Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crabby School Mom Seeking Advice

I try to be a good "kindergarten/public school" mom. I really do.

Okay, that's kind of a lie. By "good," I mean, I let the teachers do their jobs and stay out of their way. I'm not a hovering helicopter mom, and I'm able to keep my mouth shut that the kindergarten curricula used in public schools (which, generally, is formerly a 1st grade curricula that they sped up for testing purposes), even though I think about 90% of it is ridiculous and creates a bad experience for the kids who are "not advanced" (aka "average.")

Because, truth be told, I'm a Crabby School Mom.

This week, I'm SUPER CRABBY SCHOOL MOM.

My kindergarten sons are basic boys, bright and active, but their attention spans and learning capabilities reflect the fact that they are indeed 6-year old boys.

For a fascinating read on gender differences in learning read Why Gender Matters. I wish the educators in my children's school would. Because then they could untie the knot they get in their undies over the fact that one of my Haitian Sensations only uses the green crayon. Get over the green crayon, preachy school people.

It's not a trauma thing. It's a Perfectly Normal Boy Thing.

Another great book that every parent and teacher should read is A Mind at a Time.

So, I need some advice from other people.

Keenana Banana (his nickname because he always writes an extra "a" at the end of his name. Why does he write an extra "a?" "Because I like 'a.'" He'll explain.) and his kindergarten class are participating in a Living History Wax Museum with the 1st and 2nd grades.

Each child is assigned a historical figure. They have to come to school in a costume and give a 30-second speech in first person (as their historical figure.)

Just like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Okey dokey.

Now, I should tell you. I think this whole thing is STUPID. I have a SUPER BAD ATTITUDE about the entire project. Because my kid, and many of the kids, don't get this.

I personally think the school does this because it's cute to have little kids with cute little learning impediments get up on stage and say words like "his-tow-icky im-poh-tent" in lieu of "historically important."

I think it's a HUGE OLE PAIN IN THE A$$ for the parents and a wasted opportunity for my kid and a way to fill in time at the end of the school year.

So, guess who Keenan is? You know who I'd like him to be? A strong black man in history. I don't care who. There's a whole bunch to chose from. But a strong black man with whom he could identify himself in by skin tone alone. That in this white bread, feel good, stupid-ass school we sent him to, they could have given him someone with whom he could identify, and even if he truly doesn't understand exactly who the person is or what they did, he would have been exposed to, at the very least, at least one black man did something important in this world. Because thus far, at school, he hasn't been exposed to anyone other than President Obama.

Because, news flash: schools don't promote a whole lotta diversity at times other than funding "Diversity Club" or "People of Different Culture Celebration Day."

But you know who they gave him?

Walt. Disney.

Barf. I will stop my rant right there.

Anyways, here is my problem. Here is the "speech" they sent home for Keenan to memorize (in two days, no less, because this is happening on Thursday):

"I am Walt Disney. I created the first animated musical, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I also created the first amusement park, Disney World. I was born in 1901 and I died in 1966."

Here's the thing. No kindergartener talks like this. Keenan can't say "animated" to save his life.

I can explain to him over and over what the words mean. But he'll spend so much time focusing on pronunciation, he won't grasp the meaning. He's freaking 6, for God's sake.

So, is it horrible if I rewrite it to this:

"I am Walt Disney. I made the first music cartoon movie, Snow White. I also built Disney World. I was born in 1901 and I died in 1966."

Because that he grasps. He knows what a movie is, what a cartoon is, and what music is. He can't say amusement park easily, but he can say Disney World.

So what do I do? Do I "dumb down the speech" to make it kindergarten appropriate? So that my son can kinda sorta understand what he is doing?

Or do I just try to get him to rattle off the big words so all the other parents can awwww, and did you know he was an orphan from Haiti? Isn't that just amazing? his performance?

Or maybe I'm just making too big of a deal of this. But the whole thing just irks me.

So what would you do?




Sunday, May 29, 2011

Camp Fun


Although the campground has been open since May 1st, we opened up Camp this weekend due to schedule constraints and highly uncooperative weather.

Beautiful weather, a trailer in which nothing crawled into and died over the winter (not that anything ever has! I just have this huge fear that a raccoon or something would crawl into the trailer and die over the winter. So when we showed up and the windows weren't swarming with flies, and no one keeled over from a death stench when we opened the door, I knew we were once again in the clear.), and a campfire complete with s'mores made for a great opening weekend.

The lake is far too cold to swim at this time of year, so we the kids made a lot of use of the campground park.
And Hatfield spent a lot of time posing the kids for photos. She barks orders at them, they willingly cooperate, and fun is had by all.
(Okay, it totally looks like they are NOT having any fun, but they are. Hatfield was posing them to have "angry urban faces." While I personally do not know what an angry urban face is, all 5 of my children seem to, so chalk up yet another thing that Mom is clueless about.)

My boys brought up their Star Wars gun-thingies.
It does my Mama's heart good to see my three sons playing together. The first week Miles' was home from Haiti, Atticus would ask him: "Do you want to play Star Wars?" And he would go on and on (and on), giving minutiae-based detailed explanations about who each of them would be. Miles would stare at him blankly, and then run off for the tree swings. Atticus was SO disappointed and disheartened. Clearly, we hadn't prepared Atticus at all for the fact that while his new brothers would want to play with him, they would not have a clue as to what a Darth Vader is.

But now, we have three serious Star Wars nuts. And all is right with the world.
Paloma played with her unicorns. The girl has a serious, SERIOUS love, which truthfully borders upon obsession, for unicorns.

Her other obsession is having myself and her be "matchers."
So here we are on the first day of camp, matching sweatshirts, each with pigtails and kerchiefs.
Given the fact that now that Hatfield now never wants to match me (although she does like to share clothes with me, so I'll gladly age up to that with her), it's so nice to have a little one who wants to be like Mommy :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scrapping plans for the right reasons






Our plans to take a year sabbatical from dance ended on the way home from the last recital.

The Mister asked Hatfield if she had fun, and our girl burst into tears. Huge, sobbing tears.

Hattie is a calm, steady child. She rarely gets ruffled and she's pretty easy going about plans and activities. When she bursts into tears, we know that it's more than likely something serious.

I think we all--even Hatfield---failed to grasp just how important dance is in our day-to-day life.

Especially as a home school student, dance gives Hatfield about 10 hours each week, plus travel tournaments and recitals, to hang out with a great group of girls. These girls have summer pool parties, arrange for holiday events, and just hang out together all the time. They take dance seriously and work hard together as a team.

Looking at all the fun they were having, and watching my daughter on-stage and seeing how confident, poised and athletic she is, I know that we made the right decision.

And each time next year when I'm ready to cry because I have to go out late at night, in another snowstorm, to haul kids home from dance, I'm going to re-read this post to remind me of that :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Represent

Paloma and Atticus joined the Mister this year in the Dad's Dance for our dance studio.

This year's Dad's dance was a "hard-hitting" (insert eye roll here, because it's only as hard-hitting as a bunch of paunchy middle-aged dads can get, lol) hip hop tribute to this year's Super Bowl Champs, our very own Green Bay Packers.

Please ignore the fact that Paloma is wearing a Nascar/Earnheart jersey. We're only as "fan"tastic as our local Goodwill allows us to be.

Watching these two on stage, dancing and having fun with their Dad, brings me such joy and laughter. The laughter is from watching Po constantly try to push Atticus aside so she can steal his 'lift' from the Mister (the Dads lift the kids several times in the air during the show.) The joy is the fact that Atticus is a great sport, and by the third show he figured out a way to outsmart his smarty-pants kid sister. Which isn't easy to do. Because the girls is as tricky as she is cute.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good Morning

Ernie's always a bit ambivalent about Mondays.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time Warp

I used to think
that each morning was the present,
but that was before.

Now,
each and every morning,
I'm greeted by

FUTURE GIRL
and her trusty sidekick,
Teen Age Dog.

And now,
I'm never quite sure
what time and dimension I'm in.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Figures

Dance classes are over, the pea*ing streak has ended, and I finally get a bit of down time.

So you know what I get?

Strep throat and an ear infection.

I've been oozed out in bed since Friday night and I still feel like absolute garbage. I'm too sick to even knit, which says a lot.

Blech.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Increased Productivity

The single best thing I have ever done to increase productivity, without even knowing in advance that it would increase my productivity, was to get rid of my cell phone that allowed me to check email and get online with ease.

2 months back, after a lot of hemming and hawing because it would be eliminating my "main" cell phone number that all the schools, doctors, family, etc., had, I got rid of our second cell phone line because we just never used it, and it cut our bill by over 40%.

What a silly little fear that was. One email, 2 phone calls and a mass test sending updated everyone with our new phone number. Yes, it was a silly little fear that cost us a lot each month.

I dropped the data plan, and voila! Suddenly I feel free. I had no idea just how tightly I was tethered to my email. Now I can sometimes will check it at 10 am, and then not again until afternoon the next day.

Our weather here is finally getting nice and I've been happily digging into the back yard. I find I go days without thinking of the blog, and I will go weeks without reading any, I think because I don't feel so lonely anymore in my trials of life. I have people IRL to bond with, and that fills the void that I so often sought in the blogging world.

I won't stop blogging, but it will probably slow down quite a bit now that the weather is nice.

I'm happily digging away my days, stealing even 20 minutes at a shot here and there, planting, pulling and re-configuring.

The potatoes are in under a bed of straw.





My Holly Hocks are up and growing.

The rhubarb looks like it's on steroids, thanks to a late fall mulching of compost.


I felt energized enough to tackle the monstrosity known as the Side Yard. I think finally sitting down, compiling all of our adoption expense receipts (sans the ones that seems to vaporize--what is up with that?),and sending those suckers off to the IRS so they can FINALLY give us our tax refund had something to do with my decreasing anxiety and increasing productivity. Yes, we too are caught up in the disaster that is the IRS Adoption Credit bullcwap. Hopefully, someday before the boys go off to college, we'll actually get our refund. Any readers out there get their refund after sending their receipts off to Examinations?

Well, that was a tangent. Back to the backyard. For years now, I've felt like we were one step away from Ma and Pa Kettle's farm. You name it--it housed it: broken lawnmower, Big Wheels, wire pepper cages, tangled chicken wire, weeds, weeds and more weeds.

No longer!


I even figured out a way to make my new compost container look snazzy!



I am in my bliss now that the weather is nice and I can spend the day toiling in the yard. Why we don't live in a nicer climate, who knows, but the winters here make me all the more thankful for each day that I can be outside.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Big Slow Down is Nearly Here (and not a moment too soon)

T-minus 3 Weeks and Counting

I'm not sure exactly when it became apparent, but sometime this year I finally accepted the realization that we are overscheduled.

We are Far. Too. Busy.

And I'm tired.

Really. Really. Tired.

We used to go to a church where we heard Busy is Being Under Satan's Yoke, which, you know, is a bit too churchy-churchy barfy for me, but there is a ring of truth to that.

I think once the boys were home and their issues came out, sometimes it was just easier being Busy. Well, maybe not easier, but at least the busy was distraction. A distraction for me because somedays I was just too busy to know better. A distraction for the neuro-typical kids who needed a break from the crazy.

But I'm done with being Busy. I'd LOVE to be done with the crazy, but that's not likely for a spell. But instead of distracting ourselves with busy-ness, I want us to enjoy the life we have around the crazy, if that makes any sense.

When Hatfield and Atticus were little and we lived in a different neighborhood, we spent every night after dinner outside. We'd visit with neighbors while the kids played. We'd walk to the local park and visit with friends while the kids played. We'd walk to the local ice cream store, or coffee shop, or video store.

Nights were leisurely and we were never rushed for anything.

It was a simple time. It was one of our happier times.

Now, although we live in a different neighborhood, we live within walking distance of a park and soccer complex. 3 schools with cool playgrounds. A regional paved walking/biking trail.

We live within biking distance of 2 SUPER cool playgrounds. A frozen custard store. A video store. And my parents and their pool.

Do you know how many times last summer we biked for frozen custard? Or met friends to visit at the park while the kids played?

One measly time for each.

Soccer took up 4-5 nights a week. Dance took overlapped nights, and then took up afternoons. Day after day after day.

We'd come home, exhausted, with me counting the milliseconds until I could get the kids in bed.

This year, I started to dread the thought of summer. And fall.

Something's gotta give, I realized.

We decided to completely clear the calendar and start fresh.

Dance has been taking up far too much. Too much in terms of gas/travel. Too much money. Too much family time. Too much money.

With the kids in agreement, we are taking a year hiatus and will evaluate next summer.

We didn't sign up for soccer. This year I'd have 5 kids in 4 levels, 2 with same/conflicting times and locations. The kids love soccer. I was really hesitant to bring it up.

They surprised me. The little ones were the only kids who seemed game for it, but their season started last week and conflicts with dance, so it was a no-go. Hatfield and Atticus said they'd rather have their night's free.

"All the boys in the court (across the street) play kickball every night!" Atticus preferred. I LOVE the fact that there are 6 boys, all within 3 years of his age, just across the street.

Things that made the cut: Summer School and Fine Arts Day Camp. All activities which all 5 can do, at the same time, from 8:30 am to noon.

Did you catch that?

ALL FIVE KIDS.

8:30 to NOON.

For 6 weeks.

OH MY LORD IN HEAVEN!!! I am gonna have 4.5 hours each day ALL TO MYSELF!!! AND MY GARDENS!!! For SIX WEEKS!!!

That thought makes me shiver. SHIVER, I tell you!

But the key there is: it's just the morning. Afternoons are ours to swim, bike, lounge and play. No running. No rushing. No trying to stuff dinner in 5 bellies before we race to 4 hours of back-to-back soccer games.

The other thing that made the cut: Camp for Hatfield and Atticus. Like REAL Camp. On a lake with crafts and hikes and canoeing and fishing and archery and the mess hall and all the other cool stuff that camp has. Just like in The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills (okay, I'm romanticizing, I know, but Hatfield and I watched that on this weekend.) Sunday through Saturday. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I am ready for the Slow Down.

This weekend, I take Hatfield and Atticus to Chicago for a dance competition. Just the 3 of us, Friday through Sunday. They dance early Saturday through Saturday afternoon. Then, instead of going back late Saturday, we are going to have a fun night in the hotel. Take out. Swimming Pool. Hot tub. Sunday we're getting up, swimming one last time, and hitting Ikea so I can pick out a Mother's Day present I'm sure to love ;) I can't wait!

What's left after that? Just one more week of dance classes. Then the week of Recital Mania.

Then the Slow Down will start. I have my sigh of relief ready and waiting. I'm ready to be free.

Free to swim.
Free to walk to a park.
Free to bike to the local frozen custard stand.
Free to just be. Free to let the kids run around the yard with glo-sticks while we drink margaritas under the twinkle lights on the deck gazebo.

Free.