Friday, December 30, 2011

Low Key Christmas

Last year, we went completely over the top for Christmas. We bought tons of toys and then Santa brought them a Band Hero set, including the giant drum kit and the grandparents got them a bunch of stuff too. And they didn't use hardly any of it in the last year. In fact, they had the band kit less than 6 months before they had completely destroyed the drums.

This year, we scaled it way back. They bought each other a few small gifts (I actually picked them out and bought them because they decided they wanted to do it on Dec 23rd after 5pm and I so wasn't taking them to Target with all the other crazies. He got her snowman slippers and sparkly peppermint flavored lipgloss.


She got him a space themed game similar to Chutes and Ladders and a Mario Kart Drawing pad


Santa brought her some pink DJ headphones so she doesn't have to borrow her brother's anymore.


Santa brought him Stratego and he was super excited about it.


At this point, they gave up on the hold up and smile portion of the gift opening so you can't tell what any of the other presents are. :)

She got Just Dance 3 fo the Wii


And he got Lego Harry Potter years 5-7


They also each got a complete book set. Her's was the entire collection of Junie B. Jones


And he got the 39 Clues


And thanks to the Girl Scout magazine sale, both kids got a magazine subscription for the next year. He got Dig, a magazine about archeology, which was funny because I picked it out without his knowing, then he brought home a copy that he bought at the used book sale at school. So they would have more to unwrap, I took his copy and wrapped it and put it under the tree for him to open.


She got Jack and Jill, which I borrowed a copy of from the library and wrapped for her.


Besides the other stuff they got from Nonni on Christmas Eve she gave them snow boards with handles that they are just DYING to use. Unfortunately, no snow means no snow boards.



A little later in the day, two small gifts were "found" under the tree. They opened them and were a little confused, since it was just a page of pictures of a waterpark.


On the paper it said "how about we go here" and MT figured out what that meant first.


Nonni asked her went she would like to go and she said "tomorrow!" Nonni said "how about right now?" The reaction was understandably excited.


Everything was packed and in the car and ready to go, all they had to do was put on real clothes.



Before they could do that, MF started to cry because she was "so happy"


So that was our version of a low key Christmas, where before noon on Christmas day, the kids took off with my parents and we had the house to ourselves for 3 days. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That's the teacher in her

WF is having some issues this evening with getting his homework done. Part of it is because he didn't bring all of it home, part is because he didn't finish all of it last night because of choir (note, never again will he stay with the group after school for a 6 pm performance) and part is because he is copping major attitude about doing anything.

While he was sliding around on his chair, MF was sitting at the table watching a movie on her DVD player (with headphones and the screen turned away from him, to prevent distractions). She told him to stop sliding around and sit still a couple of times and he completely ignored her (better than the screaming I was getting as basic responses earlier). She paused her movie, got out of her chair and stomped across the floor and yelled "you need your ball" Then she came into the living room, got his yoga ball out and looked at me and said "he is driving me crazy, maybe he'll sit still on this" and rolled it into the kitchen for him. Surprisingly, he still isn't sitting still, but now is laying draped the ball with the book on the chair and still not reading but also not annoying her.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Apple experience

I use a few Apple products and RF is a total fanboy. Other than computers, I've generally found Apple products lacking, compared to their cheaper alternatives. If you have read any of my blog, you know that I am cheap, cheap, cheap and simply can't stomach spending extra money for most things. A common refrain is "and it just isn't worth the money" The Apple products I've found most useful are the ones I've been given or have found and didn't pay anything for. I bought myself an iPod mini a couple of years ago and while it is a nice music player, it doesn't do anything that my $15 dollar Sandisk didn't do (in fact, there are a few things that it doesn't do, that my Sandisk did).

We recently upgraded our cell phones to iPhones (4s, which are fun) and it was a case of being a comparable price to other smart phones so I couldn't see a reason not to. We've had them about a week and I've found a list of pros and cons associated with them. The biggest con (and it certainly isn't exclusive to Apple) is the lack of a physical keyboard. To get a keyboard, I had the choice of Blackberry (with virtually no apps) or 1 Droid. Every other smart phone in the store was an on screen keyboard. I'm finding the keyboard more responsive than I expected but it is still on screen and lacks proper punctuation.

It also doesn't really support many Google products, of which I use a lot! I use Gmail, which doesn't work well with exchange. If I go to the internet and go to Gmail from there, it works fine, but not on the mail client. I use a lot of features of Gmail, like the starred emails and the priority inbox. I also dislike the lack of previous email availability. For example, today I was looking for an email that I had saved a few months ago and finding it was like pulling teeth. Eventually, I was able to come up with some search terms that found me what I wanted, but it shouldn't have been that difficult. It also doesn't support Google maps/navigation and none of the other map programs I've found seem to have the same functionality. MapQuest is ok, but not the same.

Another big con is a lot of games and apps that were free on Android are paid on iPhone and that annoys me! And finally, my battery life sucks! RF says his is ok but mine is so bad I'm honestly concerned that if we go anywhere that I don't have a perfect signal the entire time, I won't make it through a whole day of actually using the phone. Hopefully, the new software update will fix some of it, but I'm not sure what is going to happen, if it doesn't.

The other con is bad photo sharing on Facebook. On my Droid, I snapped the picture and could select how I wanted to share it, be it FB, Twitter, messaging, drop box, etc. On the iPhone, I have to take the picture, open the FB app, select to upload a picture, find the picture I want and then finally upload it. I can see my FB shares going way down (which I'm sure some of you will appreciate) because it is such a process to get it done.

Some pros, it is MUCH faster than my Droid. I don't know if that is a function of newer technology or what but having apps actually do what I tell them, when I tell them, is pretty nice.

Another pro is that it doesn't force close everything all the time. Again, newer technology? I can't say for sure but it a real perk to have a phone that actually works.

The final, and biggest, pro is Siri. It is super cool and the voice recognition works really well. I never once had voice recognition work properly on the Droid. Mostly I use Siri to send texts while I'm driving but it is pretty useful for managing other things on the phone, like adding calendar events, and it is pretty funny at times. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

overheard: nailed it edition

WF is playing Xbox while MF plays with her slap bracelet. She commented that it could be a hair accessory.

WF: Yeah, for a freak maybe. You should donate it to the freak society.
MF: I know the freak society. I used to the be the president. Now I'm the vice president.

And that, my friends just about sums it up, doesn't it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I think it might be time for dance classes

MF wanted to watch a show together and picked Camp Rock 2. Every song that came on, she had to get up and dance.

She can't back dow.

I'm a particular fan of the "in your face" at the beginning and the "eye cover, hair flip" near the end :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

That's what I said!

I'm watching a friend's kids this afternoon and I was helping the oldest with her homework. She asked me what the word "quirl" meant. I told her I didn't know, let me see what word she was talking about. She showed me the word "quarrel" I said "Oh, it means like an argument. A Qu-ar-el," "Ug, that's what I SAID" Oh yay, the teenage attitude, already :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Overheard: Race car edition

The kids were playing a race car game while I was driving the other day from the backseat I hear:

MF: MF is in the lead. WF is bringing up the rear. MF wins! MF wins, the crowd goes wild!

WF: No way MF did not win. She is a cheater. Just look, she has special antioxidant tires.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Found: one time travel device

I was at school dropping of snack for the 4th grade today. They were doing their science lesson while I was there and I hung out for a few minutes to observe. The teacher does a KWL when they start a topic, which means what do we already Know, what we Want to learn and what we will Learn. So they were talking about space and someone said that space in infinite. Up goes WF's hand. The teacher called on him (and honestly, I know what kind of irrelevant answers he tends to give so I held my breath a little bit) and he says "some scientists believe that space is always expanding but eventually, it will get so big that it will come back in" His teacher says "Oh yeah, I think that is called negative matter. They can't see it but they can look for signs of it"

They move on down line and eventually another kid says that space has black holes. The teacher talks about how when he was a kid the question was are there black holes, now it is what happens to things that get sucked into black holes.

Boom, up goes my kid's hand again. I think "gah, what can he contribute to that discussion?", because you know that something about black holes triggered his thought. The teacher calls on him and he says "It's my opinion that things that get sucked into black holes go to a different time and place. A black hole is just a tunnel to somewhere else"

As I push my eyes back in my head, the teacher commented that lots of books have that theme and asked if anyone could think of one off the top of their head.

All I could think was "that's my little nerd!" LOL

Friday, August 12, 2011

Overheard: That about sums it up edition

Me: rant, rant rant, you need to things in a timely manner, quit piddling around, rant, rant rant.

WF: The only that runs on me is my nose.

MF: And your mouth.

WF: *appalled*

Me: Yeah, she's not wrong LOL

Saturday, July 16, 2011


When we bought our house, we didn't realize there as a significant low spot in the middle of our front sidewalk. We figured out this spring that every time it rained, we were leaping over puddles or tromping through the mud.

So it looked sort of like this.

I asked my Father in law if there was something we could do to increase drainage there and his suggestion was to build a deck. So we did.

He stopped by last night with his tractor and ripped out the bushes at the front of the house. He also broke up part of the sidewalk that would run under the deck so that we can widen or driveway, once we have saved up the money to get that done. For right now, we will put some stepping stones in there, to keep it from being all muddy.

Last night, while I took the kids to see Camp Rock, The Musical, they bought the wood

And started building the frame.

They worked until about 10:30 last night simply because it was so much cooler. FIL showed back about 6:30 this morning and the finished out the frame. My Phantom friend came over and brought another drill (and donuts, those are the kind of workers to have!) and as fast as FIL could get the boards off the trailer and fitted, Phantom, RF and I were screwing the decking down. About 1:30, we simultaneously got hungry, ran out of screws and my drill died. While FIL got more screws, I plugged in my drill to charge and we pick up pizza for lunch. After lunch, we finished off the decking, with my drill dying again, 3 screws from the end.

It really looks nice and MIL is bringing us a wrought iron bistro set to put out there until we can get around to making some chairs and a table to sit out front. We need some dirt to fill in where the sidewalk was and around the base of the boards and we need to mount my solar lights to the deck (so we don't have to pull them up every time we mow) and we'll be all done. From start of the decking to finish, including lunch, it took us two and a half hours, with 4 people working pretty much non-stop.

Our house looks pretty different, with that on the front now!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cars 2 Review

My mom is off work this week to get their move done but it has gone so well that she had some spare time today, so we took the kids to see Cars 2. I recently read a review (where incidentally, I commented that I probably wouldn't see this movie in the theater) that said that this move was terrible. I will admit that I didn't care for the first movie but I wanted to like this movie. I've had bad luck with movies recently and I would hoping this would break that streak.

I'm glad we went because this was a pretty good movie. MF was excited to see it but WF didn't want to go, insisting that Cars 2 was only for 5 year olds. I showed him a few trailers and he decided that maybe it looked it ok. We got our popcorn and got situated in time to watch a few previews (on a side note, there were only 3 or 4 previews instead of nearly 30 minutes of them so that was happy). The Toy Story short at the beginning of the movie was good stuff. Ken and Barbie miss their Hawaiian vacation so the toys put one on for them.

Cars 2 starts with Lightening off racing and Mater doing his thing in Radiator Springs. Lightening comes back for the summer, but ends up going to the Worldwide Grand Prix with his Radiator Springs pit crew. Once they get to Japan, Lightening is annoyed and embarrassed by Mater's behavior and tells him to stop acting like himself. Mater manages to fall into the middle of an international spy mission and meets a pretty girl in the process. Through several gun battles, a few high speed chases and a few dangerous situations, Mater learns that being himself is just fine. Lightening learns that you take your friends as they come and you shouldn't try to change them and they both come home with a great story to tell.

I'm not a particular fan of spy movies or of car movies but this was bright, fun race around the world. I particularly liked the Tokyo scenes, with the neon and the bright colors. The Italian countryside shots were very pretty as well. I think I would be more inclined to watch actual racing if they were racing in scenes like in this movie. I've heard several people say that the spy plot was convolution and difficult to follow. Personally, I didn't find that to be the case and both kids were able to follow it pretty well. I was also glad to see that Lightening wasn't really the focus of the movie. Lightening has moments of being a decent person but overall he is kind of a jerk and remains as such in this movie. Mater was always a better person and it was fun to see him with his fancy spy gadgets.

I do agree with other reviewers who said that this was a violent movie. There were several large gun battles, explosions, on screen torture, implied character death (they called them on screen deaths but I felt most of them were implied as exposed to explicit, except for the scene were the bad guy said "kill him" and then there was an explosion), etc.

MF proclaimed it the best movie ever and said she wanted to get rid of her Barbie to make room for more Cars 2 stuff. WF said he thought it was pretty good and he really liked the explosions and the spy story line. I thought some of the stuff was over the heads of young children but it was great for my kids (9 and 6) and had enough humor for the adults to enjoy it to. Like all Pixar movies, it was filled with inside jokes and referrals to other movies.

I enjoyed this movie and so did the kids and my mom. This isn't a really movie for the preschool set, especially sheltered preschoolers. This movie was written for first generation Cars fans, who have grown up a little. Bottom line, if a kid wasn't old enough to see the original on the big screen, this movie might not be for them. For older kids and adults, I would rate it as 4 stars out of 5

Sunday, July 3, 2011

You CAN fit a patio table in a 5 gallon bucket

Last summer when we were moving, we needed a new patio table. We found one for ridiculously cheap at Menards and it went well with our chairs. I wasn't super keen on it having a glass top, but the price was right so we got it.

I went in the backyard Friday evening and found this:

(notice the wood table under it? That is my other end table that I killed the drill battery on the day before)

After yelling WTF, I set about cleaning all the glass up, which fit neatly in a 5 gallon bucket. After that fun was over, we had to find a new table ASAP, since we are hosting our annual 4th of July cookout tomorrow. We went to Menards again hoping to find another cheap one to replace it with, but I told RF no matter how cheap, I absolutely didn't want another glass top. Unfortunately, none of their clearance stuff was anywhere close to the right price (especially when they had a table alone for over $300) so we decided it couldn't be all that hard to build one ourselves. It's not rocket science, right?! We priced out the lumber and figured out, total investment would be less than $50.

We bought the lumber and zipped home to get started on it, since it was already 8pm. First, though, we had to swing through Savoy where Loosey had a drill we could borrow, since our battery was dead and our charger was missing (we found it yesterday but having the second drill was pretty handy anyway).

Here is the top frame:

We worked for about an hour and ended up with a framed table that just needed the top put on it and about a thousand mosquito bites!

Saturday morning, we got moving before it got too hot and we lost our shade (our backyard as no trees but the neighbors does a good job of shading our patio in the morning.) and got the top slats put in place.

RF mowed the yard, I cleaned off the patio and we put up the fun new umbrella my Phantom friend got for me at Sam's and our yard it ready to party tomorrow!

We also have enough left over lumber to build at least one matching bench, although we aren't doing that right now. With one more 2x4, we'll have 2 benches, to either use for seating or use as extra tables in the yard.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm finished

When I was a kid, my parents bought a living room furniture set. I remember it being really ugly, but it was the 80s so everything was pretty ugly. It had a couch, a love seat and two end tables. Over the years, the couch and love seat were replaced but we kept the tables When I moved out, they gave me the old tables and I've lugged them to all of our various houses. They were dark wood and pretty messed up (they were 28 years old after all) but were rock solid. I decided while I had some time this summer to work on refinishing them.

Here is the picture of the table before I started on it:

I don't know how well you can see it in the picture, but the varnish is chipped and the wood is all icky and scratched and scarred up.

I sanded it down as best I could but quickly figured out that the wood underneath was nothing but 2x4s pinned together and no amount of sanding would make it a pretty wood.

So I decided I would go ahead and stain it to match the writing desk that RF got from his grandma and is at least as old as he is.

After I put a couple of coats of the cherry stain on it, I put new poly on it and reassembled it today!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Peewee

So MF turned 6 today. It was sort of a no big deal kind of day. We did let her sleep in today and took her to the dinner of her choice tonight. I fully expected her to pick McDonald's like she always does, but she totally surprised me and went with Texas Roadhouse. Mostly, she just wanted the peanuts but she likes the spectacle that they make for birthdays. She had her friend party on Saturday and her family party on Sunday. He friend brought her all manned of neat toys and her family brought the cash. Best of both worlds! :) She had a pink princess party on Saturday and we decorated tiaras, played pin the heart on the necklace and beat a castle shaped pinata into submission. Sunday, we had all the grandmas over but this year was fun because we had other kids at the party for the first time ever. I'm super glad there are a few more short people around for these things now! :)

Here is a picture of both kids when they were first born. Wasn't she cute? Who would have guessed that she would turn out to be the tiny (or not so tiny, since her last check up put her 97% for height and 95% for weight or as her doctor called her "just a big, strong girl" :)) tyrant she is today?

Probably anyone who has ever met her, that's who! :)


Even if she is a tyrant, I think we'll keep her around since she is a pretty cool kid too! :)

O.(T.) No, they didn't

At our meeting last week, the school suggested that Occupational Therapy was basically the cure to all of our ills. Of course, that is a service the district does not provide so I needed to take care of it. The school psychologist suggested I contact my insurance company to find out if services were covered, since paying out of pocket for that is cost prohibitive (or as she put it "insanely and dauntingly expensive"). My insurance is stupid and only open until 4:45 so I wasn't able to call last week.

I called today and was transferred around a couple of times. Eventually, I got to someone who told me that, while O.T. is covered, I need a referral from my doctor (no problem, I totally expected that) but that once that referral was made, we would have to visit the O.T., who would then contact the insurance to find out if services were ACTUALLY covered. I know, I totally felt my head explode as she was explaining it to me. So basically, I have to go and hope that the visit is covered or pony up the cost. Of course, I have no idea what that cost might actually amount to.

I called WF's doctor to get the referral process started and the nurse seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. She said the school usually handles O.T. services and she didn't know what they could do. I explained that the services were cut so we were trying to make up that difference ourselves. She said they don't actually offer O.T. services and can't refer us to Carle, who does offer O.T. She at least agreed with me that there was really no need for an office visit, since there was nothing to diagnose. She ended up giving me their fax number and telling me to talk to the school and have them fax over his assessment and their recommendation for treatment and we'll "see if we can figure something out"

So basically, I'm back at square one as far as getting him O.T. services goes. The school can't help, the insurance won't help and the doctor doesn't know how to help.

On a bright note, I did get to check out the new spelling system they are suggesting for him and I could totally make it myself, at home, for under $10! They said I could use the books they have to get him a jump on it, so I don't need to spend $250 per lesson or buy an iPad (since the app they suggested is only available for iPad AND costs $23!), so that was good news. The special ed teacher also recommended a dictation program for him to do his homework with. It isn't perfect, but it is a place to start, so that the words get on the page and he can at least work on editing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

BIT meeting

Earlier this week, I blogged about WF's math, and school in general, issues. We met on Thursday about supports for next year and, although I wasn't thrilled with the idea of the meeting, I came out of it in a better frame of mind. We talked about his focus issues, his spelling issues, his "floppiness", his habit of writing numbers backwards, etc. Today, it occurred to me that I should have asked them about his stutter as well, but I didn't think about it at the time. They agree that most of those issues are real issues and we talked about several things to help him overcome them. Unfortunately, OT has been cut in the district so he hasn't been seeing an OT all year so their first recommendation was to contact my insurance and see if they cover OT services at Carle. Of course, by the time the meeting was over, insurance was closed and then I worked late on Friday and didn't get the call made then either. It is on my calendar for Monday. If they cover it, the school wants me to at least get him evaluated and either do the exercises at home or take him regularly for therapy. For spelling, they want to start him on Barton Spelling. which is a different type of spelling program. Unfortunately, it clocks in at $250 a lesson for 10 lessons, taking you all the way to high school. It isn't going to be something we are going to purchase for him, but I'm assuming that the school has the system, since they said they are going to start him on it. The school psychologist said there is an iPod app that is similar and she is going to email me the details of that so he can start on it over the summer. They said OT would help with the inability to sit up (he is constantly laying over and flopping on other people's desks and being annoying) as would sitting on a therapy ball, since the first time he tries to flop over, he'll fall off the ball! LOL They are also going to get him a math tudor for school. Instead of doing math in class with everyone else, he will sit with this person and learn things at his own pace. They want him to practice math facts at home but he can figure out the math, just not quickly. I think the ability to do it is more important than the ability to do it quickly.

They suggested that he needed to work on hand eye coordination, which isn't surprising. The surprising thing was that they suggested playing Wii Fit for 30 minutes a day to help him get better. They said that 15 minutes of Wii Fit yoga and 15 minutes of balance games each day would help with balance and the floppiness. They also suggested that he play Wii Sports to improve his hand eye coordination. Sending him to the garage and telling him to play tennis or baseball on the Wii fits our schedule a lot better than taking him to the court or the field and hitting balls with him!

Over the summer, everyone is working on school work, everyday. We are starting with Kindergarten sight words and working our way forward for both kids. Both kids will practice K and 1st grade sight words, until they know them like nobody's business. We will also be working on spelling, either just going over the previous spelling words or through the iPod app. We are going to practice handwriting and reading for both kids. Our goal is to get WF caught up and MF starting first grade at least a little ahead. I've already started compiling lesson plans for both of them and working out a timeline to keep us on track. We'll see how our summer of homeschooling goes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You do the math

WF is having some issues at school (again, I know, shocker). Up to this year, he has always done well at math and struggled with reading. This year, he has caught up, and stayed, exactly at grade level in reading and has slipped away in math. I completely understand this slide. I was always terrible at math, but I remember 3rd grade being particularly difficult because of multiplication. I learned the times table enough to pass the test (why do we do timed math tests, anyway? Isn't being able to find the answer enough, why does it have to be done in a certain number of seconds?) and then promptly forgot most of them. His teacher is nice but, as I'm sure I've mentioned, doesn't have much control of her classroom. I doubt there is a significant amount of learning going on in there because of that. Her big thing is that everyone must go to college. She even has a note on the wall about the college graduation date of this class. I think it is fine to push students to excel, but I don't think that she is approaching it in the right way. She told WF that if he didn't learn math and go to college, he would never have any kind of job worth having. While that might be partially true, that whole sentiment is a bit too insane for my tastes. I agree that the better educated you are, the better options you have. However, I happen to know personally that you can, in fact, have a job worth having while still not knowing a whole lot of math. RF and I neither one use anything beyond the basics everyday.

In fact, when I started college, I was a secondary ed major. I wanted to teach high school history. Of course, that requires a 4 year degree, with a lot of classes that don't mean much of anything. I took some classes towards that goal and then, after getting a job that paid for classes related to my job, I started taking business classes. Eventually, I left that job and decided to go back to school for the degree of my choice. I ended up picking preschool, partly because I had a preschooler and I enjoyed that age but mostly because it was a degree where I could work with only a 2 year degree. A 2 year degree meant that I only had to take statistics for math instead of Algebra. As I did more research into my options, I found that I didn't have to get an early childhood degree. I could pursue a CDA (which I completed all the class work for, but never actually finished the process), which would make me director qualified, would teach me practical teaching practices and best of all meant I never had to take another math class again. I honestly planned my career and life around a single subject and a few classes in that subject. RF never finished any type of degree. We will never be rich but we are comfortable. We both have stable employment and aren't constantly looking over our shoulder in fear of our job being cut(no job is 100% safe but both of ours are in decent shape, even if budgets are tightening). And really, that is more than a whole lot of people can say in this economy, college educated or not.

I choose not to do any math in my head. When I go to the grocery store, I have a calculator on my phone and I use it to figure out which item is the better deal. I can estimate and figure out that if I have $10, I can't get all three of the things I want at the grocery store. I know that $4.19 is more than $3.95 and that I'm going to Thorton's to get gas, instead of the place by my house. I know how to count change, although I do it so rarely that I do have to stop and actually do the counting. I can do basic geometry and figure out how much paint I need for the bathroom or how much grass seed I need for the yard (about twice what the bag says it will cover LOL). I don't really need any additional math and that is all stuff that they have learned by 3rd grade.

I facebooked about this, just out of curiosity about how much math other people use in their daily lives. I expected some of my friends to say they used a lot, but in thinking about their jobs, I expected most to be in the same boat I'm in. They know the basics but haven't done anything beyond that since high school or college. I knew I had some science-y people who would tell me that they solve complex equations in their heads before breakfast. The job I was surprised about was the video game developer. In the abstract, I guess I knew that computers=math but I'd never really made the connection until he pointed out that his whole job is basically writing word problems. I was surprised at what I perceived to be somewhat venomous responses. Several people acted like I was trying to give him an excuse to never do math again. I'm not, I simply wanted a balanced perspective to give him about math and school and college.

Do I want him to do well in school? Absolutely! Would I rather he be middle of the road and actually enjoy school? You bet! I waver constantly between wanting to push him until we both drop to be an A/B student and accepting the fact that, although he is crazy smart and creative, he simply doesn't do well at school. For his last few report cards, he has had a solid 75% across the board. That is the middle of the middle and you can't really get more average than that. There seems to be some stigma against being a middle of the road student that I don't get. They wouldn't call it average if everyone where getting As!

I was a good student, effortlessly. I never, ever studied and rarely did homework, except when turning it in was part of a grade. Unless something was actually being graded, I never did home work at home. I would do it during study hall, sometimes or, more likely, in another class. My dad, RF, my brother, none of them were great students. They were solid C students, most of the time, (unless something really interested them) so why should I be surprised that is where WF is? Of course, when they were in school, average was something different. A teacher friend of mine pointed out that, now, those middle of the road students are the most likely to get interventions because they are on the bubble, so to speak, for testing purposes. Passing is passing and failing is failing, it doesn't matter by how much. There is simply no point (as far as standardized testing goes) in wasting resources on kids who are sure to pass or sure to fail. Instead, they devote a ton of resources to those middle kids since they have the best chance of being saved from failure and bring the whole school percentage up. Because so much time and attention is being paid to those middle kids, it seems like everything is a bigger problem than it is. I've pretty well decided he is the student he is going to be. We'll keep working on getting better and progressing but I'm not holding my breath for him to suddenly become an A student.

We have another intervention team meeting on Thursday. Last year, we met about his handwriting (still horrible BTW) and he ended up with a 504 plan that allows him to use a laptop in class, during writing time. We got it for him in December and he has used it ever since. His writing isn't any better. he still isn't getting his ideas onto the page. He is still writing a sentence or two when he should be writing a paragraph. His spelling is still terrible. The theory was that if he didn't have to focus on the mechanics of writing that he would be better able to spell the words probably and the ideas could flow more easily. Not so much. The only benefit I've seen to the 504 plan is that he got to dictate his extended response on his ISATs this year. I'm sure that made a world of difference in his final score but this seemed to be much ado about nothing.

His teacher things he is has some issues with spacial reasoning. I know that spacial is how things relate to each other and how things fit together but I don't know what that has to do with school. He hates puzzles (me too) but he doesn't do them. She claims, vaguely, that spacial issues can be related to poor spelling, poor handwriting and poor math skills. No one seems to be able to tell me how, exactly, they are related or what exactly can be done about it. So I'm going to meeting on Thursday and I'm hoping to nail down some answers then but I'm just not getting too excited about it. On the one hand, having a "label" (besides "bad kid") might help him in the short term, I don't relish the idea of having him labeled forever. Of course, I don't think any label will get him the help that he actually needs so I'm just not terribly enthusiastic about the whole process.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Overheard:I'm glad today's youth are so well traveled edition

Girl at school: I've been lots of far away places, like New York and Urbana. ROFL

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Overheard: You are sweet enough on your own edition

We were at the park today and MF was in a snit about something. Who even knows what, because she is always in a snit about something, so mostly, I choose to ignore her attitude (or as I tell her, "I've got plenty of attitude of my own, I sure don't need your's too"). Anyway, we were at the park with The Fearless Phantom and her kids and her littlest (who is 4) said to MF, "It's ok, MF. I'll be your BFF. I don't have any candy but we can be friend fo-ever"! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

This was a big weekend

Or how social media keeps me in the loop.

Saturday, I helped with the Girl Scouts at the finish line of the marathon. While it was fun, it meant that the bit I saw of the race was from behind a stack of water bottles. It also meant that I didn't get to see any of my friends that ran, including the person who rode to the event with me! I only saw him after because he had to find me to get home! However, thanks to Facebook, I was able to see Loosey's absolute glee at seeing her little family on the corner cheering her on and I was able to see race royalty, Special K, with her fancy running crown. I was able to virtually cheer for my friend who was medically ejected at mile 21 because that is 21 more miles that I'm willing to run!

Then Sunday, we had a CARE Easter egg hunt (because Ms. Loosey is a genius and does it after EAster so we can all score discount eggs! After that, we had a Girl Scout leader daughter lunch and I ended up being gone most of the day. I logged into Twitter that afternoon, only to watch my feed blow up as the news of the mall shooters started making it's rounds. Of course, that was big news so I followed along with that for awhile, reading media reports as well as personal accounts of being there when it went down.

After we watched a little TV, I headed to bed about 9 to read. Just before 10, I did one last pass through of Facebook to find the news of Osama Bin Laden's demise filling my wall. Now that we gave up cable, the only television I watch is on Netflix or DVD so I would have had no idea about these huge pieces of breaking news until I turned on the radio this morning.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another fine mess I've gotten myself into

I think I'm missing some important cleaning gene. With all of the cookies we've been delivering, I've been in and out of a lot of houses, some unannounced, and they have all been basically tidy. If people walk in to my house, especially unannounced, they would find backpacks piled on the couch, dishes piled in the sink, papers piled on the table. Basically, we live our lives in and around piles.

If you ever had the pleasure of visiting my old house, not only did we have piles, we had some active dirt going on, especially there at the end. I've made a real effort to do better with the new house but it still isn't as good as it should be. While I was sick last week, RF and WF did a great job of helping keep things running and people fed but cleaning wasn't on either of their radars. On Thursday, my Daisy co leader stopped by to get the cookies for the meeting since I couldn't make it and I was totally embarrassed by how filthy my house was! The dishes had completely taken over the counter, the kitchen table was covered in papers and toys and under that layer it was sticky where someone spilled syrup and didn't clean it up. I do better at seeing messes than the kids or RF but I have a HUGE capacity for simply ignoring things like that.

I will spend hours doing marathon cleaning binges but can't seem to take the 5 minutes it takes to stay on top of it, to begin with. The kids and I spent 2 hours cleaning the garage top to bottom Friday night. To be fair, it hadn't been cleaned since before the bathroom remodel because we were using it as the staging area for everything for the bathroom. Then I got sick, then we filled it full of cookies and I got sick again. But still, it was dusty and gross and smelly and took 3 people 2 hours to clean it. Saturday, I spent 2 hours cleaning my kitchen. I did the dishes, washed the counters, table and chairs, scrubbed the stove and cleaned the fridge, dishwasher, the cabinets and the walls, as well as sweeping and mopping. Today, I cleaned the kids' rooms, our room, the bathroom and changed all the sheets, besides re-vaccumming the rest of the house.

It took about 6 hours of solid work to get it all done but it looks great right now. By tomorrow, it won't look great and by Tuesday or Wednesday, you won't be able to tell I did anything because I just don't stay on top of it like I should.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bathroom before and after

I was going to do several posts, all with clever titles like "Paint all it's cracked up to be" LOL but I'm pretty much done with the bathroom, so I'm doing one post, no clever title and lots of pictures :)

Here is the before post.

When we decided to redo the bathroom, we were going to replace the medicine cabinet, along with everything else. When I got online and started looking for new ones, I was disappointed to find that everything out there was either super small (13 inches, instead of the already smallish 17 inch one we already have) and plastic or 24-36 inches and nearly 300 dollars!

This is the door of the old one. You can't really tell it from the picture, but it is kind of a mess. The poly was all peeled of and the wood was pretty ugly.

I whipped out my handy dandy electric sander and started sanding that puppy down, put new poly back on it and a nice new knob and ended up with this.

Super fab, right?!

We did replace nearly everything else though

This is the old vanity

The new one

We put up a super nice light fixture over the medicine cabinet. I didn't get a picture of the old one but it was rough wood with tarnished brass fitting. The new one is much better.

This is the new paint color and the shiny new towel bars I installed

The toilet, that we didn't replace, and the new paper holder that I installed

The ceiling that we repainted and the trim that RF put up around the top of the wall

Finally, the floor with the grout and the pretty baseboards RF put in

Tomorrow, I need to touch up a few spots of paint and RF and FIL are going to fix a couple of drippy connectors (apparently, when you buy cheap connectors, you get exactly what you pay for and we are getting better ones). The door is also repainted but it isn't dry and doesn't have the new hardware on it yet. That will probably happen tomorrow, as well. Then the bathroom will be DONE! Then I have to move on to cleaning up the mess that has developed in the rest of the house, while I've been focusing on bathroom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's this all a-grout?

I spent the afternoon grouting the bathroom floor. It wasn't too hard and I like the color of grout we picked out. We bought tintable grout and had it colored in the paint department to be mountaintop gray. I'm afraid it is going to be a little lighter than what we wanted, but I think it is pretty anyway.

Here is the before grout picture

This is after the grout has gone in.

A few things to note, dear viewers of my fictional DIY show. First of all, when the kid at Menard's hands you a grout float/sponge combo, pass. Not only do you have the problem of the float not being as stiff as it should be, you have the problem of not being able to wipe up as you go along because once the sponge is wet, it gets future grout wet. It is also impossible to wring out correctly. You are supposed to wipe with a damp sponge, not a sobbing wet sponge!

On second thought, just ignore the kid at Menard's completely. Take the time to do the research, know what you want and don't listen to the "advice" they give you. Or alternately, actually READ the directions on the items to determine what you need. We had a problem with the stuff that we bought because I didn't get enough mortar and I got the wrong trowel type, based on the recommendation of the staff, instead of looking at the directions and thinking for myself!

Finally, don't buy the pre-mixed mortar. The stuff we got we about half dried out and the rest was super hard to work with. We eventually got it down, but it was a fight that involved a broken threshold and a lot of cussing.

Despite having vast and varied talents, after watching my BIL putting in the floor, I've decided that installing floors is not among them. Oh, I could do the grunt work and spread the mortar and install the spacers and put the tiles in but I'm not very good at measuring. I tend to be an estimator (side note:this is why WF's insistence on doing the actual math is so mind boggling to me) so 5 5/8 become "about 5 1/2" and "abouts" don't work in tile.

Now we carefully use the bathroom for another couple of days. Then I'm going to finish the mud and paint (probably Saturday). Hopefully, by Sunday, we'll be ready to put the vanity back in and hang the beautiful medicine cabinet I refinished and the towel bars and then we'll be DONE! While, I can't say I'll ever be a serious bath crasher, I'm fairly impressed with the fact that from demo to done, it has only taken 2 weeks and that involves 4 days where we did absolutely nothing on it and another couple of days when there has only been an hour or two of work, then waiting.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Totally floored

With the bathroom remodel, we decided to replace the floor. Originally, we were going to get stick on vinyl squares, instead of ceramic. Ceramic is a pain to put in and cold. Unfortunately, after talking to some friends who know what they are doing, I figured out that vinyl wasn't really an option. Apparently, the black adhesive that used to be used on floors and the new adhesive are different chemical compounds and the new stuff basically eats the old stuff and causes it to seep through the vinyl. After I spent over an hour scraping to just get the backing from the old floor up, I decided I wanted nothing to do with scraping up that black stuff and the ceramic was on sale for the same price as the vinyl.

This is what the floor used to look like. Not terrible but nothing spectacular. Of course, when we pulled it up, it smelled like a combination of mold and pee so I was really glad to see it go

My Brother in law did their floors before they moved here so he said he would come and help us out, since he already knew what he was doing. They came over this morning and got started on it. It didn't take them long (something to be said for a small bathroom) to get all the tile in and set. Now, I'm just waiting for it to set. What I read online said a minimum of 48 hours, but the mortar was thick and gloppy, so we are thinking it might be done before that. The suggested cure time before grout is a minimum of 72 hours but since you have to stay off the floor for 24 hours after the grout, we are waiting until next weekend to grout, since the kids won't be home.

Here is what it looks like before the grout:

The big problem, as you might be able to see in the picture, is that the toilet is setting in my new bathtub for the next 24 hours. Fortunately, the kids are at my parents but we are finding alternate peeing locations for tonight and tomorrow morning :)

Tomorrow, we hang the top dry wall on the final wall, so I can finish taping and mudding and then start painting the ceiling. My father in law is coming over in the afternoon to help RF hook the toilet back up. During this week, they will hopefully get up the bottom sheet of drywall on the last wall and I can mud it and then start painting. I have to do the ceiling and the door first, because I'm doing them in white and then getting the rest of the paint tinted blue for the walls.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Do it herself

So besides the bathroom demo, I also started on a kitchen project. I've talked before about the stupid built in cutting board in the kitchen. It is seriously, the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Why, oh why, would you build a cutting board into the counter and not seal it to the counter or seal the wood underneath? That is just asking for a nasty, super germ incubating ground! Because we are having to replace the bathroom instead, I've decided to at least do my best to make sure the problem doesn't get an worse.

This is what the wood looked like when I started

Notice the black spots? Yeah, that was rotten wood. I don't know if you can tell it from the picture but there are bits of loose wood and food all over this thing. I started by wiping it off with bleach, then ran the vacuum cleaner over it get all the pieces. As I was running the vacuum over it, it was pulling off more chunks of wood from those black parts. Now, my vacuum is pretty good but it ain't that good! I grabbed my scissors and starting scraping at the wood and watched it basically crumble under my touch. I eventually scraped off most of the really rotten wood and filled in the gaps with wood glue.

As you can see, that is no small area that the glue was required to fill! Of course, with that much glue, it takes some time to dry. It has been drying for over 24 hours and looks like it will take another day, at least. Once it is dry, I'm going to sand it down smooth, then put poly on it, like I did the table. Once that is done, I'm going to get a new cutting board to cover it up (one that isn't yellowed and cut up from use). It won't be pretty but it will work and it will keep the damaged from getting any worse. This is a minor repair now but if the wood rotted all the way through, it would have been a huge pain in the neck to fix!

With both of these projects, I've done them almost completely by myself (MF "helped" me yesterday by handing me tools while I was on the ladder and both kids took a whack at breaking the drywall). RF was at work both days. With all the snow, he has pulled down a boat load of overtime. 13 hours yesterday and 4 today, which left me to do my worst on the house!

Snow Problem!

So snowmageddon or the snowpocalypse or snOMG (or as I like to think of it snoverblown since we didn't get anywhere near what we were supposed to) swept across the area this week. Because of it, we had two snow days this week and I put them both to good use.

Remember last week, I found a giant crack in the bottom of my bathtub? We knew we needed to replace the tub (obviously) but decided to go ahead and redo the walls as well. For Christmas, my parents were going to replace my kitchen counters, because there is a nasty built in cutting board and the wood underneath is gross, since it isn't sealed and water and various food substances have seeped in over the years (which is the next blog post). We hadn't gotten around to actually picking anything when the bathroom stuff went down so they offered to pay for that instead. Originally we were going to tile the whole thing in a nice blue and green and white pattern but decided, even with cheap tile, it was too expensive. We eventually decided that we were going to replace the tub and surround and paint everything else a grayish blue color. We weren't going to do the vanity or the floor but my mom decided that if we were going to do it, then she was willing to pay to have it all done.

This is what we started with.

I originally thought that the stuff on the walls was some kind of laminate floor tile but it turned out to be pattered wall board. I spent the day yesterday ripping it all down.

The drywall underneath was a real mess (we figured it would be since there were no visible nails or screws holding it up).

I also started on removing the drywall but didn't get as far as I would have liked. Today, I unhooked the sink and moved the vanity out (by myself, thank you very much!) and finished the rest of the drywall that I could get down. There is one spot above the tub that just Will. Not. Come. Down. so I'm leaving that for Evan!

Here is the wall after I got done

Of course, a whole room's worth of wallboard and drywall take up a lot of space and with snowmageddon shutting everything down today, I didn't have anywhere to dispose of the stuff. Since the tub was broken anyway, I just dumped the stuff in there.

Now, we have to get the tub out, and all the new stuff put in, which will probably take a couple of weeks. In the mean time, we are showering at my parent's house, at least until I get all the drywall out of the tub!