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Archive for March, 2011

Busted Again

March 27, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been known to mutter some choice words when completely frustrated while driving.  This doesn’t matter whether the kids are in the car or not.  The other day I was driving home with the kids I had to slam on my brakes to not hit a car that cut me off.  I managed to hold my tongue.

Matthew, however, from the back of the car, made an observation: “You say ‘dammit’ when you crash into a car, right?”

Problems in School

March 24, 2011 1 comment

Right now, Andrea and I are having such a difficult time with Benjamin’s kindergarten teacher and it is tempting to pull him out of his current school and put him in the new school that he’ll be attending, anyway, now, instead of next year.  This not be the usual post I write and more of venting about Benjamin’s teacher, who I will call Mrs. X for the sake of this.

We first got a hint that there might be an issue when we went to the parent/teacher conference and we both got the vibe that Mrs. X was not a fan of Benjamin.  Anything nice she said about him seemed forced and the whole thing seemed less of a conference and more of a prepared presentation she had for us.  While we noticed the other kindergarten teacher was taking her time with parents, we noticed Mrs. X was shutting down discussions right at 15 minutes.  So, we thought maybe the vibe we were getting from her was just how she is with all parents.  However, it was obvious that she has forgotten what it’s like to be a parent with a kid in school for the first time.

The second quarter report card came a few months later and I was kind of appalled.  The report card itself looked like  it had been folded by the pre-schoolers and things were organized by the kindergarten kids (for example, numbers and shapes were listed under “Religion”).  Of course, we are new to being parents of a school age kid who thinks their child is perfect, so some of the marks got our backs up, but we tried to take it with a grain of salt.  What we got really angry at was that there was a single comment from his teacher: “Benjamin needs to learn self-control.”  That was it.  No encouragement and no sign of her giving any effort to give us feedback.  We put our precious child in her hands and this as all she could give us.  We get more detailed information from our daycare about the kids than we got from her.

So, Andrea arranged for a meeting with Mrs. X and she explained some of the areas that Benjamin needed to work on.  He was behind in reading and writing (which, I kind of felt was an accurate account based on what I have seen).  She also said he had trouble with numbers, citing an example of how she told her students to go to page 123 and Benjamin struggled with it.  The funny thing is that just a couple of days before, Benjamin had (without prompting) recounted the same story to me from his perspective.

It started with, “Papa, ‘a couple’ is two, right?”

“Yes,” I told him. “Why?”

“Well, Mrs. X told us to turn ahead in our book ‘a couple of pages’ and I did, but she said it wasn’t the right page.  She counted off ‘1-2-3’, but that is three pages, not tw0.”

Ben takes things very literally and knew that ‘a couple’ was two pages.  He also gets stuck on a thought and won’t move on until it is resolved.  So, when she then said, “1-2-3”, he then thought she was telling him to turn three pages instead of to page 123.  This was clearly a miscommunication that Mrs. X should have handled better, and instead, she labels Ben as having a problem with numbers and he was clearly upset.

Anyway, at the same time this was going on, Andrea had asked to have him evaluated to see if he might be gifted by the school district.  The school district sent Mrs. X a form to fill out.  When she was meeting with Andrea, she seemed offended that we would think Ben was gifted and went on to cite his reading and writing issues.  To use her words, she “just didn’t see it.”  (Also, note that Mrs. X set up the meeting for the 15 minutes right before school started so that there was no chance of it running longer.)

So Ben was evaluated by our new school district and the report came back…They confirmed what we had suspected and classified him as gifted.  However, they did also confirm that he was behind in reading and writing and that he might have a learning disorder.  They said that it isn’t rare to have a kid who was gifted but with a learning disorder.  To me, it makes sense.  Ben clearly has a focus issue and, yes, he does have problems controlling himself (“Sometimes I have a song in my head and it just has to get out, so I start singing it and I get in trouble.”)  Additionally, the individual that did the evaluation hinted at putting the blame for Ben being behind, on his school.

The icing on the cake was that in the report, they included Mrs. X’s comments about Ben, which were mostly negative or were backhanded compliments.  They also went on to note that Mrs. X decline to fill out the evaluation they asked her to do and that the principal of his school was okay with this.  This is the part that really got Andrea and I angry.  We are trying to do what is best for our son with this evaluation and his teacher can’t be bothered with it and his principle is fine with that.  What also should be noted is that Mrs. X gave conflicting information to the evaluator than she had given to us.

Our problem is that all Mrs. X sees is a kid that acts up in class and hasn’t made an effort to try to see beyond that, when clearly there is more to him.  I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she is overwhelmed (the school has larger class sizes this year because they took on students from a closed school), but sometimes, and I hate to say it, I think she is lazy.  She has been at this school forever.  She attended it as a child and her children attended it.  I can’t help but wonder if she has just become content in her job.

I feel bad saying any of this.  We have so many friends who are teachers and we know there are some great teachers out there.  They work hard and put in their own personal time and money to teach our children.  However, Andrea and I continued to try to give this particular teacher the benefit of the doubt, but the evaluation was the last straw.  Now, we can’t wait to show the evaluation to Mrs. X, proving what we had been trying to tell her all along (when she gave us time).

I also know, that as parents, we are emotional about anything regarding our son, but we sent him to this Catholic school hoping to give him the best start we could and I think that’s what bothers us as well.

Anyway, we aren’t ready to give up on Catholic schools.  We did some careful vetting of Ben’s new school for next year and, at the first sign of trouble, we will pull him out and put him in the public school system, which is very good.  After the school year is over, we plan on writing a letter to the diocese about these issues (highlighting their failure to fill out the gifted evaluation), copying the teacher and the principle.  I am doing everything I can to keep myself from marching into that school and giving them a piece of my mind, now.

It is just frustrating to see a teacher (and even a principle) that seems to have given up.  Benjamin is a good kid and a bright kid…it’s scary to see what happens when teachers give up.  It also solidifies in my mind why this country needs to put more money and more energy into our schools, rather than take money out.  We are lucky enough to have the means to give our boys options when it comes to education…Not everyone has that option.

Angry Bird Birthday

March 22, 2011 1 comment

Matthew turns four next week and last night, Andrea took Benjamin to Toys R Us to pick out a present for him.  Well, as soon as Ben saw the Angry Bird plush toys (“Angry Bird fluffys”) he decided that was what Matthew had to have.  Lately, the boys have been really into the game and I let them play it on my phone.

So, Andrea and Ben came home with three in a bag and Ben could not be any more excited about it.  The rest of the night he kept whispering things about them to Andrea and I, drawing pictures of the birds and doing everything he could to not give away his secret.

He told both Andrea and I that he picked the Angry Birds because he knew they would make Matthew so happy…So happy, in fact, that he said Matthew would still have a great birthday even if he didn’t get the police car and that we would save some money because we didn’t have to buy the car.

He also started telling Matthew stuff like, “I went to the store to pick out a present for you and they had a whole bunch of fluffys, but none that I thought you would like.”

The down side to this is that he has managed to get Matthew asking for Angry Bird cupcakes for his class and an Angry Bird themed party.  Needless to say, we already had a few things in mind and now we are scrambling to find at least Angry Bird cupcake toppers.

Sad Videos

March 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Last Friday, Benjamin walked into the office just as Andrea and I were watching video of the tsunami in Japan.

“What are you watching,” he asked, his eyes glued to the screen…It was too late to turn it of.

“Well, there was an earthquake in a country called Japan that made a big wave that came on land,” we told him.

“Did anyone get hurt?”

“Yes, people got hurt.”

In a very low voice, he responded, “That is really sad.”

I’m not sure why his response surprised Andrea and I so much.  I think it was the way he asked the questions and responded…It was very mature and came right from the heart.  He is such a sweet boy.  It could just that the tone o his voice captured exactly what Andrea and I were thinking.

And we won’t be watching videos like that when they are still awake, anymore.

Lazy Llamas

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Near our house, there is a company that does a travelling petting zoo, so we always see the animals around their property.  The animals include ponys, donkeys, all sorts of ducks and geese and llamas.  The other day, we were driving by and we saw a pony trying to eat some leaves on the road side of the fence.  Ben only saw it real quickly and said, “That llama looks silly.”

I told him that wasn’t a llama, but a pony and then I pointed out two llamas sitting on the other side of the property.  For some reason, this made Benjamin a little angry and he, in a very annoyed voice, said, “Why are llamas so lazy… Every time I see them, they are just sitting down, standing around doing nothing or eating!”

I’m not sure what sparked this, but it makes me wonder how he feels towards me.

Japan: Fear and Faith

March 12, 2011 1 comment

In the last 24 + hours I have been horrified by the images coming in from Japan.  I am sure, like many others, I am deeply disturbed and saddened by the videos, pictures and news reports.  And, I feel, for some reason, that it is hitting close to home, even though it is happening on the other side of the world.

The thing that hits me the hardest about the images is how, for a lack of a better word, familiar the houses and cars that are getting swept away in the tides look to me.  Those neighborhoods could just as easily be the neighborhoods that my family and friends live in.  Those cars are the same cars that we all drive.  Those farm lands and highways and strip malls getting completely engulfed by the waves could be the very same ones that surround my home.  One report said that waters swept as much as 60 miles inland.  The width of New Jersey, the state I grew up in, is 70 miles at it’s widest and, in the south, just as flat as those areas seen in Japan getting destroyed.

While I live more than a hundred miles from the coast and several hundred feet above sea level making it virtually impossible for us to get hit by a tsunami, it doesn’t take a big leap of the imagination to picture that type of destruction outside my doorway…and it scares the hell out of me.

Since my sons were born, these types of natural disasters have bothered me more than ever.  Benjamin was born about 10 days before Katrina struck New Orleans and I can remember holding him so tight against me trying to figure out how I would protect him in the face of such tragedies.  I let my mind wander to being inside the Superdome trying to figure out how to get an infant the basics like milk and water and diapers.  And the thoughts horrify me.  And with each new tragedy, I am horrified all over: the Haiti, China and Chile earthquakes, the typhoons and storms in the Philippians and Australia and the hurricanes and tornadoes that have struck our own country.  With the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I find myself with the same terrible thoughts…trying to figure out how I would get my family through it.  It’s made worse by how familiar it all looks to me.

When it was just Andrea and I, of course I worried, but it was different.  She was at the World Trade Center for a conference on September 10, 2001 and was suppose to be there on September 11 (her company, thankfully, decided not to pay for the last day).  While she wouldn’t have been in the buildings at that time, she certainly would have been within a block or two, or coming in the PATH station underneath, it is something that still bothers me.  I wonder how we would have gotten in touch…how long would I have been left wondering if she was okay…how would she have gotten home?

Now, as a daddy, these types of fears and concerns are magnified ten-fold.  I shutter at the thought of trying to explain what is going on to the boys and how our lives would be changed forever.  What would I do if this happened here, in the middle of the day with the four of us in four different locations?  I get sick at the thought of not being able to find Andrea or the boys.  And I do my best to keep my brain from wandering to the worst-case scenarios.

With everything in life, I rely on my faith in God that he will protect me and my loved ones.  I don’t talk much about my faith in this blog, but I have a very strong faith that God is always present in my life and the lives around me.  I know that bad things happen all the time to the faithful and I know that even if we were to get struck by such devastation, I have faith that God will give me the strength to get me and my family through it.

Every night, before I go to bed, I go into my boys room and I say my prayers there…asking God to give me the strength to be a good father and a good husband and to guide us around the many bad things in this world and, when needed, through them.  After these tragedies, I extend my prayers to those people, wherever they are in the world, from the Congo to Japan.  I pray that God not only give them the strength to get through the tragedy, but to help them have the faith to believe they will get through it.

I don’t think I intended this post to be so much about me and the morbid thoughts I have.  I really just wanted to do my small part to make sure that people keep the victims of the Japan quake in their prayers and thoughts.  Also, if you can, please donate to the Red Cross and they will make sure that money gets where it is needed.   Also, keep the victims and suffering around the world in your prayers.  There are many from Katrina and Haiti and elsewhere that still need help.

Pajama Day

March 11, 2011 1 comment

I’m not really sure what triggered it…We were mid-movie/pizza night when Benjamin turned to Matthew and said, “Hey Matt…You know what tomorrow is? Saturday.  We get to spend the whole day in our pajamas and we get to sleep much later and we can play all day and we don’t have to go to school.”

(Of course, they will both be up at their normal time…6:15 AM, but still cute.)