Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Deep in the Heart of Texas

It appears as though being a forgetful, busy, stuck in traffic, sick or irresponsible parent is about to become criminal and expensive in Texas!! That's right - a $500 fine and a criminal record if you miss that 15 minute block of time you have to discuss your precious child. Here's how it works. You are assigned a random block of time during which you are to show up early, wait for the person ahead of you to go way over their allotted time, then spend a rushed 5-10 minutes discussing your own child's progress, issues, concerns, only to be rushed out the door for the next parent who is chomping at the bit for his few minutes of undivided attention with a teacher. Should you fail to miss your time in Texas, you're in trouble. I wonder if they'll start fining teachers for going over those alloted minutes???

Really, the whole thing is just a bit overreaching - wouldn't you agree?

More about My Uncle...

I've gotten a couple emails today, but I'll just include in this post the funny, the amazing and the needs!!

First, the funny, from Alisa, my cousin:

There are some funny stories too that I need to try to remember.
One is that Dad has been a vegetarian forever yet my Mom found 2 cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and 1 can of Beef Ravioli in the cupboard. We were laughing so much when we found that on Monday night. My Dad buys a lot of his own food but never anything with meat. We really think that he was probably forgetting a few little things like that over the last few weeks. Also, he never eats dairy products but in the hospital he was eating some cheese that my Aunt had brought for my Mom. I don't think he remembers some of these little things. And, my Mom and Aunt found it funny that my Dad was watching Fox News lately which he never ever watches.

I just have this sneaking suspicion that if my uncle knew about that Fox News part, he'd hit the ceiling!!

Now, the amazing, from "Aunt Denise", who is Marie's sister whose husband passed away suddenly last year. She (I'm taking it!) is in the medical profession, possibly a therapist, who works part time and has been at Dave and Marie's side from the start. What an amazing help, but here is what she had to say:

Your dad was soooo much better today. Not only was his speech better and voice strong but he was up to the bathroom on his own. He walked well without a walker or assistance. He was much more erect. Not favoring his right side. Sat upright at the table to eat.
Your mom is doing a phenomanal job. She is very patient with him but clear and direct, and when I was feeling pretty tired from the events of the past few days, she was animatedly helping him thru face exercises and actually making it look fun.

And now the need. Here is just brief picture of what life is like now for two people who are extremely independent, active and mobile:

After you left I heard a loud noise and knew Dave had fallen. He was on his back and he had hit his head on the metalbar of his office chair. He was ok. He had grabbed for the walker and it moved forward and he went down. I knew I was not calling the paramedics. So we tried several ways to get him up and after about 10-15 minutes I said we have to get help from that guardian angel. So I spoke forcefully to the angel and Dave got the idea to grab for the handle on his closet door and balance his other hand on the wooden chair I had set out. I pushed and he pulled and we got him up on the chair and then on his feet. I told him not to get up again unless he called me first so we could devise a plan together on how to best exit the recliner. Now we have a plan and he can get himself up and seems to be able to walk to the bathroom holding onto various items along the way for support. Thank GOD for that guardian angel. I am sure that will not be the only time we need his help.
That one is really from yesterday, but I thought it was a good example of what they are going through. I'm so glad to hear today that he has made tremendous improvements over the past 24 hours. In many ways, it's like recovering from a stroke.

Today was the pre-op appointment, so hopefully we'll hear more about that later. Much of what they are going through brings back memories of when my parents went through a similar experience with my dad's lymphoma. It's different, but many of the emotions are the same. Unless you have been through it, it is nearly impossible to explain!!

Thanks, once again, for your prayers!





More on My Uncle

Today I got a short email from my aunt. I'm mostly updating this for my family, but again, any prayer in their direction is greatly appreciated!

Our doctor is Melvin Snyder and if you mention his name to anyone you get raves. The PT yesterday said he was the best and that he also does neck and spinal cord surgery. He has a wonderful bedside manner so we are happy with him.

Dave had a good day yesterday. Many, many exercises and consulting with my friend who is guiding us through this. Even had Dave making a mural out of felt pens to have him use his right brain. His left side is weak so we are working on that. We want him "fat" and bulked up for the surgery.

Today we go to Dave's physician for a pre-op.He won''t believe the change in him. But hs still has his sense of humor. Hope to get him out and walking if the weather is nice. Otherwise we'll just walk the house.

Love the prayers! God bless. Marie

Thanks, again!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Uncle

Here are a couple posts I am copying and pasting from myspace that my cousin wrote. Again, please keep this family in your prayers. I can remember getting devastating news over and over about my dad. It's just not the kind of news you want to hear:

My Dad Update
Category: Life

My mom started noticing my Dad's weird behaviors on Friday and Saturday - Jan 26th/27th. My mom said that my Dad couldn't figure out which day of the week it was. He was getting dressed for Church on Friday. He seemed disoriented several times and he told my mom that he was confused about certain things. On Saturday, he thought that he had a massage appt at 10am and his massage therapist said his appt wasn't until Wednesday. His massage therapist said that he could come back at noon on Saturday. My Dad never showed up. At 4:30, my Dad calls my Mom from the library to say that the car had been towed by AAA because it wouldn't start but he couldn't remember where it was towed or where he ate lunch on Saturday. My Mom went to pick him up at the library. Later, my Mom found the car at the local drugstore. He had become completely disoriented. My Dad had several interactions with other people including his massage therapist on Saturday and they all agreed that he was confused and disoriented.

My Mom decided to take him to the ER at Torrance Memorial Hospital. We weren't sure if he had a stroke or dementia or alzheimers or other concerns. The doctors immediately started running some tests on my Dad including x-rays, MRI, CT scan and other exams for stroke, etc. Within 2 hours, the doctor told my Mom and Dad that my Dad had a massive brain tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain and the treatments may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.

The doctors gave my Dad some steroids to reduce the pressure on his brain from this massive brain tumor. Fortunately, this must have worked really well.

I visited my Dad at the hospital today (Sunday) for almost 4 hours and he was in very good spirits and mostly seemed like "himself". He was making a ton of jokes and seemed very sharp. I only noticed a few differences with his memory and mannerisms. They are still completing some scans today so we expect to hear the recommendations for treatment tomorrow. They doctors are also checking to see if there is any cancer on his lungs or if the tumor is contained in his brain. My Dad had salivary gland 10+ years ago and this tumor could potentially be related to his cancer from years ago.

Please keep my Dad in your thoughts and prayers. This will be an especially difficult time for my Mom and Dad. Fortunately, my Mom is a very strong woman and a tremendous help to my father. I will, of course, be there for both of them as well. I should have more information tomorrow.

And this, today:

Diagnosis and Treatment
Category: Life

I just returned from visiting my Dad, Mom and Aunt. I have had a whirlwind of emotions in the last 48 hours. Very tough day for me.....

I will try to relay the story as best as I can..... The doctor explained to my Mom and Aunt today that my Dad's brain tumor is cancer (not related at all to his previous cancer from 10 years ago) and has "legs" and they will only be able to remove 50-60% of the tumor. The surgery is scheduled for next Wednesday. It seems that my Dad will have to have 24 hour care as he has some problems walking and can't fully take care of himself at this time. He won't be able to drive anymore. Without surgery, he may only have a few months to live. With surgery, my Dad's quality of life will improve and he may survive for another year or so.... Radiation may also be an option after the surgery. The doctors will assess this after the surgery. Evidently, chemotherapy "tablets" will be inserted into his brain during the surgery but the doctor does not recommend any other chemo treatments.

When I visited my Dad today, he was very tired (could be from many things including medications and his tumor of course) but he is able to have short conversations and answer questions. He doesn't remember time very well. He told his doctor that he had cancer 1 year ago (really it was 10). He doesn't remember which day it is or which day he did certain things, etc.

On a positive note, my Dad lived a FULL life. Now, he is 67. After he recovered from cancer 10 years ago, he retired early and truly enjoyed life including his many walks on the beach and lunches overlooking the water plus his many many travel adventures with my mother.

Your positive energy and prayers are appreciated! I will try to keep you updated on the progress and any new information....

Wishing everyone a BEAUTIFUL day!!!

Love, Alisa

For those who do not know, my uncle is a christian boarding school, Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary educated man who discovered during a seminary class that he really didn't believe in many aspects of the Bible, including that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He is quite open to spiritual discussion (loves debate!), visited Erwin McManus' Mosaic church in LA with us this past summer and was just beginning to wrap his mind around the idea that church is just not what it used to be 40 years ago. T really connected with him while we were out there, even visiting his universal church with him - very interesting experience. Of course we'll pray for healing, for a miracle, but more important clarity of mind for the truth that has been presented. God has been gracious with my uncle.

A Small Miracle

I have noticed the past couple of weeks Em has been more interested in reading (finally!). She has been able to plow through about half of her 50 or so sight words without any problem. Up until this point, she has been extremely reluctant to read and I have been wearily reluctant to push her. Kt was a late reader as well and now she is a top reader in third grade, so it is easier the second time around, still a little worrisome, but a lot less stressful.

Today I picked up a couple books, including a Puppy Mudge book by Cynthia Rylant. Her Henry and Mudge books are adorable, but these Puppy Mudge books are clearly for earlier readers. I was hoping the fact that the book is about a puppy would spark some interest and I was dead on. Em picked up that book and with almost no help from mommy read it from cover to cover for me. About half way through she looked at me, smiled and proclaimed, "I'm a pretty good reader!" And she was.

I'm hoping we are turning a new leaf, a hairpin corner... but I remember those days. One day we can read, the next day the word "it" looks like "so"! I'm just more happy that she felt successful today and with a puppy book as her encouragement. I think I'll have to save that book!

The Skinny on Cupcakes!

Looks like someone at the Washington Post has been listening to my ramblings about the "No Cupcakes" policy at schools. If we can't send in cupcakes to celebrate a birthday, why can our children buy cookies and ice cream in the cafeteria EVERY SINGLE DAY? Why is their recess time only 20 minutes out of 6.5 hours in school?? What is it going to take for schools to change the daily routine instead of infringing on the infrequent celebration of a special child? I don't know, but hopefully the WP will have more impact on future decisions because, well, no one is listening to this tiny little voice!

Monday, January 29, 2007

To Know the Future

After a fun and adventurous 9 days in L.A. this past summer, we had one last morning to fill before our flight back home. We didn't have a lot of time on our hands, but enough for one last excursion to the ocean. As a child, I had some vivid memories of seeing starfish and abalone in the rocky tidepools along the LA shoreline, so we headed out for Abalone Cove, based on some not so reliable 20 year old memories!

After a short drive, we pulled off into a dusty parking lot, paid the man at the gatehouse who was leaning over a sign that read, "No Refunds". I thought that was kind of funny, and fishy (no pun intended!), but we went ahead with our final plans, quite certain that we were providing our children and ourselves with a memorable experience. As we began our descent down the cliffs, I was beginning to get that suspicious, nauseating feeling that this was not at all what I had remembered from my last visit to L.A. I remembered paved paths, railings, crowds of people, a clear view of the tidepools below in all their splendor. Unlike those memories, here I was, babystepping down a dirty, dusty path, cacti on either side of my path daring me to slip and become a human pin cushion. There was no view of what lie below, only overgrown bushes, steep drops that chilled me to the bone, even in 90 degree temps. I was worried about falling myself, but also about my children. Where were those safety railings, the paved paths that we ran down as children??

As we neared the bottom, the ocean came into view. I was relieved at the sight of the water, the lone lifeguard hut below and the knowledge that we would soon be safely on solid ground. The anticipation of seeing starfish, sea anemones, snails and various other tidepool life made the harrowing descent a bit less wretched. My girls were also becoming much more excited. Aside from the lack of people, they were not at all suspecting of our location. They were quite sure that we were right where we were supposed to be.

All my suspicions were finally realized when we were nearly all the way down to the bottom. We reached a small road (one I wondered why we didn't use to get down in the first place!), where just above our heads we saw this sign:

I knew instantly that had I know I would meet that sign, I never would have chosen this as our very last destination in California. Distance and respect? I could only hope they would do the same for us!

WHAT were we thinking, bringing our children to this desolate location?? With rattlesnakes, no less!!! We continued to make our way to the shore, only to find that this was clearly not what I had remembered. There was no sand, only a very rocky shoreline that was difficult to navigate. The lifeguard pointed us to the "tidepools", but one had to wonder why he had to look around a bit when asked where they were! We worked our way over to the barnacle ladden rocks piled up on shore, complete with about 10 snails total. It was quite a disappointment, but for kids always an adventure. As I sat on those rocks, protecting our belongings from the 5 other people who had ventured down that cliff, I peeked behind me. All that way down, and now we had to climb all the way back up. With rattlesnakes!!

I don't know why this picture came to my mind today, but I was reminded that in life there are so many unknowns. There are so many things that God could reveal to us about our future, but if we knew, would we go there? If we knew about the rattlesnakes, the rocks and the disappointment, would we miss out on the things He really wants us to see?? I know I would, because I'm the biggest wimp of all. I'll choose to stay at home any day of the week than to come up against a den of snakes. That's just my nature.

While we didn't see what we expected to see, I'm quite certain I lost an inch on my hips that day. I'm not sure if it was the hike, the heat or the worry! We found out upon returning that our intended destination was a beach called Royal Palms in San Pedro. Even now, as I'm checking online, I recognize it as the place in my childhood memories, and only another 10 minutes or so along the Pacific Coast Highway and we would have been there. Unfortunately, we were out of time. We needed to get to the airport, so our last stop was just going to have to remain Abalone Cove. Our destination was nothing fabulous or out of this world, but it was an adventure, a learning experience and we know next time, we'll try something different, hopefully without rattlesnakes! (I wonder if they give you a refund if you get a rattlesnake bite?)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Some Bad News

My mom just emailed me - my Uncle Dave (my mom's brother) from LA is in the hospital. Apparently, he's been acting a bit strange the past couple of days and tonight my aunt up and took him to the ER. They have detected a mass in his frontal lobe.

Years ago, my uncle had what they thought was a cyst behind one of his ears. Later, it turned out it was a malignant tumor and he underwent radiation treatments. He has since been "cancer free", but this does not really sound good.

Your prayers are much appreciated. I am very glad we went to LA this summer to spend time with my family out there. It was on a whim that we went - a whim that might have been heaven sent!

Call Me Heartless...

I'm sort of hoping that if we pull out of Iraq, thanks to our protesting celebrities, that the first terrorist attack happens somewhere in the Beverly Hill vacinity. Yup, I know, just an evil thought, but a price was paid so that these Americans have the freedom to protest and it involved military sacrifice. A very heavy price is being paid to keep terrorists off our shores, but instead of supporting those who are willingly serving us, we continue to see this. Of course, we all know that the terrorists have no interest in Hollywood, instead they will come here to DC. What will our friends do when they have no mall or Capital building at which to protest anymore??

Friday, January 26, 2007

FIOS

So, we did it! We had FIOS installed today. So far, it's been a learning experience, and it's had T running around inside and outside all day in our freezing temperatures!! Poor guy. The TV is awesome, although I'm sure that we will never know all the channels we have. There is no way to surf anymore, there are just too many shows to choose from!! The internet - well, it worked wonderfully, then it crashed, we then reverted back to the cable modem, which we haven't cancelled quite yet because T has a huge release tomorrow, good thing! Now we are back up after changing the outlet we plug all this into. So, now that I'm back online... we couldn't get the TV to work. Mom to the rescue - I figured it out (but don't ask me to tell you how OR repeat that trick!). I think we are going to enjoy this! Now, back to the laundry!

Food Allergy Parents: 4, Me: 0

It has happened again.... and this time, I actually said something. We are having our 4th kindergarten activity day, a Valentine's party. Last week, I received three notices about this party, one addressed to the room mom's (that's me and my neighbor), one about the party and another listing all the students. Today, I received two notices. One was addressed to the parents in our room about the party and the second was a small slip of paper announcing that kindergarten students are not allowed to bring in "candy" valentines. Period. The reason stated was food allergies.

Now, the Halloween activity day was a bit traumatic, as our jack-o-lantern magnets that Em and I made for her classmates were not even allowed passed out - no food involved. The Thanksgiving activity day - well, we skipped that one. For "Christmas", or Market Day, there was nothing food related other than the eggless, peanut free gingerbread cookies, which my daughter loved. For Valentine's Day, however, in all the previous notes sent in, I knew that there were activities planned, a sugar cookie and juice box for snack (parents of students with allergies were asked to send in an alternative treat) and Valentine's would be exchanged.

Maybe I'm naive, or just too trusting, but I went ahead and purchased two allergy safe treats - Kissables and Nerds - for the girls to give to their friends. Since we will be away the week before Valentine's Day I wanted to get these finished before we left so I didn't have to think about them when we returned. In fact, Em got started on her cards last night - fortunately, they are foam cards I bought to go with the treat, because....

that note. I mean, I'm sort of annoyed by this! I'll give them Halloween, no one needs extra candy. I'll even give them Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Valentine's Day??? Chocolate, conversation hearts, red dots... that's just a part of the holiday! If the real reason for this ban is food allergies, then why not send a list home of safe treats?? Mine was safe, and I'm sure other people can locate safe treats. In reality, though, I know that the complaint isn't really about allergies, it's about sugar, and the belief of some that children should never have it.

So, now I'm in a bind. I have one daughter who can bring her treat, one who can't, I have valentine treats that I can't save until next year (Yuck!!) and will have to find someone to unload them on. I don't feel like eating tons of boxes of Nerds!! While the food allergy issue does bother me (because most of the parents of children with food allergies have told me it's "no big deal"), I would have liked this decision made before they sent home 4 notices, none of which even address the issue of candy valentines. At this point, I think it's unfair to change that. Of course, for me, Valentine's day is in a little over a week. I'm sure most parents have not even thought about valentines and have not yet purchased anything.

And for real, if you ask parents of students with allergies to send in a safe cookie without batting an eye, then what's the big deal about the candy???

OK, Governor O'Malley

Repeal the death sentence in Maryland? Hmmm.... food for thought. I had no idea that was even a possibility (apparently no one did!). So, are we going to include a ban on abortion in that sanctity of life decision??

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Vacation

We leave in one and a half weeks for Florida, and I cannot wait! This arctic cold air blast has me shivering in my shoes!! Of course, being neurotically pasted to weather.com's Orlando 10 day forecast, I noticed they have a wind chill warning there today and tonight! What?? Do people in Orlando even know what wind chilll is?? It can't possibly feel like ours!! Wind chill or not, I just cannot wait to get out of here!

Wacky Weather!

So, today I think I experience something I've never seen before - a sun snow shower! It was flurrying during my tutoring session, I left to run out to the store. As I was leaving the library I noticed to the west the sun was out, the sky was blue, but where I was it was dark and snowing!! I then drove into what looked like whiteout conditions, all with the sun shining on everyone's car. After the store, I came home to sunshine. Then it was blizzarding again, and now it is sunny again. Make up your mind, weather!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sewer Update


I've got a few pictures I'll post later.... they found the culprit and fortunately, it's not under our driveway!! Yay! It was about 2 feet from our house and YES, it is a builder defect.... NO GLUE! The sewer pipe coming out of our house attached to our uptake(?) was not glued together, therefore creating a leak that attracted the bushes out front. Wait until I post a picture of the pipe.

We've got 4 plumbers and a backhoe out front. They are all in agreement that the pipe was never glued, not a speck of glue was found. So, thanks Ryland homes!! and inspector whoever from the county. Nice work, almost 20 years ago!! I'm going to recommend our neighbors get that $50/year insurance waiver for things like this, because chances are if it happened to us, it will happen to them.

I'm so happy - I can do laundry! (What is wrong with me!)

The Marine

Got this in my email this morning:

This is a poem being sent from a Marine to his Dad.
For those who take the time to read it,

you'll see a letter from him to his Dad at the bottom.

It makes you truly thankful

for not only the Marines,

but ALL of our troops.

THE MARINE



We all came together,
Both young and old
To fight for our freedom,
To stand and be bold.




In the midst of all evil,
We stand our ground,
And we protect our country
From all terror around.




Peace and not war,
Is what some people say.
But I'll give my life,
So you can live the American way.




I give you the right
To talk of your peace.
To stand in your groups,
and protest in our streets.




But still I fight on,
I don't bitch, I don't whine.
I'm just one of the people
Who is doing your time.




I'm harder than nails,
Stronger than any machine.
I'm the immortal soldier,
I'm a U.S. MARINE!



So stand in my shoes,
And leave from your home.
Fight for the people who hate you,
With the protests they've shown.

Fight for the stranger,
Fight for the young.
So they all may have,
The greatest freedom you've won
.



Fight for the sick,
Fight for the poor
Fight for the cripple,
Who lives next door.



But when your time comes,
Do what I've done.
For if you stand up for freedom,
You'll stand when the fight's done
.

By: Corporal Aaron M. Gilbert, US Marine Corps
USS SAIPAN, PERSIAN GULF

March 23, 2003
Hey Dad,
Do me a favor and label this "The Marine"

and send it to
everybody on your email list.

Even leave this letter in it.

I want this rolling all over the US ;

I want every home reading it.

Every eye seeing it.

And every heart to feel it.

So can you please send this for me?

I would but my email time isn't that long

and I don't have much time anyway.

You know what Dad?

I wondered what it would be like to truly understand

what JFK said in His inaugural speech.

"When the time comes to lay down my life for my country,
I do not cower from this responsibility.

I welcome it."
Well, now I know.

And I do. Dad, I welcome the opportunity to do what I do.

Even though I have left behind a beautiful wife,

and I will miss the birth of our first born child,

I would do it 70 times over to fight for

the place that God has made for my home.

I love you all and I miss you very much.

I wish I could be there when Sandi has our baby,

but tell her that I love her, and Lord willing,

I will be coming home soon.

Give Mom a great big hug from me and give one to yourself too.
Aaron

Please let this marine (and all our military)

know we care by passing his poem onto your friends

even if you don't usually take time to forward mail...do it this time!
Thanks,

If this touched you as much as it touched me,

please forward it on.
Let's help Aaron's dad spread the word ...

FREEDOM isn't FREE
someone pays for you and me.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Embarrassing 3rd Grade Moment

Tonight while I was making dinner, Kt came up to me and asked, "Mom, do you know how to play the Name Game?" I told her I did, and reminded her that we used to sing that when she was little. I then proceeded to sing it with her name in it. She then says, "Did you know that if you use the name 'Chuck' it makes you say a swear word?" I then sang it, in my own way, without saying a swear word, and told her you didn't have to say that word if you didn't want to, all the while wondering how she knew that was a swear word but assuming she'd learned it from her friends.

Then came the big question, the one I was not completely prepared for, but it was honest and fair. "Mom? How come you and dad never taught me the swear words?" I had to hold in my laughter, but I know I did at least crack a smile. I told her we had no reason to, that those words are disrespectful and their meanings are things we don't really want to talk about, specifically the one she had mentioned in the song above. I then asked her how she learned them. It goes something like this:

A "friend" says to her, "Kt, what is this word? [spelling out one of our wonderful curse words]" Kt replies, "It's @#$%." Everyone laughs, and it's obvious she has never heard the word, said the word or has any idea it's a bad word... until now! Third grade - gotta love it! Has she really made it this long in public school and never heard that word? All my attempts to steer her away from that kind of language at the mall, or in a restaurant or anywhere else we go has been successful? Wow, I'm pretty impressed, of course, at the expense of my daughter's social life!

Of course, we have talked about this all night. Are they really your friends if they do that to you? What can you do to be a good example yet still enjoy, have fun with your friends? Why don't we use those words around here? (OK, sometimes I slip, but I've never done it in front of my kids - apparently!) Kt, I'm sure, hasn't heard the end but only a mere snippet of what the rest of her public school days will encompass. Unfortunately, that kind of crude language is becoming more and more acceptable in everyday discourse. It's a sad statement about our society.

I must admit, having a key role in completely embarrassing my third grader was not as fulfilling as I thought it might be (totally kidding here), but if it has to be for something, this is one of those things I don't mind being associated with. I'm glad I didn't teach my children any curse words, but I guess now I might have to start filling in some of those blanks!

Longer School Days?

I think not!! I just found this awesome article about the validity of increasing days or the length of a school year. I completely agree with this article, that there is little difference, therefore no reason to increase a school day or year. While this article is primarily focusing on increasing achievement with such an increase, I would have to say the real reason for wanting longer school days and years is the same as the drive for full day kindergarten - daycare.

The truth is that lenthening the school day adds only minutes which are rarely filled with more instructional time, yet cost schools a great deal of money. Extending a school year only adds another unit maybe to each area of curriculum, which these days is dictated by the "standards" put forth by No Child Left Behind anyway! I do, however, agree with the assessment that for lower income, lower performing schools, a shorter summer break might be warranted, but only if compensation is given to the teachers!!

I just find it amusing that while school boards sit around mulling the extension of days and years, homeschooled children are finishing up well ahead of school schedules, enjoying their summers and probably working half days compared to our public school students. Now there's something to learn in that, don't you think?

Scary

Talk about scary! Would you not be scared to be mentored by this guy? hehe....

Miss Utility Update

Here's my law this morning (notice the small amount of orange):
Here's my lawn now:
Wow! Maybe T and Audrey were correct and that paint DID melt right onto my lawn!!!

It was an interesting idea, but thankfully, as I was leaving to go to the grocery store, Miss Utility had enough integrity to return and repaint for us - thanks Miss Utility. I was hoping that 46% rate hike in our electric bill would cover something useful!!

Pump It Up!!


Yesterday Em finally had her 6th birthday friend party. It was like "Birthday, take 4" for her! We took a bunch of her friends to a place around here called Pump It Up and had a total blast! This place has two rooms with large, inflatable playscapes - moonbounces, one of Em's favorite things. the first room has a large slide, a huge round moonbounce and an obstacle course. The second room has a relay race obstacle course, a double slide and a moonbounce basketball court. After playing in those areas, we were lead to a party room where the kids had a snack and cake. We were quite fortunate to have some awesome helpers. I've gone to other parties where they weren't as good. Ours played with the kids and our party room helper did everything, was extremely attentive to us and the kids. It was awesome, and at the end of the day, we were all totally exhausted!

By the way, you may think this place is for kids, but the adults were having JUST as much fun!!

O'Malley

So, is our new governor going to ask anyone FROM Maryland to work for him?? Just curious... and it looks like education, while it was so important to him, will be focusing on two counties. Hmm... more expensive cars, less funding for my county schools, funding widespread healthcare... can you say higher taxes and higher cost of living?? EEK! Well, at least no surprises!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

StrengthFinders

T has been bugging me for months to take this test for him. It hasn't been at the top of my priority list, but I finally took it for him today. It's a Gallup thing... Anyway, here are my top 5 strengths. I agree with the first four, the last one is questionable.

MY SIGNATURE THEMES:

Responsibility: People strong in the Responsibility theme take
psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are
committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Belief: People strong in the Belief theme have certain core values
that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose
for their life.

Connectedness: People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in
the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences
and that almost every event has a reason.

Developer: People strong in the Developer theme recognize and
cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small
improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.

Adaptability: People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to "go
with the flow." They tend to be "now" people who take things as they
come and discover the future one day at a time.

All my "positivity" husband could manage to yell to me was, "What???? Adaptability????" He then proceeded to tell me just how scary I really am. I'm so glad I took this test for him....

Miss Utility

Whenever we have our yard dug up, Miss Utility comes out to paint it all up so the workmen know where the various lines are. No kidding, one of those utilities, who shall remain nameless, just showed up and painted OUR SNOW. Now, tell me, how ridiculous is that?? It will likely be gone by night! I was sticking my head out the door to find out which one it was when T rudely commanded me to go back inside - I guess he figured standing on the front steps might prompt the guy to come back later??? Anyway, I wonder which utility they will be digging up on Wednesday?

Deja Vu?

I know I said I was going to bed, but did we not hear this very same thing for 8 years?? And did those health care reforms never happen?? So why are we hearing this again?????

Summer Trips

Before I hit the sack, I'll just post briefly about where we are in terms of summer. T has been briskly trying to pull together summer trips. We have some leads, but nothing completely solid. That is fine with me, except that we are debating whether or not to all go this summer, meaning me and the girls. There are so many things to consider, the first being is that really what God is leading us to do? I have yet to feel as though I am being asked to go, but sometimes we have to take the initiative. Another thing to consider is whether it is feasible to go, depending on where it is. I'm not saying that I have to wait to see where and then decide if we "want" to take our girls there. I mean, for a short-term trip, what impact will that have on a 6 year old. Last year, Cameroon was just not in the radar for a 5 year old, especially not for only 10 days, 4 of which would be spent traveling. That's a bit unreasonable, even for an adult! Finally, if we take our girls do we cover our own expenses or raise funds for that? Neither of us know how we feel about that. I'm completely at a loss. Hmmm.... it's a good thing I'm not in a control!

New Blog Template

So, what do you think?? Green is my favorite color and I was getting tired of the other blog template. Of course, I can't do all this code stuff myself, or at least I don't bother to since I have my own computer guru right here at home. If anything ever happens to him, what will I do? Let's not even go there!

Thanks, T!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dunkin' Donuts

So, for those of you following my conversation with a NYC sanitation worker... tomorrow morning is the morning I'm supposed to leave something for our garbage men. We had agreed on a Dunkin' Donuts gift certificate since we aren't coffee drinkers. I'm a little leary about making coffee for people - it might seem more like a punishment!! Anyway, there's a little snag in my plan, and it's called ice! Not ice coffee, but ice on the roads!!

T said to me this afternoon, "So, I guess I need to run up to Dunkin' Donuts and get that gift certificate??" The sad thing is that we were just there after church. Not at DD, but at the Subway right next door. Neither of us thought to run in as we had to make a grocery store run and T was supposed to take the girls to his parents... Well, not even 30 minutes later it was snowing. I did not see that on weather.com last night!!

Anyway, the last time I let T go out in a snow/ice storm, he came home with a busted bumper after doing a 360 on an overpass. He's lucky that 1) he only hit the guard rail, and 2) that he didn't plunge hundreds of feet off that thing into the reservoir!! Now, I love my garbage men, but I love my husband more. We'll have to do something for them next week. I think they'll understand... especially because they have no idea we're even doing anything for them!

So, friend from NYC - because I have a feeling you'll be checking up on me tomorrow, please check back next week. We have not forgotten, but we're a bit snowed/iced in at the moment!! Now, if we get out in the morning and they are running late, by all means, we will run up there and get something for them!! Keep warm!

First Snow

It's hardly worth mentioning... but it snowed today, less than an inch or two. It put a little snag in my plans for today. T was supposed to take the girls out to his parents so I could take down the Christmas tree uninterrupted. We also have minimal dinner choices as I feel guilty calling the pizza guy and didn't do any shopping because I had no idea it was going to snow!! Time to hibernate!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ban on Spanking?

What do I think about this? Well, being an adult who was spanked as a child, I would say that the reasoning behind this, that "such a law is needed because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society", is completely unfounded. They later go on to talk about "whipping" a 1 year old, which, in my humble opinion, is ENTIRELY different than spanking. Like the article says, they are still working on a definition of "spanking" - obviously.

Around Maryland, this is an extremely interesting subject. I have a good friend who I taught with, a wonderful, loving woman and her husband, who were essentially banned from ever adopting because they would not agree that spanking is never necessary. They were asked during their home visit how they felt about spanking, and both said they would consider it as a means of discipline, especially if a child repeatedly put themselves in danger, let's say, sticking their hand near a socket. Having never been parents, I thought their reasoning was pretty sane myself, but the case worker just looked at them and said, "Well, I will have to fail you for this homestudy. Under no means are you ever to spank your children." And that was that, they are not able to pursue adoption at all, and spanking is not even illegal in Maryland, as far as I know!

When government begins to legislate the way we discipline children, I would think we are in more trouble than just deeming certain extremes of discipline unlawful. When spanking becomes a bipartisan issue (the article states that republican lawmakers thing the law is ridiculous) then we are just being childish! I know plenty of democrats who spank their children, I mean REALLY!! There is nothing partisan about discipline. I'm not sure what precipitated this attempt to dictate how parents should parent, but don't we get enough of that already in public schools??

In my own experience with my own children, I'd have to say that spanking came in most handy between the ages of 2-4, with an occassional hand-smacking (also part of this legislative ban!) before the age of 2 for playing with outlets, throwing of food with plenty of warnings, pulling pet hair, pulling my hair! and various other repeated, willful and defiant behaviors. After the age of 2, spanking was reserved for severe offenses and often just the threat of doing it was enough to end the behavior. I'm not sure other discipline would have been as effective and I certainly didn't want my children behaving the way some unspanked children behave. Yup, I can pick them out pretty quickly!! Of course, some people breed overly compliant children, who never need any form of discipline and never show it, but I think that is rare, genetic and super for you! I personally have yet to meet such a child!

The fact of the matter is, spanking is unpleasant for kids and parents, but it is just a means to an end. If you do not have that end in mind when administering discipline, you ought to not be disciplining at all! I wanted my children to understand that certain negative behaviors are just completely unacceptable, and the choice to willfully act those out would have unpleasant results. Taking away privileges and instituting other consequences are great means of disciplining. I happen to think that spanking fits into that category when appropriate. If you enjoy spanking your child, I would advocate finding another means of discipline - not once have I felt good about having to discipline my child's willful, defiant behavior. Unpleasant yes, but with satisfactory results.

One of the things my sister, brother and I enjoy most when we are together is reminiscing about growing up together in our family. We roll on the floor in hysterics remembering spankings. Each of us had our own way of dealing with them, we each loved watching the others get it, we recall the inch thick "paddle" our father crafted out of scrap wood, sanded and stained to perfection. My mom recalls the day she burned that paddle in the fireplace because it was no longer needed. She also remembers why he made it, and so do we! She was chasing my sister up the stairs with a melmac spoon, which promptly broke in half at the first smack. We all ended up laughing hysterically on the stairs. It was the spanking we all remember best, of course we have no idea why she was getting it! Incidentally, not one of the three of us felt victimized, nor have any of us acted out violently in any way.

I guess after reading this article the most prominent thing in my mind is that spanking does not victimize helpless children or breed violence in society, bad parenting does that, but not spanking. If you want to curb those issues, start investing in young parents, don't vicitimize responsible ones. Differentiate a responsible form of discipline from a senseless, harmful beating by all means, but don't start putting away good parents for trying to shape the behavior of their young child. I personally think this kind of legislature will become a nightmare of parentless children in foster care over simple question, "Are you going to spank me, mommy?" My kids used to ask me this all the time, not because I spanked them all the time (it was a rarity - they'll even tell you that), but because it was their way of determining how wrong they had been. To them, that was their measuring stick for determining how wrong their behavior had been. The act that required a spanking was ranked as a very bad one, and we spent more time debating the hows and whys of spanking requiring behavior than we ever did spanking.

So, why not change that "spanking" into some other form of behavior, like "time out"?? Maybe I am alone in my belief that "time out" was a very unsuccessful form of discipline. My kids enjoyed sitting on the steps, singing to themselves, playing with their fingers, counting ripples in the ceiling. They would complain incessantly about it, but it was not feared in any way, shape or form. When they were older, say 4-6, taking privileges away was much more feared and we used that regularly, replacing spanking completely. The reason? A 2-4 year old really doesn't have the capacity to understand the impact of taking something away like a 4-6 year old does, whereas a spanking, well, they know what that will be like. Most of the time, they are choosing not to be spanked.

I could probably go on and on about this very subject. I can remember having little kids and asking my mom how she felt about spanking now that her kids were all grown up. I love her answer. She said, very simply, "I wish I had done it less, but it worked at the time!" That is exactly how I feel about it as well. I have no incident that I'm guilty or ashamed over. I would love to say that my children were so wonderful or responded so positively to other forms of discipline that spanking was never necessary, but I would be kidding myself. I watch parents who don't spank and think to myself, even now, "One spanking might just be the cure for that defiance!" Who knows!

On a last note, I know this whole post sounds extremely judgemental, and it is of that silly law that I hope never passes. I would like to say that parenting is something that needs to be a combined effort, and all parties need to be comfortable with the forms of discipline used. There are extremely valid arguments against spanking as a form of discipline for some, either that they were abused as children or it just goes against their very nature. In those cases, by all means, do what works for you. I just feel like it's wrong for others, then, to judge the way I choose to shape the behavior of my child. I also feel that, as a parent, you know what works best for your child. I had one who was deathly afraid of a spanking and another who shrugged them off like it was an annoyance. For the second, we quit spanking altogether because it was ineffective. I can count the number of times I spanked her on one hand! Be creative, but hope that someday someone doesn't decide to legislatively ban "time outs" because they exclude children and lead them to become psychopaths!!

Let the whipping begin...(of me, that is!)

Interesting Food for Thought

T and I have realized that one of the responsibilities we have as parents is to talk to our girls about sex, puberty, relationships, etc. before they hear about it in school. We can tell from conversations we've had with Kt about anatomy that the time is coming very soon, however from the few things she has been exposed to, we can also conclude that she may not be ready to fully grasp all the intricacies about sexuality. This article completely intrigued me, about middle-schoolers wanting to host a Pro-Life protest, informational movement. It's a great read, and has gotten me a little more motivated to figure out how to introduce all these topics to my daughters before they hit middle school - EEK!!

Long Weekend...

I did not really want to wake up to this, but who didn't see it coming from a foot away! (rolling eyes in extreme disgust!) I can think of plenty of other Democratic hopefuls this Republican would be inclined to vote for in 2008, but definitely not this one. I draw the line!!

Yesterday the girls had a half day, then Kt took off for her sleepover at the Science Center in Baltimore. She had a blast and can hardly stay awake!! T is up at church with the freshman doing a day of community service in the middle of some crazy wind storm. He had taken Em, so I ran up there with Kt and ended up bringing them both home. It's way too cold and the girls wanted to spend the day together. On the ride home, Kt asked me if I'd ever been to a planetarium. Funny - we've done so much with the girls but we've never done that!! She surprised me by not only explaining what constellations are to Em, but also gave her a thorough accounting of the names and backgrounds of each constellation. All Greek to me, but she retained so much of it. I wonder if she'll take after my dad??

The wind is howling outside and I feel like there is not a sealed window in my house. The windchill is 22 degrees, which is 12 degrees lower than the air temperature. Kt said this morning, at 6:30 am while they were eating breakfast (hahahaha - I've never known my daughter to wake up any earlier than 8:30 - it's just unheard of!), it was blizzarding in downtown Baltimore! They slept in the Body Parts exhibit with a phenomenal view of the harbor - at least that's what she said. Personally, that just sounds creepy to me. I wonder if they fought over who got to sleep in the heart??

As for the sewer problem, the guys are coming out Wednesday morning, bright and early. Hmm... We'll have to figure out how to get ready for school with no plumbing... Since the camera was inconclusive, meaning we have no idea where the sewer line has been breeched, I don't know anything about Wednesday other than 1) our two little bushes out front with disappear, 2) there is the possibility they have to dig under our driveway - not sure what that entails..., and 3) I guess there is that slim possibility we will pay $2500+ and the roots are coming from the street up to our house and there will be nothing we can do about it. I don't know, I just hope they get to the root of the problem - pun intended!!

Monday we are having Em's birthday party at Pump It Up. I cannot be happier that we chose to have it elsewhere! I am a little reluctant to spend the $$, especially right now, but it's so worth it!! She had wanted a "Puppy Pump It Up Sleepover" party, we talked her down to a Pump It Up party! She cracks me up, as the guest list, while it is set in stone now that the invitations went out, changes daily depending on who is her friend on any given day. The person at the top of her list has not yet replied. He was Numero Uno when we made the list and now he is no longer a friend - I'm not sure in that little kindergarten world of hers how that works, but I've explained that whether or not he comes is now dependent on his mother, not on him annoying her or not during her seatwork time! That didn't go over so well, but we are learning multiple social skills all at once through this one experience!

I guess my stalling needs to come to an end. I have work to do around this house today and posting on my blog is only delaying the inevitable AND taking away my valuable productive time. It is fun, though!! Poor T, after a day of braving this wintery weather, he'll come home to brave our mess... Oh well - it's the price you pay to own a home.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Little More Recess in Our Lives!!

I made it in for the last part of Kt's lunch today. She begged me to stay for 5 minutes of recess and how could I resist? I mean, as a kid recess is a staple of life!! I can remember dreaming about recess while staring out the window with my pencil tapping on my head, the "fake thinking" stance. The monkey bars, dodgeball, kickball, hopscotch, just hanging out with friends, flirting with the boys... it all happened at recess. It was the best time of the day, especially after being cooped up inside all day.

So, out we went and off Kt went. I was left to chat with the Instructional Assistant/Recess Duty person about how freezing cold it is, how much these kids needed to get out and how my daughter was totally ignoring me. We then noticed that just by her a small group of kids were forming with two long jumpropes making an extremely feeble attempt to double dutch. I loved double dutch jumproping in elementary school. The reading teacher had taught us in an after school club, the same one where we learned to unicycle and juggle. So, I ran over to try to teach them a bit about double dutch.

It was after about 20 minutes of straight twirling that I realized if every adult American took 30 minutes each day to join a group of third graders on the nearest school playground, we could quit spending so much money on Bally, Gold's Gym and the YMCA!! I mean, what a workout!! We never did get anyone jumping, but I have to admit, I'm more inclined to go in for recess after that. I actually enjoyed myself. Unlike the recess attendants, who have to keep their eyes on all the kids, I was able to focus on one thing and have fun. I really enjoyed that.

Now my arms are quite limp, I'm pretty tired out (I had just returned from Curves before going!) and now I'm adding to my list of things to do going to the hardware store and picking up appropriate rope for making better double dutch ropes. Those poor kids were using those ropes of little plastic beads, the kind that leave big red welts when they hit you in the face! Talk about being a bit timid about just jumping right in!!

The only other workout I can think of that might be more challenging is digging up our front lawn. That will be starting next week. Bad news in the sewer pipe. The word is "so many roots we can't get the camera down the pipe". I'm not liking what I hear!! And it goes under our driveway..... EEK!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Big Day

Yup, tomorrow's the big day. We get our sewer line "TV'd" - at least that's what the lady on the phone keeps calling it. I have no idea if that stands for television or telescopic video... either way, grim if you ask me, just grim and stinky!

Tomorrow is also the day I get to reorganize my tiny pantry. I finally found what my husband tried to convince me were no longer available - smaller racks for the door. His friend convinced him not to hang the larger one we bought (thanks for nothing!), so I was on a hunt. I found it, he hung it (I won't mention that whole saga, just that it is finished!) and I can finally organize a bit. I have had some big plans for that pantry and every know-it-all man has ruined them. I really want movable shelving - wood, not these ridiculous wire shelving things that nothing can sit properly on. I am very close to calling a custom closet company, other than the fact that we have no money! I'm thrilled I have this one new shelf, but it still doesn't help my other problem - falling food!

Tomorrow is also a day that I really don't have much to do - that's big! I can actually do a few things at home. Here's my short list: clean the basement mess, take down the Christmas tree, finish organizing Em's room, organize the kitchen pantry, wait for these video guys to finish. Aside from those things, I need to run to church and I'm hoping to get in one day at Curves. OK - so the list is just getting longer. Kt also asked me to have lunch with her at school. I'm going to shoot for that because ever since she started third grade, she has warned me that it's not "cool" for parents to come in for lunch. Now that she asked me I'm feeling like I ought to take her up on it before she resorts back to how uncool it is!

On a deeper note, tonight I led Kt's Grace Girls Adventure small group and I'm really feeling like I should do that this year, but I need to get my act together. I hate leading anything at church when I'm out of sorts in my own spiritual walk. I don't know how I've let myself wander so far, but I have and it's time to pull myself together! Less time on here, more time in the Word. End of story.

So, tomorrow's a big day with nothing to do but be with myself. Uh, right!

Things at Sheng-ra-la...

Well, the furniture arrived yesterday.... at 1:10pm, only because they "got my call"! It appears they were enjoying some downtime at Burger King or something... anyway, I raced out the door, tutored, grocery shopped, got home in the nick of time for the girls to step off the bus at 4. Crazy!

I have to run out today to pick up a few things before volunteering at the girl's school, then tutoring again... never ends! Tomorrow they "TV" our line, as in video tape all the yuck down the sewer. I don't know if "TV" means "television" or "telescope video" - all I know is that I do not want to watch it!! I'll let T do that!

Back in the fall we had our roof redone, it was leaking into our bedroom. $5000 later, after signing a waiver to let that huge truck park on our driveway (they warned me it might leave some stress cracks - forgot to mention it might sever our sewer!), here we are, looking at another $?000 repair. That's one expensive roof! They say bad things happen in threes, and I'm wondering why we're on, well, it's way more than three. Worse things can happen, though, and I'm reminded daily that we have a home, a family, a job, food, cars and just about every modern convenience necessary to live comfortably. We just aren't meant to have $$, and that's fine, because most of the time it just gets in the way!