Thursday, January 22, 2009

D Is Also For Disconnected...and Dripping Dog

OK, I'll admit that since my last post, I've been pretty distracted (still) with S.

I have received several nudges lately regarding both blogs and the obvious fact that there has been nothing new to read since "Divulging" was posted. So an explanation is probably in order.

Here it is:

My wireless connection has been giving me problems for weeks, and last week, it quit working completely. After several hours (and days!) of working with my computer, S came up with the solution of abandoning the wireless completely (so much for surfing the 'net in the dark corners of my home) and connecting right to the modem. Brilliant. Much better than the original idea of running out to Costco and purchasing a new computer with a functional wireless card. Now that I have a great boyfriend, I don't need to hang out in Starbucks with my laptop, pretending to do important market research and data analysis of Pilates demographics, anyway. I'm very content just being connected again.

Then there's the issue of the dog, Molly. And her little hormonal issue. Seems that I procrastinated on the spay visit to the vet just a wee bit too long. Have you ever shared a home with a dog in heat? Without getting too gory, let me just say that my Swiffer has never had so much action. And B, my 5-year-old, now knows waaaaaayyyyyyy too much about "girl problems."

My mom just informed me, with the smallest hint of "I told you so," that the drips will continue for approximately 25 days. So here it is on public record: "Yes, you were right, Mom. Thank you for reminding me 188 times to call the vet for an appointment during December. I should have listened to you. You are (almost) always right."

Let's hope that the next "D" report can be for "diminishing," as in Molly's fluid output. Did I mention "disgusted" yet?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Open Enrollment. Or, Open the Prozac & Pass It To The Parents In My Neighborhood

The much anticipated, talked about, dreaded event of OPEN ENROLLMENT is here and I am losing more sleep than ever, trying to decide on a school for B next year.

When I was a child, my mom walked me into the school in our neighborhood and I proceeded to spend my elementary years there. Same for junior high. And high school. Different schools, of course.

My parents never spoke in hushed tones about the school's "performance." Never did I hear my mother utter the words to another mother: "But what about those test scores? Don't you think you can do better?"

I remember being challenged and entertained in my elementary years. Not so much in the later years but that's another topic. To this day, I don't know how a web site like Great Schools would even rate my childhood schools. And who really cares? I went on to finish four years of college and land corporate marketing gigs in the Bay Area with the perks that make parents proud...big office, big salary, big travel budget. I don't have those anymore but I think my parents still get a lot of joy out of telling people that one of their daughters worked for VISA.

So why can't I do the same with B...that is, walk him into our neighborhood school and sleep at night, knowing that he is getting the best education possible and that he will grow up to be wildly successful and support his hippie yoga mom who can't seem to make her way back into the corporate world?

We live in an award winning school district. At least that's what the school district's web site says. But the thing is, there are some great "California distinguished" schools in our district and some of California's worst also in our district. And therein lies the problem.

The very confusing and identity-challenged San Juan Unified School District has about a dozen schools that are "open," meaning that anyone, regardless of residential location, may attend. It's all based on a lottery, or so "they" say. These "open" schools are very desirable and highly rated. So I shouldn't have been shocked when I recently, well, like just TODAY, learned that the school around the corner from me, which is also an open school, may only be OPEN to those who are "hand-picked" by the staff. What is WRONG with this school district???

When you have a baby in my neighborhood, the conversation immediately goes from "Congratulations!" to "Where will you open enroll him/her for Kindergarten?" I feel like I have been talking about San Juan schools for the better part of five years and I am so sick of it. And now that we're smack dab in the middle of Open Enrollment, I can't walk through Trader Joe's, Starbucks or my place of employment without hearing the same conversation:

"Where are you enrolling B for next year? Oh, I don't think that school is so great. Have you considered this one? No, wait, this school is absolutely the best. Really. You MUST send your child there. Check the ratings. Yeah, the parents might be a bit snobby and you may not fit in at all, but B will go on to Stanford and probably on a full ride scholarship and you really, really don't want to screw up his education in the early years, now do you???"

Enough. Already. Please.

This last year, it was easy. B was (is) a young Kindergartner and we (my ex and I) originally planned to send him to a private Pre-K program. I also put B's name into a lottery for a local charter school, which also happens to be accredited by Montessori. We've known several families who have used this particular school as a Pre-K, then the children have moved on and repeated Kindergarten (quite successfully) at more structured schools.

I received an 11th hour call while on vacation this summer from the charter school with the good news that B's name had been pulled. We spent a day scrambling to find uniforms, completing the paperwork, and meeting the other parents and children at orientation.

The school has three advantages. First, it is free. The Pre-K programs that we looked at were very expensive and given the state of the economy now, I'm not quite sure how we would have managed the steep tuition. Second, it's in my neighborhood. We can't quite walk, but I do have the ability to work right up until a few minutes before pick-up. Third, it's the longest Kindergarten program, in terms of daily duration, in the area. I drop B off at 8:15am and pick him up at 2:00pm. There isn't any child care included in this block of time; it's all curriculum.

Sounds great, right? Well, maybe. But maybe not.

My good friend, S, also has her daughter in the program and we are constantly lamenting the fact that the school just doesn't have the best energy to it. In fact, the school isn't even on a "real" campus; the classrooms are situated in an old medical building. The kids have a very limited playground and there isn't a lunch room.

And then there are the parents. Some are wonderful, truly lovely people who I would imagine that we could enjoy getting to know at birthday parties and soccer games. And the others? I can't quite put my finger on it, but the word apathetic comes to mind. Which is ironic because the school requires a yearly commitment for participation from all parents.

What concerns me the most about B's current school is the fact that it isn't rated as highly as the "open" schools in our district. And I don't get it. If Montessori's curriculum is so fabulous, then why aren't the kids scoring higher on the state tests? Truth be told, my son's school ranks just fine among other neighborhood schools and if I didn't have access to a wealth of information via the Internet, I would probably be happy as a clam with his progress and the performance of the school

Really, I should be glad that B is exposed to such a diverse curriculum every day. Just last month, he came home and rattled off the names of the continents and the oceans. He did a full-blown science project on the leaf cutter ant and can tell anyone who might be curious about the ant's habitat and its prey, lifespan, and adaptations for survival.

If I walked him into our "assigned" neighborhood school next year, he would go back into Kindergarten and spend the first few months learning colors, shapes and textures. That's just the kind of school that it is and it infuriates many of the neighborhood parents. Meanwhile, the "hand-picked" kids around the corner spend the first week learning about the eco-system. Given that B is spinning a globe each day, signing "please" and "thank you", and reciting how many times a leaf cutter ant's jaw vibrates in a minute (that would be 1,000!), maybe we're actually in a decent program.

Still, I've made it a point to ask as many people as I can about the reputation of his school. In fact, I have several clients who are local school teachers and have asked them, point blank, for their thoughts. And no one has given me anything compelling.

So I found myself, just today, at the District office indicating my three choices of "open" schools for next year. Around me, there was more of the same chatter and just a little bit of panic, too. C'mon, let's face it...we all can't win in the "open school lottery" and I'm not the only one who knows this. But, I guess you if you have an affluent, nuclear and very good looking family, you might be HAND-PICKED and in that case, there's nothing to worry about.

Apparently it takes the District's computer system a full four months of churning data before it can spit out the results of the lottery UNLESS you happen to be slipping bribes to the open school in my neighborhood and your child is HAND-PICKED for their rich and stimulating curriculum.

For right now, I'm going to be grateful that B is not screaming bloody murder about going to school in the morning and I'm going to be very, very grateful that Open Enrollment ends today. And, like every other parent, I'm praying to every god that I don't screw up the educational future of my child...

Monday, January 5, 2009

D is for Divulging

Recently, actually, well before Christmas, I had my first blog meme assignment by "Heart At Preschool" She challenged me to write something about the letter D. I think the actual assignment was to come up with ten things I like that begin with the letter D but I'm going to tinker with that plan a bit and use the opportunity to share some really good dirt (at least I think it's pretty good) and an explanation as to why I've been so darned distracted lately. This whole post is a bit daunting and I've been more than a little freaked out by actually hitting the "Publish" key but here goes...

DEEP breath.

The short version is that I'm done with online dating. And all other forms of dating, at least for the time being. And not just because I'm taking a well-deserved break. I actually met someone via Match.

I'm not kidding myself. This could be very detrimental; this sharing of information. Certainly, it's one thing to dish on your love life with a handful of close family members and friends, but to write it down and share it with the whole world is just downright dicey. And a bit daring. Donchta think?

Fortunately, I think that the other person (let's call him "S") is on board and down with the idea.

Now for the details...

I was in the process of scrapping all my online dating subscriptions and being a little disillusioned with the whole dating scene when S's message appeared. He appeared to be different from the others in the way that he deftly crafted interesting and well-spoken correspondence.

We spoke on the phone, met for a drink and I knew I was ready to dive in.

Unfortunately, I had to leave for Palm Springs but we kept the communication going at rapid fire pace. We agreed, after hundreds of text messages and late night phone calls, that we were both heading in the same direction.

Since the relationship is so new, S still has a lot to discover about me.

In time, he'll figure out that I'm not as disciplined as I appear to be. He'll probably be surprised to learn that I don't like diamonds. And he may be appalled by the fact that I can go for days without washing my hair. But then again, he does know that I'm a yoga instructor, so there shouldn't be too much shock over the above description.

He will, at some point, find out that if I don't have enough Downward Facing Dogs (i.e. - yoga) in my week, that I can become pretty deranged. Then there's my little drug problem...I have enough sleeping pills in my medicine cabinet to knock out a small country. I think he already knows that I should probably drink more decaffeinated coffee, instead of the regular stuff.

Interestingly, S has already met my Dad and that didn't scare him off so he probably has a decent threshold for family dysfunction, I mean, dynamics. At some point, he'll probably encounter B's dad, which I hope is not a total disaster.

S will come to understand that just about any problems in my world can easily be solved by eating dark chocolate, drinking Frappuccinos and wine (preferably not at the same time), and having lots of discussion. My lifestyle will probably drive him crazy at times, as I read every food label for added dyes (read more about this on the "Luscious" blog), voice my opinions about dead animal consumption, and shun disgusting food choices.

He'll see the sides of me that value direction and decisiveness and my dislike of dissension and indifference.

More importantly, I think he'll very quickly realize that he's picked someone who's diverse, self-deprecating, not at all demanding, low on the drama, and very devoted, as my Google name suggests.

So 2009 is already looking to be different.

And I'm definitely depleted in the "D" word department. Did I miss any?

Thanks, HAP, for the challenge!