although I chose to stay home for a while, I believe that women should be strong in the workforce, running governments and corporations and still able to manage a family.

I think that our gender has a long way to go in learning the tricks of the trade.

Here are 2 examples of my lack of skills in a so-called "man's world" in the last 24 hours:

1) I had a loose offer on a job yesterday. I told them I was very interested.

But I never asked what it pays! So now I have more or less committed to begin a new job next week without any idea of the compensation. I thought that if the interviewer doesn't bring up salary, neither should the applicant. So I went home ignorant and unsure.

2) We have a one-foot square hole in our living room ceiling and our shower has been leaking into the living room since May! I have been begging the plumber to come back all summer. Every week I call. Every week he blows me off. The times he has been here, he says he needs a part and never returns. One time he claimed he fixed it, left and a week later it started leaking into the living room again.

Can't I "grow a pair" before 3pm today when I have my second interview? When do I cut my losses with the repair job and just call another plumber? Why can't I berate him into coming they way I do my kids? I am not afraid of some conflict!

Maybe I need to call my successful business girlfriends. Advice, please!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

postgame

My head is spinning!!!

1) My daughter and her friend NR have been hiding a secret: frogs! They have been hiding 5 frogs since God Knows When in NR's room and other unknown places!?! None of them have croaked yet in their care. What is the appropriate punishment for harboring a family of amphibians?

2) My interview went well. I don't think they noticed what I was wearing or my preoccupation with the above-mentioned frogs. They even seemed willing to bring me aboard part-time if I want.

3) And what if they don't want me part time??? Hmm.... Back to the "what if's" I was carefully avoiding yesterday. They seemed interested, but I thought I was a shoe-in at my two previous interviews too. The job seemed cool and I will be bummed if I don't get an offer.

4) What is the next course of action? Tune in next time...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The biggest decision??

"What were they thinking when they picked her outfit?"

That is what I was left with after hearing Michelle Obama last night. Yes, I liked what she said, but truth be told, that was my first and lasting impression.

I get most of my news from NPR or NYTimes.com so looks are not the first thing I think about. Generally I don't worry about how I look either.

Tomorrow is a big day, however. After nearly 5 years I have my first interview for a full-time job. The decision about going back to work after 4 years of working part time from home is overwhelming. There are too many questions with unknown answers. How will this affect my kids? Will my marriage suffer from increased pressure? Is it worth it? Instead I am concentrating on the question I CAN answer: what should I wear.

After last night, I know one question I don't want the committee to ask:

"What was she thinking when she picked her outfit?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

A great day!


As one of the youngest of my cousins I have had a variety of examples to learn from.

Yesterday we enjoyed an extended day with the best of them. R&Q are interesting, successful in both their careers and their family life. They have cool kids (K&A), inspiring jobs, gorgeous houses, great personalities - you get the picture. And they seem to have what I most wish for: work-life balance!

Through they years I have taken tips from them in child rearing. T & I try to raise kids by fostering an interesting environment (R&Q's jobs alone would give any kids a great start, our asset has been how much we have exposed our kids to through travel), discipline as necessary and be aware of what is going on at school. It is so great to see their smart, well-adjusted high-schoolers. They too have an older daughter/younger son mixture.

Q reminded me to look beyond the daily issues or class placement questions and see the big picture. I am going to do that more. They too have had criticisms of their school, and even moved to get a better education for their kids.

Most of all, seeing their kids now and remembering similarities to my kids then, makes me relax. A was also obsessed with Pokemon cards some 7 years ago. N is right on track to A's coolness, I hope. K was never a girly-girl and neither is C. K draws. C writes. It's all good!

It's the last week before school starts: again we will follow their example. The MO is enjoy the fresh air, eat well and spend time with interesting people.

(The picture is from Friday night - we were on a different lake on Sunday)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who will teach my kids about "whom"?

Yesterday I showed my Dad this blog.

He liked it, but had one comment. A "who" should have been "whom".

Who will teach my kids about "who/whom" since we don't have direct grammar instruction in BW (and my skills are remedial at best?)?

GRANDPA will! He will relish this task, and no one I know has better grammar.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where is Bridgewater????

In 2 years we've managed to go down 8 slots. We're 91st in the state. Not good enough, BRRSD. Not nearly good enough!!!

We're not in the top 75 NJ High Schools.


PS Thanks, MB for the tip!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A night with the ladies...

Earlier this week some neighbors and friends hung out, drank wine and ate a bit too much on my back veranda. About 10 moms, parents of kids in every level of Bridgewater schools, sat in the candlelight discussing for many hours.

While we did talk about many other things, school-talk dominated the conversation at my end of the table.

Some of the comments were critical, some positive. Of the six of us talking school, at least four were current or former teachers (none in district). One woman said "I work in a more affluent district, with higher test scores, but I still think that my kids are getting a better all-around education here." I trust her judgment - her kids are smart cookies!

Several parents, however, felt the education is sub-par. "They call the language arts program a "balanced-literacy" program, but really it is whole-language. And the national reading coalition (forgive me A. if I am misquoting)said that the best is a 50/50 balance. If you can't achieve that, then the emphasis should be on phonics. Here there is nearly no phonics." Other parents were complaining about the lack of direct grammar, spelling and other components in the writing program.

And then of course there was the math question. I am no expert in maths - and my kids are doing well in the program, every one of their teachers has said positive things about Everyday Math (at least 2 taught both before and after its implementation) so EM is not my beef. However, there were some very important points brought up.

Next time I have such an evening, I should invite some BOE members, the Superintendent/Asst. Superintendent, a couple of administrators and a few more teachers.

That would make for an even more lively evening!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leroy Sievers. Rest in peace!

Although when I started this blog I was planning to focus on Bridgewater Raritan Regional School District and it's issues. Today I want to share the loss of someone whom I never met, never spoke to or e-mailed.

Leroy Sievers was a journalist with an impressive resume. Among other things he was the former Producer of Nightline. He may be best remembered for his daily blog called "My Cancer". Leroy chronicled his fight with "the Beast".

Last summer I discovered his blog and I have read it daily since.

Anyone who has ever had cancer, cared for someone with cancer or knows people with cancer saw themselves somewhere in either his blog or people's daily responses. Others fell in love with his wit, his compassion and his honesty. I don't have cancer but lost both my Mom and brother to cancer and these losses play an important part of who I am.

So this weekend my mind is elsewhere. It is with Leroy's wife Laurie Singer, who also contributed occasionally to his blog.

My condolences, Laurie. Takk for alt (thank you for everything), Leroy. You will be remembered. You will be missed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The envelope, please...

We are very happy today!

N got to open his envelope and then did his form of the happy dance when he saw his placement. We know his teacher quite well, since C had her 2 years ago. She wonderful and probably the best placement for N, who hopefully will gain more self-confidence this year. The teacher already knows N so it will be a very smooth transition.

As luck would have it, we ran into his upcoming teacher at Target about an hour after getting the letter. Miss Teacher said she was very happy that she will have N. What more could a mother want than a teacher who was happy to have her son in her class?

Since I know Miss Teacher pretty well, I told her I hoped that she would place him with the extra help teacher for his challenges in writing. Poor teacher - she had her placement information one day and already a Mom is asking her for a favor... but she smiled and was not put out.

I was planning to not be a class Mom this year. After 4 years in a row, I thought it was time for a break, but when Miss Teacher asked "Are you going to put in for class Mom?" with a hopeful smile, I guess I will! It's nice to be wanted!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good day/bad day

My kids do taekwondo. So even though I call myself a Soccer Mom, I am actually a TKD mom, much more!

C shines at it. Normally. This week she had a setback. But as you have read here. She tries until she gets over it. If determination is the key, she will do fine.

N is not as focused and that makes it harder for him to succeed. TKD students must learn forms and kicks, and must be controlled in their execution, especially in sparring. N often spars with little control, his excitement taking over his attention.

Last night, however, he was really on his game! They were sparring in class for points against one another and he "won" 3-0. I am quite sure it is the first time he has done that. The teacher came up to me after class and said he was really on his mark last night.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Anticipation

This is the week when Bridgewater's elementary school population starts checking their mailboxes for placement letters.

In past years we have been at my in-laws' home in Europe when it arrived. My husband called from the US, waking us in the middle of the night with the news. Then I fired up the laptop and e-blasted friends with our placement information, and waited for responses.

This year N can open his own letter and read it himself, then call his friends to hear their fates.

N struggles in school. He is young for his grade, but no one seems to know if his difficulties are due to maturity or other issues. Last year he was in a class with lots of challenged kids. Unfortunately there were too many kids with academic needs and N didn't receive the extra help I wanted for him. I'm afraid that he starts this year even farther behind. This year I will have to be more proactive if he doesn't get placed with the specialist automatically.

I hate that.

But as I write this, N is upstairs with his friend making their own pokemon cards, his mind a million miles from school.

Since it's vacation, shouldn't it be that way? Why can't my mind take summer vacation too?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Never give up!


This summer my daughter wanted to water ski.

She REALLY wanted it.

She tried and fell, tried and let go, tried and didn't quite make it... over and over again.

Each day for about a week she would get in the freezing water to go for it again, and when her lips were too blue or she got the wind knocked out of her, she was pulled into the boat.

On the evening before we left, she went at it again. Her determination was almost scary. I wanted her to give up so I could go in and warm up, but she wouldn't let herself. She HAD to get up and ride those skis once around the island.

Finally she did it! It was glorious!

But is that much determination a problem? Is she pushing herself too hard? Does she feel like she has to succeed at any cost?

No. Throughout her life she will have to learn that hard work and determination aren't always enough to attain your goal.

But for this summer. She has learned the opposite: with hard work and determination YOU CAN meet your goal!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The art of letting go...

Every year we spend time with my in-laws in northern Europe at their summer home on the North Sea. It is always a mix of our culture and theirs.

We have been using a fair amount of gas - at $10 per gallon, it is quite an expense. Not in the car, but in the boat.

Last year I nearly had a nervous breakdown. My husband let my daughter take the boat out alone on the sea. She was 9 1/2 years old. Even though I could see her and we had a 2nd boat to rescue her if necessary, I flipped out! I can still remember the mixture of anger and fear.

This year, she went by herself to my brother-in-law's cabin. It isn't far, but we can't see her for the majority of the trip. In fact, I offered "why don't you take the boat".

Would this get me thrown in jail in New Jersey?

By doing this she gains independence and self-confidence. Learning to trust her, letting go of my own angst, giving her space to try are gifts I can't give her at home. These are all things *I* have to work on.

Seeing her start the boat, then disappear beyond the hills eastward bound was like a 6-year flash-forward when she will want to take the car to see her friends, leaving me behind in the drive-way.

I guess then too I will need time to adjust. Until then, I am grateful for the chance to experience a European culture where children are encouraged to be independent. Am I still more comfortable in the uber-controlled culture of Bridgewater where society decides that the umbilical cord length should be short, and mothers are judged for letting go? Probably. But I am learning.

Yes, C will walk to school in the fall! No, I am not scared! It is for her own good! Go C go!