Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's mid-life crisis season

It's tax season.  As I prepared our tax returns this year, I realized how much I miss individual taxation.  I mostly live in the world of flow-throughs and corporations and while flow-throughs are related to individual tax, it's not exactly the same.  And when you owe money with your own tax return, it's not exactly the same.  My birthday passed at the beginning of the month so I'm feeling all mid-life crisis-y and questioning what I've done with my career because at this point, it's a bit late for any drastic changes.

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all I have to do.  I just can't keep up and I spend my weekends running laundry and trying to clean instead of enjoying the weekend.  Cleaning is like a circular reference - it never ends.  I can never catch up.  When we do leave the house on the weekend, I feel like I fall even farther behind.  Once the kids are in bed at night and I've eaten dinner, I'm done and too tired to clean or focus on much of anything.  I've been trying to go to bed early too.  I find that life is more bearable when I'm not exhausted.

Okay, topic change.  I managed to get this picture one night last week.  It was right before the photography blue hour so the blue isn't deep but I needed to take the picture hand held so pre-blue hour it was.  Anyway, see the star?  There was a big crescent moon out there one night hanging low but it is still far too cold for me deal with the tripod outside.

mar29

Been trying to pick up my camera more.  (Still need to order that 50mm lens.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Timed Tests and Turquoise

Once or twice a week, the second graders take a timed test of math facts.  There are 100 questions and they have 5 minutes to complete it.  The questions must be answered in the order in which they appear on the test.  You are not allowed to skip around.  Each teacher has different rules for determining how a student moves up to the next level.  I know when I attended Emily's open house back in the fall, her teacher stated that once a student received a 95 or greater three times in a row, he or she could advance to the next level.  I'm not sure what the rules are in Anna's and Allie's classes.  Anna thinks you just need to score a 100 once.

The girls were holding their own with the tests in the fall.  Shortly after school started back up after the Christmas break, we were told that all students regardless of their scores would be moving up to the next test level.  They were supposed to be practicing math facts for five minutes each night.  Now, five minutes can move pretty fast and because I was super busy with work, I was relying on the girls to take responsibility for that practice by going through flash cards or via an app on Grammy's phone.  The transition to the next level proved to be a bit difficult for the girls.  On the first test, Allie got hung up on 21-9 and only scored a 12.

So I took matters into my own hands.

There are two different versions of the test and the advantage to having three kids in three different classrooms is that I had both versions.  Our math fact practice turned into me sitting with each of them separately every night, even on the weekends, and practicing those math facts.  100 facts each sitting.  8+5 is a fact that just wasn't sticking so I created a repetitive song and dance using a stuffed animal.  8 plus 5 is 13.  8 plus 5 is 13.  8 plus 5 is 13.  One night, Emily just kept looking at 8+5.  I almost fell asleep waiting for her answer.  Finally, I asked, "Emily, you don't remember the song?"  "Oooohhhh. 13"  "Why do you think I've had stuffed animals singing and dancing all over the house?"

The girls are all getting high scores now.  Emily's pencil broke during her test on Tuesday so by the time she sharpened it, she couldn't catch up and only scored an 80.  "Why didn't you just grab a crayon, anything really, and just keep going?"  They all laughed at that because apparently, a boy in Allie's class last year had done just that with a pink crayon, which everyone had found hysterical.

After the parent/teacher conference with Anna's teacher in December and the IEP meeting in January, we had all agreed that maybe Anna would benefit from some additional help in math.  There was concern with her organization, memory and processing several steps at a time and although the average of her math scores was good, there were times that she scored low.  (The low scores would be offset with the very high ones.)  The school likes to be proactive and step in before a child falls, not after. Anna and I have been working really hard on her math facts and unfortunately, she missed a few of the timed tests due to doctor's appointments and then she was out sick.  I knew she was going to kick butt on her next test and she did.  She scored a 99 on her test last Friday!!!  Take that, hydrocephalus!  The extra help in math was simply working in a different group in class during math lessons and after that score and her recent in-class graded work, she no longer needs to be in that group.  She was so excited to tell me and called it her "big news."

One of the spelling words last week was turquoise.  It was a challenge word and only given to the kids who scored well on the pre-test on Monday.  A boy in one of their classrooms announced that his dad didn't even know how to spell it.  That was a challenge word all right.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Emily's Dreams

Our house is attached to and part of a hotel in China. We are staying there at the hotel and our room is Allie's room. We've been told that if we use a bathroom more than one time, wolves will appear. Emily needs to go to the bathroom so she uses the one in the hall. The second time she needs to go to the bathroom, I remind her that she can't use the one in the hall again so she'll need to use the one attached to the master bedroom but she forgets and she uses the one in the hall which means she has used a bathroom more than once and as she was warned, a pack of wolves appear.

After the dream, she appears at my bedside. We walk hand in hand to her room and I tuck her back into bed. She's fine. About an hour or so later, I hear her crying out in her sleep. "Do you want to go check on her?" I ask Rich. This is my way I've saying that I'm too tired to get up again. He gets up but hesitates in the doorway, waiting to see if she'll work it out. Nope. She wakes up and sprints into our room.

"Was it the wolves again?"
"No. A porcupine bit me in the back!"

She was laughing about those dreams the next day, which is why they are posted here, with her permission. After hearing the details of the first dream, I fear that my OCD, especially as it relates to public restrooms, may have been a contributing factor! I'm not sure where the wolves come from though. A few weeks ago, we spotted two coyotes traveling across the back of our property, behind what is technically the yard. We've seen deer, rabbits, a lone fox and on occasion, turkeys, which I'm betting the "on occasion" is due to the fox, but we had never seen coyotes. I'm sure the snow has made it difficult for wildlife though and they are traveling farther for food. I'm glad we have a fenced-in yard.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The first weekend of spring

At this point, all we can do is laugh.

mar23a

Thankfully, it was short lived and blended into what we already have once it decided to stop.  Why do I feel like I'll be wearing my Michelin Man jacket at Easter this year?

mar23b

mar23c

And then there was the matter of the first communion dresses.  The girls will be receiving their first communion in May and I didn't think it was late to be purchasing their dresses but apparently it was because there were some nice sales going on .  50% off thank you very much.  We ended up spending $100 total for all three dresses.  However, two of them need to be altered, which I will be doing unless I can convince Grammy to help with (the harder) one of the two.  I did allow the girls to pick their own dresses but unfortunately, the smallest sizes available were 6 and 7 and those seemed huge.  Huge as in several inches will need to be taken in throughout the tops.

We stopped at Chili's for dinner on the way home and ended up with a piece of plastic in one of our desserts.  Emily was the lucky winner of that prize.  It really wasn't a big deal.  It was actually kind of funny how Emily kept telling the story of how she figured out what it was.  We let the waiter know because we were guessing the plastic had broken off from the container holding the ice cream and someone should check it out lest a smaller piece end up in another customer's dessert.  The manager came over several times to apologize.  After his last visit to our table, Allie asked, "When is he going to stop saying I'm sorry?"  Rich and I tried to explain that it was his job to do so.  Her response was, "I feel like we're going to get home and the door bell's going to ring and he'll be standing there saying 'I'm sorry.'"  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Big Sky

Our home stands on what was once farmland.  Mature pines border the neighborhood while younger trees line backyards.  Presumably, the farm had been defunct for quite some time before the developer stepped in.  The decision to purchase this home wasn't one that I expected to make seeing as our first home was over 100 years old but sometimes life throws triplets at you and well, you do things you wouldn't think you would do.  I complain about the lack of mature trees on the street.  Sure, there are trees out back but otherwise, yards are somewhat barren, the house roasts in the sun during the summer and we're sitting at the end of a giant wind tunnel.

BUT this lack of trees combined with the position of our home affords us unobstructed, quite often beautiful, views of the sky, most especially in the evening when the sun is setting.  The neighbors probably think I'm nutso because quite often I can be found out front with my camera.  Sometimes in my pajamas.

mar21a

The sky was completely cloudless a few nights ago and there was one bright star that looked so fake I thought it was a plane even though flight paths are behind us.  Rich and I conferred and concluded that it was definitely a star as it hadn't moved in the time we observed it.  I waited until the blue hour (the time right after the sun disappears completely below the horizon) and attempted a hand held photo.  I was shaking so much from the cold that it was a complete failure and I needed to get the kids in bed so tripod setup was not an option.  Plus, I'm freaking cold and I'm so tired of being freaking cold.

I've slacked off on taking photos this winter.  I blame the weather for my lack of motivation.  I may need to give myself some projects to get back in gear.