Monday, February 29, 2016

Helen's Conference

Because not all days at school are good days, I figured I ought to record what happened at Helen's conference. Before we could be seated, Helen's teacher said "I just have to remark before we get started that you have the two nicest children. Connor and Helen both are such a delight to have in class." and then she went on to talk more about Helen.

Helen's conferences are very easy because they are full of statements about what a joy she is to have in class. Helen is a "teacher pleaser" so she pretty much does exactly what she's asked to do when she's asked to do it. The only time she really made a stink about anything, was when she wrote a request in her Christmas card to her teacher to please be moved to a new seat. She accompanied that request with a box of homemade chocolates. Her reasoning in that card could not be beat. She told the teacher she was "having trouble learning". (Her teacher had already created a new seating chart before receiving the card, which included moving just about every child. Helen was thrilled, of course.)

Helen maintains her spot in the highest spelling group and I sense her only small annoyance about this is that there are two other children with her. Connor, in contrast, was in his own spelling group for almost the entire year - and we used to chide him that a group is more than one. Helen is pleased that she is the only girl in her spelling group, and she does work hard to learn her new words each week. The teacher has also implemented some writing options, rather than the dreaded 'word pictures', which suits Helen well. Last week, she used her vocabulary words to write a note to her teacher, which I will have to post at some point because it was pretty funny.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Trudging along

We have entered an all-out war with the math teacher. Everyone is losing - most of all, me. The curriculum is not challenging, though there are certainly some parts that could be. Connor has spent the past two years getting away with reading in class - and this year, the teachers (including the math teacher) are not impressed.

And I get that. It's rude and must be frustrating to look up and see this kid staring at his book instead of listening to you. I have felt that frustration myself! But somehow, he's able to take in all or most of the material (possibly he can just recall it from being taught the same thing in the past) so I'm conflicted. Let him continue to annoy his teacher, or tell him he must comply with the request to put his book away even if it means he's bored. I chose the latter path, hoping it would give me ground to try and argue for improvements in a few weeks. But, alas, that is not Connor's first choice.

The head-to-head is killing me, and I've told Connor that the outcome is already known. He will lose. There is something in teacher DNA that makes them (largely) unable to lose an argument, particularly with a student. And when a student asks a question the teacher cannot answer, in this case at least, it seems the teacher is willing to just move on - without bothering to look up the answer, see it as an opportunity for enrichment, or ask Connor to look it up and report back.

During our conference, the teacher answered different questions than I asked, and unfortunately we were late to the portion of the conference she was joining us in, so we really couldn't talk through everything very well.

I now receive cryptic notes of accusation from the teacher, eye rolls from Connor, and a cup of outright defiance along with it. And while I'm sympathetic to the teacher, I'm not impressed when I'm told a piece of homework got ripped up because Connor was doing it in class. She's a paid professional. She's paid to not lose her sh*t in class. And when she does lose it, she better be forthcoming about it when I meet with her, rather than me having to bring it up.

So to try and break the tension, I am heading up to school next week to sit with the two of them. My note to my future self when I have to do this again - try banging your head on your computer screen. It might be more satisfying.


Monday, February 15, 2016

So cold...

We have hit what I am hoping is the last cold stretch of the season. It was so cold this weekend that we decided to cancel a mini-ski break we had planned. Around here, runs are small, so the ratio of "on the lift chair" to "on the ski slopes" can be pretty bad. And having icy cold wind whipping around doesn't make that ratio any more tenable.

Instead, we headed out to Cub Run - a rec center we haven't been to in years. We discovered now that Connor and Helen are competent swimmers, as are many of their friends, they can snag a friend and Ed and I can swim laps (Ed) and hang out in the hot tub (both of us). Helen and her friend would've stayed even longer than we did, but Connor and Ed had plans to hit a basketball game and Connor's friend was ready to go when Connor left.

We remembered the days of Connor walking cautiously into the water, figuring out the little slides, and having to pull him out of the water with blue lips. I miss that little guy.

But I don't miss having to chase that little guy around in the relatively cold water!


Friday, February 12, 2016

The Call from School

Few phone calls inspire a racing pulse like a call from the school office. After a barrage of texts, emails, and phone calls from the school - alerting me that there would be no evening activities, and then no after school activities at all - I received a call from Connor and Helen's school.

I quickly switched lines to take the call, only to hear Connor's voice saying "Mom, this is Connor" and then nothing. Not a word. Not a sound of a receiver being dropped. Not noise from a Valentine's Day party in the background - just nothing. And then a little static. I repeated Connor's name a few times, spoke into the phone that I could not hear him - if he could hear me, please hang up and call back.

No luck. So I called the number I had been called from, only to learn that it was likely a number from a classroom, and I would need to call the school's front office to get in touch with Connor. I did this, and the administrator surmised that Connor was probably calling to let me know his after school class had been cancelled.

And even though I knew this was probably true, my heart still stopped for moment, as I pondered the probability that he had just fainted, and nobody was there to help him. Should I insist the administrator run upstairs and confirm that Connor was alive and well?

My mind works in funny ways, but at least at this point, my rational self can talk my excited self into calming the eff down.

But it still made me miss the days when the administrator at our beloved Waldorf school would call and before uttering anything more than her name, she would say "everything is fine with your children" and then she would proceed to explain the nature of her call.

Which makes me think I'm not the only one who has a racing heart when they see a school number pop up on the phone.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Snow...

It seems only appropriate to at least mention that we had a blizzard a couple of weeks ago. It started out on a Wednesday night, when we got about an inch of snow that magically turned into ice - and about a bajillion car wrecks. For the most part, we were unscathed by the storm. Ed picked Helen up from her Odyssey of the Mind practice at 6:30 on his bike, and let her ride home on his seat while he pushed her. This is, if you wondered, a very fun way to commute (for Helen).

My team was meeting in my house, and in the basement it was not snowy at all. A few of the kids can walk home, another was engrossed in a project she was working on, and didn't seem to mind when her mom called letting us know she'd be late. As it turned out, her mom would never reach our home. Eventually, another parent drove her home - but the mile drive took over an hour, because there were so many wrecks, there was no place for cars to go!


And then the snow really hit. Over two feet. It was incredible, and there seemed to be no point in trying to shovel it because as soon as it fell, the winds were scheduled to pick-up, which they did. We made it to official blizzard status and ultimately, the kids scored another WEEK home from school. Days one and two weren't bad - Ed had the days off because the government was also closed. Days three and four were on me, but I needed to be at work. Fortunately, but day four I figured out that high school students were also not going to school - so we called in a neighborhood babysitter.

Helen spent her mornings up the street involved in a complex fort building scheme. Connor spent time working on Odyssey of the Mind, having playdates, and by the end he was enjoying a new friend.

The highlight had to have been when our all-time favorite babysitter came by with her giant dog. The kids went dogsledding!

Now, it's just cold, which is much less fun than snow.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Role Models

Helen has been a feminist since she could speak. Maybe she's just doing what her mama does, but I think it's more than that. For example, as early as age 3, she was using the word "she" as her gender neutral pronoun. She strikes me as the kind of gal who will do what she wants as she gets old - because she knows deep in her heart that it's the right thing to do. She might not be lost along the way, but others will.

I worry about the place she and her friends will decide to carve out. Her disappointment in the world is growing - and it's breaking my heart. It makes no sense to her, for example, that in a book written for children about scientists - all but a handful are men. She scours the pages virtually ignoring some amazing men, trying to figure out what place women hold. Curie, Lovelace, Hopper, McClintock, Carson, Goodall. I can see it across the room. She's looking for her place. WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? And Mom - did you see that Jane Goodall is still alive? She's one of US.

And as easy as it is for me to explain that we don't have a lot of early women scientists because people (mostly men) thought it was inappropriate or unnecessary to educate women, it still hurts. Mostly because I know the research. We like to hire people that look like us. And there is a legacy debt owed to women who were routinely excluded from many aspects of life. But there's nobody to pay up.

I see small waves of change. I see more women making their way in science and math. But I would be remiss if I didn't also see that women face unique challenges in traditionally male fields, and it really stinks to look at your daughter and know that someday, someone will dog her for being "too emotional", or "bossy", or "calculating", or any of those other negative words I see reserved routinely to be used in a negative manner when it comes to women, even though she's just trying to carve out her piece of the world.

And that's a big part of the reason that I still stand with Hillary. Because no matter how crappy Congress is the next four or eight years, and how little they end up accomplishing - they would never be able to take away that a woman was in the White House leading the US. And if that's all I can get out of the next four or eight years - I'll take it.

Because my daughter deserves better than what she's inheriting.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Science Fair

Helen and  Connor have been out of school since a week ago last Thursday (12 days!). We got a couple of inches of snow, the streets promptly turned into icy parking lots, and Arlington threw in the towel. Then came two feet of snow and we are just not capable of dealing with that.

I was determined to knock at least a few projects off our to-do list, and science fair bubbled to the top. Helen decided to see what would melt snow the fastest - bringing  it into our home,  bringing it into our home and putting chili pepper on it, or salting it.

It was actually pretty cool watching the plain snow and the chili powder snow shrink while the salted snow was turning into water. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for Arlington.

Connor built a popsicle stick bridge. He studied two different kinds of support systems and a few nights ago, we had the big test.

All good...
...all is not so good.

The lesson I learned from  Connor's experiment? I am super grateful that my Odyssey of the Mind team  did not choose the balsa wood challenge -  because I'm not ready for another building project that will have its success defined by how much weight it holds!