Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big city meets country

Last weekend we went on our annual trek to the Los Angeles County Fair. It has pretty much anything and everything you could ever think of to see, do, or buy.

You can go on rides galore
Or eat just about every kind of treats there is
Don't forget to play the games that reward you with gigantic stuffed toys which are hard as rocks but do decorate the entire quarter of your bedroom so nicely
Stop by the only place where it's acceptable to be country in LA

Walk around munching on something you never eat and something else you're sick to death of, both at "fair" prices
Shop and wish you could buy certain meaningful merchandise
Take in Jessica Simpson while sucking on your turkey drumstick
Don't forget to apply for a job with the LA County Sheriff Department
Right after you down some refreshments
And watch the hens lay some eggs
Just another typical day at the fair. Yeehaw.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Word for my soul

I reluctantly admit that the busyness of life has compromised my time with the Lord lately. It's so easy to get caught up with my schedule and list of to-do's. Sure, I may get to places on time (not an easy feat with 4) and keep up with my laundry but there's always an air of frantic-ness that I'm never able to get rid of, not with all my advanced planning.

This week I realized what I've been missing: being close with God, knowing and trusting Him. Whenever I drift from Him (sadly, too many times), I like to return to Him at the source of it all, Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3


Friday, September 26, 2008

Make It Short, Sweet, and Legible

Yesterday, I had to give a few short essay questions on my first exam. If it was up to me, the entire exam would be all scantron, but someone up the food chain wants to make sure that the students are "evaluated for writing skills." Probably someone who never had to grade pages and pages of gibberish. Sad but true: I like the ones where they leave the answer completely blank. Either that or the ones where they hit every single keyword I'm looking for, and they're underlined, too. But really, I'm just happy if it's legible. What a lost skill penmanship is.

One student came up to me afterwards and told me it was the hardest test ever. She must have had some pretty easy teachers. And never taken the SAT. One other girl apparently had such a hard time on the essay portion that instead of rambling on and on for partial points, she wrote a little note to me instead:

I studied for 8 hours for this test
(that's all? well no wonder!) I read the chapters. I did the whole entire study guide. The study guide you provided us gave little help regarding this exam. I do not know the answers to any of the essays. I believe they weren't adequately covered in the study guide or the lectures (so I didn't tell them the exact question). I am not trying to be rude, just honest.

I believe her grade will speak for me. Apparently I will have to put a disclosure on my next study guide: QUESTIONS ON EXAM WILL NOT NECESSARILY APPEAR IN THE SAME WORDING YOU SEE HERE. Also: INTEGRATE ALL BULLETED POINTS IN YOUR HEAD. Meanwhile, I hope my eyes don't bleed out this week.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quote of the Week

This week I went to work out for the first time in ages. It was the last thing I had time for, but vanity and getting the most out of your buck are powerful incentives. It was a yoga class taught by an instructor with a serious case of Napoleon's syndrome. She spends a good amount of time at the beginning of class going through the more difficult moves, which is the ideal time compared to, say, right before we do the moves. The show-off likes all undistracted eyes on her. I am not a big fan of yoga, either, mainly because I'm a weakling but also because I need to burn some fat. But it was the only class that didn't clash with our soccer/dance/piano/work/school schedule. So off to the Nazi's yoga class I went.

I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that it was embarrassing. Lucky for me, years of being the reject in PE has made me inured. The people in class were all pretty good at it, and they looked to be in great shape. I had to remind myself that the reason my gut is hanging out is because it was stretched out 4 times at biologically advanced ages. Kids are more important than a tight bod. At the moment, however, I'm a 70 something woman with painful arthritis.

Still, I'm going back next week. I don't want to be so pathetically weak, and I liked the challenge of certain moves. Plus it's the only class that fits my schedule. I just have to walk in with blinders on. Maybe one of these days I'll actually be able to some fancy yoga move, like touch my toes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Smell of Teen Spirit

Every Tuesday afternoon, I sit with a bunch of teenage girls in the "study" room of a dance studio while my oldest taps away in class. I bring my biology textbook, which I read every week since it's new to me. That's the plan, anyway. Instead I end up listening to beeps whenever a girl receives a text message, which amounts to once a minute. Then I hear them ragging on each other, gossiping about who they like or don't like, and how they ditch classes. Today I learned that there is apparently an unofficial butt grabbing day at school, where all the kids go around like football players. I was so amazed that I momentarily broke my concentration, which is not that hard to do considering this week's chapter is on photosynthesis, and burst out laughing. They gave me a look and went back to ignoring me.

These girls are all part of the performing group at the dance school, which means they've got to take a bunch of classes each week, easily 5 at least. So they practically live there. And their moms just drop them off after school and pick them up after their last class, which might be two hours after the first one. This is why they hang out in the study room feeding the vending and teenage social machine.

There was this one girl, who played so hard at being the clown. She was loud and obnoxious - on purpose. The other girls may not have recognized her self-deprecating gestures, but this old lady did. Made me sad. Made me worried, too, at what's to come for my two girls.

Hello, moms of teenagers! Ease up on your kids' texting plans, check up on them more, and give them a proper place to do their homework. Because it is definitely not getting done even though you think it is.

On the way home, this song came on the radio which goes "I am a friend of God." My daughter told me to crank it up and let loose, doing the hand motions also. That pretty much took my worries away.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Soccer Soccer Soccer

Saturday was picture day for our soccer league. Like we didn't have enough stuff to do. The husband took my son for his pictures at the crack of dawn and came back to pick the rest of us up. Then I dropped them off for his game, dropped off my younger daughter for her dance class, came back immediately to take my older daughter for her pictures, went back to pick up my younger daughter, came back to pick up my son after his game, and finally went to my daughter's game. We were finally done at 2:30 pm. It was like a day-long camping trip. We had the canopy, chairs, blanket, food, more food, change of clothes, and toys to occupy the younger ones. We did get some good previews for all our sweat.

Here are the boys mugging for the photographer. Apparently the male grimace that says they are just oh-so-cool to smile for the camera starts early.
This is the team that they played. I love the name of their team. Usually, it's the Sharks, Asteroids, Tigers, or something of the like. You gotta love a team of cute little Monsters. Plus, their banner was cool.
The Peppermint Girls, otherwise known as the Geckos. It was either that or the Green Refs.

After the pictures, the girls had an awesome game, and not just because they won. They worked hard and looked so cute high-fiving each other. I am so not a sports fan. Who knew I would love watching a bunch of 7-year olds?

My two #9 players and their ref dad.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ode to Craigslist

This week I sold my breastpump on Craigslist. I dug it out from under my bed, wondered why in the world I hadn't gotten rid of it, and then cleaned off the dust (don't worry, all vital parts were clean). The breastpump was my last remaining baby item. Well, come to think of it, there's still the stroller, the jogging stroller, the double stroller, the double jogging stroller, the crib... Okay, I meant that it was my last remaining infant item. It should have been the first thing I got rid of, considering the literal and figurative pain it was.

I don't know how people with stuff survived before Craigslist. I'm guessing people just saved everything. Because a lot of things are not priced for a garage sale ($5 and under) and plus who wanted to sit out in the hot sun all day just to earn a measly $50? I could work at McDonald's (actually anywhere) for the same amount of time and earn a whole lot more. So they just threw their old stuff into the garage. Which is why my mother-in-law has a broken water dispenser, two toasters, two broken rice cookers, 20 or so empty boxes, and dozens of empty toilet paper holders in her garage.

Periodically I check on Craigslist to shop for stuff. Some people window shop; I Craigslist shop. I particularly love the free section. People are so wasteful with their garbage. We've gotten two plastic play structures for the backyard and some homeschooling books for free. It helps to keep my shopping bill down because who really wants to drive 10 miles to buy some old stuff? I was willing to drive a little for some cheap soccer cleats for my son, but I couldn't find any so I had to use a Sharpie and color all the pink areas on his sister's old cleats. Then when we scraped all the dirt off the bottom, we realized it was entirely pink so we had to spray paint it too (we already had the paint). The refurbished cleats are completely black with a white bottom. One of a kind design.

I have this friend who's husband is a real stickler on security, due to the fact that he was actually in the Secret Service for awhile (and swears that Hillary is a lesbian which makes total sense when you think about it). He thinks it's a danger to have strangers coming to your house. Whereas I think, if total strangers want to spend their valuable time coming to buy my used junk, more power to them!

Here's where having 4 kids is even more helpful. The racket they make is an effective repellent for any crook, who think, there's an old couple down the street that's easier to subdue than that crazed child on the tree. Also, the bikes, trikes, and everything else left on the front yard scream out, the most valuable thing in this house is their collection of Disney dvd's. So I'm not too worried, especially in light of our Rottweilers.

Besides the free stuff I mentioned, we got the piano, the second saucer (after I gave away the first one and got pregnant again), maternity clothes the second time, the second stroller, the double jogging stroller, the single jogging stroller, and both bunk beds with mattresses from Craigslist. One time we were picking up free moving boxes and realized that the guy giving them away was my old classmate from high school.

Now I must go color my son's cleats again. It needs a weekly touch-up. It's actually quite therapeutic to sit there and color. Or maybe it's just the fumes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Daddy Scissorshands

Besides the boys' hair, he also does his own. But those pics are for another day. Can't wait, huh?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Consumed by Soccer

I have joined the masses and become a Soccer Mom. That means practices 3X a week and two games every Saturday, either at clashing times (8 am and 8:30 am) or all day hours (8 am and 2 pm). Soccer is big here, probably because it doesn't require that much skill to run and chase after a ball at their age. Everyone on my son's team, for example, just runs after the ball in a big swarm. There's no controlling the swarm; it goes where it goes.

My son (#9) & the Black Fire huddling with their coach. You can tell which team names were chosen by the adults and which ones by the kids.

That's him dribbling the ball. Except don't call it dribbling because he'll whine he can't do it.
Here's the coach on his butt after tripping while running backwards because he was yelling at my son not to kick into the other team's goal. Including this one, he almost scored 3 goals.
My daughter also had a game. At her age, they actually have real positions and referees. Here she is playing goalie. Coincidentally, she's also #9, but with the Geckos because her uniform is green & white vertical stripes. It was either the Geckos or the Grasshoppers or Peppermint.

I don't have a picture, but the husband is also a referee. One day I might become team mom but I'm holding out as long as possible. That's yet another perk of having 4 kids; the other moms just look at my 4, ask me if they're all mine, then move on to guilt another mom into being team mom. See, there are plenty of reasons to have 4 kids.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Note

The husband and I had some issues yesterday. One of them was about me blogging about him. Men in general are proud creatures and don't take well to public criticism. Whereas my mindset was: it's true (at the time), I need to vent, and I don't care who knows cuz we'll get over it and he has more than enough good points anyway.

So I'll just make one more comment about it: whatever negative things I said about him, I am far far worse than him in all those ways and more. And I'm not half-bad, so it says a lot about him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

IEP Afterthoughts

What the heck was that?

I guess some individual time is better than none.

My husband is a bigger wuss than I am.

It's all in God's hands. Thank God.

At least she will start soon.

At least they'll think twice about pulling one over me again.

My husband is never attending another IEP with me. Ever.

I guess all that time I spent is not wasted. Maybe I'll use that knowledge again in the future.

Why didn't they just give us what the assessor recommended to begin with instead of dragging us through this, just to end up with the same result?

It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me.

She really does need to start soon. I pray that she will be much better by kindergarten.

I've wasted so much time, brain power, and emotions on this.

God is good. He is in control. He loves her more than I do.

At least it's finally over.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fricative IEP meeting

I don't know what in the world I'm doing blogging. We have a major meeting tomorrow with our IEP committee members regarding my younger daughter's speech program. We had our official IEP about 2 weeks back, in which I got completely blown away. They wanted to give us the bare minimum services, much less than what their own assessor recommended. That caught me so off guard that I was a blithering fool the rest of the meeting. I managed to disagree a few times but so weakly that anyone could see I was a rug. Just about the only thing I did right was not signing the thing, so we're going to have another go at it tomorrow.

This time, I'm bringing the stern-faced hubby. I've also armed myself with loads of research. Like I could go out tomorrow and do a study on the normative rate of disfluency. Or I could talk your ear off about fricatives, which by the way makes an excellent substitute for a certain other word.

I'm just realizing what a total sap I am. I'm running over the possible conversations in my head and thinking, I need to sound way more assertive. And stop apologizing, for heaven's sake. Perhaps this is why God gave me 4 kids. Nothing develops assertiveness better than having to yell at 4 kids all day long.

The husband thinks I'm a little obsessed with this meeting. He said,"if you spent this amount of time on working with our daughter on her actual speech, then she wouldn't have these issues." What can I say except that he is after all a man. But I did tell him to harness all that lovely criticism for the meeting. All right, he does have a point (tiny though it is), but still, they insulted me so personally, so deeply by making a fool out of me that I just have to go back and kick their butts. And hey, if my daughter happens to benefit from it, is that so wrong?

I must go back to poring over my daughter's file. I will tell all tomorrow after the meeting if I am not brain-dead. By the way, I highly recommend anyone who is going through the Special Education program to first read this book. I found out about it late but hopefully not too late. It's written by a lawyer and thus has this entire attitude of be ready to sue them, which is why it's so handy.

Meanwhile, the quote of the week is: if I can go through childbirth labor 4 times with no epidural, by golly, I can do anything!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for my son. He's entering kindergarten, so it's a big deal for us. Luckily, he has his sister's old teacher. I hope she's not expecting him to be the same type of student as she was, because boy will she get a shock. I just can't believe he's in school now.

Waiting in line for school to start
Showing off his new backpack and lunchbox set
So how did it go? According to him, it was great and lots of fun. Unfortunately, he got busted twice for kicking another boy when the boy refused to get off the swing and had to get a time-out. That's my boy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Best of Both Worlds

Labor has come and gone, officially marking the end of summer in all the ways that matter. My daughter just left for her first day of school. It's extra special for us because she didn't leave for school all last year. She stayed at home last year, where we completed her first year of homeschooling. It was a great experience but very humbling and learning. Our relationship grew very close, as she was not just my daughter but also my student. And she whizzed through her assignments, leaving me always wondering, did I do enough? should I give her more?

We did miss certain aspects of regular school. Like being able to do skits and group activities. And getting out of the house more. She didn't have the socialization issue; I did. I missed standing around with the other moms chatting. At times we even missed that whole getting ready for school bit, because as big of a pain it is, it built up anticipation. I missed packing her lunch, and she missed eating out of a lunch box. Funny how none of the homeschooling books mention these small things.

Still, we were planning on homeschooling again this year. I actually wasn't sure. So I gave my daughter a choice: would she like to go back to elementary school or would she like to homeschool again? She immediately chose to homeschool. That was it. She has had to put up with never-ending hours of school, a distracted mom, siblings screaming, last-minute lesson changes, and occasional bouts of impatience by the teacher. That she would do it again shuts up any doubts I have.

Then, as God would have it (thank You, Lord!), we found out about this charter school that offers a part-time homeschooling schedule. My daughter would go to school two full days a week and homeschool the other three days. On those two days of school, they would cover all the more group inclined activities, such as art, science, and history with projects. They also have a monthly book club and fun field trips. We get to choose which curricula we use at home. And, oh yeah, she'll be eating out of her lunch box those two days while I volunteer periodically (and socialize with other moms) as is required of all parents.

So it seems like the perfect compromise, especially in light of my job, minimal though it is, and my son, who's entering regular kindergarten, and all their extracurricular activities. I'm looking forward to trying out this new arrangement. I figure going from 5-day homeschooling to 3-day homeschooling is a lot like going from taking care of 4 kids to only 2 kids: a piece of cake. It's gonna be a great year.