Sunday, March 13, 2005

So here we are on a Sunday eve mid March. Time as always has been flying by and has been fairly packed with stuff. This weekend was packed. We had a really nice warm trend this week culminating in Quincy’s school trotting out the hose and wading pools Friday morning – I was teaching and 18 wet and sandy kids all needing a change at once is a challenge let me tell you! Compounded by kids having no idea where their clothes had gotten to… Saturday woke cool and foggy – and never improved to everyone’s dismay. Aidan and I decided to brave the elements (and I thought we were heading for sunnier ground) and headed off on the train to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Bldg. You can tell spring is here but clearly it is not full summer produce yet. We did find one stand with English shelling peas and one with organic strawberries. We also picked up some artisan cheese and some purple carrots. We had a phone call that morning inviting us over to dinner with cousins Ellie et al – always a dining treat. It was nice as we had planned to have friends over ourselves but it had been cancelled – so we were on the look out for any nice produce for a salad to take. The excuse for the dinner was our upcoming Costa Rica trip on April 22. They decided to go to Costa Rica as well and will probably be heading there a day after us and staying a few days longer but it looks like we will have some overlap which will be fun. Cousin Phil is a huge favorite of my kids. I think Quincy was partly unwilling to leave home as he was eagerly awaiting time to go to their house. Phil is all about the kids. They now have a zip line set up in addition to the climbing ropes and swings – all tot sized of course. Too cool for words. And an excellent dinner that exceeded expectations. Aidan and I got home mid afternoon to find that the mail had not yet arrived – and it often does in the morning on Saturday. The only reason this mattered was that this was THE DAY that the Public School assignments were due to arrive – that is if you got one of your seven choices. But within minutes of our arrival I heard the mail slot and sent the kids off to retrieve the mail. What would it be? Would Aidan have an assignment for next year? I had put down mostly pretty hard schools to get into and had a good chance of not getting anything we wanted. I had been trying to resign myself all week to the prospect of spending into October waiting for the school of choice to become available. And hours down at the city offices etc. I also had decided that I would be pretty darned happy to have anything on my list. My last choice was Miraloma Elementary – fast becoming a favorite choice of our coop members and an up and coming school. It has a 7.50 start time which I don’t like and still pretty lousy test scores, but clearly a committed and driven parent body joining on so that will change. Several of Aidan’s friends go there and more plan to and of course I know and like many parents. My first choice was Clarendon – the school on the hill above us – the 2nd closest school to our house. It has 2 programs and my choice was the Japanese one where the kids spend ½ hr to ¾ hr a day learning Japanese and they use the Japanese culture to organize some lessons – learning origami and Japanese drumming (Taiko Dojo) along the way. It also has a 9.30 start time which seems most civilized and will mean kids get to eat dinner with Daddy. Other choices included Spanish Immersion schools and other “regular” schools that I liked. It turns out our name must have come up early in the lottery as we got our first choice! Which for a program in which several hundred apply (as one of their 7 choices) and 6% get in – well, we were blessed. I’ve never been particularly “lucky” in raffles or things like that but I have sort of felt that Aidan is. He got into Miraloma & Eureka – both pretty hard to get into. The only downside is that it was hard to share my excitement with anyone. Pete hadn’t actually bothered to go look at the school as it seemed a remote likelihood (and he only visited 2 in any case). Aidan pretty much just stared at me. One of the girls in his class will also be going as she has siblings there – but she isn’t someone he seems to play with at all although she seems very nice to me. I also haven’t chatted with her family at all. He did seem reassured that he would have school in English! I left a few phone calls for friends – but because this is a lottery obviously some people will not get anything they want. 2 friends I later found out got schools not of their choice and one didn’t get an envelope at all. I heard of one other who got a “great” choice and 6 or 7 who got one of their choices that they are happy about. Clarendon by the way was originally founded as an “alternative” school – meaning no neighborhood preferences given – and was established on the coop tradition – lots of parent involvement. But thanks to that parent involvement test scores soon were at about the top in the city and lots of applicants apply purely because of test scores – not that interested in the involvement part. Test scores are no longer absolute top but still close and the kids who go there tend to have parents who care about their kids education. All to the good! Of course the facility is pretty abysmal with no grass etc. At least it is back in a grove of Eucalyptus trees so they will see greenery. Of course it is also in a fog bank but kids don’t seem to care about that as much as we do. Anyway. It is funny getting your top choice. You feel you have to be modest about your luck (which is truly all it is) and you don’t want to be jumping up and down while your neighbor is weeping over their lack of school choice. And then you wonder if you selected the right school (and I think we did). I do have a few pangs when I see so many folk we know going to Miraloma or another school called Flynn (not close to us).
Aidan and I went out after that to buy a birthday present for a classmate Seth. We also got the car washed (took forever waiting in line) and let someone who spotted the dent in the bumper “fix” it on the spot. Aidan was most impressed when he heated up the bumper by lighting some primer out of an aerosol can to make an instant blow torch. So we got home a bit late and thus late for the cousins. But we had a great time and were there until after 9 – Quincy was having trouble holding his head up. There had been an “envelope” party that night – I think the idea was that you bring your school assignment envelope to the party and open it there but I don’t think anyone waited til the party. How weird would that be if you are devastated and the person next to you is jumping for joy. But I promptly called up to get a report on who got what.

Sunday morning we had to try to put our shambles of a house in some semblance of order. Quincy and I built a triple decker train track in the hall blocking his and the bathroom door – on Friday. It was quite the nuisance to get past it – am not sure what I was thinking – because of course Quincy didn’t want it taken down! The birthday party was due to start at 11.30. They have a very nice house with an incredible view near Aidan’s school. There was an awesome food spread and way way too much food. I stuffed myself which had not been my intention as I was hosting dinner at our house at maybe 5.30 or so. They had hired a very adept kids magician who showed up at 12.30 and must of kept the kids mesmerized for close to an hour. Last weekend Pete took the kids to Fairyland in Oakland while I was helping set up the Auction for Quincy’s school. They had been entertained there by a magician and Aidan had been doing a lot of talking about it although Pete reported that he was quite terrified throughout that he would be singled out to come up as a volunteer. That held today as well although finally at the very end he raised his hand. Today was a beautiful day and we had back the weather we had enjoyed Wed & Thurs although not the heat of Friday. But at least the sun had come back. All in all a “thumbs way over the top” party Aidan rated it (his highest rating). Home midafternoon to find the house still pretty much a shambles and only 2 hours til guests. Sara got me a Christmas present which I only just recently received – it is a box of wafers made of 72% chocolate from single origins – Ghana, Venezuela, Equador, Sumatra etc. A lot of coffee countries. These are arranged so that you can have a “tasting” and I had a couple in mind that I thought we truly appreciate them. So Scott & Val came over with a couple very nice bottles of Zinfandel and I fed everyone lamb chops, Israeli couscous, green beans, carrots (inc the purple ones), and salad. It was fairly straight forward but yummy. The second Zin he brought went really nicely with the chocolate. Ella, their daughter, was one of Aidan’s closer friends at Miraloma. The 2 of them were pretty thrilled to hang out and for much of the time had themselves shut in the bedroom together excluding Quincy. Quincy was quite the trooper and didn’t get upset at being left out and didn’t demand our attention – but set up some train track in our bedroom…

So a very satisfying weekend all round. Pete has done the bulk of the trip planning (including the idea) and it looks like he has a nifty itinerary laid out. Just one hotel left to get and we should (hopefully) be set – we do hear via internet chat things that the hotels can still blow you off even with reservations – but what are you going to do. We are going the last week of the dry season. Wish us luck with the weather!

Last Saturday eve was Miraloma’s Auction. I have always had very limited interest in the fundraising efforts other than meeting my personal requirements both for solicitations and work load. This year was a bit different however. I was on the same work team as I have been on for the previous 2 years and felt the team leader probably needed some help (she did). So I took a fairly strong role there. I also was asked if I would be willing to lead up “check-out” next year. This is a pretty important role as to some extent it helps make or break things – if you can’t get the bills printed, well you can’t get the $$. For some inexplicable (to me) reason this year our members all went way beyond their goals for solicitations. We raised just shy of $100K – our goal was $54K and last year we raised $maybe $66K. Of course the good and the bad about that is that there is more STUFF. And you have to get in more people to bid on all that stuff. We never really know until after the fact how many people are going to attend – and I don’t think we necessarily even then know how many attended although everyone theoretically has to sign in and get a bid number etc. Pete and I never seem to be able to get any guests. Don’t know why as it is a pretty nice event and we comp the tickets and there is food and drink and often some good bargains. This year many items went for at or above value but also (per usual) many items didn’t sell or went for minimum bid – things like 2 hrs with a financial consultant or attorney. Restaurants and food and kids activities go for high value. We aim for 50 cents on the dollar and it looks like we raised $50K overall so we hit that. Nice for our school as our operating budget plans on $27K so anything above that we can use to do something fun with – like remodeling the kids bathroom next year. Somehow our family ended up with almost $2K of items to donate and our goal was $1K and we’ve been at about $1200 before. Strange.

Quincy seems to really be enjoying himself at last at school – well I think he has been enjoying himself for a while, but he is now interacting with the other kids much more and being goofy and laughing a lot etc. Very happy to see that. Aidan too is totally thriving at school. He now even plays CHASE games at recess – unimaginable 6 months ago. They used to scare him. The program is really nice and really mixes up who sits next to who and who is paired up when going to dance class etc. and that helps break down any potential exclusive groupings that might arise and really affords the kids great socialization opportunities. I signed him up for Acrosports in January – with his full permission. It got off to a rocky start. It was an hour and a half long! Gasp. SO LONG. I HATE ACROSPORTS would be muttered on the way there. ITS HARD. When will the classes be over. But 2 weeks ago we arrived at complete turn around – you know mom, when you are having fun with your friends, well I know it is an hour and a half long but it doesn’t seem long at all! Now he clearly is having fun with the other kids and goofing off a bit but I know he is also really proud of how he has been able to make real strides in some of the “tricks” they do. He likes to practice headstands in our chairs. I have the 2 kids do different things up and down the hall (run, hop, bear walk, crab walk, skip etc) – at their request. He can now push up into a bridge (a half circle from the floor) which was not at all possible when he started. So having that sense of accomplishment is really great. He was quite happy to have me sign him up for the next round. When Phyllis visited us in late January he had an awful time – I had to leave to take Quincy to speech class (his first one?). Aidan liked to have me stand down near the floor where they did their thing for the first half hour or so. He was completely unwilling to participate that day (in tears). Quincy is so different and wakes up so excite to have Acrosports that day. He started the classes for 3 yr olds in January – without parents. And never looked back – literally. He seldom looks up to see where I am – Aidan still keeps an eye out.

Quincy went through his speech assessments in December through the Scottish Rite association – the Masons (?) underwrite the whole thing – fabulous as speech therapists easily cost $120 a session and I was told to expect 2 years at twice a week – yikes! The Director is fabulous. I ran into her at our preschool one day when she came to take one of the kids for an assessment – he had been with them a couple of years. I just mentioned Q and she said she was starting up a program with a couple of doctorate candidates and was looking for preschoolers. It was meant to be. And then a bit later I learned that Leo from his class has the exact same speak problems and that they would be paired for sessions. Leo was the first kid that Quincy indicated any interest in having a playdate with. How perfect was that?! The first assessment we had was a couple hours long and was 2 tests. The first was clearly just pronunciation – or articulation rather. She was busy writing down all of the letters he was substituting and said he was clearly eligible for free help thru the school district if we wanted it – I think that means he is in the under 7%ile in articulation. He supposedly “fronts” – uses letters that are made at the front of the mouth and not the ones in the back. Leo too. Leo is a full year older and was potentially off to kindergarten next year. Fortunately (for us) his parents at the urging of the school are holding him out another year. He and Quincy seem quite similar in age and thinking he would be in school with kids like Aidan – well I didn’t think Kindergarten sounded right either. The 2nd test was for comprehension. Quincy scored at over 5 yr old level for that one (point to various pictures). The last test was expressive – and he scored exactly his age 3 yr 1 month. She said the huge discrepancy of what he understood and what he could express had to be frustrating for him (and we had just started having a lot of tantrums which she thought could well be attributed to that – fortunately they have abated). We were asked back later for follow up tests – only a bit over an hour. They tested some language tenses and plurals and pronouns. He flubbed he, she, him, her but did well on tenses (surprising Glenna with his ability). At the end of the test it also got more and more complex instructions for him to follow – point to the small fish then the large turtle then the dog next to the horse – for example. He did great with that too. I didn’t get the “results” but she mentioned a few times how clearly intelligent he was. He was so cooperative too – I was so proud of him. Of course they make it fun and there are lots of stickers to be had which doesn’t hurt! So all in all it was just what I thought – purely articulation related with no associated language problems. I think Leo actually needs a bit more work with tenses and plurals so Quincy will get some review with that stuff down the road too. So far the kids have had maybe 6 or 7 sessions. Quincy loves going – it ranks up there with Acrosports. He has no problems going with Jane & Leo on Tuesday without me (Aidan would be a puddle). So far all they have worked on was the letter “F” at the beginning of words. Next session they start on “S”. “F” homework consisted of us saying a lot of F words to him one after another. Seemed unlikely but he actually is pronouncing his F a lot of the time now. They play a game for part of the time where they land on various squares and do things like move their tongue up and down or sideways or blow up their cheeks then pop them etc. The kids favorite game they usually end with – the flashlight game. Steve (the grad student and a real sweetie) “hides” cards around the room with things on them that start with the letter F then the lights go off and flashlights on and the kids find them and say what they find. The kids are in alone with the therapists but we can watch from behind the special mirrored glass – except of course during this game when they suddenly can see out the windows and we see a mirror!

Well it seems that I have rambled at length. I need to head off to bed as it is a teaching day tomorrow – and the next day. Last week I volunteered at Aidan’s school – parents are coming in and talking about their profession – I talked about being an architect then got to plan their morning activity – they had to play architect and ask their teachers (clients) questions and draw and model their projects. Quite entertaining and I think the kids enjoyed it.

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