Thursday, February 28, 2013

So There . . . Pbbbt.

Like my raspberry sound there in the title? I had to look up the spelling. Anyway, this is mostly going to be a therapeutic post. I'm frustrated about a few things and while I have no control over most of them, I can at least complain, right?

One of the main reasons we moved to the Elgin area was because we'd heard great things about the schools here. Well, so far, I haven't really been impressed. We'd assumed that being out in the "country" our kids could go to a good school where they'd be able to escape some of the filth of the world for a while longer. We assumed the teachers would do a great job teaching them, after all, we'd heard the schools were great. We were wrong. Our kids ride a school bus with kids from pre-K all the way to 12th grade. Megan has had kids trip her, part of her lunch taken (from a preschooler with an attitude the size of New York), has had a friend's backpack taken and slid under the bus seats, Emma was pushed so hard by another student her head hit the bus window, Megan had an Icee thrown on her, they've heard all kinds of foul language and I don't mean just cuss words.

The kids have asked me repeatedly to take them to school and pick them up. I would love to. Unfortunately, that means I have to make sure Lincoln and Faye are awake and dressed, along with the other three, before 7:30AM. Sometimes Lincoln and Faye sleep until 8. To pick them up, I have to wake Lincoln and Faye from naps. The few people I've told about the kids' request and why have told me that I'll be doing them a disservice. I don't agree, but everyone I've talked to seems to think I'm trying to "shield them from the world" and that they need to know "what the world is like." Well, my kids know what the world is like. With the exception of Sandy Hook, I don't keep much from my kids. Just because I don't want cuss words filling their heads instead of words that will improve their reading, writing, and language skills, doesn't mean I am shielding them. They are aware that there are "bad words" out there that we don't use. They have heard them and know what they are. Do I need to keep subjecting my kids to them so they become desensitized to them? No. I don't think I do, nor do I think I should. Teaching my kids to be desensitized to filth would be the disservice.

It's the problem of the younger two that makes it hard. Lately, I've dropped them off and picked them up whenever I can. I've used excuses like, "Oh, we don't want your class Valentines to smash on the bus, I'll take you today," or "It's show and tell, I don't think you should carry that on the bus, I'll take you." I want to be able to fully commit to picking them up and dropping them off for the rest of the year, though, and I don't want to be bothered by others for my decision.

*Since writing the above I've picked Emma up from preschool. I told Emma's teacher that she will no longer ride the bus to or from school. So now that I've told one teacher, I'm committed to at least taking all the kids to school and picking up Emma.

Then there are the teachers. Nice people. Friendly. I'm sure they care about the students. Just not enough. Jeremy's teacher does seem to be more competent. She's worked with me to help Jeremy and he's really adjusted well. Or as well as an incredibly shy and unsure kid who has a tendency to be too silly is going to adjust.

Megan's teacher on the other hand. We've had some problems with her. At the beginning of the year she handed out gum to the students all the time. ALL THE TIME! And not the good gum. It was the sugary, pink Double Bubble stuff. Can you imagine the child of a dentist chewing that stuff every day? Ugh. No wonder she had her first cavity this year. The gum was taken care of pretty quickly by the mother of another child in the class who's father is also a dentist.

Next problem: movies. I'm not talking about the kind of movies when we were kids that we watched in class once a year at the end of the school year, for example, Where the Red Fern Grows. No, these kids are watching Ice Age, Finding Nemo, The Polar Express, etc. and they are watching them on almost a daily basis. The teacher thinks it's too cold to go outside (it's totally not, they just think it's cold because they haven't been to Cleveland, OH or Logan, UT where you march through 3 feet of snow to get to your classes) so they sit in their desks and watch a movie. You'd think that the kids who want to could read a book, right? Nope. Oh, the teacher needs to grade some papers? Well, just pop in a movie of course! AAAAGH! Are you kidding me? Then they watch movies in what they call "Counseling," a class they have to take to learn to be better people. Be nice. Don't cheat. Work together. Blah, blah, blah. And occasionally, there's a movie they watch that the counselor thinks shows the point she's trying to make. Oh, we read a book in class, now let's watch the ENTIRE movie of it and talk about what is different in the movie from the book. REALLY? If she wants to have that kind of activity, why can't she just show a scene from the movie and then have the discussion? And why does it have to be with every book that also has a movie version? And why can't you pick more books that DON'T have movies based on them??

I talked to the principal about it one day. He was in the hall and I mentioned to him that both Jeremy and Megan had been telling me about movie after movie that they'd seen recently in their classes. He told me that every day that the entire class is present they get a letter toward spelling out "Perfect Attendance" and once they spell it all out, the teachers reward the class. He said sometimes they pick a movie as the reward. Well, I probably wouldn't mind that if they hadn't already watched Polar Express as a Christmas time treat, and a few other movies the week before. Then the next week Megan's class went to an actual movie theater to see Brave because they'd gotten their AR points (more on AR points in a bit). They were supposed to go roller skating!! Now they're sitting on their butts watching another movie and wasting more time because they had to go to a dollar theater to watch it!

Megan told her teacher that I didn't want her watching movies in class and so far, even with me talking to the teacher about it, much hasn't changed. Jeremy's class does seem to be watching fewer, but I walked in on the class yesterday and they were all sitting down on the floor watching some Dr. Seuss cartoons. Now I know this week there are lots of classes that are probably watching some Dr. Seuss stuff. Fine. But I don't think they need to watch more than one. Jeremy's class definitely watched more than one.

Also, they don't bother telling the parents when these movies will be shown or what they are. Megan's teacher once put a movie on that she knew she wasn't allowed to watch. She sat there at her desk for an hour and a half not allowed to read and looking down at her desk for fear of disappointing me for watching the movie. That just isn't right.

Next on the list: AR points. I think it stands for Advanced Reading, but I'm not really sure. Whatever it stands for, it bugs me. Or at least how Megan's teacher does it bugs me. There are three boxes of books, I assume at three different reading levels: one slightly below the grade level for those who are still working their way to reading better, one at grade level, and one just above. Megan's teacher has repeatedly complained to us that Megan doesn't take enough AR tests. The point of the tests is for the teachers to track their students' reading and comprehending levels to make sure that by the end of the year they are all where they should be. Ok. Yes, Megan is in 2nd grade, but her reading level is almost at a 7th grade reading level according to their latest testing. I think she's fine.

But she has to continue taking the tests. For Megan's AR points she has to read books that are on the AR list and then take  multiple choice tests on those books. Her teacher has been encouraging her to read books like, The Berenstain Bears. The Berenstain Bears books are worth a few points each. She's supposed to have about 20 points before the next AR reward party (which will probably be a movie). And like I said earlier, she's been struggling to get her points every single time. Not that she can't read the books or answer the questions, but that the books are boring and there are usually so many kids in the class that it's difficult to get the computer time to take the tests before another student gets there. Reading the books her teacher has encouraged her to read, she'd need to take a ton of tests to get the needed points.

So here is where the "So There" from the title comes in. Megan and I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as her bedtime story. I told her to see if there's an AR test on it and to take it if there was. She got 100% on it and earned 40 points. SO THERE! Points received and for the rest of this AR period she doesn't have to take another stupid AR test again. I hope that when her teacher saw that score that she felt at least a bit dumb for telling Megan to go read some Berenstain Bears books. And the thing is, she knows what kind of books Megan reads and likes. At the beginning of the year she asked me for a list of books that Megan had read. It was quite long and full of fabulous chapter books, so I can't understand why she wouldn't use that list and encourage Megan to take tests on those books.

Finally, math. At the last parent teacher conference Megan's teacher tried to pass off a tenth of a point improvement as being something to celebrate. All year, Megan has only improved a tenth of a point in math? Does the teacher realize that's not even statistically significant? What's crazy, is even though they aren't doing multiplication in that class, Megan knows how to do some of her times tables. It isn't that she's behind, she's still above grade level, but Megan stopped improving because the teacher thinks where Megan is should be good enough for now, so don't bother teaching more complicated ideas. Occasionally the teacher sends home extra work and calls it the G/T homework. It's always a short, one page story to read with three or four questions on the story. It's never been math. Or science. Or geography. Or anything that I think she needs to learn.

Not Good Enough.

There, I'm done complaining for now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Life After Facebook

So, in what might appear to have been a response to some banter on a couple Facebook posts, but in actuality isn't, I've closed my Facebook account again. I won't say that the banter had nothing to do with it, because it did have a hand. As I was going back and forth on a couple different posts I realized a few things.

1. Emma wanted lunch and I kept telling her, "Just a minute."
2. Lincoln needed some special attention that I wasn't giving him and he needed lunch, too.
3. Faye has been spitting up a lot today and needed some special cuddling.
4. I'm wasting my time with people that I am just making angry, who in the past I have considered friends, but who I know to be very sensitive and easily offended.That was wrong of me on a few different levels.

I also got thinking about how I rarely blog anymore. I noticed that as soon as I joined Facebook, my blogging went down a lot. It was easier to keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook. The blog was supposed to be a way to keep me writing and keep in touch with my family and some special friends. The blog's activity went down and my wasting time on Facebook, not even doing anything close to keeping in touch with people I care about, went up. I wasn't getting what I wanted out of Facebook and I certainly wasn't working on my writing skills. I want to know how my family and friends are doing. I want to see their kids and how they are growing. I want to see what they are doing with their spouses and their family vacations. Most of Facebook is, "I'm at such-and-such store and look what I'm buying" or some attempt to be witty or funny. Occasionally you get little glimpses into their lives from a picture, but nothing more than a sentence is added to it. No real way for us to connect. And yes, sometimes the little witty or funny status updates are fun and amusing, I'll admit it. But it is no longer enough.

I know that to really connect with people I need to see them person to person. And I wish I could. I have quite a few friends that I miss desperately. I have family that sometimes all I hear from them in a week or a month is what I see on Facebook. That's not what I want. I want more of them. I want face time with them. Not their dog or cat or a picture of what they ate for lunch. Opting out of Facebook might mean that I could be the last to know something big that is going on with a friend or family member, or that I might never know. I hope that isn't the case. I hope I'm able to keep my family relationships and friendships going without Facebook. I hope to e-mail, write letters, call, and visit more often. I will try to keep up with friends' blogs without letting myself become consumed on the computer.Those means of communicating are much more fulfilling for me.

I am about to embark on an adventure. An adventure other than getting off Facebook and being a little more Old School, if you can call blogging Old School. This adventure will require a lot more of my time and patience. The internet will call to me for a break. I can't give in. Too many times I have allowed myself to be sucked in by the computer and right now is the time for me to start weaning myself.

I'll make an announcement about the adventure later. Some of you already know a bit about our decision and some of you are completely in the dark and have no clue what I'm talking about. For now, I just want to prepare and that means no Facebook. It's just too tempting as a time waster and I don't have time to waste.

And with that, I'll leave you until next time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Safety and Innocence

I've debated writing this post many, many times and I think I've actually written a few drafts before deleting them. This is such an important topic, and yet, it can be a very personal one, too. And clicking on "Publish" won't be easy for me.

I've seen all over Pinterest mothers pinning a link to a post on protecting children from sexual abuse. This is great. Moms and dads should be informed on how to keep their kids safe from predators. The site has a lot of good information and I suggest everyone who has kids or takes care of kids or spends time with kids in any way read it and study it.

There's something missing from this website though. And it's something I never would have thought of until it was thrust upon my family in a way I never want to repeat.

Most of you who read my blog are LDS, but I know some of you aren't, and yet are still religious and go to church.

Please don't think your church buildings are safe from the filth and evil of the world. Don't let your children wander the halls alone without supervision. Please.

A couple years ago Megan, Emma, and I participated in the musical, This is Kirtland! It was a wonderful, testimony building experience. We had the opportunity to practice the musical in the church building in Kirtland, just blocks from the Kirtland Temple and Whitney Store. We loved it and we loved the people we got to spend so much time with. In fact, Emma still cries for the friends she made while in the musical. One night during rehearsal, there was a man working in the Family History Center located in the church building. He was a member of the church, but I didn't know him because our family attended church in a different building closer to our home. In fact, I didn't see more than a brief glimpse of the back of his head during the time we were there that night. This man had a friend come visit him in the Family History Center, a man that was not a member of our church.

While I was on stage, the director came up to me and told me to go find Emma. I didn't realize it then, but the entire cast was on stage except her. Because of our roles, I never interacted with Emma at all in the musical, she played the adopted daughter of Joseph and Emma Smith while I played Ann Whitney. Emma wasn't written to be on stage at that point, and so she'd been left in the hall behind the stage and given a game to play with. I went to get her and as I got down on her level to pick her up, a man, the friend of the man already there, came into the building. It wasn't his first time entering the building that evening.

I picked her up and took her on stage and she was written into that scene so she wasn't left alone. The director soon after came up to me and said that someone had told her a man had entered the church building and approached some of the young women in the musical, trying to get them to come to him by saying he'd found a purse and wanted to know if it belonged to them. We kept close tabs on all the children for the remainder of the rehearsal and sent some of the men to search the building to see if he was still around.

As we were leaving that night the director told me it would be a good idea if I asked Emma if anyone approached her during the few minutes she'd been alone. I thought for sure nothing had happened. I thought it must have been the man I saw coming into the building when I went to get Emma and that we must have just barely escaped any possible interaction between the man and Emma. But I figured I should ask anyway. So with a non-leading question, I asked her.

Scariest moment ever followed. The man had approached her and he'd touched her. We don't know the extent of the touching. Emma was barely 3 and had a hard time communicating what exactly happened. She did say the man came up to her, talked to her, and touched her, that much we know for sure.

The next morning I took her to the hospital to have her checked out. There was no sign that she'd been touched sexually, so that was a relief, but then again, that only means that there was no obvious sign. Then, following the directions of the hospital staff, we went to the Kirtland police and filed a report.

It was a nightmare. The man was never found.

Nathan gave Emma a priesthood blessing and she was promised that she wouldn't be affected by that experience. She would continue to be the happy girl she was before. She had nightmares for a few months about the man, but they were rare and eventually left. Sometimes she asked about the "bad man" and we'd reassure her that she wouldn't see him anymore. That he was gone.

Today she never brings him up, doesn't ask, doesn't have nightmares.

I'm still terrified. I still panic if my kids are in the church building and aren't by my side. I hate letting them go to the restroom alone. I know what usually happens at church events and parties.  Groups of kids run around playing in the halls and primary rooms. I know that on Sundays we don't feel the need to walk our 9 yr olds to the restroom. I know it's nearly impossible to keep our kids by our sides after a linger longer or baptism.

All I'm asking is that we teach our kids that we still need to use safety measures at church. Even though we'd like it to be, church isn't a place we can let our guard down.

This is so personal and writing it has not been easy. But I don't want what happened to Emma and what could have happened to her if I hadn't come to get her exactly when I did, happen to another child.