Sunday, November 6, 2011

It has been a LONG time...

I was pondering just today about how much I missed blogging. How I loved the serendipitous connections and the creative and emotional release. Why wasn't I doing it anymore? Sure, I am busy, real busy these days but that isn't the only reason.

Coaxing words from Shea somehow just doesn't seem to fit anymore. I am no longer in that place. I started Coaxing when I was sad and scared about Shea. Those of you who know, I had a toddler that couldn' or wouldn't speak. Those were the days where I had no idea what his future had in store and was dreading and dwelling on the worst scenarios. Dark anguished times. Those were the early special mommy years and they hurt.

But that is not me anymore.

I am no longer terrified of what Shea's future will be. I, of course, still don't know but he is a happy, healthy kid and talks plenty. Yes, he still has some articulation issues and he is still getting speech through the school and weekly private. And he does have some learning challenges although mild; math is hard but reading is easy.

But Shea is all dude;Wii games, Basketball, Tennis, his puddy cats; the kids leads a charmed "normal" life.

If I only knew then what I know now. How much solace I would have taken.

Time to move on.

So, here is an honest attempt; Fresh ground; ponderings, a definite work in progress.

Let's just say I will have a wider platform of topics without being all over the place!

Come visit me there!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Teacher conference and bad news rock throw

I still feel that back to school rush in the fall. No, I'm not going to school myself; in fact it was a near miss but I did buy a whole bunch of folders, pencils, paper, binders, lunch boxes, protractors (!) recently for my two students. I still get that back to school rush.

Shea seems tall and fast all of a sudden, leaping, running and being a dare devil on the monkey bars. He has taken on 1st grade with an enthusiasm and intensity that is mildly surprising yet isn't.

The teacher is working really, really well so far. Quite simply, she is an "old pro" who has many years plus special ed and Resource room background. We are blessed with only 16 kids in the class. 11 boys but she runs a tight ship.

Shea is reading and writing and sitting at his desk and listening. At the beginning, he was having the old "keeping his hands to himself" issue as usual.

But his teacher is engaging him in thinking about his behavior with a new little game that has resonated. Each day he gets to "earn" 4 smiley or frowny faces. He was proud to consistently come home with 3s and 4s. Then we told him he could earn some place ground time after school if he got 4s. That worked really well!

He brags out it in his first writing piece at school. "I got 4 smiles!" he wrote with a picture of smiling stick people. So darn cute.

But regression does happen. And, this week was a tough one. The principal called and left a message that said that Shea threw a rock on the playground and hit a little girl in the head. :-(

The message said "the child has since recovered...but it was quite serious....losing recess the next day...grounds for suspension...having a hard time getting Shea to understand the situation..."

I won't go too far into the scene that night but it resulted in him sitting down and writing a letter to the little girl to read to her the next day, losing Wii for a couple of days and many, many, many words about how wrong it is to hurt someone like that.

The whole thing hit me hard on a tough day and I was pretty teary myself and I think I saw something click behind Shea's eyes when he realized how upset I was. How shocked and horrified we all were by what he did. There is something about parent tears. Let's hope he gets it.

Jake took him to school the next day and they found the little girl and Shea read his letter and was forgiven. Jake said it was pretty adorable and she was wonderful about it.

Thankfully we happened to be having Teacher conferences this week too so Shea's teacher reminded me that regression happens. Learning to handle your impulses is big stuff and lessons happen in different way but that he will get there. I admitted my worry about his social skills and making friends and she reassured me that he was connecting with other kids in the classroom.

But the play ground is always such a different story, isn't it?

Shea said there was another boy involved with the whole rock throwing episode. Something about this other kid telling him to do it. Now, obviously that is no excuse but it makes we wonder about the dynamic on the play ground.

This same boy's name also popped up in a conversation about the word "mean" and Shea wanted to know what to do if someone was mean. I said you stay away from someone being mean and then he asked, "What if they follow you around being mean and won't stop?" (!)

I was sort of beginning to freak out by this point because Shea doesn't ask stuff like this very often. Certainly a very unusual conversation to be having and a huge warning light going off in my head!

I said, "Very firmly, you tell them to stop and if they don't you go tell the playground duty or the teacher or me."

It is hard to tell if he got much of that in this first part of a bigger conversation. Obviously, some interesting dynamics are happening at school and we'll need to revisit this topic again.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gluten Free Zucchini Choclate Chip Bread

I just have to share this amazing Zucchini bread recipe!

I was daunted by the epic Zucchinis in the garden and how Shea NEVER eats veggies. I tweaked and experimented and deviously thought that if I could make a yummy loaf maybe he would bite.

Result? Hook, line and sinker. Perhaps putting chocolate chips in it was all it took but, hey, the kid ate zucchini! That in itself is cause for celebration!

3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup cane sugar
3 cups rice flour
3 eggs or egg replacement
1/2 cup butter (melted) or organic coconut oil
1 cup apple sauce
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tbls. baking cocoa
2 tsp Zanthan Gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg

Combine sugar, eggs and butter together then add zucchini. Mix well and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients. Add the Zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients. Make sure it is well blended then add chocolate chips.

Spray or grease 2 loaf pans well. Half the batch in each loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let sit in loaf pans for 10 - 15 minutes then run a knife around the inside edge of pan. Gently turn over and giggle until loaf comes out on clean surface. Let cool a bit more before cutting.

Makes 2 nice big loafs. Just watch it disappear!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer camp; very affordable therapy time

Since the school district dumped Shea's summer school or ESY (Extended School Year), we decided to try something new.

Vashon Youth and Family Services do Chautauqua Kids program at the elementary school cafeteria. It is a nice big open space with an air hockey table, games, art projects, bike riding club and a different field trip each week. Off island even!

The program directors and teen mentors take the kids swimming 2 times a week and stick to a loose but structured day. Lots of variety, lots of supervision but not much hovering.

This was about self sufficiency and independence and doing for yourself. Sure there was help near by but Shea just got into the habit of taking care of stuff himself. A huge step for us.

This is mainly for kids whose parents work and the times are from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. For $180 a week, it could be perhaps the most affordable day care set up around.

And, I am so glad we tried it! I considered it intensive social and behavior therapy and WOW! did it work.

We were tentative at first but Shea zoomed and soared with the structured fluidity, friend making, playing with the big kids and generally just having a great time.

The program directors were extremely sensitive to Shea's allergies and his speech issues. I just feel like I struck gold. So much so that I signed him up for several more weeks and ended the summer fully in love with the program.

When school got out in June, I was nervous about 1st grade. I thought it could go either way and was poised to worry. But now, after all the growth and talking and socializing and resolving issues this summer, I feel that Shea is really ready to go for 1st grade and give it his darndest!

Thanks VYFS and Chautauqua Kids! You made our summer!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Going comfortably gray and interviewing at 46

Initially as an austerity measure I stopped coloring my hair. Plus the reality of all those chemicals grew nightmarish. Why was I paying big buck for organic produce when I was smearing god knows what toxins on my head!?

Not that I am saying no one should. I loved my hot red head hair-do for years and faithfully dumped hundreds of dollars on it every 6 weeks or so. But those red hot days are far behind and for me it just seemed "been there, done that".

So I quit cold turkey, ignored the ghastly roots for a good year then got a happening short hair cut and decided I liked the gray. Right now it is, how they say, salt & pepper and sometimes it shimmers like threads of silver and I think, "Not bad. Gray hair doesn't have to equal geezer."

But as I go out into the job market after 10 years, I briefly wondered if I should try and do a bit of "youth-ercising". Does that mean covering up the gray?

I just don't want to go there again. I did buy new interview duds and even briefly toyed with the idea of a little makeup (gasp) but the hair-do is staying gray. I have decided it is a badge of honor and proof of all those lessons learned.

At 46, I feel I am squeaking right in there before full blown age discrimination sets in (or perhaps I show my naivety).

I tentatively begin the "informational interview" circuit and generally people are really amazingly generous with their time and contacts. All you have to do is ask nicely and perhaps buy them a coffee. I humbly try to impress, thank them profusely as I optimistically think about the seeds sown.

I scour job listings, brush up and re-write my resume, try and bang out a stand out cover letter and start sending them out.

Much to my surprise! I got a bite!

Thankfully I manage to not be as nervous at the interview as I have been in the past. Maybe it is the acquired life skills or just being able to read people better or the fact that I have nudged up against much bigger issues over the years but somehow it puts an 1/2 hour sit and chit into a more appropriate perspective.

As I look across the conference table at what would be my new supervisor, I see a sweet young gal a good 15+ years my junior. She looks at me with warmth and interest, not yet "chewed up and spit out", not having acquired that crusty veneer of cynicism.

I really like that about youth and I realize that I would like to work with this girl. So I did my darndest to "connect" and ended up getting called back for a 2nd interview which was more relaxed and friendly and informal.

It sort of feels right but I don't want to jinx it and only wait to see if I get the final nod.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Allergies and all the attached woes

This has been a particularly weird year for allergies. Those of you in the NW will know what I mean. Summer didn't even start here until well into July.

Yes, that's right. July! Summer in the NW never was kookier.

The good news was we did not have our normal horrible allergy June because it was so wet and cool. The bad news is that now that it is behaving like summer, our grass and pollen allergies are now kicking our butts and winning big time.

The only one who doesn't seem affected is Molly. Go figure! Jake, Shea and I are mucus factories and I fantasize about inventing a tissue box harness so that I can carry a whole box around with me as I try to conduct my daily life. Jake one ups me and decides it needs an i-pod holder with detachable "used" kleenex annex discreetly attached.

I tell him to start sketching, that we may have something here!

Because I have gone through allergy hell for a few years now, I am beginning to notice interesting little things. Like if it rains, our symptoms go away. I guess the moisture knocks the pollen count down or something but it is nice to look outside and be somewhat relieved by clouds and mist in the summer months.

Also, I have eagle eyes peeled on our #1 allergy boy, Shea. Because he is so behaviorally sensitive to his food allergies, I guess I should not have been surprised to find that the environmental allergies have a huge effect on him too. Not just your normal runny nose, scratchy eyes misery but full blown behavior changes.

For example: more clingy, more whiny, less focused, fewer words with a few steps back in his verbal development. I notice that I need to remind him to "Use his words" and that he is reverting back a bit to the crooning and meowing and head butting that he used to do.

Is this all allegy related? I have not the foggiest but it is interesting that it seems to be occurring now.

We are trying something new this year; Claritin and frankly symptoms do seem to dissipate. I feel bad nuking my kid with the stuff but I try to tell myself that the allergies are worse than the cure. If he was a highly verbal little guy, he might be able to articulate whether he feels better or not. But, he is not that fellow.

When asked how he feels he routinely says, "Fine, mom. Good!" Sweet little parrot, spunky positive attitude boy ~ you get my "Put the best face on it" award. But, that is Shea and his life and discomforts are his "normal", miserable with allergies or not.

Unfortunately, our beloved OT takes the summer off and he could be just really missing her and the excellent therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder he usually gets weekly during the school year. Or perhaps his allergies exacerbate the problem? Again, who knows for sure.

So much of parenting is a guessing game. A very humbling, guessing game. I find that I second guess myself all the time, trying for the perfect cocktail of love, work, therapy and play for my kids.

Is it perfect? No. It never is and never will be. It is what it is, as they say.

Wouldn't it be great if we could one day find out if what we did was the right thing to do? Or maybe that would suck! Parents make decisions about raising their children for all different reasons, emotions and situational dynamics. If we found out for sure what did work, we would have to find out what did not work and frankly I am not sure I could handle that sort of reality slap.

So, we skate blind using only intuition, faith, fear, joy and love for road signs. With a bulging box of kleenex in tow. Whatever it takes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mid-life crisis? Probably.

I feel there is a very large omnipresent someone with a giant foam hammer smacking me on the head repeatedly just trying to get my attention.

Smack, bang! "Hey, what's that?" I notice something but then the phone rings and then I notice the laundry needs folding and I guess I should run to the bank, gas station and the grocery story and figure out what to feed the family for dinner because the kids will be home any minute and pretty soon the attention that the large someone had won is lost...yet again.

This has been happening all day, every day for about...I don't know...15 years?!

But, NOW the big omnipresent person is dangling a flashing neon sign in front of my face so that my attention can stay on it for more than the traditional 5 seconds even if I am driving or e-mailing or blogging or washing little accidents out of little boys underwear.

It is flashing in bright, bold, RED letters saying, "FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO FOR A LIVING, YOU IDIOT!!!!"

The same message has been expressed for quite a while but it seems like the letters are getting bigger and there are more exclamation points being added each time I take notice.

It has gotten so overt to ignore and has driven me to peruse the Craigslist job section extensively and fantasize about going back to school to get my masters degree.

"Is this a mid-life crisis?" my mom asks, hitting the nail on the head.

Yes. Without a doubt. This is indeed a mid-life crisis and it is as full of questions with very few answers as I had heard about.

No, I am not going to go out and buy a sports car and have an affair. In fact I am not even tempted but I did loose 20 pounds and continue to wonder what the hell I am going to be when I grow up. Which is more than a little bit pathetic for a 45 year old mom, dontcha think?

Enough with the self-loathing but I guess the universe has been trying to tell me something for quite a while. Who am I not to listen to the universe? It is not polite to ignore the universe and I think I am suffering from some very uncomfortable angst because I have been trying to.

So, blog friends, things are about to change. Perhaps drastically. How do I feel? Scared shitless!

I remember when I was working at an advertising agency doing broadcast production and my boss, the producer, sat at her desk spacing out at her view. She said, "There has to be an easier way to make a living." And, then she sighed. A big one. She was about my age then, mid 40's, and she had quit within the year.

Of course, they never hired another producer and had me do all her work and my own without giving me any more money because if there is anything that the Ad industry is good for it is exploitation. But that is a completely different blog post.

I guess my point is that it is never too late to make a change. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Calm can arise from chaos and the end of the story doesn't have to be obvious from the middle of the book.

Listen to the universe! Dammit! And, stop being such a weenie!

That is all...for now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zero, 6, 12...

I have always been fascinated by math. I am no mathematician but intuitively numbers make such perfect sense to me; the balance, the nice tight little packages, the process to get the correct answer.

You know your are slightly nuts if you find equations beautiful. But, I sort of do.

I also love the slightly mystical aspect of what different important numbers mean. Like your birthday divided by how many kids you have means....who knows but it sure is interesting.

I guess the reason why I have been pondering this lately is because Shea is 6 and Molly is 12.

I look at them and think, "When Shea was tiny, Molly was 6 the same as Shea is now. Now she is 12. Wow!" I know, I know, this doesn't seem like a cloud parting piece of info but it keeps on smacking me in the forehead.

She was 6, now she is 12 before I know it she will be 18!

He is 6 and will be 12 when Molly is 18! Interestingly, I can't even venture to think of Shea older than 12 perhaps because he is still my baby.

I guess the real point is: OMG! My kids are growing up so fast! Duh!

Shea is 6 and turning into a big boy in front of my very eyes. Just over the weekend, he swam by himself without the swimmy vest. He is completely potty trained with very few accidents. He is reading as he goes into 1st grade this fall. If someone could have predicted this for me when he was 3 and not talking, I would have sobbed with relief.

He is confident and independent and gets out there and competes with bigger older kids. In fact, as I watch him he is right in there with the rough and tumble crowd. I am poised to intervene when it gets too much and to remind him to use his words instead of his hands. But I am delighted that he is as confident as he is and isn't shy about jumping into the fray. A trait that will serve his well down the road, I believe.

On another note, I am loving age 12! 11 was so-so but 12 rocks. I was trying to describe it to my excellent mommy posse today. It's like there were all these threads of maturity flailing around and by 12 they are getting tied up nicely into sweet little bows.

Can I be more specific? I will try.

Last summer Molly did not want to do any camps. She wanted down time so I let her. I knew she was bored and she sure got cranky with all that unstructured time. So, I decided I wasn't going to let that happen again this year.

I got turned onto a program through the UW's Robinson Center for Young Scholars. It is called Summer Challenge and they offer a math course. It is 3 weeks long during the summer from 9:00 - 2:30 everyday. I know, epic!

Her math scores were good enough to get in and they also required a teacher recommendation. So, I broached the subject with her. The conversations were at times rocky.

She said, "Mom, that sure sounds like school. If you were my age, would you want to go to school for 3 weeks during the summer?"

I refused to buckle. I finally boiled it down to this and stood firm.

"My job as your mother is to present doors of opportunity for you. I would not be doing my job if I did not. For you, school is easy. Perhaps a little TOO easy and you need to be challenged. You have a gift for math and you need to be challenged to reach your full potential. I think this math camp will be a great experience."

Amazingly, she went for it. There was some typical 11 year old whining but I stood firm. The money was already paid, can't get out of it now, etc.

Oh sure, these was some bribery but basically that new 12 year old was emerging and maybe she dug it that she was accepting into a prestigious program. In fact one of only 5 girls accepted to the program out of 20 kids!

We live on a wonderful little island with great people but it is a small town. And, I want my kids to see that there is a nice, big, exciting world out there with lots of fascinating people. The world does not end at our shores.

So, now it is upon us as I hang out in the University District while she is at her math camp and how is she taking it? With the new calm and confidence of 12. Bless her heart!

12 seems to bring a new sense of contentment, confidence and self discovery; awareness of strengths and attributes are explored and realized; excitement begins to bubble about a bright future; big kid joy, pre-teen wonder and a new more grown up sense of humor.

For example: Monty Python is really, really funny!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


This is what an oil soaked wave looks like.

A teacher's good bye or the best perspective in the world

I just received this e-mail from Molly's favorite teacher of her 6th grade year. Read it and you will probably guess why he was the favorite. It has been nothing less then thrilling to watch the students go from early man all the way to Rome with many stops in between this year. Somehow this one teacher was able to capture attention and interest and inspire.

Thank goes to our own amazing Mr. D but deep gratitude and sincere thanks goes out to all the teacher out there that help our kids along the way! We could not do it without you.


Well, the year's all but over and I'm sitting knee-deep in the debris of another year gone. Maybe my age is catching up with me, but I'm feeling a little contemplative today, waxing a bit poetic or philosophic...and I wanted to send one last message to you all.

Your kids might have mentioned that my name in the Greek simulation is Sisyphus. He was a Corinthian king who temporarily cheated death and was punished with the task of pushing a stone up a mountain for eternity, only to have it roll back down after each push. I chose that name for a reason. Just as I told the kids when we did our literary analysis work, the finest authors do not use names lightly. So, today I stand, looking proudly into the valley, chest heaving, legs trembling from the long climb beside my life's work. Completion of that task once more.

But, I can already hear the grains of sand crunching beneath this year's stone. (Or is it the sound of gravel beneath bus tires?) The rock is already beginning to roll back down the mountain.


In two short months, the dust will have settled and I will find myself, once again, at the base of that mountain, leaning into a rock, and pushing it, once again, against the pull of fate and gravity.

I wouldn't have it any other way. I like to think that Sisyphus got what he wanted and was happy to pay his eternal price. I know I am. It has been a privilege and honor to work with your children this year-to push and cajole them, to encourage them to stretch themselves, to give them the opportunities to reach and grow. To have gained the top of the mountain is as much their victory as it is mine or yours (you were there for the whole trip, too, afterall). Thank you for all your support along the way (you kids will thank you someday, too, I think).

So, before I begin the long march back down the mountain to meet my rock, I wanted to tell you all, the view from up here is beautiful. The sun is shining brightly beneath an azure sky, birds wheel through clean air and I feel great hope for the future. Your children's future.

Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mom? Can I ask you a question?

When this phrase tumbled out of Shea's mouth last week, I realized that I had never heard him say it before. Hard to imagine, I know.

Most kids ask questions and chatter non-stop...unless, of course, they have verbal communication difficulties then questions come for their eyes and hands and word approximations. Parents intuitively learn a whole new alternate language so we know how to communicate with our kids. But what about the big old impatient world?

This week, I was one of 24 field trip parents for Shea's Kindergarten visit to the Pt. Defiance Zoo. 40+ kids, 2 teachers and many, many very involved parents made the trip together on a big school bus. We were blessed with a wonderfully brief bus trip, but as we bounced along three to a seat, I heard all around me Shea's peers talking, telling jokes, sentences just rolling of their tongues, all of them taking speech very much for granted.

I wish that those usually easy to roll off the tongue sentences and phrases didn't get stuck, stilted, dropped. For Shea, sentences don't just naturally flow; each word is a labor and putting them together is a juggling act with a seemingly long drop that takes great patience for him and the listener.

Honestly, it is hard to hang in there with him to the end. I holler at Molly when she finishes his sentences because he needs to just bang through it, to practice. But I do it too. Usually in my head but sometime out loud when I can tell he is loosing the thought and getting frustrated.

The other day he said, "Remember when that was ice?" pointing to a tarp in the back yard with icky mosquito water in it. Yes, indeed, there was ice in there last winter and that he mentioned this sort of floored me.

I don't think he has ever said "Remember when..." before and I am thrilled that he is beginning to do it now. How wonder how he see his own struggles with speech?

Sometimes I say, "Shea, you are such a good talky-talky now. Do you remember when it was hard?" Wish he would answer me but he doesn't. I wonder if he will look back and think, "Talking was hard for me when I was a kid." Or will it be much more present, "Talking is hard for me and has been that way since I was a kid."

In the early days, I used to have bittersweet dreams about Shea where he was talking and saying words. Just being able to hear his sweet little voice felt like a gift.

Now, I dream about having a real conversation with Shea where he tells me what he is thinking or dreaming of or imagining or hoping to do. A conversation that is not Wii or Fudge pop related.

I hope that happens some day.

Life is not fair. They say it and I say it because it true. It isn't fair that for some kids talking is excruciatingly hard or that for some kids walking, focusing, socializing, breathing, listening is excruciatingly hard. A magic wand would be nice but all we have is our individual ways of coping.

So, no, life is not fair but I remind myself yet again, there is room in the world for Shea and all the other kids who have to work so hard to do the things that are so much easier for their peers. There is room for of them and they will be stronger, more patient, more adaptable people because of it.

I sure hope so.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hey Dude! Where your teeth?

Oh yeah.

That is a mighty fine stretch of empty space where your teeth used to be there, buster!

I didn't know that a kid could loose both front teeth in one weekend! One, sometime during Friday night while Shea slept. Ahem...we never found that one and believe it may be "processing".

The second one happened Sunday morning at breakfast. I heard a loud crunch and Shea got a freaked look on his face. Sure enough, 2nd front tooth fished out of the soggy Gorilla Munch. Tasty.

Tooth fairie was able to pay up for that one! Still a buck per tooth. Inflation has not hit the TF yet.

The adorableness factor is pretty high around here and, man, are those big boy teeth blasted through fast.

Friday, June 4, 2010


What takes 60 hours...
plus another 30 to prepare...
a family striving to be quiet for 2 months so mom can study...
a long drive in the rain in Tacoma...
2 1/2 hours parked in front of a generic Dell laptop...
ear plugs to block the noise of nervous teeth grinding...
and, of course, the commitment and decision to "Just do it"?

Yes, that's right, The Washington Real Estate Salesperson exam.

And, I passed! Sure glad that is done!

Was it hard? Not really, it is no rocket science but it can be crushingly dull at time. By the end of all that I sure feel like I know it backwards and forwards though.

For what it is worth, I can check that off my list.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

God, how e-mail I received this week

Mass e-mail from a Vashon School Board member:

The Budget Crisis: What’s At Stake for Our Vashon Schools?

Do we give up the educational program we have now; a program that balances academics, arts, and athletics and that gets students who want to go to college into fine schools? Are we willing to settle for a bare-bones program, that isn't sufficient preparation for most colleges? Can we give up classes in physics, chemistry, foreign language, math, creative writing, and much, much more?

If we let the quality of our schools go downhill, the entire island community will suffer. Who will buy homes here and who will patronize our island businesses if families cannot get a good education for their children here? Will we lose the vitality that comes from our present mix of talented people when families move away?

The state of Washington has broken its promise to provide a free, adequate public education. Our state ranks 45th in the nation, behind Mississippi, in state funding per pupil for K-12 schools. But islanders are good at taking charge of things we care about. If we care about maintaining the quality of our schools, then we have to raise the funds ourselves.

Other island communities such as San Juan and Bainbridge have formed schools foundations to sustain excellence in education in their communities. The future of our schools is at stake and we must do the same.

Our immediate fundraising goal is $500,000 – that’s what is necessary to sustain current programs and avoid devastating cuts. It’s the beginning of a commitment to develop an independent schools foundation to ensure adequate funding for our future.

Please donate what you can to help us reach our $500,000 goal.

We are looking for at least 10 families to donate $10,000 or more each.

We are looking for at least 100 families to donate $1,000 or more each.

If you cannot donate that much, please consider a donation of $500 or whatever you can.

You can donate at our website,, using PayPal in monthly installments
or a single lump sum. PayPal charges us 3%, so if you want all of your donation to
benefit the schools, please drop off a check at the District Office, located on the lower floor
of Chautauqua, or mail it to: P.O. Box 547, Vashon, WA 98070.

Wow, that is so depressing. We are still trying to figure out how much to cough up this time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kindergarten concert; this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

Just taking a quick look at the really long buffet table was all the information that was needed.

It must be the end of year Kindergarten concert where a fleet of overachieving parents of 1st children (?) brought enough food for the entire school. Food is a loose description because most of it was sugary, trans-fat, preservative laden crap which looked so damn delicious it was near torture to be around it.

But first the actual concert.

Two different classrooms of Kindergartners were on stage and started off the show with a bang with "This little light of mine" which sort of seemed gospel-y and somewhat religious but I decided I just wasn't going to go there.

They took turns to sing a ditty or do a little dance. Of course, it was supremely adorable and my hat went off to the music teacher who managed all those kids and kept it fun.

How did Shea do? Well, considering most of the show had to do with singing, he didn't really participate much. Although he did clap with enthusiasm and scan the audience for us. Once he spotted us, he beamed and waved, a little intrigued by all this being up in front of everyone thing.

When he was up there next to verbally precocious kids, I loose all sense of proportion. He seems so darn behind. But, Jake says, "He is right in there in the middle; not the top, not the bottom."

The highlight was the little dance number. Starting out slow, they got into circle groups, put out their hand and made a little merry-go-round then when the chorus started they were supposed to find a wacky pose and freeze. Shea was a bit dazzled and distracted by all the antics but finally got into the swing.

They all took big bows and seemed genuinely thrilled at all the applause as I was misting up from cuteness overload.

Now, back to the table full of trashy food. I guess I am sensitive. It just seems completely counterproductive to bring sugar, sugar and more sugar to these things. Not to mention everything has wheat so Shea just gets tormented. I try and scurry and get him a plate of non-contraband; like the Rice crackers and cheese slices that I brought. But who wants that when all you see is cookies, cupcakes and brownies.

We wonder why we have an obesity problem in this country. Who wants grapes when a brownie is sitting right next to it? Ok, sure, me but not most kids.

Wish it wasn't that way. I remember a teacher putting her foot down and saying no sugary stuff for the kid's parties. Hurrah! Much grumbling from parents who think 3 desserts a day a well adjusted child makes.


Anyway, the food storm passed and the kids whirled out of the room for recess. Taking the opportunity to twit a little bit, I was chatting with Shea's para-educator. "Will Shea be ok for 1st grade next year? I am just feeling so scared for him and am now having buyers remorse about going ahead with 1st grade."

She nodded and said, "It will be different but he is ready and it would be a real disservice to him to not let him try it because his academics are there."

Ok then, 3 more weeks of school to go then off with the old and on with the new.

Privacy? What privacy?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Learning how to put disappointment in perspective

We just got back from the "Math is Cool" state championships held in lovely Moses Lake, WA.

Hundred of kids from dozens of school come from all over the state to participate with parents, siblings and math coaches in tow.

Most participants arrive on Friday, stay at a nearby hotel and arrive bright and bushy tailed on Saturday morning ready to "math is up".

That is certainly what we did. I had the added pleasure of having the math coach with me this year, a totally terrific fellow who was an absolute pleasure to have along.

All the Vashon 6th grade families that were participating had coordinated to stay at the same hotel and meet for dinner together. Amazingly we managed to find a very nice restaurant, a serious cut above SubWay which is my usual worry about trips like these.

We hit the sack early and a certain middle schooler (who shall remain nameless) managed to sleep like a brick from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am while I tossed and turned all night having bizarre anxiety dreams.

Morning dawned sunny and warm, moods were high and enthusiastic and breakfast was predictable. We all headed off to the big show down with springy steps and palpable desires for math glory.

So, how did it all go? Well, a little bit underwhelming.

Don't get me wrong. The kids did great! They really did. 2 of the team of 4 placed in the top 8 and got trophies! But, as a team they did not place in the top 4 in their division therefore did not get ribbons.

The mood was grim but rebounded a bit when they realized that they were actually 6th. Not good enough for ribbons but certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Plenty of pats on the back followed and appropriately adult comments like, "It doesn't really matter about the winning because it is such an honor to even be here."

Which is all true. And, such a typically adult way of couching disappointment with good perspective.

Then it started me thinking. Maybe the real lesson isn't about who can do statistically probability in their heads the fastest but the ability to put all these competitions in the appropriate perspective.

Maybe the real role of these things is a lesson in handling disappointment well, in a healthy way, in a way that doesn't de-rail egos and mangle self-esteem.

I sure hope so.

I guess if I knew that was indeed true, I wouldn't be so nervous about my daughter being swept along on this ride. I mean, how damn competitive does math have to be!?

I guess the answer is in the reaction.

Does she want to do it again next year? You bet. She even said that she might prepare a bit more next year. Considering she prepared exactly ZERO this year, I think an important lesson was learned.

And, about handling the disappointment? She promptly came home and made 6th place ribbons for everyone on the team plus her coach because, after all, it was an honor to even be there.

Lesson learned.
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