Saturday, March 30, 2013

He's just a little boy, but his future scares me

Originally posted on The Chicago Moms

One of our girls came home tonight with a dark red mark on her wrist. A boy in her third grade class grabbed her wrist in P.E. and twisted it so hard he left a mark. The P.E. teacher handled the situation by reprimanding the boy. It was all handled properly.

The problem is that this little boy has known anger issues. He will tell you he has anger issues. His teacher said he has anger issues. Did I mention he is in third grade? He is nine years old and already has anger issues.

When I was in the room for the winter party, he sat at his desk glaring at everyone having fun. No matter what I tried he didn’t leave his desk. He put his head in his hands when he wanted to be left alone.

I don’t know anything about his life. I don’t know about his parents. I don’t know if he has siblings or a pet. I don’t know is he has interests. All I know is he scares me.

I’ve seen this story before. Young boy with anger issues grows up to be troubled teenage boy with a weapon. He walks into a crowded place and opens fire. It’s a story we’ve seen over and over again.

He scares me because there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be in the same Jr. high school and high school as our girls. Unless his family moves, our daughters will go through school with him. I told them they need to be polite to him, but keep their distance.

They tell me he doesn’t have any friends. I’m not surprised. Who wants to be friends with a child who is always angry? Who is always looking to hurt someone? What parent wants their child to be friends with a boy who hurts other kids? Who wants him in their child’s class?

I want to tell our girls to try to be friends with him. I want to tell our girls that he might not be angry if he had someone to play with at recess, but I don’t believe that. I do believe that there are a lot of people, in the school at least, aware of his problem who are trying to help him. I do believe that he will grow up to be an angry adult who will continue to act out in completely inappropriate ways.

All I can do is watch and try to keep our girls away from him. In theory we live in a neighborhood where this shouldn’t be a concern. Of course, that’s what people thought about the Columbine shooters too right? I just hope we’ve learned enough from all the mass shootings that someone will figure out something to help this little boy before it’s too late. He’s only in third grade and already his future looks dim.

Monday, March 25, 2013

More reasons to dislike the ISAT

I learned recently that we never receive our girls' ISAT test scores. It turns out the school gets an aggregate score, but doesn't release the individual student's scores.

Really?

After two weeks of overtired, stressed out children the parents don't even get to find out how their children tested? We put up with our children rehearsing their songs for the pep rally. We answered all the questions about what happens if they don't pass the ISAT. We held their hands on the way to school to keep them calm before the test.

We never get to see the scores.

I don't even know where to go with this frustrating development. If you're going to test the children the parents should at least be abe to see the scores. Otherwise don't bother to test them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Please no more crock pot food

I'm running a referendum campaign to build a new junior high school in our community. In addition to my full-time job, it's a full-time volunteer job. This has caused many scheduling problems around our house, especially with food.

I've taken to throwing stuff in the crock pot in the morning and letting it stew all day. It could be soup or stew or something else I can throw together with enough vegetables to sound healthy. I'm sure it's healthier than any fast food option even if it sometimes tastes a bit bland because I forgot to throw in this spice or that onion.

Last week the brunette twin asked about dinner. When I told her what we were having she said, "Oh please, no more crock pot food." For her the crock pot is a symbol that I'm too busy to make dinner. She complained that she's tired of food that comes out of the crock pot.

Of course it's a bit more complicated than just being tired of crock pot dinners. She often doesn't like one ingredient I've thrown into the crock pot so when she sees it, she assumes she's not going to like her dinner. Most of the time she's right, but that's because she really, really wants to be a picky eater.

Note that I said she wants to be a picky eater. In our house she eats what we put in front of her. It might take a while and it might make for a miserable dinner, but she simply must eat her dinner. We eat crazy, exotic things like green beans and corn and carrots and celery. You know, all the exotic stuff.

I put the crock pot away for a while even though the referendum isn't until April 9. It does mean I have to think about dinner a little more, but it also makes the brunette twin pretty happy not to see the crock pot. It's a trade off we'll live with until next fall when chicken noodle soup simmering all day sounds like the perfect dinner.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coasting towards Spring Break

Our girls have been completely off schedule the past two weeks because of the ISAT tests. Every morning for an hour or two the school administered the tests. The kids had snacks and juice available in the classroom in case they needed something (and to make sure all the kids ate something before the test truth be told). They had longer recess and lunch to make sure they had plenty of time to de-stress after one test and before the next one. Their regular class schedules have been put on hold until after Spring Break.
 
They are loving it.

Now that the tests are done the school is just coasting until Spring Break starts on Friday. Or at least that's how it seems to me. There's no point in them starting something new two days before a week-long break. Instead the blond twin has a read-a-thon today where the kids all wear pajamas and bring sleeping bags and stuffed animals. They spend the day doing literacy activities from reading to games to team projects. Tomorrow the blond twin's class is having a movie marathon and more games.

The brunette twin isn't quite as lucky. Her class isn't having a movie marathon, but they have all kinds of special activities planned today and tomorrow. They still have a huge box of snacks and juice boxes available for on-demand treats.

They are so excited every morning to go to school. They talk about what fun they are going to have today and tomorrow. They compare notes on whose class is having more fun. They act like school is one big party, which is a huge change from testing days when it's one big torture chamber.

It's going to be hard for them to get back into a routine after Spring Break, but we'll deal with that then. Right now we're just enjoying the happy girls who want to go to school. It's a nice change from the stressed-out girls who dreaded the ISATs every morning.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You always say wait until we are older

The girls are often frustrated that they are nine years old. They want to be older, but realize that they are still young.

They are constantly asking to do things they already know we won't let them do. "We want to look pretty tonight, can we wear eye shadow?" "When can we wear high heels?" "I want to wear a strapless dress."

It's all stuff most little girls want to do, so we never completely dismiss their questions. I always say, "We'll talk about it when you're older."

This isn't the answer they want. They want us to say it's okay, that they are old enough to wear eye shadow or high heels or a strapless dress.

It never happens.

This frustrates the brunette twin so much that the other day she snapped, "You always say wait until we get older, but we're never older. No matter how much older we are you never let us do anything."

She's right. There will be a time and place when the girls wear make-up and heels, but it won't be at nine-years-old. Or ten-years-old or eleven-years-old. In fact, I don't know for sure when they will be old enough to do all the things they want to, but I'm sure we'll get there sooner than I'd like.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The chaperon wars

The girls have a field trip coming up in April. Today they returned their permission slips and my form requesting to be a chaperon. On the way home we talked about how I was going to chaperon the blond twin's class this time because I've been so involved with the brunette twin's class.

The brunette twin replied, "But we don't have any chaperone's yet. Maybe no one will chaperon our class if you don't come."

I explained that it was time for someone else to step up since I filled in as room parent for their Winter party and Valentine's Day ice cream social. Then I said, "If you don't have any chaperone's closer to the trip, maybe we'll ask Daddy if he can go." I immediately regretted those words. 

Blond twin: "Wait, I want Daddy to chaperon my field trip."

Brunette twin: "That's not fair. Mommy has done everything in my class this year. I get Daddy."

Blond twin: "She has done everything in your class so she knows all the kids. She should go with your class. I want Daddy to chaperon my class."

Brunette twin: "No. I've had enough of Momma with my class this year. I get Daddy. You get Momma."

Blond twin: "I look like Daddy so he should be my chaperon."

Brunette twin: "You wanted Momma so you get her. I get Daddy."

All the time these two were arguing about who was stuck with Mommy, I walked between them. I was actually holding the blond twin's hand as she fought to have her Daddy chaperon her class.

Finally I said, "Hello. You know I'm walking between you two? I'm right here and I hear everything you're saying."

The blond twin said, "Oh, Momma. I do want you to be my chaperon. It's okay. We really do want you."

The brunette twin gloated, "Ok. If no one else chaperons my field trip I get Daddy."

Then she did a little victory dance.

Monday, March 11, 2013

May I have normal milk?

We were trying Almond milk with our cereal when the brunette twin looked at me and sighed. She has been a good sport about all our milk alternatives, especially since she's the picky eater in our family. She's the girl who looks at dinner and doesn't want to eat it because the noodles "don't look right."

She said, "Mom, can I just have some normal milk? I know Sissy can't drink it, but I can. I just really want some normal milk."

I hugged her and told her we'd get some normal milk the next time we went to the store. We were so engrossed in our quest to find something the blond twin could drink that we forgot that the brunette twin can drink  regular milk. Only one of them has a milk allergy and while that will impact what we eat as a family, a glass of regular milk was a simple request.

Of course, it took me three more days to actually get to the store to buy the "normal" milk. Hey, I said she could drink regular milk. I didn't say I'd be quick about getting it in to the house.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

And now all I want is a milk shake

The blond twin complained about her stomach for about two weeks before we decided something was really, really wrong. It isn't that we didn't try to help her before that point, but nothing we did helped much.

It was a Monday when she woke up crying because her stomach was "burning" as she put it. She doubled-over on our bed as tears streamed down her face. A few hours later we were in the doctor's office.

All the first ideas from flu to urinary tract infection were cast aside as the symptoms didn't quite match. After a bit the doctor suggested the blond twin might have acid reflux and gave us a prescription for a two week course of pills. She said if the pills didn't work we would have to consider a number of other options from celiac to a milk allergy.

The blond twin took the pills for five days without any relief. I ended up back in the pharmacy where a tech gave me some Pepto-Bismal for children. She said it would only provide some symptom relief, but we'd still have to figure out the cause. At that point I was ready for anything that might give the blond twin a break from her pain.

Daddy had the blond twin tracking her food to see if we could figure out if something she ate was causing her pain. A pattern emerged, but we weren't quite ready to declare success.

On Friday the blond twin came into out bedroom in tears again. I gave her some Pepto-Bismal tablets and sent her to school. At dismissal I took her back to the doctor. An hour later the blond twin shrieked as the nurse tried to take some blood from her. I mean that girl sounded like she was in more pain than any of us could imagine. The minute the nurse stuck the needle in her arm, the blond twin looked down and said, "Oh, that didn't hurt at all." She laughed and told the nurse what a good job she did. As we left the only thing hurting was my head from all her screaming.

All those blood tests came back normal, which took us back to dairy. We took dairy out of the blond twin's diet completely. In our refrigerator is a full selection of milk alternatives. We have fake butter and fake cheese. A friend's daughter also cannot drink or eat any milk products. The blond twin adores Phoebe, so she's happy to have the same problem as Phoebe.

Now we're cautiously testing her dairy limits. She had pizza at school yesterday without much pain. Of course it was the only milk product she had eaten in about a week. We are reworking our food plans a bit to make sure she gets enough calcium. It's not too hard. It just requires us to pay close attention for a while.

Last night we were sitting on the couch when I look at my husband and said, "This might make me a bad Mom, but whenever we talk about how the blond twin cannot eat dairy, all I want is to go out and get a milk shake." He smiled and said, "Go get a milk shake." A day later I still want to get a milk shake, even though I feel badly about it because I know the blond twin can't have one anymore. Now I just need to find a place where she can have a milk shake alternative so we can all go out and treat ourselves as a family.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Standardized Test Stress

The girls' school is coming up on the ISAT test, a standardized test that determines whether or not the school meets its goals for 2012-2013. I could go on and on about why I don't like the standardized test craze permeating our schools now, but I won't. There's only one reason I despise those tests right now.

It's too much stress for the kids.

I don't care how much the teachers and administrators worry about the tests. I don't care that some government agency manager is going to analyze the test. I don't care that local newspapers will report on the test scores.

I do care that our girls are really worried about the test. Tonight as we were going through our nightly routine, the brunette twin said, "Mom, if I don't do well on the ISATs, do I have to stay in third grade? Do I have to go to summer school?"

No matter how much time the school spends trying to make the test sound like fun, the kids know it's a test. The school is having an ISAT rally where every class sings a funny song. The kids have t-shirts with cute sayings on them. Each class has its own color to promote class spirit. When the girls talk about the ISAT, they do make it sound like they are having fun getting ready.

At dinner the blond twin talked about how well she did on the practice test. The brunette twin talked about how well she did in her advance math class on the practice test. They giggle when they share their "secret" class songs. They are not supposed to tell anyone about their song, but the girls have told each other every detail, of course.

They don't know why there is tension in the air, but they feel it. They know everyone is making a big deal about this standardized test, as opposed to all the other standardized tests they have taken throughout the years. Since kindergarten our girls have a standardized test every fall and spring. Schools obessively track progress via standardized tests.

Our girls know something is different about the ISAT test. They know it means a lot more than the other tests they've taken and that bothers me a lot. They are so worried about what will happen if they don't do well. I'm worried that the ISAT stress will keep them from doing their best.

Still, I know there is nothing we can do about the ISAT stress. We can talk about it, try to reduce it and spend our time focusing on other things. In the end the girls will have to learn how to manage standardized test stress. This is the first of many high-stakes standardized tests they will take during their academic careers. I might despise the stress and worry, but it's not going to go away.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nothing like being planked by our daughters

I am increasingly aware that I need to increase my flexibility. I try to do some yoga every day in the hopes that I'll maintain whatever flexibility I have right now.

There are some yoga positions I struggle to complete. On the TV the yoga instructor in plank pose lifted her hand in the air over her head, twisting her body in the process. I sighed, sat down and stared, wondering if I'd ever get there.

The girls walked by and said, "Oh we can do that. We do it all the time in P.E." They both dropped to the floor into plank pose and twisted to put one arm in the air. It was completely effortless. Once the proved they could do it, they went back to plank pose and twisted the other way.

This was not helpful.

I realize that with enough practice I could do it too. What makes me feel old is realizing how hard it was for me and how easy it was for them. Of course, they don't appreciate their ability to move from pose to pose like it's the most natural thing in the world. Me? I'd give anything to be able to move like them.