Sunday, January 29, 2012

Therapy. By Renovation.

Many may be wondering to what do I owe my absence from blogging in 2012. Well, as all may know 2011 was a stressful year for all the wrong reasons. My Mom's worsening health and her death in May.  Grieving and standing my my Dad as he relocated from the family home of 23 years to a condo.  Husband had some job uncertainty and then mid year started working two half jobs. Anyone that has ever done this knows that two halves do not make a whole.

So, what deep end did we dive into for 2012?
Yup, we are renovating.  We have long wanted to rejig our kitchen.  It's very tight, especially as a 2 person kitchen.  Anyone washing dishes at the sink risks nerve damage on the back of their knees if anyone dares to open the dishwasher.  If the fridge door is open all are captive inside the kitchen. Don't even think about opening the stove and the dishwasher at the same time.
While we were at it, we thought we would put hardwood floors in the rest of the main floor. And  address the other 2 issues we have always disliked about the house.  The pillars in the dining room. They are really just very large paper towel rolls.  They impede traffic and, I think, don't look right:
Finally the fireplace in the living room. For all the extra  angles on the mantle and extraneous drywall, it has never looked right. 
So the past 2 months really, we have been making decisions. Some are easier than other. 

Funnily enough, and from the photos above, you can see the toughest nut to crack was the paint.   We needed to work with the red couch and love seat in the living room.  So we thought a coppery red colour. Only the ibe we picked didn't go with couch. We tried a lighter reddy version. But that was really just 80's peach.  We went even redder but we thought that much red in one room screamed bordello.  So we finally found a coppery, browny, red, very muted which, God willing, will work.

In the family room kitchen, we really thought the blue, purpley, possbly aqua family would work. But we had a hard time finding a colour that would go with what ever version of reddy brown we found.  So we tried a few greens and a yellow before finding a very muted bluey-purple that goes with the muted red we found quite well.

Of course the biggest challenge this week is moving everyone off our our main floor.  Fortunately, we had  sizaeable basement to stash a lot of furnature. We have a far-too-large guest room, the kids have dubbed the 'echo room' which is piled high and wide.  We have made a cozy and functional space in the basement with a temporary kitchen and family room. 

The next 7 weeks should be interesting.  March 14th, it is supposed to all be done.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Long. Division.

You will note in grade 5, I have not written a lot about Mommy vs. J Boy homework battles that were the norm last year.

That is because Jackson has had very little homework. When he does, it is small in volume. It does usually generate 17 requests to do said homework, followed by 12 statements that he is to attend to his homework, followed by 7 demands and usually a couple Mommy-tantrums, but you know, compared to last year, that is a piece of cake.

But this past weekend, a three day weekend for the kids, he had a boatload of long division.  And the unfortunate circumstance that he had not been taught how to do long division since he was out of the class for math for an optional programme (that he loves)  for the two days when the explanations had happened.

Fortunately for him, math was the best subject in school of both his parents.  Unfortunately for him, they don't do math that way any more.  What this means is the old school parents have to read the text book to relearn how to do long division the new way.  With a textbook called Math Makes Sense, and with about a dozen years of  university study between them, a law degree, a Ph.D and many, many years of balancing a checkbook, you would expect he would be in good hands.

He wasn't. We don't get the new math. And Jackson definitely does not get the old math.  Frankly, he doesn't like us teaching him anything. 

So we approach this task with a dose of yes-you-are-doing-your-homework, just enough  I-know-this-is-unfair, a liberal amount of you-are-so-smart-enough with a constant refrain of you-need-long-division-to-get-through-life and an occasional it-doesn't-count-if-you-use-the-calculator-on-your-iPod.

Jackson did storm off occasionally and I found he had put his feelings into art:
One has to at least been impressed with the math he did.  He got as high as 80 times Mommy ruined his life.  And we haven't hit the teen years yet.

Lunch. Monitor.

(Wow. Have I really not been here since New Year's?  Hang on to your hats ... doing a bit of catch up)

There is nothing, not even snow days, that Jackson has looked forward to at school, more than being a lunch monitor. 

It is a grade 5 job at his school. There are many cool jobs in grade 5 but Jackson wanted nothing to do with the leadership team or office monitors. He wanted to be a lunch monitor. 

He was slightly devastated when he was not chosen in the first term.  But after Christmas he came home with the excellent news that he was to be the referee, overseer, proctor and juice box opener for a grade 2/3 split. 

There are 2 basic jobs for monitors:

1.  Keep the class under control and in their seats.
2. Open yogurt tubes, cookies packages, juice boxes etc. as required.

To be perfectly frank, I wasn't sure how Jackson would do at this job.  He is not very good at opening packaging. And he is not that assertive with anyone he doesn't share a household with (where he freely, loudly and repeatedly shares his opinions.)

Now, it must be known that Jackson has a checkered history when it comes to being monitored.  When he was in grade 1, his class was not behaving very well, to put it mildly, and disrespecting the two class monitors. They were read the riot act by their teacher. The next day, the teacher had high expectations in light of her having laid down the law. One of the monitors had something to say to Jackson. Jackson committed the unpardonable sin and responded to the monitor with the heinous and unforgivable response: "whatever".

This was treated as the first class felony it obviously was. He was spoken to by his teacher. He was given the option of giving an in-person apology or writing a note to the monitor over the weekend. There was a note written in his planner advising his parents of his infraction, in addition to a phone call home. On a Friday night.  I half expected police officers to knock on the door to administer a lecture. And for him to receive two demerit points on his driver's license.

When Jackson returned to school on Monday with his rather grudgingly-written apology note, he took consolation that he would have not to do what he was most mortified to do: apologize in person.  That was all the leverage I had: write the note or apologize in person.  When he returned to school he had to hand deliver his note WITH a personal apology as well.  Suffice it to say, that Jackson from then on was a model citizen for his monitors.

So the first day on the other side of the monitoring equation Jackson had a difficult beginning. He met monitoring nemesis, I'll call him "Walker" for his propensity to walk. And not sit.  Jackson and his monitor-mate, H arrived at the class. They were still letting kids in the door from outside when Walker walked out of the classroom and roamed the halls. Now, it must be known that Walker is a handful even according to his seasoned teacher. So, not surprisingly, he tested the boundaries with the new meat.

What was perhaps more surprising was that the entire class ran after Walker (according to Jackson -- admittedly it may have seemed like this, but I doubt it was the entire class).  The way Jackson described it, it was like trying to herd scattering mice back into the classroom. H and Jackson and the adult paid lunch supervisors and a couple teachers were all chasing after various grade 2's and 3's until the ducklings were all back in their nest.

That first night, we discussed the challenges of monitoring and maintaining control.  In an ironic twist, I gave him some of my best parenting advice, gleaned from the years of trying to parent HIM.  You can use an increasingly firm voice without yelling or getting angry. We talked about the need for control of the class, but that he did not need to get to the bottom of every squabble (or else the tattle-taling will increase exponentially). He won't solve every conflict and that he needs to remember his ultimate goal is to keep the kids in their seats with a tolerable volume.  We talked about the need to be right on top of Walker. I told him to keep an eye on him right when he walks into the class and nip any wandering in the bud, as it is easier with some kids to catch things earlier, rather than later.

Following that, daily I asked Jackson for a 'monitor update' and he would regale me with stories of how Walker refused to sit at his desk for longer than 20 seconds. Jackson also said that his monitor-mate H was some sort of Kreskin when it came to opening up lunch packaging, so their duties had become divided with Jackson taking on the classroom control and H. touring the class in releasing lunch items from their packaging.

Some days Jackson would report "The class behaved really well today. Even Walker."  More often the report was "The class behaved really well. Except Walker." But Jackson and Walker had this little dance worked out where Walker would wander. Jackson would ask him to return to his seat. He would. Then re-wander. Jackson would re-request. etc. etc. until lunch was over.

Jackson had several days when Walker was not in school and those days were pretty easy. There was a dreaded 'inside lunch' day where their monitoring duties were 60 minutes instead of 20 minutes and Jackson learned from the other side of the table, the virtue of letting kids burn off a bit of energy.  The class energy was high and the noise level constantly rising, but the class seemed to quieten down with reminders (and seemed to just get louder anytime a lunch supervisor or teacher walked by).

But I think the most telling interchange between Jackson and Walker came about a week into the deployment.  Walker, it must be known, is very, very tall. And he is in grade 2. Jackson is ... not tall.  Walker is not only taller than Jackson but outweighs him by a significant margin.  They were doing their usual dance and Jackson asked Walker to return to his seat. 

Walker said a taunting tone meant to incite a reaction,"Why should I Grader one-er?"

"Walker, would you please return to your seat."

"Are you in kindergarten or grade 1?"

"Walker, please return to your seat?"

"How do you get to be a monitor in grade 1?"

"Walker, you need to return to your seat."

"Shut up, kindergartner!!"

With that final salvo, Walker returned to his seat.

(I pause to note that the "shut up" infraction yielded nothing, compared to the school resources that were thrown at the "whatever" remark some four years earlier.  The student vs. monitor infractions, it seems, are enforced a little unevenly.)

And the most amazing part, according to Jackson's account, is that Jackson remained calm. And he achieved his goal of getting Walker to return to his seat.

The student had clearly surpassed the teacher.  I very much doubt I would have had that kind of self-control.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve traditions.
#1: Everyone gets a gift
 #2: We play games
(I played as well, but we needed wide angle lens to capture my girth)
#3: Everyone drinks from wine glasses.