Friday, August 29, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I have a head cold today, so Wendy's was on the menu for dinner. As I was clearing out my sinuses with a Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich, I saw J dip his french fry in his chocolate milk and then I turned to see Michael, who was watching carefully, try to drop a french fry into his milk. I explained to J how carefully Michael watches everything that he does and how he tries to mimic it, so he needs to watch his actions (and maybe one day his words, if the speech therapy works).

Now, I am going to back up some to earlier in the day. Spencer came home from school a little beside himself today. In general, Spencer is very sweet and smart in every way...and I'm not just saying that. Even people who are not his parents say that sometimes. He is tall for his age, but not one of the biggest kids in the class and he is quite skinny. He also wears bifocals, which hasn't been much of an issue for him socially until now. Apparently, a kid from his class has been taunting him on the bus. In fact, I dare say the word bullying. He has been calling him a "sissy" and other not nice words. So, I called the school. I'm not about to let my six year old son deal with this on his own. The vice-principal took my call and said she would leave a message for the teacher and also contact the department of transportation so that the bus aide is aware of the problem.

The teacher called me back this evening. When I described the "bullying" to her, she said, "that actually makes a lot of sense." A few days ago, she had read a book to the class about bullying. In the books there were two boys and one of them wore glasses and the other boy was calling him a sissy and using the same behavior that was used on Spencer. It was meant to open up the conversation about bullying, but instead it was apparently used as catalyst for bullying behavior. As we talked, she said that it sounded like his classmate was acting out the book she had read the class almost exactly. She will talk to him when they get back to class on Tuesday. I have every confidence that it will be taken care of, because Spencer also remembered the book and knew that if someone was treating him in that way that he should tell an adult.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charlie, two words: Therapy

My baby has therapy this morning, speech therapy that is. It is true. We have retained the services of a professional to help my one year old to learn to say "ball". The therapist is confident that he is just a little speech delayed and has every expectation that he will catch up by kindergarten, but we see no reason not to get him any help that he might need - the earlier, the better.

In fact, I am a big believer in therapy. Sometimes, things that society believes are suppose to come naturally need to be helped along a little. Sometimes, we just can't figure things out on our own, even if we are, for instance, really good at math. So, here is where I tell you, that I, too, am in therapy. Not speech therapy (though, according to a few of my students, I could probably use that as well), but grief therapy. Last month my sister passed away. It wasn't one of those expected deaths that we were all prepared for. It was sudden and it was traumatic and I guess I needed some help figuring out exactly how I was suppose to grieve. So, believe it or not, there are experts out there on grieving. I'm not sure exactly what would inspire someone to go into that line of work, but the woman I see is one of the most compassionate and real people I know.

I'm not really aware of what I was expecting when I went in, but looking back, I think I wanted a list. Considering my left brain is quite dominate, I wanted it to be a logical process. As a side note, I've often pictured my right brain as a small shriveled walnut that was conquered during my early twenties and is now afraid to come out. But, anyway, back to the issue at hand. Apparently, there is not a list. There are stages, but depending on who you are, you may not even display some of the stages and others may exhibit themselves in non-traditional ways. And that is okay, according to my expert on grief. Which I guess is what I really needed to know. I needed an expert to tell me that I wasn't crazy and that what I was going through was normal for the circumstance. I needed to know that my form of broken was fixable and I needed to know that it was okay that I felt broken. And, as it turns out, even with all of my idiosyncrasies, and with professional help, I was able to grieve, and I am starting to move on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Post a la Marianne

My sister, Marianne, has informed me that she will not read my blog because I am too long winded. So, in an attempt to increase my readership by one, and cater to her attention deficiencies, I am writing this post with out my usual flowery commentary. I will simply make two observations about my life since posting yesterday:

1) The book I picked up from the Lexington Public library last night smells like cigarette smoke. By the end of the evening, I was tearing up, but I wasn't sure if it was because the book was good or because my allergies were flaring up.

2) If nutrition and calories were not factors, I believe that I could happily live on Chipotle burritos and Keebler Grasshopper cookies for a good long time.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From Preschool to Harvard

When I was growing up, times were easier. You see, nobody really went to preschool. We all went to the neighborhood elementary school and then it was spelled out from there, depending on the location of your home, through high school. After that, there was probably a choice of college for some people, but, in my family, we all pretty much applied and went to the same college - which was located all of 15 minutes from the home I grew up in. Yes, times were easier.

Way back then, nobody knew or cared if their elementary school was the "good one" in the "good district". Schools weren't required to make their success (or lack thereof) a public record. There weren't magnet schools and performing arts programs and such. There was just the school. Everyone went there. Well, times have changed. I do think it is for the better, but it requires that choices be made and that parents remain diligent. But, since I get stressed out when presented with decisions, and I prefer lazy parenting, I do long for the old days (you know, way back in the eighties).

My oldest son, whom we call J, is at a gifted and talented magnet school this year. He is in the third grade and they work at least a year ahead in all subjects. It requires that we drive him back and forth to the school, which is located downtown. Luckily, we have a pretty nice carpooling system set up. This program doesn't start until the third grade, so he was required to change schools. He also has a strict dress code at his new school. In order to get into the program he had to score very high on both an IQ test and an achievement test. Then, we had to apply and present specific documentation of his "gifted characteristics". Nothing about this was easy or conducive to my lazy parenting style.

Then there is Spencer, my first grader. He is going to the local elementary school about a mile from our home. The problem is that we are not actually in the boundaries for this school due to some political situations that could only happen in Kentucky. So, I had to apply "out of area" for him to attend this school. This was also not an easy process, and required, once again, that I break out of my comfort zone of indolence. I am also in the process of trying to get him into the primary talent pool - which is the gifted, talented program for those younger than the third grade. You would think that naturally, since he is my child, that they would just see the last name and sign him up. But, no, they want me to fill out checklists and show specific documentation. In fact, after seeing the packet that was sent home with him for me to fill out, I am questioning whether or not he is gifted enough to justify the extra work on my part.

Lastly, there is my sweet little Michael. He doesn't even turn two until October 13th, so you would think that I would not have to worry about his long term academic pursuits at this point, but you would be wrong. Because, if I want any chance of getting him into a preschool that isn't glorified daycare, I have to sign up at least a year in advance. That's right folks. Not only is preschool now expected in our complex society, but the waiting lists are a year long. So, this morning, I went down to the Walnut Hill Day School and toured the grounds. The two year old curriculum includes music and Spanish along with the other more common preschool academics. When I informed the director that my son was still struggling with the English language, she laughed like I was obviously joking. Apparently she hadn't noticed that the kid, sweet as he is, doesn't speak. So, I wrote out my huge deposit check and guaranteed him the last slot for the 2009-2010 school year. After all, maybe Spanish will turn out to be his language. If I had been more diligent, I would have done this years ago, like the woman in there with the 7 day old child who didn't want to take any chances.

So, yes, I hate the complexity of it all, but I am still attempting to master the system. I'm sure my children will have plenty to talk about in therapy one day, but it won't be because I didn't try. Next time, tune into my primer on extra-curricular activities for the lazy parent. Subtitled: How to convince the piano teacher to come to your house for lessons.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Foible

So, um...yeah, I should probably not be allowed to leave the house anymore. You see, the problem with being really good at math is that, in order to have balance in this universe, there must exist an equivalent ineptness that is just as blatantly obvious as my phenomenal Calculus skills. It can not be helped.

As much as I try to hide my weaknesses, sometimes my diligence wavers and, well, I guess the best way to explain this is by describing my yesterday. So, yesterday...yes, yesterday....well, we were invited to go to a friend's farm. We didn't know these people well (or really at all), but they made it out to be a fun family day and they have a tree house and there will be food and the boys will love it and we should just definitely show up. I'm not usually one to go to people's houses if I don't know them, but since my proverbial job as the wet blanket of the family was being a little overplayed this week, I decided to just go and pamper myself later for the effort. After all, I had a cold Dr. Pepper and a night of Olympics waiting for me when I got home.

So, we arrived at the farm. It all looked a little chaotic. The kids let us in, but there didn't seem to be an adult in sight. There were no father-like people around, and the only female over age ten, was very quiet and appeared to be about sixteen. She hadn't said a word to us and I figured that she was playing the annoyed teenager role. After about ten minutes, it seemed that a parent of some sorts had been located, but was busy feeding the animals. So, since I was fairly sure that we, the company, had not been announced, we made our way outside.

The heat was blistering. I was very uncomfortable both physically and psychologically. So, I found a chair under a tree and watched as the kids taunted the cows and tripped through the watermelon patch. By this time, Brigham had successfully located the person who had invited us over and had started to make small talk. They do scouts together and our sons have had classes in school together. So, some of the tension in the air was starting to fade - for them, at least. I still didn't know anyone and I'm not exactly a blaring extrovert.

Finally, the "only female over age ten" that I spoke of before, came over and sat by me. She didn't say anything for a while...and I started to calculate exactly how long this afternoon was going to last since we had already accepted their invitation to dinner. When I realized that we still had, on the low side, another 3 hours before dinner would even be a reasonable proposition, I decided that my only chance at enjoying myself even a little was to try some small talk with this girl. After all, I'm pretty good with teenagers. Hey, I might have underestimated her. She might even be college age and I teach college kids and a lot of of them think that I am a pretty neat person. This could work. I could talk to this person.

So, I thought about small talk. Let's see. What do people say. Brigham was over there chatting away with the father of Conner, the boy who had invited us over. He looked like he easily had 10 to 15 years on Brigham and they seemed to be getting along like best friends. So, age shouldn't matter. I'm sure I'd have something in common with this girl. Maybe she was in school. We could talk about what subjects she liked. So, I turned to her. And this is when it happened. I never should have opened my mouth, but I did, and I said, "So, you must be Conner's older sister." Then she replied, "No, I'm his dad's girlfriend." And my jaw dropped. There was no recovery after that.

Yeah, it's true, I really shouldn't be allowed to leave the house.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Olympics

Last night, as I watched both our men's and our women's 4x100 relay team drop the baton, I started to wonder about my fascination with the Olympics. Upon further reflection, I believe it ties into my obsession with Mount Everest and ultramarathons and even the cannibalistic rugby team that hiked out of the Andes in the seventies. There is something to be said about enduring and doing something really hard and surviving.

I also love the "Olympic Stories." You know, the ones NBC puts on with inspriational music in the background and childhood pictures. I still tear up at the story of Wilma Rudolph who came out of the 1960 Olympic games in Rome with three gold medals after contracting polio as a child and being told she may never walk again. So there doctors. She not only walked, she ran, and she became the fastest woman in the world.

One of the reasons I love being a college Math teacher is because Math is not an easy subject for most people. So, I get to see people struggle and work and, in many cases, conquer a phobia that they've dealt with ever since they had that pre-Algebra teacher in junior high that spit when he talked and had a bad case of eyebrow dandruff. I do understand that passing College Algebra is not equivalent to doing the 100 meters in 9.69 for most people, but it can leave the same sense of accomplishment and the same high.

In fact, I think we all have those things in life that are set before us to conquer. For most of us, it is not a World Record. Nobody is going to take our picture by a time clock with a flag drapped around our shoulders and declare us a champion. It is more likely that we are just making it through another Monday at work or another ten minutes of carpool time with three boys from the "gifted and talented" school who don't seem to understand the concept of "don't touch each other".

Of course, the Olympics is also a reminder that we are all human and there will be days when we just don't have it in us. Even if we are the favorite, we just might be having a bad day, but our job isn't to always win, it is to finish the race. The most touching part, to me, of watching the Olympics last night was seeing Lauryn Williams drop the baton and then go back, pick it up, and cross the finish line.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Blog

Last night, as my husband and I were laying in bed, he turned to me and said, "You know, you really should start a blog." I told him that blogging wasn't really my thing. In fact, since entering motherhood and suburbia and the South and my thirties, I have discovered that there are a number of areas of life which I would classify as "not really my thing."

For instance, I don't like to answer the phone or call anyone. I can't exactly point back to a specific time when this phobia started. I do remember anxiously waiting by the phone as a teenager for someone or anyone to call, so it must be something I've acquired in my adult years. This used to be a major source of contention when my family decided that they wanted to order pizza for delivery. Because, you see, it used to be that you couldn't simply go on to and interact with just your computer (as it should be). You used to have to call and talk to someone - someone that you didn't know - and you had to tell them that you wanted pizza - and then you had to get all specific about toppings and sizes and such. It just seemed like such an invasion. So wrong.

And then there is my little problem with names. After teaching school for a decade plus and changing students every 3 months, I can no longer remember anyone's name. And when I do remember a name, I place it with the wrong last name. I can't even keep my kid's names straight and there are only three of them. Dale Carnegie would not be impressed.

But, as I thought of all of these things that "aren't really my thing", I realized that I do most of them anyway. Much to my chagrin, I still use the phone - probably even daily. I still attempt to address people by their name. I even partake in many of the social niceties of the South, though this part has become strictly academic for me. So, why not blog?