Friday, May 20, 2016

Take care of yourself . . .

It's been a while.  My apologies.  I admit that I've been spinning in other lands and well, ye ole blog has gotten ignored.  However, I come to you with a very important PSA--

Please go for your annual exams.

Oh, I'm good and up to date.  My aunt, however, was not.  She had not chosen to go for an annual exam since she was cleared after she had my cousin 34 years ago.  Just this morning, after having been taken off life support and having been moved to hospice care, she breathed her last breath.

She died.

What did she die from?  Stage 3 Uterine cancer.  She could have had an exam and it would have shown.

She could have gone to the doctor when she noticed symptoms, but she chose to ignore them.

When you go through menopause, you shouldn't ever have bleeding occur again.  If you do, something is wrong.  She ignored it despite having that happen.  I'm thankful that my mom didn't ignore that when it happened to her.  She had a hysterectomy, no ill effects and she is well.  She is well because she listened to her body.

She was about my build-- 5'1" and about 140ish.  She lost 80 pounds.  She was losing her hair.  She couldn't stand up straight.  She was in incredible pain.  She took so much Advil that she ulcerated and consequently that perforated her stomach and colon.  The tumor that they removed was the size of a football.  It was so large and pressing so hard on her spine that she had an incredible bruise across her back.

She went into the hospital almost against her will on April 19.  She masked symptoms.  She was in SICU the entire time.  She had 3 major procedures in about 24 hours time and several procedures after that.

She had gone jaundiced.  That was getting worse.

I asked the nurse last week, "Is this as good as it gets?"  She didn't know.  We knew that she hadn't chosen life for herself.  We don't quite know why.  At 59, she had so very much to live for.

She has left behind two children, ages 34 and 39.  She has left behind two grandchildren and two step grandchildren.

Her children are now orphans.  Their dad died as a result of a car accident when Heather was 11 and Bill was 6.

What devastating loss for them. While she was not particularly close with our family any longer, we never shunned her from the family.  We never ignored her if she was around.  She remarried and chose to basically distance herself from the family.

I still sent her a Christmas card every year.  I didn't want her to think that we forgot about her.

So please, I know that it is not the most pleasant exam of our year.  Please.  Go forth and have your exams.  Please don't ignore symptoms.  Please take care of you.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Empowerment Plan Coat- Warmest Winter 2016

The Empowerment Plan Coat

- The EMPWR coat is a water-resistant and self-heating jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. The coat is constructed of upcycled automotive insulation, fabric from Carhartt, and other materials provided by generous donors.

- The Empowerment Plan can produce 1,000 coats on a budget of $100,000. Our studies show that for each 1,000 coats distributed, we can save 14 lives. Each year approximately 7% of homeless individuals die from hypothermia. Our coat reduces this statistic by over 20%.

- It costs $100 to sponsor a coat, which covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses.

- While these coats will save lives this winter, our ultimate partnership goal is to bring an Empowerment Plan factory to Chicago.

Friday, November 6, 2015

First Quarter down: Of cinnamons and apple bits.

K made it through her first grading period.  She has always, always been on super honor roll, honor roll or merit roll.  Merit roll was just a 2 time thing.  This quarter, she earned none of that.  It kind of made her heart sink.  For the first time since they were available, she feels like she missed out.  I reminded her of these things:

1.  You moved from a failing school district to an excellent rated school district.
2.  She basically had absolutely NO 5th grade last year what with all of the standardized testing, two of the three 5th grade teachers retiring and, well, her teacher just not teaching or giving a hoot. Not at all consistent.  Not at all collecting papers when due, but then trying to collect them two - three weeks later.  Mis-grading, mis-logging of grades and generally being the class clown.  Oh, and not teaching. Let us not forget that part.
3.  The curriculum is so much harder.
4.  All of your grades (she has 2- A's, 2- B's and 2- C's and those are high C's) are GREAT grades!
5.  She had no late work.  Well, it wasn't late on her part.  She turned in the one "late" paper, her teacher had her write her answers in complete sentences, the bell rang, she turned it in right after the bell stopped and it was considered late.

Because of a time management issue for a series of mornings culminating into one big morning, she does have one unexcused tardy.  She was late by 2 minutes.  On a standard morning, we would have still been able to rock a 20 minute drive easily in the 30-35 minute time frame.  Unfortunately, she chipped away at part of our safety net, there was a big ole spot of traffic, a rear end collision and a flipped vehicle.  All the forces were working against us that day.  She learned and has been very good about getting out the door since then.

What are things that we have learned to improve upon for this next quarter?

1.  We still need to double check homework.  We always do, but can't do that if K doesn't pony up the work.  She knows late homework isn't okay.  She knows guessing isn't okay.  There are occasions that we find lil errors on papers that add up to big things.  We go over homework with her, help to reinforce the lesson and it is a good thing.
2.  Everything will be answered in complete sentences.
3.  We have experienced some of the return of test taking anxiety.  Her social studies started out with two very bad grades.  It was as if all wheels fell off her bus.  She was completely deflated.  She was able to pull her grade up substantially, but not without getting so stressed that she tossed grades out the door in EVERY subject that week.  We all learned that bad grades will happen and that this school is good about giving enough homework, projects . . . to help offset a bad day.  (Or eek!  A bad week!)
4.  Cinnamons and apple bits are also known as synonyms and antonyms.  Vocabulary at her previous school was just a spelling test.  They were fairly easy words and no definitions or any digging into the words themselves was done.  It is here.  Last night I decided to have K write all of her words, synonyms and antonyms on pieces of paper.  She was then set to task to match them all up.  We did it over and over and hopefully, that will help her to retain that information.  Spelling is copying words daily and spelling tests beginning Tuesday of test week.  We seem to have licked that one.  Definitions for other subjects are on index cards and quizzed.  We're working out the study pieces.  If we can keep the test anxiety down, her focus on her paper (hello ADD child of mine though not diagnosed) and encouraging her to continue to keep organized, those pieces will fall all into place and grades will continue to rise.

We are so very proud of K.  This was a HUGE jump, an ENORMOUS change and a difficult challenge for her.  We're still tweaking and figuring it out.  She's working on getting a grade certificate next time.  Until then, we work, we tweak and we study.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The open enrollment report

It may not be a good choice for all people, but it is working for K.  Considering that she essentially skipped 5th grade (except for maybe what would qualify as one grading period worth of some teaching) she is holding her own and doing well.  Her grades are what they usually are-- a combo of A's and B's and we are definitely not complaining.

The curriculum is more intuitive with math.  It is more difficult in other subjects.  She has gotten past that wonky period of "take a few tests to see how this study pattern goes . . . "  She has brought her vocabu-lit grade up from an initial 70% to a 100% this week.  My baby has got a groove with that.  The math went from a 70% to a 96%.

Can we sit for a moment and celebrate 70% as a first test score as a MONUMENTAL MOMENT?  Last year, her math scores began at 33%.

She has started violin maybe 3 1/2 weeks ago.  At 2 weeks, she was busting out Ode to Joy in the living room because, well, "Mom, I learned it last year in recorder and just knew it."  So she learned something on a non-string instrument, but took a year of harp, and translated it to an instrument that she had been playing for only 2 weeks.  Someone got her musical skillz and she certainly didn't get them from me.

My good friend, Heather, is a professional musician.  She plays, you have it right, violin.  She knows that K is technically a year behind on orchestra violin at this school, so she insisted that I bring her for a bit of an encouragement round up to get her rolling in the right direction.  She told me yesterday, "The music that they gave her for the program is second year music.  She is doing great with it.  Most kids wouldn't.  Don't worry.  She's doing well!"  So, she has second year music at 3 1/2 weeks.  :thumbs up:  My kid is musical and is holding her own.  Orchestra is two times a week and she needs to be there between 7:15-7:25 AM, ready to begin at 7:30 AM.  That leaves us leaving before 7 AM.

The spelling words are difficult, but she is consistently studying them.  We found out this last week that she has 5 bonus words per test.  Bonus to us means EXTRA points.  No, no.  They are NOT extra points.  They are from previous spelling lists and are expected to be known.  That's a great thing, but I probably would have used a term other than "bonus."

The gym teacher is more like a drill sergeant.  My heavens.  That man means business.  It's not a bad thing.  K has gotten used to boot camp for gym and not play time.

She just did a class project with a boy she was assigned to work with.  It seemed to be a good match of energy and she really enjoyed working with him.  It's a good thing.

She's making friends.  They seem to have accepted her as one of their own.

It's not something that would always work for everyone, but we have a one.  Open enrollment is working for us.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

So far, so good.

Our morning commute presently starts at 7:30 AM.  My dear, sweet cousin Janeen commutes further than I do and she is in the MIDDLE of the snow belt.  We'll be entering the secondary snow belt in the winter and with that and orchestra on Fridays, our leave time will be shifted.

Heavens!  There is a HUGE difference between a poorly performing district and one that is excellent rated.  Here are some surprises:

1.  They practice vocab-lit.  Their vocabulary, which is also their spelling words, comes from literature that they will be reading chunks of.

2.  The spelling list is from the vocal-lit.  This round includes prodigious, supercilious and chivalrous.

3.  To our absolute excitement, there is NO Envision Math!  That stuff is evil.  The math seems more commonsense (for now) and K and M seem pleased.

4.  Respect and rules are strongly enforced.  They are reasonable, but without flexibility on enforcement.  That is good.

5.  D.A.R.E. is a once a week program that is already built into the curriculum.

6.  They were asked to run for 12 minutes in gym class.  K didn't quite make it, but she's working on it.

7.  The 6th grade as a whole are learning to play guitar as a part of their curriculum.

8.  Dress code is pretty relaxed.  She finally started wearing shorts this week.  The building has no air conditioning and it is getting rather warm in there.

9.  Her art teacher is one of my good customers.   They did contour drawing on day one.

10.  K has her first e-mail address.  School issues an e-mail address to every student.  They use the computers in the library and media center.

11.  All of their forms and such for the entire district are online.  They don't even print report cards!

Thus far, we are pleased with moving K onward.  It might be a little bit of a drive, but we're hoping to give her the best that we can.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I had my open enrollment appointment this morning before work.  I had to drop K off at my mom's house then haul on up to the school board building.

I left a half hour and got there in 15 minutes.  That's good to know travel-wise for school here in a few weeks.  It is a few exits ahead on the expressway.  15 minutes early is good.  It shows them that we take this seriously.

I get to the building, get buzzed in and see someone at the window.  I stand there for a few minutes and finally figure that perhaps I should take a seat.  I hear a lot of, "Well, did you do the online enrollment?"  "Well, I did it on my tablet."  "Do you have this, do you have that?"  It seemed as though this visitor was a bit unprepared.

She steps away and the woman next to me looked to see if they needed her next.  (She was there before me.)  "No, I need Amy now."  I'm up.  :deep breath:  We went over the paperwork.  All the online enrollment was successfully completed.  All of the paperwork they needed for enrollment was sent in back in February.  They just needed to verify all of it.

-- The official birth certificate that we purchased from the county for the bargain price of $22 and had the official embossment on it wasn't good enough.  They needed the original in order to verify it.  Since the original birth certificate took 11 1/2 months to arrive, it is dated almost 2 years after K's birth date.  I figured that they would question it.  I was armed with the actual adoption decree, but it turns out that they didn't need it.

-- Immunization records needed updated.  (There was one shot in April that wasn't on the copy they had.)

-- Residency needed verified.  I had a copy of the house deed, the city utility bill and the electric bill.  Since I sent the city utility bill in February, they just verified that.

Since I was responsible and followed all instructions, I was back out of there in probably a lil over 5 minutes.  The lady thanked me profusely for having my papers in order and having everything handled.  (Adopt a county kid and you become proficient at inches of paperwork very quickly.)

Then she said something that will stay with me forever.  With a smile on her face, "Welcome to S-."

:hand on my heart:

Hoping that this venture in schooling is a wondrously positive change for K.  I pray good things for her.  I pray that she gets past her nervousness about being the "new kid."  I pray that her teachers teach.  I pray that she learns.  I pray that it is a positive atmosphere, as last year definitely was not.

I just want good things for her.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Handing off those school uniforms.

I got a call on Monday that will most certainly change my child's life in some big capacity.  She was accepted for open enrollment to the school system in the city where my in-law's live.

This open enrollment opportunity dates back to the packets of information that I sent out on February 1.  I sent open enrollment packets out to three schools.  By the end of June, we received a denial from our first choice school.  They didn't have the room for K and I knew that.  It didn't hurt to try.  A few weeks ago, we got a denial from our 3rd choice school.  We weren't real jazzed about that school for a few different reasons.  They seemed a lil snarky about open enrollment and frankly, it is an area much, much further over our financial level and basically K would end up being the poor kid.  Since it was already August, I figured by this point that school #2 was toast because we hadn't heard anything and -- IT'S AUGUST!

So the call comes through.  I try to track K down.  Now, I can most normally catch that child at some point, but my MIL and K went swimming.  I tried K's cell.  No luck.  I tried MIL's cell.  No luck.  I tried my FIL's cell.  No luck.  I tried the house phone.  Finally, my FIL answered, but said that they were out swimming.


K asked for a family meeting.  We needed to hash out some details about the transfer that would make her feel good.  We assured her that the same drop off/pick up schedule would still apply as before.  I would be able to take part in SOME PTA activities at this school, so she'd still see me around.  We also said that if she/we chose to make this switch-- this is it.  This will be her forever school and we will not transfer her out to another one.  After all of these things, she decided that she did want to go there.

A perk but not a deciding factor?  No uniforms!

We released her to make the information public.  She told some friends from elementary school.  She would have been moving on to the big, scary middle school with them.  We did discuss that though she is moving and it is joyous and there were many, many concerns we had about the middle school, these friends are still attending there and we want to be a lil low level so not to dog on their school.  She handled it well.

We mamas were talking last night and it hit me that the one could probably use the pants I had purchased for K.  I bought them secondhand, so there was no way I could return them and K assured me that there would be no way she would wear them.  (Can't blame her.)  I was running through the house last night at 10 PM gathering uniform pieces to give off.  M asked, "What are you doing?"  "GIVING UNIFORMS AWAY!"  I warned her that almost all was hanging on the basement lines and have a basement smell, but all are clean.  She can use them this year or next, but we were able to pass polos, pants, sweaters and shorts on to someone who could use them.

I don't believe K will ever wear khaki pants or polo shirts again.  Well, not unless a job requires them.

So that leads me to today's adventures.  I will, for the first time, be able to take my daughter school clothes shopping.  We're kind of excited.  We have a few stores to hit to return new shirts we bought and while we're there, we can look at fun clothes!

Aside from the clothes thing and that not being a factor into changing schools, we're taking K from a school system that is suffering into an excellent rated school system.  There are so many opportunities that will be made available to her.  She's going to try to get involved with orchestra and she's looking forward to getting details about swim team.  Academically they are so much stronger and we had major safety concerns about K at the other school.

We prayed.  We prayed that God would do his will.  We told K that this is how God answered our prayer.  I told her that we still need to pray.  She's concerned about being the new kid.  I told her I get it, but we'll get through it.

Changes.  My baby is growing up.