Monday, September 29, 2008

Heading advice??

"So what's next?" I ask myself in reference to my son N. Clearly there has to be a next step. Do I trust the school? Do I learn from my friends' experiences? How will I know what the right course of action is?

N's teacher said I should just practice the various word wall words from this year and last at home while she works with him at school. Mrs. N said that they would probably not prioritize N because his issues are relatively minor, but eventually Miss Teacher will bring this to the evaluation team. Before the school gives him other help, she (teacher) will have to try several things at home first.

My friends say that the school doesn't want to give him any extra service and that even if I try to have him tested outside of the district that they may not accept the results for an IEP (individual educational plan???) or that they even have an issue that they don't themselves get diagnosed. It's a catch-22, from what I understand, they don't want to test your kid, and if you do it privately, they don't want to accept it. One of my friends even took her son to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for two days of extensive testing and the school completely disavowed their report.

After Friday's talking with the district for C and trying to get her into e. I am ready to believe the worst without experiencing it myself.

That said - I love and trust Miss Teacher and Mrs. Nurse. I have known them both for several years and I genuinely believe that they only want the absolute best for N.

So I'll take a deep breath and spend time figuring this out for myself. I am not the best decision maker. I like to get input from others, but it sounds like this time I will have to do my own research and follow my own gut.

I just wish there were an easy how-to list that I could download somewhere!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A little more upbeat?

Last week's blogs were a bit of a downer. Here is something more upbeat.

Top 10 things I like about my new job:

1) The hours. 9-3 Monday to Thursday.

2) My boss. She is similar to me: tons of stuff to juggle in her brain, but intelligent enough to keep it all up there. In her private time she is involved with preventing local poverty. Gotta respect that!

3) My colleague. Right now I only have one. She seems nice and competent. And while I can't say I have the relationships I had at my 2000-2003 jobs, I do have to remind myself that they took time to build. I remember my first conversation in February 2000 with TK who said my masters degree wasn't as good as his (we became very good friends later), but my relationship with Lilla (not her real name, so I can use it here) was so good that when she sent me a text message saying "I love you" my husband bellowed "WHO THE HELL IS LILLA???" :-)

4) A new cafeteria is opening this week. It's about priorities, mine's food!

5) Lots of different projects to work on.

6) I like the fact that working here is breaking down my own stereotypes!

7) My commute - in NJ a short commute is a rarity. Mine is 3 miles - and I pass both kids' schools on the way.

8) A clean slate. No one knows me yet, so they don't have biases formed yet.

9) Starting the day at Starbucks. It's pumpkin latte time!

10) I might have found the work-life balance holy grail!

Have a good Sunday. Anyone know where I can hear Joe Biden speak? Every time I hear the VP speak, the candidate gets in. Superstitious? Yes! But if it works...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Banging my head against the wall

"Thank you for this very interesting conversation," the head of the math program told me after 40 minutes on the phone.

I hung up, feeling like shit!

I got the final, formal "no" from the person where the buck stops regarding getting C into e-math. It's not happening. Her scores, so Ms. Administrator tells me, are simply not high enough. But, I counter, she cries because she is bored in class - indeed the teacher told me on back-to-school night that she is reading books in math class. What do I do? Ms. Admin. tells me the mantra: targeted enrichment, differentiated teaching, blah blah blah. But no e-math. Last year's teacher recommended her highly for the program. Why can't the district put her in and see how she will do? Ms. Admin herself said that it isn't a cost issue as there are no higher costs associated with the e-program (classroom teachers teach it as part of their regular teaching load). SEM, the extra enrichment is one period per 6 day cycle, and there is only 1 SEM teacher for the 800+ children in the school, so I don't see much opportunity for enrichment!

The LAL supervisor left me a bit more optimistic. She claimed that she will revisit C's scores, speak to her teacher and even take another writing sample. E-lang arts would be great since C actually loves both reading and writing. While she likes math, love is a bit of a stretch.

I have been comparing notes with a friend who also has a daughter who is in the 'shouldda made e-math' boat. Ms. Administrator has twisted the same argument to keep both C and N out. To me she said teacher recommendations don't matter enough to let her in. For N, a slightly weak recommendation was enough to keep her out. I.e. N is being discriminated against for not speaking up in class.

M (N's Mom) and I are both frustrated and angry.

Isn't it both our right and our duty to advocate for our very bright daughters? I believe we are setting positive examples for them, and for our sons - standing up for them is an act of love and support.

The district's elitism and stonewalling is further proof that it doesn't care about the needs of its constituents. In the end, a parent a child's abilities best.

If this happens next year we might be calling our old pal, Tom.

Tom is a Coldwell Banker agent. We moved to Bridgewater specifically for the schools. We have no family in NJ, so we came here based on the reputation of the schools. If they can't service our needs, then we will have to look into other alternatives. Maybe someone else is crazy enough to pay these taxes without worrying what their kids are or aren't learning. We aren't. Tom - I've still got you programmed into my cell phone, if C doesn't make e next year, expect a call around July 1st.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Safer to walk?

Since I don't identify myself in this blog, at least not completely, I can say that my child walks to school every day. People have criticized me for it - even to my face - because it is unsafe.

Today, C took the bus and it would have been safer to walk!

She and her friend SJ did an after school cross country program together. I am happy that SJ motivated C to run! It's great exercise and a sport she can enjoy (as her grandfather does) until she is 83.

Since the kids stay late, the school district is generous enough to supply a late bus. As C's crossing guard had gone home, I had her take the bus 2 blocks to our cross street to avoid crossing a busy street at rush hour.

The bus driver didn't hear or didn't understand her and drove past our street. So C decided get off with SJ, about 1.5 miles from our home. But the bus driver, again, either didn't hear or chose not to let them off and kept going.

Finally the girls insisted on being let off. It was on a busy road at rush hour, alone and nearly 3 miles from our house.

Several parents have said I am indulgent to let my 10 year old have a cell phone. What does she need one for? They asked. I was so mad when my husband bought it. Pretty mad again when she got an upgrade. But today, it was worth its weight in gold. I got a phone call that C and SJ were stranded on the corner of "2.8 miles" and "no sidewalk" and I picked them up right away.

The moral of the story? It's safer to walk than take the bus in Bridgewater and sometimes a big indulgence is the right decision.

Later, I told her that I check her text messages and e-mail from time to time. A parent can never be too careful...

Time management

Started the new job on Monday and I LOVE IT! I love what I am doing (right now, mostly attending meetings and learning) and my new colleagues are great so far.

But I forgot how much time it takes to work. I come home mere moments before the school bus drops N off and zip into the whirlwind of my main job - Momming. Haven't been to taekwondo this week. The first two days everyone had to buy lunch because I hadn't been to the store. And exercising? Forget it! No time! I have a plan to make dinner in the crock pot before I leave for work - and keep forgetting to do that too!

Yesterday I actually forgot to pee. I realized it while fighting traffic to get home! (I am not one for bathroom humor, but forgive this one mention!) No matter how busy I ever got at home, I never forgot to eat and pee. (Monday I didn't eat until nearly one because everyone forgot to take lunch).

I also forgot the Board of Ed meeting last night - which had been in my calendar for more than a month.

Don't worry - I have tons of BRRSD stuff to think about, but until I relearn how to remember multitask, I might not blog daily.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Christmas is coming, the goose (the lamb?) is getting fat!

This is the year I started making Christmas dinner on September 20th!

My husband is from a place where salted lamb is their traditional Christmas dinner, and since we haven't been able to buy the right cut of cured meat either online or at the closest market in Brooklyn, we are trying to salt the lamb shoulder ourselves this year. We went to Hind & Fore in Bridgewater where they could tell the right cut of meat from our picture. We'll have to report back when we make a test dinner in November.

It's 70F and I am cooking for Christmas!

I like to knit Christmas presents. Last year was a big scarf year. This year three babies are on their way this fall - one friend is having her 5th and 6th children (and her 2nd set of twins!!). So I cast on 121 stitches in blue cotton last night. When it's done, I'll cast on 121 more stitches in a slightly different color. Then C's former teacher is having a baby - since we don't know the gender - it'll be 121 yellow stitches. If there is time I will also knit some Christmas gifts, maybe with my new-found plan-ahead strategy I might pull it off.

This is what the hats will look like?

It's a beautiful Sunday! Tomorrow I start my new job. I can't wait! Maybe its a good thing that I got a head start on the holidays. With even more to juggle, I'll have to get used to planning ahead. OK, turn off the computer and get out in the sun!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The next step

Decisions big and small are always difficult for me. Some are easy, but I still second-guess myself. My friend called yesterday and invited us to the beach for the day on Sunday. I said no because of C's soccer game, but, of course I'd rather go to the beach!

I don't where to begin with the kids.

I got the 411 on procedure for N from the school nurse It isn't quick and he will come after more serious issues. So what about the mean time? Tutoring? A neurologist?

With C... we are beginning to think that this is a good learning tool for her. She always has succeeded in everything and has always gotten exactly what she wanted. While it clearly not good that she isn't in e, it will also teach her something too.

But I still fear not getting into e may preclude her from academic success later. So I should break down doors until someone moves her. Why do they have to be so stingy in this district with time and services?

I took a 3-day hiatus from the media - no newspapers, TV news and no NPR! I put on classical music in the car. What did I find this morning?

The sky is still falling and we are still on the brink of economic collapse. Barack hasn't broken through and Sarah is still in the news. But we are supposed to have beautiful weather this weekend! I'll take that and after more coffee and a brownie for breakfast the weekend will have a good start!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I hate being right!

I am the pushy Mom! I volunteer a lot in the school, but I know that I get to see my kids during the day and get to know their teachers pretty well too.

Tonight it was back to school night. Even though I know it is a general overview, I waited until the end to steal time with my kid's teacher about something that I should have made an appointment for, knowing that she knew me and "it would be OK".

But the pushiness, the angst, the "budging in line" were worth it. N's teacher said he definitely has an issue. He cannot spell. Even simple words that he should have definitely could have spelled in 1st grade.

It's a two-way thing: I am grateful that it isn't all in my head. And I am heartbroken that there is an undiagnosed issue. I angst over the question of "what do we do now?"

After a lot of wine, the angst is subsided. I can go to sleep knowing that I will figure it out tomorrow - and in the weeks and months to come.

I was right. As my mother liked to say, it's "a Pyrrhic victory".

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Judging Poppet

It's both transitive and intransitive: judging. Today a discussion of the verb "judge".

It's always the same expression in some concerned mother's eyes, "You let her walk to school?" Usually behind them is the thought that she is a superior mother because she would drive her kid. But is she really? Isn't 20 minutes of independent walking in our own neighborhood a minimum expectation of a 10 year old?

But then I caught myself doing the same thing. Judging others! I do it several times a day - and when having coffee, I do can do it 50 times per latte. (You can find examples in this blog - did you see my judgment of Michelle Obama's choice of outfit?). I also judge a lot of mother's in my son's grade for being overprotective and self-righteous.

Stay and home and outside working moms judge each other all the time! I judge them both, since I have been both, and have been judged too. My house should be much cleaner since I am a stay-at-home Mom. There, I judge myself!

So now I wonder, with a side of judgment, do BRRSD teachers know the difference between an transitive and intransitive verb? Probably not as important in elementary school, but a must by middle school. ML - I hear you: I expect my kids to know what a predicate is by high school!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Instead of cleaning...

...I have been reading and drinking coffee with MR (thanks babe!).

I enjoyed Richard Cohen's op ed about McCain's ugly tone in the Washington Post.

I had a little geography lesson (asking if can you see Russia from Alaska) courtesy of Since I grew up in a state that you can see Canada from, it's good to know I'm an expert. Also, I've actually been to Russia (when it was still the USSR), and some 15 other countries - so I am (as far as the Republicans are concerned) a foreign policy expert! Do I get to count countries I have flown over, since technically I have "seen them"???

I listened to NPR about upcoming energy bills. Since we live in a state with a huge coastline (possibly my favorite part of New Jersey), they better not drill here! Is Speaker Pelosi losing her mind???

And just for kicks and giggles, I replayed Mr. Damon's interview...

Finally, I have plans to reread more of Macchiavelli's "The Prince". I read it in college in two classes, and recently discovered I have 3 copies on my bookshelf - one belongs to my friend Jamila - sorry Jem, lemme know if I should send it to ya! Rereading it will give me some insight into election politics. The Italians are experts and corruption and politics and have been for centuries. Maybe I can advise the Ds, and not get so worked up about the Rs' recent lies?

Before I can treat myself to Il Principe, I have to do more cleaning so my household Principe can be surprised.

PS - I have one more to add. Was reading the Huffington Post and had to see SNL's Clinton/Palin press conference.

Monday, September 15, 2008

High school all over again!

I'm waiting for the phone to ring, it's such a cliche! As in high school, I am anticipating the start of my new world (when the phone rings, that is). Also, as in high school the boys (this time they are plumbers) disappoint me.

Today is one big waiting game!

The antidote? Yard work. Pulling weeds and cleaning up so the place looks more presentable will take my mind off the silent phones.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday's morning coffee

After a long night - fear of werewolves brought the kids inside (it was, after all, a near full moon) - I read two things that caught my attention this morning:

The New York Times Editorial this weekend on Caribou Barbie...


a much more local issue. Lack of scrutiny in hiring bus drivers in NJ. While I am glad to have heard about the issue and not the most paranoid parent, the article in our local paper forgot one key thing I want to know: is it happening in Bridgewater??? Somerset County is not mentioned. Is this anything I should worry about? If there are former criminals driving our kids, what convictions do they have? Courier News, please follow up!

Here is the original article.

Another hot day. A new plumber has canceled for the 2nd time in 2 days. I ain't feeling the love! How does one earn good plumber karma???!!!

(Picture of melting Pikachu from last night - he was definitely yummy).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A busy Saturday

Today, it's all good! Eight years ago today N was born and we are spending a day celebrating.

He just opened more gifts than I could have imagined at his age, and I am about to make pancakes. There is the usual - soccer and taekwondo - and then just a couple of kids will sleepover in a tent in the yard.

The sun is out. It should be a great day! Today we don't worry about school, although he also got several books. Today is about having fun.

First - some starbucks!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

something to read on this rainy evening

I love Gloria Steinem and a friend of mine e-mailed me this insightful piece.

Gloria's still got it!


I need to decide today about C - am I going to make one final e-math push or let it lie?

I need to decide today if I want to go back to work full time or part time.

I have lots of errands to run and I promised to help at the school.

I want to scream out about Sarah Palin! Who knew being a PTO president is part of a qualification to be president!!!

But my mind is elsewhere.

It is in Siena, Italy. Normally its not a bad place to be - but today I am thinking about my niece. She is only 18 and will have to sign the papers to sell her inheritance after a family dispute. It's heartbreaking that the first time she sees "her beautiful house" (she is the only child of either party and would have inherited it) in 16 years she has to sign its sales papers!

As usual my family is complicated. Someone is hurting unnecessarily and there is no solution.

This was actually the impetus that made me want to go back to work. If I had been working the last four years I'd be in Siena buying half of this beautiful house (not the one in the picture). So something in my life has changed because of this situation.

My Mom is crying from heaven. This is not what she wanted, I'm sure! But it is on a long list of things that would have upset her terribly after her death. I am not sure about life after death, but I find myself asking her for strength when I need it. So now I call on her to give M courage. She needs it today!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Truer words were never spoken!

"Don't compare C & N!"

That is usually the advice a parent offers a teacher. Yesterday Miss Teacher gave it to me.

While most parents don't want unsolicited advice, this thrilled me. It means N's teacher (who C had 2 years ago) isn't doing it either. This is the 2nd time N & C have had the same teacher and the second time the teacher hasn't fallen into that trap. I hope I don't either.

No matter what I say about the curriculum, the district and Bridgewater, I am grateful for my kids' teachers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A day of talking

I have been talking all day. My head is spinning with all the voices. Lots of talk about Everyday math after last night's BOE meeting. Since I didn't attend, I'll share tidbits of today's other conversations instead.

On the phone with S: "Don't take no for an answer. Tell them that they need to look at her grades and her work over a long period of time and not just a certain test. Show her report card. Do what you have to do to get her into the e-program. I will help you!" (with moral support)

On a walk with M: "D (her son) was saved by a teacher who recognized in 1st grade that he needed more challenge and turned it into a game so that he didn't come home and say he was being punished for being smart. I wish she were still teaching!"

At lunch with T: "If X (a 2nd year teacher) had been mentored properly by the principal, R (her son) would have had a completely different year. Now he has co-teachers - one's brand new, the other has one year under her belt. I'm scared."

Also at lunch with T: (me talking) "All the parents in our kids' grade think I am the worst parent in the world. One of them was shocked because I invited her son to go down the shore for the day. Another was even more horrified because my soon-to-be 8 year old isn't in a booster and her kid is still in a car seat. It is like we live in the world of competitive overprotective mothering and all the parents in the school think I'm terrible at it!"

At TKD: "My son (who started 9th grade last week) leaves the house at 6:30 every morning and gets home at 6pm every night between soccer and lacrosse. He takes a shower. Hands me 2 piles of laundry (clothes from the school day and clothes from after-school sports), eats dinner and does his homework until 9:30. Then he watches about a half hour of TV and goes to bed."

On the soccer field T: "You have to be in their face to get anything done. It is "the squeaky wheel gets oiled" philosophy here! If you want services for your kid you have to be aggressive or nothing gets done. I never wanted to be that kind of parent."

Also on the soccer field J: "Should I be attending BOE and PTO meetings? What good are they?" (my response)"No good, unless you have an issue." "Can you make any changes by going?" "No, not usually."

At the Homeroom parent meeting C "You mean they want us to have a special meeting with the teacher? Why can't we just figure out who is doing what here and e-mail her? No one wants an extra unnecessary meeting!"

At the dinner table: C:"I am so bored in school. I know that other kids like the teacher and think he is funny, but he breaks down everything as if it is going to be hard when it is already so simple." (T turns to me "Make the call to whoever you can." T turns to C: "You may just have to suck it up this year, study harder and try to do better on those tests in the spring." Me: "I'll see what I can do!"

Now: "Mommy!!! Bedtime!"

My ears are ringing as if I had been to a rock concert.

I am also reliving the conversation yesterday about an unnamed 8 year old boy who told another unnamed 8 year old boy "I don't give a shit." (Within earshot of both a parent and other smaller kids - dad sent the kid home, but he didn't go!) Guess I am not the worst parent in Bridgewater.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

EM - Every day misery?

C's homework assignment included this problem tonight:

Number model for arrays. (her answers in bold)

* * * * * (array) 1x5 (number model) 1, 5 (factors) 5 (product)

THIS IS NOT 5th GRADE WORK! This isn't even review of 4th grade work!

C was in tears this weekend about not making the e-program. We went over her scores. I told her that I have done everything I can possibly do. If she wants more she will have to fight the system herself.

Will Cheryl Dyer take her more seriously than she takes me?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lipstick or Berkenstocks? Where in the spectrum do women like me fall?

I read an article in September 7th's New York Times that made me think about my own identity. It was a comparison of Soccer Moms and Hockey Moms and what their kids' sports may say about their likely voting patterns.

Where do we taekwondo Moms fit in? Yes, my kids both play soccer but our lives revolve around TKD. TKD has some poignant similarities to hockey: both sports are very expensive, both have chances for physical injury (and while fighting isn't formally part of hockey, kids spar each other in TKD) and neither are particularly popular sports.

I spend between 3 and 10 hours a week at the TKD school. Parents talk! They talk a lot about the school and their kids and the regular schools their kids attend. After spending many hours talking with other TKD parents, I can safely say that we don't always share political views.

One shouldn't make assumptions based on what sport a parent's kid plays! One dad recently wore a political t-shirt that I found directly offensive to a TKD activity. Another Mom drives a car with a "W" sticker. While one of the new Moms was sporting an Obama t-shirt and drives a minivan covered in left-leaning bumper stickers "Peace is courage" was one I noticed today.

To expose diversity of thought at tkd I could wear my favorite t-shirt to our next demonstration. It says:

"I think, therefore I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh"

So suffice to say a sport isn't the best indicator of a family's values! Political or otherwise.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What am I going to do?

My son needs help in writing! The work he brought home today looks like a first grader wrote it (he's in 3rd).

What's the answer:
1) Tutoring? (BW teachers start at $50/hour)

2) A kumon/Sylvan-like program that won't use whole language?

3) Me tutor him? It is cheaper than the first two options.

4) Let his teacher guide him and wait and see what she says when she has had a chance to evaluate?

Maybe it will be clearer after a bottle of wine (did I say bottle, I mean glass, of course) and Bill Maher.

It could be worse... I could be Mom of father-to-be Levi Johnson (soon to be Mr. Bristol Palin)!!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why I'm going back to work...

It's a foggy morning. There is a ton of laundry - both clean and dirty - upstairs. I have about 20 phone calls to make (2 lawn services, an insurance company, the rec department, Dr. appt scheduling, etc.). Homeland security misspelled C's name on her passport, so I have to download some form, find 2 pictures and then go to the post office to send them with certified mail.... and that is what I remember in the 3 minutes I have been writing this.

Are you thinking about your own list when you read this too?

Do we have enough to do? Yes. And if you are a person who knows me well, what I haven't included is the pink elephant in the room - my kitchen, the perpetual disaster area is in rare form with all the papers needing to be sorted: recycling/shredding/filing. Here is a shot of about 1 square foot of my kitchen table which is about 6 feet long.

So why would I want to work? I'm already overwhelmed.

Because I do! I can't wait for a different set of responsibilities to join the overflowing plate! New colleagues, new challenges. A new start.

Let's hope that I still have time for BOE meetings, involvement in the community and time for coffee with friends (since I don't see a shrink, this is a must!). It's work-life balance I seek. More work, while keeping "life" in check.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

My favorite commercial is from Staples. Don't know it? Search Youtube.

It's the first day of school. I love it! Expectations, clean slates and new friends.

Enthusiasm - can you see the spring in these kids' steps as the head to the bus?

My kids came home today from their first day of school, hot but happy. Their report included the following: N's so glad that they "didn't have to learn anything". C was bored from "all the talking by the teachers". C is psyched about PE. N had lots of boys (13) in his class.

While they were off I treated myself to coffee with some friends. It was great to have them back in school!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Deep breath!

Over lunch I read about Everyday Math being reviewed in the Courier News. It's about time!

This started a discussion between four Moms at N's friend's party. While we talked some math, language arts became the hot topic.

Parent A has a kid who is dyslexic but she needed a lawyer to get reading help for her child.

Parent B (hostess) has been asking for answers about our apparent lack of a coherent spelling/word study program at board meetings for years. She asked the board where has the program Bridgewater uses been tested before and was met with blank stares. She went back a month later, repeating the question still with no answers. I think it is a valid question. Perhaps I will ask it sometime too! I think she called BW a guinea pig. Is it?

Parent C wants to know why the school district has no problem to call her for permission to test her older A-student daughter for the e-program, while she can't get her younger son tested for dyslexia for love nor money. I believe she got two numbers: my friend Anne's (who tutors dyslexic kids) and the aforementioned lawyer.

Parent D (Poppet) was complaining about her usual BRRSD issues.

I would have complained even more but my stomach is bothering me. Not sure if it is acido from the school system or the spicy Asian food I tried last night. So ladies, if you are reading this, forgive my abrupt departure.

How come whenever I meet parents here in Bridgewater they always have concrete issues with our school district?