Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It’s time to stop complaining about Common Core

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms

During our recent parent orientation, our daughters’ teachers explained that they would not have math books this year. The fifth grade students would receive math worksheets as the school decided to test Eureka Math. Apparently Eureka Math doesn’t come with a textbook. Now we get to spend our evenings doing online research so we can figure out how to help our daughters with this new math program.

It’s déjà vu for us. We spent last year trying to figure out Origo Math, a program with such terrible quality control that the fourth grade students spent a lot of time finding errors in the worksheets. Every math class became a game called “which problems are wrong today,” which annoyed the parents. It seemed to all of us that a company filled with mathematicians should have been able to create a program without so many basic errors. Origo Math didn’t donate the program. Our school district spent a lot of money on it. Last time I checked, no one was paying our fourth graders to correct Origo Math.
This year we’re subjected to another new math program. We have been told that Eureka Math aligns with Common Core standards better than Origo Math. In other words, last year the district used our children as test monkeys for a failed math program so this year we’re testing another math program on these same students. In the end, they have to unlearn Origo system and learn the Eureka Math system. We left the meetings frustrated and angry with the ongoing Common Core excuses.
It’s time for school districts to figure out how to implement Common Core. As a parent and taxpayer, I’m tired of hearing about how the school district is “trying” to find the best ways to implement Common Core. For years now our local school district newsletter has been heralding all the hard work being done to get ready for Common Core. They’ve outlined the arduous task in excruciating detail. Still, since Common Core has ruled our educational landscape, all we have heard is how our award-winning, high performing school district is “trying” to figure out what will best meet Common Core standards. Really? What have they been doing all these years?
This week our girls had substitutes two days in a row so their teachers could receive Common Core training. Our very expensive property taxes funded these meetings. As a parent and taxpayer, I’d like to understand what exactly is getting done in these meetings? At some point don’t they have to actually teach Common Core? Simply meeting and complaining about Common Core isn’t providing our students with an education.
I am not complaining about Common Core. I’ve read about it extensively. I’m pretty well-versed on the pros and cons. In the end, whether teachers like it or not, it is the new standard. At this point, I don’t understand why our school district, which had years to plan, can’t provide its core service – an education – to meet Common Core standards. From conversations I have with friends across our area, it’s a frustration parents in many school districts share.
Please don’t tell me how it has caused schools to reinvent themselves. In the corporate world we do this all the time. I look at Common Core as a new boss. In corporate America, new bosses show up all the time. You have to figure out the new boss’s priorities and adapt. We don’t get years to plan. We don’t have training meetings during our work days to analyze and complain about the new boss. We just have to figure out how to keep the new boss happy. If we translate this into Common Core language, it’s time for teachers to stop complaining about the new boss and just get onboard.  It’s time for school districts to figure out how to implement Common Core so that an entire generation doesn’t get left behind while they are planning. Illinois children deserve better than what they are getting.
Shari writes about life with her tween twin daughters at Two Times The Fun. Image courtesy of Free Images.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A drop of what?

Overheard at our house...

Mommy: There's blood on your neck. What did you do?

Blond Twin: I don't know. Where is it?

Mommy:  On your neck, right here.

Blond Twin: How did I get blood on my neck?

Mommy:  I don't know. Go wash your neck and let's see.

Blond Twin: Oh, it's not blood. It's pizza sauce.

Mommy looks at the Brunette Twin and sighs. Daddy laughs.

Mommy:  This is going on the blog.

Blond Twin:  I know.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

We're just tired

Sometimes at the end of the day the girls will look at Mommy and Daddy with some alarm and say, “Are you ok?” We nearly always respond, “We’re just tired.” They think we’re mad or sad or something else. The reality is that we’re just tired.

I blame the TV shows they watch. On the tween-friendly shows everyone is happy and smiling all the time. No one is every tired in a real, collapse on the couch to watch TV way. Even when they are sick they are perfectly dressed with full make-up. Oh, they might have a red nose to signal a cold, but the rest of them is picture perfect. No one ever puts on sweatpants and a big t-shirt because they just don’t feel like dressing any better on a day when they don’t have to leave the house. Females never put their hair in a pony tail just because they can't decide what to do with their hair. No one on TV is ever just tired.
Being tired is a universal parenting reaction at the end of the day, isn’t it? By the time we get the girls to and from school, activities and play dates; take care of the house, laundry, meals; do that thing that pays the bills (aka work); spend some time together; and connect with the outside world, we’re tired. I tell them it’s because their parents are old. I know that’s not really true, though, because I hear the same things from parents much younger than us.
It’s not really a complaint as much as I know it sounds like it is. It’s really just an acknowledgement that we live full, fun lives. Someday I know the girls will understand. I just hope Mommy and Daddy saying they are tired isn’t going to stick with them as our parenting mantra.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A kid like me

We took the girls to the Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Festival last Monday. It’s a fun time with lots of activities and a scrimmage game. The girls get to sit in the stadium and experience the pre-game activities from singing the National Anthem to watching the videos that come on the scoreboard just before the players take the ice.

The festival used to be on Saturday so we’d go down for the afternoon. For the first training camp festival we took Mom and Dad to see the Stanley Cup. It’s now held on a Monday night, which means we race home from school, do homework, get in the car and drive to the United Center. Even though the girls had something to eat after school, they were hungry when we got into the United Center.

There were lengthy lines to get into the stadium. Even though there was a lot of stuff going on outside, we didn’t linger. We walked through to see everything and then got into a line. Everyone one in line wanted a Duncan Keith bobble head. We knew Daddy was already inside with our bobble head.

We got in and found four seats. The scrimmage has general admission seating meaning it’s first-come, first-serve for all seats. We ended up on the 300-level, just behind the American flag. The girls giggled during the national anthem because everyone looked like they were staring at us. The blond twin waved and a player waved back. She was thrilled.
We took turns going to get food so we always had someone in our seats. The brunette twin and I wandered the concourse for a bit looking for something she wanted to eat. The lines were really long. She kept moving to the next place to see if the lines were shorter. We ended up at a place selling turkey or beef sandwiches, salads and hummus. I thought she’d go for the hummus, but she wanted a turkey sandwich.
By the time we got up to order, the turkey sandwiches were gone. The brunette twin ordered a roast beef sandwich. We went to our seats and she started eating. She kept picking things off the sandwich to ask what they were. The sandwich had a relish with pickles, peppers and carrots diced into some mayonnaise. She devoured the sandwich. I took a bit and told her how tasty the sandwich was while she told me how much she liked it.
She went on and on about how much she liked the sandwich, saying, “Who would have thought a kid like me would like this so much?” I laughed because it was my thought exactly. The girl who won’t eat macaroni and cheese that doesn’t look like what she gets at home was sitting at the United Center devouring a roast beef sandwich with a pickle, pepper and carrot relish. And, she was loving it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The big sleepover

The last 11th birthday bash was a sleepover. In the end we had eight girls, including our two. They arrived yesterday about 4:00 p.m. to a barking Holly. Within one-half hour we had a house full of girls, sleeping bags, shoes, gift bags and overnight bags. It was loud and chaotic. It was the perfect way to start a party.

All the girls wanted to play with Holly, but we made them wait until she calmed down a bit. Just like an overstimulated child is an unpredictable creature, an overstimulated dog is the same way. The girls drank punch, played games and settled into the party. Right after Daddy lit the grill, we put the piñata on the front tree. The girls lined up with the bat trying to break into the sweet pink flower dangling from a tree branch. The girls swung with intent, really smacking the poor piñata. As the candy started flying they all started running. By the time the piñata actually broke into two pieces I think most of the candy was already claimed.

After dinner we went to see Maleficent. The local community college shows movies outside during the summer. Most of the girls had already seen the movie at least once. They still wanted to go, probably for the free popcorn. The girls brought a soccer ball and played in spurts during the movie.

When we got home it was cake time. The cake was a masterpiece of sugar and chocolate. If you can picture it in your head, imagine a double-layer chocolate cake with Kit Kat bars on the sides and topped with M&Ms. The blond twin beamed as she picked out this masterpiece.

Holly calmed down nicely and was the main attraction. The girls kept stopping their activities to play with her. When they put out their sleeping bags, Holly plopped down in the middle, as if to claim her spot. We took Holly upstairs when we went to bed, but she wasn't happy about it. Throughout the night she let out a short yelp once in a while, as if to remind the girls that Holly was supposed to be sleeping with them. We kept her upstairs, though.

In the morning Holly ran downstairs to wake up the girls. Some girls were already awake. The rest woke up to Holly sniffing them and smacking them with her wagging tail. Several girls had to leave by 9:00 a.m., so it was a quick breakfast and out the door.

We couldn't have planned a more perfect ending to the girls' 11th birthday month. The girls all had fun, ate too much junk and didn't get enough sleep. Holly had all the attention she could ever want. It's quiet here now, but we have lots of pictures to remind us of the fun.

Monday, September 15, 2014


When the girls woke up, Daddy and I sang Happy Birthday. The blond twin was so excited that Daddy sang to her that she catapulted herself into his arms. The brunette twin sat up in bed and smiled.

Their actual birthday was a bit quiet compared to the rest of their birthday month. So far to celebrate their 11th birthday, they have had five events.

*A bar-b-que with Aunt Linda and Jenny before Jenny went to law school
*Pizza with Aunt Mary, Uncle Terry, Mikki and Jim before the Arcola Broom Festival.
*Pizza with Brooke, Ally, Clark and Aunt Linda before heading to the One Direction Concert.
*A Space Golf family party with Uncle Steve, Aunt Reenie, Jake, Zack, Aunt Sue-Sue, Uncle Dave, Sami, Josh, Grammie, Mommy and Daddy. 

Today -- to celebrate their actual birthday -- we had dinner with Grammie, followed by an ice cream cake. We sang Happy Birthday to the girls and to Daddy. His birthday is soon, although it's usually overshadowed by their big day.

There is still one more event in their birthday month. This weekend they are having a slumber party with their girlfriends. It will be a fun ending to their 11th birthday month.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Connect the dots

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  Did you put your clothes away?

Brunette twin: What clothes?

Mom:  I did laundry today. I put the basket with the clean clothes upstairs. I thought I put it on your bed. Isn't it there?

Brunette twin:  Oh, yeah, it's there.

Mom:  Did you look at it? Didn't you recognize those clothes?

Brunette twin:  Those are mine?

Mom:  Yes. Otherwise why would I put it on your bed?

Brunette twin:  Oh, ok. I'll put them away later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Almost independent

A few days ago I posted that the girls were going to walk home by themselves. This was a big step and I admit to being a bit anxious as I waited for them.

As they walked over the hill, I saw three girls together. A step back I saw Ayanna's Dad walking behind them. I laughed because I knew what happened before they told me. I thought about it for just a minute before realizing that I would have done the same thing.

Ayanna's Dad saw the girls walking home by themselves and thought I must have been running late. They told him they were walking home by themselves, but he decided to walk with them. It was a very kind gesture.

I told him that I would have done the same thing if I saw Ayanna by herself. I explained that the girls decided to walk home by themselves, even if the brunette twin wasn't quite sure. I thanked him for walking home with them.

The girls were happy to be home, even if they didn't walk alone. They decided to talk about trying it again for the next half-day. It seemed like enough of a victory to have just planned to walk home themselves.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Indoor Girl Scouts

We had a Girl Scout troop meeting yesterday to plan a community service project we're implementing in October. It was a lovely, cool day, so I organized the meeting on our patio.

We were a few minutes into the meeting when a bee came by. It wasn't angry or attacking. It was simply flying. Given the reaction, you would have thought an entire bee hive emptied on the table.

The blond twin swatted at it and shrieked. Julianna jumped from her chair and ran away from it. The brunette twin swatted at her head. Our girls went to preschool on a children's farm. They have spent days in a horse barn with all the bugs in those stalls. None of that bothered them. A single, small bee on our patio caused them to react like it was a bomb.  I told them to knock off the drama and pay attention.

A minute later Sarah started complaining that a mosquito bit her. She scratched her leg and scrunched her face. I gave up and moved the meeting inside.

Even if I woke up one day thinking tent camping was my favorite activity, there's no way this troop is designed for outdoor activities. Oh, we'll do outdoor activities, but we'll go knowing that there will be plenty of overreacting and complaining.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The blond twin spent some time Saturday morning trying to kill a mosquito. The bugs are so bad by us that we don't spend as much time outside as we'd like. It's a by-product of a wet summer that I'd like to return.

She tracked it in our kitchen for a while before squealing, "I got it!" I said, "Nice job." Daddy turned around to see her success and said, "Blondie, nice hit" before he sighed. The blond twin smashed the mosquito on the kitchen sheers. One panel had a smooshed mosquito right in the middle.

I just shook my head and thought, "Of course the blond twin smashed a mosquito across our white sheers. This is why everything in our house is machine washable." After that fleeting thought, I thanked her for killing the mosquito. A dead mosquito is a good mosquito in my world, even if it means the sheers get washed.