Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

I don't know why I thought this past weekend would be relaxing.  I obviously didn't look at my own calendar, lol! 

It was a busy weekend, starting with my husband taking Friday off to work on grouting the bathroom while I did the usual round of groceries and laundry, and spending Saturday trying to restore order to the house and having the kids clean their bedrooms.  Sunday was a marathon all by itself:  on top of Sunday school and church (my husband was playing organ and keyboards that morning), our daughter's soccer game was immediately afterward, and then we drove 2 1/2 hours to stay with my husband's family overnight.  We didn't make it to the soccer game before both kids had been grounded from the computer and TV for the day.  (They didn't get ready when I told them to, then they had a last-minute crisis because they weren't packed/snacked/pottied and were scrambling to get their stuff together, and we had to leave to meet other people to caravan down to the soccer field for an away game.)  Drama, drama, drama, and I was ready to send both of them parcel post to Abu Dhabi before the game even started.  Thankfully the game went well, and the girls tied, which was a good outcome considering two of our more skilled team members were out with injuries.

The game was supposed to be local, but rainy weather had flooded our fields, and we had to switch at the last minute to an away game, which meant we couldn't take our usual route from here to my husband's parents' house.  Instead of going on the interstate west and then taking a direct state route south, we wound up going catty-cornered through the Finger Lakes region - and if you know anything about that part of New York state, it's that there aren't too many ways to go directly anywhere east-west through there.  All the lakes and hills run north-south.  It was a lovely drive, though - up hill, down dale, past too many farms to count, through small towns, hamlets, creeks and forests.  It was a warm day, and the a/c in our car is kaput, but driving with the windows down wasn't bad at all.  The kids meekly asked if they could earn a privilege back if they were good all the way to Nana and Papa's house, so we said they could have the TV back if they didn't fight for the entire time.  Lo and behold, they managed it, and the TV privilege was restored.  We had dinner with my husband's parents, and his sister's family - it's always good to see them.  We were all late to bed, and woken up by a magnificent line of storms rumbling and flashing through in the wee hours.

The next day was just about as busy.  We had breakfast with my MIL/FIL, then we went across town (minutes, thankfully, not hours) for a family picnic at lunch with my parents, my sister Debbie, and my sister Tracey and her family.  A few hours and more there, then it was across town again to my sister-in-law's home, where we saw my husband's family again for another picnic.  By the time the second awesome picnic meal of the day was done, it was after 6:30, and we still had 2 1/2 hours to drive back home that night.  That was about 2 hours too much togetherness in the car for my kids and my husband and I, but we made the best of it.  We made it - just barely - without any major meltdowns.  

It was the most beautiful drive home, up 414 between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake - Amish country and wine country, with a drop-dead gorgeous view looking across Seneca Lake toward the sunset.  The air smelled alternately like honey locust trees, fresh cut hay, and dairy farms.  The light was low, misty, and golden, and the hills were almost as green as Ireland, patched with farms, homes, woods, waterfalls and wineries.   I wanted to take pictures, but discovered that I was out of battery power, so I just enjoyed the unrolling impressions as we drove.

The first daylilies of the year were blooming, bright yellow stars of what was probably Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus syn. flava, sometimes confusingly called the lemon daylily (the same as Hemerocallis citrina).  They were in odd places in hedgerows and fields, probably marking old homesteads, since the plant is a very old heirloom, pre-1600.  Irises were everywhere, too, and if I'd had the time I would have stopped to look at some of the heirloom varieties, recognizable from their narrower, drooping falls, and less ruffled form than modern cultivars.

The kids took turns playing DJ, with their MP3 players hooked up to the car radio.  We listened to quite the mishmash of music, from Francesca Battistelli and Susan Ashton to Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, Tears For Fears and Elvis.  Deejaying seems to be a new form of entertainment for the kids.  I'll have to get them some more music - their "stations" are a bit limited right now, lol.

The last time we took a long trip was last summer - 5 days in the car, from Upstate NY to North Carolina and back.  Oof, that was an undertaking.  It was mostly good, interspersed with moments of, "Why did we have kids, and why on earth are we traveling with them on purpose in a car for hours on end?"  Still, I would love to take a "real" vacation someday, one that involves hotels and sightseeing and someone else doing the dishes.  History.  Science.  Art.  Nature.  Restaurants that don't necessarily involve french fries.  Until then, we'll make the best of where we are, together.  Play me another tune, Mr./Ms. DJ!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I'd Rather Be Gardening. . . .

. . . .  than dealing with my daughter's attitude issues and trying to clean the house at the same time.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The drama is just amazing today.  Tantrums, excuses, legal wrangling worthy of Law & Order, logic more twisted than a bag of pretzels, tears, accusations, blame-shifting, denial, whining, and enough Mean Mom Merit Badges for a whole TROOP of mothers.  Gaaaah!!  But I'm winning.  This parenting girls thing is exhausting.

Of course, parenting Safety Guy is just as fun as parenting his sister. He's just having a better week than she is.  He even ate a hamburger last night.  What might be a "So what?" for any other kid is a BIG DEAL for him, since he has never liked hamburgers, or any food involving ground beef (it's a sensory/texture thing).  He actually ate a fast food burger at his friend E.'s house last night, with enough ketchup to drown several burgers, and said he liked it.  Our son ate a burger!  Hooray!!   Wait, oh no, now he'll want to eat burgers - I can see the money flying out of our wallet now. . . .

So, I'm going to post some garden photos, just to remind myself that there's life aside from raising kids.  Here's what's going on around the yard this week:

 It's iris season.  This is an unknown heirloom, 
from my friend Sharon's farm.

 The north side of our house, my mostly shady garden.

 Sedum 'Angelina,' a gorgeous bright chartreuse year-round.

 The little rhododendron that I didn't think was going to make it.  
It's determined to prove me wrong.

 Oriental poppy 'Brilliant,' one of my favorite flowers EVER.  
I love the screaming orange-red contrasted with the muted purple anthers.
I've got to try to paint this someday.

 Violet purple lupines, winter sown 2010 and now blooming.

 Lily of the valley from my friend Kim - I love the fragrance.

 Iris 'Striped Butterfly,' a gorgeous heirloom I brought from our old house.

 'Meadow Lark,' another heirloom iris I brought along during the move.

 Hosta 'Piedmont Gold,' another transplant from the old house.  
Amazing color.

 My little dogwood tree is blooming.  
It's rallying from it's rabbit-nibbling injury over the winter.
We'll see how it does through the next winter.

 Chive blossoms - lovely in their own way.

 The east side of the house, and the partially painted deck.  
We need more dry weather before we can finish the deck; 
we may be waiting a while.

 A lovely blue iris.  I can't remember the name now (oops), but it's still a beauty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Painting Again - Finally

My creative instincts are starting to function again, and it's a good thing.  I've received a commission to do a painting and the design for a large mosaic for Union Center Christian Church in Endicott, New York.  They will also be having a show and sale of my work the same weekend the painting is given to the church.  The theme of both the painting and the mosaic is Pentecost.  I'm finally  getting the chance for some mental housekeeping, since I've had an image stuck in my head since we first talked about the possibility of this commission last year.  My friends at Union Center have been very supportive of my efforts to turn my art into a reality, and they encouraged me to participate in several of the art shows hosted by the church over the past five years.  I hope I can do justice to this work for them.

This will be my biggest painting to date, at 18" x 24" on a deep, gallery-wrapped canvas.  I did the first stages of the image today, and I'll be adding to it over the next couple days before I'm ready to "overdraw" it.  (I haven't decided if I'll stick with the Micron markers for that, or use a very fine brush and black paint.)  I hope it turns out like I imagine.  I'm sure it will go through some changes before it's done.  I want it finished by the end of the weekend, or early next week at the latest.

I'm taking pictures at each step of the painting, so I'll have a chronology to share here when I'm finished.  The design for the mosaic has been agreed on, and now I'm sourcing and pricing materials.  I found some amazing little glass tiles that are root-beer brown with iridescent copper streaks that will a great accent color.  I'll be scoping out more materials tonight while our son is at Sylvan for tutoring.  Princess Yakyak was with me last night as I went to Lowes and Home Depot to look at tiles, and she was happy to be my "color consultant."  The painting will be in brighter, more primary/jewel tones, and the mosaic will be in earth tones, but similar in their treatment of the theme of Pentecost.

The mosaic will be a community project, where I'll draw the design on the wood frame (being constructed by another member of the congregation), and everyone at church will have the opportunity to work with me to place the tiles one Sunday at two services (morning and evening).  I'll grout the mosaic a few days later.  I'm excited to have this chance to see and work with so many old friends.  Even though I love our new church here, I still feel very much at home at Union Center.  Pentecost Sunday isn't that far away - I need to get moving, and hopefully these two projects and the show will help me to regain some creative momentum.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dust Dervish

Since we spent a lot of our weekend working either outside or in the basement (and we got a LOT done, really), the rest of the house went to heck in a handbasket.  It looks like a troop of baboons had a party here.  Or like we're getting ready to move, only without the luxury of boxes to put the piles of stuff in.  And it happened so FAST.  My house was pretty neat early last week, I swear.  You'd never know it to see it this morning.

I spent a good chunk of today trying to restore order - put things away, get rid of surplus stuff (trash/Salvation Army/trade in to the used book store), clean dirt wherever I found it (distressingly common), and generally tried to transform our living space from a place that looks like a dust devil tore through a garage sale into a neat, clean, fresh-smelling home. 

This will be a multiple-day process.  Right now I'm deep in the "it will look worse before it looks better" phase of a thorough clean-out.  So far I've created three boxes of books and videos to take to the used book store (store credit for more books and videos - wait, isn't that counterproductive?), and two garbage bags of, well, stuff I'm sure needs to be thrown out.  The kids each have a bag of stuff I've collected from all over the house for them to put back in their bedrooms.  (They get to clean their own bedrooms, later this week.) 

And I've been sorting books.  This happens a couple times a year, it seems.  I cleared a book shelf, redistributed its contents, moved the shelf upstairs to our bedroom, and filled it with some of my paperbacks (which have been sitting in stacks crowded onto a smaller shelf).  Moving books around is always like a puzzle:  move one stack, find a place for it by cleaning another row of books off another shelf, sort some books into boxes for getting rid of, find new homes for the keepers, and start the circle over again.  I've still got boxes of books in the basement from the move that we haven't opened yet.  Yes, I'm a bibliophile from a family of bibliophiles, and my kids love books too.  My husband has his own dedicated bookcase in the bedroom (full), but I'll easily admit that my books would dwarf his books if they were set side by side, by probably 8:1. 

There actually is a deadline for some of this cleaning and home improvement:  Father's Day weekend, when my sisters and I are taking my parents on a day trip on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for their anniversary, then coming back here for a family picnic before sending them to spend a night at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, NY.  It will be a family reunion, sort of, and I want the house to look its best.

Well, enough blogging - back to cleaning, before I have to run Safety Guy to tutoring.  I've got traveling songs running through my head, and "Wheel In The Sky," as I try to keep up with my life.  It's been nice to be busy, and play my tunes all day long.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Room Of His Own

A room of his own.  No, not for our son - he has his bedroom, and his "man cave" (part of the basement).  And no, not for my husband (although he would very much LIKE to have a room of his own, and we hope to bless him with that when we get around to finishing the basement).  It's B.C., the Bad Cat himself.  He's 16 now (give or take a couple weeks), and having more trouble than ever with doing his business in the litter box.  Since we won't give him away or send him to a shelter, and putting him down isn't an option (he's not  terminally sick or in pain), and using a smaller cage was a resounding failure, we've taken the only step we could think of.  We bought a 10' x 10' x 6' chain link dog run, and put it up in the basement.

It has all the comforts of home - litter box, food and water, a soft bed, his scratching post, and even a bench by the window so he can see outside.  And it just makes me so sad to know that he'll have to spend much of his remaining time (which may be years still) down there.  I won't wake up to him snuggling into me in the morning, and we won't be able to let him out of our sight when we bring him upstairs.  I won't get to fall asleep with him purring.  It feels like pushing away an old friend, punishing him for something he can't help and is totally clueless is a problem for us.  It may be for his own good (and the good of our house), but it stinks.

We had a clear morning and afternoon, and a soccer game for Princess Yakyak after church.  Her team didn't win, but she played well.  I got quite a sunburn, on my arms and upper chest - ooch, it stings.  I forgot the sunscreen.  C'est la vie.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Annoying Friends, and a Sleepover

Safety Guy had his friend E. sleep over last night.  He knows E. from school (they're in the same classes), and they're in Boy Scouts together.  During the course of the evening they had pizza, played on the Wii, watched part of a movie, went for a bike ride, and had a water gun fight.  Then they moved on to more snacks, wrestling, YouTube videos, computer games, more Wii, crashing Matchbox cars, building with Magnetix, and finally watched a Wallace and Gromit video and some Loony Tunes before crashing for the night.

In that time, 5 1/2 hours of total togetherness before bed, E. managed to get totally on Safety Guy's nerves, multiple times.  Now, getting on Safety Guy's nerves is pretty easy.  He has a pretty rigid comfort zone, and doesn't like randomness and unpredictability.  His friend E. has ADHD, and is randomness personified.

Amazingly, they're still good friends.  E. always apologizes when he pushes Safety Guy too far (which is almost daily, I gather), and Safety Guy gets his boundaries stretched and tested by his friend E.  E. doesn't seem flapped at all when Safety Guy loses his cool, and Safety Guy (eventually, with encouragement) apologizes for losing it at E.  Hopefully, E. is learning that sometimes his behavior needs to be thought through or modified to not bug others too much, and Safety Guy is learning that friendship is a give and take relationship - he has to compromise sometimes.  It's good for both of them.

One thing I really enjoyed was just listening to the guys interact.  It's so rare for Safety Guy to have a prolonged interaction with one person, and the ebb and flow of normal conversation and friendship is still a bit of a novelty for him.  A couple times during the evening he sought some space away from E., who didn't mind at all and happily went out for another bike ride with Princess Yakyak. I had to intervene a few times, telling E. that he really did need to back off (E. isn't very good at recognizing that "enough!" really means "ENOUGH!" coming from Safety Guy - that's the ADHD in action), and reminding Safety Guy that he really did need to be considerate of his guest's preferences too.  Compromise - that's such a tough thing for Safety Guy to get his mind around, but we walked through it without a meltdown.  In fact, now that I think about it, there were no complete meltdowns by anyone last night, just a handful of sticky moments.  Thank you, Lord, for an easygoing, forgiving friend for Safety Guy!

Another thing I was amazed by was the amount of physical contact Safety Guy put up with from his friend.  He's never been a rough and tumble kind of kid, he's never liked wrestling or any contact sports, and he has a very low tolerance for people being in his personal space.  To see him wrestling with his friend was fun (especially since his friend is half a foot shorter and at least 50 pounds lighter than he is, and still pinned him easily - if Safety Guy really put his muscle into it, his friend wouldn't have stood a chance).  They also were in close proximity while watching videos, when usually Safety Guy prefers to monopolize the whole couch and be left alone.  His friend has much less sensitivity to personal space issues, obviously, although he's not intrusive about it with adults.  I think I was finally seeing normal adolescent guy behavior at close range.  (I come from a family of 4 girls - brothers/boys are terra incognita for me, as far as living closely with them and seeing how they interact.  Whoa, are they different than girls!!  My husband says I just saw a slice of life with boys, and commented that Scout camp outs were just like this, multiplied by the number of guys participating.   I don't think I'd survive the testosterone overload if I went with them.)  It sounded like a herd of elephants rampaging in the house, in and out the doors, up and down the stairs, and through the yard, when it was just two 12 year old guys and a 9 year old girl.

The boys stayed up until midnight, and serious quantities of snacks were consumed.  Fart jokes abounded, wedgies happened, squirt guns were fired, video games were played, toy cars were crashed, everyone ran around a lot, sound effects and noise were everywhere, and great fun was had by all - what more could a couple twelve-year-old boys ask for?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's Raining Mean Mom Merit Badges

 Stormy weather, inside and out, this week.  
Did you hear the thunder?  Or the yelling?

Dear Lord, isn't it the weekend yet?  And what is up with my kids??  I'd swear they both have PMS (never mind they're both too young, and the boy is a BOY and the girly is only 9).  This has been the most snit-ridden, meltdown-spotted, attitude-overloaded week we've had in ages.  They can hardly be in the same room without getting on each others' nerves, and everything is a crisis.  To top it all off, I'm a really, REALLY mean Mom.  It's been practically raining Mean Mom Merit Badges all week.  Heck, I've probably earned a Mean Mom Olympic gold medal by now, and it's not even Friday yet.

Why am I so mean?  Let me count the ways, according to our son (don't worry, I'll get to PYY in a minute):

a)  I won't let Safety Guy have a laptop so he can have unsupervised internet access in his bedroom, or watch Netflix or YouTube whenever/wherever he wants (so he can avoid his sister and hole up in his man cave and only come out to hoover stuff out of the pantry and fridge).
b)  I won't let him have internet access on any device not in a public area of the house.
c)  I really DO know what he's been watching on YouTube, because he uses my account, and I am smart enough to check the recently viewed videos periodically.  He was mighty embarrassed that I could see he'd been looking at wedgie videos.  (Thankfully that was the worst thing he was watching - but he was mortified.)
d)  I had to tell him, "Just because your sister is having a rough week doesn't mean it's a good idea to get her wound up by being snarky and rude, and make it worse by telling her to shut up and go away every time she's within 10 feet of you, or whenever she talks or makes any noise in your presence."
e)  "When we go to church, you do have to ride in the back seat of the car - with your sister.  We're not driving two cars so you can avoid sitting next to her."
f)  "Yes, this is dinner.  No, you don't have to eat it - here's a glass of water.  Enjoy."
g)  "You have an alarm.  It's your responsibility to set it.  I am not your alarm, or your snooze alarm.  The bus will be here in three minutes, better move fast."  (He really did forget to set his alarm, and I woke up at 7:03 and alerted him.  I was very impressed:  he was up, dressed, and out the door in 3 minutes flat, eating a handful of animal crackers for breakfast as the bus pulled up to our mailbox.  Usually I'm up at 6:30 and knock on his door to make sure he heard his alarm.)

Princess Yakyak has also had an award-winning week of snits, meltdowns, whining and drama.  I've wanted to say all sorts of things to her, and I've managed to be (mostly) calm and reasonable in dealing with all the situations this week.  If my remarks were uncensored and came out the way I was tempted to say them, they might read a bit like this:

a)  You've been reminded daily for years now that you need to pick up after yourself in the bathroom.  So far this week you're 0/5 days.  Yes, we noticed the clothing, towels, and toilet paper rolls on the floor, and the toothpaste in the sink.  Pick up your crap!  Every day.  Enough already, and no excuses.
b)  Just because your brother is having issues doesn't mean it's a good idea to get him more wound up and make it worse.  Even though he's being difficult (okay, I agree he's been a total wienie, a real PITA lately - but you have too), calling him a "dorkchop"  at the top of your lungs won't help matters.  Really.
c)  Jumping up and down and screaming when your brother happens to sit down to watch the same Netflix show you just paused for later isn't going to help anything.  First, you look ridiculous.  Second, the whole neighborhood can hear you with the windows open (and I'm pretty sure the dogs across the street are howling at the high notes you managed to hit).  Third, it's NETFLIX.  You can go back to the place in the episode you left off any time you want, so stop having a hissy fit that your brother chose to watch the same thing and "lost" your place.  Fourth, he's allowed to watch Netflix too.  It's not your personal website or computer.  
d)  Haven't you learned yet that when you do something rude, I HAVE to discipline you?  Upping the ante and being rude in response to the discipline you have just earned means I have to discipline you AGAIN, and MORE SEVERELY, until you get the point and stop acting out.  Stop the hamster wheel and get off - if doing something gets you unpleasant consequences, back down.  You don't always get the last word. (This personality trait, this "I must have the last word and I'm always right" thing, will only bring you trouble. . . .)

And, addressed to both kids, "I don't know who forgot to flush the toilet, and I'm not going to go Torquemada on you two to find out who's lying about it, but I'll tell you both now:  FLUSH THE TOILET.  Even if it's not your business in it.  Don't come running to me to tattle that someone else didn't flush, because they WILL deny it was them, and it WILL result in a prolonged "He's lying!"  "No, she's lying!" spree.  I DON'T CARE.  If you do it, flush it.  I'll remind you to flush, in front of your friends and visiting family, until you remember to flush without my loving assistance."

Princess Yakyak's already been grounded twice this week, and Safety Guy lost his computer privileges early tonight because he can't stand having anyone in the room watching over his shoulder for even a moment, especially his sister, and he had a meltdown.  Never mind that the computer is in  THE LIVING ROOM.  We all live here.  We have eyes.  We're allowed to walk through the room and we will see what he's watching.  After the latest altercation, where he informed me that he could watch whatever he wanted and he would NOT stop the video, I had him turn off the computer, before his video was done, and sent him to bed.  It was ugly.  Very ugly.

So now I'm venting on my blog, thinking that maybe they'll read this in twenty years when they have kids of their own, and recognize themselves in their children.  (Or they'll print this out as evidence of parental imbalance when they go for therapy.)  I'm having a glass of wine.  It's raining outside, and it's peaceful and quiet.  Finally.

 Rainbow over Wegmans, Fairmount, NY.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Plate of Spaghetti

Have you ever tried to untangle a bowl of cooked spaghetti?  I feel like that's my life task lately.  Every time I pull one noodle, a half dozen others come along with it.  I can't tell which end is which.  They tend to slip out of my grasp.  And it's a messy job.  I need to make a list for every day now - who goes where, when they need to be there, what they need to bring, who's driving whom to/from wherever, and what needs to be done at home and on the go.  It doesn't help that I've been a space cadet for the past several weeks and more.  My focus is erratic, my memory is patchy, and my equilibrium is shot.  Thyroid?  Perimenopause?  Stress?  All of the above?  One day at a time, one day at a time (oops just dropped a noodle), one day at a time. . . .

I'm getting together my ideas for the two commissions I have for our former church, and going down to meet with my friend Tamara about the projects tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to the drive and the fellowship, the ideas and the inspiration. I'll also get to visit one of my sisters while I'm down there, which will be great.

I finally took the step of asking for all of my work to be returned to me from The Lemon Tree gift shop.  They're lovely people, with a great business, but my items just aren't selling there.  Hopefully we can tie up everything and get the stuff shipped back to me in the next week or so.   Then I can restructure my Etsy shop and reopen it, and also take some items over to Hartsville Hollow.  Small steps, but I have to keep moving on.

We're getting a break in the rainy streak, and I'm going to go out and try to get more of my winter sown annuals planted.  Zinnias, cosmos, and others are waiting for their "forever homes," so I'd better get busy.  I'm trying to keep one jump ahead of all my chores this week, with mixed success.  Today's to do's:  ironing (not done yet), and steam mopping the downstairs tile and wood (done), then general kitchen cleanup, pet care, son to Boy Scouts and daughter to final chorus concert (at the same time, of course).  Wheee!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hanging On

It's been a discouraging week, and it's only Tuesday - I hope it's uphill from here, because there isn't much farther down to go emotionally at this point.  And what really bugs me is that I'm so down when there have been some very encouraging things happening lately.  I think I need to go talk to some girlfriends, and possibly my pastor as well, to sort some things out.  Snap out of it, self!  Pick yourself up and keep moving on.

Good things going on over the past week:

Safety Guy is doing well with his math tutoring; he's still going with a great attitude and working hard.  I've got a couple special items set aside for him when he meets some study goals.

I've done lots of planting in the garden, both of winter-sown stuff and plants from local nurseries:  nicotiana, foxgloves, columbine, tomatoes (beefsteak and plum, 5 varieties in all), peppers (sweet and hot, 4 varieties), and zucchini.  If the rain eases off later, I'll go back out and tackle some annuals (cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias).

Our son got a 92 on a math work sheet at school!  He said doing positive/negative numbers was easy, and I am so happy for his success.

The bullying has once again eased off for Safety Guy.  I'd like to hope we'll get through the end of the school year without another major upset.

Our daughter is doing great at soccer.  She's on a really nice team of girls, and she has two awesome coaches, and she's playing better every game.  I'm glad she's enjoying it so much.

My husband's new job is going very well.  He's settling right in and likes his coworkers.  There are the usual "getting up to speed" stresses as with any new job, but he's up for the challenge.  I'm so proud of him for being proactive and pursuing a job focusing on an aspect of programming he's wanted to pursue for years, and getting it.

I've received a commission for not one but TWO projects - a large painting, and a mosaic design, both for our former church.  I've been working on the mosaic design (as a community project for the church - a similar mosaic project was a great success several years ago), and I want to start the preliminary drawings for the painting later today.  The theme is Pentecost, and they've asked for both designs to be quite abstract.  This commission was actually mentioned to me as a possibility last fall, and at that time (immediately, while talking with them about it) an image suggested itself to me.  It's been stuck in my head ever since, so now is the time to finally get it turned into reality in two variations.

Tonight, while SG has tutoring, I'll get to spend a couple hours at Barnes & Noble, with a cup of my favorite decaf cafe mocha and a good book (that I plan to buy).  I am very much looking forward to this time to myself.  Funny, I have time during the day - but at home, it's not the same, surrounded by the usual merry-go-round of chores and family stuff.


Attitude, attitude, attitude - my own, and my kids' (especially Princess Yakyak, who's been acting very hormonal for a 9 year old, not to mention the GIRL DRAMA), and my husband's.  We've all been struggling lately, for various reasons.

Too busy - we knew it would be like this through the end of the school year, with my husband's new job, the bathroom renovation project, school winding down, soccer for PYY and tutoring for SG, not to mention our usual duties with Boy Scouts and church activities.  Stop the world, I want to get off!  July can't get here soon enough for all of us.

Sibling rivalry.  The kids have been on each others' nerves a LOT lately, and so they've been on mine and my husband's nerves too.  Lots of Aspergers moments with SG, lots of drama from PYY, lots of "It's not fair!" and he said/she said moments all around.  In other words, just life with two strong-willed, smart kids.  (How in heaven's name do people survive having more than two kids and raising them to be pleasant, productive adults??  I bow at your feet in awe. . . .)

Geriatric pet issues.  'Nuff said.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Will Work For Electronics

We had fun going to garage sales today.  Princess Yakyak was a bit tetchy this morning, but seemed to regain her good humor once we finally got out the door.  (We had a go-round of, "I can't find my wallet - someone must have moved it!"  "No one moved your wallet - where did you leave it last?"  Turns out it was in her book bag, which is not where it usually gets left.  She was convinced someone else put it there.  Arrgh, someday she'll really LISTEN when I tell her that she needs to be responsible for her stuff.  Maybe when she has kids of her own.)

We hit a number of sales, and today was Safety Guy's lucky day.  Not only did he find a DVD (G-Force) and a book, but also a good record turntable and speakers.  He also found a PS1 game system with a bunch of games and a controller.  He now owes me five hours of yard work to make up the money he owes me.  He's delighted with his finds, and willingly agreed to schlep mulch and top soil around the yard and help me with other outdoors chores.  (I asked him several times if he was sure, pointing out that he would have to work for me with a good attitude.  He swore he could do it.  Hopefully he won't try to renege on his deal, or I'll be the proud owner of a PS1, turntable and speakers. . . .)  Princess Yakyak found some goodies, too - a couple horse books, a DVD (Racing Stripes), a tiny stuffed giraffe, a kids' digital camera, and a handful of cheap tchotchkes.  A trip to Dunkin' Donuts on the way home made life complete for all of us.

I must be crazy.  Nothing electronic bought used ever works perfectly the first time, and drama is inevitable.  (And we really don't need drama today - my husband is tiling the bathroom, and our son has a friend over for the day.)  But I seem to have lucked out for a change:  the turntable works fine, my husband has an amplifier Safety Guy can use (temporarily) with his turntable and speakers, and the PS1 worked on the first try.  We're still figuring out the camera (which luckily said "never been used" and came with directions and accessories).

What did I get today?  A book.  And the fun of treasure hunting with the kids.  We'll do it again sometime later in the summer.

I'm enjoying the sounds of Safety Guy and his friend E. in the basement, playing on the PS2.  I'm hearing lots of good humored joking, exclamations of, "Whoa, dude!", and the occasional body noise (don't ask - they're 12, and that's all you need to know).  And encouragement, from each of them for the other.  That's amazing to me, and I'm so glad to hear them building each other up.  E. has stood up for Safety Guy in class against the bullies, and come in for some bullying himself for his stand.  Safety Guy has done the same for his friend.  I'm glad we were able to get them together for the day, and that it's working out so well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Fine Day

The last in our run of lovely weather, we had a tiny sprinkle this morning before the sun and warm temps returned for the day.  Too bad I couldn't enjoy the morning much, after a poor night's sleep (due to thyroid issues).  I didn't get out and about until after lunch, when I felt better.  Groceries also weren't conducive to getting out into the yard, but I did pick up some more annuals to use on the shady side of the house.

I got to spend a chunk of the evening outside.  I'm on a mission to get my winter sown babies into the ground by the end of the weekend.  It's supposed to be greyish and rainyish for the next few days, which is good weather for planting.  I spent a pleasant evening outside, planting and weeding.  I got the store-bought pansies, coleus and impatiens in the ground and in containers, as well as planting my winter sown foxgloves and catnip.  I also got two store-bought tomatoes planted in a raised box ('Mr. Stripey' and 'Cherokee Purple').  My winter sown tomatoes and peppers are still tiny - it wasn't a warm spring, so they're a little behind.  I may break down and buy pepper plants as well.

Tomorrow the kids and I are going to go garage saling, while my husband works on laying the tile in the little bathroom.  I'm excited to get out with the kids, and they love the treasure hunt aspect of garage sales.  I'm sure Dunkin' Donuts will figure in there somewhere.  Then Safety Guy has a very rare thing tomorrow:  a friend of his is coming over to hang out.  (I can't call it a "play date" any more, since he's not little, but that's what it amounts to.)  He's not usually very comfortable having other people in his space, so having someone over is a big deal.  His friend E. has his own issues (ADHD and Aspergers), but they share some interests (video games, Star Wars, and Boy Scouts), so I expect they'll have fun.  Safety Guy doesn't have many close friends, but E. is one of them, and I'm glad they'll get to hang out.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Decks, and Owning 40+

This week has been taken up by an outdoors project for me - staining our deck.  We knew we'd need a good run of totally dry weather to manage it, and early this week I realized that we were actually going to get the dry weather we need.  So, strike while the iron is hot, I guess, and I've spent the past two days working on the deck.  I'm quite a ways along in the project - all of the railings, and more than half of the deck planks.  I'll finish the planks today, but the skirting around the deck (which is raised about 15" off the ground) might have to wait for another dry spell, since we're expecting showers tomorrow night and Saturday, and whatever I do today needs 24 hours to dry.

It's been good to be outside and busy, just me and the radio, with the cats supervising from the screen door and the windows.  The weather has been gorgeous - 70s yesterday, and around 80 today, and very clear.  I've been applying heavy-duty sun block so I don't fry myself.  Tanning, yes; burning, not so far - maybe a tiny bit on my arms.

Along the way, I can really, really tell I'm not 30 any more.  Forty was a little while ago, and my body is telling me so.  Loudly.  Funny enough, it's not my arms/shoulders giving me pains, it's my back.  Time to exercise more and cut back on other things - again.  Still.  More.  Whatever, I need to move more and continue to eat healthy stuff.

Related to fitness stuff, last weekend our daughter really wanted me to go for a bike ride with her, since she had her new bike.  I haven't ridden my bike in years, like a decade or more, and it's in pretty rough shape, so I borrowed my husband's bike, lowered the seat a couple inches, found my helmet, and hit the road with her.  I was dismayed that my balance was a little wobbly at first, happy that I could still ride, and thrilled that it came back so easily.  The best part:  I was able to ride the bike back up the hill to our house - I didn't think I'd be able to do that.  Maybe I'll abscond with my husband's bike again to ride with PYY, and maybe we'll even pick up a nice used bike for me later in the summer.  One with a cushy old lady seat - my behind wasn't thrilled with the hard little seat on my husband's bike.  This is one area where comfort will win out over style with no embarrassment on my part.

Well, back to work on the deck.  Advil is a wonderful drug. . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Compassion for Bullies

A weed or a beautiful flower? 
A reject or a hidden treasure?
A bully or a hurting child of God?

We got an interesting email from our son's principal recently, in response to our concerns about Safety Guy being bullied.  We love our son's principal - she does a difficult job really well, and she's got her hands full this year.  Our son's class seems to have an overabundance of kids with behavior issues, and we know his teachers have had a really rough year (there are two teachers in the room, one for special ed and one for regular ed, and they team-teach math and ELA).  This school has been great for our son.

Safety Guy's principal said that she'd talked to one of the bullies, and that the student confessed that he sometimes picks on our son because of peer pressure.  Some kids instigate, some follow along.  This kid was a follower in this case, and told the teacher that peer pressure was why he had been acting the way he had toward our son, even though he usually likes him well enough.  I was so proud to read that this other child had recognized why he was making a poor choice, and it instantly reminded me that a bully is someone else's child, hurting and confused and acting out, and under pressure from their classmates to find their place in the school pecking order.  I hope this student can make changes in his life to treat others better, and learn to feel better about himself, without the need to follow a poor example just to fit in or get some short-term social "fix."  I hope his parents are as concerned about him as we are about our son, and love him just as much.

The principal also told us that she had observed Safety Guy in the cafeteria one day recently, because that's where he's had some difficulty (unstructured, crowded, noisy situations are always hard for him).  She said that she saw another kid crowding him, and that Safety Guy asked him to give him some space.  No freak out, no yelling, just an everyday interaction, simply requesting an adjustment of seating.  I'm proud of our son that he's using his words more often to solve social crises.  Another meltdown that didn't happen, and another child who didn't get his feelings hurt or provoked by our socially insensitive and often confrontational son.  Progress on both sides - it's a beautiful thing.

I realized a long time ago that the bullies I went to school with were in pain themselves, some of them having rough family lives I couldn't even imagine or relate to.  I couldn't (and don't) excuse their hurtful actions, but I can see now that they were victims just as much as I was, and hurting just as much in their own way.  We acted out differently, with aggression on their part, and withdrawal on mine.  We've tried to tell our kids that bullies are usually hurting and insecure within themselves, acting out from fear or anger (or both).  We don't have to be a doormat for their bad behavior, but we also shouldn't forget that they're people too - just other children of God, broken and sad from the effects of sin that surround all of us, and that we all too often commit ourselves.  No one is perfect.  Justice needs to walk hand in hand with compassion.  Our forgiveness does not mean that the bully who hurt us will ever acknowledge that they did anything wrong, or that the situation will improve any time soon.  And, consequences follow all of us, for good or bad choices.  This is one of the hardest parts of growing up, in my opinion - learning how to deal with anyone who hurts you.  It's a lifelong journey, because all through life we'll hurt and be hurt.  It's how we react to it and walk on that determines our inner peace (or lack thereof) and the quality of our relationships.

So I'm rejoicing in small victories this week:  our son handling an uncomfortable social situation calmly, and a bullying kid recognizing why he has acted a particular way toward someone he otherwise likes.  May both our son and the other family's son grow past their differences and learn to get along.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Morning Drama, Brought To You By Aspergers

It's always the little things, it seems, with our son's Aspergers Syndrome.  Once Safety Guy gets into a routine, it's really hard on him to have something change that routine.  This morning we had a really good example of that phenomenon.  (We call it the "who moved my cheese?" problem, based on the book, and the idea that dealing with change is harder for some people than others.)

Usually Safety Guy is up before his sister on school mornings.  He gets up, gets dressed, turns on the Mac and has breakfast while watching a few YouTube videos before heading out to catch the bus.  That's his routine; it happens like clockwork.  This morning, though, his sister was up early and got on the Mac first.  Oy vay, you'd think the whole world had conspired against Safety Guy to derail his morning.  It wasn't fair, she did it on purpose, why did she do that when she knows that he uses the Mac EVERY MORNING, why couldn't she just get off and let him do his thing, didn't she know this was HIS TIME to be on there, she ALWAYS got up earlier just to get on the computer, he couldn't believe she'd do such a thing, etc.  (All this fussing is going on with him sitting on the end of my bed, while I'm just waiting in my nightgown, watching him melt down.  This is NOT how I like to start my day, either, I wanted to tell him.) 

I told him first that I was NOT going to tell her to get off the computer, because she has just as much right to it as he has, and she did get up first today  I also told him that his accusation of "she's always getting up first to get on the computer before me" was bogus, because most days he does get up earlier and get the computer first.  I reminded him that life isn't going to let him go first all the time, and that sometimes our routines will be changed by other people or circumstances we can't control and we'll have to deal with it.  We can't expect everything to go our way all the time - life just isn't like that.  I also told him that he was NOT to say anything to his sister about the computer when he went downstairs, that he should just leave her alone and get his breakfast, and that he'd get time on the Mac later.

Now, usually this situation would continue like this:  he would go downstairs and proceed to yell at his sister and demand his way, in spite of my admonition to make the right choice and leave her alone.  She'd yell back, and great unhappiness and even more drama would ensue.  This morning  he surprised me:  HE OBEYED.  You have no idea how delighted I was with this outcome.  He actually got his stuff, went downstairs, got his breakfast, and got ready for school without saying ANYTHING to Princess Yakyak.  No provoking, no yelling, no recriminations - he simply did what I had asked.  Hallelujah!  There's hope!

So, the biggest drama of the morning wasn't the semi-meltdown over who got to use the Mac first - it was that he did the right thing, with only the single parental edict of "leave your sister alone."  Ab-so-freaking-lutely amazing.  I guess a parent has to get a win once in a while, and I'd consider that an even bigger win for him as far as his self-control goes.

Raised Beds For The Garden

 Raised beds, looking north; the first 
one is done but not completely planted.
Eggplant at the near end, leeks at the 
far end, beans to go in the middle soon.

My husband built me some boxes for raised bed gardening at the back of our yard - 5 nice big ones (three are 4' wide x 8' long x 8" deep, two are 4' x 8' x 6" and raised on bricks).  When we did the lawn renovation project in the back yard last fall, I used some of the topsoil to partially fill each box, but I knew I'd have to add another several inches of soil and compost to them this spring.  I'm doing one box at a time - one down last week, four to go.  This week I'll be making multiple trips to my friend Sharon's farm, to get some composted horse manure.  A couple wheelbarrows full of that in each box will do wonders for the soil, I'm sure.  I'm also adding some peat humus to the boxes (NOT peat moss - peat humus is coarser and better for the soil, and won't form dry pockets or repel water like pure peat moss can, or decompose as quickly).  We also added some fine gravel/coarse sand, just a couple buckets full to each bed, again for drainage.  I want to finish filling the boxes in the next two weeks so I can be ready to plant my tomatoes, peppers and beans, and the squashes and melons.  We're having a dry spell (read:  more than three consecutive days without heavy rain, after 18 straight days of precipitation), so I can finally work in the back yard without sinking in up to my ankles or miring the wheelbarrow up to its axle.

Raised beds are easy enough to create.  You don't even need to make boxes to contain the soil if you don't want to.  We wanted boxes for cosmetic reasons, and for the ease of mowing/trimming around them.  My husband bought untreated lumber to create the boxes, and at my request he used 2" x 8" x 8 foot boards because I wanted deep beds.  You can use narrower boards (4" or 6") or stack them to make higher beds - it depends on how high you want the beds raised.  They're fastened together with weatherproof (deck) screws.  I asked for 8" deep beds because of the drainage issues at the back of our yard, which sees the runoff from several yards uphill from us via a drainage swale which the beds abut in parallel.  The smaller beds going across the side of the yard will only need to have 4" high boards added (a fall project for my husband and I), because the drainage there is good, and again the boxes will be for appearances only.  Those beds are already raised about 3-4" above the level of the turf and simply sit in the lawn.  Edging them a couple times a year by hand is a nuisance, so the boxes will make it easier to maintain them in the long run.

I haven't decided if I'll stain the boxes when I do the deck in a couple weeks.  If I have enough deck stain, I might.  It will mostly come down to time and weather, though, since I'll need at least 5 consecutive dry days to do the deck.  But I've no lack of things to keep me occupied lately - between the kids' activities, normal house stuff, and the garden, I'm keeping plenty busy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Swamps, Gardens, and Family

We had a happily busy day today.  Safety Guy camped out with his Scout troop at the Great Swamp Conservancy last night, and helped his troop with some demonstrations at the Conservancy's Spring Migration Festival today.  I took Princess Yakyak to the festival too see the sights, and pick up her brother. The festival featured a number of live animals - just her thing - as well as booths for artists and other conservation organizations and community groups.  We both loved seeing the birds of prey up close, and the creatures brought by a local reptile show.

I bought a compass plant (Silphium laciniatum, related to asters/daisies and very tall) from a lady who specializes in raising native northeastern U.S. plants.  I had purchased a goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) from her last year and it's thriving, so I wanted to see what other plants she could recommend for our yard.  I really enjoyed talking to her again.

I also picked up some notecards of prints from a watercolor artist, Sandy Schick.  She really captures the life of the creatures and plants she paints.  I'm going to frame the card of the great blue heron for myself; the other two cards are gifts.

"Great Blue Heron" watercolor print by Sandy Schick

We came home from the Conservancy to have lunch with my husband's parents for Mother's Day.  I made chicken-rice-leek soup earlier in the morning and it simmered until lunch.  We had a very nice time with them, and they shared with us the pictures from their recent trip to Ireland.  Digital cameras are great - we just connected it to the TV and had our own travelogue courtesy of my husband's mother.

After they left, I did some work in the yard - mulching that last nagging bit of unfinished bed under the dining room window, weeding, and planting out my winter sown alyssum and the compass plant.  My husband mowed, and the front of the house is looking pretty tidy now.  I still need to renew the mulch in some places, and put new mulch down where I enlarged the north front flower bed.  The first of the nasturtiums are starting to sprout, too.  I'm waiting another week or so before I plant out the zinnias and cosmos.

It was a lovely day, warm and mostly sunny, with a nice breeze.  Picture perfect, really.  I hope we get a few more days like that this week - it feels like it's truly spring at last.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In The Garden

There's a lot going on in the garden all of sudden.  All that moisture for the past few weeks, and now some warmer, sunny weather, and things are really starting to move.  The yard is also drying out enough that I can work at the back of it, in the raised bed boxes my wonderful husband made for me last fall and earlier this spring.

The past couple days I've planted all sorts of things:  pak choi and romanesco broccoli from my winter sowing efforts, eggplant and leeks I bought at Lowes, petunias and pansies, and zinnias, callibrachoa and "spikes" from a local green house.   Being out in the sun has felt so good.

The little cherry tree is past blooming already, and the daffodils have fizzled out, but the tulips are in full swing. I've been pulling some weeds and grass out of beds every day, trying to keep ahead of the rising tide of misplaced greenery. 

I have many winter sown plants that aren't quite big enough to plant out yet.  The long, cool spring has delayed germination and growth.  Hopefully in another week or two most of the seedlings will be big enough to go into the garden.  I was starting to wonder if my peppers and tomatoes were ever going to sprout (even though I know in the back of my mind that they would wait for warmer temps to germinate), but the past couple days I've seen signs of life in their containers.  I want to get all of the containers off my deck as soon as I can, because we're going to paint the deck later this month.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Help, I Need A Time Out!

 Soapbox alert!  Something really got me going today.

"Help, I need a time out!"  Have you ever thought that to yourself, when you've been at the end of your wits and your rope?  Have you ever wished your kids could tell you when they need a time out, instead of them melting down in some public place and forcing you to remove them?  (A few memorable occasions in restaurants and grocery stores spring to mind at this point.  Bad flashbacks, bad flashbacks. . . .) Have you ever wanted to tell another adult that they needed a time out to get a grip because they were losing it?  I sure have.

This is on my mind today because of an article on a local news network, about a mother who blew the whistle on an unsafe time out room situation at her daughter's school.  (The daughter has special needs, and the school specializes in working with children with special needs.)  I was distressed to read that the school's time out room was essentially a cinder-block closet, with little lighting and a couple pipes sticking out of the walls, and that students were sometimes left in that room for long periods of time, sometimes unsupervised.  What the heck?  As the mother pointed out, if she had done that to her child at home, CPS would have been called on her and she'd be branded an unfit mother in the media.  And this was a publicly-funded school.  The use of the room was discontinued after media attention and a State Education Department inspection, and the administration claimed to have no knowledge of prior complaints about the time out room (although other parents came forward to disagree with that statement).  Unbelievable.

Before you think I'm against time out rooms, I'm not.  There's a good reason to have a designated safe room for students to regain their self-control during or after a meltdown.  We had such rooms in the school where I taught - but they were of a reasonable size, well lit, ventilated, and with padding on the walls to minimize the injury a student could do to themselves, and students were NEVER left unsupervised.  I think every school should have a quiet room where a distressed student can have space to calm down, with help from staff as necessary - not just for special needs programs.

We used the time out principle a lot with our son.  He had meltdowns with distressing frequency until he was about 10 1/2-11, due to his Aspergers Syndrome.  (We still see the occasional meltdown - but more like a few times a month instead of a few times a day like when he was 3-8ish.)  Once Safety Guy was overstimulated and out of control, any attention he received just fed into the tantrum.  There was no reasoning with him once he was in full-blown meltdown mode.  Isolation was the best way to diminish his distress (and ours).

At home we'd have him go to his bedroom (which we started to do in his terrible twos, well before his AS diagnosis at 5 1/2).  In public, we'd have him sit in the car (or in his stroller or car seat when he was really little).  Visiting a relative, we'd use a spare bedroom.  None of these ways was a picnic for us, especially since we had to remain calm while enforcing the time out, often under the glare of public scrutiny or pitying relatives.  But he gradually grew to realize that he needed the time out when he was overwrought, and would sometimes even go to his room himself when upset.  (More often than not, we'd have to tell him to go.  For a while when younger he would physically resist us, and we'd essentially carry him there and then wait outside the door and listen for him to calm down.  Now he just goes when told, even though he's taller than I am now.  Thank you, Lord, that he thinks we could still make him go!)

The time out is useless if you can't talk with the child about what happened and how to avoid or minimize the problem the next time it happens (because there WILL be be a next time).  For that reason, we tried not to treat the time out as a punishment in itself, but as a solution to a problem.  We'd say to him, "I can see you're really upset, but we can't talk while you're acting out like this.  Go to your room, and when you're calm we'll talk about what happened."  Sometimes he listened to us and went on his own, sometimes he just pitched a fit while we put him in his room.  Either way, I had to remain as calm as I could, as matter-of-fact as possible.  It was hard, it was painful, and sometimes I failed miserably at keeping my own cool, but I kept doing it as consistently as I could.  I combined the time out with counting (the 1-2-3 Magic approach) - if I could catch the situation in time, I'd warn him that if he didn't get himself under control he'd have to have a time out.  I'd start to count to give him a couple chances to try to collect himself.  He knew that me saying "3" meant a one-way, all expenses paid trip to his bedroom.  Usually it would take 10-20 minutes for him to calm down once there, although quite a few memorable tantrums dragged on for almost an hour. Thankfully, that "count and isolate" approach still works for us now that he's 12.  We've also used it for his sister, Princess Yakyak, at times.  (I can't think of any child who never has a tantrum.)  We don't have to use it nearly as often as we used to, either.  Progress is a wonderful thing.

Kids can't do the "mind over matter" objective thing like most adults can.  Time out is an effective way to help them learn both consequences for inappropriate public behavior and self control, and if you can teach them self-calming techniques to use while they're in a quiet space, so much the better.  (We'd encourage our son to take slow, deep breaths, and to listen to music in his room.)  And, obviously time out works better for some kids than others.  Some kids feed off of the attention a tantrum brings them, and the more you try to talk them through it, the more agitated they become.  Some kids respond just fine to talking an issue through and don't need isolation to regain their composure.  Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all thing, and I believe having a time out room in a school (or at home) is just one tool in a teacher's or parent's child discipline kit.  The time out room should not be the ultimate punishment or consequence for a problem behavior, but a tool along the way to teaching better choices.

I really respect the mother who brought the unsafe situation with her daughter's school's time out practices to the attention of the proper authorities.  She's taken a lot of public flak over her actions - I'm amazed at how many people have slammed her instead of supporting her, and some of the comments about "those retarded kids" who "shouldn't be allowed in regular schools."  I hope her daughter has much better experiences from now on at her new school, and that other kids in her old school are spared such unsafe disciplinary practices.

The reporter of the story, Jim Kenyon, saw my comment on it online and asked if he could interview me for the news tonight.  This all happened very quickly - I commented, he asked on the comment board if I would give him a call, I thought about it for an hour and called him back, he asked if he could come to the house for a quick interview, I said okay.  He and his cameraman were here in 45 minutes - I've never cleaned my downstairs so fast in my life!  They were pleasant and professional, we had a nice conversation, and they left by 3:30.  Mr. Kenyon said they'd have a short clip of my comments on at 5, and a longer clip during the 6 o'clock news.  I didn't watch the first clip, and I probably won't watch the second - I'm not interested in seeing myself on TV.  But I am pleased that they were interested in my point of view.  Hopefully I was able to give the teacher's perspective, since there has been a huge amount of negativity toward them in response to the original articles.  That's why he called me, he said - he can't interview the teachers at the school (for obvious reasons), and felt that their side of the story was missing and they were taking an unfair beating in the media.  I hope I was able to balance the perspectives being shared.  The print article online is here, and I'll post the clips when I can get them.

My thanks to Blondee for bringing the original news story to my attention.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Here Comes The Rain Again

Our long, cool, wet spring this year has its own beauties, even while I'm longing for sun and warmer temperatures.  The land is as green and colorful as Oz right now, lush in a way that rarely lasts long in the northeastern U.S.  A little bit of warmth and we'll feel positively tropical as the earth breathes humidity while it dries out. 

I'm sure the wet weather is giving our local agricultural community fits, though - they can't prepare and sow their fields when its this wet.  Many crops will be in the ground later than usual this year.  It's easy to forget that farming is the #1 industry in the state of New York.  It seems like everyone outside of the state (and way too many inside the state) thinks the urban centers are the be-all and end-all of life and commerce here.

Princess Yakyak had soccer practice yesterday, in the rain, on a field the consistency of oatmeal.  The girls were game and enjoyed themselves - lots of giggling was heard through the splashing and squishing.  PYY was a cold, bedraggled mud puppy when she got home, and my husband shooed her immediately into the tub, a trail of muddy handprints and sopping articles of clothing documenting her trail through the house.  She slept well last night, though.

Safety Guy had his second session of math tutoring yesterday, still with a good attitude.  He really does want the help, and I think it's easier for him that it's away from his school and normal circle of friends and classmates.  I'm really impressed that he's handling this change in routine and this new activity with such a good attitude. 

It's also the time of year for standardized testing in school for both of our kids, in math and English/language arts.  We won't get the results back until later this summer.  I'll be interested to see how they test.  I expect PYY to do just fine.  SG's test performance varies wildly, and isn't the best indicator of what he can  really do.  Thank goodness the school year is almost over.  The next hurdle is his CSE meeting in early June, where we can evaluate his progress this year and set goals for next year.  It's been a trip, but overall a good one in spite of the bullying issue.  I don't regret returning them to public school at all.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bullying - again

I'm sad that the bullying at school has not really stopped for our son.  It's just become less physical, and more emotional.  Our son has been very down on school lately.  He's been good about doing his homework, although he's still very distractable, and unfocused.   He's been really struggling to deal with the ongoing picking by a few kids who have discovered just how easy it is to get him annoyed and wound up by doing unobtrusive things, like tapping their foot against his desk, or making some other small repetitive noises near him.  Apparently at least one kid has also made a game of trying to stomp on his feet in the halls or in gym class.  (I'm waiting for our son to stomp back, with his size 13 sneakers - that might end the stomping crap right there, although he'd surely get in trouble at school for doing it.  At this point, we probably wouldn't punish him for responding to the provocation in kind.)

Since school started we've heard more negative self-talk from our son, putting himself down.  That really distresses me, to hear him belittle himself.  Last night these issues came to the fore again when our son told us that at school, "I feel like a hole in the ground that people come along and poop in."  My heart just broke.  No child should feel like that, ever.

We also had a blow-up between Safety Guy and his sister on Saturday, where she got mad at him and shouted something like, "At least I don't have a math disability!" (with the clear implication that he was stupid).  I was really upset and disappointed that she was using his struggle with math against him.  Using anyone's disability or difference as a personal insult is a huge taboo in our house.  My husband and kids know how I feel about that kind of language and behavior, and it's even worse when applied to people in your own family.  Princess Yakyak earned a talking-to, and a swift bedtime, and I'm sure that's not the last conversation we'll have on the topic.  Safety Guy has enough trouble with people at school putting him down; he doesn't need anyone in his family to make it worse.

On a positive note today, though, his first day of math tutoring went really well.  He had a good attitude, and worked hard.  I'm hopeful that he'll see his own progress and be proud of himself as he gets better and better at math.  I've got a book to reward him when he makes a chunk of progress (I'm waiting to see how fast he's moving and what the benchmarks are, so we can help him set a goal).  The book is The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to PokemonI think he'll like it, don't you?  The only downside is, he'll read it, and spend the next six months regurgitating its minutiae to me fifty times a day.  Oh, well. . . .