Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Otherwise occupied

We've had a very busy week here in BW. This morning I had freelance gig in Trenton before 8am. Tomorrow I have to be in city even earlier.

Tomorrow night we have a work dinner for T.

Last night the new math program got approved.

Lots to write about, but very little time.

Also missed birthday call to my fabulous bro. Will call this weekend.

Updates later.

It's good stuff this week after a crazy weekend!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails...

Am a little tired today as I spent most of the night at the hospital. Our puppy - who we've only had about 3 weeks - bit (nipped?) my son's ear while they were playing way past the bedtime of both the dog and the boy. It looked pretty bad, and I was pretty scared by the whole bite thing. It reminded me of when my parents' dog bit me when I was in college and I, too, had a midnight trip to the ER on some Saturday night. I survived - with a little scar just off my chin after a few stitches and a tetanus booster.

The ER was very full - in fact the pediatric area was standing room only. N sat on my lap while I read to him. After a while he perked up and played on a game cube with another not-sick sick kid. (I think he had been for an earlier asthma attack). I watched my past: first time parents with feverish children who won't drink, parents of kids with ear/throat infections (I heard the doctor say to one parent that she could see an infection in both the ear AND the throat), a child who screamed for hours but seemed happy as a clam muddling about the waiting area. Luckily nothing looked life threatening.) Still it was deja vu, indeed!

N was VERY lucky. No stitches, no shots. They did have to call the Bridgewater Police to report the bite (my 3 month old dog now has a rap sheet!). Apparently I am a negligent parent - but you knew that already - because it never occurred to me that Puppy needs a license. Isn't his micro chip enough? Penicillin twice a day for 10 days. It's the yucky liquid and N is not very happy.

Originally T had said that we need to get rid of the dog. I think that since his training starts tomorrow, we should give him another try. It's ironic. When my parents' dog bit me 20 years ago I threw a fit because my parents insisted on keeping their dog. Now, in this role reversal I am thinking that maybe it isn't that easy to give up your pet, even when it nips your child...

But I'd give up Pup in a millisecond if N wanted me to after last night. He got to pick any toy he wanted at ToysRUs today for his bravery. He chose a few packs of pokemon cards (and insisted on getting a pack for BFF T too). I told him it would be the right time to ask Mom for a car - so I think I got off easy!

N is playing with T now - and I think I need a mid-afternoon hot bath.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday morning in BW

It's Saturday morning. N and my more-or-less surrogate son T are playing video games upstairs. C is taking the Iowa tests to try for a coveted, but elusive, spot in next year's in e-math and e-language arts. I am glad I am not in her shoes - everyone hates standardized testing. Ice cream is in order afterward!

I am still reeling from a comment made last night about my FB status. My status said (in jest) that I wanted to bring a flask to a PTO event. A father I know thought someone else (who would that be, as the people who can read it are on my FRIENDS LIST?) might take my status the wrong way. I'm still seething. Of course I was joking. ARGH!

So instead of continuing to spew anger about this stupid comment, I am going to enjoy my coffee and New York Times.

Found a nice article about Parenting to share. Enjoy reading "Father in Chief". Pour yourself a second coffee. If you're alone, in the sanctity of your own kitchen, add a shot from the imaginary flask. In protest!

Being a parent in suburbia IS a messy business. Here's some background music for you as you read!

Now I'm going to enjoy reading The Ethicist. Not that I need ethical guidance.... or do I???

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Math homework

In High School there were times that I didn't finish my math homework. I'd blow it off.

Today I was assigned into my e-mail in-box a new math assignment. Reading the math K-6 program evaluation. Due by Tuesday (the big BOE meeting).
So I opened it right away and thought I'd read it before the carpool night from hell - or in between stops - I almost fell out of my chair.

It's 220 pages!!!!!!!!!

Are you kidding me?

By Tuesday?

Just like my trig homework in 1986, I want to blow it off too.

So, here's YOUR homework assignment, dear readers:
Read this.

And get me a synopsis by Monday.

Oh, yeah, Thanks!


Clarification: I got this "assignment" as an "e-blast" sent to lots of people and not specifically to me.

Nice day for an errand

I had to go to Brooklyn for a quickie errand. Instead of having it shipped, I decided to head to The City and pick it up. Being a small town girl at heart, driving into New York puts me into a cold sweat. Luckily there is no harrowing tunnel, traffic is reasonable and no one tried to gun me down as I needed a 2nd attempt to parallel park my car. The little old lady in the store was sweet with us and while I spent over $150 on cleaner for the floor, chocolates, cheese, waffle mixes and other products, I took along a partner in crime and we enjoyed a very nice lunch.

I came home with plenty of time to spare and it wasn't stressful.

When did "not stressful" turn into the mark of a successful day? I don't know the answer to that, I just know I am grateful that it wasn't.

Time for the 3 hours of carpools. the stress begins.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Change of tune

Today was my friend's birthday. Her present to me is usually her singing "you say it's your birthday, we'll it's my birthday too, yeah..." into my answering machine. This year I modernized and put a list of songs from each year of her life so far on her Facebook page. Here's the list, if you have some time to kill. One year I deleted by accident and am too lazy to look up, the other I deleted on purpose.

1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KijLredMzJI

1971 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogfuw_HgOK0

1972 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr-BYVeCv6U

1973 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43Ho_6C_fM4

1974 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHsDa9_HSlA

1975 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av2rClwyCu8

1976 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irp8CNj9qBI

1977 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI2BnzF1860

1978 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oWeaujOWXc

1979 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv6lHwWwO3w

1980 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTJHjuhCYos

1981 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFCGn_bU_kI

1982 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXLHUThBib8

1982 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En-cHBv7UpA

1983 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnejNGprm3I

1984 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-Z-Dn7XfFA

1984 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyl5DlrsU90

1985 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f06QZCVUHg

1985 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBK2YQPKMf4

1986 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GccfzxHIXaY

1987 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEfSnjL0pd8

1988 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-AYAv0IoWI

1989 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_wzi-kTVOI

1992 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AscPOozwYA8

1993 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdbFruizeng

1994 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJEySrDerj0

1995 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePgLUYFp5o4

1996 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v9yUVgrmPY

1997 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-idDbIfGvw (not a hit that year – but her Wedding song)

1998 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo_0UXRY_rY

1999 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AUxKHdNe34

2000 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6FwEJwwYcQ

2001 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P79j-293dQ

2002 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHpK-ejSfBo

2003 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i38JRTyMik

2004 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V4c1nsjc9o

2005 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FPvfrfwlX0

2006 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygctbqBijFk

2007 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tEROk-Y27Q

2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xX1w9Yn9K4

2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p3o8NnvBa8

We were in a musical cul-de-sac for a while, but things are looking up!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Route 78 remembers

Yesterday I wrote a blog that I never published. It was lamenting my mid-life crisis about my career trajectory - or lack thereof. I didn't publish it because I felt it sounded too "woe is me" and I wasn't feeling sorry for myself.

Today I remembered a near-tragic day. About three years ago, the four of us were rushing to make an event in New York, and driving 10 miles below the speed limit on Route 78, when our car hydroplaned in the rain. We spun around a few times and crashed into the side railing. the cars speeding toward us from behind somehow never hit us and we didn't plummeted over the bridge to our deaths. The car only suffered minor damage and we walked away without a scratch. Both T and I have had lingering fears. We don't drive I 78 in the rain if we can avoid it at all, often taking longer routes. For months he wouldn't take I 78 even in good weather.

The first few days after the accident I honored my new lease on life. Small things didn't bother me and I savored everyday moments. I thought back then that I needed to rethink my future and live as though every day would be my last.

So now I am thinking again - what do I want my life to be? If these are my last days or weeks or months or years, how should I live them? Now is the time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up,since I am grown up. My friends already have nearly 20 years in their jobs. If I want a career with meaning I have to build it myself.

Likewise, if I want to improve the relationships I have with people in my life *I* have to make an effort. Should I have made C feel guilty about wearing mascara, that I bought her for her birthday? NO! Should I let N watch TV instead of work practice the NJASK? NO! Should I book our next vacation? Yes! Should I go see my aging dad asap - Yes! Should I... the list is very long. Do I want to do these "shoulds"? YES! So I need to get off my duff and make an effort!

Living life where every day could be your last is a lot of pressure. I was already feeling under the gun. I have to remember that I am doing these things because I want to or I want certain outcomes in my life.

What else does a life lived as if it were my last need? Balance? Love? Plans.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine card thoughts

I got a very ornate valentine from my outrageously talented cousin this week. She displays her work daily on her blog. Her abundance of talent reminds me of the my lack of it. Several family members are gifted. None of this artistic talent pool has found its way to me or, so it seems, my children.

The kids do get a yearly opportunity to display artistic talents in their valentines. Typically C has spent weeks cutting and pasting hearts and giving the kind of homemade valentines that were common 30 years ago but hardly seen today. N, not one who is drawn to scissors or crayons, has been pretty uninterested on the homemade valentine front.

This year the trend reversed itself - using a computer, N and I designed and printed original valentines for his class, while C took the easy route and gave candy. N did much more on his own than before and then taped on candy to each valentine.

N wanted to take an after school art program at school. Hopefully the artistic gene's skipped a generation and went straight from my Dad to my son. It would be great if he found his niche somewhere artistic.

Again, a moment to compare my poor kids. The truth is that I am proud that C made her own valentines until now, and I have no reason to be ashamed that N didn't create elaborate cards on his own until he could do it in Word. The fabulous art that my cousin Q makes also employs a computer for part of the process. That doesn't make it any less of an art.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Budget woes?

Every morning I wake up to NJ 101.5. For those of you who don't know the station, you can take a listen at nj1015.com. It is a combination local news station/conservative talk/jokesters and their motto is "Not New York, Not Philadelphia, Proud to be New Jersey." Not how you'd think I start my days, but we have very limited options on the clock radio.

So I start my days agitated and often calling the person on the radio "You Idiot" or worse. Sometimes I get really mad because they are talking about something sexual that my 11 year old doesn't need to hear before breakfast! Other times, it is a good thing to listen to them, as it keeps me in the loop on local issues. The vast majority of my news from NPR and the NY Times which have NJ coverage, but not as its prime focus.

101.5's morning show loves to attack the NJEA (teachers' union) and Corzine.

While I LOVE the kids' teachers past and present, and am very proud of the education they are getting, this morning's tirade did make a little sense. I am conflicted about the 4% raises that the teachers and administration will be getting this year (the guys on the radio were focusing on areas where they are getting 6% increase, but I don't think that is BRRSD, if I remember correctly, it is 4% here). In an economy where people are more than grateful just to have a job, a 4% raise is a lot to ask of the community. Our taxes are going up but not our incomes. Our housing values are in the toilet, but our taxes are still high. Even if only the highly paid administrators (Superintendents, Principals, Assistant Principals or people making over $100K) would take a cut in their raises, it would make a big difference and send a huge signal to the community that BRRSD is doing what it can to curb costs. Other school districts are doing it, but I haven't heard about it here. Personnel costs are, by far, the largest fixed item in the BRRSD budget and we are directly taxed on these costs.

At the same time, I want to retain top quality teachers and for that we need competitive salaries and a strong work environment, which usually includes good administration. It's not an immediate concern. BW doesn't seem to have problems attracting great teachers or staff. Even if we had lower pay raises, teachers seem to like their work environment. Most of my kids' teachers live in Bridgewater - only one of their classroom teachers, that I know of, lives outside a 20 minute radius.

Am I being coaxed to the "dark side of the force" by my morning ritual or is it critical thinking?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hypothetical question doesn't require a decision

Someone asked me about why I would choose Bedminster over Bridgewater if we were to move. The answer is I don't know why. It seems like a private school, but without tuition.

I haven't been to one of their BOE meetings to see what issues they face and I haven't researched their test scores. One of my friends has the option to send his kids there and his kids don't attend Bedminster school. When I was working, one of my co-workers sang Bedminster's praises, but it was in a lot of ways the same sort of thing you hear at my own childrens' schools.

Ridge sounds like a much smaller high school, where there is less competition for sports teams, AP classes and other opportunties if you compare the number of kids and the amount of things offered. I also like that they offer the International Baccalaureate. I didn't know public US high schools offered that.

Like much of what I say in my blogs, my opinion is not based on a scientific comparison, but a gut feeling.

On the flip side, Bridgewater seems to have a much greater diversity of its population than Bedminster does. I don't have stats on that either.

Decision making is not my strong suit. I call for a second opinion before deciding on dinner several days a week.

It would take a small volcanic eruption for me to actually make the decision to move the children to another district. But I wonder if we made a mistake moving to our house, in our neighborhood, in our school district? Don't worry - I wonder that about many aspects of my life... and I'm not making any huge changes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Jersey "regular" schools get a run for their money!

In New Jersey, Magnets Give Suburban Schools a Race was a very interesting article in yesterday's NY Times, New Jersey section.

When we moved here, we chose BRRSD over other districts, including magnet schools nearby town based on the strong recommendation of T's colleague. We specifically focused on our elementary area - another decision I have rethought now that we have gotten to know other neighborhoods.

I cannot deny it - part of the reason we chose BRRSD was my own racism and "classism". We had come from an extremely homogeneous environment and I was weary of placing C, and later N, in schools where they would be one of only a handful of white kids, and possibly the most well off kid in class. The magnet schools we visited were impressive. One elementary school boasted an art teacher with a PhD. In the end we chose Bridgewater.

I have been increasingly frustrated with this decision. When I wonder what I should do - if that were to mean changing schools - I would have considered Bedminster as the most likely choice (assuming we lived in an alternate universe where we wouldn't lose a fortune on our home and could afford something nice there), but it wouldn't have occurred to me to re-check local magnet districts.

Until now. With scores that fill the vast majority of the top ten high schools in NJ, it is tempting to rethink where our kids will be when they take those SATs.

Probably we aren't going anywhere - I don't want to reestablish ourselves in a new community. But if we do, I'm definitely brushing my isms aside and using a more open mind!!! Traditional snobbery aside!!!

Think big!

Think high quality!

Think magnets?

Why not?!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A blog in 2 acts:

Act I: It's official & public - BRRSD had low elementary NJASK Language Arts Scores

The NJ Report cards are out.I'm not a statistician but I am less than impressed with my kids' school's results. Less than 2% had achieved advanced scores in Language Arts for the 2008 NJASK testing. Click here to find your NJ school.

In September 2007 the principal opened his Back to School Night talk promising parents a focus on Language Arts. Clearly this either didn't happen or didn't help. He's gone but most of the teaching staff isn't. What is being done to prevent these scores from toppling further? While I was very pleased with C's teacher last year, C didn't get the "Advanced" score in LAL on the NJASK test either. She loves to read and writes for pleasure, she always did any enrichment opportunity offered in LAL last year and still didn't make the results. My father even spent time going over grammar with her. I understand that they shouldn't teach to the test, but I am frustrated by the school's scores in general and hers specifically. This year I bought practice books for both kids - if the NJ ASK is supposed to be a reflection of the school, am I doing the school a disservice? (For out of state readers NJASK are tests brought on by the No Child Left Behind policies).

Act II: How Nosy Are YOU???

So for those nosy readers... This was on the front page of online version of the Courier today.

It's like a car crash. You can't help but look!!!!

Click here and you can find out what teachers and administrators in NJ make. While I am one of the few people who WANTS teachers to make strong salaries, I also noticed something: very few teachers at my kids' school have gone for their masters, even compared to other BW schools. Those who have an MA earn quite a bit more money than their counterparts.

OK. I know you don't want to read any more of my blog today - you want to go and see what Ms. SoAndSo made last year ....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Facebook self indulgence


One of my friends sent me this link today in the New York Times after I sent her my 25 random things. Only I was too lazy to call it 25 random things, so I called it my random thoughts and left off the number. I edited or deleted a few to keep my identity somewhat secret.

Here it is (slightly edited):
My random thoughts:

I miss my Mom.

I am still having revelations about my life.

True love comes in many forms - and comes more than once.

I am forever grateful to N’s teacher!!!!!

When I was 17 my parents let me backpack around Europe with a boy they’d met twice! He was 4 years older than me. It seemed normal at the time. I would never let my kids do that. I wish my travel companion and I were still friends.

I lead a Girl Scout troop and love it.

I can’t believe my kids are good looking and popular! I spent my entire childhood hating how I looked. Now that I could get my hair straightened on a permanent basis I realize it is too entrenched in my personality to matter.

My husband and I are opposites.

I got bad career advice in college. I should have made other choices! Professionally I have a lot of regrets and now I don’t know what to do!

I have run into people in the strangest places: DP on a street, MK at a mall, TL on a ferry. I ran into someone on a train. I ran into Tommy Hilfiger in The Plaza in August. (When I told him who I was (he knew my brother but hadn't seen me since I was a kid) the first thing he asked was “how’s your Dad?”).

The first thing I read on most Saturday mornings is the New York Times magazine section, specifically The Ethicist.

Many of the people who are closest to me are very critical and judgmental. My parents were too, and called it “high standards” which has made me too critical and has contributed to my low self esteem.

My favorite house is my grandmother’s as it was when I was a child.

I wish I hadn't listened to how much my mom hated being a teacher, because I think I'd have been a great teacher.

I have been fortunate to travel a lot and hope it continues. It's the best thing about being home with the kids.

My Dad is probably the most interesting person I know. I’m sad that he is getting older, but grateful that he is still alive and well.

A new puppy is a lot of work – and I don’t want him to grow up. I like puppies and I hope I love my dog as well. I liked my kids when they got bigger, so hopefully I’ll love the dog too.

I loved living in our old house. It was great to live just a two minute walk from the beach, 2 minutes walk from a day care center and a 30 minute walk from IKEA. Oh, yes, and a 30 second walk from great neighbors.

My life changed when I joined my gang of friends in 7th grade and I can’t believe we’re still friends.

I just learned something recently that would have been useful information a decade ago, but I can’t do much with it today.

I worry because my son isn’t interested in sports and neither is my husband, so I'm afraid he'll be an outcast later on.

I hope Obama does well.

I loved "Choir Camp".

As a kid I was thin, so I am bummed that I have to diet and exercise now.

I like music that isn’t cool.

I always thought I would have a big career - as a doctor, or a diplomat - but as I write this I’m in workout clothes and the things on today’s calendar are Girl Scouts, coffee with MR and N’s play date at 3pm, and running to the grocery store to get a pie tin for his project.

I still miss my Mom.

Hope you enjoyed my somewhat abridged 25 or so random thoughts. Guess you could include I have a blog and am often surprised when I see who is reading it and how often. I wonder if anyone from BRRSD has ever read it?

Hope my readers weren't bored stiff. Maybe some of you have already read this on Facebook. Feel free to send an e-mail with your own lists. I can publish them without any info about you!

Facebook's Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

Food fights

One of my friends confessed to me that she is concerned about her daughter's eating habits. She is a great cook and I know there is plenty of healthy food in her kitchen!

Lately my daughter also didn't want to eat breakfast. It never occurred to me that girls that young are thinking about their weight! I never questioned that her motives may be fear of weight gain (I assumed laziness). Is there a link? Another friend of C wouldn't wear a bikini because she was so afraid of showing her tummy in a couple of years ago in 3rd grade. I was shocked then too, but didn't take it seriously. Generally these girls talk, and it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't talking about this too. Are girls really on track for eating disorders at age 8? Do I have to monitor that my daughter is eating enough at age 11? I never in my entire life wasn't tempted by food, so I can't understand this. Even now when I need to diet I find it impossible to not nibble at forbidden fruit. As I type this, I am munching on soy chips... crunch, crunch!

At tae kwon do the kids are regularly forced to run laps of the room while they are told that kids don't get enough exercise these days. If C were to skip breakfast and eat a light lunch she would collapse at TKD after school.

A big issue at our house isn't meal-skipping, it's general nutrition. Specifically: C won't eat any vegetables and nearly no fruit. We nearly have to force her to eat a potato or she would get no vitamins at all. I buy expensive apples (which she likes) and watch them rot. Although I cook dinner for the family about 5 days a week, always including a veggie, the potato is the only one eaten by everyone. My husband is a terrible food role model, but if I cook veggies that he likes, he'll eat them and my daughter sees that.

It scares me that girls are skipping meals at 10 and 11 years old!

I guess in a society where EVERYTHING seems earlier than in the 1970s, this shouldn't surprise me.

Stop the world, I want to get off (or at least slow it down!)....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Important reminder - E/AI testing registration

If you want your kid tested for E or AI for next year, remember to register them ASAP. Teachers can no longer do it for you. Go to the BRRSD website news section or click here and scroll down to AI/E registration. The registration takes about 30 seconds. The deadline is February 9th!

How did I miss this? I would have, if a very friendly administrator AND my daughter's teacher hadn't reminded me. Can you imagine the tears if I had to admit "oops, I missed the deadline so no e-chance for you next year"?