Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of Doctor Howard Elementary School

Today, MacTroll and I visited Doctor Howard Elementary. It's on University Avenue near Eisner Park. I ran by part of it last year in the marathon relay. It reminded me a lot of South Side because the building is 100 years old. Well, it's actually two buildings. There's the main building and then an addition that has an interior walkway that connects the two on the second floor. The kindergarten and first grades are in that addition.

The kindergarten rooms do not have centers. But they do have buckets of learning toys neatly stacked on carts for center-like time. Kids were in the rooms learning a variety of different things. One classroom was learning about capitalization. The other was having a mid-morning snack (at 9:15 a.m.) and the third were working on some kind of individual projects. But the rooms were welcoming, as were the teachers and the assistant principal, who took us on our tour.

The students have a separate art room and music room, but the gym, auditorium and cafeteria are all in the same area, a minute little space in the basement near the library. The children were playing basketball on medium-sized portable hoops. The gym teacher was using the PA system to give instructions over the dribbling and passing communication.

The library was a lot of books and a lot of tables. There weren't any cozy places to sit. Students visit the library once a week, and book check out is for that week.

The PTA is very active and is currently raising money for some new outdoor playground equipment. A few rooms (like music and art) have smart boards, but most classrooms do not.

The drawback for us regarding Doc Howard, similar to Kenwood now that I think about it, is the distance from our house and the start time. Breakfast is served to students at 7:20 a.m., if you choose the breakfast program, which means the buses are probably there at 7:15 a.m., which means from Savoy, kids are probably on the bus around 6:40, which means X-man would have to be up at 5:40. I would have to drive him every day to avoid the 5 a.m. wake up, which wouldn't be too much of a hassle, but we'd still have to leave the house by 7:20 a.m. each day to make sure we were there by the 7:45 a.m. start. I'd also get less time after work (assuming I get a 5-day a week gig at MMO) to get my stuff done before picking him up because they're out at 2 p.m. Yes, I know I'm lazy... always thinking of myself.

The big plus here would be that Doc Howard has some great after school programs. There's a chess club and a Spanish club that all students at all levels are welcome to join. The Assistant Principal seemed very cued into the students when we walked into the rooms, and I liked the feeling of it being a building meant for small people rather than an institutional feel (which is how I feel in newer schools).

Besides that, the only other thing that frustrated me was the technology in the building. The computers the children were using were really old emacs. One classroom had a dual FLOPPY drive Apple from when I was in high school (think Performa, Quattro, Centris era). MacTroll and I walked out and we both said, "What the hell were those machines?" We totally wanted to give them money for new computers.

The area around the school is mostly paved. There are play areas. Kindergarten and First Grade play together at one playground and then the bigger kids move between two others.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Every few months, four or five of the neighbors get together for a potluck. I don't remember exactly how we decided to start this. I'm pretty sure the idea popped into SuperShanna's head while we were all just standing out in the street on the corner watching our kids trade tricycles last summer...

Usually we all get individual babysitters, but one of the other couples was totally awesome and scored two sitters from her son's school to watch all of our kids while we hung out from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday. X-man LOVED it as much as we did. He got to go play with his friends toys and have everyone in the neighborhood in the same place. He was even too excited to bother eating dinner, so I took some leftover pizza and left it there in case he got hungry.

Then we took our bounty over to another house in the hood and had adult time. I do have to admit, I like being able to sit in someone's kitchen and not have to look around folks to make sure my child isn't tormenting or being tormented. With kids that he plays with all the time, it's not so demanding. I can let up a little. But our kids hadn't really seen each other since the last time we all saw the sun and 60 degree weather -- so they might need practice getting into the groove. Alas, it was just parents.

One of the worst things about living in this area is how transient the community is because of the university. People are always coming and going. And we get a lot of awesome people in the area. So, I fall in love with folks, and then it's time for them to go away. (Yes, Kristen, Dave and Jonah, I'm talkin' about you!) I assume that at some point, the Fruit company my spouse works for will require relocation as well. It's been hinted at that the requirement may come sooner than later. But we've lived here nearly 8 years. And I like it. I particularly like the neighborhood we live in right now, and I don't want it to change. Even though I know Signature plans on starting to prep the land behind my house for development this spring... Hopefully we'll have the same luck getting neighbors behind us as we did getting neighbors across the street and next to us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mysteries, mysteries, mysteries

Ever since X-man started watching Scooby Doo, he's been obsessed with mysteries, clues and catching the villains. That interest has moved into our chapter book reading. Not only can we read superhero chapter books like Batman and Superman, but his new favorite series are the Milo and Jazz Mysteries. They don't currently have them at Barnes and Noble, but we found them at the Tolono Library. I really like that the series is a boy and a girl working together.

We're just about to start the third book after we finish Capain Cal... and I wonder, if down the line, he's going to be all over Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys like his Aunt Melissa was when she was in elementary school.

For Christmas, he got MacTroll a new Wii game called Guilty Party, it's a bit like Clue. We played the first "easy" round (and by we I mean MacTroll and Me). X-man just liked to watch. We have to go back down and play the harder levels. But X-man was enthralled.

I guess it makes sense. It's why he enjoys Mythbusters. He likes to figure out why things work, how people think and how he can learn more about the world through such discoveries.

I also picked up Stink (who looks a wee bit like a young Frazz) and Lulu and the Brontosaurus, so we're excited on checking those out. But, if you've got any chapter book suggestions for down the line, that would be awesome. I'm pretty versed in the "classics" (i.e. Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, etc.) But the newer kid set, would be particularly helpful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review of Stratton Elementary School

I'm going to admit that this isn't just a blog entry about the information that was relayed to me and about the what I saw at Stratton Elementary. I'm starting to form my own opinions about education, mostly based from an early childhood perspective. I promise, I'm not trying to lengthen my son's early years, but there are some approaches to education that I really think early ed does a great job of forming individuals within a community that appear to be completely lost at an elementary school level.

I had a 9 a.m. appointment at Stratton to get a tour with Stephanie Eckels, the principal. Stratton's having a hard week. They're down one secretary and the assistant vice principal due to illness. The phones were ringing off the hook, there was some kind of computer cart meet employee sitting in chair drinking coffee situation and multiple kids were filing in late for class and getting slips from the office.

In the office, there are two separate posters that stress being on time as a priority for Stratton students.

9:10 a.m. The custodian arrives to clean the coffee.
9:20 a.m. The substitute secretary is madly going through chess game boxes trying to find a home for a lone bishop.
9:25 a.m. The regular secretary looks up at the clock apologizes to me, and rebuzzes the principal...
My tour begins at 9:27 a.m.
My tour ends at 9:35 a.m., so I can get to an appointment by 10 a.m.

So, keep in mind, I had 8 minutes.

The school day at Stratton runs from 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. There are over 400 students in the school. Right now they have five different grade 3 classes for some reason. They're also home to one of the three schools that has gifted program classes, so they have a lot of enrichment space. They also provide ESL and special education.

And this is where, I start to wonder if I'd ever send X-man to gifted if he qualified. I have a thing about words. And it bothers me when a program is called "self-contained gifted." I attended a "self-contained" gifted program myself. And as a child, I never thought about the ramifications of this kind of environment. Mostly, I remember calling the other kids "regular" which to me meant "less smart" or to a more cruel child "dumb." I was a kid, I didn't know any better. But then again, Middle School can be an absolute abrupt end to childhood innocence. And since that's the way the adults who devised Rockford Schools had named things -- I assumed it was correct and okay.

I have the same kind of revulsion now when I hear the words "enrichment" versus "reading recovery." Can't they all be enrichment, but people are at different levels so kids aren't labeled? In early childhood, we do a lot of conversation about how everyone learns differently. Some kids are aces at building other kids have a giant passion for art. Different fine motor, cognitive, social and gross motor skills come to students at different times in their growth. And where one person is challenged, the other is not. In my line of work, there are no regular kids or enriched kids. There are just little people, who want to be loved, cared for and have a never-ending curiosity about the world. I never want them to lose that curiosity, and I'm afraid, by the current environment of testing, that's exactly what's happening.

But I digress.

You should know that the building is lovely, and fairly new. They have their own gym, a different lunch room, two PE teachers, so you're likely to have an extra day of the week that you might not have at other schools. There's also 1.5 enrichment teachers to keep all the accelerated kids happy. The play equipment in front and next to the school is new, and the park district not only holds sporting events there, but also just started an after school theater program for kids 2nd-5th grade.

Music and art have their own classrooms, and the library is a decent size, with a nice reading corner. The building also has its own computer lab, so each student can use a computer during computer time. (The computers are PCs, if that's important to you.)

Something I didn't know about Stratton is that it has a school dress code. So, if you enjoy the idea of uniforms, it is one of two schools (Barkstall being the other) that keeps the sales of khakis in Champaign County going. :-) Myself, I'm not a fan of dress codes. Call me a free speech freak, but I don't get it. That, and after seeing how you can still tell the "haves" from the "have nots" at Barkstall I don't think they're an effective "equalizing" tool. More than that, I don't think a collared shirt should be required to understand that education is important.

The rooms were all about the same size, from my peeks into them. They were decorated and welcoming and middle sized. The building has two floors (big kids are upstairs), but it wasn't overwhelming like a Robeson or a Barkstall. It felt more like an elementary school.

At the end of our walk through, Stephanie invited me back and said that they'd be happy to have us. She also talked about how she used to work at Garden Hills. And we chatted a bit about the Magnet Schools. She said that in terms of academics she thought she could do a pretty good job at competing with what they had, except for the international focus. An alarm bell went off in my head at the word "compete."

She was a very nice woman, and I think Stratton is a decent environment, but I am not putting it on my list of five.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Kid in School...And the Kindergarten Meeting

So X-man brought home this little student incentive chart from last week. I guess I missed it in his cubby on Friday. It lists the days of the week and some key things he's working on, including academics, specialties (music, art and spanish), manners, follows directions and uses inside voice.

Shocker of shockers, the specialty area and academic area are full of stickers. But there are no stickers in the behavioral area...

You know, for something that I've been pretty tuned into since he was 2 years old, I'm kind of done. Clearly, my repetition of expectations, modeling of good behavior, cognitive approach and incentive/rewards hasn't taken hold. So I'm not sure what will. It's been, apparently, my big parenting fail.

Right now, he's telling me all about his introduction to the Bubble Guppies from his play date at Ella's last night while I was at the kindergarten meeting.

Speaking of kindergarten meeting, I didn't really learn anything new, besides that parents are weird people and if you send your child to the Garden Hills magnet school they will have the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese. Some dad showed up and said his kid didn't speak any English and wanted to wave ESL because he didn't want his kid to go to the schools where that service was provided. (The answer is that he'll have to sign something that says he's refusing services.) Another parent showed up and was concerned the school might make her vaccinate her child. (Again there's a form where you have to list why you're against vaccinations, which makes me wonder if they deny waiver requests for "I think they cause autism, even though the study that said there was a link was proven to be false and the doctor was freaking disbarred in England" reasons). But then again, maybe she's a Christian Scientist?

Someone else wanted to know if she drove her kid to school if she could get some kind of increased chance of getting her school of choice because she was providing transportation that the schools wouldn't have to pay for... the answer was -- no.

Talking to the principals was interesting because there are some that, well, don't have a personality. And others who light up the room. It's very curious. There was a collective cross our fingers about meeting the increased percentages they'll have to achieve to meet No Child Left Behind this year. I guess the number is 85 percent have to pass the ISAT tests... and no one is quite sure that's going to happen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chores for X-man are Chores for Mom

For the last six months, X-man has had a chore chart. He had seven items that he had to do every day. Some of the items were things like: Pick up toys before bed or Help with Indoor Chores or Set Table. Other items included: Being respectful, No whining, etc. If he got 5/7 items for seven days, he got an allowance.

This week, I went through all the Melissa and Doug suggestions for our store bought chore chart and for the first time, I only used one of their suggestions: Do Homework. (X-man is working on his writing.)

Other items: Practice Tae Kwon Do, Do Not Pick Your Nose, Do Not Pick Apart Your Clothes, Eat 5 Fruits and Vegetables a Day.

Except now, he has to get 4/5 every day in order to get his allowance. Yes, there are fewer items to accomplish, but I've also told him I'm not buying him socks any more if he's just going to pull them apart. So he better earn some allowance or he'll have to go without the rest of the winter... (To be fair, he has 10 pairs left.)

Is anyone else having these nervous habit issues with their children?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Big and Busy

Today started a week of craziness. It's not that I have a slew of ugly things to do. Most of the items to do this week I enjoy, but the schedule is so full, I couldn't even sub for anyone at MMO. I work on Tuesday and Friday with the fabulous kiddos at MMO. I am picking up the bookdrop and taking it to the Tolono Public Library on Tuesday. I am finishing up with the personal training I got for the holidays.

But I have a lot of different appointments. I'm visiting one (Stratton), maybe two (if Washington Elementary gets back to me) kindergarten classrooms this week. I've got the first parents School of Choice information meeting on Tuesday night. (Thank goodness my neighbors are happy to watch X-man for me so he doesn't have to be bored out of his mind at the meeting.) X-man starts sports class at Little Gym on Tuesdays, while still going to TKD on Monday and Wednesdays with me. Plus, he still sees Master Hyong for his private time on Friday night.

The president gives his State of the Union Address this week. Whether you like him or not, I'm not one to miss when Obama speaks. His oratory is wonderful, even if he periodically doesn't have the political muscle to move his agenda through. Overall, I find him to be a very smart and kind man, and I'll take those two characteristics in a president any day of the week.

This Saturday, MacTroll and I are signed up to use our coupons at the Upperlimits Rock Climbing Gym in Bloomington. We're dropping X-man off with his grandparents at the Children's Discovery Center in Normal at 9:15 a.m., and then going to our class from 10-Noon. Then we'll have lunch with X-man and the grandparents, and come back home. So that we can make some cinnamon rolls in time to go to a get together with some of our neighbors.

I'm glad that I got my long run (10.5 miles) out of the way at the Armory this morning with my sister. She waited very patiently while I slugged through the distance. I took my first Clif Shot with me. They were little fruit wedges and when I started to bonk, I ate one... and five minutes later, I was all better. But the head cold I've been carrying around for the last four days doesn't help when you're running. Oh, and as a Note -- Nike+, if a person runs 10.5 miles for the first time since last June, she'd like someone other than freaking Tracy Morgan congratulating her. I mean, seriously. Why him? Does he run? Couldn't you pick someone more inspirational? I don't even find him funny.

Tonight, I'm headed to Savoy 16 with some friends to see No Strings Attached. I'm a little dubious of the crowd that might be coming out of BW3, if the Bears Game ends around 5 p.m. But maybe if I stay at the far end of the lot, I'll be okay?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review of Kenwood Elementary School

Today, MacTroll and I took X-man to tour Kenwood Elementary School. We hadn't heard much about the school besides the fact that it's not one of the schools that is usually over chosen at the lottery. The overall test scores of the school appear to be low in regards to the No Child Left Behind situation, but we found the environment and leadership there to be quite -- welcoming and warm.

We were given a tour by the principal, Lisa Geren. She comes with a friendly southern accent and immediately tuned into X-man, shaking his hand first and welcoming him. (If you know me, this made me like her immediately.) Then she took us into her office where a student was finishing reading to the school's on-site literacy dog, Ms. Susie. Susie was a rescue dog, who hangs out in the principal's office all day. The children who earn a chance to read to her get to sit in a bean bag and read and visit with the dog. X-man thought that this was very fun -- because it was highly irregular.

On our tour, we visited Super Sam's kindergarten class. We waved at him, but he seemed confused to see us out of place. :-) The kindergarten rooms were all gigantic and very well decorated. They looked like the kind of place I wouldn't mind spending six hours learning to read, write and do math. Lots of art hanging on the walls, tables were in a neat order and in each kindergarten room the children were completely engaged in what was going on.

Kenwood has two courtyard environments. They're small, but one is home to a garden that is help supported by the local Master Gardeners. It also has squirrel feeders, tables to eat lunch on outside when the weather is nice. The other has a fish pond (with a turtle). The courtyards let a lot of natural light into the hallways that was nice, and the principal made a point of stating that it's a very animal friendly place. They were hoping to have baby squirrels in the tree in the courtyard in the spring.

The cafeteria and the gym are the same place and showing its age, but X-man was excited because they just installed a brand new climbing wall.

Kenwood has individual music and art rooms, so there's no art on a cart. The music teacher invited us in where the children were singing. X-man asked her right away about her obsession with Elmo. "There are just -- soooo many."

Enrichment had its own classroom to work on accelerated reading. We did see a student or two working with folks one on one in the hallway from time to time. We also saw parents who were volunteering in the classrooms. The students were getting group photos taken in the hallway when we got there. The library was HUGE and had fun beanbags for kids to sit down and read in.

The kindergarten rooms didn't have clear center areas any more, but they had many other fun items (like puzzle carts, games, etc., available.) So even though there wasn't any kind of housekeeping or block area, X-man thought it still looked like a fun place to be.

The neighborhood is in Holiday Hills, so it's lower middle class, but it is tucked away from busy streets and quiet. The school runs on a balanced or "year-round" schedule. School starts at 7:50 a.m. and runs until 2:05 p.m.

Overall, MacTroll and I were pleasantly surprised. It had that smaller school environment we're looking for, and X-man felt comfortable right away. How do I know? He didn't stop talking the entire time we were there.

MacTroll and I got a little embarrassed when he said, "We're just here to visit. I want to go to Carrie Busey because it's going to be the school in Savoy" to the secretary. We just let it go. Gonna have to work on the social politeness situation as he gets older...

But Kenwood definitely just made it onto our list of five schools.

Review of Robeson Elementary School

The kindergarten lottery system starts in March, but this year is just slightly different. We have to choose five schools as potential places we'd want to send X-man, not just three, like in previous years. Picking five schools when there are eleven seems ridiculous, particularly when there are only four, 30-minute tour spots available and one open house (which we'll be gone for). So, outside of the tour days, I've been trying to set up private tours at the other schools that I haven't had a chance to visit yet.

MacTroll and I visited Robeson Elementary School in SW Champaign. It's one of the larger elementary schools in the system, and moderately close to our house. We know three or four families that have children who attend there, and in 2009 our business purchased some kindergarten carpets and pillow seats for kids to sit on for the school. It's in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by Robeson park, which connects to some short bike trails. The community around the school is pretty affluent.

Walking into the school we met a few other families waiting for the tour, including a couple of X-man's friends. Right now, Robeson is a 4-strand school. That means they have four classrooms at each grade level. Next year they'll only have three strands, so the number of students will go down. It's no question that they could use the space. Certain activities and special needs activities are taking place in the hallway. Having special rooms for those kinds of learning interactions is definitely important. But it is a big school. It feels big, open, and quite yellow on the inside. The students went about their day quite happily involved in the learning process. We got to sit in and listen to some of the kids enrolled in the Strings program warm up their instruments. We saw the library and the kindergarten rooms.

The principal was very nice, but left it up to parents to approach her with questions, which is hard, when you're all not quite sure what you're getting into. The kindergarten rooms no longer have centers at Robeson. And kindergarten students eat during the very last lunch period, so they don't have to rush. The school day starts at 7:50 a.m., so the school feeds the kids some kind of morning snack in order accommodate this late eating period. Since the school day ends at 2:05 p.m.

Overall, we found Robeson to be much less -- cozy-- than a Carrie Busey or a South Side. It felt more like Barkstall.

I'm starting to understand that when picking a school, it's beginning to be more about teachers and environment and knowing that you feel comfortable that an administration will work with you.

In regards to Robeson, I know my friends who go there have a child with severe allergies and have worked hand in hand with the school to educate them about the seriousness of food allergies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Stop on the Road to Self Confidence

On Saturday, X-man tested for his yellow belt at HMD Academy. We've been going to classes there twice a week since August and in December we started going on Friday to get extra help to prepare X-man for his yellow belt test.

HMD Academy is non-competitive. There is no actual winner or loser sparring going on. It focuses mostly on promoting self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance. X-man has inherited a number of my issues regarding these concepts. He is unsure of himself. He tells himself he can't do something. He doesn't think anyone really likes him, and he often says that without me, he'd feel very much alone.

I knew right away when that kind of stuff started coming out of his mouth last year that I needed to try and nip it in the bud, but he didn't believe me... Curiously, at the same time, HMD had an informational table at the movie theater, and I got to speak with Ms. Kayla about the program. Lots of people think of martial arts as fighting, but in reality, at least at HMD, it feels a lot more like mixing dance with yoga. It's about personal achievement and focus. But there is some shouting, and a whole lotta push ups. :-)

X-man practiced TKD 3 hours a week, including class time. He's gotten so frustrated with it that he's tried to kick his teacher or broken down in tears in the middle of class, AND he's gotten so happy about it that he's several times, much to the surprise of his teacher, full on hugged him when he's mastered something he's had trouble with.

We set a goal. Each week we practice. When he finally achieves the goal he feels good about himself, and we set a new goal and move forward.

I'm very proud of X-man for sticking with something like this for over five months.

X-man in his ready stance with Master Hyong.

I know it's fuzzy, but you can still see the total proud look on his face!

Here he is -- my banana belt!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Houston, we have a fibroid

The results of my pelvic ultrasound are in. I have a benign fibroid that could be contributing to my low iron. I have a follow up appointment with gynecology on March 2 at 10:45 a.m. to see if it's inside or outside my uterus, what my options are about treating it, etc. It seems so very far away.

I went in this morning for my gluten intolerance test. I'll get the results back next week.

Until then, I'm having a hard time with lethargy this week. I think if the schedule wasn't so insane, I'd be handling it a little better. But there's a lot of things going on. I started a new part-time job. I am picking up the book drop in Tolono. I attended my first board meeting at the library to see what it was like. I got some personal training sessions (3 per week for 30 minutes) for Christmas that I'm using at the Rec Center, and I've been doing Tae Kwon Do out my ears with X-man so that he can pass his yellow belt test. Traveling, guests, snow, vet appointments, doctors' appointments...

It's a lot. But then I read articles like this in the Wall Street Journal, about how I'm this totally whipped Western parent. And I think, "Wow, that whole dynamic sounds pretty heartless, but at the same time, I wonder if I was more relentless with my son, if he'd learn a better work ethic. Am I too lenient?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guns, Death, Racism and My Kid

Last night X-man and I read, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters" by Barack Obama at bedtime. If you've never read it, it's Obama listing all of the things he loves about his girls -- and what people in history also shared the same characteristics.

Our conversation went something like this.

X: "Is Martin King still alive?"
L: "No, he was shot a long time ago before Mommy was born."
X: "Who shot him?"
L: "James Earl Ray."
X: "Why?"
L: "He didn't like that Martin thought people with different colors of skin should be friends and equals."
X: "Earl Ray wasn't a nice man."
L: "No."

I read some words...
X: "Mom, is Lincoln still alive?"
L: "No, he was shot a long time ago before even my grandparents were born."
X: "Did Earl Ray shoot him too?"
L: "No, John Wilkes Booth."
X: "Why didn't he like Lincoln?"
L: "Because Lincoln wanted black people to not be slaves and to be treated like people. He also wanted them to be able to vote."

I read some more.
X: "Why is Sitting Bull's face like a mountain?"
L: "The picture represents the land he lived on and the time he was alive."
X: "Did someone shoot him, too?"
L: "Probably, let me check." I do a Wikipedia search. "Yes. He was shot by a Lt. Bullhead when Sitting Bull resisted arrest by the U.S. government.."
X: "Why was he arrested? Was he bad?"
L: "White people broke a treaty and took the land of his people, and he was angry, so the Native Americans, who lived here before us, were at war with the white people."
X: "Why do white men always shoot people they don't like?"
L: "I don't know, Baby. I don't know. But it's wrong, and I don't like it."
X: "I won't shoot anybody. I will use my words."

I love that idea and his words. Please let him remember them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Manic Monday

I had a lot of appointments today. And, of course, one of them got fubared -- it was no one's fault. I went in for my pelvic ultrasound, but apparently I'm a "slow filler" so it took 20 minutes longer for the 48 ounces of water that I drank between 7:15 and 7:40 a.m. to make it to my bladder. At 8:30 at my appointment, we were all ready to go, but my bladder was about 1/3 of the way behind. So, I got to pee and then got sent out to come back at 9:30. From 9-9:30 MacTroll and I toured Carrie Busey Elementary School. It's my third time there. I went last year by myself when Savoy finally got a proximity A school. Then I went back during the open house night with Quigs. We saw Mrs. Carswell, who always makes me happy to send my child to kindergarten if he can have a teacher that communicative. :-) But this year, the special treat was that Mr. Scott, the assistant principal that I liked so much at Southside when I toured last year, is now the principal at Carrie Busey.

MacTroll was pretty happy about the tour and seeing the inside of the building plans for the new building they're supposed to finish by the time X-man is in first grade. Mostly, he was really excited to see so much inclusivity in the classrooms. Carrie Busey is home to the district's education program for the deaf. So, it was awesome to see interpreters in the classrooms working with the librarian doing story time, side by side.

Afterwards, I went to the gym and did some strength training and road 20 miles on the bike in 60 minutes. I'm excited about reaching this ability of 3 minute miles, sometimes less. Right now it's while the bike is on level 11 of 20 and set to the "Alpine" setting.

Then I ran over to weight management, where I learned that a man who started the program with me had died. It was strange, because I had just seen him on the treadmill last Tuesday. He was 71, and he started the program morbidly obese and lost hundreds of pounds. I don't necessarily believe that exercise helps you live longer. I know that being lighter is less of a tax on the circulatory system, but I believe that being more mobile does make life a lot easier to live. I was sad to hear the news and read his obituary online.

After weight management, I picked up MacTroll, and we headed over to Robeson Elementary School. It was my first time in the building. Usually Robeson is a four strand school. (Four strand means they have 4 classes/teachers at each level.) Next year they will only be three strand in order to make more classrooms available for things like reading rooms, special education classes, etc. The principal seemed very excited about it. She has a child going into kindergarten next year, too, so she was very sympathetic with a lot of the confusion or questions parents had.

The fun part of the trip was that last year, our company donated a bunch of money to some kindergarten classrooms at Robeson, so we got to see the rugs and pillow chairs that we bought for them in use. :-)

We know Carrie Busey is our first choice, but we have to have a second and a third choice, just in case we don't get into the 85% likelihood that X-man gets to go to his soon-to-be neighborhood school. And I'm at a loss about what to do about spot two and three I know there are wonderful schools, but they're usually picked by everyone. Only 3-4 schools appear to have a copious amount of extra seats, mostly, I'm guessing, because they're situated in more impoverished neighborhoods where crime is greater. They also have lower test scores. To attract people to those schools, they've been putting on brand new additions and changing them to magnet schools. I'm working on arranging tours for MacTroll and I at all four locations. As a parent, you hear different things about people's school experiences. No one is every 100% happy, it seems. But I also find that parents are usually die-hards about the schools they ultimately get, because they want to be supportive of the environment their children go to every day.

By the time registration rolls around, I hope to have visited every elementary school. I'm a curious (i.e. nosy) person by nature. I blame it on my journalism experiences in college. But I also have a thirst for being in the know. Having more and more information, only makes me feel more secure about the choices I make. So, I started this process when X-man was 2, just to stay involved. I refuse to be overwhelmed. In fact, when MacTroll complained that the choosing part was too confusing, I sighed. This is the kind of stuff I want to think about. I like options. I like contingency plans.

The principal at Robeson said that we'd register by the end of March, and we'd find out what school we're going to by the end of April. Then we'd find out our teacher in August. So, keep your fingers crossed for me. My luck in percentages department has never been great...

Friday, January 7, 2011

So, a kid walks into the bathroom...

at 11:04 p.m. He's been asleep for two hours. Mother and father listen carefully, as there was a bit of a bump and a bang as the kid got out of bed and tumbled himself down the hall to his bathroom.

Then there was the sound of liquid. But the liquid didn't seem to be hitting water.

"That doesn't sound right," Mom says.

"No, no it doesn't," Dad agrees, getting up and taking his laptop with him (no lie).

There, at the end of the hall, with the lights on, is their son, eyes shut, hands on the counter, naked from the waist down, standing on his little step stool in front of the sink, peeing all over the floor.

The father says his name. The child's eyes flutter open. And dutifully, the son reaches forward and turns on the sink to wash his hands.

He wakes up a little more, but only enough to start taking off his slightly wet shirt. His mother helps, tucks him back into bed and cleans up the pee on the floor laughing the whole time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Part-time employment -- Hooray!

I got hired as a "floater" today at Mother's Morning Out in Champaign. I'm pretty excited about it. Every Tuesday and Friday morning, I'll report to the director who will assign me to a classroom to either fill in for an absent teacher OR assist the current ones. Today, I was in the nursery, which was so much fun. My favorite age groups are infants through 2 1/2. Once they start the potty training period and the name calling, I figure I'm still getting enough of that at home. :-) And honestly, I'm hoping that maybe next fall I'll be able to make it a Monday through Friday gig when X-man goes to kindergarten.

That's right freaking kindergarten.

On Monday, we're hopefully touring two schools. I've got a quick pelvic ultrasound at 8:30 a.m. to make sure I don't have any uterine fibroids that are randomly bleeding and causing my low iron, low protein and now low platelet issues. And then zoom - off we go to the first tour. Since MacTroll will likely not be around for the February 7th tours, we're hitting our soon-to-be neighborhood school first, Carrie Busey.

Then on the same day, we plan on checking out Robeson. I've already been to Barkstall, Southside and Westview. So I think on the second day of tours I'll look at Stratton and Washington. And then since we'll be in Paris the week of the evening open house, I'll have to arrange a time to visit the other schools like Kenwood, Garden Hills and Doc Howard.

Today, we also took Nyssa back for round two of the blood work on her thyroid. She's borderline low, so they sent the second vial out to do some more intensive tests, and we'll know if we have to start her on thyroid meds by tomorrow afternoon sometime.

Tomorrow, I'm going to work in the morning. Then I'll have time for a quick lunch, grocery shopping, a 90-minute workout at the gym before getting ready for our weekend guest. :-) I have a college friend coming to spend a couple nights with us, which is very fun. I don't think she's been down to visit since 2004.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Week of Fatigue

When people ask me what I do for a living, I never know what to say. I'm always on the run. Mostly with my child or our pets, but sometimes it's just me. And sometimes it's with my spouse.

I've had a lot to do this week. I'm still trying to get to the bottom of my low iron and low protein levels. New bloodwork showed that with my diet efforts and iron supplements I've raised my levels 8 points... The  healthy range is between 50-150... I'm at a 41. But I guess that's better than a 33.

It also shows my protein level staying just under normal, regardless of my efforts to eat more (almost double the recommended protein amounts). This probably means that my small intestine isn't absorbing nutrients right OR I'm losing blood somewhere. On Monday, I head in to radiology for a pelvic ultrasound. I also get to go back to the lab next week and get tested for a gluten intolerance/celiac disease.

Similarly to the protein issue, my platelet levels are just below normal. This can sometimes go hand in hand with the borderline anemia. I've had low iron off and on through my lifetime, usually fixed with supplements. That didn't happen this time.

All I know is that throughout this week, I've been feeling very fatigued between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. I'm making it through the day. But on my most terrible days I'm taking 20-40 minute cat naps in the middle of the afternoon just to make it through dinner.

My life requires energy. What happens when I'm tapped out?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let the Battle Begin

We ordered a new couch and chair for the living room just after Thanksgiving. It should be here in the next two weeks. In addition, X-man managed to mark his territory on Riley's chair several weeks ago, which was uncleanable through the normal bissell methods, and the chair wasn't worth getting professionally cleaned. Sooo -- we went hunting for a new Riley chair to use either in the office or in the living room (to try and keep him off the couch, so I'll have less vacuuming, since it's a fabric couch).

No dice. Everything was either really just too ugly to look at, smelly or was ripped or stained beyond repair. And then there was the issue of, if we get a fabric chair will X-man get too tired while playing games one day and pee all over that chair rather than going to the potty--again? (I'm guessing this is why gaming addicts wear diapers? Notice the "Frequently Bought Together" pitch from Amazon pairs the diaper with Call of Duty 4. Yeah, I can't make that up.)

Anyway, we found one at that wasn't sold in either of the local stores and ordered it to replace the chair in the office. Then I invested in a large Petmate Durabed to put in the living room. I can leave it in the sunshine for him. But I wanted to put it out there to get him used to seeing it and encouraging him to use it before the couch arrives.

I had a moment of hoorah when he stayed in it for 15 whole minutes this morning -- and then he went back to his spot on the couch, once one of the cats moved out of his place.

Yeah, this is going to be a challenge. But he does look ever so cute. Something wants me to go find some safety plugs for the outlet and put them in there... Not like he has fingers or anything. I think it's just the early education warning light going off in my head. (Small cot next to open outlet = bad and scary.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reality Bites

I totally got schooled today in Weight Management. If I haven't gushed about her before, I totally love my health educator, Amy. She is an awesome combination of support and ass kicking. And today, collectively, she did a wonderfully motivating segment on getting your shit together.

It was awesome, and all of us needed to hear it. Well -- those of us that were brave enough to show up and weigh in post holiday-massacre.  For that, we all got gold stars. We were all there to suck it up.

We left on a mission, which is my most favorite way to attack any ho hum issue in my life. You know how much I love feeling like I'm in control of my destiny.

For some reason when I think of the word destiny, all I think of is George McFly.

Mmm, does that make Amy my Marty or my Biff? Either way, I'll make like a tree and get outta here. :-P

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Problem Solving through Nesting

It's been a busy around the house weekend this weekend. I spent 5 hours on Saturday cleaning and organizing the storage room. Now that we haven't seen a mouse in our house since Mousehunter Jim was here, I went down there with my vacuum, Clorox and a couple garbage bags to clean out the areas. Mice climb and can fit through any area that is smaller than a quarter of an inch. So, I did some mouse hunting myself -- only it was to make sure there wasn't a piece of mouse poop or the sight of mouse pee anywhere. This gets difficult, as the storage room is also home to MacTroll's network. Lots of cables to wipe down.

Most of our items in the basement were already in plastic containers. Plastic containers will keep lazy mice out. They can chew through the plastic if they really want what's on the inside. Metal is the best, but it's expensive. I purchased some containers of varying sizes and rearranged what was down in the basement. Now everything, except one box of cords is put away. I also realized that since we moved all the holiday stuff from the garage to the basement, we were going to need another set of metal shelves from Target. So I ran out and picked those up today.

I have an annoyance in my house. There was currently no good place to put shoes. We have hooks in the laundry room where we hang our most frequently used coats and our snowpants in the winter. But shoes end up on the floor of the utility closet in a big mess. And I have to admit that at one point, a cat peed on my shoes there, so I'm paranoid about leaving them on the floor. MacTroll, on the other hand, can't seem to remember to take his shoes off, and then always seemed bewildered that the floors got so dirty or the walkway from the kitchen to his office that used to have carpeting (and was high traffic anyway) was a different color than the rest of the carpet. I kept explaining it to him, but he refuses to believe he's that dirty. Sigh.

Anyway, while I was at Target picking up the metal racks, I found that they had a tall set of shelves that could be used as a shoe rack that would fit in the space in the utility closet and still leave plenty of space to store our vacuum. I was excited because it was also on clearance for like $20. I bought it and X-man helped me put it together tonight. He put all the plastic covers on the screw heads and then I started the nails into the cheap particle board backing and he got his toolbox hammer and finished nailing them in. Then he helped push the shelf support brackets into the right holes and collected all the shoes to put in the right places once I got it set up in the closet.

MacTroll poo pooed me for my organization. But if I prevent cat peeing and get rid of the heap of shoes, I kind of feel better about our house. It feels more home-like. So how can that be a bad thing? I mean, homey-ness for $20?

In other news, I replaced one of the cats' litterboxes this week. But before I put it down, I picked them all up off the floor, vacuumed the laundry room area where the boxes reside, and then got down on my hands and knees with a sponge, warm water and some Method floor cleaner and wiped up the whole laundry room. When it was dry, I put the clean/scooped boxes down with fresh litter in them and felt good about that, too.

I also broke down this week and ordered a carpet and a light box table for my Loosey room in the basement. I wanted a furry shaggy rug that was soft to sit or lie on. Something that makes your feet happy. Most of them in a 5'x8' were really expensive. I found one for half of what the others were costing online and decided I'd take a chance with it. Plus, it came in a platinum gray versus others that were either natural or beige or white, which kid of scare me for different reasons. It's on back order until April, however. The light box was on sale at Pottery Barn Teen, which is my Pottery Barn catalog of choice. Now I just need CB2 to put some of their yellow tables on sale, and I'll be in business... well, that is if I can settle on what I want to sit on in my room besides a fuzzy carpet. I found a couch at Carter's, but I kind of want something that can double as a guest bed. We're headed to Ikea in a few weeks, so I printed a wish list to check out what they have.

I just tucked my child into bed with his Tag reader at 9 p.m. He's been reading and playing games with that pretty much 4 nights a week at bed time since Christmas. He's excited because I found the Ben 10 book in a post Christmas sale. He didn't get out of his pajamas all day today.

Tomorrow, I get to start back in my Body Bar class (it was on break over the holidays). I've got a list of fitness/nutrition books I'd like to get from the library, but three of the five aren't even available throughout the entire Lincoln Trails Library System. They appear to have two of them in Palatine, so we'll see if the Tolono library can set me up to get their copies.

I hope everyone has a happy new year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Hangover -- Savoy Style

So, 10 minutes ago, my son made me laugh so hard I had to kiss him, once the tears stopped coming from my eyes.

Last week, MacTroll got tired of watching How It's Made, Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs with X-man and thought he'd venture into something a little more cooking-related. So he chose Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. He started on his trip to Paris, where he scores some absinthe and the family sits through some lame hallucination video. X-man was kind of in and out playing with his toys and going back and forth to a computer game.

I'm giving the child some leftover New Year's party food and he asks why Daddy doesn't feel well. I told him that sometimes adults can drink too much adult drink which feels good at the time, but upsets your system if you have too much. He brought up the Yo Gabba Gabba candy episode. I say yes, it's like that.

10 minutes and two mini pepperoni rolls later he says. "Mommy, is Daddy sick like that guy on the food show that he likes?"

It took me a minute or two to figure out what the hell he was referring to. If you forward to 5:43, you'll see what he was remembering.

Happily, he's currently watching the Gummi Bears -- again.

I remember this

I had two cocktails and two shots last night. There were two sips of champagne, and the drinking lead to a lot of social eating.

Today, I woke up with the feeling that I had socks on my teeth. I stumbled into the shower. Now I know I'm clean, but I still feel slightly hung over. MacTroll managed to get himself up, put X-man in front of to play games, get himself some water and come back to bed.

I don't think we'll see the bartender much today.

And I'm hoping our friends who came over last night are recovering okay from the debauchery. :-)

The holidays are over... next stop -- Paris -- in seven weeks.