18 June 2012

RIF - Reading is Fundamental, but not always Fun.

     I just have to say that I hate summer reading lists.  I mean Hate, H.A.T.E.,  HATE them. 

     It's not that I hate reading.  To the contrary, I love to read.  I have always loved to read.    I love to read so much I became a librarian.  Now I think that's saying something!  I will read anything, and I mean anything - books, catalogs, newspapers, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, magazines, I even read the junk mail.  I used to drive my mom crazy as I read signs out loud as we drove (sometimes I still do it to twist her knickers.)  I got a Kindle for Christmas and have read have read 38 books so far (I don't even want to know how much this Kindle has cost me...) That does not include the books I read to the kids.  I just love to read that much.

     But my children don't.  I have tried.  Gosh how I've tried.  We've always had books around the house.  They've always seen me reading (and have asked me to put a book down so they can talk to me.)  I have always read to them.  Heck, I still read to them and they are 12 and 11.  Try as I might though, I just can't get them to enjoy reading as much as I do.  This is a lesson I learned back in elementary school.  My poor friend, Julie, didn't like to read as much as I did.  I figured an afternoon at my house, reading, would make her like it.  It didn't.  It also didn't make her want to come to my house for a while.  She hated it so much, that her mom called and talked to me about it.  I didn't understand then, but I do now.  No matter how much you like something, you can't force someone else to like it.

     So maybe this is a lesson that schools should learn.  Princess just came home with a Summer Reading Record - Nine weeks of reading.  Monday through Sunday.  Total for Week.  And Parent's Signature.  Not only to the parents have to sign at the end of each week, but there is tantamount to an affidavit at the end of the of the reading record that both the student and the parents have to sign.  She's going into the 6th grade.  Not college.  And The Boy?  He'll be starting school in VA (after three years of home schooling) and there is a summer reading list and he has to read at least one book. 

     Now you may think that one book in the summer is not a big deal.  You're correct, it's not a big deal.  Unless you hate to read.  Now the issue is not the ability to read.  My kids can read.  At grade level.  They just don't enjoy it.  So think of something you hate to do or something that you really don't like to do.  Now imagine being told you HAVE to do that thing.  You're not asked if you want to do it, you HAVE to do it.  Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun now does it? 

     Don't get after me that the summer reading prevents 'summer slide'.  If that's your argument, then spread the school year over 12 months*, because reading skills are not the only subject that 'slides' over the summer.  Yes reading is extremely important.  Math, Science, History, Foreign Languages, Social Skills, English Language Arts, the Arts are all equally important and yet there is no 'Summer X list' for these other subjects.

     So I will be emailing Princess's school tomorrow to say that she will not be keeping a summer reading record.  I am also prepared to speak with The Boy's teacher in September about my thoughts and feelings of summer reading lists and explaining why he has not read a single book on their list.  It may not win me (or my children) any friends at the schools, but for a few weeks anyway my kids will be kids and they will read if they want to.

*For the record, I am a firm believer that the school year should be spread out over 12 months for many reasons.  One of which is to avoid 'summer slide'.

08 June 2012

Growing old. Gracefully.

     I've never really given getting older any thought.  Sure when I was nine I couldn't wait to be 10 and enter double digits.  Turning 16 was a big thrill.  Twenty-one was another big thrill, but that's a story for another day.  Twenty-five came and went, then 30, 35, 40, and 45.  This year it is 46 and you know what?  It's not a big deal.

     The Boy and Princess think I'm getting old and they are right.  And wrong.  I may be aging, but I'm not getting old.  Princess sees me through her 11 year-old eyes and sees the grey hair, the 46 year-old butt, the losing battle with gravity,  the scars, the wrinkles.  The Boy sees me with his 'teenager' eyes and doesn't see a super model or a woman who can wear a bikini.  I have to chuckle at their reactions when I show them pictures of the 21 year-old me (yes, in the bikini).  I also laugh when I explain to Princess that my genes run through her body - that I am the Ghost of Christmas Future for her - and she cringes.

     When I look in the mirror, I don't see a 46 year-old me.  I don't see the grey hair, wrinkles, or the effects of gravity.  I see the results of a lifetime of laughter, smiles, good friends, great meals, fabulous wines, wonderful experiences, tears of joy and pain, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister.  In a word, I see - Me.

  I can't imagine anyone I'd rather be. 

05 June 2012

How do you protect your family

from a well-meaning, but misguided person?

I'm dealing with a person (let's call them Bureaucrat #1 or B#1) who couldn't pick any member of our family out of a line up, and yet Bureaucrat #1 has absolute control over where we go next.  Or at least where The Boy goes.  Crazy.  B#1 is actually assigned to The Boy, but has to be reminded that he is in fact a boy, is home schooled,  is 12.  B#1 has never once asked me anything about him.  Like what our goals are for him or his goals for himself.  Or like what our family values are, at least in respect to education.  Or about our family dynamics.  B#1 has never even asked to speak with him.  And yet B#1 has the audacity to tell me that B#1 is his greatest advocate.  Hate to break it too you sweetheart, but I AM his greatest advocate!  I always have been and will be always.

I personally believe that college is not for everybody.  I am also a strong proponent of a gap year(s) to help you figure yourself out - what you want to do or not do with your life.  As far as I'm concerned, a gap year is not an indication of a lack of intelligence or motivation.  It is actually a sign of a maturity, an I'm-not-a-lemming-and-following-the-crowd kind of personality.  I am certainly not advocating that someone graduate from high school and move into Mom and Dad's basement.  I do advocate that the gap year  involve volunteering, working, traveling, and/or military service.  You get an idea of what the world is really like.  You get an idea of what you are really like.  You learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to use them to your advantage.  If at that point you decide college is in your future, well have at it!  Mom and Dad are more than willing to help!  If after a gap year(s), you decide that college is just not in the cards, or not in the cards right now, well then great!  You've just made an informed decision.

What does this have to do with The Boy's 'greatest advocate'?  Well B#1 thinks The Boy should go to college.  He's 12.  He's in the fifth grade.  I just want him to finish this school year in a successful manner, and he is on track to do so.  Then I want him to finish next year in a successful manner.  Then I want him to finish the following year in a successful manner, and so on and so forth, until he graduates from high school.  Yes he has some special needs, but that is irrelevant to him having a successful educational experience. 

State has a vested interest in the well-being of FS families.  For obvious reasons, I fully appreciate that mind-set.  They provide support for children with special needs and again I fully appreciate that stance.  They want what is in the child's best interest.  Who can argue with that?  What twists my knickers though is that a total stranger, who can't even remember that The Boy is in fact a boy, believes they know what is in his best interest better than his own mother.  Really?!  I mean REALLY?!?

07 October 2011

What exactly is normal and who gets to decide?

Nor⋄mal - conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 

     Ok, but what does that mean?  I'm pretty sure that what passes for normal in Hollywood, wouldn't pass for normal in, let's say, suburban New England or Amish Country.  So then aren't there different definitions of normal?  What is normal for one person, may not be normal for the next.  I don't see a problem with that.

     That then begs the question, "Who gets to decide what's normal?"  Who decides that what is normal for one person is abnormal for everyone else?  Who comes up with 'societal norms'?  This is where I start to have a problem.  A BIG problem.  I don't fancy myself a rabble-rouser, but don't tell me I'm wrong or abnormal, just because I don't fit into your (probably narrow) view of normal.  Don't tell me my child is not normal because he's quirky and does things differently than would you.  Don't tell me I'm not normal because I choose to rock the mom jeans and eschew those jeans that "sit below the natural waist."  Or because I (fill in the blank) and you don't.

For a country that fancies itself as embracing diversity, the US seems hell bent on having everyone the same.  If anyone falls outside of what is 'normal' ̽, instead of being celebrated they are looked at askance.  This is a problem.  There will always be people who do thing differently, who are smarter, more attractive, more athletic, richer, faster, taller, thinner, quirkier, practice a different religion, fill in superlative here, than others.  So what?  Embrace the differences.

Let's face it, not everyone wants to, can or should go to college.  Not everyone can be valedictorian or captain of the sports team.  Not everyone wants to work a hundred hours a week.  Not everyone places importance on a butt load of money. Not everyone will be a super model.  Not everyone wants to fit into the little box known as standard.  And not everyone should.

Is the issue fear or jealousy?  Maybe a little of both.  Fear of what we don't understand?  Fear that maybe we're the abnormal one?  Jealousy of what we don't have?  Jealous of what we are not?  Maybe even a little jealousy of people who take a different path because we are too afraid to try.  Is there anything we can do about this?  Who knows.  I do know that I fully embrace my own sense of normality and that of my family.  I like thinking and living outside the box.  It is certainly not boring and, I think, totally normal!  I really don't give a rat's patootie on how other people live their lives.  It is not my business.  And it is certainly not for me to judge.  I don't know who gets to decide what and who are normal, but it sure as heck isn't me.

̽̽I'm still not sure who dictates what is normal in the US.

21 May 2011

The Highs and Lows of Parenting

     This is what they should teach during sex ed classes.  Not abstinence vs safe sex, but what becoming a parent really means.  Then no kid in their right mind would bump uglies!  Never mind those young girls who have a baby so that someone will love them.  I'm pretty sure there are times that my kids JUST DON'T LOVE ME.  Today, however, is not one of those days.  Today is a day when both kids really seem to love me AND like me.  Go figure.

     The other day, The Boy received a Certificate of Academic Achievement from the K12 iCademy.  He has worked really hard this past semester.  Working really hard for him is even harder than for some other kids because in addition to being on the spectrum, he also has a non-verbal learning disability.  But he has soldiered on through tantrums, melt-downs and fits of hyper activity to get it done.  And it shows.  And it is not just me noticing.  I think the fact that someone other than Mom/Teacher is noticing his hard work makes him feel good.  Heck, I don't think it, I know it.  He's been walking a little taller since receiving the Certificate.  And he is a little nicer to his sister.  This is one of the highs of parenting.  Seeing your child feel proud of accomplishing something.  Seeing your child stand a little straighter, walk a little taller, smile a little wider, and feel a little bit better about himself, that makes all the other stuff seem insignificant.

     Today though, Princess is not feeling particularly good about herself because her feelings were hurt by her only neighborhood friend who speaks English.  A small group of girls, most of whom Princess knows and plays soccer with, are playing together and excluded Princess because she doesn't know Norwegian, they don't know much English, and the one bilingual girls doesn't feel like translating.  While I can fully understand the desire to play rather than "work" at translating, it doesn't lessen the sting of seeing your child left out.  It doesn't help that Princess doesn't understand that it is "work" to constantly translate back and forth.  Especially when the translator is only nine years old.  These types of slights are certainly one of the lows of parenting.  I know they are a part of life and that Princess will get past it - I think to some degree she has already - but it still sucks.  I also know it won't be the last time she's excluded from something or another, but it still sucks.  It doesn't suck any less when you're an adult.  But as a parent it seems to suck twice as much.

     These highs and lows are part of life and certainly part of parenting.  But they don't tell you this while you're in the hospital having just given birth!  Oh, they teach you how to diaper and bathe your baby. Big whoop!  They don't tell you that you'll end up reliving all your own childhood highs and lows all over again as your own children go through theirs.

20 April 2011

April in Paris

     Last week, Princess and I had our First Annual Mother/Daughter Weekend.  When I broached the subject with her a while back and asked where she wanted to go, I was expecting something along the lines of Disney or the beach.  Nope, not Princess.  Her one -  and only choice -  was Paris.  I think this bodes ill of my future financial stability!  Either way, she and I headed to Paris and what a trip it was!

     We were able to combine the Mother/Daughter weekend with a reunion of some of our dear A-100 friends who were running the Paris Marathon.  This was the perfect combination.  Princess was able to have some kid time and not be all adult-like the entire time.  I got to have some adult-time and not be all Mothery all the time.

     There were, of course, some things we just HAD to do, and so we did.  Our hotel was just a hop, skip and jump away from the Eiffel Tower so we headed there our first night.  Did you know that it sparkles for five minutes every hour at night?  I didn't.  We were just standing there looking at how beautiful and huge it is and then it started sparkling.  Amazing!  It made the Tower even more beautiful.

Fire Power!
Thanks to Night at the Museum: Smithsonian, Princess wanted to see The Thinker and Venus d'Milo.  There was no way Princess was going to Paris and not seeing these two statues.  If you've seen the movie, you won't be disappointed to hear that she did the "Boom!  Boom! Fire Power!" line standing in front of The Thinker.  If you've not seen the movie, you have no idea what I'm talking about and you've missed a fairly funny movie!  What was really great, is that once we were in the Louvre and the Musée Rodin, she was captivated by all the other works of art.  She was a bit disappointed at the size of the Mona Lisa, but was glad the eyes didn't follow her around.

     Having studied Napoleon, we also had to see his tomb.  As you would expect from such a small man - a HUGE tomb.
Napoleon's Tomb - total compensator!

Main Street - Disney Paris
     And in a nod to the children in the group, we did a day trip to Disney Paris.  I love me a good amusement park, and Disney Paris did not disappoint.  But my recovery time for those rides that include "360〫inversions" (as described on the rides' signs) is not what it used to be.  Man I consumed a whole lot of ibuprofen that day!

     As you would expect, we ate like champs during this vacation.  I swear I needed a second seat on the way home, but it would not have been a successful trip otherwise.  Thankfully, Princess is not a picky eater.  Her nickname is the Seagull if that gives you any indication of just how unpicky she is.  We ate copious amounts of cheese, pork (for our Saudi posted friends), escargot, pasta, and steak.  And you cannot go to Paris and not have croissants, chocolate and, of course, crepes!  And oh, the Crème Brûlée.  The best meal of the trip (and there were a LOT of good meals on this trip) was our last night.  We found this cozy restaurant (Chez Plumeau) tucked away on Montmartre and we were set.  The food was pure perfection, the service sublime.  All in all, it was the best way to end the trip.

Our last supper.

Just past the 27 km mark and still smiling!
     I must say, and Princess concurred, it was a very successful trip.  The weather cooperated, we were able to get around easily, we saw the things we wanted to see, caught up with some really great friends, and we were able to see two of them run.  Princess is already compiling a list for next year's trip.  I had better start saving now - I heard her mention Rome.

14 March 2011

London Calling

Tower Bridge
     The Boy and I went on our First Annual Mother-Son weekend the first weekend in March.  Why London?  It was close.  It was relatively inexpensive.  We got to visit with some good friends (who were phenomenal hosts) .  Why just Mother-Son?  Well I really think it is important for parents to have 1:1 time with their kids.  PFF and I have special time with the kids each week.  One week it's the boys and the girls, the next week its boy/girl and boy/girl.  The kids feel special, hence the "special" time, and they really open up and talk.  I think THAT is great.  Now that they are a bit older, I wanted to have some extended time with each of them.

Running out of steam. He fell asleep at dinner.
London Eye
     So anyway, The Boy and I went to London and had a blast!  We walked, bused and tubed all over London.  And we rented bikes and rode around Hyde Park too!  On the Friday, as we walked towards the London Eye, The Boy said "Mommy, this has been a really great day."  You can't pay enough money for a comment like that one!  

   We also saw Stomp at the Ambassador Theatre.  What an amazing show!  The performers are in such incredible shape!  After each routine, The Boy would turn to me and give two thumbs up.  Again, a priceless experience.

     One thing I experienced for the first time was the weekend food market.  I'd never been to one before, but I will be sure to go again.  The sights, the sounds, and oh the smells!  The Boy was surprised, pleasantly, that you could sample some of the food.  We had a variety of curries, olives, mulled wine (me not him), cheeses, tea, cookies, brownies, hams, and so many more goodies to eat I felt like the Mr. Creosote!
Cheese!  I felt like Wallace!
Turkish Delight.  The Boy was in love with this stall.
Making Duck Confit - the smell made my mouth water!
The smell of fresh made bread was insane!
Meringues bigger than my fist!

     Just looking at these pictures and writing this post puts a smile on my face at the memories.  The Boy really had fun, as did I, and is already talking about what we should do next year.  I can't wait!

An exhausted Boy on the way home.