Friday, July 29, 2011

Another Macy Story....

Macy is doing very well in school…. Now. She is going into 10th grade and is doing just fine. Things were not always this way. Middle school was rough. 6th grade seems to have a tough curriculum so Macy was kept busy just trying to keep up. It is kind of a transition year. More lectures and homework but a lot of busy work like coloring maps and writing sentences for spelling words. So behaviorally, things did not become really rough until she entered 7th grade.

Macy needs structure. She needs limits and she needs to be held to them. That is what we told all of Macy’s 7th grade teacher’s. We explained that Macy can be challenging, she will take an inch and run a mile. Almost all of Macy’s teacher’s appreciated and followed our advice, with one exception: Mr. B.

We went in before the first day of school and talked to Mr. B. He was Macy’s science teacher. He had years and years of experience. He was quiet and reserved and just said to us that he could handle his students. We said ok, we were happy to hear it. Pepper and I told him to let us know if there were any problems. He called us for a conference about 4 weeks later.

When we came in to the room Mr. B. seemed pretty confident that he was still in control. He said things with Macy were going well. He said she needed about 5 minutes at the beginning of the class to make jokes and be funny and then she sat down and he could run the rest of his class. This did not sound like a good idea to Pepper and I. We asked if any other student in the class got this privilege. He said no, but it was ok. He and Macy had an agreement and he even seemed amused by our girl. We left a little concerned.

About 5 weeks later, we got another call to come in and talk to the science teacher. At this meeting, Mr. B explained that Macy was now making jokes and keeping the class off topic for 15-20 minutes per class period. He mentioned that he was having trouble with her making off topic remarks even during his portion of the class. We again told him that Macy should not be given ANY time to act out. That he should stop giving her these special ‘comedy central’ times and make her participate like the rest of the class. He said no, he thought that would be too harsh at this point in the year but maybe after the winter break he would get things back on track.

Our next meeting, just after the winter break had Mr. B a little more upset. He had taken away Macy’s time in the front of the class, so she was just standing by her desk and talking over him and when he asked her to leave the room, she would be loud and disruptive about it. Several other staff members were present at the meeting and they decided to set up a plan to reward Macy for being good in the room. These rewards included getting to leave the room early at the end of class, special treats from the social worker and suckers from the office. The team also set up ‘break times’ for Macy to be able to leave the room if she was becoming overwhelmed. All these rewards were to be doled out by Mr. B to ‘re-establish his authority’ in the classroom. Throughout this meeting it was clear that Mr. B was not finding amusement in our daughter anymore.

We went a good 4 weeks without hearing anything and I am a firm believer in the theory “no-news-is-good-news” when suddenly we received messages to come for a meeting. The most concerning thing about the request was that Pepper and I BOTH had phone messages to come in for a conference from the teacher, principal and social worker. Six phones messages to come in to talk about your child in one day is NEVER a good sign.

When we came to the meeting we immediately noticed a new player at the table. This gentleman was introduced to us as the union representative for Mr. B. Uh-oh. I am on the executive council of our school union…. These people did not get called in without reason. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew this was moving to a new level. The principal told us that the issue with Macy had become more serious and explained that Mr. B would give us the details. When I looked at Mr. B I saw a man who would have rather been tied to a busy subway train track than talk at this meeting. He stammered and sweated and gave no eye contact while he explained the problem.

In a nut shell, and after a very long and drawn out distraught explanation, we learned that the problem was that Macy was loudly saying in the front of the class that Mr. B was looking at her chest instead of in her eyes when he spoke to her. She basically was calling him a pervert. This terrified Mr. B. …with good reason. Teachers lost jobs, careers, family, livelihood, everything over these kinds of accusations. I truly felt bad for the man, but also… in the back of my mind I kept thinking: I TRIED TO TELL YOU! WHY DIDN’T YOU LISTEN!!

The union rep explained that the simple fix would be for Pepper and I to sign a form stating that we would not hold Mr. B accountable for the information Macy was saying in class. It took me about 3 seconds to say absolutely not. I was not signing away my child’s rights to be heard and I had no idea what was going on in that class nor did I know Mr. B well enough to trust his story.

The principal came up with an alternative suggestion. He felt we should change Macy’s class to another science that was offered at the same time with a different teacher. It took me about 10 seconds to say no to this idea too. I could see the teacher’s mouth drop when we explained why. Pepper and I explained that if we moved her now Macy would know that every teacher had their limit. We said that for the rest of her school career she would push and taunt and make life miserable for any teacher that she did not like until she could get out of the class. We explained that on several occasions we tried to talk to Mr. B and tell him about Macy and he told us each time that he was an experienced teacher and he could handle her. At this point, feeling the threat of defeat Mr. B. looked at us with tear-filled eyes and said he could not handle Macy. I felt bad for him, even though he couldn’t give Pepper and I eye contact…. He really did only look as high as our boobs.

As a compromise, a para-educator was placed in the classroom for the remainder of the year. Not to help with academics so much as to be an extra set of adult eyes in the room to make sure everything was handled appropriately. There were to be no more special treats or rewards for Macy…. She was to be treated like everyone else, although breaks were still permitted because those seemed to be most effective.

When we got home we pulled Macy aside and told her she could not talk meanly about Mr. B anymore. She told us what she said was true. We asked her if it was nice. She admitted no. We asked her if he ever touched her or did anything inappropriate. She said no, but he gave her the creeps. We said we understood, but that wasn’t illegal. (We agreed about the creepiness but did not say so!) We explained that she had to pass his class and being nice and respectful was the only way that would happen. (Macy was actually very good at science so the grades were never a concern) She tried to argue and we told her if she did not pass we would make sure she had Mr. B again the following year. (He did teach 8th grade science too….. but I’m sure he’d have opted for early retirement rather than have Macy a second year!) That fact was enough to keep her in line for the rest of the year though. We did make it through 7th grade science with Macy….. she got her lowest grade ever in science that year…. But passed. We were very grateful. ☺

A Happy Camper

Isn’t this a beautiful RV behind Pete? It isn’t ours. We would actually be spending our camping days in a tent if it weren’t for Uncle K loaning us his RV. (Uncle K’s RV is not the one pictured…. This one is actually Pepper’s parent’s neighbors. This one is way out of my league…. And a teacher’s pay grade! I did get a tour of this one though!)

During Dori’s graduation party he mentioned to Pepper that his was available and Pepper said, “Thanks!” But Uncle K misunderstood and thought she was being sarcastic and really did not want to use it. (Pepper really is more of a room service type gal! She only camps because I like it.)

Pepper realized he thought she wasn’t serious and stopped him saying, “”No, no! I’d love to use your RV…. It will keep me from having to stay in a tent!!” Uncle K thought that was pretty funny. I took the first chance I could to go over and learn the ins and outs of his RV so I would know how to work everything.

This week was hot…. Heat index over 100 hot… so the A/C in the RV was definitely helpful! Both Pepper and I have though of Uncle K fondly many times this trip because his RV was sooooooooo much better than tent camping would have been! (When it wasn’t super hot it was super rainy!)

Uncle K sent me a text and asked how everything was and I replied to him saying that everything was great except that I did not tighten the sway bar enough on the way so it rocked quite a bit while I was driving. His reply was typical Uncle K… he quickly shot back another text saying that he didn’t think he’d ever hear me complain about a rocking RV!! ;) I am a happy camper!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Macy is home!

We’ve been camping this week, but we went home to pick up Macy from the airport. She had been in the Boston/Acadia area for 12 days. That felt like a long time to me, but she knew the group she went with and I knew she’d have fun.

Their plane was late. Over an hour late and Pepper and I got to the airport early in anticipation. We had large airport coffees that just made me feel jittery and even less patient as we hung around waiting. The other parents sat together with Pepper and I and chatted about everyday things.

One Mom was getting frequent updates from her aviator husband that was home online following the location and speed of the plane and sending them to her. “23,000 feet and 433 miles per hour”,she’d say. Then a few minutes later, “27,000 and 447 miles per hour”. It was interesting and I said little prayers to myself thankful we weren’t getting messages like “15,000 feet decelerating fast….” She did have a few horror stories like pilot error and engines being turned off accidentally mid-flight, but these were mild and all turned out fine, nothing too bad considering she probably knew worse.

Baggage claim, where we were waiting is in the basement. So when the kids got off the plane and headed to meet us they have to come down an escalator. We saw Macy at the top of the escalator at about the same time she saw us. There was an older woman with what had to be a grossly over-sized carry on suitcase standing just in front of our group. Macy looked antsy and anxious enough to get to us that I was worried for the woman’s safety. I knew there was no way Macy could get around the woman safely. I sent little mental messages to her to relax and try to be patient. At the bottom, Macy squeezed expertly around the woman and made a beeline right for us. The hug she gave me almost knocked me off my feet. It was so good to have her home.

We heard lots about her trip and saw lots of pictures (Macy had taken over 800 pictures in the 12 days she’d been gone) Admittedly, many of them were of “Hotties” that Macy passed on the journey. It is good to see a trip through the eyes of a 15 year old again. We heard lots about the hiking, the music, the long drives, people they met on the way… but my favorite story actually happened after we got back to camp.

When we got back to the group at camp, J asked Macy if she’d had fun. Macy said, “Yes, it was a good trip, but I missed Salt and Pepper even more than I missed my cell phone!” In the world of our 15 year old, that is big, really big. ☺

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fridge Cleaning

This is our fridge. It is right after I have cleaned it and before we went grocery shopping. Notice the glass shelves in it? Pepper and I did not buy this fridge, it was in the house when we moved in. But years ago when I lived with my Mom, she and I bought a fridge. She wanted one with white shelves and I wanted one with glass shelves.

I said I ‘liked the look’ of the glass shelves better and she told me that if we got that fridge I would be the one that had to clean them, implying that stains and spills were more obvious on clear glass. I agreed. Similarly to the way Dill agreed to clean the cat boxes every day if we let him get his cats, Jinx and Binx. Meaning, I had no intention of holding up my end of the bargain past the first week. And, also similar to the way we are making Dill clean the cat boxes, my mother had no intention of letting me out of the fridge cleaning task.

So, I cleaned the fridge out every week or so on grocery-shopping day and I started liking those stupid glass shelves less and less. When Pepper and I had to buy our first fridge for our first home, I insisted on white shelves. Pepper did not seem to care one way or the other so we bought the one with white shelves. Do you know what I learned? White shelves stay no cleaner than clear ones! Ok, maybe milk doesn’t show up as well on the white, but any other spill shows up just as well, if not more so!

When my mom came to visit I mentioned this fact to her and she just smiled. Then she said, “I know, but I always hated cleaning out the fridge.”

My mouth dropped because I realized I had been duped! By my own mother! I realized that had I said I really liked the white shelves all those years ago, Mom would have implied that those were harder to clean and I’d still have been the one to have to clean them!

Nowadays, I’m still the one that usually cleans out the fridge, although if I ignore it long enough Pepper will take on the task. Every once in awhile when J comes to visit she will take it upon herself to clean it out and it thrills me when she does. But no matter who cleans it, opening the fridge and seeing clean shelves always reminds me of my mom and how she tricked me. I can’t help but smile. ☺

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lucky at Love

Last week, Pepper and I got into a pretty big argument. We both knew we were right and the other person was wrong. We also both knew the other person was making a much bigger deal about the situation than was necessary. And we were both tired. We decided that it was an insurmountable disagreement. It was over unless the other person admitted a million wrongs and swore a blood oath to always admit their failure. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but when you are mad it seems that way.

An amazing number of people in our lives seem to be ending relationships.

When I was little, my parents had an agreement that the one that decided to end their relationship would be the one to take the kids. All of them. 100% of the time. No shared custody there. They joked about it but they did stay together. Neither ever left for long. They would have heated arguments and things would get slammed. Dad would usually leave for a while but he came back. Once when I was about five I asked him why he came home. He told me Mom wouldn’t let him cross the street by himself. Huh, I thought at the time, she wouldn’t let me do that either.

As I am getting older, it seems like I see these distinct ‘life phases’ Pepper and I are going through. We went to lots of our friend’s graduation parties, then lots of weddings then lot of baptisms and birthday parties and now graduation parties again for our kids and our friend’s kids. There are funerals, retirement parties and hospital visits too…. Life seems to be following a well- beaten path that is comfortable and predictable. What isn’t comfortable is when dear friends and family around us suddenly end relationships. A lot of these relationships were ones that I was around to see the beginning of! The names of these couples roll off my tongue as easily as Tom and Jerry, Peanut butter and Jelly and Laverne and Shirley. Yet they split up.

The day of our big fight began as any other. Our whole family was getting along splendidly. We went out for the evening to see a ball game and had a great time. On the way home Pepper and I both said things that we didn’t mean. Well, maybe they wouldn’t have meant anything mean if we weren’t both so tired when we said them. But, we were and the argument snowballed even though the temperature was well over 90 degrees.

Instead of going to bed by 1 AM and dealing with it in the morning (and realizing it was just because we were tired) we stayed up until almost 5 just being mad. The whole time I wasn’t talking I was thinking in my head about the failed relationships of the people around me and how hard it was going to be to split up and deal with the house and finances and the kids and how horrible my life would be without Pepper. At 5 AM we hugged and called it a truce. Neither one of us choose to discuss the issue. There really was nothing to say that would have been better or more effective than that hug.

When our friends call us and tell us they are breaking up they will casually mention how lucky Pepper and I are that we are still together. In my head I think: It isn’t luck. It is hard work. It is compromises and listening when you are too tired to think. It is seeing the best things about someone when you really want to focus on the worst. It is knowing that there are a million great reasons to stay for every bad reason there is to go. It isn’t luck at all. But I am Irish and in my heart I do believe in luck…. So my quick answer is “Who else would want to have me?” Luckily, Pepper does. ☺

Monday, July 25, 2011


This is one of our cats, Jinx. He may look dead, but he isn’t. He and his sister Binx both came from Dad D’s sister’s house. They are both Dill’s. He thought it would be great to have pets, however he is regretting having ever said, “I’ll clean the cat boxes every day if I can have them, please, please, please!!” He does not like that we’ve been holding him up to doing the job. (Now he loves to say, “Let Pete do it, Please, please, please!!”)

I am not a cat person…. I like dogs. This fact is unknown to our cats. That is probably one of the reasons Jinx is laying in front of MY closet looking so cute. As I was taking this picture I was standing in a wet towel…. Wishing I had pulled out my clothing BEFORE I got into the shower!
For some unknown reason all three of our cats like to lay on the back of MY chair while I am in it. They never sit on the back of Pepper’s chair, they never sit with the kids. They all try to fit on the back of mine. If they were smaller this might not be such a problem. As it is, they typically half sit on the back of the chair and at least partially sit ON MY HEAD. I do try to be tolerant. Then they will start swishing tails, flicking my ear or thumping on my head as if to say, “please move, your head is in my way” Pepper thinks this routine is hilarious, me, not so much.

My favorite cat, isn’t even our cat. He sort of just showed up one day and is living in our garage. I was completely opposed to naming it or feeding it, because I thought that would make him feel welcome and too cozy. I wanted him to go back where ever he came from. Dill asked if it could possibly be pregnant…. We had not been close enough to it at that point to see the boy parts. So Pepper and I both ‘snuck’ out a little food for him that night because we were worried for the kittens. (I said I didn’t like cats, everybody likes kittens) Since then he has been on the same feeding schedule as our other cats.

This cat has had a “hard life” look that I admire. One of his ears has a cut along the top edge, like someone took toenail clippers to the tip. I told Dori one day that I thought we should call him “Clip” but she said it sounded too much like a word I didn’t even know she knew, but shouldn’t be surprised, she is 18 after all. It has many names at this point, Dumbledore, Captain Tuxedo, Kitty. I keep trying not to let any of them stick. I think who ever his real, permanent owner is some day should get to name him (and I am trying not to let that person be us!)

I know we should take him to the humane society. He really wants to be someone’s pet. He is super social and loves being around people. Sometimes when I am working in the garden he comes up behind me and rubs against my leg. It scares the heck out of me every time because I think it is a big spider or something. I worry though that no one will get past his rough exterior look and he won’t get adopted. I suppose I will need to make some decision by the time the weather starts to get cold. I think he already feels like he has a home…. But a FOUR cat family?! I am really trying hard not to be a cat person.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Camp guests

It is the middle of July and I am finally camping! …and blogging. I have been asked (read: reprimanded) by several people wanting to know why I have not put up any new posts lately. I guess my only excuse is that I have been doing other stuff.

For many camping trips, if we have room in the car, etc. we let the kids bring a friend to hang out with. It makes things go much smoother because then Pepper and I do not have to be the main “cruise directors” of each trip and have to find entertaining things for everyone to do… friend can provide entertainment.

Nothing teaches you better how truly trained your own children are until you take others for a long weekend! We took one kid (a friend of Macy’s) that lost his bike (we felt so bad that we couldn’t find it that we bought him a new one) We thought it had been stolen until a park ranger showed up with it at the end of the trip! Another child loved to poop. Seriously… in the RV. Big time. I am not sure what his mother fed him, but it wasn’t pretty… and the ventilation in our camper wasn’t as good as I thought. Pooping in the RV isn’t a big deal… its not like we make our kids hold it or feed them only hard cheese, but the shower house/flush toilets were just up the drive… our kids just know to use those. Many of the friends were messy. Underwear left in the middle of the floor, wet towels on the couch, spilled milk and cereal on the table those were all to be expected I suppose. One little friend of Dori’s woke up in the middle of the night. She came into our room and stood crying over us until we woke up…. That startled me a bit.

This trip we have brought just the boys (Dori is in Europe with Kiwi and Macy is on a church trip). We also brought along 2 siblings from church. These guests are (so far) my favorites. They are experienced campers. I am sure they could teach me a thing or two about ‘rustic’ camping. Boy guest is accident prone, daring and chatty. A lot cuter and more clever than I ever gave him credit for in church. Girl guest is charming. Polite, helpful, quiet but seems to be enjoying herself and a good leader for all the boys. She does a good job keeping boy guest in line and will also call for help saying things like, “He is not listening to me…. Could you tell my brother to step back from the fire before he burns his eyebrows off…AGAIN?!”

I was a bit worried about bringing them. One is vegetarian and the other is allergic to dairy. We eat lots of meat and dairy. As boy guest said, “Dairy products make me get really puffy and vomit…. A lot” Oh goody! And girl guest mentioned that her tofu hamburger could not come into contact with any meat products. A little tricky when cooking for 6 on a grill smaller than the average comic book.

But darn if they aren’t the most independent, self-sufficient kids I’ve met. They hauled in their own stuff, found spots to stow their gear, set up their own tent, bait their own fish hooks and I only have to tell them things once! We’ve had them with us less than 24 hours, but things are looking good so far.

I am a bit concerned that their Mother will be mad at us when we return. I am sure she won’t be happy that they ate pop-tarts for breakfast (they had never had anything except the whole grain kind they get at the food co-op). They also went up to the camp store/arcade. I went to check on them… Boy guest was holding a plastic rifle shooting at make believe bad guys and girl guest was watching, a candy cigarette dangling from her bottom lip. :)