Sunday, October 30, 2011

Relearning Nothing to Do Time

It was about a year ago that Dad started getting really sick.  Since we never knew what Mom and Dad would need and when, we got into the habit of making sure everything was done as quickly as possible.  There wasn't a lot of time to just sit and read the paper on a Sunday because we were running here and there -- either for us or Mom and Dad. 

Now that Dad is gone, we find ourselves trying to re-establish some kind of a normal routine.  This afternoon we found ourselves sitting on the couch reading the newspaper and catching up on a few shows we recorded.  It was the kind of Sunday afternoon that would have been normal a while ago. 

Today I found myself trying to relax.  Every time I settled in, I felt like I should have been doing something.  It was as if I had forgotten how to relax.  I kept waiting for the phone to ring or to remember that there was something I needed to do.  It took a while before I realized I could just do nothing.  It was okay to spend an afternoon just hanging out at home.

It's another step towards our new normal.  The constant worry about Mom and Dad is gone.  It's replacement isn't fitting comfortably yet, but I'll spend more time relaxing on Sundays until it finally fits.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Front Porch Dog

We use a tie-up to put Oreo outside attached to the play set whenever we're working in the yard or just think it's a good day for the dog to be outside.  It's strong enough to keep him in place, and he still has a lot of room to explore. Recently we moved the tie-up to the front porch because the backyard is one big mess from the patio project.

It turns out he LOVES being on the front porch.  It's his personal playground.  The tie-up is long enough that he can wander into the front yard and explore the front garden when the mood strikes.  Other times he just hangs out on the concrete watching all the neighborhood action.  Now, I wouldn't say there's a lot of neighborhood action, but for Oreo, the squirrels, walkers and cars must be fascinating.

He recently started asking to go outside.  Sometimes he sits by the front door and talks to me.  Sometimes when we come back from a walk he'll plop down next to the tie-up.  He won't move until I attach him to the tie-up so he can roam.  Sometimes I'll find him stretched out in front of the screen door.  I'll open the door and try to bring him into the house, but he walks away. 

I've learned to just leave him on the front porch. It keeps him busy for hours on end.  As long as it's not raining, he can spend as much time as he wants on the front porch. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

We've Been Boo-ed

***Orginally posted to the Chicago Moms***

The first time it happened, we didn’t even know we’d been boo-ed. We opened our front door to find an orange, plastic pumpkin with treats and a poem. The second time it happened, the doorbell rang. By the time we opened the front door, the goblins were gone. The treats spilling out of orange, plastic cups sat on our front porch with a ghost and a poem.

Now it’s our turn. We’re going to boo several friends this weekend. I went to You’ve Been Boo-ed to print out the neighborhood version to include with our pumpkins. We have several extra pumpkins from different parties that we can fill with treats. The only argument in our house is who to boo. The poem asks you to boo two other people. Since we’ve been boo-ed twice, we figure we’ll boo four households. Of course, we have six potential families, so we might just boo them all.

Who will you boo? It’s easy and fun to spread a little Halloween fun. Why not join in the fun?

We boo-ed several families last night.  It was very fun for the girls.  They ran up to each house, dropped the treat and rang the doorbell.  At the first house, the brunette twin fell, but she jumped up and ran into the car.  The brunette twin had a scare at her final house when the motion detector lights went on.  She went from sneaking up to the door to standing in the bright lights.  The blond twin couldn't stop giggling when she went to boo her friends.  She was completely out of breath when she slammed the car door.  I only hope it was as fun for the recipients as it was for us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Privacy Issues

The blond twin recently decided that she wants her privacy.  Not from us or her sister, but from everyone else.  She has started complaining when we tell embarrassing stories or share her grades with other.  Last weekend she expanded it to all medical issues.

The blond twin has bloody noses from time to time.  On Sunday she stayed home from church because she was afraid it would start bleeding again.  It started just before we were supposed to leave and she took the opportunity to stay home with Daddy.  (Ok, maybe she just wanted to stay home with Daddy.  It did cross my mind.)

At church several people asked.  Most of the time I said she wasn't feeling well.  I told a couple of people because I thought they might have some advice for us.  It turns out they did.  When she found out I told them why she stayed home she was MAD.  Really, really mad.  She said, "It's my body and you don't get to tell them what's going on unless I say so."

Did I mention she was mad?  Two more times this week she reminded me that I was not allowed to tell anyone something about her. 

It's an interesting turn of events because both girls have growing concerns about their privacy, but in different ways.  The blond twin doesn't want anyone outside the immediate family to know anything.  The brunette twin has taken to hiding when she changes clothes and shutting the bathroom door as she gains some modesty.  She hasn't said she doesn't want me to tell anyone what is happening with her when she's sick, but I'm sure it's coming. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Worst Ten Minutes of the Day

Each night we make sure the girls' backpacks are ready, clothes are set out and lunches are made.  So why is it so hard to get them out of the house in the morning? 

Some days the problem is obvious.  The girls spill something on their clothes and need to change at the last moment.  The girls cannot get their shoes untied.  The girls have to go to the bathroom at the moment we are supposed to walk out the door.  The girls cannot figure out which fashion scarf to wear with their denim jackets.  You get the picture.

Other mornings run like this morning.  We were five minutes late getting out of the house and I cannot even tell you why.  The backpacks were packed.  Lunches were ready.  The girls were moving at a reasonable pace.  Still, we didn't get out of the house on time.

Now that the weather is getting colder -- and it's soon to be snowier -- we need to push our out-of-the-house time back.  We cannot leave five minutes late and make it to school on time.  Even though there's a 10 minute window during which the girls need to be at school or they are late, I don't like to cut it close.  I'm not interested in finding out whether or not the school's clock syncs with ours.  I want to be there as soon as the school doors open.

Leaving five minutes earlier means adjusting the schedule so we can leave on time. The problem is that no matter how well I plan, there are some things that are out of my control.  The ten minutes it takes us to go from "let's leave" to actually locking the front door will still be the worst ten minutes of the day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm Going With

When we first adopted Oreo, he wasn't happy about getting into the mini-van. It was a battle just to get him near the vehicle and getting him in wasn't any easier.

His first long trip in the mini-van didn't go well until we let him sit between the girls' seats.  Since then, he has been a travelling dog.  His seat is now in the back by the window.  Whenever he's in the mini-van, he heads right there.  Sometimes he sits there even after we've come home and gone into the house -- just in case we decide to go someplace else, he's ready.

Now we've gotten to the point that if the mini-van is outside and he sees it, Oreo will not go in the garage.  He sits by the front door wagging his tale as if to say, "Nope.  I'm not going in the garage.  I'm going with."  He's like a child who is afraid he is going to miss something. 

It's really annoying when you are trying to get out of the house and you have to negotiate with the dog to get him into the garage.  It used to be that any treat would send him happily wagging his tail into the garage.  Now treats are just ignored as he sits by the door waiting to go into the mini-van.  Eventually he does go into the garage, but he's not happy about it.

Of course, as with so many things, there is an upside to his wanderlust.  Once in a while Oreo will get out of the house or off his leash.  He doesn't go far.  Usually he runs around the house like it's a racetrack.  We don't chase him as we already know we cannot catch him.  We used to hold a treat and call his name until he ran around enough that he was tired and came back.  Now we just pull out the mini-van and open a door.  He runs right in and plops down on his seat.  Sometimes we drive around the block and come back.  Other times we just drive into the garage and close the door.  Either way he's happy because he got to ride in the mini-van. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Best When?

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin:  "Did you get this at Best Buy?"

Mom:  "Did we get what at Best Buy?"

Blond Twin:  "The honey."

Mom:  "Why would we buy honey at Best Buy?"

Blond Twin:  "On the back it says best by."

Mom (laughing):  "No baby, that means it tastes best before that date.  It's not buy like you purchase something.  It's by like a due date."

Blond Twin:  "Ohh, that makes sense.  I thought it was funny that you'd buy honey at Best Buy."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Role Reversal

When we rehabbed the family room, we added a surround sound system.  It really spoiled us.  There are a few songs I think sound much better when played a little louder than normal.  A few of them happen to be songs by artists the girls really like. 

Every time I turn up a song, the girls start saying, "Mom, turn it down.  It's too loud!"

Really?  I thought it was my job to tell them the music was too loud.   Knowing that it annoys them when I turn up the music, I often use this as a discpline technique.  When they start fighting, I'll crank up a song until they cannot hear each other anymore.  They stop arguing and yell in unison, "Mom, turn it down.  It's too loud."

There are some benefits to this role reversal after all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Letting People Know

A neighborhood friend, whose daughters play with our girls, stopped by the other day.  She said, "What is going on?  I haven't talked to you in forever."  I went on to tell her about Dad's death and all the other stuff going on.  She said, "What a crappy summer for your family."

She's right of course, but I realized something as I was talking to her.  There's no avoiding what happened.  If I don't get out and tell people, then there's no way to reconnect with everyone.  The girls' closest friends and their families all know.  I told them about Marlene and Dad if for no other reason than I didn't want them to be surprised if the girls mentioned it.

The reality is that I have been trying to avoid it, but it's really not possible.  I recognize now that it's best to tell people on our terms -- when and where we want -- rather than during random conversations.  I had an awkward exchange with another Mom at the grocery store one day.  How's your Dad?  Well, he died.  How's your brother?  Well, his wife and father died within a few months of each other, so not well.  He's doing the best he can.  So sorry, time to get some bananas before dance class.  She was sincere, but let's just say the cereal aisle isn't the place for that kind of update.

A lot of people know something is going on because we've been so out of touch.  Usually we're organizing groups for free concerts or play dates or library events.  We haven't done any of it because we didn't know what was going to happen two or three weeks in advance.  Those days are over, so it's time for me to get back in touch and work through all the conversations so we can all move on. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The End of the Booster Seats

Overheard in the minivan...

Blond Twin:  "Hey!  Mom! Didn't you say that we'd be out of booster seats when we turned eight?"

Mom starts laughing.

Blond Twin:  "We don't need to be in booster seats?"

Mom:  "Nope."

Blond Twin:  "Why are we still in booster seats?"

Mom:  "I was waiting for one of you to remember that you could get out now that you are eight."

Blond Twin:  "Let's get them out of the van today."

Mom:  "Okay.  Remind Daddy when we get home."

Blond Twin:  "Oh yeah.  It will be the first thing I tell him."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Making an Effort

After the school tested the girls -- yet again -- to see if they should move into the advanced math class, the principal called.  She said one girl was clearly ready and the other was one point below the required score.  She said one girl would be moved in January when they make the across-the-grade-level adjustments.  I expressed my concern that by January the girls would be so far behind that they wouldn't be able to catch-up.  (Ok, one girl in particular, but I'm assuming that the other girl will test in.)  We talked for a bit about what the school was going to do to keep them challenged until a move was made.  I felt better when I hung up the phone. 

It seemed like we were making progress until I explained it to my husband.  When the words started coming out of my mouth I realized how crazy it all was.  If one twin was ready, then she should be moved now.  What was she going to do until January?  Sit and review stuff she already knew?  This morning I emailed the principal asking why January was the transfer date.  I also asked her what the advanced class was doing now through January.  I told her we'd home school the girls in math until a transfer was made.

To her credit she called me a bit ago.  She said they were going to move up the transfer dates to the end of the first quarter -- about three weeks from now.  One twin would go for certain.  The other twin's transfer depends on her next test score.  

I talked to my husband and we're okay with this.  First, the one twin will be moved up quickly.  Second, once, she's in the program, we'll be able to work with her sister based upon the homework that comes home every day.  They might not both be in -- depending upon the next test -- but that doesn't mean they both won't benefit.

Of course, we're not telling the girls about a possible transfer until it happens.  They said they would be fine being separated, so that's not a concern.  We just don't want to get anyone's hopes up only to have them dashed again. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Public School Frustrations

I am so frustrated with our local public school that I have a headache.  Our school has an advanced math class that requires certain test scores at four different data points for placement.  Our girls missed placement by less than one point on one of the four data points, and one full point on another data point.  Yes, because they missed one mark by .4 and .8 and another mark by one point, they are not in the advanced class. 

The standard class is dong work the girls mastered in the first semester of first grade.  This class won't be doing the same work the girls were doing at the end of first grade until the end of second grade.  Of course, this didn't sit well with me.  I asked what the school was going to do to differentiate the standard math class since it didn't make sense that children who missed the advanced class by a point or two should do the same math as students who scored in the 70th percentile. 

After speaking with the principal, I learned that more than 20 second grade students are in the same position as the girls.  To me, this says the school needs to work to meet the needs of these students.  To the school, this means they need to "consider options."   The problem, as the principal explained it, is if they start another math level in second grade, it won't carry over to third, fourth or fifth grades.  Of course, I said, "Why not?"  She said it's still in discussions, but it's not really what the math teachers think would be most beneficial.  After our conversation, I realized that the only option that interests me is the option to move them to the advanced math class if they meet the first quarter standard after their next assessment test.  Of course, we could end up in the same position where they miss the advance class by a point -- or by a fraction of a point. 

In other words, we're going to have to home school the girls in math if we want them to advance. 

I understand that public schools are about providing a minimum education to all students, but public schools are leaving behind a whole class of students who are really bright.  In political campaigns and on news shows, we talk about the need to provide our students with more advanced math, but when faced with a cohort of students who need more advanced math, the answer is to simply wait until the next test.

After all, why spend resources on students who already test at the top of the class?  It's more important to focus on the bottom so the overall test scores look good. No matter what educators say, this is the reality of public education today.