Friday, May 23, 2008

Heading Off to the Auld Sod

This is where we are going next week:

You jealous?

We'll be away for a LONG time. Hubs is staying here for the first few weeks and joining us later.

See you all when we get back!

Photo credit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Thirty Six is the new Twenty Six, right?

That's what I keep telling myself today.

Not sure it's working!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Preschool Dilemma - advice please?

Despite my embarrassing rant about Miss E's school, I do like it there. My gut reaction to the place was that it was warm, loving, safe and very child centered.

On the whole, I like Miss E's current teacher, but...

I have been concerned at the frequency with which Miss E comes home with worksheets, or colouring sheets. Lately, Miss E has not put a single mark on these sheets.

Miss E's school is a parenting co-op - so each morning a parent helps out in the class. I have my co-op day once a month and I see how these worksheets are used.

They are presented to the kids - either as the first thing they are instructed to do in the mornings, or after they have been told to tidy everything away.

Some kids sit and meticulously colour them and trace the numbers or letters or whatever they may be. Other kids (including Miss E) get restless, are not interested in the sheets, and try to break loose and do something else.

This is a group of 3 and 4 year olds.

I've voiced my concern to the teacher herself who told me not to worry - that these were presented as an opportunity for the kids to do them, they don't have to if they don't want to.

I recently took my concerns to the director of the school who simply responded by saying 'mmm hmmm' to my every sentence. She informed me that Miss E would be in a different class with a different teacher next year - and hoped that that would make things better. Time will tell I guess.

Miss E will be in this school again in August for a full school year and I am hoping that she will still enjoy it as this school has an excellent and highly recommended Voluntary Pre K (VPK) program (state funded 5 morning a week Pre Kindergarten). Good VPK programs are hard to find.

However, the more I talk about these worksheets and my concerns about them - the less comfortable I'm feeling with the school.

I have had feed back from other parents at the school whom have raised the same concerns, and from friends who are in the education system who are pretty much disgusted that colouring sheets or worksheets are being used with kids this age.

My gut instinct at this point is to 'let's see how it goes'. Miss E will start with a new teacher, and will be in a new room. I intend to talk to the teacher before the term starts and offer any practical help I can in terms of helping her prep materials for art sessions or whatever she may need to help her gear up to let the kids have FUN - and learn through that fun.

I don't want to presume to tell a qualified professional how to 'teach' my kid - but I'm not really interested in her being actively taught anything at this point. I want her to go and have fun. To make friends. To learn through her play and above all things - to think of school as a fun and exciting place to be.

She has many years of formal schooling ahead - I don't want her being switched off this early by being bored with worksheets!

The advice I need from you - especially those of you whom have been through this stage - is how would you approach the school, and/or the teacher. Proactively? Would you raise the issue of worksheets from the get go? Would you wait and see what happens?

I want to do the right thing by Miss E - if that means finding her a different (better) school - I will.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Happy Mudder's Day"

"Happy Mudder's Day" - the happy greeting that Miss E has given me almost every day this week - she knew it was coming up and I guess she was covering all her bases by saying it every day to make sure she got it on the actual day itself.

Her Daddy had conspired with her and although she did very well in keeping secret what goodies were in store for me, she managed to let slip that there were lots of them, and they were all in Jay's closet - "Ret's go see Mommy!".

Last night when I kissed her goodnight for bed I said 'I'll see you in the morning - when it's Mother's Day' - she gasped, hands flying to her mouth. She went straight to Daddy and said 'Uh Oh! She telled herself! Daddy, Daddy, is it okay if she telled herself?'

I'm still giggling.

See my salute to all mothers, here.

Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Why I hate being a stereotypical female

I know nothing about vehicles. I mean, it's like how I am with computers. I know how to drive one, and how to get it to do what I need it to do (except maybe reverse park, but we won't go there). But, with cars (or computers), whenever something goes wrong, or something needs tweaked, fixed or serviced - I have no clue. Not a notion.

Yet, since I am the person in this house with all this free time (ha!), it's me that gets to take the family vehicle for its servicing appointments and the like.

Yesterday I took the car to get new boots. Four spanking new tyres (or tires for my US readers). Once I steadied myself at the counter after seeing the bill (ouch!), I spoke for a few minutes with the guy in the shop. I told him that the steering had been pulling significantly to the right, and that oftentimes I would have to pull pretty hard to the left just to keep my trusty truck on the straight and narrow.

He told me 'that is most likely due to an alignment problem, we can look at that for you'. I asked how long, and how much? 'Forty five minutes and sixty bucks'. Hmm - I had to pick Miss E and her buddy up from Preschool, and didn't have the time - but I don't want misaligned wheels either!

So, the conversation continued. I told the guy that at the last service, Ford told me the truck was pulling to the right because of how the tyres were wearing and it would most likely rectify itself with new tyres since these ones were about ready to be replaced. The guy in the tyre shop says full of disdain 'They ALWAYS do that, tsk. Instead of taking people's money, they just say "it's only the tyres". It doesn't make sense!'.

I'm standing there in this shop asking myself do I need my wheels aligned or not? I'm so confused. Shop guy says 'your tires (since he's American he says tires, not tyres), wear for two reasons, one is that the pressure is wrong [our pressure has been fine, at least no wee lights were on to tell me otherwise!], and the other is that your wheels are out of alignment' Okay, I think, this makes sense to me. But wait a minute. Didn't this guy just tell me that Ford were dumb for not just taking my money and doing a wheel alignment? Does he really think my wheels are out of alignment, or is he just trying to cash in on the (correct) assumption that I don't know any better, and do the alignment whether the truck needs it or not?


What did I do? I took it for a spin. I drove straight down a straight road and the car did not pull in either direction - I even did it with no hands for a few seconds. Straight as a die.

Shop guy told me to bear in mind that 'since your tires are all new and flat [huh? I don't want flat tyres, especially not after the megabucks I just gave you!] that the car is going to want to go straight'

Okaaaayyyy! None the wiser, but happier to be driving straight and not having to over correct steering in any way, I picked up the kids from school and merrily drove home.

Hubs can take care of the big metal baby from now on - he can sniff a spoofer from 100 yards, and he knows what they're talking about into the bargain.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Uh Oh! We've discovered IKEA

We've been meaning to take a trip to the IKEA store that opened not long ago, about an hour from here. Today was as good a day as any so off we went.

We got there not long after the store opened - and it was kind of busy - by the time we left there was no room available in the parking lot, and we had people queuing up to take our space when we pulled out!

Of course, a few minutes into our browsing - I could totally understand why it was this busy. (Either that, or the weekend many people have their fists around their economic stimulus funds was maybe not the best one to venture out to check out IKEA).

Getting out of town was a tonic in itself, a relaxed drive (all the better for the fact that I was not the driver), gorgeous weather, a complete change of scenery. Little did I think I'd be positively bursting with excitement once I got inside those doors!

Zone after zone of beautifully pulled together rooms, many of which are not to my specific taste, but I can certainly appreciate that those with different lifestyles (probably without kids, judging by the number of white sofas!) could completely furnish their apartments or homes, in great style, without going bankrupt in the process.

We spent a good couple of hours browsing the showroom upstairs. Miss E and Jay content to play in the little staged apartment areas and people watch from the stroller, respectively. This in itself is a testament to how great this store is - because every other store we go to causes both kids to instantly morph into starving, whining, 'I need to go potty', 'This is boring', 'WHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA' demons!

We've fallen for a dining room table and chairs - we hate our current one which is far too big for the space we have. The IKEA version is very much my taste, and seems to be of decent quality. Not exactly what you'd call an investment piece - but, with two kids the ages that ours are, whom have a tendency to scratch, chew, scrape, draw on any level (or unlevel) wooden surfaces we're thinking investment pieces are not the way to go for us for now. However, I need to deliberate over this one a little more to make sure that I really like it enough, and am not rushing into a decision simply because I want rid of our current set, stat. (Plus, going back to buy the table and chairs gets me another go around this paradise. Bwahahahahaha!)

We chose a great kids' table and chairs, and picked up a cute little wooden train set for Jay, and a darling ceramic tea set for Miss E (for half of nothing I might add). We rode the elevator (which was enormous and had me wondering if the Swedish population indulges in too many Swedish Meatballs?), down to the ground floor where I thought all we'd do would be to pick up the table and chairs and pay for our purchases.

HA! Those elevator doors opened and I think I might have squealed a little bit - a whole Aladdin's cave of goodies - housewares, storage, textiles, plants, basically everything you never even knew you needed, and more! Good job we'd stopped by the cafe and fueled up because you know that was another hour's worth of browsing. Thankfully Miss E's little legs were tired and she gratefully hopped into the shopping cart sans protest of any kind (again, this NEVER happens at any other store).

We're lucky we came away with as little as we did, and we're lucky this store is an hour away!

Looking for a fun family day out? Go to IKEA - seriously - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Things that make me smile.

I was going to do this as a 'Thursday Thirteen' - but they seem to have a theme going on this week, and I'm not in the mood to follow rules right now!

Thank you all for your responses to my last post by the way - they help, a lot!

Feeling the need to focus on the positive at the minute - and not yet in the frame of mind to write anything of real substance, here are some little things making me smile these days - and look - there just happens to be thirteen of them!

1. Our new treadmill

It helps me start each day early and refreshed, with a nice endorphin buzz after I've done a 30 minute program, and showered, all before my kids get up.

2. All this exercising business not only helps my mood, but I'm losing weight, too. Four pounds down in 10 days. It would be more, but I have yet to manage tempering my desire for chocolate, chips, butter and all things fatty with anything resembling restraint.

3. We got our economic stimulus payment yesterday. This will help me with spending on our trip to Ireland later this month (not that it will go far once I convert it to local currency - thanks weak dollar!) I'll technically be stimulating a foreign economy - I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent of the payment - oops!

4.I have kicked my Diet Coke habit.

I have wanted to do this for a long time - a can full of chemicals is just BAD!

5. I have fewer migraines lately. There is a direct correlation with number 3 - no Diet Coke equals WAY fewer headaches. I had to prove it to myself - after two weeks of no Diet Coke - I had two cans on a Saturday and was rewarded with a migraine that lasted 4 days!

6. Coffee and La Croix Pure Sparkling Water, lime flavour.

I have to substitute the caffeine and carbonation with something, right?!

7. Miss E is in bed, and fast asleep before 8pm every night.

A MAJOR, major breakthrough for us.

As you can see, she may not always fall asleep in the part of the bed one conventionally would, but I'll take it.

8. Supernanny!

We used Supernanny's techniques for Miss E's bedtime and they've worked a treat. She still protests bedtime, and still employs all the tried and tested stalling tactics that all kids use (I recognise many of them from my own childhood!), but the whole process is much smoother and faster - and hubs and I are not frazzled, agitated and spent at the end of it.

We have the Supernanny book, and it has been great for general discipline advice also. The combination of better bedtime, more sleep, and consistent discipline has made for a much happier Miss E, and fewer 'grumpy day' reports from her preschool teacher!

These are the small victories I alluded to here, like I said - pretty basic parenting approaches that just took us longer than many to implement effectively.

9. Jay at 18 months, has more than 30 words, and is already combining two and three words into phrases like 'all gone' 'where are you' 'I don't know' (he's picked this one up from his sister who uses this as an automatic answer to almost every question I ask her!) Speech and language acquisition is one of the things we've been asked to keep an eye on following Jay's numerous hearing tests, and his itty bitty, teeny weeny, hearing loss. We think his language acquisition is coming along just fine.

10. Jay's Audiologist had said to me in January at a routine hearing test that she'd continue to see him every 3 months until his second birthday - and after that she'd stretch the reviews out to every 4 or 6 months. We had another hearing test in April, and she's happy to stretch it out to 6 monthly reviews already! YAY!

And really - is there anything about this face that would not make you smile?

11.My new specs! I got them yesterday.

(If you click that pic and make it big please ignore the grey hairs and the pimply skin. I'm workin' on it!)

I feel much more up to date although they take a bit of getting used to - I kind of feel like I have blinkers on because I can see the arms in my peripheral vision. The best thing about these new ones is that I can actually see through them - there are no scratches or grimy fingerprints. I vow to clean them only with the cute little cloth that came in the case so that I won't be tripping back in a few months with more scratched lenses. (Forgot to ask for the protective scratch coat on my last pair, duh!)

12. My new yellow house. The house isn't new, but the colour is. Hubs took time off last week and painted the whole house. If that colour doesn't make you happy, don't know what will.

13. My aunt is coming in just over two weeks for a ten day visit. The main purpose of her trip is to be here to help me take the kids back to Ireland at the end of the month. Hubs is coming later, and there is just no way I'd tackle that journey by myself. I'm so happy and grateful to her for doing this - because I get to be at my other 'home' for a while to see family - and help with preparations for my sister's wedding.

Things are going to be busy around here for the next few weeks, then I'll be in Ireland for five weeks - so posting will be sparse, I'm sure - but I'll still be reading all of your blogs, and I'll try to post every so often.

Enjoy your May Day - and I hope the weather's being nice to you all!