Monday, September 27, 2010

And... cue Nerves.

It's promotion list week. Will he or won't he be on the 02 list? That's the thousand dollar question.

So here I sit, jittery and distracted. I have things to do, like clean up after having everyone home this weekend. Actually, cleaning is a useful distraction for me. Whenever I'm upset/frustrated/anxious, I clean. You'd think the house would be immaculate, but I guess I'm generally more mellow than I thought. That or I'm just lazy. Probably the latter.
So, how about some follow-ups from last week? Sure, why not.
- Katherine received a letter in the mail: Scoliosis, make an appointment with an orthopedic doc. Great, just what she needs more doctor visits and another phone call on my list this morning.
- She's interested in the GT program at the high school. Still haven't heard back from the program director, hopefully this afternoon or I'll write back to him again.
- Everyone went to the football game on Friday and it was moderately more interesting this time. Katherine played, but it wasn't a good evening for her. On football game days she stays after school and goes to the mall with her band friends. The problem is that she doesn't eat enough of a good day, then last Friday she drank one of those stupid Manna high caffeine bombs on an empty stomach. So guess what happened when national anthem time came around? She was going through the crash and could barely stand up. She didn't play. Then at half-time she messed up the last part of the last song, stepped the wrong way. The good thing is that she stood her ground and stayed until it was all done even though the urge to run off the field crying hit her hard. She still did her crying, just after she marched off the field.
- I never made it back to the bowling alley and of course they didn't call. I guess I'll go back sometime this week. Not today though.
- Rebecca and I have a date on 9 November to see the Cake Boss. Haven't heard about his tour? It's a Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the District. She'll be a basket case the next day at school, but she's earned this little trip.
Off to organize the movie CD cases and dust and vacuum the living room. I should be removing wallpaper border from the kitchen, but I think that laziness is kicking in again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Longest. Week. Ever.

What was it about this week that made it seem never-ending? And now that it's Friday it doesn't really feel like Friday? Was it that the novelty of school has worn off? Was it the oppressive heat returning for a last Hurrah? Ack. Bring on the weekend.

I'm not a fan of evening activities during the school week, but I far prefer them to having scheduled items on the weekends. This weekend, nothing is scheduled. Katherine has an appointment Saturday morning at 9 and we have church Sunday morning, but the rest of the time is free and clear. The weather should be awesome again, so I'd like to just spend the time outside. Tennis anyone?
Last weekend we did a bit of gardening. Jonathon and I moved the little shepherd hook bird-feeder pole, hung the feeders from the tree instead with an unused jumprope, built a little fence around the overgrown tomatoes and mums using a couple pants hangers, then Nicholas and I pulled all the wildflower plants from the front and just left a couple of the bigger plants to survive the winter. I have no green thumb, I basically plant things and let nature take its course. Jonathon managed to mow half the lawn in ragged strips, but he tried. We cleaned out the dead leaves and branches from around the front bushes, and avoided bagging a snake with all the refuse. Seriously, I didn't see it when I was pulling the leaves out on the lawn and it was only when Nicholas was shoving the leaves in a bag that there was an awfully thick shoestring coiled among them. Then the shoestring uncoiled into a roughly 8-inch snake and slithered its way back into the bushes. It was probably just a garter snake.
Yet this week went on and on. Monday, Katherine had her sports physical to do swimming on the Gar-Field team over the winter. It was an interesting (not in the good way) visit, beginning with the fact that she was punching a wall earlier in the day and had an ugly bruise on a center knuckle. The doctor made sure nothing was broken or fractured. After the normal talk about smoking, wearing seat belts, immunizations, etc., I stepped out while the doc did the exam. Once a kid is 13 they are given their rights to privacy. It makes sense for the exam room, but not so much for access to records or making appointments on-line. The other three kids are under my login, while Katherine has her own (which I manage anyway). Because, really, our fourteen year old is going to make her own health decisions? Get herself to the ER? Fill her prescriptions? Pay the medical bills? Didn't think so. Oh, I'm sure there are plenty of teens out there who are completely self-sufficient and on top of their appointment schedules, but my kids aren't those kids. We're still the parents, we still have a say in their health care no matter what the HMO might say.
Mini rant over.
At the end of the visit the doc remembered she hadn't checked Katherine's spine. A quick touch to the toes and the doc asked if Katherine was done growing. Am I supposed to know that? Then she asked if Katherine had grown at all in the past year. How about 3-4 inches. Down to X-ray to have her spine checked. Since we haven't heard anything back yet I'm going to assume all is well and we'll get a notice when she needs to have a follow-up X-ray in a few months. The fun never ceases with this kid.
Tuesday, Katherine had band until 4:30, then both girls were off to Religious Ed from 7-8:30. Katherine is in the second portion of Confirmation Prep, and Rebecca just started her Confirmation Prep.
Wednesday, I stopped by the bowling alley to express interest in a 4-week learn to bowl program for Jonathon and Rebecca. I'm glad I printed the email about it, but even that didn't help the generally blank stares I received nor the "Uh, well, we're not sure we're going to run that program." I have my fingers crossed, but I'll stop by the alley again tomorrow, perhaps the manager will be around.
Wednesday still, Katherine was pulled from her History class along with a bunch of other pre-IBDP kids to attend a gifted education seminar. Now this was interesting. Eight times a year the pre-IBDP kids attend what appears to be an open forum seminar. A subject is raised, this time the topic was "Language" and the kids are basically told to discuss it. What does language mean, what does it entail, how many forms are there, and on and on. Then a game of "what color dot is on my forehead" grouped kids together by color, only no one could speak or use hand gestures. She came home elated, thrilled to be with kids that not only were smart but were willing to share their brains. She felt she could speak freely and not feel out of place for having ideas. I emailed the director of the GE program to find out more and received this back: "All pre-IBDP and IB students at Gar-Field (regardless of gifted status) participate in the enrichment seminars as a prerequisite for a 12th grade IB course called Theory of Knowledge (TOK)." Very cool. The email then followed up with "If you are interested in Katherine being formally identified as gifted, please let me know." That would take some convincing for Katherine. She's already doubting she wants to take on swimming with it's 5 a.m. practice on Monday mornings. Even I think that's cruel.
Wednesday continued - Katherine had band until 4:30, then both boys were off to the Altar Server meeting at church from 7:15-8:15. The boys were not at all curious about this endeavor, until they were taken to the back rooms, the rooms no one gets to normally see. Now, they're interested. Their homework the next few weeks is to watch the altar servers at each Mass, and study the parts of the Mass. I think this will be a learning experience for me too. Both boys already received albs.
Thursday, Nicholas had his first strings meeting at school, no instruments yet, just an overview of expectations. First off, strings is a class. I didn't know that. Last year I thought it was an extra-curricular but instead, twice a week the kids miss their first period class and they get grades. Did I mention he's going to learn the cello? We figured, we have one, why not start him on it. Of course ours is full-sized and he's renting a 3/4 from the school for the year, but if he likes it (and he grows at some point) he'll have a cello of his own. He's excited, I'm excited, it's all good. He already knows his fingers will hurt from his foray into strings with the guitar class last year, and he's still OK with it.
Katherine had a swim team interest meeting until 3, then bailed from marching band practice. I didn't blame her, it was the third 90F+ day in a row and she was beat and needed an afternoon off.
Because today, Friday, she doesn't get home until after 10 p.m. Another football game means more marching band. I am glad that Friday football games and Saturday competitions are not scheduled on the same weekends. I already have a headache, so it's time to take some Motrin, feed the family then head to the football field to see Katherine play. I think it's just me tonight so I'll probably bring a book. High school football is kind of lame.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


As it happens every school year, the first week or two is when changes are made.

Last year we added French to Katherine's schedule and moved Rebecca into Extended Language Arts and Extended Math (she was bored senseless in her math class, even in Extended). Later in the year Nicholas added SIGNET to his week due to boredom in class. This year, Jonathon was already approved for SIGNET at the end of 3rd grade so he'll start on time, but when Rebecca's schedule came home she was only in Extended Math and not Extended Language Arts for 7th grade. Several emails to her counselor and the schedule is fixed. What's the difference? Well, for LA, I'm not really sure. But for Math it means completing 8th grade math/pre-Algebra this year, taking the 8th grade SOL in the spring, and moving on to Algebra next year. Hopefully this means she won't be too far behind her peers when we move abroad. The boys are both in SIGNET for much the same reason. They were approved for aptitude in math and though they still do regular math the SIGNET class is meant to challenge their thinking.
Yesterday was a long Discussion Day with Katherine. We talk with her a lot about so many things, some of it not welcome or enjoyable, most of it we try to keep an open mind. Yesterday's topics ranged from reinforcing "no friends over until homework is done" (she truly believes she does her homework at the same pace whether she's sitting along or whether she's surrounded by friends on the front lawn with music blaring) to "parents don't like grounding teens even more than teens don't like being grounded" (because few things ruin an adult's evening or weekend more than having to be a "guard" over a mopey annoyed child) to "breaking rules [home, school, public] and why there are rules in the first place." She is relatively ensconced in the teen angst of Power Control Parents whenever we set a boundary or enforce a rule. True, we have our differences over the music she listens to. In a way it's a comforting and normal disagreement we're thankful to have. She has been grounded all of twice in her life... once for something I don't remember, and last year for failing a class at interims (she brought it up to a B for report card). We talked about earning trust and how trust earns more freedoms. Breaking rules means tighter parental controls and fewer personal freedoms, following rules equals greater personal choices and more self-reliance. Another normal discussion. I have high hopes and expectations that by the time Katherine is of age to be responsible for herself she can truly be responsible for herself. One of the biggest goals we have for her is that she learn to be trustworthy to herself.
I know that none of this is news to any other parent of a teen.
Near the end of the evening she brought up a topic that obviously weighs on her mind. I was turning off the lights and locking up the house while she was off in the kitchen getting a before bed snack when she said "I get jealous of Rebecca."
I knew exactly what she was talking about. How together Becca is. Her good grades. How she's on top of things.
Katherine feels that Becca just gets it all.
What Katherine doesn't understand, and what I told her very clearly, is that Becca works, and works hard, for every single grade she gets. Becca makes the time for checking and double checking her work. She uses her agenda every day for homework assignments, she completes assignments and then considers if there's something she should add. She studies. A lot. She studies before tests, she reviews notecards all the time. She quizzes herself then has us quiz her. She searches for ways to make recall easier. She admits a lot of things are tough and those are the areas she focuses on and struggles through until she understands. American History is the bane of her existence and it was the class she worked the hardest on last year. She thinks ahead, does homework when it's assigned not when it's due. She does all the extra credit offered and argues with any teacher who deducts points she doesn't feel was fair (yesterday she lost points for omitting her name at the top of a sheet because she went to the clinic, you can bet she'll never do that again). And the biggest thing, she learns from her mistakes.
Katherine is gifted (and anyone who knows me knows I despise that word) in her ability to absorb information. She barely has to read anything to understand it. She gets things with minimal effort and I told her that repeatedly over the years a number of teachers told us that she is so smart, she just Gets It. Whether it's French or Math or Science or anything in between, little of it is a challenge.
Why is she jealous of Rebecca?
I told Katherine that if she spent as little as 10-15 minutes a day spread out here and there to review and ask herself at the end of the school day: "Did I write my homework down?" and "Do I have all my books for tonight?" - and at the end of the day: "Did I do all my homework?" - and most importantly at the beginning of each class: "Have I turned in my homework for this class?" she would get straight As without blinking.
That portion of "Discussion Day" ended with Katherine thinking aloud "Maybe I should try a little."
Yes, love. That's exactly what you should do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's nearly time...

To say farewell...

To the vacuum.
Sad Dirt Devil
Our first vacuum disappeared off a moving truck during one of our early moves along the east coast. So we bought the "Dirt Devil Swivel Glide." That was about 10 years ago. It sat in storage for the 6 years we were overseas.
It works just fine. It's on the heavy side though, tough for the kids to get up and down the stairs. The rubber bumper on the front tore off about a year ago. And somewhere along the way we lost most of the attachments.
Missing parts
It was clogged about a month ago and I took the thing apart to get at the source of the disturbance. Along the way I noticed several screws missing. Unplugged the blockage, put it back together how it was and moved on. One day I worked the stairs with the hose and as I pulled the machine up to the next stair the hose popped off and the shift in weight caused the casing to catch on the stairs and the top plate popped up.
Scraped, beaten, broken casing, missing rubber guard.
It began grinding as the rotating brush rubbed along the maladjusted casing. A quick stomp on the lid fixed that, but now I fear this machine is approaching its last leg. I'm pretty sure it'll hold out until our next move though. Tough little devil.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, what's the football team doing on our field?


On Friday night, 10 September, after playing the Star Spangled Banner...
9/10/10 - G-F Marching Band Star Spangled Banner
...the band played during the first half before taking the field at half-time...
9/10/10 - G-F Marching Band Indians
9/10/10 - G-F Marching Band halftime
9/10/10 - G-F Marching Band halftime
Selections this year are older music, "Embraceable You," "Caravan" and others. Listen to them on youtube. Wish her luck, first competition is next Saturday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Everyone complains (myself included)

And I really really need to stop doing that. Because we are blessed, so blessed. Healthy family, a home, 2 cars in the drive, 2 cats in the house, plenty of food, a steady job, and plenty of joy to go around.

So why do we linger on the complaints?

Well this year, I'm not going to complain about the schools here. Did I pay $12 for a 5-subject notebook because on a good day with stocked shelves they are nowhere to be found, but on the 2nd day of school when "additional supply lists" come out they are like the elusive yeti? Why yes, yes I did. Did they take away the bus stop 2 blocks away for Katherine's pick-up and now we drive her to the bus stop every morning? Yes, yes they did. Oh, the list goes on.
But I'm not going to complain. We're here, and life is good. The weather is cool this week, windows open and fresh breeze blowing through. Homework hasn't begun piling up yet. No one has missed a bus or been tardy. We're adjusting to our new schedules and for the first week of school things are looking pretty good.
One of the chores of First Week is paperwork. I sign emergency cards, behaviour contracts, text book releases, permission slips, all sorts of things and most of them x4. Katherine already received her school photo order form, class pictures are Monday. I'm not ordering photos. The cheapest set is over $50, so no thanks. Buying the yearbook at $80+ and getting all the photos is just fine with me and if I want a photo of just her I'll take it myself. Nicholas brought home his strings request. He signed up for cello and since we only have a full-sized cello we'd have to rent a smaller size for him. Here's hoping we get one through the school as it's $60/year vs renting from a store and spending $40/month. Katherine brought home her band guidelines, behaviour, homework etc. Included are the steps to earning a band letter. There are additional steps you can earn past a letter, but we're trying to figure out: if we only have this year here, can she do enough to earn a letter her freshman year? Hmm. To do so is to earn 150 points. Points are earned via activities... marching band is worth 50, auditioning for all-county band is worth 5, playing for the spring musical is worth 15, private lessons are 10/semester (maybe next semester, definitely not this one), etc. So... feasible or out of reach?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The last days of summer have passed.

Bring on the new school year.

Katherine off to be a freshman in high school and Rebecca off to be a 7th grader in middle school. The boys off to wind down their careers in elementary school. Jonathon in 4th and Nicholas in 5th.
9/7/10: 6:30 a.m. Katherine's first day of HS 9/7/10: 7:45 a.m. Rebecca's first day of 7th grade 9/7/10: 8:45 a.m. Boys first day of 4th and 5th grade
The general consensus... the first day of school was acceptable. Katherine called her day "Awkward" since she didn't know anyone in her classes, the hallways during class changes moved at a snails pace, but Biology looks like it'll be great. Rebecca said her day was "OK," she knew a couple kids in most of her classes, is really looking forward to science and extended math, and was glad she brought a packed lunch since there were kids still in the hot lunch line when the bell rang for class. Nicholas came home with a "Great," he likes his teacher and his classroom and the fact that at dismissal he was released last... a 5th grader. What an improvement over last year. My only qualm with that is his teacher looks very very pregnant and Nicholas likes things to stay as they are. Jonathon said his day was "Fine" and couldn't remember anything about what he did.
Originally Katherine's busstop was at the boys' elementary school, a quick walk from home. With budget cuts, her stop is now at the next nearest elementary school which could be reached in about a 20-25 minute fast walk, but instead we drop her off. Yesterday Ian brought her to the stop and waited with her (I know, she's a freshman, right?) until the right bus came at 6:50 a.m. The stop is for all specialty program busses so kids going to various schools wait together. I'd written her bus number on her hand, just like a kindergartener. Hey, I did it for Rebecca's bus too since her number changed even though she has the same pick-up point and same driver as last year. The boys walk to school and didn't mind me bringing them on the first day, or even both of us bringing them today. Nicholas may be one of the big kids on campus, but he's still one of our little kids.
On the first day everyone was up with their alarms. On the second day, everyone was up with their alarms. Here's crossing our fingers for the third day. And the fourth...