Monday, October 28, 2013

The Story Rope

My daughter is hard at work. Reading, analyzing, diagramming her story. She is trying hard to gather her materials, to be precise, to be accurate. She is working all weekend on this project. It is not homework, just what was her "take home" lesson from school. Monday morning, she cannot wait to show her teacher what she has done. She is proud of her work. She should be. She did a good job. She read the book. She made a story rope with her custom illustrated version of the story, in detail right down to the colors she used. She identified the title and author, the setting, the characters, the problem and the solution. And I hate it. Because she is six, and the story is "The Three Little Kittens." She should be working on reading, and decoding her words. She should be absorbing the language, appreciating the verse and cadence of the words. Letting the phrases roll off her tongue in a melodious way, savoring the rhymes. Looking at the pictures, seeing how the illustrations support the words. But no, instead, she is breaking the story into little tiny bits, analyzing the setting (a house), the characters (the three little kittens), the problem (they lost their mittens) and the solution (they found them). She has had a wonderful time breaking apart her story into little tiny bits and drawing her pictures. She cut each one out and mounted it on tape so that it hangs like a mobile or wind chime. Ironically, she cannot read the story by herself, because it is too hard. She relies on the pictures to help her. It is not necessarily developmentally inappropriate (children become fluent readers between the ages of 7 and 9, regardless of what the curriculum says). She should be working on the basic skills, like vowel sounds and letter combinations (digraphs? dipthongs? when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?). She should be building her tolerance for the written word. She should be listening to stories, letting the language flow around her and nourish her brain. But no, she is asking me how to spell the word "solution." But when she is doing her math homework and has a word problem (insert "WTF?" right here, because she is six, can barely read and has math word problems), she will tell me that she doesn't want to read because it is math and she shouldn't have to. She never wants to sit down and read. She gives a half-ass effort when she does have to read, on her scheduled 20 nights per month. She tells me that reading is boring and she hates it. This slices through my heart. I cannot remember a time when I didn't read. I was that child, reading in Kindergarten. I was abnormal. I always have a book with me. I like to read so much that I started writing my own books. And now my daughter does not like to read. Do we even wonder why? These Common Core Standards, so developmentally inappropriate and so poorly implemented by New York State, have sucked all of the fun out of learning. My daughter is a typically developing child. She can handle the rigor of the work that New York feels she should be doing, but she does not want to be doing it. Because she wants to be a child. She is six. Her brain is not yet fully developed. She is still a sensory motor learner. And we know this because she is telling us. Instead of sitting down with a book, she is drawing and cutting and taping. She is standing while she does this, and she is up and down, moving all about while she works on her project. She is talking, narrating what she does. She is mimicking her teacher, teaching us as she has been taught. The two-dimensional aspect of reading is not appealing to her. She has to make it tactile and the project itself has the movement which her body so needs. She does not have ADHD. She is simply six, and she is a motor leaner. Like all five and six year-olds should be. My daughter has a wonderful teacher, and is in a wonderfully supportive public school. But her skills are already splintering. She can dissect a story, but cannot read it. She writes stories, but cannot properly form her letters. She has a robust vocabulary, but cannot sound out the words to attempt to spell them. Without a solid foundation, her skills will remain splintered and I fear she will struggle for the rest of her life to build a house on sand rather than on a firm foundation. This is as a direct result of the Common Core Standards. She is six. It really should be as simple as, "Three little kittens have lost their mittens."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Calgon, Take Me Away

I am the victim of a war.

It is a war between my brain and my body.  Right now, my body is winning.

First of all, I'm not getting any younger here, although I refuse to accept that.  However, while I am not getting any younger, it means I am getting older.  As such, I have older-person (i.e. adult) responsibilities.   I have two kids who depend on me.  I need to be there for them, to be their mom.  To provide unconditional love and support, guidance and reassurance.  To give them a moral and ethical foundation that will make them decent human beings some day.  Kids these days are busy.  We don't even do that many activities in the grand scheme, but there is so much running.  I am out of the house every single day doing something or other that pertains to the kids.  It is tiring, but I know these times will be gone before I know it.  I am trying to find the joy and satisfaction in running Mom's Taxi Service.

I have a husband that needs me to support him in various ways.  Sometimes he realizes it, but sometimes he doesn't.

I have a job that is very draining on me right now.  It is emotionally depleting my reserves.  It is also physically demanding, with more work than I can physically, mentally and logistically handle.  I am defeated.

I am trying to begin a second career as a writer.  This takes so much energy and focus.  I want this to succeed.  I don't seem to have the time or energy to focus how I would like to.

In other words, I'm completely and totally burnt out.

And my body is going on strike.

About four years ago, I got the flu.  It was the typical flu, with the exception of the fact that it was in June.  After that, every time I got run down and a little sick, I end up getting very sick.  So, the little cold that I've been fighting turns into something so much more.  I get terrible, excruciating joint pain.  My ankles, knees, hips, elbows and hands are most affected.  Then, I spike a fever.  Like 103 fever.  The fatigue is crushing.  I get really, really sick and miserable.  I can barely get out of bed.  After my flu bout, I had about six episodes like that in a little over a year. I went to the doctor.  He listened, and we discussed possible options.  He felt it was most likely Epstein-Barr, and there is no way to treat it.  That test came back negative.  As did the one for Lyme Disease.

Blood test after blood test.  When I was sick, my blood work was very off.  I got sent to Rheumatologist.  I had, of course, researched what this could possibly be.  I felt certain that it was something auto-immune, as it always occurred with being sick and run down.  I was prepared for her to tell me it was Rheumatoid arthritis, or even Stills Disease (Adult-onset Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis).  I was not prepared for the Rheumatologist to tell me that she thought I had a malignancy (either lymphoma or multiple myeloma) or a severe form of vasculitis.  I was sent to an Oncologist. Based on my blood work, he ruled out cancer, but everyone has been left scratching their heads.

My primary and I have come to the conclusion that I do have some sort of auto-immune disease.  When my immune system is actively fighting an infection, whether it be a cold, a sinus infection or a bladder infection, if I am run down and do not have enough reserves, my body goes into hyperdrive and begins attacking everything, even my own joints.

Since figuring this out, I have avoided an episode by listening to my body.  I've had to at times leave work undone, and decline activities.  And this is what is going on right now.  I have a cold.  I have a terrible amount of stress from work.  And we're crazy busy.  This morning, I was supposed to take Jake to perform community service on the farm for the Northeast Regional Food Bank.  He didn't really want to go, but I feel it is important for him to help others who are not nearly as fortunate as we are.  But after being in pain all day yesterday, I just knew that 90 minutes of manual labor in the cold was probably not the best idea.

Thankfully, my husband stepped in and took Jake.  While I still need to go grocery shopping and work on Halloween costumes, I was able to come home from church (did I mention that we had to get up early to go to 7:30 mass to be able to do the Scouting project?) and rest.  Even with coffee at breakfast, I still came home and went back to sleep for a little while.  I had to force myself to rest, even though I know I have tons of stuff to do.

There is where the war is.  My brain won't slow down.  It wants to keep going and going and going.  Any my body is saying STOP!!!  I don't want to stop.  My life won't let me stop.

I just wish it could slow down.

Okay, rest and whining time over.  Time for some ibuprofen and then I'll get back to sewing.  I'll do the groceries later on in the day.  Thanks for listening.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bulleted Points

It is a gorgeous fall weekend, and I cannot get my head together to come up with a cohesive blog post.  So here is a non-cohesive one.  This is pretty much what my brain is like 90% of the time....

I'm even gonna make it a bulleted list, well, just because I'm being lazy about the whole thing.

  • Halloween costumes are underway.  We're going as a family of ninjas.  I'm going as a ninja disguised as a Geisha, so I'm even more stealth than the rest.  Sophia will be a hybrid ninja/geisha.  All is well and good, with the exception of my fabric choice.  I brought some beautiful brocade and costume satin to make the costumes out of.  I knew the satin might be difficult to work with, but I did not anticipate that the fabrics (both kinds) would immediately start to unravel and fall apart once cut.  I was quite resourceful, however, and discovered that running all cut ends through a flame will essentially melt the material, forming a seal.  The kids are fascinated by this process, although I think it distresses Sophia to have an open flame in the house.  I stopped burning candles a long time ago, and they are just not used to it.  

  • I had a mini-crisis this week, as my vacuum cleaner broke.  It was not sucking stuff up, the light was on and there was this burning smell.  The vacuum is over 9 years old, but still, I was pissed at having to replace it already.  With having cats and allergies, vacuuming is a must on a frequent basis.  So, I remembered a Facebook conversation someone had about getting a vacuum cleaner/carpet steamer, and thought that would be a really good idea.  I looked at the conversation and went and bought it.  It wasn't until I got the stupid thing home (and assembled) that I realized it was a steamer only, and that I was still in need of a vacuum.  Of, and they recommend that you vacuum before steaming, so I couldn't even take the steamer out for a test drive.

  • I was still in need of a vacuum.  About to go to Sears to purchase a newer model of exactly what I have, my husband (the engineer) decided to take a look.  Extensive diagnostics and the use of a wire hanger revealed the problem to be a sock wedged in the hose.  No need for a new vacuum cleaner at the moment.  Pat Biel saves the day.

  • Last week I hit the 100 mark for copies sold of Good Intentions.  In celebration, I lowered the price on e-copies (through KoboNook, and Kindle) to $1.00.  The price is going back up tonight, so get yours now, if you haven't already.

  • Red Sox are in the playoffs.  I cannot believe they lost last night.  I wish the games were on a bit earlier, as I had trouble staying awake.  Ok, I did actually fall asleep.  But I really, really need them to win this year.  Why?  Read this to understand why I need the Red Sox to win the World Series to prove that I am not responsible for all the losses.
  • The Common Core Curriculum continues to get me down.  It is so wrong on so many levels, the least of which is how developmentally inappropriate it is.  State Ed really needs to be held accountable.  And fast.  Read this article and take the time to watch the video to understand what is going on behind the scenes.  I refuse to accept that this is acceptable education.  I am thankful everyday that my children have quality teachers who continue to educate in spite of the Common Core.

  • Sophia unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher for my yesterday.  She was beaming with pride.  How can I keep her motivated to keep doing it with a smile on her face?

  • Jake is growing up way too fast.  It kind of breaks my heart when I think back to when he was a little kid.  Of course, he did pretty much give me a heart attack the other night.  I was in a sound sleep (which is not that common for me), when I hear Jake say "Mom."  I open my eyes, and his face was about 2 inches from mine.  I think he may have taken a year or two off then.  I told him from now on, what ever he needs, just do it.  I don't care.  Don't scare me like that again!

  • I know this is totally not PC, but I'm so happy for Columbus Day.  I don't care why we have the day off, I just know we all need one right about now.  Except for Pat.  He doesn't get the day off.  But if the government can't get its crap together, he's going to be furloughed, so that's lots of days off for him. 
For now, I'll leave you with this.  This is me.  All the time...

Funny Workplace Ecard: Men, if you ever wanna know what a woman's mind is like, imagine a browser with 3,241 tabs open. All.The.Time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Two Things Every Woman Needs

Every woman needs a best friend like the one I have.  Throughout my life, I have had many friends.  A few were very close friends that I have given the term "best" to.  As my life has changed and evolved, my relationships have as well.  Never in a million years would I ever have imagined that I would have the privilege of having a best friend like Michele.

Michele and I went to high school together.  We were aquantiences, but our school was pretty small.  We traveled in smaller circles that were part of a larger circle.  I didn't really know her, but didn't have a favorable opinion of her.  She felt similarly about me.  A few years back, a mutual friend "reunited" us.  I wasn't thrilled about seeing her again.  But the years had changed us, and we found ourselves talking frequently, with a lot in common.  We have similar views on parenting and marriage.  We have similar likes.  Our husbands get along well.  Our children are remarkably similar.

She was the first person (other than my husband) who I told about writing a book.  She actually read it as it was being finished, and did the first edits on it.  On July 19, 2011, Michele came to my house when I was having a family party.  Not only did she take fabulous pictures of my family (which would be our last, since my grandmother passed away three months later), but she brought a printed copy of Good Intentions.  It sat in my room in the binder from Michele for almost two years.  She listened to me agonize over it.  She read it again (and again) to help with edits.

And Michele has been my number one PR agent.  She talks up the book to everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) she knows.  I know she is personally responsible for not only buying my very first book when it was released on Nook, but was also responsible for a good percentage of the sales.  She even had a t-shirt made up for Good Intentions.

We joke that she is my agent/publicist/manager.  I tell her that she is going to get 10% of my royalties.  Of course, that currently adds up to a whopping sum of about $1.75 for her at the moment.  I keep telling her she can almost buy a cup of coffee.  She's holding out for a Starbucks though, and I'm not sure that will ever happen (but I can dream).  We joke (but secretly wish) about the day that I will go on a book tour and make public appearances, and she will travel with me to keep me in line.

I am humbled and honored to have a friend who does so much for me, just out of the goodness of her heart.  She does insist that I name a character 'Michele' in every book, and is currently displeased about the minimal and negative role 'Michele' plays in my second novel.  As I type this right now, she's reading (or at least supposed to be!) the very first version of my second novel.  I consider her my Alpha reader.  These books are like my children, and she is one of the few people I trust with my baby.

If you're lucky, you'll get a Michele in your life.  If I ever make it big, I know that I will owe a large part of it to Michele.

(We will need to come up with new poses for the publicity tour)


Oh, the second thing every woman needs is Spanx.