Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 The 8th-grader

Today is such a cool date, what more is there to say?

Since it was Veteran's Day, both the school and CDC were closed, so the kids went to Tonya's so that Dave could go to work, and I could attend the last day of my training session (which regrettably was nowhere near as useful as it could have been, and I left at 3:30).

I got a Facebook message from someone I would never have remembered if he hadn't message'd me -- someone I barely knew in junior high school, but through another mutual junior-high-school friend (who I'm still in touch with), contacted me. It turns out my former 8th-grade classmate lives nearby, though our mutual friend is still in New York.

He mentioned he no longer had a class picture to remind me what he looks like, but I found my old junior-high yearbook and scanned his class photo to send to him. And mine while I was at it. I'm at the far lower right -- always in the corner because of either being a 'B' or the shortest one in class.

The thing I find really striking is that I remember our school being crammed with kids, so crowded between classes that you could barely move down the halls. Yet there were only 24 kids in my 8th-grade homeroom -- during the time that NYC was in such financial straits that it was firing teachers left and right and declaring bankruptcy?? How could that be?

Some of the answer comes from looking farther in the yearbook. I also sort-of remember that the classes were organized by skill level. In 7th grade, the classes were called "7-1, 7-2, 7-3..." etc, but those numbers weren't random. "7-1" was the highest-functioning class, with "7-21" or whatever it was, the least. "7-21" was filled with teenagers, many had been held back, had trouble with the law, dropped out due to pregnancy, most on welfare. "7-1" had all the caucasian kids (all 10-12 of us) and those who were working at grade level. This did not make for a friendly social environment for a short small white kid used to private school, let me tell you.

In 8th grade, it appears they renamed some of the classes to colors. I doubt that being in a "Gold" class did much for my reputation. That was the year that my former best friend tried to start a fight with me with the whole school following us chanting "Fight! Fight! Fight!" as she repeatedly pushed me.

Anyway, I notice that my "Gold" class had 24 kids, but some of the "8-number" classes had as many as 37 kids. And what little racial diversity we few Caucasians brought in was lost there. My memory was of the school being mostly black, with some Puerto-Rican, but photos show that even the black kids were in the minority -- most were Puerto Rican. Even in my "upper" class, there's only one other white kid in it.

It's almost funny that my own children have the same racial-minority experience -- but very very drastic difference culturally!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

11/10/11 The training

I've been in a training class all week, one I refused to miss even though I've been sick. Finally today I was able to attend temperature-free!

Which alerted me to the fact that the time management by the instructor has been pretty poor. He'll start late, then decide to try a new module and leave us for 15 minutes to go print it out. The hands-on labs are OK, but he allots 45 minutes for what should be a 15-minute exercise, then with breaks and questions they'd take over an hour. Today I waited over half an hour during an exercise that involved finding a partner who was ready to test with, then it turned out my partner -- the most capable person in the class -- hadn't read the instructions and gave me the wrong information. I had expressed some concern, asking if we'd have time to finish, and was assured we would, but on the afternoon of the last day, only 7 out of 16 items we needed to complete the course has been checked off. The content was good, the labs useful, but the whole thing could easily have fit in 2 days.

Better yet, I could have learned twice as much in the 4 days I've spent there. Some of the most important and interesting things I learned happened only because I pounced on a lab tech when the instructor unexpectedly left for the afternoon (!), and I asked some detailed questions that turned out to be far beyond the scope of the class and turned into an hours-long whiteboard session. OK so I hijacked the class, but this was important.

Sheesh. Don't they know who they're dealing with? I have a new obsession, without the aptitude or background to learn it easily or without a zillion questions and scenarios -- so don't mess with me! Pound me with information please!

However, perhaps more important in the training arena:

Tonight, Gabriel wanted me to go dig around in the garage for some toy he'd been missing for a while (an RC car I think). He'd been obnoxious at dinner, so I made him work for it: he had to help me, and a lot, to clean up dinner. I believe this should be old hat for an almost-10-year-old, but in practice in our lives, after dinner means shuffling kids off to bed or making up for homework not done before dinner. So they have no idea how -- or even that -- the kitchen gets cleaned up. It's just magic.

But thanks to Veteran's Day, tomorrow is not a school day, so Gabriel had extra time -- and thanks to wanting the RC car -- extra incentive -- to help. He rinsed dishes, loaded and started the dishwasher, swept the floor and took out the garbage. Yeah!!! This should happen every night -- if only we could get dinner done well before bedtime. He's quite capable of it, despite his complaints. And I won't always have such a strong motivator like an RC car. But boy was it good to see him doing some actual work for a change. And frankly, it was fun spending time alone with him and chatting with him while we worked together. He goes to bed a little later than the others, so I get some alone-time with him every evening and it makes my day, but we never spend it with him cleaning.

If only I had more time -- if I weren't so busy working and training -- I'd have a lot more time to train him -- and his entitled siblings -- to work! It'd be good for all of us.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

11/9/11 The training

I have so much more to say than what I'm about to write, but it's all I have the energy for right now.

This has been a weird week for me, since I've been attending a special training class at a company's headquarters conveniently located in Sunnyvale. Well, not SO convenient, since it's on the other side of Sunnyvale and is actually a with-traffic longer commute for me, but more convenient than some of my classmates. One flew from Tucson, and two others from Korea (!) to attend this class.

Sure would be nice if I weren't sick though. Sunday I was really not feeling well, then Sunday night, a temperature -- which I've pretty much had every morning and evening since. This evening is the first one since then that my temp reads normal and I don't feel chills and achy. If this holds, it means tomorrow will be my first morning at training class without fighting those chills and achiness too.

(Believe it or not, exercising has helped -- this class happens to be about 5 minutes away from the old gym I've belonged to since 1992, and I've been sneaking out at lunchtimes for a quick workout, which definitely helps!!)

Oh, OK, I'll quickly get this out: yesterday morning we met with Katrina's teacher for the first kindergarten conference. There's not much to say; Katrina's doing great. Her teacher says she's really quiet, and while slow with her work, she does finish. The only thing the teacher hoped to improve on is her social interaction, but she's not worried about it, and we're not either. Katrina just isn't a social butterfly type; she tends to be very independent and prefers smaller groups -- no surprise.

Her teacher did say also that the first time she tried to evaluate Katrina's reading, Katrina wouldn't answer basic questions, like the alphabet and sounds, so the teacher put aside the eval for a while and tried again later. The teacher saw that Katrina was reading fine, so tested her again, and this time Katrina was more cooperative and the teacher was able to evaluate that she's reading just fine.

The only other thing of note: I asked the teacher about Katrina's being on the young side, and the teacher said she can usually immediately identify the 4-year-olds who start kindergarten just by their behavior. Of course the teacher knows their birthdays, but she said that Katrina didn't exhibit that classic "oh yeah, that's a 4-year-old" behavior at all. That's a relief, because at home, she's still quite capable of throwing such an obnoxious tantrum that it brings the whole family down!

I really should be in bed by now, watching TV. Off I go!


Monday, November 07, 2011

11/7/11 Grumble!

Not again!

Katrina woke up throwing up at about 1:30am. Dave and I got up and cleaned her up (this was a "needs bath" event), changed her bedding, and took her temperature (none).

While the thermometer was out, I used it on myself too. I'd had a tough day myself, with a terrible terrible headache and feeling out of sorts, but also feeling compelled to get some work done so I could go to a training class today. Turns out, I had a 101.4 fever myself.

Perfect, I could stay home with Katrina anyway, right? No....I really wanted to go to this training! So I pretended it would go away, and I went to the training class. I knew I had a fever in the morning, but by afternoon it was mostly gone. Now I'm mostly tired and still find myself bending at the knees instead of bending down (to avoid any head rush because of the headache), but the worst is over.

If only poison oak healed so fast. It's incredible, my exposure to poison oak was so slight -- I'm not even exactly sure how or when it could have happened, but the consequences are brutal. The affected areas on my knees appear small, but the itch/pain are really deep and have lasted over a week now. This is the 3rd or 4th time I've gotten poison oak, and I didn't even get it that badly, but all events are memorable. It's awful.

The proper treatment for vomiting is fasting, but Katrina didn't agree with this. Dave says she complained all day about being hungry, but you're not supposed to give a vomiting kid anything to eat at all for 24 hours. By dinnertime, we agreed to give her a little toast, which she gobbled gratefully, then she ate some dinner too. There's only so much you can hold a kid back. I just hope her tummy can hold back!


Sunday, November 06, 2011

11/6/11 Little sick, no teeth

Friday morning, Katrina woke up throwng up, so no school for her. Dave and I divided sick-girl duty, so I was on with her for the afternoon. She was fine most of the time, a little lethargic, a little bored. Then I found her like this:

And she was out for a few hours. When she woke up, she said one of my new favorite interesting Katrina-sayings: I asked her, "How did you wake up this morning?" (meaning, did the throwing up wake you up, or were you already awake). She looked at me with that super-sincere direct look and deadpanned, "You know that thing, the THING that keeps you sleeping? ..... It stopped working!!"

But she did have a real temperature now, so she took it easy this weekend. Julian took her under his wing and read Pete Seeger stories to her for a while.

Gabriel is an official LatchKey Kid now -- we're not paying for CDC care for afternoons for him, so he must walk home. It rained a little this week, his first test, but not enough to be a real test.

Today during lunch, Julian was making his usual noisy open-mouth half-spitting-out disgusting chews, and then whaddya know, a tooth emerges from his mouth. "All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth!" -- and in his case, birthday too!

For me, this has been one heck of a weekend. I might be taking an all-day all-week training class next week, on unexpected notice, so I feel I must meet the commitments I'd made to work. I tried really hard to complete them over the weekend, but it was just too much.

On top of it, today was one of the worst physical-health days I've had in a long time -- mostly an unusually severe headache that is easily triggered by physical pressure. Bending down, raising my voice, running up stairs, coughing and even a hiccup sends jabs of pain through my head. Add to that some new physical ills from running: I took a nasty fall on Saturday and have bruises and bumps and scrapes on both knees, elbows and random pieces of fingers. But what I thought were flea bites on my legs I now think was another Rancho-related casualty: POISON OAK. I must have stepped off the trail to get something and brushed up just enough to poison small spots on my knees. Small, but awful.

So I'm a mess today, and feeling apologetic that I haven't been answering or initiating email as I should, but I've been feeling intense pressure to get work done that isn't fully doable (the famous "moving target") and just not sure how cool or uncool it is to take off for a week with almost no notice.

I guess if I had to pick one thing though, it would be the headache. This one is really severe, and I haven't had really severe headaches for a while, and even when I did, this counts among the most severe because it's so vulnerable.

At least I got the boys haircuts today, mostly against their will. But they look so handsome and dapper now!