Sunday, February 28, 2010

We say "Weeeeee!" for Wii

Being late adopters, it takes us a while to jump on the bandwagon. But for Christmas, I buckled and got a Wii for the family.

First, I barely knew what I was buying and if it wasn't for my tech savvy 11 year old I would have given up with annoyance.

But the contraption has arrived and has become a much bigger presence in our house than the little box implied.

Secondly, who likes the Wii? Oh, I tried it out, did some bowling, even through my back out a bit from being to vigorous (the first Wii injury in the house?) but the blush is off now and I couldn't care less.

Shea is the undisputed Wii king with Molly popping in every once in a when her Facebook chat is not as stimulating as usual. Although, it seems to devolve into argument which was definitely NOT the idea.

But Jake is the surprise. I was hoping he would like the tennis or baseball but WOW! does he like tennis and baseball! Nightly Jake and Shea battle it out on the courts. Shea has always been amazingly athletic with good reflexes and excellent hand/eye coordination but I didn't really think it would roll over to the Wii. I mean it is just a blasted computer game right?

I guess not.

Jake says it is really fun to play with Shea because he is so good. In fact too good to bowl against as he bowls a consistent 200. Is that even possible?

So, out of a box and magically plugged into the TV, my boys connect nightly with wicked overhead slams and amazing cross court volleys.

Psychologically, I think it helps Jake's winter blehs. And, I know it is some excellent bonding glue for Shea who admittedly is a bit of a mommy's boy.

While Shea and Jake tear up the courts from the comfort of our TV room, Molly sends me abbreviated comments on Facebook chat.

"Hi!" and "How r u?" she types from the other room. I always drop what I am doing and answer back although I can't get the hang of the jargon.

In a fit of worry, I asked her, "Will you always be honest with me if I ask who you are chatting with?" She hedges as graphic fears reach up my gullet, coupled with visions of the creepiest creepster somehow getting access to my beautiful daughter.

Annoyed, she changes the subject, thinking that I am being nosy about what boy she likes or what so and so said in the hall and then "OMG! She said what?". It prompts yet another talk about creeps and keeping yourself safe and not chatting with people you don't know. She nods, grave, a bit scared at my seriousness.

And, when she is at school sometimes, I check to see what she has been up to.

I am a spy...for love.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The brainy math girl posse

I was trying to describe my middle schoolers group of friends recently. Trying to define where she fit in, if she does at all. All I could come up with was that she hangs with the smart, kooky brainy kids. Kooky in the way that she is shamelessly ok with being clowny and possibly obnoxious at times but definitely unique and an individual. She has found some similarly kooky and irreverent kids and seems to have a solid thing going.

Perhaps we could call it the "odd duck" posse but what a posse to have.

I know there is mean girl stuff happening. Even in our bucolic little small town. Most of these kids have known each other since they were teenie. I know that the odd duck posse is very easy to point and laugh at although I think they are a little afraid to bug them too much. Who knows what they are capable of? Somthing horrendously embarrassing, no doubt.

But the odd duck posse seems to hang together for the joy and fun of it, not for preservation or protection. Thank god! But it is early daze yet.

Today the 6th grade math kids go off to the Math is Cool competition. This will be the 3rd year that my middle schooler has participated. The amazing lack of nerves and bold, raw confidence shows what it feels like to have a couple of these under your belt. She is "fired up and ready to go".

This year there are 2 full classes of advanced placement math. That is like 45 kids out of 110. What is that? Around 40%? When the try outs came down for the competition, my brainy math girl got the highest score in her one class shocking more than a few of the other kids and maybe the teacher too.

Needless to say she got her place on the team. They assemble 4 teams of 4 with 2 alternates. 16 kids out of the 45. I am sure there was disappointment out there. Wish it didn't have to be that way. Frightening how we hone these kids to be so competitive, putting them through the paces. Scary really. For some of them, competition is all there really is. We try to keep it a bit more balanced around here but it is hard.

So, 2 girls and 2 boys on each team. Thankfully, at least, they make sure there is gender equality for this thing! The other girl on my brainy math girls team is a kid she has known forever, a very competitive kid and not really a friend. Could she be considered one of the mean or popular kids? Probably, although I don't know. My kid's exuberance and joie de vive probably just bugs the hell out of her. Can't say I blame her. And, she is from a much more conservative family; politically, socially, everything.

Initially there was some dismay, so I tried to turn it on its head, "Because you guys are on the same team, all that competitiveness can be directed out! You guys will be a very strong team partly because she is so driven. She won't be competing against you but with you."

"Good point." she says and hasn't brought it up since. Hope that is how the other kid sees it too.

Because, you see, I am going to have to go strictly by hearsay. Again, I will not be going to help out. I wanted to, don't get me wrong. I wanted to real bad but my kid said no. But I went for the 4th grade one so I can pretty much imagine it.

So, I will hoover up the details, the gory and the glory, and send positive math thoughts and happy equation wishes to her all day! And, of course, faithfully report back.

Good luck brainy math kids! Life is so much more than winning a contest but, hey, winning feels pretty good! Go get 'em!


Just got the word; 1st place 3 years in a row!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Camelia. Camelia? Camelia!!!

Here in the NW we are skipping through the warmest late winter in our history. Or since anyone decided to keep track. A real honest to goodness El Nina year.

Unfortunately for our dear friends to the north in Canada, they have been forced to truck and helicopter in snow to Whistler for the Olympics. Can you smell the bacon burning on that one? So much for reducing our carbon footprint.

Oh well. I guess that will be the last time anyone tries to put on any Winter Olympics in a maritime climate zone.

So, all you folks out there still slogging through snow, I feel for you. It probably doesn't make it better but it makes me feel less guilty.

Instead of tossing out pointless platitudes, I am going to share my Camelia which does usually bloom in late winter or very early Spring around here but never so gloriously until now.

You know, some things take patience and this Camelia is one of them. I have had this baby for years, forgotten how many, perhaps 5. Bought it in a 1 gallon pot with 1 bloom on it that was so heavy it bent the whole thing down Charlie Brown Christmas Tree style.

But look at it now! I have planted it up against a south facing wall of the house that is somewhat protected. And, because I have loved it and actively NOT killed it, it is rewarding me with the boldest, pinkiest display of its life. Count them! Hard to. Lots of blossoms.

So, I have now decided I don't really mind getting older if I can see slow to medium growing stuff mature and bestow their gifts. And, its a damn good thing too. There is always another birthday around the corner!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

That time of year. Spring? No IEP meetings.

Shea is almost 6. This post is not about his birthday although we will be thinking of that quite soon.

6 is when the public schools crunch each kid with an IEP through all the developmental tests again plus reading, writing and math. They did the whole gambit of testing when he was three and now they will do it again for 6. Boy. Have we learned a thing or two since then.

Every year there is a mandatory IEP meeting near your child's birthday. Incidentally, a parent can request an IEP meeting whenever they want. Anytime you feel you need to share something important with your child's team, you can request a meeting.

But this year it is different. He is 6!

This morning we had the 1st of 3 meetings that will all happen within the next 6 weeks. It was the "intake" meeting asking us what we wanted to focus on, etc. General impressions, comments.

The 2nd will be after all the battery of tests are done and they will go over all the results. That was the one 3 years ago, where they pointed to a chart to show that Shea landed "less than average intelligence" for one of the test. Ugh.

The 3rd will be the IEP meeting that formally puts into writing everything we've decided.

Whew... Epic. No wonder they only do it every 3 years.

It was a lively meeting and several thoughts popped into my brain to share.

Like scheduling. They keep on suggesting 8:00 AM for these meetings! But Shea doesn't go to school until 9:00. So, how are both parents supposed to go to the meeting? The theory being that for teachers to be involved it has to be before school.

I think we all remember the main lesson I got out of doing this whole thing when Shea was 3. Never go to the meetings alone!

So, I gently insisted that 8:00 AM meeting isn't going to work. I suggested maybe it wasn't that important to have the teacher in the room with us at the same time as long as his case worker was there.

Sure enough. We worked around it. The teachers met early and then Shea's case worker and the psychologist met both Jake and I at 9:00.

But now they want to do the 2nd meeting at 8:00 again! Sorry, same answer. How many times do I have to explain this? I guess I don't blame them for asking but "hello?".

I did offer to do it after school and have Molly watch Shea. They probably won't like that but I don't really care! They can figure it out.

Another weird thing, sort of good I guess, that came up is the Kindergarten teacher thinks Shea may be ready for 1st grade next year.

Just as a reminder: the plan was to do another round of full day Kindergarten next year. This year was just a try-out and I was relieved to know that he was going to get another year to work on expressive language and social stuff, etc.

But now they say that there may not be full day Kindergarten next year. So they are sort of encouraging us to think about that but I have mixed feelings.

On one hand I am happy that Shea appears to be at grade level for academics and that the teacher sees him that way. Although all this upcoming testing will really help determine if he really is.

Yet his social skills and some behavioral stuff continue to come into play regularly. I am nervous about sending him off where so much more is going to be expected of him. Worried that he won't be able to succeed, that he will get lost in the shuffle

And, there lies my other concern, maybe I am the one that is holding him back. Maybe we need to push him a bit more, set the bar higher. I mean, so far it has worked out well this year.

Earlier than expected he could be part of the multi-age 1, 2, 3rd program that Molly went through. I know all the teachers. I love the program; it is very flexible and creative. Simply wonderful, in fact. I know the exact teacher. He would be hanging with the big kids and emulating up.

So, we are chewing on big things tonight and for the next few weeks. But I don't have to make it alone. I immediately sent off the news to his OT, SLP for comment with good observations and excellent points coming in as I write.

Oh, and another thing; the teachers say he raises his hand repeatedly in class to answer questions!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Close calls

It never fails to amaze me how a split second can and does change everything. One minute you are trotting along happily through life and BOOM! something happens to make it all different. Everything changes; sometimes just for a moment, sometimes for the rest of your days.

The human body is a frail thing; soft mushy tissue, delicate bones, flimsy muscles. Really no match for much of what life tosses at us. Luck is the trump card we hold close to the vest, jealously guarding it for just when you might need it most.

If you are lucky, which apparently I am, you get a strong stiff whiff of "what if?" and can try to resume your regularly scheduled existence.

It happened just like that over the weekend.

The kids and I were out and about on rainy, drippy typical Saturday in the NW. Popped into the tea shop for some refreshment and even enjoyed it. The kids didn't bicker much, Molly ran into one of her pals. Shea had a new little car to drive around the tabletop. All was right with the world.

After that we went to our favorite book store whose praises have been sung on my blog before.

Congratulations were in order as they may be one of the only small businesses in America doing so well they are able to expand their space during this blasted recession. The unveiling was close. The new room was painted with new wooden bookshelves lining the walls just waiting for the books that would soon fill them.

Kids being kids were farting around on the floor, rolling like puppies and actually not being too obnoxious. I poked around looking for something to leap out at me from the shelves and yell, "Read me!"

When I heard one of the nearby father's say, "Hey! Hey! HEY!!!!!" I looked up and one of the bookcases was not secured to the wall and was tipping forward and was heading for Shea. He was in the direct path and I could see one of the shelves headed straight for the base of Shea's scull.

The father who yelled and I raced across the room and caught the shelf with only about a second or two to spare. I really don't even know how long it took as time seemed to go into slow motion.

Shea was oblivious, he hadn't seen what was coming. Most of the other shoppers were oblivious too.

The father and I just looked at each other quite dazed. I thanked him as I was trying to get my breathing back to normal. My heart was beating fast as I tried to recover from the extra large squirt of adrenalin.

All I could do was herd by brood out of the store still visably shaken with a pounding heart. The image of that bookcase coming down on Shea is etched in my memory and will be there for a long time.

Then the "What ifs?" started rolling. If we hadn't gotten there in time. If that father hadn't been there to help me. If that bookcase squarely fell on Shea's head. If the local EMTs would've been able to handle it. If we would have been helicopter lifted to the city. If we would have spent the weekend, week, month at the hospital. If, if, if. The horrific possibilities are still swirling around my head.

When life slips you a free card like that, it is wise to acknowledge it. I did and do. I am quite aware of how close that was and how we squeaked through.

May we all be so lucky next time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blog guilt defined

Noun; the act of deep remorse for not updating your blog more often due to life, taxes, clients and epic middle school ancient Egypt projects.

Grows quickly and exponentially and will soon end up bigger than a bread box.

The only known antidote is to stop the bleeding! Sit down and start writing, for goodness sake!

Early diagnosis is helpful but doesn't necessarily shorten the duration.

Healthy sprinkling of condolences and/or apologies often greeted with quizzical expression. Only the afflicted appears to be in discomfort.
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