Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kids and Sin City


(Grandpa takes in the view in Vegas)

For the second year in a row, we have ignored Thanksgiving and taken the kids on vacation. Last year we were in Florida. This year we took my Dad with us to Las Vegas. I am glad we got to take him on vacation with us. He is 83 and in good health, but as a huge hypochondriac any trip on a plane was a hard sell. When he finally got there, he had a GREAT TIME! In fact, I think he liked it best of all!

Some of my friends might not think that Vegas is an appropriate destination for my impressionable children. "All that sex EVERYWHERE." The smokey casinos that you have to cross to get to anywhere in the hotel. The men handing out cards offering dates for men in the street.

My kids ignored it all!

What did they like best about Vegas? The expensive Cirque Du Soleil show, KA (being martial artists I thought it was a sure thing)? No. (BTW it was very cool!)

The free Pirate show outside of Treasure Island? No.

Seeing Faux Paris? Seeing the water show in front of our hotel (the Bellagio)? No, no.

They liked 2 things best: the M&M store's 4D movie and swimming at the hotel pool!

What did they bring back with them?

Jetlag!

Next year I'll vote for a stressful day in the kitchen with a bird, praying it cooks as expected, while impatient family members head for the snack drawer.

My favorite thing: playing blackjack with T. Our little date night. (I came out about even, he lost about $100). We don't go out often together, so I appreciate it all the more when we do.

I'm also sorry I missed the "triple date". Next year?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good news

N's conference was helpful. He is coming along with his writing and is very creative in his thought process. I can't believe how much his abilities have progressed - the first week of school he couldn't fill in open-ended sentences like "My favorite thing to do is ..." Now he can write his own ideas. At least in class.

Why can he sometimes do something very clever and other times, when asked to write very simple things, his mind goes completely blank and he cries in frustration? One of the things Miss Teacher shared today made me laugh out loud several times. Yet when we asked him to write 3 sentences about a pet (we have had several to choose from, and we reminded him of them too) he cannot come up with one thing to say on his own.

My cousin (well, my Mom's cousin) is coming today. She has come into our lives more now after my Mom died. She has been an angel to us, helping my Dad so selflessly, despite her own challenges. She tackles everything with grace and spunk. We've gotten to know her children (and their wives/kids) better and we have really enjoyed it. She is a speech pathologist by training, but has had a host of jobs in the ed sector, including Principal of an alternative High School. LH is fabulous! She will have insights on N and C, I'm sure!

This weekend she is doing me a huge favor by saving me the 4 hour ride to collect my Dad. Hopefully she will have a relaxing time here and I can treat her to a few nice Jersey fall days. Dad will stay through New Years.

So I will go back to cleaning so that she is welcomed not by a Frat House look alike, but a warm and welcoming home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Breathe!

So it has been an unbelievably busy week. Work was extraordinarily stressful and demanding but I feel more confident and comfortable now. I am still feeling overwhelmed by the work-life balance question.

So I was grateful that soccer is finally over to soften the schedule.

On the homefront I always feel behind. The house is a perpetual mess and no matter how many times I run the dishwasher, the kitchen is overrun with things needing washing. Laundry: even worse!

Today we had our first somewhat negative report about C. Ever. Her math grades are dropping - she is losing interest. In language arts she is doing well, but when she doesn't apply herself it is clear. She rushes, isn't conscientiously checking her work. She does well the days she is pulled out for enrichment - even though she misses the lesson, she does the work, faster and better. She is bored otherwise. At this rate of dropping grades, she will have no chance at e. I remember this from my childhood when teachers wrote "not working up to potential", "makes careless mistakes". I have always thought C was smarter and more talented than me, so I have higher expectations.

When I came home and told her (straight talk, no sugarcoating) what her teacher said I could see she was upset.

She has high expectations, too! Tomorrow morning... N's conference.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No time to...


I have been remiss.

A friend of mine sent me the K-4 Language Arts and Literacy program evaluation. It's less than 40 pages, but I have not had time to read it! It seems like every moment is booked. I'm even looking forward to reading it, yellow highlighter in hand! Even the five minutes I am writing this are stolen from my before-school rush of activities. I should be... is how I feel most of the time, as in "I should be in the shower."

Tonight the BOE takes up another important issue - state testing results. Again with the shoulds... We'll see if I can turn that into "I will go". TKD is until 7:30, BOE meeting is at 8:00 and my only chance to see a gym for is between 6:30-7:25 (it's 1/4 mile from TKD).

Last night my house was full of chaos. N's boy scout den came over and made PB&J sandwiches for S.H.I.P.. Most of the boys (8 year old 3rd graders, for the most part) had never made a sandwich before! We coddle our kids too much! Although they turned it into a competition "What number are YOU on? This is my 4th sandwich!" I think they still had a sense of pride from making something that hungry children will eat. I wonder if they could grasp the sense that right here in Somerset County people are hungry and homeless.

Feed hungry kids and read program evaluations - it's all important stuff to me. But so is all the "stuff that gets in the way" (TKD practices, soccer games, seeing friends, grocery shopping...). It's finding time from my chaos-driven existence to do it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday at home

If you've been in my house unexpected, chances are you were shocked by the chaos and mess.


So I am cleaning today. Will get kids to help - even if I have to force them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nobody's Nerfect

It was a great morning. The sun was shining, and I promised that no matter what happened today I wouldn't let it spoil my especially good mood.

Keeping that promise at work was a challenge - luckily my colleague A has a seemingly unlimited supply of chocolate to lift spirits.

I worked nearly 2 hours late - and left in a frenzy. When I got home at 5pm, I had to rush to pick up my son and get him to his end of soccer party. After the challenges of being on this team I felt like it was especially important to be there. I left 5 minutes later than I should have, but I didn't think it would matter. I'm always 5 minutes late.

Well, I was wrong.

1st - It took me 45 minutes to drive to Chimney Rock Inn(a little over 5 miles from here). The traffic was awful. Think LA meets the Lincoln Tunnel.

2nd - I get to Chimney Rock and NO party!!! I was at the wrong place! I open my iPhone to recheck the e-mail, but it didn't download properly and only says the time! (a reminder of how late I am).

3rd - So I call various parents. Everyone who is at the party can't hear their phone (which makes me think the kids are having a blast - more guilt). Finally I get in touch with a parent. He confirms that they are actually having pizza in Somerville (I have to get back into traffic) and I have to admit that not only am I nearly an hour late, I have no idea where they are.

4th - We get there. The trophies have all been handed out. Coach D gives one to N. The moms are all looking at me like I am an idiot. None of these moms do this sort of thing! The Moms of this grade are in a class of their own - gorgeous hair, always on time, the kinds who have band-aids in their purses, and never have problems finding their kids' cleats and only yell at their kids appropriately.

But N had a slice of pizza with his friends and for the 10 minutes we were there he had a good time.

Maybe it is symbolic - N didn't play most of the games, but he still had a good time when he did.

Yesterday the first time in 12 years my candidate won. Even traffic woes can't take that away! Tomorrow will have more challenges, more traffic and more places for me to be late to. If I can channel some good mood energy from this morning, I can get through it all!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day's top 10

Top ten reasons to vote D today!

10) To prove to ourselves (and the rest of the world) that we aren't bigoted!

9) Obama is much cooler than McCain.

8) We need D's in both Legislative and Executive branch to balance all those years of strong-handed R rule.

7) The Democrats don't owe their power to ties with big Oil.

6) A chance to end No Child Left Behind.

5) Universal Heath Care- don't knock it til you try it!!!!!

4) "I'm pro-choice and I vote!" Well, it's true...

3) In a word: PALIN.

2) LET'S GET OUT OF IRAQ! Let's NOT go into Iran!

1) SUPREME COURT - Our next President will likely nominate one, maybe two justices.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One more day

"One day to a new beginning
Raise the flag of freedom high!
Every man will be a king
Every man will be a king
There's a new world for the winning
There's a new world to be won
Do you hear the people sing?
My place is here, I fight with you!"

I have Les Mis going through my mind this morning as I drink my coffee.

I hope my readership will vote Obama tomorrow so we can scrap or sharply redo NCLB and fix so many other mistakes of Bush - stop spending $10B/month in Iraq, restore our standing in the world and so much more.

I hope you will vote for the Dems running here in Bridgewater. I can't vote for Stender because of where I live, but maybe you can - here's Billy Boy stumping for her.

And beware of a certain local Republican in Independent's clothing! Mr. H actually said to me that kids in AI are MORE important than the other children in the district because they represent the best chance to get into top colleges. I cannot tell you how offended I was. How does he know what my non-AI kids' chances are of getting into Princeton, Yale or Cornell? And who cares if they do? All kids count! Shame on his ignorant self! As a councilman he represents all of us - even the non-AI contingent.

Who will he then be representing if he makes it into the US House? The tiny contingent of people in our district who have degrees from Yale? Or the few who make over 5 million dollars a year?

I leave you with a clip recommended by C from the Simpsons!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Biting my tongue on the soccer field


I'm a woman who speaks her mind, especially when it regards her kids.

Several weeks ago I e-mailed N's coach when he only played 4 minutes of a 60 minute game. It's a township-sponsored, in-town recreation league. One hour of practice and 8 or 10 games a season. We like it because it offers N a chance to play a team sport, get some fresh air and have some fun. We don't see him turning into a soccer-star, but after this season we will have to call it quits. This hurts his self-esteem, instead of the original goal.

A bench-warmer at 8. Ouch!

So I e-mailed the coach after the first time. She sent me a long reply apologizing that she didn't notice he played so little, and because of new rules she is limited in when she can sub. She also said that kids play more when they ask to play. N is actually pretty shy and would never ask to play.

So when two weeks ago he didn't play more than a few minutes again, I fumed. I didn't want to be the typical helicopter Mom, hovering. I didn't want to interfere.

I should have!

Today, again, he played under 10 minutes while the vast majority of his teammates played the entire game. The coach subbed in and out the 3-4 weakest players with the 4 medium players and never gave the top few kids any break. Nico played two plays today. It was the last game and now I leave the season with a bad taste in my mouth. Both for this very qualified and strong coach and for my own lack of assertiveness. How could the situation have been improved? Coach D did not take any ownership of her coaching decisions. So had I said something, she would likely have changed her opinion of me, but not her behavior which was my goal.

Would N have played more? Who knows?! But I might have felt better about all the driving, sock-stressing and cheering. I think that would have been an improvement!