Monday, January 30, 2012

The House

We're getting a new roof sometime in the next week or two.  The trim around the front porch has been repainted.  We're going to fix some concrete cracks, repaint the wagon wheels near the driveway, and clean out the garage and shed (I don't want to think about how much stuff will be going to the dump).  We need to touch up paint and replace a few little things in the house, and we need to get a load of stone dumped in the driveway.

Then... then... we'll be calling a realtor.

Because 2012 is going to be our year.  We're going to move.  I want a house that has at least four bedrooms (3 for us and an office for Oz), a fireplace, two living areas (or one living area and another bedroom that can be used for school), 2+ acres outside of town so we can take our chicky-boos, and, most importantly, TWO OR MORE BATHROOMS.

It will happen.  I'm going to use up all my karmic luck to get us the perfect house at the perfect price in the perfect location and sell this house to boot, but it's going to happen.

So if you or someone you know is looking for a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house on 5 acres in rural-esque suburban Oklahoma, pass the word.  This place is awesome, and I'm going to hate leaving, but I need more space!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Typing Games

Typing.  I don't know how you learned it, but I taught myself with a high school textbook that my mother got for free from a church friend who also happened to be a high school teacher.  It was dry.  It was page after page of "asdfj" and "eqiur" and "nxmbc."  It worked, but only because I insisted on teaching myself and that was the only method available at the time.  

These days there are more choices.  You can buy a curriculum.  You can find a free one.  I suppose if you're creative enough, you can make one up.  The point is, there are options.  I had been using the (free, online) BBC program Dance Mat Typing to let M1 teach himself how to type.  He really liked it, and so did I.  The problem is that there's no time limit.  This is great when you're learning the basics - where to put your hands, key placement, and the like - but when you know where it all is and really just need to work on speed, it's not quite enough.

So I made the mistake of googling "free typing games."  What a can of worms THAT opened up.  There are 'free typing games' coming out the Internet yin-yang.  I avoided the ones laden with viruses, checked out a few legit sites, and M1 even tried some of them, but none of them really caught his fancy.

Until today.

I was looking for something better (I'm a mom... aren't we always looking for something better for our kids?) and ran across Funtotype.com.  The first game I saw was Keyboard Ninja.  I tested it.  The graphics loaded easily and ran smoothly on my computer, and there were plenty of difficulty settings available - easy, medium, hard, home keys only, all keys, etc.  I knew right away that M1 would love it.  It reminded me of the fruit ninja game that he loves to play on his tablet.  I called him over and let him give it a try.  Twenty minutes later I asked him to stop and get food, and he actually whined.  He told me he'd just scored more than 250 points and could lunch wait until he got to 300?

That's right.  My boy turned down food for typing.

There are other games on the site, too, some geared more toward beginners and others presenting more of a challenge.  Some are whole-word based and others practice letters.  Some let you invent your own words and some present you with words to type.  There seems to be a good mix.  If you have any other typing sites or games that you like, let me know!  In a world where typing fluency is mandatory, I'll take whatever help I can get!

Disclaimer:  None of the above-mentioned sites know that I'm mentioning them.  They're not paying me to say all this. If they want to pay me, I'll consider it, though!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trials

I love puns.  I'm a dork like that.  Today is a trial by fire, in a way.

I got a call from M2's school yesterday morning about 10.  M2 was in the office in tears complaining that her ear hurt and her head hurt and her tummy hurt.  Since she'd been rather off on Tuesday afternoon as well, I agreed to come get her.  After all, she's at the top of her class and it's first grade... one day of being at home is not going to affect her chances of getting into college.  She came home and rested for an hour and then spent a quiet day making necklaces and making up math problems for fun.

This morning, she didn't bounce out of bed when her alarm went off, so I went in to get her up.  I was greeted by a sullen little monster.

"My tummy hurts," she groaned.  "A lot."

I asked her how her head and ear were.  The answers varied from "a tiny bit" to "so very much, Mommy." But the tummy continued to ache.

I know from experience that sending her to school with a sore stomach will end up with a phone call from the office saying, "Mrs. B, your daughter's here in the office.  She just threw up."  I know this because it's happened before.  So after kvetching about the situation to Oz, I agreed to let her stay home today as long as she agreed to go back tomorrow.

Instantly Cheerful Girl replied, "OK, Mom!"  She hopped out of bed, got dressed, made her bed, and ate half her breakfast (her lack of eating does worry me... she didn't eat much yesterday, either, which does at least lend a little credence to the stomach pain scenario).  Then I announced it was school time... for both kids.

Initially they were both thrilled.  The idea of a trial school day, just to see what this fall will really be like, was exciting.  They wanted to work together.  They wanted to be side by side.  They wanted to share history and chemistry and Spanish and see how fast they could get done.

It wore off fast.

M1 did handwriting first.  Then he started on spelling but quickly discovered that me doing grammar in the background with M2 was a major distraction.  He and I had to go over the words 'mechanic' and 'character' half a dozen times before he realized that I did, in fact, expect him to learn today.  That sucked all the fun out of it for him.  M2 enjoyed math until she realized that it was not all going to be review... and then she melted. When she recovered, she did four pages of math (I only asked for one, but she really does love math) and then told me she was done for a while and taking a break.

Fine.  GO.

M1 just finished chemistry - by himself - and is about to start writing.  M2 is in her room playing.  I suspect there will be a fair bit of friction this fall before we settle into a routine.  At least I know now that all the things that I suspected as being problems actually will be problems.  Hopefully between now and then, I can work out some sort of attack plan to make sure things run as smoothly as possible.

Mental health day for her = head case for me.  Anyone have advice about going from one student to two and how to make that transition smoother?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh, the Things Kids Say

Last Friday M1 felt the need to (re)-explore certain profane words that have crept into the forefront of his consciousness.  He and M2 and I talked long ago about cuss words and how they're not allowed to say them until they're old enough and mature enough to use them appropriately (and that may mean NEVER).  However, M1 still feels the need to air his knowledge once in a while.  This time we were driving to dinner when M1 piped up with, "Mom?"

"Yes?"

"When I was little, did I ever rhyme duck with [insert rhyming expletive here]?"

"[speechless]"

Once the nerves between my brain and mouth reattached, I launched into a reiteration of the rules and made it perfectly clear that the F-bomb would never be allowed to pass his lips in my hearing.  He was amenable but found it incredibly amusing that I referred to it as the "F-Bomb."

Today, when we were in the car, I was joking and told him that his "old mother" was very proud of him (he had volunteered to let his sister use the shower first since she wasn't feeling well).  He smiled and responded with, "I'm glad you're proud, but stop using the O-Bomb to refer to yourself!"

It took me a minute to work out what he was referring to, but when I finally connected the dots, I laughed.

---

At dinner tonight, M2 popped out with a fun one of her own.  She was chatting happily, and all of a sudden she asked what "erection" something was.

Oz and I nearly choked.

"You mean direction?" I asked with as straight a face as I could muster.

"Direction," she confirmed cheerfully.

Oh thank heaven.

---

M1 came up with a joke today, too.  He was very proud of it.  Before you get your hopes up, please remember that he is Sheldon. And if you haven't seen Big Bang Theory, I refer you to this montage of Bazinga moments from the show.

M1, giggling, comes into the kitchen where I'm fixing meatballs for dinner:  Mom, I came up with a joke when I was in my room.

Me: Okaaaayyy...?

M1:  OK.  Here it is.  [pause]  Mom, I would like to have bacon for dinner.

Me:  [awkward pause before realizing that I'm meant to know what to say here] Oh... why would you like to have bacon for dinner?

M1:  [second awkward pause while he computes what I said compared to what he had scripted in his brain] You're supposed to ask why I want bacon.

Me, thinking I did exactly that:  Why do you want bacon?

M1:  So I can eat history!  Get it?  Francis BACON?

Proud of himself, M1 wandered off, giggling to himself, muttering something about the Stewarts, while I just shook my head.

I love that my kids can make me laugh... even if they don't mean to!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I Learned Today

1.  It is possible for a 6-year-old girl to shriek so suddenly and so loudly that your ears instantly go into shut-down mode exactly like they do when you're 6' away from the sound system at a rock concert.  It took them five minutes to realize that she had only made that particular noise once and reopen. 

2.  According to a 1999 study, strabismus is markedly more common in children with autism spectrum disorders than in the general population.  Gosh, this would have been nice to know when my son was dealing with eye surgery at the age of 2.  Or when he was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 5.  

3.  It is possible to get two 9-year-old boys to sit together and listen to an adult read a children's book without interrupting.  I had not seen this phenomenon before.  It made me smile.

4.  It is NOT possible for two children to go to bed and stay in bed all night.  One or both must get up at least once. (OK, I didn't learn this today, but the validity of the lesson was reinforced.)

5.  The ability of the dryer to dry laundry in what might be considered a 'normal' amount of time is inversely proportional to the NEED for the laundry to be finished.  

6.  It takes four cats to hold down a bed... one on each corner.  And no, it doesn't matter if you or your feet are in the way.

What lessons have you learned so far this week?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Validation

M1 had what he declared to be an "awesome" day yesterday.  And it was a good day.  He got up incredibly motivated to get his schoolwork done, so it was completely finished by 11 a.m.  Considering the fact that Wednesday saw him still lollygagging through his work at 5 p.m., that was an amazing accomplishment.  We went to his swimming lesson, and he managed to impress his teacher by mastering a kick that he has struggled with for months.  He has the hardest time NOT pointing his feet, but he did it yesterday.  Then after his swim team practice, the coach caught up with him in the locker room and complimented him on his progress - said he was getting faster and stronger.  M1 was beaming when he emerged.

He was polite, respectful, and kind to his sister.  He did get in trouble once, when I found him playing with my shaving cream in the shower (doing what, I don't even know), but it wasn't a really big thing... just annoying.

It was wonderful to see what he is truly capable of doing.  When I pointed out that he was having a really good day and that I was proud of him, he told me, "I'm growing up, Mom.  I really am working on myself."  This is big for him.

Now we just have to see if he can do this two days in a row... because so far, today has been more like Wednesday than yesterday.  And Wednesday was not good.

We'll get there.  One day at a time.  Just keep swimming... :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Those Hush-Hush Topics

Someone posted on a forum recently about alcohol and substance abuse.  On another forum, there are periodically posts about sex.  These posts generally revolve around one question: When and how to teach kids about these potentially disturbing and life-altering topics?

I'll be honest.  I've never understood why it's so hard to talk about sex or drugs with kids.  I've always told myself that I'll talk to the kids about how babies are made or why you shouldn't binge drink whenever they were ready for that particular info.  Thus far, I've made good on that promise.  M1 and I had the 'birds & bees' talk when he was 7, and I recently gave him a book on puberty in boys that delves even further into the subject (though without graphic details).  He's asked various questions, and I've answered them.  More will come with time.  We discussed drugs when the subject came up when he was rattling off the lyrics to a Nickelback song and wanted to know what a "drug dealer on speed dial" was.  Alcohol is a topic that we touch on when Oz or I have a drink or the kids see a drunken character in a movie.  So we talk about it.  M2 and I have hit a few basics here and there, but she's still 6.  We have time, and I'm sure that eventually those subjects will come up in more depth with her.  I'm okay with that, and after M1, I'm as ready as I can be to deal with child #2.  Both of them don't know everything yet, but they know what they need to know and what they can handle for their ages, and as far as I'm concerned, that's enough.  For now, it's my job to protect them from anything they can't handle.

And those topics are the ones I consider relatively easy to teach about.  The hard ones - the ones I shudder to even broach with the kids - are the ugly ones.  

How does a mom explain why another mother would drown her own children?

How does she explain that parents sometimes abuse their own children - or let others abuse them - in unspeakable ways?

How does she explain binge eating or the idea of starving oneself to the point of death?

What about suicide?  Abandonment?  Prostitution?  Cutting?

What about the international stuff like genocide, female circumcision, child warriors...?  The list goes on.  And on.

It's enough to make a mom cry just thinking about it.

There are so many truly ugly things that happen in the world, and as a parent, it's hard to draw the line between what a child needs to know and can handle and what he or she will learn with time.  Each time I read one of those threads about drugs, sex, and the choices parents make when talking about those subjects with their children, I remember just how fragile parenting can seem.  It's easy to talk about those subjects with one another, so even though we feel like these are nearly impossible to discuss with our kids, they really are the easy ones.  The problems come when we feel judged for how we teach our kids.  Will everyone else think we're teaching them too early or too late?  Are we teaching them too much or too little?  Should we teach abstinence or birth control?  These seem like big issues, and in a way, they are... but they aren't THE big issues.

And if it's hard enough to teach about sex and drugs and feel like an acceptable parent, it's no wonder why we avoid all the other topics.

I'm not saying that I'm going to wander into the kitchen tomorrow and start telling my son stories about anorexic movie-star wannabes whose body images are so warped that they feel the need to sleep with every man in sight just to feel loved.  I won't be telling my daughter stories about teens whose arms are sliced to ribbons and who accidentally cut a vein and die in agony while waiting for someone to notice how depressed they are.  They aren't ready for those topics yet.

Because before I can deal with all the ugliness that lurks in the dark corners of our society, I have to teach them about beauty first.  They need to understand that every single person on earth, without exception, is worthy of love and devotion and acceptance.  They need to know that THEY are worthy of self-respect.  They need to have a positive self-image.  They need to have the courage to speak up when somebody isn't treating them appropriately.  They need to learn things like compassion, trust, faith, hope, peace, and just plain kindness.  They need to understand genetics and the side effects of psychological illness (something that, unfortunately, they will both deal with throughout their entire lives).  Most of all, they need to understand that Oz and I and their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other extended family will always, always love them no matter what.

And once they learn those things, then, and only then, they'll be ready.  Because it isn't quite fair to yank the rug out from under their feet before they have a firm footing, now is it?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Babies Wuv Me

I wuv my babies, too.

M1 has been driving me crazy off and on all week.  He's been going back and forth on his desire/ability to focus on his schoolwork, so it's hard for me to work out what level of work to expect from him each day.  But he can be incredibly sweet.  Today, he thanked me for taking him to swim lessons.  This isn't something he's ever said before, but it resonated beautifully. His simple gratitude was very touching, and when combined with his other gentlemanly abilities (racing ahead to hold doors open despite the fact that his arms were full of swim gear and all I held was a book, for example), it was a lovely reminder of the young man he is rapidly becoming.

M2 is a sweetie pie, too.  Over the weekend, she took some time to make me a necklace and bracelet with some of her beads that she got for Christmas.  She checked with me beforehand to make sure the items were going to fit, worked for a couple of hours on these projects, and did a fabulous job.  She presented them to me with pride and announced, "These are so nice, you can even wear them out!"  I've made a point of wearing at least the bracelet a few days this week, and she inevitably notices and beams.  Then this evening, she had been in bed for about an hour when she suddenly appeared in the living room and held out her hands.  "Mom, can I get some love on my hands?"  I obliged, covering her palms with kisses.  When I finished, she smiled at me.  "Thanks, Mom.  I just felt scared.  I needed your love."  Back to bed she bounced.

And with that, I melted into a puddle of Mom Goo.  Why can't they stay little forever??

Monday, January 9, 2012

Of Boys and Power Tools

It's long been a well-established fact in our house that M1 has no focus.  On weekends, especially, he's the family drifter - he drifts through his morning routine sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. with occasional bursts of energy motivated by us parental units 'encouraging' him to get his stuff done already.  Then he drifts into the living room, picks on his sister, gets sent to his room for some time to himself, drifts back out when we feel like he's ready to be around people again, and the cycle repeats.  He really has a hard time coming up with things to do by himself, and he often does epitomize the "SQUIRREL!!!!" stereotype that comes with ADHD.  Weekdays aren't so much of a problem because he has a plan of attack and knows that he has to focus to get school done in a timely manner (today, for example, we're having a really hard time because he refuses to pay attention to anything I've asked and would much rather spend his time flopping face-first into the couch or hanging upside down off his desk rather than listening to even the simplest of instructions).

No matter what day it is, though, he always a good job of proving the old adage that "idle hands are the devil's playground."

Gosh, he's just like his mother.  How many times did she hear that as a kid?  She pleads the Fifth.

Moving on... when it comes to the boy, weekends are really the biggest issue.

Take Saturday.  We all got up late.  We had brunch at a nearby restaurant (one that serves breakfast all day) and then went mattress shopping for Oz and I.  Even before we left the house, M1 had managed to irritate all of us to the point of snapping.  He spent the day in perpetual motion and behavioral limbo.  He refused to focus, wouldn't keep his hands to himself, interrupted conversations constantly, and just generally made a nuisance of himself.  I knew this was largely caused by his being up until nearly 10 p.m. the previous evening, but it still didn't really excuse his behavior.  He was being, for lack of a better term, a total and utter ass. He knew it, but he didn't really see the need to change since nobody had made him stop.  (We're working on the concept that he has to make himself behave, but it's an uphill battle.  Since the world clearly revolves around him, he doesn't understand why he should follow any sort of social norm unless the consequence is so dire that it actually might inconvenience him in some small way... and then we get the flopping-on-the-floor, shrieking, pouting, running-away, "IT'S-NOT-FAIR" fit... the sort that you see 3-year-olds throw on grocery store floors, except that he's 9 years old and 5 feet tall and UGH.)  The final straw came on the way home from the mattress store when I turned on some music, which often calms him, and he decided he needed to kick, punch, and otherwise 'drum' on the seats... and his sister... to the beat of the music (and when I say beat of the music, please understand that M1 can't follow the beat unless someone points it out to him... he eventually gets it, but he can't pick out a beat to save his life).  So I told him that when we got home, he was going to his room.

"SQUAAWWWWWWKKKKKK!!!!"

This did not make him very happy.  He did do as he was told when he got home... for about five minutes.  Then he emerged and said he felt better and was going to come out now.  I told him that no, he wasn't, because A) I was in the middle of taking my bed apart for the new mattress and couldn't monitor him and B) it'd only been five minutes, which is nowhere near the amount of time that it takes for him to recover any sort of positive thought process.  So I sent him back to his room.  On his way, he announced, "Then I'm going to be really horrible so you HAVE to let me out!"  This floored my mother-in-law, who had loaned us the bed of her truck to bring the mattress home in.  Sure enough, M1 proceeded to pound on his door and make shrieking noises.  I marched down and demanded five (allowance) dollars as payment for potential damage to either my house or my ears. He paid it, then promptly started stomping; I took two more.  He settled into a sullen silence when he realized that he was literally paying for his anger.

We managed to get through the rest of the day, but it wasn't pretty.  Sunday morning wasn't much better.  I'd had enough by that point, so I assigned him chores.  M2 was upset that she wasn't getting to spend time with her beloved brother, but after the discussion we had a few weeks ago about M1 needing to learn a few lessons, she kept her mouth shut.  M1 dusted the living room and cleaned the glass, washed dishes, sorted the recycling, and did a couple other household chores before he finally seemed to settle down.  At that point, I told him he had a choice:  He could go do a science experiment or he could go do woodworking in the garage.  His face lit up, and he immediately ran to his room to get a book of semi-simple wood projects that he had recently purchased with some Christmas cash.  He schemed and dreamed and planned and finally convinced Oz that he really wanted to build a certain set of shelves (well, really, he wanted to build me a brand-new nightstand, which I thought was really sweet, and I do need one, but that project was both out of his league and out of our price range since even the easiest plan involved cutting biscuits, and we don't have a machine for cutting those).  So he and Oz went to the store, picked up wood, came home, made space in the garage, and started working.  I came out just in time to see Oz teaching M1 how to use power tools.

Now, I'm leery of power tools at the best of times, but really, a severely ADHD 9-year-old using power tools is right up there on my list of OMG NO.  But I trust Oz, and he was patiently showing M1 how to use the machine, so I stepped back to watch.  Oz made M1 put on safety glasses.  He held down the wood so that M1 could use both hands to hold the tool (and thereby keep his fingers out of the way).  He had him do several practice cuts before they moved on to the real project.  And I was amazed to see M1 pay attention the entire time and do very well when it came to actually cutting the wood.

In no time at all, they had the pieces cut and assembled, and they proudly brought it out to the front porch (I was painting the trim) to show me.  They went back into the garage to finish it up.  I finished painting, cleaned up my mess, and went into the house to start supper.  Shortly afterward, M1 came into the house.  He was quite calm as he washed his hands and told me that Oz had been holding two of the pieces of wood when they dropped to the concrete garage floor and broke, and that the entire project was ruined until the following weekend.  He wasn't angry.  He didn't yell or shriek or throw a tantrum or even cry, so I assumed he'd done all that in the garage.  Oz came in and I asked how he had taken the incident, and he was as shocked as I was when we learned that he hadn't thrown a fit in the garage, either.  No anger.  No crying.  Nothing.

I may not be in favor of the boy using power tools on a regular basis, but if that's what it takes to keep him focused and out of trouble... I'll take it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Married Too Long

Over the past month, it has been determined that Oz and I have been married too long.  For example, about 10 minutes ago, Oz was showing me a very pretty, color-coded, handy-dandy diagram he made of a massive server install he's doing for a local corporation, and I glanced at the clock.  I didn't stare at it.  I didn't mumble about the time.  I just glanced at it.

"It's set to record at 8 o'clock," Oz immediately assured me.  "So even if you don't get the TV turned on immediately, it'll record.  And it's set up to record all the episodes over the next few weeks in case we get busy or forget."

That's right.  My husband knew that I was checking to make sure I hadn't missed the start of Downton Abbey Season 2.

A few weeks ago, we were sitting at the dining room table when M1 made an off-the-cuff comment about something.  It wasn't all that funny, but Oz and I started laughing at the same time.  Since my brain had pulled up a very random movie reference that had absolutely nothing to do with M1's comment, I assumed we were laughing about different things... until Oz started quoting the exact same movie reference I'd been thinking of.

This, of course, made me laugh even harder.

We've gotten to the point in our marriage where we can finish one another's sentences even when they don't make sense.  We can have entire conversations filled with things like, "It's like the guy from [insert TV show or movie] when he does X."  "Oh, yeah!  When he says, [quote]?"  "Yes, exactly!"  We sing most of the same songs together when we're in the car, and we know each other's tastes in just about everything (wine, mattresses, snacks, movies, music, and clothes, among other things) to predict what the other will and won't like.

We've memorized all the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that each of us has, and we know what to expect from each of them.  For example, if I put down my book or computer and sit perfectly still for a minute, Oz knows that he's due for a pouncing and will move things out of the way so I can dive safely into his lap.  If Oz stares at the cat Dorian Gray for any length of time, I know to keep my feet out of the way so Dory can bolt when Oz does whatever it is that he's planning to do (Dorian has a severe inferiority/anxiety complex when it comes to Oz).

I guess this is what happens after nearly a dozen years of marriage.  Not to say that we don't argue.  We argue.  And there are things that will always annoy him about me and vice versa.  He still can't understand that Pepsi is better than Coke and why the Bears are an unacceptable football team to root for.  I don't understand his fascination with Elton John.

I s'pose when we start looking like one another, that'll be the time to move on.  Until then, I'll take my comfortable marriage... but he's gotta quit reading my mind.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Someone Poked Mama Bear

I very, very rarely gripe about teachers.  For the most part, I think they're saints.  Many of them are underpaid, underfunded, and overworked.  They are asked to do more with less but still improve test scores on an annual basis.  They're asked to keep track of half a dozen IEPs, evaluate students individually but teach an entire class at a time, communicate with parents who may or may not care (or even speak English as their primary language), make lesson plans months before they've even met the students, attend mandatory training classes that sometimes take place on weekends, volunteer for extra activities such as supervising concession stand sales at basketball games or other after-school events... the list could go on and on.  And that's not even factoring in the fact that many are parents themselves.

For the most part, I admire teachers.  They've got guts.

However.  I received an e-mail today from M2's reading teacher.  M2 is bright.  M2 is determined.  M2 was moved up to second-grade reading and spelling early in the school year, along with another first-grade girl, and she has kept up with them beautifully.

At the beginning of the year, this teacher sent home a folder filled with some 'book report' pages and asked that the kids read each evening and keep a log of some of the books that they read in this folder.  I checked it, and there were about 25 pages in it.  Cool beans.  The teacher encouraged the kids to read each night but specifically said that they didn't have to write down every book they read... which was a good thing, because this wasn't a simple book list.  Each page has space for the title, the author, a line about the child's favorite part of the book, a box to draw a corresponding picture, and smiley faces that can be colored in to rate how much the child liked the book.  It's a 20-30 minute process for M2 to do one of these pages, and I'll be honest... we slacked off.  M2 does most of her reading after I tuck her in at night, and I'm not about to encourage her to get up and do the book reports at 8:30 p.m. because she would use that as an excuse to get up every night.  So as of today, she'd done about 15 pages.  I thought we were doing okay, because I hadn't heard otherwise from the teacher and I just assumed that the goal was to finish the pages in the folder by the end of the school year.

Apparently, I was wrong.  VERY wrong.

I received an e-mail today from the teacher indicating that many of the kids hadn't been doing as much as they were supposed to be doing, and please remember that all children who read ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE BOOKS (that's 1-2-5) by the end of March or early April got to go on a special field trip.

W.T.H.

That would have been nice to know in, say, August.  Apparently the teacher reminded the class about it today.  The second graders had known about this for a while, but this was the first time either M2 or I have heard anything about this field trip/reward trip, and M2 was frantic to do 110 book reports between now and the end of March.  Her anxiety was going through the roof, so I told her that we would not be doing that much, and that on the day of the field trip, I'd take her out for ice cream for doing her best since we hadn't been given the appropriate information to begin with.  She's still a little panicky, but her anxiety level isn't quite as bad as it had been.

I like to think I am a conscientious, involved parent.  When the teacher e-mails about homework, we do it.  It is turned in on time, and if M2 forgets it (as she did on Tuesday), we go in and tell the teacher what happened rather than assuming that it's all gonna be okay.  I am up at the school nearly every day, and I try to talk to the teachers on a fairly regular basis to make sure all is well.  The fact that it is January 6 and I'm just hearing about this irritates the crap out of me.  I understand that this teacher is a busy lady and a mom of two, but c'mon... five months of nothing?  I could go talk to her and have a good rant, but I won't.  I don't feel like it would accomplish much, and besides, M2 will still have her first-grade classmates to hang with that day, so she won't feel quite as left out as she would if she was a full-time second-grader.

Still... Mama Bear has her claws out today.  Let's see if anyone else wants to poke me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Funnies

My daughter was in rare form this evening.

It all started when I went to the front porch and retrieved the two Amazon boxes that UPS had left under my porch mat earlier in the day (Why does UPS feel the need to put the porch mat over giant boxes? I want to know, because if someone's looking for something to steal, I think it's going to be easier to notice if the porch mat is suddenly vertical instead of horizontal.  But I'm weird like that).  I opened them up and pulled out the books within.  I'm a serious dork and am already beginning to purchase curriculum for next year (oh, and did I mention that M2 is coming home?), so there was a student workbook for First Language Lessons 4 for M1, Story of the World Volume 4 Activity Book for both of them and test booklet for M1, Spelling Workout B for M2, and last but not least, Logic Safari book 1.

I told the kids they were welcome to peruse the materials.  M1 was incredibly interested in the history activity book and wanted to check out what sort of sentence diagramming loomed in his eventual future; M2 picked up the spelling book for a minute and then turned her attention to the logic book.

"I like it," came the cheerful verdict a bit later. "I can't wait to do it."

"It's a logic book," I told her.

"It's fun!"

"Do you even know what logic is?"

"Nope!"

*gigglesnort*

After dinner and our nightly read-aloud (we recently started 'The Lightning Thief' by Rick Riordan, and the kids love that I've begun doing voices for the characters.  In fact, Oz has been instructed to pay attention to said voices so that when Mama's gone and it's his night to read, he can get it right), Oz went to M2's room to tuck her in.  Resting on her floor was her Doodleboard with the name of one of her male classmates written on it in M1's handwriting.

Oz laughed.  "Is that your boyfriend?"

"No," M2 replied matter-of-factly. "He's just a friend, and I'm 6.  I don't get boyfriends until I'm a teenager."

"True," Oz agreed.

"And I don't know what [name of boy] will be like as a teenager, anyway.  Besides, [another male classmate] can be more fun sometimes."

So Oz came out and told me all this.  And just as he finished the story, M2 emerged from her room, aforementioned Doodleboard in hand.  She presented it to Oz with the announcement, "These are the possibilities. DON'T erase it," and marched back to her room with the air of a queen who had just presented a resident peon with a lifetime endowment.

Oz and I gazed at her Doodleboard in interest.  "All I can read," Oz said, "is 'Please let my wish come true.'"

Since I'm better at deciphering 6-year-old spelling in fuzzy gray Doodleboard, I took a closer look.  At the top was written, "Possibilities of boyfriends."  Below that was a list of no less than four names, then the plea about her wish.

"What do you wish would come true?" Oz asked when he returned the unerased Doodleboard.

"Oh, I don't know what I'll wish when I'm older.  But I hope it comes true."

I hope so, too, baby... I hope so, too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Inside the Liquor Cabinet

After the Feline Fiasco yesterday, I was ready for an easy day today.

I am not getting it.

Rather than grump and gripe and kvetch, though, I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened up the liquor cabinet for a lil' touch o' the Irish.  That's right... I have Bailey's in my coffee this morning.  Not much, but it's there.

This is not something I do on a regular basis, but this morning seriously warranted it.

When I was looking down into the booze stash, though, I saw the bottle of Captain Morgan's spiced rum the Oz bought me when I sent him to the store for "regular rum," and he thought that's what "regular rum" was when in my mind, "regular rum" was a bottle of Bacardi... the same rum we have always bought.

*shrug*

It doesn't bug me that we now have an extra bottle in there, but what does bug me is that I've never drunk spiced rum before.  Can it be drunk straight?  Is it better warm, room-temperature, or cold?  Is it a good mixer?  If so, do you have any favorite recipes?

Someone educate me about what's in my cabinet now, please!  Because if this day doesn't get better, I'm going to need another lil' somethin' to get me through the evening.  You guys are amazing, and I appreciate you all (and no, I haven't had THAT much Bailey's... you guys really are that great).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Cat Lives

So I took the cats to the vet.  As predicted, one was pronounced morbidly obese (the tech was overheard saying, "Oh, my gosh... he has such a tiny head, but he's huge!") and the other pronounced malodorous.

The vet pulled Pepe out of his carrier, gave him the once-over, and when introduced to "It" (as I shall now refer to the cyst because I really, really don't want to gross you out more than once a day), he was rather impressed.  The vet took the cat to the back, shaved the long fur around the area in question, cleaned It all out, and brought him back, itching and cranky and with a large, noticeable hole where It had once been.

So it wound up all being good news.  Not cancer, not something that's going to recur, hopefully, and nothing bacterial or fungal.  We're all back home with two weeks' worth of feline amoxicillin.  The sight of the site where It was, though, is now the thing that can induce nausea.  This is better than the smell, but does anyone know if you can use Neosporin and self-adhesive bandages on cats?  Because that'd make me even happier.

When You're Right, You're Right

Caution:  Blood, pus, and grossness ahead.  You have been warned.

So there may be a development on the Death Smell Cat (formerly known as Pepe, formerly known as The Kid) even sooner than I thought.  I knew the recurring cyst on his shoulder had burst and was smelling rather... um... unpleasant.  But last time it happened, it wasn't a big deal, really.  The smell lasted a day or two, I kept an eye on it, the cyst healed, disappeared completely, and all was well.

It's been a year or two since that time, though.  The cat has aged.  Arthritis has set in for good, which makes one of his back legs turn inward when he walks or runs, though running is rare and usually instigated by another cat lording itself over him.  He still eats well but doesn't like being touched while eating, even by the other cats.  He's quite protective of his food bowl, which is in the corner by the wall so that he is jostled as little as possible.  Grooming is something he rarely attempts any more, which means the job falls to me, which he hates... which is sad because he used to run toward the brush whenever he saw it and now he runs away.  To be fair, I'm usually carrying scissors along with the brush, and I think it's scissor-phobia more than anything else, because he's a long-haired cat, and after I brush him, he chews on his fur, which mats it up, which drives him crazy, so he chews it more, which makes the mat bigger, and then I have to cut it out.  Which he hates.

*sigh*

Anyway, when the cyst came back, I noticed it but really didn't worry too much even though it was noticeably bigger this time.  I chalked the size up to his comparative lack of bulk, since he continues to lose weight even though he really doesn't have any more to lose.  Last time I took him in, the vet wanted to do thyroid tests on him, but I declined.  Even if it is a thyroid issue, which I doubt, I'm not about to shell out boucoup bucks each month for thyroid pills for a decrepit, late-teenaged cat.  I may be a cat mama, but cats are not babies.......... she said as one of the other cats came wandering through the living room carrying a silver Christmas bracelet in its mouth.  (The bracelet-carrying cat has already been in trouble this morning for repeatedly dropping a Lemon, Lime and Bitters bottle cap into my shoe and diving in claws-first to find it again.  Two-year-olds are nothing but trouble, no matter what species.)

Gosh, I'm good at tangents today.

So the skinny, arthritic, cranky old man cat (or OMC as he occasionally gets called) had a giant cyst on his shoulder.  Not a big deal to me until it burst.  I thought I'd keep an eye on it, just like I did last time, and it would heal, like it did last time, and the smell and cyst would all go away and I wouldn't have to worry too much.

Except... not.

Stinky Death Cat is getting even stinkier.  He was sitting behind the end table at 'my' end of the couch today, and I smelled him before I saw him.  This is not good.  I had to call the vet today anyway to get another cat, Dorian Gray, in for his distemper shot, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and see if they had time for both kitty-fluffs.  They did.

I see the vet at 2:15 this afternoon with both cats.  I know he'll say that Dorian Gray is morbidly obese (because he is... and he's the laziest sod of a cat I've ever met... kind of like those people on the "I Weigh Half a Ton" TV shows who really don't care that they're so big), but I'm not entirely sure what he'll say about Pepe.

But I'm sure he'll comment on the smell.

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Thankfulness - a Post-Thanksgiving Post

Sometimes, life really does take my breath away.  I'm so lucky to have a loving family.  There's no abuse here.  We don't have massive quantities of debt hanging over our heads.  We get to eat whatever we want because we don't have food allergies (M2's cholesterol problems really don't limit choices, so long as we practice moderation).  We're healthy, the odd psychological issue not really counting when it comes to general health.  The kids haven't experienced the sadness of losing a sibling, or a parent, or an aunt or uncle... or a grandparent... or even a great-grandparent, as the only one who passed after the birth of M1 lived in Australia.  I don't think I had ever talked to her myself.

Sometimes I forget all these big things in my quest to take care of all the little niggly things that creep into my head at night and keep me awake for hours and occupy my days.  I worry about my scheduling issues and how I'm going to survive another five months of racing across town twice a week to get M1 out of swim in time to pick up M2, and I forget how lucky I am to be able to afford swimming lessons AND private school AND violin lessons... AND the supplies for each... AND the gas and vehicle to shuttle the kids to and from all these things.  I worry about the five loads of laundry and the grocery shopping and forget to be grateful about the clothes on our backs and the fact that I can afford to go grocery shopping without government assistance.  I worry about health and the future of the kids and completely ignore the fact that I'm fortunate enough to afford medical insurance and M1's ADHD meds and doctor visits.  I worry about what the kids watch on TV without remembering that we're lucky to have a TV and satellite coverage.  I worry about socialization without being grateful for the friends that we already have, those wonderful folks who are here for our family whenever we need.

It's so easy to forget, isn't it?

I know this is more like a Thanksgiving post, but sometimes it irks me that people spend all November listing off all the things they're thankful for and then don't seem to bother for the rest of the year.  This is particularly bad on Facebook, where the overflowing of gratitude is pervasive and obnoxious until November 20-whatever, and then it stops altogether.

But sometimes all these big things to be thankful for start to overwhelm me, because I can't even imagine how one person can be so lucky, and then I remember that many of my friends share my luck, at least in most aspects, and that thought overwhelms me, too... and then I begin to turn back in to my own family and think of all the other, littler things that I also have to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for my kids sitting on the porch, wrapped in an afghan made by my grandmother - their great-grandmother - reading library books while Oz sands down the porch trim so I can give it a fresh coat of paint.

I'm thankful that we have a warm house decorated (mostly) the way I want, with cozy, comfortable couches and delicious-smelling candles.

I'm thankful that I have a yard big enough for chickens... and chickens who are well-behaved, fat and happy.

I'm thankful for the technology that allows me to type this post and leave it out in the open for y'all to read.

I'm thankful for the word "y'all," because it makes me smile to type it.

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The First Post of 2012

So it's 2012.  To borrow a phrase from a Garfield cartoon I read a couple decades ago, it feels about the same.  The sky is blue, the grass is brown, and the wind is blowing... all of which means it's Oklahoma and there's no rain, which means we're probably still going to experience drought conditions this year, which means planting a garden may or may not be a wise idea this year.  We'll see.  

I've made my mental list of New Year's Resolutions.  My main goal is to be a better friend and keep in touch more often with those who matter most.  I really need to conquer some of this massive phone phobia that I have and actually call people once in a while.  Not the pizza guy.  Or the insurance company.  Just a few relatives and friends (sometimes these are the same people).  And I want to see them more often, too.  Talking on the phone or texting can be great, but there's nothing like a good belly laugh over a drink while the kids run riot in the background.  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  I'm generally pretty good at it, with the annual exception of getting in shape.  That's a time-based problem, though... referring to my lack of it more than anything else.

Since I totally slacked off on ending 2011 with any great looks back, I'm going to take a different tack and look ahead to things that will happen in 2012:

1.  I will move.  Perhaps this is more me being hopeful than anything else, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway.  I do not want to be in this house next Christmas.

2.  One cat and one gerbil will bite the dust.  Both of them are old.  The cat is now being referred to as "Death Smell Cat" because he has a recurring cyst on his shoulder that stinks to high heaven.  The gerbil has already lived well into its expected life span.  I think it turns 3 this spring.  That's ancient for rodentia.

3.  M2 will go to public school or come home this fall.  I can almost guarantee that she will not be attending her current school.  

4.  I will turn 30.  Sadly, this is not a 'probably.' This is a certainty.  I will not discuss my feelings about this milestone in this post.  Suffice it to say that I am not okay with 30.  Do not mock me.  Do not try to reassure me.  I will probably remain in a funk about this subject for a while, and while I appreciate your efforts to tell me that it's all going to "be okay," I do not want to hear it.  Thank you for your consideration. *charming smile*

5.  Something will happen with regards to my grandmother.  She's declining.  Since she's 87, soon to be 88, this is not surprising, but it's sad.  She had talked about putting herself into a home, but now she's reneging and is attempting in-home help instead.  I gotta say, it is cheaper, so I can't argue, but I worry about how long that will actually work.  I worry about getting a phone call in the middle of the night from my mom saying that she's gotten a call from another friend/relative or Life Alert saying that something has happened.

6.  M2 will become fluent at reading music.  She's already started working on this, but she's picking it up rather quickly.

7.  M1 will attend his first swim meet and get a ribbon.

8.  I will get to take a vacation sans kids.  (Hint, hint, Oz.  And a girls-only trip would be cool, too.)

9.  I will give myself permission to take it easy during the 2012 holiday season and just buy gift cards as gifts for everyone.  

10.  I will get off my duff and finally learn German or something else that might be more useful for life.  I might even see about finding another job.

So those are what I expect to happen in 2012.  What do you expect to happen this year?