Sunday, November 30, 2008

Note to self: some things to keep in the car

A number of things that were notably missing or not available in large enough number. Don't even need to be going on a long trip, probably useful for any drive over 20 minutes.
  • Wipes. Baby wipes are preferable, as they can be used on pretty much any surface. Good for wiping off skin, cloth, car seats, whatever unfortunate item may be in the path of nasty.
  • Paper towels. Similar to above, good for the initial, rough cleaning.
  • Garbage bags. Because, holy hell, we need someplace to put the above. Multiple bags preferable so that garbage items can be separated from clothing items. (Should help in avoiding the recent mishap in which paper towels and old food were indiscriminately thrown into the washer with clothing instead of carefully separated.)
  • Change of clothing for the boy. This is usually in the car when the child is, but an extra one would not be a mistake.
  • Motion sickness pills. Also usually in the car, but obviously not handy enough.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obligatory "My son is so smart" post

If you're not in the mood for a little parental bragging, you can skip this post.

We had our first parent-teacher conference for kindergarten. Covered a lot of ground in our half hour or so, both the good and the bad. But the gist was that none of the bad is so bad as to require immediate attention or raise red flags. And much of the good is very good. (I will skip for the time being the fact that we discovered--from the special ed teacher who handles Scooter's case, not from Mr. Teacher--that Scooter has in fact qualified for speech therapy, but they had decided against getting him into it at this point, more because they have other kids to deal with than because Scooter doesn't need it.)

What the conference told us is that Scooter's teacher and the classroom assistant have a good sense of who he is and appreciate the strengths that are part of his differences. Scooter is effective at problem solving and approaches problems differently than his classmates--but his ideas work. He has also already passed the goal point for the entire year in reading, is far and away the strongest reader they have. Even better, Mr. Teacher remarked that Scooter is different than many of the early readers they have, in that he seems to really enjoy reading and does not have the air of one who has been overly drilled. (Hooray, we seem to have balanced challenging him while not being too pushy.) I love that a large portion of the kindergarten reading curriculum is very individualized: students work through a series of progressive readers with the teacher.

Trillian and I were amused that when handwriting came up, it was clear that the fine motor skills still need work, but nothing was said about upper vs lower case--which the preschool teacher had gone on and on about with us. And while this is Scooter's weakest "academic" area, Mr. Teacher is not too worried since (a) so many young boys take a while on handwriting, (b) Scooter's handwriting is not the worst in the class, (c) he can write the letters he wants to, even if they're not gorgeous, and (d) he's already using his writing to communicate his own ideas.

Mr. Teacher said that the only way he imagines that Scooter will not meet all of the kindergarten benchmarks by the end of the year is if something is never introduced to the class. We were never worried that Scooter would struggle with the academics, but it sure is nice to know just how well it is going.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Old tricks

Last September, I wrote about my plans to take a ballet class. Then I injured my back before I made it to a single class, moved back to the States, and stuck my ballet stuff into a drawer.

This past fall, Trillian signed up for a community exercise class through the local community college. After the first class, she convinced me to sign up as well, figuring that the combination of stretching and strengthening would be a good mix of what I like and what I need. I started with the second class, at which the teacher asked me about my background, specifically whether I had done yoga, given my flexibility and approach to stretches. I replied that, yes, I had taken yoga... and ballet too. "Ah," she said, "you should come to a ballet class sometime."

A few weeks later, I decided to make up one of the classes I had missed by going to ballet. I pulled my leotard, tights, and slippers from the back of the drawer, pulled my hair back as best as I could, and headed off. When I discovered that the class was Level 2, I almost backed out--my plan had been to go to the most basic class possible.

It was killer. In many ways. My body protested mightily. Simple movements, like grand plies (think slow, controlled squat up and down, but in more graceful positions), made my muscles scream. My balance simply wasn't there. I got to the end of the barre exercises and knew I was done for the evening.

But, as the teacher noted to me when I went to thank her, I was smiling and radiant. She complimented my training, which had pulled me through with a respectable showing for my first ballet class after more than fifteen years. And then she said, "You really are a dancer."

I've been back a couple more times. My muscles still ache for days afterwards, and I am mortified by my lack of ballet-specific strength. There is an odd disconnect between my muscle memory, which has been awakened with vigor, and my ability to execute what I ask of it. My attempt at a double turn--what was I thinking?--did not end well. But my basic form is solid, and I am already able to rely on a skill I carefully cultivated in my days of most serious training, memorizing choreography the first time it is demonstrated.

I'm sitting on the schedule for next semester, waiting to see if I have a part-time teaching position before picking out my exercise options for the spring. But ballet will make the schedule one way or another.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

(Nearly) Wordless Thursday (instead of Wednesday)

I intended to get this up on Wednesday, but have been waiting for a little more certainty in the last couple states (I'm looking at you Missouri and North Carolina):
(I had pink and blue highlighters at my desk and am a big proponent of using what's available.)

And how could I not include a scan of this page from a packet on voting from my son's class:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Rocking my vote

I voted in my first presidential election 16 years ago. Young and idealistic, energized by the fact that my candidate won--even if the state where I lived went for the elder Bush. I remember an older friend who was excited because here was a politician "who actually says 'gay and lesbian'."

There was plenty of time for him to disappoint me on gays in the military and DOMA later. In fact, I withheld my vote for Clinton's second term. Still voted on other positions, just didn't check his box. It was a calculated move. I was still in a state that was going to go for Dole by a significant margin, so I felt that I could register my disappointment without jeopardizing the final outcome.

Voting has been strategic for me pretty much since then. Not that I haven't truly supported the candidates who received my votes. But there wasn't that same energy and excitement. It didn't help that by W.'s second run, much of the campaign felt like a direct attack on my family. It wore me down.

I remained aloof for much of the primaries this time around. Considered Clinton and Obama from a strategic standpoint, and found myself slightly leaning towards Obama. I was impressed by how he seemed to be inspiring the youth and saw some significance in how it recalled my feelings from 1992.

And then a funny thing started to happen. The enthusiasm apparent around me began to infect me. I thought, "Here's a man who could do much to heal what has been ailing this country."

I have been saying all along that the president is primarily a figurehead, that he alone does not wield a lot of power (when he stays within the bounds set by the Constitution). He serves as the face of the country in international affairs and the mouthpiece of the nation.

Which, at this particular moment, are not insignificant things. The USA needs a new presence on the international stage, one which is calm and rational, not a smirking cowboy. And the thought that our next chief executive will have a full understanding of the Constitution--Obama did teach constitutional law for 12 years, after all--is more than a bit reassuring. Respect for citizens' rights, no more casting the courts' protection of minority rights as "activist judges," not unreasonable expectations.

There is something to be said for this welling up of hope. It is not an unpleasant feeling. And should be even better once I can set these butterflies free.