Friday, October 31, 2008

So, yeah, we bought a car....

Wednesday was an exciting and very long day in the Cook household. Brigham and I bought a car for him. Before telling you all about Brigham's new wheels, I feel, once again, that a little background information is necessary.

Shortly after we were married 12+ years ago, we found ourselves in the situation where we needed a car. The first car we bought together was a used Saturn SL1 with no options, though it did have a tape deck. Brigham still had several years left of college and I was finishing up a graduate degree. It fit the budget and, though not fancy by any means, it was dependable, got good gas mileage and was cheap to insure. It was our main (and really only unless you count motorcycles) form of transportation through our college years and our entire stay in the great state of Colorado.

Shortly after Spencer (our second son) was born, we moved to Ohio and Brigham was contracting on a military base where I could not easily drop him off for work on days that I needed the car. We decided that it was time to buy a second car. Since buying our first home in Colorado, we had diligently been saving to buy a car. The problem was that the car we had been saving for was no longer practical for our family. After a few late night "discussions" and a lot of convincing on my part, our family purchased a minivan, which, for the record, was not my husband's idea of glamorous. This purchase came with great promises for the day when the Saturn died.

Well for some time now, the Saturn has been showing signs of its impending demise. The "check engine" light has been on for over a year and refuses to go off no matter how many times we check the engine. The car amazingly does not leak oil, but still needs to be regularly filled for some reason. The tires are bald. There is a definite rust problem (who knew that Saturns could rust?). The emergency brake has to be manually held up to work, which makes parking an adventure. So, you get the picture, right?

Finally, a few weeks ago, Brigham informed me that we either needed to put a large amount of money into the Saturn or we would need to replace it before the ice in Kentucky season started up. The main requirement of this new car was that it have a convertible top (a promise that secured the minivan purchase). It also must be dependable and safe. I had a few requirements as well, even though I didn't plan to be driving the car very often. I needed it to have a back seat for days when Brigham had to help with the transporting of boys and I didn't want to paying some ludicrous amount to insure impracticality. So, with this in mind, we went car shopping.

I'll spare you the details of the various cars we looked at over the last week. Let's just say that finding sporty and fun for a 6'4" man isn't as easy as it might first appear. Most of the cars fit him just fine with the top down - it was the top up thing that caused the problem. I also started to have my concerns about the convertible concept. Some of my students shared with me the ease of breaking into a convertible and divulged that the cost of insuring and driving one to be higher than what I wanted to deal with. I actually spent a good deal of the day last Saturday convincing my husband that this just wasn't the way to go.

Then, we found the Volvo C70. It is a hard top convertible, which means that when the top is up, it takes more than a pocket knife to break into the car. It had the required back seat and every safety feature in the book, which means that the insurance costs on it are unbelievably low. I about fell over when we were quoted $562 for the annual (yes, that's the whole year) premium. That's less than $50 a month on a new car with full coverage. So, after some consideration we bought the car.

I've since been informed that they are not cheap cars to fix. We've never owned a European car and we might even have to outsource the oil changes. But, my sweet husband seems quite happy with the vehicle and it has been a long time in coming. Now, I will attempt to add a picture to my blog and I expect you all to be very impressed with my new skill.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

So, today I went to my first parent teacher conference of the year for J. He moved to a gifted/talented school this year and so I had to travel into town to meet with his teacher at his new elementary school. I think it might be good to give a little background information for those of you who may not know J that well. He is, well, a spirited child. In the past, at other schools he has attended this has been interpreted as a behavior problem which, on occasion, has resulted in jaunts to the principal's office.

Because of some past experiences that I have had at J's conferences, I tend to have some anxiety issues when I know one is approaching. First, come the bad dreams and then the flashbacks. When J was in Kindergarten, I was walking up the stairs to attend one of his conferences and ran into another Kindergarten teacher from the school. I asked her for directions to my son's classroom and she asked who his teacher was. The conversation continued as follows:

Me: "Yes, my son has Ms. So and So (not her real name)"

Other Teacher: "Oh, she has a rough class this year. That poor woman. She has one little boy that is just out of control and she's had to move him to his own desk at the front away from all of the other students. Your child has probably told you about him."

Me: "No. He hasn't said anything. That bad, huh?"

Other Teacher: "Yes. Good thing she is a patient woman. She's been doing this for decades and she said this is the worst she's ever had it."

We parted ways as she pointed me towards his class and then I greeted Ms. So and So and she walked me towards my son's desk, the separate one at the front of the room, away from all of the other kids who sat at tables. It didn't get much better from there.

Then there was the incident in the first grade. The one where he hacked into the school computer and saved blank sheets over all of the assignments of a girl in his class. It was hard to act disappointed while meeting with him and the principal when I was secretly impressed that he had managed to get around the user ID and password issues and into her files at the tender age of six.

So, anyway, back to the story at hand. You get the idea.

As I was making the drive into town, my stomach was knotting up. I was so deep in thought and anticipation that I almost ran a red light. I did manage to make it to the school safely and found the classroom on my own this time. His teacher greeted me and started with, "Your son is definitely in the right place. He is very bright even for our gifted and talented class." She proceeded to show me test scores and work examples verifying my parental claim that my child is a genius. She is having a gifted specialist come in from the district to work with him and two other boys who are both far beyond what the gifted curriculum has for math.

Then, of course, came the rest of the conversation. But, I liked the way she handled it. She straight out said, "His writing is terrible." I'd heard this before. We know it is an issue with him. But, instead of looking at me accusingly, she said, "since this is an obvious weakness for him, let's find ways around it as we help him develop this skill." She is going to let him type his papers. She is going to give him less writing to do and ask him to take his time and slow it down. She is sending home some sample open response questions for me to help him with. But, all through the conversation, she reassured me that my child was special and different than any other child she had taught before and not in a bad way. He pulls a ticket every now and then, but she said he has been very respectful and she doesn't consider his behavior an issue at all. I actually came out of the conference with my head held high.

....and, he's getting straight As. That's my boy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Apparently, I've been tagged....

I was never good at this game in elementary school either. Though I have blocked out a great deal of my formative years, I do remember playing tag during those early days. There were two different forms, both of which scarred me for life in one way or another. There was the more formal version where teams were chosen and I tried to inconspicuously wait for someone or anyone to let me be on their team. Then, after the initial humiliation of being chosen last, I was usually frozen or captured and jailed within 30 seconds. Then, of course, there were the less formal playground games where you were tagged and, in turn, had to be able to run fast enough to tag another person so that you wouldn't be "it" anymore. I spent a lot of time being "it" until I moved on to other, more productive, recess activities.

So, my husband tagged me and now I am suppose to blog in a specific way about a specific thing. It even has rules. I don't really do rules, but since it was my husband who asked, I'll try.

So, rule #1 says: Link to the person who tagged you. I'd really love to do this. I really would. My husband has a very fun and informative blog. He talks about scouts and camping recipes and projects he has going on. I just don't really know how to link. In fact, I don't really know how to do much at all with this blog except write in it. You've probably noticed the lack of pictures and such. Well, least I'm good at Math. So, I have a great alternative for this. Brig will just need to post a comment to this post and then you can click on his name and go into his blog from there. He has pictures and links and all kinds of good things in his blog

Rule #2: Post the rules on the blog. Done.

Rule #3: Write six random things about yourself. I should be able to do this part. I am the most random person I know.

1. I like Swiss cheese.
2. I inadvertently and unintentionally count my steps when I walk. I really have to concentrate to stop myself.
3. The carved pumpkin on my front porch is rotting and the lips are curling in and now it looks like a grandpa pumpkin and it makes me snicker when I see it. (See, now would totally be a good time to know how to insert pictures).
4. I wear footed sleepers during the winter months - sometimes all day.
5. My bath to shower ratio is approximately 150:1.
6. I lie about my age to my students. Many think I am 5 years older than I am.

Rule #4: Tag six people at the end of your post. Um, I don't think I even know six people that weren't already on my husband's list and if I'm suppose to link, this is going to be a totally hopeless endeavor. Let's see, Christina, Matt, Kim and anyone who read my blog for the first time in the last week....consider yourself tagged. You can write a comment on this post if you would like to be linked so that we can all read about your respective randomnessess (is that a word?)

Rule #5: Let each person know they have been tagged. Since I am way too lazy to send out emails, I'll just hope that somebody eventually reads this and sees that they should be continuing this exercise. I'm starting to wonder if this is like the chain letters that were going around in the eighties (before the chain emails started a few decades later) and great curses will come on me for not following the rules. I was always the person who broke the chain. Always. Hmmm...maybe that's why my portfolio is down this year.

Rule #6: Let the tagger know when your entry is up. Hey, Brig, I did it (kind of). Aren't you impressed?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Mathematical Impossibility

This morning, Michael decided to have some apple juice. On the counter were a few of the boxes that I put in the kids' school lunches, so he took one and poked the straw through and started to drink. Putting the straw in the box was so much fun, that he decided to pull it out and do it again and again and again. Each time he did this, a drop or two made its way to my wood floors. By the time I discovered that he had the box of apple juice, most of the box was still left and he had obviously had some to drink as well. So, at the most, I am thinking maybe a tablespoon or two actually made it onto the floor.

So, this is where I get confused. Within the hour, every surface of my kitchen floor was sticky. The bottom of my shoes were sticky. J's socks were sticky. No one could even walk in the room without sticking to the floor. Our kitchen and breakfast area is at about 200 square feet and I just can't make the math work. How can a few drops of apple juice make the entire floor sticky? This has got to be a mathematical impossibility.

I also want to know how a few minutes of fun for a two year old always turns into a few hours of work for me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Years Old

Today is Michael's second birthday I went out to Walmart this morning (Walmart in Kentuky is a whole other post - trust me) and I bought him a tricycle, which he fondly refers to as "bi". He doesn't actually know how to ride the tricycle. I'm sure that will come eventually, but in the meantime, he has found other uses for his "bi."

First off, the "bi" has a little trunk that holds stuff. He has placed in it some of his favorite things, such as his fishy bath toy, a half-eaten Oreo and the lego with the eye sticker on it, which is superior to the other legos in every way. Then there is the much needed boost that his "bi" gives him. When he stands on the seat, he can reach the counter top and all kinds of good food stuffs, which is how he acquired the Oreo in the first place.

After I placed the cookies out of reach (even with a "bi" boost), he decided that the tricycle must have other uses. So, he tried to ride it. The problem was that those completely useless pedals were in the way. Everytime he tried to push himself, his stride was cut short. I could see he was getting frustrated. But, never fear, my little darling is a genius (no matter how speech delayed he may be). He turned the bike around and can now go at close to full speed by driving it backwards. Plus, he can reach his trunk without having to turn around in case he gets hungry or needs a lego with an eye sticker on it. Genius I tell you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twists and Turns

Some of the greatest books of all time are children's books. I always steal away my kid's book orders and happily read or reread books that are meant to entertain an 8 year old. One of my favorite series is the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has a quote in one of her books that I have had chance to reference many times in my life. I believe that she was quoting her own mother when she said, "There's no great loss without some small gain."

So, when life happens, as it does quite often at our house, I try to find the small gain and sometimes I have to have faith that that gain may just be an eventuallity. I hope that someday I will look back and think, "Wow, if that hadn't happened, this other thing wouldn't have happened, and now look where we are."

One example that comes to mind is the convoluted way in which my husband and I were even allowed to meet. My husband was in a boy's choir when he was little. Because it conflicted with his church time, he ended up on changing to a different congregation and there he met his best childhood friend, Rob. Rob and him are still friends. When my husband was a teenager, his father passed away. His family moved to Utah to be closer to his sister and there he met back up with his friend Rob. Rob was friends with Julie, who eventually became my roommate. And, well, the rest is history. I am so sorry that my husband lost his father at such a tender age, but I sometimes wonder if there is anyway we would have or could have met if this hadn't happened.

I've wondered about each of our moves and what gain has come from them. Some gains have been more obvious than others. I miss where I grew up and I miss my family, but I know that even with these great losses, there have been small gains. Even if it just means that we have been forced into our independence and reliance on each other.

I've especially been trying to keep this in mind with my sister's passing. As I talk to her husband and think about her small son, I wonder what eventual small gains might come from what seems like such a tragedy. I know that, for myself, I feel a sense of empathy towards others that I don't think I could have without going through this experience. Beyond that, I have yet to understand why things happened the way they did.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quiet House

Tonight is the cub scout camp out and so Michael and I are home alone. He went down at 6:00 and now I'm not really sure what to do with myself. I am so used to chaos and craziness that when a quiet night comes, it feels wrong.

After loading both the dishwasher and the washing machine, I decided to work on my last two weeks of College Algebra handouts. But, I'll admit, my heart just isn't in it tonight. I've had a hard week at school and I'm not feeling as motivated as usual. So, I thought I might feel better if I wrote a blog entry and got some of it off of my chest. Maybe after writing it all out I can dive back into school preparation and stop worrying about it.

My Tuesday evening class is, well, spirited. There are 28 students in the class, which is over capacity, and they all have very good attendance. 3 of the students are female, the rest are male. Usually my classes go quite smoothly, but this last Tuesday went all wrong. My students were more on edge than normal and many were yelling out and trying to entertain themselves and others with their comments. One of the less socially aware students finally yelled out a comment that crossed the line of anyone's definition of appropriateness. I wasn't sure if the comment was necessarily directed towards me, but under any condition, it was not something that was acceptable or even repeatable for the curious among you.

Some of my other students, the ones that actually like me, felt offended by the comment as well and chose to use some colorful, but not appropriate, language to let the first student know that his comment was not welcome. It went downhill from there and I actually had 4 or 5 students catch me after class to break the news that their learning had been disrupted that day. Good thing they told me, huh?

So, for the first time in my teaching career, I actually went up a level to deal with a student. I went right to that student's department chair and asked him to please speak to him. Immediately after doing this, I regretted it. I usually like to deal with student problems in house rather than getting others involved. But then, when I thought of what was said, I realized this was not a situation that should be handled by me.

His chair talked to him and I just got an email telling me that the student admitted that he had used profanity and made inappropriate comments directed towards me. He says that he is acting out because he is frustrated and doesn't understand the class very well. He missed an important week and hasn't been able to catch up. I think the email bothered me because, though I am all about helping every student, him feeling lost in the class does not excuse his behavior. I understand that some of my students don't have the best communication skills, but this seemed like a really rotten way to ask for extra help in the class. I told his chair I would do what I could to help him, but he needed to make sure to emphasize to him what was appropriate and what was not in a classroom setting.

So, that's it. That's the story. I'm still not sure what class is going to be like on Tuesday and part of me wonders if the student will even show up. And a lot of me feels guilty for even making a big deal out of it in the first place. Then, there is the part of me that knows that I can not allow myself to be treated like that even if it is under the guise of a pathetic cry for help. Of course, the silver lining to this all is that I am now fully aware that there are people out there with even less in the way of social skills than myself.

Now, back to my class handouts.