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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vanity rules or confessions of a big fat loser

Middle age; perhaps the bane of our extended life span or maybe I should say the expanding waist band.

We all know it sneaks up on us. A pound here and a pound there. Slower metabolism is the culprit. The habit of finishing your kid's food because you don't want to waste it! Treating ourselves because, dammit, we deserve it. You know, just getting soft.

Goodies, lunches out, several delicious fortified beverages on occasion because well...we do indeed deserve it. It is pretty easy to just wear comfy-er pants, maybe just bump it up to achieve a roomy-er fit. Over the years though, it sure does catch up and you find you are going slower and slower because of it.

Did I deserve the extra 20 that was sitting uncomfortably around my middle? Well, I myself put it there over time so, yes, I did. But in all honesty it was taking a serious toll. Vanity? You Betcha! Health? Yikes! Sluggishness compounded by lack of tone compounded by, "OMG! I am 45! If I don't do something now, I may never be able to pull it together!"

Everywhere you turn there is inspiration AKA exasperation.

Take a look at Michelle Obama. No waif of a woman but healthy, strong and firm. I would pay big bucks to have toned arms like her. As she talks about childhood obesity and bringing important focus to this grave epidemic, us adults just get fat and fatter. Why would our kids stay fit and watch their weight when as they see their parents chomp on chips and buttered popcorn in front of the TV every night?

Well, all this guilt and the sharp unforgiving corners of brutal reality started me thinking. I guess just taking walks with my beloved GGFs was not enough. Obviously. So when a pal started hitting the gym in the morning instead of walking, I was intrigued.

Ok, honestly, I was annoyed. But she begged me to join her just to try it out. Nothing stressful. Layered in forgivingly stretchy and hiding clothes, I tentatively dipped my toe into a work out routine, 3 days a week.

My friend encouraged me to start out slow. Maybe warm up with a little treadmill, perhaps jump on the Elliptical machine to burn some fat, she enthused. There is a full weight room downstairs, might as well work my arms and do some crunches. If there is time, maybe take a dip in the pool, hot tub, sauna! Shower up and off to the normal gyrations of the day.

Wow. Hey! It wasn't so bad. In fact, it felt sort of wonderful to feel that trickle of sweat run down my back. Delicious, in fact. Even better than that bag of chips!

It didn't take long to feel completely different. Notice I say, "Feel" vs. "Look". I immediately felt kind of empty and purged and deliciously a good way.

I learned to stoke up my i-pod with pop tunes that my tween help me pick out. And, when I crank up the Lady Gaga tunes, close my eyes and sweat, I am the happiest camper on the block. This is my mommy time and I defend and protect it aggressively!

So, the lbs. were trickling away but DAMMIT! I started wanting some big impact. I started to want to feel transformed. So, I started taking a good hard look at my intake. Portion control and those -o-so-delicious-fortified beverages that I love so much.

Would I be willing to forgo micro brews for less flab? Well, yes. So I cut back then I just plain old quit. Cold turkey.

I can hear the collective sharp intake of breath from all those who know me and, perhaps, from those who don't. Quitting drinking was the big one for me. I began by not drinking on weeknights and for the first couple of weeks it was hard. 5:00 hit and my hand just felt empty without a brewski. So, I said to myself, "Only weekends." And, then, later, only if I wanted to.

I know, I know, hard to believe because I love to drink. I like the taste and the kooky buzz but let's admit it folks, a lot of time drinking can be self medication. And, I just decided that the medicine wasn't worth my spare tire.

So, I toss off one habit and took up another. A healthier habit. One that is literally putting years on my life. The amazing thing about habits is that it gets easier, you slip into auto pilot mode and you miss it if you stop.

To make a short story longer; I have lost 20 lbs. I went from a roomy size 14 to a satisfyingly snug size 8. I sleep like a brick. I don't feel like a lumbering lummux anymore. I am a good role model for my family who is coming along in my footsteps.

Do I work out everyday? Pretty much. On weekends? Uh...yes. I am sort of embarrassed to say it but "Hell yes, it is really mellow at the gym on weekends!" I guess I am obsessed.

So all in all, I feel like a new person, transformed, energized like I have my mo-jo back. How long did it take. Honestly, only about 3 months which doesn't seem like a very long time to transform your life.

Will I get bored and go back to my slovenly way? I am not sure. I hope not. The habit is ingrained now and I have successfully incorporated it into my schedule. I miss it if I skip a day. And, would certainly miss my new self.
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