Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring Break Hangover

All hail the return to school - spring break is over! Hip hip hooray! Actually, I enjoyed spring break this year. I enjoyed hanging with my kids and doing fun things. We didn't travel anywhere (we usually don't - the last time I really traveled for spring break was back in 1992, when I met Mr. Chick), but for what I spent this past week, we could have. Geez!

The week started by hosting a dinner party for 10. Mostly friends from law school. Back in November, when turkeys were cheap, we bought several and have had them in our deep freeze. We decided to invite friends over to help us eat one of those big turkeys, and I ended up hosting a full Thanksgiving dinner all over again. Mr. Chick smoked the turkey all day and I handled the sides: mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, salad, and dessert (bought, not homemade. Hey, a girl needs help sometimes!) Most of the people who came for dinner were singles with dates. They're young and hip, as contrasted to us (old with kids and living in the 'burbs). But I think everyone had a good time. In true old-fogey, 'burb fashion we busted out the games after dinner. Guesstures and Balderdash, baby. Good times!

During the week I took the kids to lunch and OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) with friends, went to lunch and bowling with other friends, took in a matinee of Horton Hears A Who, and hosted yet another (smaller) dinner party. I think we even squeezed in a physical therapy appointment for Nicholas for his tight tendons/muscles from being a toe-walker. Thankfully, my client for whom I do very part-time work (and who is now current with what he owes me - hooray!), was on vacation all week and I didn't have any work to do. I got to play with my kids and go broke doing it. Good times, good times. But trust me, it's nice now that we're back to "normal" and we're back in our usual routine.

Although, the routine is changing starting tonight when I have my first Dragon Boat practice. I'm excited to do this, but not about the weather conditions I'm facing (an hour on the river during sporadic rain, wind and chilling temps. Brrr!!) We'll be practicing 3x/week until early June when the big race weekend takes place. That's a lot of time to be in wet, miserable weather so I made a trip to REI this weekend to pick up some gear. Gloves and neoprene water socks, most specifically. I have a feeling I'll be happy I have them.....

I think our spring break was fun for everyone. Mr. Chick and I are saving our travel time for our 10 year anniversary coming up in about 6 weeks. Right now we're planning what to do for this milestone, and we're considering a night or two at the coast, central Oregon, or maybe even Vegas. Both Mr. Chick and I have been to Vegas several times, but never together. I think it would be a lot of fun, as does he, so that's our first choice if we can make it happen (thank you, tax refund, and/or the stupid George Bush stimulus money).

How was your spring break? Do anything fun or exciting? Or, were you like us and made your own fun at home?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

News Of The Weird

By now this is old news, and it's not even a first, but the pregnant trans-gendered man all over the news is from my state. Thomas Beatie was born female but identifies as a male. S/he underwent a double mastectomy about 10 years ago, started testosterone injections, and legally changed his name and his gender. He is legally male, but kept his/her female reproductive organs. He is also married to a woman, Nancy. Years go by and Thomas and Nancy decide they want to have a child. Nancy had had a hysterectomy, so Thomas stopped taking testosterone and his menstrual cycle returned after a few months. He became pregnant via artificial insemination and is said to be about 5 months along. After the child is born, Thomas will be filling the role of father and Nancy will be the mother.

It seems lots of people are up in arms about this, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the novelty? A "legal" male giving birth? Is it the legality that's upsetting? Because lesbian couples have children and no one is writing articles about it anymore. And once upon a time, people got all nuts about a baby conceived in a test-tube, and now in-vitro is a fairly common fertility treatment. I'm sure the fervor surrounding this particular situation will die down soon and people will realize that families take on all different dynamics. I'm more "comfortable" (not exactly the right word, but I've only had one cup of coffee this morning - forgive me) with Thomas and Nancy as parents - two loving parents who have a seeming stable relationship in which to raise a child - than with some people who intentionally have a child as a single parent, denying the child - on purpose (I'm not talking about single parents as a result of divorce or death) a father (in most cases). I think we need to cut Thomas a break and try to find the joy and happiness in their situation and family. Weird as it is. Who said weird was bad, anyway? We're ALL weird in some way!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kiss My Irish A$$ For Luck!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, laddies! St. Patrick's Day has always been a fun "holiday" for me. As a kid I woke up every St. P's Day to the sounds of really crappy Irish folk music that my parents would play on the stereo LOUDLY. For years they continued this tradition by calling us on the phone, early, to play the music for us. (in fact, I'm sorta waiting to see if they'll call again this year. They've moved and might not have the turntable set up anymore.....) My mom would tint our milk green and we would have corned beef for dinner (I'm NOT a fan of corned beef and haven't chosen to continue THAT tradition as an adult).

So this fine, misty, gray Pacific NW morning (so like Ireland in that respect) I made sure we were all dressed in something appropriately green and Irish. I tinted the kids' milk green at breakfast. I was planning on making green eggs, too, but Mr. Chick, unaware of my plans, started breakfast for the kids with bagels. So, I improvised and tinted the margarine green. I know - ! Gross, but kinda cool. They
enjoyed it and seemed blown away that green butter and green milk didn't taste any different than the regular stuff. I made Nicholas' lunch, as usual, but made sure his sandwich was pesto ham (one of the few sandwich choices that he'll eat - pesto. He loves it!), and included a fat green pickle in his lunch, too. I would have tinted his applesauce green but didn't want to open the container and put it in a small tupperware container for fear that it wouldn't make it back home. So, regular applesauce today - bummer.

As for me, I walk around 365 days a year with Irish all over me. Well, maybe not ALL over - just my butt. Yes, my ass is very Irish. You see, when I was a wee 23 I got the notion that it would be cool to get a tattoo. I didn't want anything big or showy. In fact, I didn't want anyone to even know I had a tattoo - unless I chose to tell/show you. So placement was key. Girls from college were getting tats in places like their ankles, or hip bones. I wasn't down with that, thinking ahead in my life to eventual pregnancy. That angelfish tats on your lower abdomen/hip bone would someday turn into a distorted blowfish. No thanks. So I went for upper left
butt cheek. Lower than pants/waistline so it wouldn't be seen by random people, even in a swimsuit. But what should the image be? Something personal and timeless. No fads. For me the perfect image was a lucky 4-leaf shamrock leaf. A 4-leaf clover!

Behold: It's about the size of a quarter. It's held up pretty well over the years, considering it's 15 years old already
. I figured I had the most control over the size/spread of my ass as the years march on (this picture, taken hastily this morning, makes it look like the tattoo is on my back, but rest assured I had to pull my jeans down a bit to reveal it for the camera. I just didn't want to take a picture of anything else, if you know what I mean, and artfully arranged my Shamrock Run sweatshirt accordingly. When I sit down you can't even see the tattoo - it lives lower than my beltline.)

And so I proudly display my Irishness on this very Irish of days. And I wish you all a very fun and festive St. Patrick's Day. Or, if you celebrated over the weekend like Mr. Chick, I wish you freedom from the hangover by today!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring Conferences - Ouch!

Last night Mr. Chick and I had our spring conference with Nicholas' 1st grade teacher, Mrs. V. Nicholas got off to a rough start in 1st grade, being emotionally young and sensitive as he is, but he has made really great progress as the year has gone on and I've been really happy with how he's been doing. We've always known he's a bright kid, but struggled with his "emotional thin skin", so to speak. Hence the special treatment/program for his spelling test every Friday (he demonstrated some test anxiety going into the spelling tests and would freak the fuck out, which I think surprised the teachers A LOT, so they scaled it back for him from 10 words to just 5 to take the pressure off him a bit. It's working and he's been pulling perfect test scores ever since.) But since we've dealt with that issue and he's doing well (even choosing - himself - to tackle all 10 words for the past 2 weeks and getting them all correct), he's rockin' at school. I anticipated a good report from his teacher at the conference.

And that's what she gave us - about Nicholas. About us, not so much.

Mr. Chick and I are pretty involved parents. We're hands-on. We make sure homework is done, check the work, ensure things that need to go back to school are, in fact, going back, etc. I think the majority of parents do this - in my experience - so it's not unusual. When Mrs. V gave us the report card for Nicholas last night, we were reviewing it and noting that he showed improvement in a few areas that we had specifically focused on (i.e. spelling and handwriting). I was pleased and said so. Mr. Chick was pleased, too. But this grading system is new for the school and new for us, as parents with a 1st grader. There are two ways to assign a "grade" on this report card. Numerically (1-4) and with symbols (O,-,+,*) We've loosely associated them against the A,B,C,D scale since that's how the explanations of the grading system seems to lend itself. Nicholas pulled nearly all 3's and +'s, with a few 2's and -'s scattered about. We're thinking he's doing well and getting mostly B's. So we ask some questions. Mr. Chick wants to know how he's doing compared to the other kids in his class. Oh boy - that did it. I think it's a valid question - how is my kid doing relative to the others? Is he tracking normally? Falling behind? Essentially, it's hard to know what these grades mean in a vacuum - how do his grades stack up? Are there places he needs additional support from us at home? Are a bunch of kids getting 4's and *'s while our kid is struggling with 3's? THAT'S what we meant with the question.

Mrs. V thought otherwise.

She called us to the mat and expressed her concern that we're putting too much undo pressure on Nicholas. That we need to back off a bit. That given his sensitive nature, and his desire to please, we need to give him more space and just be happy with how he's performed.

We felt slapped.

She cited an example that happened in the fall before the first grades came out - months ago - when Mr. Chick had told Nicholas on the morning of a spelling test that if he got all of them correct (and based on all the drills and practicing we'd done all week long, he knew the words cold and should have blew through the test with no sweat) we would go out for ice cream that night to celebrate. Bad move. Nicholas freaked out during the test, got confused, couldn't remember how to spell a word, and started bawling and carrying on. It ruined the rest of his day because now it meant he wouldn't get to go out for ice cream that night. Yeah, bad call on our part and we haven't repeated it, but it wasn't meant to put pressure on Nicholas but to inspire him. We didn't know he'd react that way - maybe we should have. But we've learned not to do that again, and we haven't. I think you try different things as a parent in your quest to help your kid and do what works. So it WAS a mistake on our part, but an honest one. Anyway, she brought it up to us again as an example of how we maybe put too much pressure on Nicholas. She said that he's doing VERY well and we should be happy with it. That most parents would kill for a report card like this. That it's nearly impossible to get 4's and *'s, so really, he's at the top of his game. WHY couldn't you just say that in the first place? The part about hardly ANYONE scoring a 4 or a *, so we'd have an idea of just HOW WELL he really is doing? Without the blame and accusations.

I actually was impressed that Mrs. V had the balls to say something to us if she really was concerned. She comes across as very quiet when dealing with parents. So from that standpoint, I respect her for it. Mr. Chick does, too, but her comments were directed more at him than at me so he feels more stung by them. He KNOWS he intense sometimes, but he's been trying so hard so deal more sensitively with Nicholas - something we both struggle with sometimes because Nicholas' nature is just so different from our own. I think that Mr. Chick and I are doing a great job with him, actually. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. His report card is stellar. He's one of the top readers in 1st grade and pulling top marks in math, too. His writing is improving. He's happy. He's well-liked. He's involved in a couple of fun extra-curricular activities (ballet, Mad Science, soccer). He's showing signs of improved emotional maturity - he's coping better, freaking out a LOT less, and "recovering" quicker when he does. I think we're in a very good place with Nicholas and I'm very proud of him and all his hard work. And I tell him that FREQUENTLY. Mostly, I'm thrilled to hear him say he's proud of HIMSELF. That's where it should ultimately come from - himself. Mr. Chick and I do have high expectations of our kids where school is concerned. I think it's OK to set the bar high - most kids will rise to the level. We're trying to instill the knowledge that school is important and we expect the kid to try their best. That they need to work hard at school. The social stuff is critical, too, of course, as is the emotional side of a child. We're addressing all of that. Knowing how bright Nicholas is, we expect him to be a solid student. I don't think that's unreasonable. It's how we motivate him that matters, and we've learned a lot this year as parents on the best way to do that for Nicholas.

But still - being reprimanded on our parenting by the teacher took me back to being a kid again and feeling like I got in trouble. Something that almost never happened - I was a "pleaser", too, like Nicholas. I felt ashamed.

Mr. Chick and I talked about it when we got home. It was uncomfortable for both of us and we felt defensive. Still do. But it made us both reflect on our own progress this year as parents and we both feel really good about our own report card. We like that his teacher is an advocate for him, too, and is looking out for him as a "whole child", not just from a school/academic side. So all in all, it was an enlightening, educational conference. Nicholas is kicking ass and taking names. I couldn't be more proud of him.

And us as parents? There is always room for improvement, but I think we're kicking ass, too. I would totally give us 3's and +'s on our report card.

Has anyone else had their parenting called into question from a teacher? Is it just us? What about expectations and academic achievement? How do you handle that and where do you set the bar? I'd love to hear from you on this!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sisterly Pride

I'm so proud of my sister I could burst! You see, she was just accepted into a very prestigious school for a dual masters degree program. In June of 2010 - just two years from now - she'll graduate from M.I.T. with a masters degree in mechanical engineering AND an MBA. And guess how much she'll have paid in tuition? Go on - guess. (playing the theme song to Jeopardy! in my head...) If you guessed anything above $0 you'd have guessed too high. That's right, my friends, her program is a corporate-sponsored program which covers her tuition in full. She'll be responsible only for her living expenses for those two years. How amazing is that??!! Just brilliant! So now my smarty-pants sister will be quitting her manager job at Intel, making arrangements for her house (aka finding renters), figuring out what to do with all her stuff (sell it? Move it back east to Massachusettes? Rent the house furnished? Put it in storage? I told her I would "store" her dining room furniture for her - it's pretty and I don't have a decent set, as I've already lamented about before. Plus, she stored my hand-me-down living room couches for me while Mr. Chick was in law school - nearly 4 yrs! It's the least I could do...) and getting ready to be a student again.

My sister is living proof that sometimes you just need to roll the dice and take a chance on that brass ring. Sometimes you get it even when it's a long shot. Sometimes dreams do come true. Right now I'm just basking in sisterly pride for her. I'll miss her while she's gone and hope her future career brings her back home. But I'm just so happy for her and this next fun chapter in her life. Who knows what her future holds? Good things, I predict. Only good things.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Newest Creation

I finally finished it - the sweater I knit for myself. I was so excited about it, but now that it's done, not so much. It's oookkkkaayyyy. I like the color and I like the style, but the fitted part didn't turn out quite as fitted as I was led to believe it would. I followed the directions to a T, but still - it's a little bulkier (wider) at the bustline than I wanted. I might do some additional adjusting to improve the fit.

This sweater is seamless and was done on circular and double-point needles. That's what I like about it. It was SO EASY to do - just time consuming. It takes a lot longer to knit something for a grown-up than for a baby or child! I like the detail at the arms with the peek-a-boo stitches, and I added a little crochet trim along the neckline and cuffs for detail. But I'm frustrated at the way it's fitting a little sloppy under the arms! To fix it I would have to add seams, something that's NOT there already. Grrr! Does anybody have a suggestion or two for how I might do this well? The sweater looks OK on - really - but it's supposed to be a snugger, more figure-flattering fit. It's a cotton yarn and it drapes well, which is good, but I'm thinking I want to take it in a bit along the sides to improve the contouring. Thoughts?

My Heart

...melted just a little when I saw Mr. Chick and Lauren crashed on the couch together. Lauren had been sick and was running a fever and had gotten out of bed to come find us. She just wanted to be held and comforted, feeling as crappy as she did. Mr. Chick let her snuggle right up with him, giving me a small break from having her sickness all over me the way it had been for most of that day. I think it might have been the hour, combined with having such a warm (hot), pliable body curled up next to (on) him, that Mr. Chick fell asleep - maybe even before Lauren did.

Can you see how Lauren's eyelids look purple? No, that's not eyeshadow. It's illness. And how there are bright spots of pink blooming on her cheeks? Yep - fever. She got it bad. But the detail of this picture that I'm so happy to have captured is the way Lauren is clutching her blankie. Can you see that little corner she's holding in her hand? That's what she calls her "spot", and it's a very particular corner of her blankie. She will hold that spot in her hand, just as you see her doing here in her sleep, and stroke it on her lips. She's brush her lips, back and forth, up and down, with that corner spot. It's what feels good to her. A big ol blankie and she reduces it down to a tiny spot. Which, I'm sad to say, has started to literally unravel in the past week or so. It can't be fixed - I've tried. It's a hand-knit blanket, loved very well.

Thankfully, Lauren feels better now. The fever is long gone, but the clingy-ness remains. She's very eager to sit on my lap, pretty much all day. She wants me to carry her as much as possible. She doesn't sit NEXT to me on the couch, she sits ON me. It's like she wants to crawl inside my skin and take up residence there for awhile. And I must admit to indulging her just a bit because she's getting so big and won't fit on me for much longer. And she's just such a charmer it's hard to say no. So for now you'll see me with my newest accessory: Lauren. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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