Saturday, March 29, 2008

Now I know my ABCs.

On Easter my cousin told me her five year old daughter had a Kindergarten screening the following day. Screening for what? They were checking to make sure she knew how to write her name – in upper and lower case, that she knew her address and phone number, to identify numbers and other such early educational milestones. My cousin then told me that if her daughter did not know this information she would be put in a summer program to ready children for Kindergarten. A pre-Kindergarten summer school, if you will. And this is public school. I was blown away by this. It’s not that I think Noah won’t learn all that stuff in two and a half years – he knows most of it now. I just thought those were the types of things kids learned in Kindergarten. That and it totally is in contrast with my own personal experience.

A couple of years ago I taught first grade for a year. In one of the cities poorest neighborhoods. I worked as a co-teacher to a very frustrated, unmotivated man who still today fluctuates between teaching and painting houses. Most of the kids came to our class knowing very little, even after a year of Kindergarten. Some of them were not English speaking, some of them were obviously learning disabled (I suspect lead), and a lot of them seemed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder because their parents were inattentive, cruel, drug addicted, and/or in jail. The neighborhood was multicultural – the uniting factor was extreme poverty. This was a neighborhood of people whom education had failed and therefore it wasn’t a priority for parents to teach their kids, to be involved in their children’s schooling. I’m sure many of the kids didn’t even have books in their homes – though big TVs and video game systems were abundant. The general attitude was that it was the school’s and the teacher’s responsibility to do all the teaching. We got no support. And I am sad to say that even when I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student, which was rare since the students with severe behavior issues took up so much of our teaching time, any progress that I felt was made would be so quickly wiped away by a few days out of school. I cried almost every day for those kids. And I decided very early into the school year that I wasn’t going to do it another year but that I should stick it out until the school year ended so as not to add more change and uncertainty to the lives of these children. The lead teacher held the reins on the class pretty tight in that he didn’t want me usurping his authority and didn’t like me doing any lesson planning, which was odd because he was to disenfranchised and lazy to do it himself. I tried to focus on providing a nurturing environment to the classroom because I wasn’t really permitted to do much more. Shamefully I realize that many of those kids finished that year not knowing much more than they did when they started. And probably didn’t even know enough to get in my cousin’s daughter’s Kindergarten class, despite being passed into second grade because failing them would mean my lead teacher would have to do a whole lot of paperwork and extra work he refused to do as well as angering the parents who would probably show up to school for the first time when they found out their kid failed. The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening. I think of those kids SO often, wondering how they will turn out, if they will ever get a break. It seems unlikely.

So in contrast expecting all the kids to know core educational milestones prior to setting foot in the school system seems insane. What do you think? Any experience with your school district expectations?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Short posts?

Taking a cue from Julie I will try to post short posts more often rather than waiting for more free time that never comes.

After my last post I was struck down by a stomach virus in the middle of the night. I felt very lousy for 24 hours and was unable to take Noah to his skating party. I’m happy to report that Mark took a half day to take him. I’m told that Noah was a determined little skater who fell a couple of times and kept on skating. He came home so proud that he had skated all by himself. And I think Mark was proud too. Though I’m disappointed I missed it and certainly did not enjoy vomiting, I think it turned out for the best. The two of them had some real quality time together.

Easter was grand. We saw almost all our immediate family in one day. Noah was so wrapped up in playing with his cousins that when I'd check on him he'd practically say "Scram, Ma. You're cramping my style." Noah participated in six egg hunts and we have insane amounts of candy. That won't help me lose more weight.

Ray is now off his Reflux meds. Yay! He's also quite snuffly again. Hope that passes quickly without infecting others. Have I mentioned he is incredibly sweet, squishy, cuddly and lovely? I knew I would love another baby but was not sure I could be head over heels in love with him as I am with Noah. And I am. Ray isn't Noah. He's Ray. And I adore him. He is such a funny little guy - constantly making me chuckle.

Last week when Noah was playing in the theater in The Discovery Museum a woman came in to teach a kids acting class and said we could stay. The class was a bit stage-motherish in a wierd way - teaching kids stage directions, improvisation and voice projection. The youngest kid in the class was about two years older and Noah was a bit too shy to completely participate. But he did listen to the teacher and do what she instructed. At the end of the class the instructor told me she was amazed at his attention span. Which I always am. He's such an amazing little student.

After much internal debate we paid a deposit for Noah to go to the same school next year rather than send him someplace with more time. I realized if Noah was in school for three 6 hour days I would be inclined to just have him at home the other two weekdays - and less likely to have him out on all our field trips to the museums, the zoo, the library. And he really enjoys those and learns alot. And so do I. Plus then we can spend some extra money signing him up for additional classes - like music, art, dance, tumbling. So for one more year I am going to hoard him. He'll be away all day soon enough. I'm going to keep enjoying having me with him while I can.

I often feel bad for Mark. On weekdays he'll leave before the day really gets started and get home for the business end of the day - just wrangingling two kids through dinner, bath, bed. By the time he gets home all the fun stuff is done and we're all worn out. And I realize that is how it is for so many parents. And one day it will be so for me too. So I have to enjoy these days while I have them. As exhausted as I may be. I'll never get them back again.

Oh crap. That wasn't short at all. I suck at short.

Monday, March 24, 2008

He ain't heavy.

Ray eats. Noah chats.


He'll make you want to do dishes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pulp of the matter

We call Ray the pulper. He loves table food. And by that I mean that he loves not baby food but food you wouldn’t normally give to infants. He puts it in his mouth mashes it up, moves it around with his tongue and spits it out. He does not swallow. So at the end of normal meal Ray is covered in a plethora of slimy gummed pieces of cheese stick, banana, pretzels, veggie booty, fruit leather, apples, oranges, etc. It’s actually pretty nasty to clean him up. And the baby food – bah. He’ll eat a few spoonfuls of fruit but he could take it or leave it.

Ray loves to stand. He’s in love with anything that is the perfect height to hold on to. Like the dishwasher. He could stand all day at the open dishwasher pulling silverware out and tossing it to the floor. It’s making Mark’s job very hard. He also adores the tub. Not just the water, which he really adores, but also standing at the side of the big tub. Leaning over, trying to throw himself in. And he’s climbing stairs. May the Gods help us. We haven’t gated. Our house has hard to gate areas that may never be gated. I guess we better keep our eyes on him.

And once again Noah is all about the egg hunting. I am not exaggerating when I tell you we have about 20 a day. He hides the eggs while I pretend to sleep, then after I seek we switch. We’ve also begun putting little toys in the plastic eggs so that we can surprise each other with our bounty. The funniest thing is that Noah will just show me where he has hidden the eggs if I hesitate even a moment. Unless of course he forgets where one is and then he tells me he was being “tricky” while we look together.

Tonight I went out with the girls. I agonized about it for a week. What would I wear – and the answer was nothing of interest. I decided in the end not trying was better than trying and failing miserably. What would happen if I was away and they needed me? Amazingly enough no one self destructed despite bedtime issues. Mark handled everything quite admirably. Especially for someone who doesn’t get enough credit. It was nice to be out. It helped to alleviate some stress. At least some of the stress I was feeling about going out. And I was only a little heartbroken when Mark told me that before Noah fell asleep he asked “Why do those three people not want Mama to bring me?”

Noah is downright obsessed with The Backyardigans. We bought one of the discs last year and listened to it quite a bit and Mark bought Noah a new one a couple of weeks ago. Oddly enough we were more familiar with the music than the actual show. So as Noah is now watching the episodes he gets super excited when he recognizes the songs. He is also constantly talking about the cast. He refers to them as Pablo, Uniqua, Tascha, the Moose and Austin the Kangaroo. And he’s constantly amazed that not every character is in every episode. After he watches one he tells me who was there and who wasn’t and then guesses that maybe Austin was out shopping with his Mama. I’m pretty sure I have the bulk of the songs memorized and that I also hear Backyardigans songs in my dreams.

We’re finally getting out more. SPRING IS COMING! I have plans to do something with the boys everyday between now and next Friday. Tomorrow Noah’s class is having a rollerskating party. I bought him trainer inline skates today. He needs a lot more practice. I guess tomorrow I’m going to be hauling him around the rink in my sneakers, with a baby who is missing his naptime strapped to me of course. It should make for an interesting two hours.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Just keep swimming

Last Tuesday was great. It was like a fog lifted. We were all seeming well and we headed out on an excursion. We went to the Adventure Aquarium. Noah hadn’t been in a year and Ray had never been. Noah enjoyed it SO much more than he did last time. Last time he was cautious about the low lighting and frightened of the sharks. This time he was mystified by everything, especially the sharks. I think he could of watch the shark tank for an hour. He just thought they were so cool. And we also “talked” to some scuba divers in the tank. They swam up to the glass and began showing us some shark teeth. Ray was transfixed by the fishes too. I’d put him up next to the glass and he’d try to talk to them. Chattering away, tapping on the glass. On the way out we hit the gift shop. Noah got an assortment of hard plastic sea creatures including a sawfish which had been his favorite thing during the day. And Ray of course got a ray. It was such a nice day. To be out, experiencing the world and watching my boys at work in it. That’s what I love. And it had been FAR too long.

Oh- and I am now officially freaked out by hippoes. Seeing those enormous things prance around in the water right in front of you is damn frightening. The sharks didn’t wig me out, but all I could think of when I saw that hippo was “Any second now he’s coming through that glass to crush us all.” I was smart enough not to talk about my anxiety when we were at the aquarium but no so smart when I discussed it with Mark over dinner. Suddenly during bath time Noah had to get out of the tub before the jumping hippoes got him. Smart Mom.

So Tuesday was fun. And we had our art group on Wednesday and it was great to see friends. It was a nice break. A short one. By Thursday I was full on sick again. I couldn’t freakin believe it. I was the wasted, fevered, walking dead wheeling Ray around Target in circles while Noah was in school. It seemed easier to put him in a cart and entrance him with the colorful commercialism than it was to take him home and try to entertain him. I didn’t even buy anything. Just hauled my sickly ass around. Pathetic.

On Saturday I gathered it together enough to take Noah to a lunch playdate at Frannies – where he mostly just watched as three little girls dressed up and played mind games with each other. Ah girls – already setting up social hierarchies and ridiculing each other. Crazy. And that night Noah was very excited to finally go see our neighbors’ band play at a local record store. Steve and Krista are married and live next door. They are also both incredibly helpful, attractive, and talented rockin hipsters. I think we all collectively have a crush on them. How could you not? Noah has been anxious to see their band. We’ve had to explain to him that rock bands typically play at bars past his bedtime but when The Swimmers had a daytime show we would take him. And we finally got our chance. He loved it – though of course that means he just sat their slack jawed looking distraught and saying not much of anything during or right after the show but will now continue to talk about it for a month.

This weekend Mark also did some cleaning up, bless his soul. He kind of owed me for the time I gave him to work on his music (new songs on MySpace) in the basement. So it’s a little cleaner around here. Just a little. But it helps.

And it’s Monday and I’m still not right. I’ve been ill with one thing or another for the greater part of a month. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sick, this long. It bites. And Noah seems like he’s having a snotty resurgence too. Sheesh.

It’s been such a draining month. I am eager for the rejuvenating effects of spring. I’m already planning a million outings. The flower show, an egg hunt, a play, the circus. I’m sure I’m over doing it but I’m just so eager to DO SOMETHING. And I need to do something for myself too. Real bad. But what? At the moment I’ve decided that what I can do to be a far more calm and sophisticated me is to buy a bunch of new exotic teas. THAT should fix everything.