Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another step toward becoming a man

The almost-12-year old boy learned how to deal with a dead mouse in the house today. It was in a trap, so it was (relatively) easy. But not easy enough for me!

June 25 and bored already

Since the schools around here let out last week (or was it the week before?) we've had more than the usual number of encounters with schoolkids. And the word on the street is: we're bored.

Now I know I grew up in the dark ages but in the summer I don't think we were bored till at least the middle of August. But maybe my memory is faulty. I know it's easy to make things seem better back in the day. Still, it seems pretty early for the kids to be bored.

My kids don't get that. They aren't any more or less bored than any other time of the year. If anything they are thrilled that they have more time to pursue their own interests than usual. Math 3 days a week is much better than 5. I think they figure that kids who are stuck in school all day would be thrilled to have a break and get to stay home.

But maybe that's it. Most kids spend so little time at home they don't know what to do when they're there all day long, even though they have the Wii and the computer and lots of games at their disposal.

Don't even ask about books.

Of course I don't think the moms help much either. You'd think they'd love having more time to spend with the children they brought into the world. But, mostly, no. They don't know what to do with the kids either. (I am not talking about working moms who have to figure out places for their kids to go while mom and dad are at work. I am sure that is a special challenge and I am just thankful I don't have to deal with it.) They sigh about the kids boredom but seem powerless to do anything about it. Which they probably are, by the time the kids are school age.

We don't have a real exciting summer planned. Both kids have a couple of daycamps and the Scout has his 10-day Boy Scout camp up in the mountains. We have some historic sites to see, an amusement park to go to, lots of books to read in the hammock. Sewing and model-making projects. Visits to the town pool and the library. Playdates with friends. Card games to play - some we've owned for years that we've never even opened. A garage sale to prepare for - at someone else's house (the best kind). Bikes to ride. Church picnics to go to (and a couple to host). Water balloons to throw and shoot in the giant water balloon sling thing. Parks to hike through.

Tomorrow we're going to clean out the laundry room - I mean haul every single thing out, figure out what to do with it, and put it all away whereever it should go - and then walk the mile to a little luncheonette for soft-serve ice cream. Yeah, we do know how to have fun around here, don't we?

I feel sorry for the kids who are bored, I truly do. I feel sorry for their mothers who have to find ways to entertain their children and would rather they would get out from underfoot. I feel sorry for their dads who have to come home from work to bored complaining children.

But I'm glad my family doesn't have to be like that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen.

Kids lose their summer break due to impenetrable bureaucratic mess

This is just unbelievable:

A bureaucratic boondoggle in the western San Bernardino County, California school district will cost the students their summer breaks -- the schools inadvertently introduced a school-time shortfall amounting to two school days' worth of instruction time over the entire school year. Due to a quirk of regulation, they have to keep the schools in session for an extra thirty four days or lose $7 million in funding.

It has to do with minimum days and the number of classroom minutes - yes minutes - that must be accounted for. Someone miscounted minutes and 34 school days don't count. So it's 34 days of summer school for the kids of this school. Read the whole article to understand the convoluted system that produced the mistake.

My head is exploding now and I can't think of anything else to say, except that I am glad I don't have to count minutes of education time, and that my kids aren't trapped in that school for the summer - or anytime, for that matter.

via Instapundit.

Unclear on the concept

Today I had a nice long talk with my new best friend at the health insurance company. We found out why several claims that should have been approved, hadn't been. She was actually quite helpful. But something that came up at the end of our conversation really scared me.

No, it wasn't the prospect of the federal government taking over the health insurance industry. That does scare me, but it didn't come up in the conversation.

My new best friend discovered that my service provider (aka doctor) was using the wrong form for claims. So she needed to send me the correct form. I could choose mail, which would take 7 - 10 days, or a fax, or an emailed .pdf. I requested the .pdf. As she clicked send, she asked:

"Do you have access to a copier? Because if you don't I can send more than one. I can send as many as you need."

For a minute I was really confused. I said "it's a .pdf, right?" She confirmed that it was. So I just mumbled something about printing as many as I needed, when I needed them. She just said "OK" in her very bright and happy way, and asked if there was anything else she could do to provide excellent customer service to me today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Another thing parents aren't teaching their kids

Well, there are plenty, aren't there? But this is about internet/email etiquette. Or lack thereof.

The tale starts about a year ago, at a day camp. My girl met another about her age. They struck up a friendship and exchanged email addresses. Now my girl is not a big emailer. She prefers to write letters and decorate them with colored pencils and stickers and such. (To those of you who might have a daughter waiting for a letter from her: I didn't say they always get mailed in a timely manner.) But she emailed this little gal a few times. And what did she get in response?

Fw: fw: fw: blah blah blah

Never a personal email. Never even a comment attached to a forwarded email. Just quizzes and jokes and such. And never, ever, with the headers stripped. Man, the email addresses I could have collected if I'd wanted to... but never mind that.

Now, if you send me those things occasionally, don't think I hate you. Because if you are sending me those things, we have a real relationship. We email or otherwise communicate in other ways. Not this girl. She added a name to her email list and that was that.

My little girlie tried to be interested. But she lost it at the quiz that, by asking questions about various characteristics, determined how much the reader is worth. So, for example, certain hair colors had higher or lower $ values. So did ages. Etc. Answer the questions, total up the $ values and you know how much you are worth.

She didn't get it. She didn't think it was funny. She didn't know how to respond to it. I never analyzed it to see if a tall, blonde, skinny girl turned out to be worth more than a short, chubby brunette. We just deleted it.

So, a friendship that could have been nice never got off the ground because one person mistook the act of forwarding email with having a relationship.

Why aren't parents teaching their kids not to do this stuff? It can't be because they don't understand the problem: I am older by far than most of my kids' friends' parents (got that?) and I understand it. Do they like getting boatloads of content-free email? I doubt it. So why don't they teach their kids not to send it?

The emails stopped a while ago; we figured the two just weren't compatible and left it at that. But she popped up (in person) in another venue recently and wants to get together. I have mixed feelings about it, but my girl wants to give it a go. So I am trying to help her answer the question (if it comes up): how come you never answered any of my email? The best I can come up with is: if you'd sent me anything personal, I would have. But, nothing you sent me ever seemed to need a response. Of course, spoken in a gentle tone of voice with a friendly smile.

I am not against electronic communication. I maintain many friendships primarily through email. (And yeah, I know I owe a few.) I participate in a few message boards and I have blogging "friends" with whom I check in frequently. It's not about the medium. It's the message, or the lack of one.

So a silly quiz every now and then is probably OK. But not all the time. And not exclusively that. Because that is not how friendships are built.

What does the future look like, when no one knows how to converse anymore?

Is a pseudo-friendship conducted via impersonal email better than no attempt at friendship at all?

Monday, June 15, 2009

An advertisement for me!

Obama asks moms to return to school.
Finish your degree using government grants and scholarships.

So here we are in a big financial crisis; the government is out of money, but hey, there's plenty of money for moms to go back to school on the taxpayer dime?

Of course that means finding someone to take care of the kids, so... I guess it might count as stimulus, too? Maybe he's going to save and create those 600,000 jobs at KinderCare.

No, I didn't click the link. I have a degree, and I don't guess I need another one badly enough to have you paying my tuition. Thanks anyway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Home, wet but happy

The Scout got home just after 1. We hadn't expected him till about 3, but I guess they made good time canoeing this morning. Everyone was pretty tired too. It had been a wild day on the river, and the sleep wasn't too great last night. The downpour was pretty bad, and the tent was old and leaky. Oh well; they're supposed to get toughened up, right?

One object lesson learned: take care to separate all wet clothes from dry ones. Putting them in an old plastic grocery bag might not quite cut it.

Nothing lost, assuming the new sunglasses are in the truck which brought the boy home.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weather radar is a good and a bad thing.

Good because it's easy to see if rain is coming, or if the rain will end soon.

Bad because you can keep going back to it all day long and see the heavy rain falling on the river where your son is canoeing, and the flash flood warnings that look like they could affect the island on which he is to camp tonight. It makes you wonder if the boys have anything with which to bail out the canoes, and if maybe buying the expensive super-duper guaranteed submersible waterproof dry bags would have been a good investment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Big weekend

Here comes another highly-anticipated weekend in the life of the new Boy Scout: the annual canoe trip, 40 miles down the Delaware River. This is his first one, and the older boys have been talking it up for a while. It looks like a lot of fun, if the preparation doesn't kill him and me both.

Yesterday the boy woke up sick as could be. Coughing, sore throat, headache, digestive disturbances. Oh man. Now the stomach troubles can often be explained by worry. He is a worrier. But big goopy coughs? We shopped anyway, replacing a lost hat and sunglasses, replenishing first aid supplies, and buying sunglass keepers, a keyring, lunch stuff

This morning he was up early, healthy and ready to pack. Everything has to be encased in plastic. How did Lewis and Clark ever manage to keep their stuff dry? We bought waterproof plastic duffle-bag liners instead of expensive dry bags and have extra garbage bags just in case. There was a rumor that some of the junior leaders liked to tip over canoes but we learned that that was a myth concocted to scare the more gullible younger kids. Yes, mine is one of them. He almost believed me when I said, as we were looking at the route on the map and saw that a road hugs the river the whole way, that I could follow along to keep an eye on him. It took him a minute to see that I was not serious. Hm, was I not serious? I have to admit it is a bit tempting.

Good, exciting times. I wish my girl had these opportunities but... she will, in her time. She has a creative nature writing workshop at the arboretum this weekend. And, there's sewing and trying out crafts from multiple library books, including the mother of them all: Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts A to Z. Woo hoo!

The forecast calls for thunderstorms all weekend. I am planning not to be the parent who drops him off at the meeting place tonight, because I am pretty sure I won't be able to control myself from asking the Scoutmaster about canoeing in a thunderstorm.* He's been at this a while, knows about thunder and lightning, and yes, I guess I trust him with my boy's life. I do wish I could forget about that incident wherein some Scout leaders were electrocuted at a jamboree, but that was not lightning-related and... things happen.

It will be a great weekend.

*Surely that is a typical mother thing, though of course there are mothers who don't do this, I'm sure. Once when I dropped him off for a baseball game also under threat of lightning, the coach was quick to tell me that the boys would be under cover and not messing with their aluminum bats if there was any sign of lightning. When I said I figured that would be the case, he sighed deeply and made reference to his wife instructing him to remind the boys not to touch the metal poles in the dugout.

PS: I did cry, just a little, when he left. Wonder when I will be able to stop doing that? I've always been a crybaby. I don't want to end up like that creepy mother in Love You Forever, but... I can see how it could happen, maybe. OK, no, I don't think I'll ever be that bad. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, read a few of the one-star reviews.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is it really comedy?

I don't care much about David Letterman; if I am awake when he is on, I am doing something other than watching tv. I didn't know about his crass comments about Sarah Palin and her daughter till I saw comments on various websites about it. How people can say "hey, it's just comedy" is beyond me.

I like Victor Davis Hanson's take:

Two of the rhetorical cornerstones of the feminist movement used to be zero-tolerance for sexual slurs by men alleging promiscuity ("slutty flight-attendant look"), and jokes about something as serious as rape (e.g., Palin's 14-year-old daughter "knocked up by Alex Rodriguez"). David Letterman, who has become ever more creepy in his dotage, on both counts proved a boor — and receives only silence?

Of course feminism isn't about all women, and never has been; just certain types of women - of which Palin is not.

What an ugly culture we have become. And using the excuse that "it's just comedy" is really, well, inexcusable.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Loudmouth girl

Today was round 1 of baseball playoffs. Our team advances. Talk about your mixed emotions.

A teen girl we'd never seen before came to watch the game with her mother. She had obviously just come from a ball game of her own. I know it was softball because she made loud and pointed comments about knowing softball, not baseball.

Throughout the several innings she sat there, she was loud and obnoxious. She objected to the fact that the parents were not cheering loudly so she yelled a lot. But she didn't know any of the players and would yell comments like "go, whoever you are!" Or she'd cheer loudly for "the purple team" which was neither of the teams playing - she said she was cheering for everyone. She never made any insulting remarks about poorly-executed plays or strikeouts, I have to give her that. But she was so annoying that even her mother asked her repeatedly to be quiet, and then, when she wouldn't, told her to go away. That she did.

I am all for self-confidence but this wasn't it. This looked to me like the cockiness that comes from being insecure. If her mother hadn't been there telling her to shut up, I'd also say she had not had the benefit of parents teaching her appropriate public manners. Maybe her mom just started too late.

People talk a lot about modesty, but it's usually all about clothing. But modesty includes behavior too: a modest person does not call undue attention to herself. This girl had a serious lack of modesty.

Later, when we were home, I asked my girl what she thought of the young woman. She said she was really annoying. We talked about how not to be like that. My girl likes to call attention to herself sometimes too, particularly when she is at a boring baseball game. The difference is she just wants my attention, so she's not annoying other people. She's learning, though. We don't try to turn every incident of the day into a teaching moment, but sometimes they just fall into our laps.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Playoffs? No one said there would be playoffs!

Little League season ended last week. Yea! Our boy had a great time - and showed enormous improvements in skill since last year - but we were ready for it to be over.

But our team ended up in first place and then we started hearing the word playoffs. What?! More games? My girl's heart sank. Mine did too. From what I could see when we first heard the word "playoffs," so did many others.

It's fun to be on a winning team. But, there are other things on the calendar now. Post-season play shouldn't have to come as an unwelcome surprise. No one knew at the start of the season which teams would be at the top of the standings, so all parents should have been advised of the possibility of post-season play.

The schedule of games arrived last night and it's OK; we can make every one. But if the rain comes as forecast, some games are likely to be postponed. Then we get into the weekend of the much-anticipated Scout canoe trip. There is no question in the boy's mind which he will do: the canoe trip wins. "My patrol leader is counting on me." I don't disagree with his choice to go with the Scouts. That group is likely to be a bigger, more important, and longer-lasting part of his life than his Little League team. Still, it will be hard to walk away from a championship game if it comes to that. The dad of another scout on his team says it's a no-brainer: the canoe trip will happen again next year; being top of the league won't. Eh, maybe so.

I'm predicting a few sleepless nights and stomach aches for my boy. He doesn't do well when things are not predictable. And he doesn't want to let anyone down.

Ah, growing up!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Resources, Timing, Readiness

A few years ago, probably when my boy would have been in about third grade and my girl in second, I bought a great spelling program: AVKO Sequential Spelling. I thought this would be the spelling program to end all spelling programs for our family. It teaches spelling in a systematic way, teaching words in "families" and building on them: in, pin, sin, spin, pins, spins... doesn't that make perfect sense?

We started enthusiastically.

Soon, my girl found it too easy and thus boring. Well, she did enjoy getting 100% correct every time. My boy found it impossible. We'd do a lesson and test every day, and it just didn't work, not at all. He couldn't remember the patterns, not even the simplest. We tried to persevere but soon everyone was frustrated.

So, we put it away. For a very long time. In fact I loaned it out to someone and promptly forgot about it.

Now as I have said before, my girl is a "natural speller" who just does not need spelling lessons or tests. She is on her own now, writing a lot and spelling well. I can ignore her in this area.

My boy is another story. We have been doing intensive phonics remediation for the past year or so, at his request. He had come to realize that he was hindering his education by not understanding phonics rules. Recently I realized he was starting to spell more words on his own. Things seemed to be getting easier. So, I thought about AVKO Sequential Spelling again.

Unfortunately I did not remember loaning it out; I searched and searched and only by accident did I come to find I had passed it on to a friend. Fortunately, she remembered it as a loan, not a gift, and returned it right away.

And now my boy is flying through it. We do a test every day - occasionally 2, one written and one oral - and he is getting it. He is spelling. He's also not complaining about it. He doesn't love doing it, but he understands the need for it.

Now someone might say well, he's in, what, 5th or 6th grade now? Of course he should be flying through a spelling book that has words like "pin" in it. What's the big deal?

As anyone with a child who has learning problems will tell you, it is indeed a big deal when a breakthrough like this happens. It is particularly a big deal to a kid who is smart enough to know he has a problem, but doesn't know how to fix it. It is a big deal when a boy who has read the word "truck" thousands of times but could not spell it finally gets the "-ck" ending rule of spelling.

Sometimes, the resource is right but the timing is not. Sometimes, something that is meant for a 3rd grader is just the ticket for a 5th grader who just wasn't ready for it at the expected time.

The moral of this story, of course is - never get rid of anything.

And that goes for games, too. Anyone up for a round of Spill and Spell? After 5 or so years of it hanging around not being played, it was headed for the church garage sale. The kids rescued it, got their visiting grandparents to play with them, and now we're playing every day.

Monday, June 01, 2009

First day of summer schedule

Homeschool schedule, that is.

We finished our academic year last week, just before Grandparents came to visit. So that was vacation... and now we're on summer schedule, which we'll follow till July 1.

About an hour of "schoolwork" each day: math, composition, phonics, stuff like that. Things we must keep up or they will be lost. Regular chores because laundry and dishes and bathroom cleaning never go away. Piano lessons and practice. And then...

Drawing, reading, playing games, trying out fun experiments, and just messing around. Unless we're going to swimming lessons, or (less frequent) therapy appointment, or the park, the library, or some other interesting place we've been wanting to see (or wanting to see again) but haven't had time to.