Monday, January 26, 2015

Testing, testing and more testing

In recent weeks, I have been asked by a number of people what my thoughts are on the right to "opt-out" of grade school standardized testing.  As a result, I am writing this not at all witty or fun blog.  The reality is that this is a VERY personal decision.  Several things came into play when I was wrapping my head around this possibility.

From a child development/counseling perspective, the amount of pressure we put on our children with these tests is too much.  Way too much.  But I am not entirely sure that I buy into the "common core is evil" mentality all together. As we move into the age of Education 3.0, it would be easy to lose sight of what our children are really learning.  I love project based learning and real world applications. But can my kid read at an appropriate reading level? Can she do basic arithmetic?  I honestly couldn't tell you by looking at a report card in my kids' school district.

The problem isn't necessarily the assessments, it is the value placed on the assessments.  As much as I want to hate some of these assessments, there have been several times that this is the only way I had a concrete understanding of how my children are doing in school.  The grade cards are clear as mud, giving arbitrary numbers to rate the performance of my child.  I never know when to praise my child, as I cannot ever tell if they are reaching their full potential looking at a sea of numbers with vague definitions, interpreted differently by each teacher.  What stinks is that I can't praise my kids based on these assessments either.  I can praise them for trying their hardest, but they certainly don't need me adding to the pressure of the assessments.

The way things are now, my children's teachers can use the assessments administered as a teaching tool.  I like that. I think that it's important to keep in mind that it is ONE tool of many, but a tool nonetheless.  The PARCC, however would not yield results in a timeframe conducive to that.  Why would we give something like this to our kids? Oh yeah…to further criticize and critique our teachers.  That makes sense.  Let's have our teachers devote a bunch of time to prepare our kids for a test that cannot be used to help enhance their learning as an assessment.  By the time the results come in, my child will be in a different class.  Brilliant.  This is nearly as logical as it is to use these assessments to judge our teachers without taking into consideration SES, IQ, or any other factors that have a direct correlation to how well a student can learn.

So will I have my child opt out of the PARCC? This exam is not a teaching tool in any way.  It is merely a way to ramp up my kid's anxiety and put pressure on our teachers.  The answer for me is still no.  The biggest two reasons are (1) I know my kids can handle the pressure if I help guide them in understanding that this test does not define their worth as a student and (2) our superintendent of schools.

Number one was not an easy declaration for me.  I have one child that has struggled with anxiety for half of her life.  These tests are killer for her.  She has even been known to bomb an SRI or two. All the same, this has been a learning experience for our family.  She is going to be faced with obstacles like this throughout her entire life.  We've taught her that this is a way to overcome her worries and fears.  We don't value her based on a number that some standardized test spits at us.  As we have drilled this into her beautiful little mug, she has improved at taking these wretched assessments.  I doubt that they will ever truly capture the essence of her crazy intelligent mind, but she is growing.  Hopefully this will help her in the years to come if she chooses a higher education institution that requires a standardized test.

Now on to Dr. John Marschhausen.  I truly feel as though we are very fortunate to have a superintendent that is an advocate for our children in our school district.  I am pretty certain that he isn't 100% sold on these tests, but he has asked the parents to be patient and stay the course.  He has been fabulous in communicating with parents.  We have opportunities to hear him speak…many many opportunities.  I will admit, I really don't make the time to get there, but just knowing that option is there means very much to me as a parent.  He has had meetings about testing…to answer questions and to HEAR parents.  If none of those things are convenient for parents, he has taken to social media.  So, when he asks that we not opt out at this time and that we do exactly what the state asks at this time in order to form well informed opinions on this new PARCC assessment...I will respect that.  I trust that he has the best interests of the students of this district at heart.v

To be clear, this isn't an us versus them mentality.  I do not begrudge others for choosing to opt-out.  As parents, we are all doing the best that we can.  Furthermore, there is no one size fits all method of parenting.  It is not my place to judge others, as I would expect others would pay my family that same respect. So many parenting issues become ways to pit parents (mothers in particular) against one another.  We have the nursing moms versus the bottle feeders, the working moms versus the stay at homers.  All this division is crap.  It's safe to say there are very very few people that LOVE the testing that is mandated for public schools.  Let's not let our opinions on this front divide us as parents wanting the very best education for our children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let me rub your belly

Imagine this...a woman in her thirties walking through the grocery store sees a mighty fine piece of eye candy.  She quickly walks up to him and rubs his washboard abs and exclaims "Oh my!  How many crunches do you do a day?!" This, my friends, would be considered highly inappropriate.

Second scenario...a man in his thirties is walking through the grocery store when he sees a lady with a big ol' belly.  He walks up to her and asks when she is due and touches her tummy. Creepy...yet somewhat acceptable (unless of course she is not expecting at all, but that is another matter altogether).
What is this about?  There is something about pregnancy (and babies for that matter) that gives people a pass to ask inappropriate questions and invade personal space.  I really don't get it.  With my first child I came home from work everyday feeling a tad bit dirty.  Clients felt the need to touch my protruding stomach every time they saw me.  Was I wearing a sign broadcasting "Yes!  I am still knocked up!  Please please put your hands on me!"?

Granted I am pretty stingy about my personal space.  It sceeves me out when people I don't know touch me.  Heck! As a nursing mother, I am all done being touched by anyone  around 8pm.  I don't even care to have Doug in my personal space. I have been known to tell him "the Dairy Queen is now closed....please stop in again later."  All that aside, I can't imagine there are many women who actually enjoy being handled during what can be a very uncomfortable time in her life.

What surprises me even more than the poor boundaries, are the completely inappropriate questions people ask.  I am utterly (hee hee) shocked at the number of people who ask if Doug is disappointed that Sage is a girl.  Really?!  Are there people out there who would say that they wished their beautiful (or even funny looking) child were a different gender?  If so, I hope they have a fund started for the therapy bills.  Another question I get a lot is whether we were trying for a fourth.  I am tempted to respond "Why yes!  While having intercourse with my husband, we chose not to wrap his manly parts.  This allowed one to slip past the goalie.  Boo-ya!"  Equally shocking is how disapproving some are when they find out that yes, we did indeed have another child on purpose!  If we had a protection malfunction they would have understood, but to actually plan a fourth (insert gasp here)!

I have actually started turning the tables on people.  When they ask if we plan on having another, I tell them that Doug needs to get in for surgery.  This really makes a lot of folks squirm.  The idea that my husband is having a small procedure done on his penis is far more delicate an issue than whether my child were conceived intentionally or if I pushed my ten pound baby out my hoo-ha or via c-section.  I give up.  I think I will just special order a onesie for Sage.  It will say "Yes! My mommy and daddy made me on purpose!  Yes! They really did want a fourth GIRL!  Yes! Four babies completes our family! Yes! My daddy goes in for the snip snip as soon as his soccer team has a bye week! Yes! I am REAL...please don't touch me!"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Crack Epidemic

Crack is bad anyway you look at it.  When discussing the crack epidemic most are referring to the drug.  Me? I'm concerned about the crack that peeks out of the back of nearly every woman's jeans today.

I remember the first time I saw a girl's thong peering out over the rim of her jeans when I was sitting at the bus stop on my way to class in college.  I was slightly disturbed, as this made it all too obvious that beneath that pair of jeans there were two bare butt cheeks.  At that time, I thought the only folks that had cracks hanging out of their pants were fixing sinks and toilets.  As that young thong-wearing girl grew up (and the rise in her jeans did not) a new and more horrific trend emerged.

Nowadays, it seems I see at least five butt cracks a day...and I don't happen to know any plumbers.  The new group of people flashing crack, I am em-bare-assed (heh heh heh) to say, is comprised of mothers.  

I don't pretend to be above all of this indecent exposure.  Four kids and over a decade later, I have added a good twenty pound cushion.  Furthermore, I have always carried most of my excess baggage in my trunk.  In an attempt to avoid becoming my mother, I have always tried to buy jeans that do not creep up over my belly button.  I am starting to question my logic.  I was never exposed to my mothers crack when out and about with my friends.  Had I been, I cannot begin to imagine the mortification that would have followed.  My nephew actually exclaims "I see a butt-ler" anytime he catches a glimpse of his mom's bum cleavage.  This would suggest that he sees it enough to have a term for it.  As much as I hate to admit it, my children have picked up on the term and have used it from time to time as well.

I have two pairs of comfy jeans.  Both require long shirts and a good belt (and even then there are times that I cannot hide my vertical smile).  I am so accustomed to wearing jeans with a low-rise, that the granny-up-to-your-belly-button jeans feel awful!  I'd like to think that with diet and exercise my comfy jeans would once again become G-rated.  All the same, I fear this is just good ol' wishful thinking. I'm going to try to ease my way into full coverage jeans. I bought a pair of those old lady jeans about a month ago.  I still wear them much less frequently than the others, as I am holding on to the glory years (without a muffin top or love handles).  Oddly enough, I have gotten quite a few compliments on my "Urkel" jeans.  I've been told I look thinner when wearing those jeans.  Could it be that it isn't so flattering when my spare tire is bared for the world to see? 

As I become a little more embarrassing to Violet, I am more aware of the things that I do that are incredibly uncool.  It is not my goal to be my kids' friend.  I will always provide structure, stability and boundaries...none of which are cool in the mind of a kid.  All the same, it isn't my intention to be that parent.  We all remember at least one completely inappropriate parent growing up.  I don't plan to be remembered by my childrens' acquaintances due to my very classy butt-baring attire. I still remember the mom that showed up to swim meets to cheer on her kids wearing pink hoop earrings with a matching bikini top, hair bows and high heels.  I would rather be a vague recollection to my children's friends than a vivid memory.

A good mom would sacrifice comfy jeans for the emotional well-being of her child.  A mediocre mom would do her best to hide the offending skin while in her comfy pants to the best of her abilities (knowing that it is quite likely going  to be unsuccessful from time to time).  Said mediocre mom would then pat herself on the back for not being the horrific mother who jiggles that sideways grin with no remorse.  She might even continue to wear the grandma jeans from time to time...

Jennifer Garner with daughter (may be subject to copyright)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ain't Nothin' but Mammals

Breastfeeding was always something that kind of wigged me out in my pre-mommmy years.  I mean, lets face it...I grew up with MTV. The function of the breasts seen in music videos is not to provide nourishment to infants.  Attaching a baby to a body part so sexualized by the media just seemed unnatural.

Fast forward nine years, my decision to breastfeed my fourth child was the most natural thing in the world.  While I don't dread the day my children are done nursing, I nursed my three older children just the same.  Nursing Baby Sage seemed to be a no-brainer.  What I didn't really think through were the new dynamics of our ever changing family.

Our first three children are less than four years apart.  Violet and Sage are nearly 9 years different in age.  Breastfeeding a new baby with a 5, 7, and 9-year-old in the house is a much different experience than breastfeeding with a toddler and a preschooler in the home.  In Violet's first five years of life, I was either pregnant or breastfeeding.  She knew nothing different.  With my 4 year breather, the idea of nursing was not even on the radar until Baby Sage entered this world.

Nursing a newborn is not particularly discreet.  When Sage was two weeks old Doug declared that when I am through nursing this child, our children have seen enough of me to last a lifetime.  Violet was rather disturbed by my need to bare my breasts every other minute.  Lily found breastfeeding to be absolutely hilarious and would laugh hysterically every time it was time for Sage to eat (she also managed to prolong the giggling by saying the word "breast" every few minutes). As for Ivy, she had about 500 new questions about how things worked every single time Sage latched on for a meal.  In private, these things are par for the course.  In public, this can be more of a sticky situation.

For example, I should be able to order food without a problem at Der Dutchman.  I've been doing so for years.  Typically, my children are well mannered.  Now...I can't order a chicken breast without Lily saying "BREAST?!  Your eating a chicken BREAST?!!!"  Really?!  I think the Amish chick that took our order just passed out.  Example number at Target is typically a joyous time in my life. Now, I am bracing myself for Ivy to yell "if you would just shove that baby on your boob, she'd be quiet already." Of course, none of that compares to having friends of Violet's over to the house.
I am always pretty discreet about feeding the baby.  I use a blanket or go to another room anytime I am around non-family members.  It's just more comfortable for me.  All the same, there are still often questions about what's going on under that blanket. Recently, we had a good friend of Violet's spend the night.  Mia always fits right into the household anytime she comes over.  She plays well with all of the kids, and she's just a fun kid to be around.  Somehow for the first two months of Sage's life, Mia never noticed the blanket or my sudden need to leave the room.  When Violet told her I was in my room feeding the baby, so she was going to give me privacy, Mia was confused.

Of course, I know nothing of this confusion, as I am in another room which means my nine-year-old decides to school her friend.  The next day she tells me that Mia had never heard of breastfeeding before and was somewhat horrified when Violet "explained" how things work.  Mia told Violet that her aunt had a baby and she sure as heck never "let her baby suck on her boob!"  Great!  I cannot wait to talk to her parents about this one.  Of course, this is the same little girl that Lily decided to educate about a baby's entrance into the world.  [Dr. Daddy decided that the appropriate explanation for a 4, 6, and 8 year old curious about how Mommy was going to get the baby out of her belly was that a "baby comes head first out of the vulva."  I don't even know where to begin there. I did ask that he direct the kids to me if ever they ask how babies are made.]

All the same, Mia's dad is a nurse, so I figured they might still let their child hang with ours if I just make a quick call to inform them of Mia's recent lesson on breastfeeding.  Unfortunately, Mia's parents were already well aware of the situation by the time I talked to them.  Nurse Daddy had already explained that humans are mammals, which means their bodies are equipped to feed their babies just as any other mammal.  To clear up further questions, there was discussion about hormones and the changes in nipples, and Heaven knows what else.  Needless to say, the idea that getting pregnant means that a big old baby is going to exit the body head first out the vulva and your nipples are going to change to allow babies to get milk by sucking on your breast has convinced at least one of the children in that family that there is no way on this Earth she is ever going to get pregnant.

Nothing like being the weird hippie mom that scares the children into abstinence.  I think I need to go snack on some fruits and nuts (it's the Mammalian way of motherhood).

                                                        Photo:  AttributionShare Alike Some rights reservedby rkimpeljr 
                                                      Breastfeeding reminds us we are mammals

Saturday, January 14, 2012


When a woman first finds out she is pregnant, a lot of things swim through her head.  I remember my first reaction quite clearly.  Number one, I am having a baby (mush mush).  Number two, what the hell have I gotten myself into (push push).  Number three, how in the f*** am I going to stop cursing in nine short months?!?!  

With a bit of work, I was able to limit my four letter words to adult time only by the time Violet was three months old.  Of course I substituted PG phrases, but what's the harm really?  I first caught glimpse of the harm when my friend and I were hanging out a few years back.  Her two year old at the time shouted out "Oh Crap!"  I actually gasped at the expression as if I had never heard such offensive language in my life.  Who'da thunk crap would sound so bad.  

Trying to learn from my excellent friend's experience, I watched my every word around the kids.  "Crap" was nowhere to be found in my vocabulary.    S***, f*** and d*** were way off limits.  
Earlier this week, Lily asked me if we were "flippin' late again?!"  Deep sigh.  Looking back at all of the things Violet has spewed since the word "dada" first emerged, I can't imagine what kind of landslide I have in store for me with Lily.  Let see, with Violet we had "hey mom, this water is freakin' hot," "are you just going to let that freakin' baby cry," "I'm not going into the bathtub with that fool," and to our new neighbors..."our dog is freakin' crazy."  

I was so proud of myself for eliminating the word "freakin'," not even realizing that I had replaced it with "flippin'."  Should I try to redeem myself with baby Ivy, or just hand-pick her offensive term?  I could try "friggin'“or give her a bit of a British flair with "blasted."  At least then I won't be so surprised when my beautiful baby girl's mouth matches her cute little sailor dress.

I can see it now...Matt Lauer asks my kids what they think about their mommy being named MOTHER OF THE YEAR!  Violet says, "There is no mom out there freakin' better than my mom!"  Lily says, "Yeah, she's the flippin' best!"  Ivy wraps it up with one word..."fool!"  I guess I ought to find myself a new goal in life.

The Golden Baby (2008)

I sit here, slightly roasted due to a lack of sunscreen on my shoulders, wondering how it is possible that I can successfully lather up all three children (four including my nephew), but manage to miss at least one spot on myself.  Could it be karma? 

Yesterday, I found myself quite distracted by Ivy's perpetual path of destruction.  I seemed to be one step behind her all day.  I was rolling with it.  Hell, I didn't even notice that I was cleaning up mess after mess.  Then came 4:32 pm (I don't really know the exact time, but it does make me sound a little more attentive doesn't it)?  I was vacuuming up the dirt from Doug's orange tree that Ivy found to be great decoration the kitchen floor.  It was really no big deal.  I was smiling to myself because I know that Doug truly believes that this twig will eventually bear fruit for us to enjoy.  Then Violet yells "Mommy!  Ivy has your lotion!" 

Now in most cases it is not a huge crisis to find your child sitting at the kitchen table, covered in half a bottle of lotion.  But your heart really starts to race when that lotion is a lotion with a hint of self-tanner.  Visions of my baby's skin streaked in bright carrot orange raced through my head.  I scrub her body with baby wipes, consider calling poison control, then come to my senses.  My husband, who happens to be a family doctor, had warned me to keep my lotion up and out of the way just the day before--clearly the kitchen table is now within her reach.  I didn't want to call him, but figured the kids would tell him as soon as he walked in, so I figured I'd rather tell him via telephone.  After the dial of shame, I threw her in the shower and scrubbed her down some more.
Luckily the crisis was averted.  There is no evidence of any artificial tan on the child.  Funny enough, I think Ivy's encounter with my lotion is the closest thing to a homegrown orange we will find in this house!

P as in Poop (2008)

I must admit I have used the "mommy brain" excuse more than once in the past five years.  There are times that it truly feels as though my IQ has been halved.  So why does some research suggest that motherhood actually makes you smarter?  How could that be?  Do I just have a warped view of my former life or is it something altogether different?

My theory is that I have temporarily shut off the part of my brain that allows me to say intelligent things.   The capacity to think is still there.  I just have to use my brain for other purposes at this point.  One day, I will flip the switch and blossom into a GENIUS! 

This temporary shutdown became abundantly clear when I made a complete ass of myself on the telephone.  We are looking into refinancing our home and the gentleman helping us out was attempting to give me his e-mail address.  I wasn't sure if I heard him right, so naturally I read the address back to him..."m as in mom, p as in poop..."  I kid you not, I said "p as in poop" as if that was the association any normal human being would make.  Then I start laughing so hard I thought I was going to p as in pee. 

I don't know which is worse; the notion that this man believes that I am a moron or that he believes I am a complete nut job.  If only I could shut off the part of the brain that cares about what other people think.