Monday, December 31, 2007

The Weekend Which Was Overtaken By a Mystery Illness

Something of unknown name and origin wiped me out for the entire day yesterday. It was so bad, I couldn't even drink coffee! Consciousness was iffy for a while. Same with eating or drinking. I spent most of the day in bed. I took a sojourn to the couch in the evening for an hour or so before a quick shower and returned to chambers. Come to think of it - besides the feeling terrible part - it wasn't a bad way to spend the day. Wouldn't want to do it all the time, but a day in bed every now and again could do us all some good.

Saturday we went to get firewood. We are completely out. "Two or three hours" my husband estimated it would take. To his credit, he accurately estimated the number of trees to fall in order to fill up the trucks. Five hours later - one of those hours was spent sitting beside the truck playing I Spy with OC. The keys got locked inside and so we waited while my husband drove in the other truck we had, an old Ford loaded down with firewood, the 26 miles home to get the spare key. I'm thinking that last hour sitting huddled in the cold either caused or greatly contributed to my falling ill with whatever I fell ill with the next day.

In the department of good news, it turns out I can run a chainsaw with neither causing injury nor maiming myself. Although this is probably not a skill I will use much, on the occasions it becomes necessary to use a chainsaw, it will be nice to know I can do it without (much) fear of those three things. I'm fond of my appendages, and would grieve the loss of one of them.....especially if it came because of my own ineptness.

It's New Year's Eve. Do I have plans? Other than not repeating the Great Mystery Illness of 2007? No. Do you? You would think after spending an entire day in bed it would seem appealing to stay awake late one night for a holiday, especially one which consists of nothing more than celebrating the coming of midnight with lots and lots of booze. This is the way I spent much of high school and so enjoy fewer hangovers as an adult. This is not something I am proud of, but it does come in handy occasionally.*

Happy New Year!

* Not what I would recommend to high schoolers. If you are a high schooler, please do not drink! It makes you stupid. To wit: have you read my blog? Uh huh. The end.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sledding Hill Rules

1. Sled track is for sledding.

2. Walk up the hill on either side of sled track. Take your pick! The choice is yours. Either side is preferable to walking up the sled track. (See rule #3.)

3. The sled track is not for walking back up the hill.(See rule #2.)

4. The sled track is not for plopping down on your behind to relax. Sledders want to use it, and if you do this you are now IN THE DAMN WAY.

5. If you are going to run down the hill after a small child, please do not run down the sled track and leave your large, booted footprints which gnarl up the track for everyone else.

6. Outdoor fires are nice, but maybe - just maybe! - not appropriate to build one at the bottom of the sled hill. Do I need to explain why?

7. If you cannot or will not follow these rules, then please stay home.

Thank you.

- The Establishment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Here's the saucer I was talking about:

The kid in the background looks on in awe at OC's saucer sledding savvy.

The problems with using a saucer as an adult are twofold. One, there is no padding other than what one provides on one's backside. (Amazingly, it still hurts even if one's personal padding is plentiful.) Two, there is a tendency for the thing to spin around so that one may find one's self sledding downhill, backwards.

We've only gone sledding the one time but I've been able to parlay the pictures into numerous blog posts. Lazy!

Yesterday, we went for a little hike at Shevlin Park. It was a lovely day, with snow on the ground. We've never been there before, but the book we had said it was an easy hike and especially perfect for the winter. I would agree with all of that, except I would add that the underlying layer of ice on the path made it treacherous in several places. Most of those places were where the path descended and had a sheer cliff face with an accompanying steep hillside of death. I spent the first half of the hike anxiously warning, "Be careful! Slow down! Remember, if you fall to grab on to something!" Over and over again. Because I am old, because I have lost my fearlessness, because I am a mom.

The last half of the hike was much better. Flat land! We had a snowball fight, including stealth ambushes amongst the trees and a divided, two-against-one strategy.

I am not too old for that.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Old-Fashioned Fun

I know I just wrote about going skiing, but a couple of weeks ago we went sledding at a Sno-Park. (I hate the way that is spelled. It's not cute, it's incorrect! Anyway.)


Girlfriend has pat the snow disk technique! She flew down that hill.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Diversionary Tactic

The tangle with the administration left a sour taste, even with the favorable outcome. To counteract, we went skiing.

Mt. Bachelor is my favorite place to ski. You should know that my experience is far from vast. I have skiied a total of four times in my life. Yesterday was my second time at Bachelor. I include in my repertoire one experience each at Mt. Hood Meadows and Cypress Mountain (British Columbia). Meadows was steep and slick and way too fast for me; Cypress was fun. I learned to ski at Cypress from a German (or Swiss?) woman, a decade younger than myself, who purported to have been on skis since birth. Or some ridiculously young age like that. She was a good instructor and yet, I still wanted to smack her darling little face - just a little! - for her annoying youthfulness. Doing so would've only brought out the rosiness in her young cheeks. Besides, I really liked her and when it comes down to it, I'm not THAT mean.

My muscles are sore today. OC? Not so much. Speaking of youth, isn't that is one of the glories? Being able to ski all day long and not feel a thing, I mean? Her muscles must be made of rubber, or her nerves don't carry pain as acutely as mine. Ah well. So much the better that she feels good.

We tackled the marshmallow run most of the day, with one trip down rooster tail. Once was enough. My husband has been skiing since childhood, and is quite good. He nonetheless is patient and slow with us as we make our way fretfully down the slopes.

My husband captured one of my many glorious falls in a cell phone video. I fell a lot, but mostly the falls were graceful and resulted in no serious injury. They did, however, start to really piss me off. Do you know how hard it is to upright one's self while on skis? Well, it's hard. After a time, your legs are sore and after yet ANOTHER fall, you consider sitting where you are and waiting for the snow machine to pick you up and take you down to the lodge where all the smart people are with their hot cocoas and knitting projects. Unless, of course, you happen to be sitting in the middle of the ski run and if you are sitting in the middle of the ski run then you would be called a snowboarder.

Not all snowboarders do this, but enough have done so in my experience. Do they know how the risk their lives by sitting down in my path?

This was also OC's fourth time skiing in her life. She did so well! She mostly snowplows down the steep parts, but she was doing some practice turning. It's hard, and with all those other people to worry about around you, I don't blame her for taking it easy. At any rate, her plowing is excellent.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Team Occidental Tourist Takes the Lead

If influence were measured by level of amount of ire raised in others, then it seems I am an influential woman. My husband and I met with the principal and the teacher yesterday afternoon and, wow. I am still reeling from it.

Our position was: We agree with your goal to match each student with teachers and other students that are a good match for them (the words of the principal in a past newsletter). We are here because a mistake was made in classroom placement, and it needs to be fixed. To do so would maximize academic success for our daughter. The classrooms are balanced now, and so moving one child will not significantly harm one teacher's workload/classroom. A change would significantly enhance our daughter's classroom experience. The end.

Their position was: we are sad, you hurt our feelings, the teacher is very upset, we're concerned because you haven't asked your daughter (six years old) what she wants, we can't run a school by having every parent come and request room changes mid-year, we can't set that precedence, here is anecdotal evidence that suggests kids do well even if classrooms are bad, whine, cry, sniff.

Sorry, but the level of emotion on their side was VERY HIGH. It was truly awe-inspiring to watch adults - professionals! - behave in such a way. Where's the coping skills? Where's the priority for the child's education? Where's the rationality? Criticism is a tool which can bring forth positive changes. Unless you only want to surround yourself with sycophants and hear wonderful things. In which case, one would not learn and grow.

I had to discuss why we wanted her moved, which meant talking about teaching style, classroom environment, and behavior. Over and over, I said it wasn't personal. I said it wasn't that she is a bad teacher. I said that it was about proper classroom placement. A mistake was made, simply.

This was not met with glee. In fact, it was entirely personal to them. It's too bad they took it that way. Really, no one had to be upset. Sadness over such a great kid (hee hee!) leaving one's room, but there should not be hard feelings.

At one point, I pointed out that school district policy allows parents the right to request teacher placement for the next school year. Numerous times before I brought this up, he said we would NOT be allowed to request a teacher each year.

I'm glad at least I know the school policy!

The teacher was upset, but her arguments were rational. She said that she would consider whether or not there was more harm than good by staying, versus the harm from a transition. Exactly! That's how I was thinking of it. I regret she felt bad about it, but I did nothing to directly make her feel badly. It's unfortunate that a mistake was made with classroom placement, but now it will be much better for OC.

Which is the entire point of it all!

We don't want to do any more mid-year switches, which the principal was afraid. The goal would be to have it sorted out correctly up front. That is what I plan to do by visiting each higher grade teacher's classroom and continue to volunteer and be a presence in the school so that I'm familiar with them and can constructively assist the placement process.

Go, us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Game On


We met with the principal today, and believe me, he was not my "pal". Broaching the subject of changing classrooms, he acted as though this were as typical as all those cats who like to play fetch.

I made my case, which was met with incredibly inarguable points such as: we can't move your child because it might hurt the teacher's feelings and create hostility between staff if one were preferred over another! It's as though they are not professionals and incapable of dealing with criticism. Not everyone likes pop art; so don't buy a Lichtenstein for your living room. What's the problem?

The main argument against switching classrooms is, if we make an exception for you, we'd have to make an exception for EVERYONE. We can't treat you differently than we treat everyone else. That's not a good precedent to set. How many parents, I wonder, line up outside the office door requesting a change? Right. Judging by how many line up to volunteer, not many, I think. And if there are, they should be given a chance to explain and then be considered on a case by case basis. If there is merit, the request should be considered.

In this district, apparently it is against the laws of nature and man to allow parents to change schools or to change classrooms. Doing so might mean the Earth's magnetic fields switch polarity rendering all compasses pretty, if useless, instruments. Much like meddling parents who want their kids in the right classroom.


That's okay. If the school were to capitulate in the first meeting, who would respect them? Besides me, I mean.

The teacher does not instruct in a clear way. She begins by giving step 2, step 3, step 4.5, then goes back to step 1 with an addendum to add step 4; a reminder to write clearly on step 5; then gives steps 6-18 in similar manner, after which the children wander to their seats in a fog of confusion. I know, because I see it when I am there three mornings a week. I know, too, because I have messy notes from all that erasing when she gives me instructions in that abstract way of hers. I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm no slouch, either. If I have trouble understanding her, yet I am equipped with the ability to clarify, what are the kids to do?

Her classroom is most definitely not a model for admirable behavior. If she's not ignoring too much talking, she's explaining to death why the kids just shouldn't do that. No consequences, they get talked to death. After they awake from their boredom-induced comas, they ignore her to do it again another day.

Tonight I will spend writing argument to each point that was brought up in the meeting. After that, obtain a copy of the school district's policy on classroom changes. We have another meeting with the principal and the teacher tomorrow afternoon. Which is great, this way I get to complain about her shortcomings to her face. Oh well, if that's what it takes to make things right.

I should say that the watch-stealing kid got into trouble for the incident I wrote about last week. Or, the week before? It happened after I left for the day, and more importantly, after the class was disrupted three separate times.

That was round one. Set up the hoops, I'm jumping through. No matter how many ridiculous arguments I might face.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kill Me Now

No, it can wait until after Christmas. Or better yet, until after I've read all the books I want to read. Oh! And after the movies I want to watch.

I'm at the library again. The server is slow, people are sitting all around and probably reading this. Hi there, you behind me! I hate that they can see my blog name, then me typing, then my stupid email address displayed at the top of the screen. Let me scroll down.......there. Now it's hidden.

I need to pay my Visa bill, which I usually do online. There is no way I will attempt to do it here, out in the open. There are four rows of computers, for a total of 20. There are two computers in the back row but are only for 15 minutes of internet use. With the slow server I might get to type my account number and my cat's cousin's maiden name before I am automatically logged off. I guess I'll have to revert to the old-fashioned paper invoice and a check. Gadzooks!

In the movie "Snowcake" Sigourney Weaver plays an autistic woman who likes to play her own version of Scrabble where the only acceptable words are those from comic books, such as gadzooks. Zoinks might be another. It sounds like a fun way to play. I don't use those types of words very often. Same with penal code, but that just makes me giggle.

I didn't particularly like "Snowcake" but I did love "Stranger Than Fiction".

I feel exposed, so, that is all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Losing My Religion

My computer has a virus. The good man who came by to pick it up today told me the shop is a week out with repairs. Which means it may, or may not be fixed and returned before Christmas, which means I may be without a computer - and more importantly, internet access at home! - for a more than a week!!!!!!

I feel like I've lost an appendage or something. How does one function without a computer which is attached to every other computer in the world? How will I shop online? How will I blog? How will I check email?

I'm at the library, typing this. I feel naked. I feel lost.

Sad. Cry!

Moving on. This will explain why I'm such a loo-zur about responding to email, commenting on your blogs, and spending too much money. FYI.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We Have a Hillbilly in the House

This is the third tooth she has lost. The fourth came out last Friday while she was eating pizza at the ski lodge. We're all glad it didn't come out in the snow.

The tooth fairy forgot to come Friday night. She forgot. OC was not upset about it, saying the tooth fairy was too busy and would come the next night. She did, and left an extra quarter due to guilt.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day But I'd Like to Think So

I want things to change in a day. Once I make a decision, I want it to happen.

It's frustrating.

I'm talking about parenting. When OC comes home from school at 3:30, she's hungry and grouchy. I want things to be fun, but it's a struggle to get through eating a snack, cleaning up after, and doing chores. I'm the taskmaster, as usual. Soon enough, it's five o'clock and time to get dinner and a bath and on and on....

I realize that what's important is built slowly, daily, over a length of time. It's a longer length than I have the patience for. But this is a good thing. It gives me a chance to make tomorrow a better day. One bad afternoon doesn't cancel out all the work that's been done. Nor does one good day stand alone for the rest of our lives. Damn it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Go Left on the Right Roundabout

If there is one thing I do not like, it's change. Most humans don't, but I consider my particular aversion to be exceptional. As most other humans do as well.

I encountered my first roundabout in the mid-90's and did not enjoy the experience. It was new, it was different, it was round — completely unlike the 90-degree intersections and interminable traffic lights to which I was familiar. There was a second encounter on the east coast a few years later, this time much bigger and with the cars going much more quickly which only served to reinforce my aversion.

My family and I took a trip to Ireland in 2006. Dublin is a wonderful city but the streets take on new names in the space of a few twisting blocks. The lane directions seem inexplicable and are not always marked. It was easier to hire a taxi or walk, so we did. We enjoyed the train which took us to Northern Ireland where we rented car in Belfast for our expedition of the countryside. If they had had little red wagons I would've been first in line for the six bags of luggage we somehow felt we needed.

It was here, in Northern Ireland, while driving our rented American-made car where I fell in love with the roundabout.

The roundabouts in use on the Emerald Isle range from the large, multi-lane type with traffic signals (rare) to the tiniest version with only a white paint circle in middle of the road to mark its existence (also rare). The most frequent size was the medium range, with clear signage and consisting of two lanes of traffic.

The first day in which I drove the rental car was after seeing the downtown area of the seaside vacation spot of Portrush. We needed to find our way back to the motorway, and so I was reading signs AND driving on the left when I came to the street where I needed to turn. Which just happened to have the very small version of the roundabout, the kind with the paint circle on the surface of the pavement. I needed to make a right turn, so I did, but I mistakenly I entered the roundabout — or rather, skirted the perimeter of the paint circle — on the right. My husband said, "Go left!" and I said, "But we have to turn right!" and then he said "But you have to BE on the LEFT!" Oh. Right.

We all know about a certain town located 16 miles to the south of us here in Redmond where the traffic planners have made ample use of said traffic device while the roads in Redmond suffer (in my opinion) from a serious lack thereof. That is not to say that because Bend has roundabouts, Bend is a better town. It is to say that because Bend has roundabouts, there are many places where drivers can breeze through when it makes sense to do so rather than sit and wait for arbitrary reasons. In the case of the former, everybody wins!

The problem with the cumbersome three- and four-way stops which occupy a prodigious number of intersections here in town is the fact that one must stop even if there may be no other car or pedestrian in sight, or violate the law. It's probably not such a huge waste of time (it definitely feels that way) but it does take more energy to fully stop and start again. Aside from having gone the reverse direction on that one occasion, roundabouts always make me feel like I am moving forward.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that "Nothing endures except change." The use of roundabouts are a change from other methods, which perhaps means they will proliferate and endure. At least for the time being.

Reprinted with permission from the Redmond Spokesman; Redmond, Oregon. Originally published November 28, 2007.