Monday, September 28, 2009

Family Day

Family Day is officially a holiday in our house now, celebrated on September 22nd of every year. The kids get the day off from school and my husband takes a personal day from work. I think we finally have the celebratory tradition finalized. In the morning we drop off goodies and a gift at the hospital. I do that by myself in case I need a good cry. I thank all the nurses for being so kind to me when I delivered all 6 of my children and I leave a gift for 2 other unfortunate mothers who will walk in the same shoes that I do. We go to the florist where we get baby-blue balloons, four of them so each child can give a balloon, and 4 flowers. I let each child choose their flower. I really like to involve them in the process. We go to the Cemetery where I cry and hug my husband and the kids run through the large expanse of grass and enjoy their breakfast, this year we had blueberry muffins. I may need to rethink the balloons though. Although the kids love them and I think they look great in the pictures, each year so far they have blown in the wind and popped on the grass. The game that follows is 'collect the broken balloon pieces and throw them away'.


Friday, September 25, 2009

An Example of a Fine Government Employee

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been pretty unhappy with our elected officials as of late and I have been pretty vocal about it. I have mostly emailed my representatives. I have had some very good feedback from David Drier. But really horrible feedback from Diane Feinstein. A few months ago I sent a long detailed email explaining why I was against the Stimulus Packages and the current health care bill because of the state of our economy. I got an obvious automated reply that said, "Thank you for taking the time to email me. You are right. We do need these Stimulus Bills and this Health Care plan." I will be voting Diane Feinstein out of office the first chance I get, because if she can't reply to an email properly, then how on earth can she do her job as my representative.

Jack O'Connell, however, is excellent at his job. A friend recently emailed me an article called "Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold: In focus on proficiency, bright kids lose" by Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold in the Sacramento Bee. It spoke of 2 easy ways to challenge bright and exceptional students; by grouping children based on ability and allowing them to go into another classroom during instruction time. I felt the article was well written and decided to share it with those in the educational system. On my list was Jack O'Connell the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I found his email address on the state education website and sent an email detailing the highlights of the article and the link to the article. I explained to him that these simple, non-budget altering policies would help exceptional students to be challenged and continue to grow.

I got a well thought out reply from Mr. O'Connell (or one of his assistants/interns). But it was a stark comparison to the email I received back from Ms. Feinstein. I have posted the email below for comparison and also to exhibit a new policy change which will affect our exceptional students negatively.

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Dear Ms. Dickson:

Thank you for contacting the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding the Gifted and Talented Education program (GATE).

I appreciate you sharing your concerns and suggestions with me, including the Sacramento Bee opinion article. I am also gravely concerned about the impact of California’s budget deficit on public education. Reduced funding for education has resulted in school districts having to make difficult decisions such as closing schools, issuing layoff notices to teachers and other school personnel, and making cuts to programs. I am worried that these devastating cuts will interrupt our process in improving student achievement.

Please be aware that the jurisdiction of the CDE is limited to enforcing federal and state education law and regulations; and for continuing to reform and improve public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and child care programs. Policies regarding day-to-day operations, including implementation of GATE programs, are the responsibility of the local school district administration. In allocating their resources among the schools of the district, school district governing boards and district administrators must follow the law, but they also have the additional tough job of setting the educational priorities for their schools and weighing the importance and urgency of all of their educational needs.

The State Board of Education (SBE) is the governing and policy-making body of the CDE. The SBE sets K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability, as well as adopts regulations to implement legislation. However, because California is a local control state, each district determines the types of services they will provide for gifted students. For this reason, I suggest you contact your local school district to discuss your concerns regarding policies that effect gifted students. In addition, due to the Flexibility provisions of Senate Bill X3 4 enacted in February 2009, school districts may determine whether they will implement any or all of the GATE program and funding requirements.

To read detailed summaries of February 2009 and July 2009 actions on the 2008-09 state education budget, including frequently asked questions on implementation, please visit the CDE Action on the 2008 and 2009 Budget Acts Web page located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fr/eb/yr09budgetacts.asp.

For information and resources related to the implementation of GATE programs in California, please visit the CDE Gifted & Talented Education Web site located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/gt/.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact George Olive, Consultant, Elementary Education Office, at 916-323-8901 or by e-mail at golive@cde.ca.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting the CDE.

Sincerely,

JACK O'CONNELL
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

JO:mb
2009-06909

Yogurt Yummies aka: Baby Crack

Buy Gerber Yogurt Melts. They are fabulous. They are a little expensive, but when you are bribing your screeching toddler during church, dinner at a restaurant, or a long car ride there is nothing better. In fact, after our last road trip the baby became trained in the proper eating of these yogurt yummies, as I like to call them. He gets one kiss-shaped morsel for each tiny fist and one for his mouth. When all three have been consumed he begins screaming, until he has been refilled. He also screams if he even sees the package.

These things are so yummy that my older children will actually sneak them from him.

Day 365

And the countdown begins to September 22, 2010. I am already thinking ahead and planning, what we will do for Family Day, what will the "gift" be? But honestly today is the best day I will have all year, in terms of grief. Its like the counter just starts over. And as the number gets smaller; 364, 363, 362; my grief and emotions grow stronger. September 1st marks the hardest 22 days, a roller coaster of emotions as the kids start school, marking their inevitable growing up. September 11th comes and reminds me, and all of us, about the tragedy and fear we all had that day. Following those sad days are my sons birthday. A day where I work hard to be excited for him, yet in the back of my mind I remember his first birthday, when I was pregnant with twins. A family friend told me she couldn't believe I was pregnant with twins I was so small. I know she meant it as a compliment and I highly doubt she will even remember such a small passing comment. But those words have echoed in my head a million times, telling myself that maybe I am making it all up. Maybe the twins never did exist. No one outside of our hospital room ever saw them. Maybe other people think I am making it up too.

The last week is the hardest. I review our Family Day plans, try to find any excuse to do more spending and buying; new outfits for Family Day, more things for the 'gift', maybe just an evening out for dinner so I don't have to cook. September 21st is the worse day. I remember going to our mid-morning appointment, finding out about their death and then getting squeezed in for a lunch appointment with our regular OB. I remember dreading calling my mom and mother-in-law. I remember it all.

But on September 23rd its better. Its day 365 and I have moved past the grief for the year. Today is the best day of the year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Attraction disease

I think my family is diseased, or maybe its the opposite of diseased, if there is such a thing. We spent the day (Family Day) touring the USS Midway in San Diego. As we got there is was fairly empty, just the way we like it. But shortly after that a bus full of Chinese tourists arrived. I attempted to keep my kids a tad quieter and possibly move ahead of the group so as to not bother them. But first I had to pose the kids on a really BIG chain.

That's when I noticed 3 ladies trying to take a picture in the same direction I was. So I moved my kids out of the way. Then she followed. It became apparent she was trying to photograph my kids, MY KIDS! I started to panic in this world of Stranger-Danger. But I decided to play it cool thinking these ladies would eventually leave us alone. NOPE. They started to pose with Alexander. They would encourage him to walk, giggle at his toddling and then take another picture. Eventually I wrangled my children away from these crazy people, but they followed us into the next room. As I asked my kids to pose and smile into the camera one of the other camera-wielding lady sidled up next to me to take pictures of my kids.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loyalty

Connor loves his sister with a passion. This past summer they were playing in the pool and she got mad and pushed him under the water. He comes up spluttering because he couldn't breathe and she goes into a timeout. One minute into the timeout he pleads with me, "Can Lainy Ann come play with me again?" And so the story goes, hundreds of incidents just like this. She hurts him or treats him with an injustice and he pleads her case. Once she threw a rock at him and he needed 11 stitches in his lip. When we asked him what happened he told us the rock hurt him, not Lainy Ann, but the rock.

She sets him up to ask for a treat so she doesn't get in trouble and he just follows blindly along. I remember one incident when he chose to follow Lainy Ann's instructions instead of mine, even though they contradicted what I had asked him to do. Its getting harder as she gets older and does more girly stuff and leaves him at home. Just last week he was pretty upset when I told him he couldn't go with her to Girl Scouts.

I understand how he feels though. I feel that way about my husband. He truly is my best friend. I would like to think that we have demonstrated that love and adoration for them. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the two friends.

[caption id="attachment_491" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Lainy Ann showing off her new baby brother, Connor"]Lainy Ann showing off her new baby brother, Connor[/caption]

2-by-2

One of the things I miss most about not having my twin sons is not getting to buy cute little matching outfits. I don't get to buy 2 backpacks for them to start school, or 2 bikes for Christmas. Even with 4 children in our house I don't ever buy 2 of the exact same thing since the kids are different ages and sizes.

But 'tis the season for twin buying for me. The twins anniversary is coming up. This year I decided to finally make those quilts I have promised myself since the first year they died. About 3 months ago I found a new quilt pattern that seemed fun and would make use of fabrics I already owned. I was able to cut all the pieces and take my sewing machine with me on vacation to Arizona, which was bittersweet. I remember being pregnant with the twins four years ago in Arizona, eating tons of sausage and drinking protein drinks to gain weight, and watching the Hurricane Katrina fallout. I guess it was fitting that here it is four years later and I was listening to the news talk about the anniversary of Katrina while I sewed the two quilts.

A Puddle

On the second day of kindergarten Miss N pulls me aside and shows me the picture that Connor painted. As we walk to the table of paintings I am trying to guess which was his; the rainbow, the car, or the people in the sunshine? This was a free painting activity, but surely the all blue one can't be in. The one picture that is painted entirely blue. Connor has shown more artistic ability and creativity than covering an entire sheet of paper with blue paint. But Miss N whispers that the blue one is his and giggles. She mentions that he must love the color blue.

On our drive home from school we do our "tell me 3 things that happened today" talk. I ask Connor if he painted and he says yes (the picture was left at school and he didn't see me looking at it). I ask him about his painting. He tells me that at first he drew a sun, then it started to rain and the puddle got all over the paper. Now that makes far more sense than just painting it blue. So here is my sons first painting in kindergarten, its a puddle. [caption id="attachment_482" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Connor proudly showing off his painting"]Connor proudly showing off his painting[/caption]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Yell or To Play

It was Connor's birthday The weapons were a paper airplane, a nerf gun without ammo, and a curling iron. I could hear the whispering in the other room while I was frosting the cake. Then Lainy Ann yelled "go". William was in the lead and rushed in the kitchen from around the corner to poke me in the butt with the paper airplane. In that moment I had a choice, holler and tell them to get out of the kitchen because we were having a party in an hour or play with them.

I chose the latter. I roared and tackled William and tickled him until Connor came at me for the second wave of attacks. Apparently the proper usage of a nerf gun without ammo is to repeatedly poke mom in the back. So I grabbed Connor and roared and put him on the tickle pile. It was so easy to pin them both to the ground and tickle them. Then the 3rd wave came at me, Alexander had an unplugged curling iron. He started poking and roaring too. As I turned to grab him and include him in our play Lainy Ann reached in and grabbed her brother's and pulled them to safety.

They would regroup around the corner and whisper. Then the attacking would start over again. We spent a bunch of time running around the house, tickling, laughing and poking mommy.

It was great seeing how the kids fit into their roles in the game. William wanted to be in the lead and Lainy Ann, who was unarmed, stayed in the rear, the brains of the operation and the one who rescued the boys from mommy-the tickle monster. Even Alexander was part of the team, toddling in with the curling iron - snap, snap, snap.

Connor is 5

I feel badly for Connor. I really do. His birthday falls at such a bad time, its 2 days after September 11th and 9 days before the twins anniversary. Add that to the fact that I am just about partied out after nearly 8 weeks of birthdays in a row; William's birthday is July 29th, then mine, Alexander's, Caskey and Connor. Whew! I end up forgetting about his birthday. I'm just glad I am an early planner so it was all organized and planned by the middle of August. I am also eternally thankful that he doesn't seem to notice.

Its hard to believe he is 5 now, but at the same time its hard to believe he is only 5. With an older sister who is his best friend, he is always trying to keep up with her. Last year as I quizzed Lainy Ann on her math facts, he would work hard to try and get the answer before her and about half the time he would succeed.

I just spent the last few days perusing the pictures of Connor as he has grown up in the last 5 years. Its amazing to see that he has always been Connor, even when he was just 2 years old. He is my even tempered child, easy going, sympathetic, and loving. I have actually had to reprimand him for giving too many hugs, most famously he will sneak up behind me and wrap his arms around my hip, usually as I am about to turn or walk in the other direction. The poor guy ends up clocked in the head, but it hasn't deterred him from sneaking up and giving me hugs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Education in Hawaii

I am on a never ending quest to find the best for my kids. Most times it is simply checking prices and ingredient lists at the grocery store, sometimes its hunting via online and in store for the cutest (in my opinion) matching Easter clothes, but every once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet about their education. Although we bought our house based on the school district, there are a few areas where I feel the school is lacking. There are many many more areas that make me beyond happy with their school, but occasionally I start the hunt for a better school. My poor husband stands by and allows me to spin my wheels, gather information, talk to parents and usually go on a school tour - mostly because stopping me would just annoy me. In the end we always come to the same conclusion. Most of the schools in the area are approximately $5,000 per year. It comes down to a simple question, does this new school provide $5,000 of education that the public school doesn't provide? Can we spend that $5,000 in a way that would educate/benefit our children and their educational future? The answer is always the same for $5,000 we can take a fabulous vacation and expose the children to hundreds of new experiences which would very much benefit their education and be tons of fun.

So this year we did exactly that. On a last minute whim we decided to go to Hawaii, specifically Kihei on the island of Maui for you island hopping buffs. We spent 6 glorious days in the tropics while our mountain back home burned (Station Fire of 2009). Writing about all the fabulous things the children did and saw would take multiple blog posts, and I may get around to it in the coming days. But I want to quickly touch on the highlights.

The Hmph Gene

I'm kind of stubborn and I love being right, so at the end of an argument with my hubby my line is usually, "fine *hmph*!" Which obviously means, its *not* fine. LOL Well, my darling daughter has also picked this up, which I though was merely by habit. When being lectured as to why she shouldn't do something that is morally wrong, she conceded with 'fine' followed by *hmph*.

So why is it that last night at 3 am my darling little son who was being taught to sleep in his own bed via cry it out (CIO) settled down in my arms, rested his head on my shoulder and uttered 'hmph'?