Thursday, January 29, 2009

I D.A.R.E. YOU!


I went to a "big event" this morning - the DARE graduation. A celebration of 5th graders promising to resist drugs, alcohol, smoking and other temptations. There were several speakers (our dull mayor got shown up by the mayor of Raritan's vibrancy). Speeches aside, the kids have spent many weeks learning good choices and hopefully they will remember it.

I felt more than a little hypocritical - and a little panicked.

My drinking escapades started when I was only 2 1/2 years older than C! I was 13 when JK and I stole vodka from a relative and that we drank at her birthday party. I probably had only a teaspoon of the poisonous tasting stuff. The following winter a cute senior offered me (an impressionable 14 year old) swigs from his Southern Comfort flask. From then on much of the socializing I have been to has included or focused on alcohol. Even today "dry" parties are unusual.

While I have a lot of experience with alcohol, I have very little with drugs. If the stories are true, my late brother certainly was no stranger to various hallucinogens. He was a teen in the late 60s, very popular and it seems like the his entire (albeit way too short) adult life was one big party. His wife has shared a few choice stories... he was even high on their first date.

My Mom was a chain smoker who died of lung cancer. I have always hated cigarettes. It was never a problem to resist smoking.

Several of the Moms were joking about today's graduation. It was funny. But deep inside it was mostly scary. I have a long list of things I shouldn't have done under the influence. I have lots of wild stories. How do I discuss honestly the dangers of drugs and alcohol with my kids when the time comes? It's bad parenting 101:

Do as I say, not as I do.

C could be at someone's birthday 2 years from now, drinking something stolen from her grandmother (that's where we got the stuff at JK's)! It seems impossible, but I guess it's not. My parents probably felt the same way about me at 13. That I was too young and innocent to do that. Let's hope she and her friends make better choices than I did, and if and when they do try alcohol they don't get carried away!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No matter what..

... don't cut sports!

Last (this was written on Wednesday, but posted Thursday) night's BRRSD Board of Ed meeting had 3 main messages.

* One was from parents to the BOE - keep sports. Don't cut trainers, don't cut awards , don't cut middle school sports.
* One from the BOE to parents - we care about sports. Christine Schneider gave a heart wrenching plea to demonstrate how vital sports are to her. She thanked several big-wig sports families in the audience (I've never seen a BOE member thank individuals at a meeting, they normally barely recognize the public) for their support.
* Everyone's message was VOTE YES on the BUDGET.

In fact, several members of the BOE reiterated their support for sports, recognizing hard financial times. The BOE expressed their happiness that no one got as nasty as those pesky (my word, not theirs) library-fighting parents. Several BOE members compared the civility of last night's meeting to the messy bookie-vigilantes meetings 2 years ago. Of course, the situation is completely different. These are hearings before cuts have been made. That was after being blindsided by unexpected cuts.

Schilder presented the same Powerpoint that is on the website (www.brrsd.k12.nj.us) and that I mentioned a few weeks ago. This included the "doomsday" slide - the contents I have pasted here (in italix - red is my emphasis not in original)

0% Budget Options
PERSONNEL Cut all new personnel requests Eliminate all non special education teaching assistant positions Increase class size (6 teachers)
PROGRAMS/CURRICULUM Eliminate all new curricular adoptions Eliminate all summer curriculum writing Reduce staff development Decrease elective offerings at High School Eliminate non-mandated programs, K-12 Eliminate district sponsored field trips
FACILITIES Suspend all facilities improvements
ATHLETIC/ CO-CURRICULAR Cut all sports, grades 7-9 Cut all after-school activities/transportation (non-athletic), grades K-9
SERVICES Restructure custodial and maintenance services Eliminate all courtesy bussing

The purpose of this slide is to show what would have to be cut in order to achieve a
0% tax levy increase or if deep cuts had to be made for any reason. It should be
made clear to the public that neither the Board nor administration endorse making
these cuts and in fact, it is our belief that doing so would greatly undermine the
quality of education in Bridgewater-Raritan Schools.


Isn't everyone's first priority LEARNING? People were complaining that they are potentially spending $400K on math. God forbid we spend money on MATH! Now, I'm not saying I am sold on whatever program(s) they are looking at (that's still to be presented - they won't even tell what they are considering), but it is the principle of the matter. Shouldn't money be focused on academics first and foremost.

The Superintendent said that if the "doomsday" financial situation comes true, there would be other consequences: the high school may be forced to go from a 9 period to a 8 period day eliminating at least 1 elective per child (not to mention cutting access to academic non-electives). This will hinder many of the suggested options to alleviate overcrowding in this HS during the "bubble" years with this upcoming extra large class.

Parents hardly mentioned this, though! Parent after parent came in support of sports. I guess if they can organize themselves well enough, we don't have to worry about the budget passing. Maybe this is a good thing - this us-against-them mentality?

So in the end, completely unprepared to speak and with a lot of ums and uhs, I said "I'm here to remind the board that no matter what they cut, we expect that nothing will directly impact learning the basics of the core curriculum." (Or something like that).

The next few BOE meetings will be must-see events. They will be presenting the math findings and will discuss what the strategic planning has presented to the BOE and give time for comment. At least this time we got an advance notice of what is on the table for cuts if the budget doesn't pass. That is progress.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The not so sick, sick kid

My mother had a strict rule - in order to stay home from school, you had to have a fever or had to have thrown up. "I don't feel well" didn't cut it. I remember going to school with many a sniffle.

N was what I would call "borderline sick" yesterday. I kept him home. No fever, but sunken eyes, very pale and just not himself.

So far my kids haven't abused this, faking illnesses to stay home. Mrs. Nurse called me last year saying C had a headache. It was the first time in 5 years she had complained of a headache, so I picked her up. C came home and slept for several hours. Clearly she had a headache.

On Sunday (I'm writing this Tuesday morning) N was complaining that he didn't feel well, but we let him go to his best friend's birthday dinner. He didn't have a fever. When the dinner went late he asked if he was going home soon, a 1st. I kept him home from school yesterday when he still seemed sick. He went to my workout place, still no fever, so with DS and PSP in hand he entertained himself for 1.5 hours. Then we hit Wegmans picking out dinner, still in good spirits, and home. We read together under the covers as if he were really sick. I took him to taekwondo that night. Normally they don't go if they are sick, of course, but he had seemed pretty much fine most of the day. Half way through a particularly grueling class he needed a break. The teacher told a different kid "if you're sick, don't come!"

After this experience I am more confused than ever about the gray-area days. He's fine, he's not fine.

I sent him to school today, but am keeping the the cell phone close by. Am guessing that Mrs. Nurse may be trying to get in touch. One of my favorite things about this nurse (and the list is long) is that when she calls, I know it is because my kid is sick. Too bad she wasn't here yesterday to help me to judge. I can almost hear my mother's "I told you so"...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Facebook faces

It is a bit surreal. People from all aspects of my life are intermingled seemingly randomly, or via alphabetical order.

Today I uploaded pictures from my childhood, teen years, twenties, kids, family gatherings and a recent Christmas party. And it is all so random. Some people in these pictures I hardly know and have hardly ever spoken to. Some are people that were once major players in my daily life and now we send a short, superficial e-mail to each other with a "how are you?" subject line about once a year.

It's strange to think that so many people see me from so many different angles. I'm a sister, their cousin, someone they knew (and maybe didn't like) in high school. People I traveled with, where you form a random bond solely based on the fact that you are experiencing a new place for the first time and they are too. Some of those turned into deeper friendships. A couple of unsuccessful romantic relationships in there. People who know me as Mom. People who don't know me as Mom. Those are the ones that are the strangest to reconcile. Various roommates. Extended family. Even my baby-sitter's teenage daughter. How does she know me? Well, not very well. One woman and I connected on another website and I haven't met her in person ever but we comment on each other's pictures. This weekend, one of my closest friends joined my list. So did my daughter's first grade teacher. Random, indeed.

Like many people on my list, I think I am addicted. But it makes sense. I kept in touch with many of these people long before Facebook was an idea. When people used to write letters (you know, paper and pen, envelope, stamp and mail) I kept in good touch with many of them.

When people used to ask if I have a collection. I thought "I collect friends".

Facebook is tangible proof that I still have my collection and cherish it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Date Night

It's Date Night. Kids are farmed out (thank you MR and SM) and I've been straightening my bangs in the vain hope they will stay straight until at least 8pm.

T and I don't prioritize our relationship with each other. We spend very little time out together - yes, we have several TV shows that we watch together, but it is seldom that we go out to dinner or to a movie, just the two of us. Now that the kids are older, I had expected we would be have the freedom to do our own thing, but as the kids grow older they have more they want to do. If we weren't going into the city, we'd have been at the Pine Wood Derby. Last weekend we hosted sleepovers both Friday and Saturday nights. It seems like their activities are never ending and ours never start.

My parents went out a lot without us when I was a kid. We spent pretty much every Saturday night with faithful babysitting sisters C & MJ or with my grandmother while my parents were out either with friends or on their own. So I took it for granted that this was how all married couples are. T's parents almost never eat out together. They even ate separately at home on the night of their 30th anniversary - I was shocked! I've learned that T and I come from very different worlds and I have to change my expectations, because they are different from how he was raised. Where he comes from eating out in an extravagance. In my household it wasn't.

So today I am as giddy as a teenager. We are going into the city for dinner and a show. It is a very rare event. The tickets were my Christmas present and I am wearing red and feeling like a young kid on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A messy situation

So what do I do?

N's room is always a disaster. I yell, he whines. He cleans a bit, whines some more. I yell more. The cycle repeats itself on a very regular basis.

The cleaning lady is here today - N was supposed to clean last night before bed but I wasn't home to remind him, and his Dad didn't know the cleaning lady was coming today. When I got home last night I was so exhausted, that I went to bed at the same time as the kids... so no reminder. This morning I got him up to clean early and then remembered that the wonderful Miss Teacher has extra help on Wednesdays. N whined some more (about going to extra help), but I was afraid if I gave him a choice "clean or go to extra help" he would clean!

So here I am (taking a break) from cleaning his room for him.

One things is for sure: no allowance for him this week!

So now my break is over. Back to sorting legos, clothes (clean and dirty), pokemon cards, digimons, and every other toy that comes in small parts known to man.

But isn't the fault mine since I didn't enforce the "keep your room clean or you can't play with your friends" rule (he played with TM nonstop from 7pm Friday, until 2pm Monday, then went to the movies and didn't get home until dinner time)? So actually it is probably just right that I do the cleaning since I am slacking off on the mothering. The fact is that straightening has never been my strong suit. My room is as messy as his is (because we have the washer/dryer off our bedroom all clothes, clean and dirty get sorted and folded in there. Also, it is where kids read often before bed, leaving books and magazines and when we get company things get shoved there). But it is true.

Off to do my least favorite thing in the world - better stop bitching and start sorting. Break's over! Back to motherhood.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sunday in History


Yesterday, while I folded piles of laundry, my daughter and I watched one of the best concerts I've ever seen. I tried to impress upon her that she would remember this for the rest of her life. I remember when I was about her age watching the hostages being released just as Reagan was being sworn in (with my parents interpreting the action completely differently from one another, but agreeing that if the hostages weren't released Reagan would declare war, with a knot in my stomach).

Yesterday we watched many musical icons of this country take the stage to praise Obama and celebrate his inaugural. Tears welled up when Bono said "Not just an American dream. Also an Irish Dream, a European Dream, African dream, Israeli dream and also a Palestinian dream..." You can see the entire U2 portion here. Watch Bono when he says "one man, he resists".

I spent a lot of time in Europe over the past 20 years. Sometimes I have been proud of being an American. Some people still remark that Marshall funding basically rebuilt post-war Europe. After 9/11 many people abroad felt that they were being attacked too and they were strongly allied with the US . Most times when I have been on the other side of the pond, I have been the "unofficial" representative of the US, as the only American at a gathering, and people have felt that it is OK to push me for answers on American foreign policy (often with which I largely disagreed). Post 9/11 the US embassy where I was staying warned US citizens not to draw any attention to themselves. "Don't speak English in public if you can help it. Don't wear clothing that identifies you as an American." I did the best I could.

A Germany friend SD, thinks that everyone should be able to vote in the US elections because, she argued, the President effects policies all over the world, and that everyone then deserves some representation. Hard to argue with that when we are asking countries to share in the burdens in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Africa and other regions.

So yesterday, Bono really captured my heart. He sand with pride (no pun intended!) and gave a sort of European blessing of our new President-to-be. I checked- the concert made front page news (and the election has been dominating newspapers throughout the world for months and months). One paper's headline quoted Bono, "This is not just an American dream!"

If only for this weekend, I am basking in enjoyment and pride to be an American! Even Bono, critic of so much that America does, has nothing but praise!

After being on the losing team for nearly a decade, this feels great! Thank you, Bono! Enjoyed also Beyonce - click here to hear it too! Hope C remembers our little concert watching as powerfully as I remember watching Live Aid in 1985, thinking it was the coolest thing in the world! And that it touches her as the Tribute to Heroes touched me 7 years ago. I sat with tears rolling down my face the entire concert!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Separation between Church and Kids

Toronto Diocese Choir School for Girls
ca. 1985, I'm hidden by my sister

(I attended Anglican/Episcopal choir camp
for 5 summers and LOVED it!)


We don't attend church. We're not even C&Es (Christmas and Easter attendees). Both T and I are both baptized and confirmed and we married in the church. Both of the kids are baptized. But the only time I remember them being in church (other than the occasional wedding) is when they have attended with friends. T doesn't believe in God and thinks organized religion is the basis for most of the world's wars (I agree with him on that point), so we haven't gone. When we met and married I went regularly. Now I haven't stepped a foot in a church since my friend's wedding nearly 2 years ago. I just don't know what I believe.

My cousin, whom I have turned to for parenting advise for more than a decade, only told me a story on how they ended up attending church. Her daughter K came home one day and said "Mommy, have you accepted Jesus into your heart?" That was enough for her. She decided that the kids in the neighborhood couldn't be responsible for their kids' religious training. They joined their local Episcopal church.

Last night I was remembering this story that she told me 8 years ago. Cecilie had 2 friends sleeping over. NR is Catholic, KH is "Christian" - from what I understood it is a non-denominational, somewhat evangelistic place. And the two girls took it upon themselves to give C a crash course in God, Jesus and the Saints.

C is older and asking questions. N (my son) has been asking too. What is the right answer? C said she doesn't want to go with me to church - she wants to go with "Mrs. R"!!! She's been to church and temple a number of times with friends. I know it is my responsibility to teach her what her "childhood belief" should be.

It's just so hard when my own adult beliefs are confused. One of my friends from college is now and Episcopal minister. She had quite a rough time at college, losing her sister to an asthma attack in her junior year and her mom died of cancer just after her senior year. She talked a lot about incomplete faith. I guess that is my category. I want to believe and I just sometimes can't, so it feels hypocritical to send my kids.

When we first moved to BW I was at a ladies' night with several Moms. I felt attacked by two of the Moms who more or less accused me of that ultimate sin, bad mothering. "How can you teach your kids right from wrong without church school?" My holier-than-thou friend said. "Well, through service in Girl Scouts, by example and by talking about right and wrong on a regular basis in the home". You don't need 10 commandments to make sure your kids know that they aren't allowed to kill someone or covet they neighbor's wife. (Being jealous of their clothes?) They stared at me and continued to try to say that Church is an important place to learn these things and that I should reconsider.

But church or no church, I still believe you can be a good family, good people with a good life without organized religion and I take offense that someone would think otherwise. As long as I can have some control over what the kids are taught to believe or not believe I still think my kids aren't worse or better than kids with religious education. I had a lot of religious education, and I certainly am no more or less moral (and I have done my fair share of immorality during my time!) than anyone else I know. All my religous training has not kept me from cheating, stealing, lying, vanity and a host of other sins. And without God/Church as part of my life, I have been forced to try to forgive myself. It was easier when I could say a general confession "I have not loved my neighbor as myself" and Poof! I'd be "forgiven and absolved".

This is a long blog today and the discussion is not over. But like most of the blogs I publish it is filled with implicit questions that have no right or wrong answers. Until I figure it out, allow me to ask "What the Hell do I do now?" when the girl friends are teaching C the Lord's Prayer in two different versions!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Math mania

BW kids counting pumpkin seeds as part of a Halloween program (1st graders)
BW Every Day Math Wall (kindergarten)

It's coming up - the decisions about the Everyday Math program. Honestly I am ambivalent. Lots of kids struggle using Everyday Math. C is bored to tears. Like Baby Bear, for N, Everyday Math is just right. What are we getting instead? I worry that we will lose an entire school year in the transition. Unprepared teachers. Disconcerted parents. Confused kids.

So when I run into very enthusiastic parents I am unsure what to say. If I disagree they think I am an idiot. I have always thought C could be more challenged, but I honestly trust my kids' teachers opinions' more than my own limited view. I have not actually asked C's teacher's opinion this year, but all of their previous teachers raved about EDM. I don't like this unknown (again with BRSSD's lack of transparency) committee's power. What have they chosen instead? How come I didn't know there was an opportunity to be part of the review committee? I consider myself relatively well-informed. I would have loved the chance to take part in the review! Perhaps my ambivalence would have made me a better candidate than the polarized parents who show up at BOE meetings and complain vocally (I assume a number of them are on the committee).

Teachers will have to be trained - does that mean they will be pulled out of their regular teaching obligations (ie our kids classes) or would this take place over the summer? (Doubtful since teachers aren't required to be here in the summer). How many hours does each teacher need for training? How many hours are they pulled from the classroom?

And what about the new program? How do we know it is better, just because a group of people eager to be rid of EDM say so? (How else did they get on the committee than if they were exceptionally motivated to get involved?). Is ANYONE listening to what the teachers say, or is it assumed that they only like EDM because they are used to it? Is it more than a token teacher taking part?

Have we checked that our percentages of kids in tutoring (both for remediation and extra enrichment) are higher than non-EDM districts?

I know today's blog is mostly questions. That's pretty much all I have. I feel at a loss. Unable to assess EDM fairly based on my limited experience and yet not sold on another program.

I said I am ambivalent. I think anxious is a better description. If I were ambivalent I would also have positive feelings about EDM - beyond that the teachers (and N) like it, I don't have much positive to say, so why worry about losing it?

I miss having a job today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saying no is hard to do

Now that I'm not employed again and back in the volunteer's life...

Someone wants me to do something I don't want to do.

Lots of people ask me to do things I want to do, but only sorta.

How can I get myself motivated enough to give a straight no to the first category, and to go from YES! to maybe, let me think about it in the second category. Why can't I say no to them either? Is it a self-esteem thing? I want people to like me and am afraid they won't if I say no? Or is it the eternal guilt thing?

Also, is it right to force C to continue with girl scouts next year? I think it is a fabulous organization and I really, really love leading her troop. We went through this before. She wanted to quit a few years ago, and then MR stepped up to co-lead (for which I am ever grateful) and C stayed on. I want C to continue! We don't go to church, so it is important that she perform some service to the community.

Is it morally right to force her to do something she says she doesn't want to do when I'm too much of a wimp to say no to those who want me to do things I don't want to do? Why can't I say Yes to C and No to S?

What's up with that?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Short but sweet

I wrote a very long blog yesterday, but left it to edit it til today.

All I really wanted to say was this after a long-distance call yesterday:

Can't we Mom's accept that it is OK that we aren't ALWAYS doing our best at any given moment? Life is not a race or a competition. No one keep stats on how often we are late for activities, or how much laundry we actually do.

If we are always doing "one step better than your best" (the gym teacher's motto, not mine), we will burn out and resent our lives.

Forgive yourself. Your friends forgive you... try your best most of the time. That is enough.

Have a good day (not great, not perfect).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday morning with NPR


I just heard the most thought-provoking segment of This American Life! I can't get over the FAO Schwarz-episode about the adopted dolls.

Click here to read about today's episode.

Although the first two acts were interesting too, the final act of this week's program caught my ear.

C has 2 American Girl Dolls, which she no longer plays with. I thought they were too expensive for her, so she had to "prove" she wanted her first enough and saved up to pay with her own money (either Santa or Grandma bought the 2nd doll). She also had to buy the dolls beds with her own money. Her first doll was a "just like me" doll. There are lots of dolls that were somewhat right, but none were exactly C. She ended up getting a doll with shorter hair than her own, and then within the week cut her own hair to approximately the same length. Life imitating art or vice versa? I don't know.

If you have a daughter (or if your don't you might be even MORE horrified as you are out of the dolly loop) listen to Babies Buying Babies. But its not about dolls, it's about racism. It forces you to look at my own thoughts! Listen for yourself.

The office had a similar episode - but with humor, not irony - where Dwight buys every doll in Scranton and then sells them at ballooned prices.

Off to shower and get the residual angst out of my mind. Did I do the right thing buying the "close enough" doll to C or should I have promoted a doll that wasn't her race to teach her a lesson in loving all people as yourself? We live in a rather homogeneous community and all of the girls in her closest group of friends "look just like her" (NR has been mistaken as her sister a number of times). The 2nd doll she bought (a character doll) had much longer, very blond hair. C's a brunette... What does this say about her self-identity???

At least we're not spending money on American Girl Dolls anymore!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NJ State Song?

A couple of days ago we woke up to 101.5FM morning show host and call-in guests pitching a fit about the cost for legislation allowing for a state song for New Jersey (or "musical representation"). Specifically their comments were aimed at the Bridgewater teacher who wrote the song with her students 14 years ago. I felt like calling in and asking them to shut up! I'm sick of 101.5's negativity!

Today again, it was in the Courier News.

The Courier News piece was a nice story. Something that undoubtedly someone will cut out and put on the school's bulletin board. Good thing that the comments section is only online because some moron called the deceased teacher something very inappropriate!

I understand that there is a discussion of wasteful spending in hard economic times, but this story was about a daughter honoring her dead mother's memory, and about children trying to accomplish a high goal and an effort for its revival.

Why do people have to write such nasty personal attacks in a public forum? How is this story hurting the author so much that he had to publicly humiliate the teacher and her mother's memory? Sometimes people are just so mean spirited!

I didn't know this teacher, nor am I a native of New Jersey and I still don't feel like I am from here. I do, however, know that music was the cornerstone of my K-12 education and I believe in its importance!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back in the thick of it...

Last night I heard the BRRSD Superintendent speak. First I had to sit through a loooooooooooong meeting, but it was worth the wait!

I haven't been to a single BOE meeting this fall, nor have I been to a PTO meeting, and because of my job I have been largely absent from the school scene, so I felt somewhat out of the loop.

After a brief introduction, the talk turned, of course, to the upcoming budget vote. Two years ago, in an unexpected move, the district cut the library assistant position at all of the elementary schools. After that I started to pay attention to our district's activities. Last year the Superintendent held several pre-vote "get to know the budget" meetings. At one of them I pressed him, unsuccessfully to elaborate on what would get cut if the budget didn't pass. I left frustrated and a little bit mad. Apparently I wasn't the only person with that reaction, because this time he has made a "doomsday budget" public knowledge. He has included it in this power point presentation. See slide number 9 for the budget changes should it not pass. (He didn't cut library assistants again - I'm happy to see that). The budget will be presented at the January 27th BOE meeting.

Most of the discussion at his talk tonight was about Everyday Math (EM) and Langauge Arts and Literacy (LAL). EM is undergoing an extensive evaluation. In general, teachers in BR support the current math program. Last year a survey showed that discontent with the program was wider than "the few who complain at BOE meetings". A committee has been reviewing EM and other programs this fall and winter. The group reviewing it includes some 35 teachers. They are looking at other programs to find if there is one equal or better than EM. He wasn't willing to tell us which specific programs they were considering but he did mention that he wanted a more BALANCED program. He also made it clear that even if they group found a more suitable program, if the budget doesn't pass, then they would not change from EM. Too many students get tutoring in math - and it is a source of contention. LOOK FOR A DECISION AT THE FEBRUARY 24th BOE MEETING!

There was also a considerable amount of time spent discussing the language arts program. BRRSD NJ ask scores (in my humble opinion) are in the gutter and the administration has noticed! Someone said that parents have been very vocal in the need to bring in more direct instruction of grammar, spelling, etc. Dr. Schilder addressed this as well as other issues, including the need for increased teacher training in the language arts. He also said they are looking into new programs/textbooks, and that students now have access to a computer program that helps teachers assess students in LAL skills. He was quick to say that he wants to make sure this doesn't replace what needs to be done in the classroom. We were also alerted to the fact that our school's teachers are getting extra training from our in house LAL gurus.

Finally, NJ Monthly Rankings were discussed. (see my blog from August). The BR-high school principal as well as others contacted NJ Monthly requesting more information. On a point-by-point analysis, BR High School actually does better than Somerville HS (which scored in the 70s). Alas, no one has returned either the principal or the parent's request for more information. But it was noted that our language arts scores could be higher... maybe that had something to do with it?

I guess it feels good to be back in the saddle addressing our local educational system. After months of not having time to think about it, I'm glad I am once again engaged.

Feeling very trendy!


I'm feeling very trendy this week.

I lost my job on Tuesday with one hour's notice. So I'm back to my former position of "stay at home Mom and freelance writer."

I've been reciting all the standard lines this week:
"Everything happens for a reason"
"Something better's on it's way"
"It is what it is"

I haven't blogged much about my job because, although this is a nameless blog, I understand someone may recognize my employer. I will share that I found the environment most stressful.

So it's a mixed blessing. We got used to the income. I was just getting used to the balancing act, albeit I hadn't mastered it.

But I have to admit, I am pretty happy right now. It's late morning, I'm in my PJ's drinking my coffee, listening to NPR and not stressing about ANYTHING. I hope that I can channel this positive feeling into being a more put-together Mom for my kids. I said to C that I would be less stressed now, but she just shrugged. The lovely Miss Teacher says "Children may not remember what you've said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

Every day is a new chance to act on that! With less stress in my life, I hope I can live a more peaceful existence. And next week find a less stressful job. Even though my ex-employer didn't give me any time, I'm giving myself a week. It's easy to fall back into my old routine - working out, lunch with friends and taking some time for myself and my blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pinewood derby

It's upon us again. N is a pretty sore loser and he loses often. In fact I can't remember a single competition that he has ever won - or even come in 2nd or 3rd place. The heat is on: it is Pinewood Derby Time. Two years in a row he has built very cool, cute cars. It is a team effort, as he can't do much on his own. None of our cars were particularly fast. Two years ago my dad helped design the car - drawing to N's specifications. Last year he had a cool design too. Alas neither won any design awards. Speed both years was a total bust.

The tips I read on the internet offer ideas that are not allowed by our rules or sell how to manuals that we don't want to buy.

How do we help him to succeed? C was born with boundless luck, a strong work ethic and usually wins competitions. N doesn't.

Most people don't win, most of the time. Most of adulthood is a series of disappointments. The dream job you didn't get, the supposed love of your life who chose someone else, the path you didn't take that leaves you wondering "if I had only..."

So if we build up his hopes in yet another car (and spend countless hours drilling, sanding, painting) that slowly glides down the path that other speed-daemons burn past, are we teaching him the useful skills of building something for the experience in itself, good citizenship and dealing with life the way it usually is? Or do we blow it off and boost his confidence in another way?

***

As I was writing this blog, I just noticed that I have a conflict the night of the derby. My Christmas gift is tickets to something in New York... non-refundable tickets for the exact time of the derby.

***

So now I have a new lesson to teach my son: his mother's priorities. His derby or her enjoyment? Can I outsource this? What parent could possibly give him the support that we would? Who would wipe his tears if he loses? Who would be just as happy if he were to win? We have no family in the local area to help us out with this type of thing. Tonight I really wish we did!

I am usually very grateful to be a Mom and wouldn't trade it for the world. But this sucks! It's Lose-Lose. I guess some kid's luck is just like that.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Friends facing dilemmas...

It's a new year and another blog posting!

My daughter's punishment is formally finished. I am hoping that she has learned a lesson about the value of friendship and not just spent the week letting her anger at me fester. She spent the last 3 days lying around the house watching movies with her dad. Is that punishment? Not really! Was she thinking about what she had done? Doubtful. Time will show if she learned her lesson. Hopefully things will improve at lunchtime for a certain group of 5th graders...

In the mean time I have had friends facing dilemmas big and small.

One girlfriend was at a New Years Eve party and a husband (not hers) grabbed her ass, not once, but twice in front of a room full of people including his wife. What's Oprah's advice on that one? What would Miss Manners do? She asked if I think my friend should tell him this behavior isn't appropriate or appreciated? Hell yes! So for the record: inappropriate ass grabbing is always bad form!

Another girlfriend (M) is unsure about Facebook. She is concerned about its security and has been very hesitant to join. Another friend (S) has posted pictures of M's kids using first and last names on S's page. I try not to post pictures of kids pictures up with first and last names - but when I googled my son, the picture doesn't come up. So, I'm not too worried. I am concerned about my friends - they also work together. How will they resolve this?

Finally I spent some time on the phone with a friend (a different S) who is temporarily housebound. To cheer her up I told her my latest family scandal. It's amazing that my mother's extended family is never short of new material. It also makes it so I can enjoy other people's stories without judgment. I live in a glass house myself!

So friends, in the new year I hope you face easily solved dilemmas, thanks for reading as I solve my own.