Friday, May 31, 2013


I don't think it will be terribly surprising to anyone that I dislike the public school system.  I'm not referring at all to the teachers- there will always be a few great teachers, a few terrible ones and plenty that are adequate.  I think the system as a whole is broken, with the results of standardized testing being held more important than actual learning.  I watch year after year as both of my kids- kids with very different learning styles and personalities- sink into boredom and frustration the third quarter as learning is replaced by test preparation, and then testing and then more testing.

At work and at home I believe strongly that if I am going to complain about a problem, I better at least be actively trying to come up with a solution.  I can certainly accept help from others, but as a responsible adult I should never just expect others to solve my problems.  Some issues are much harder than others, but if I'm having an issue with the tigers, I come home and email other zoo people who work with tigers.  I post questions and google and try to find answers.  I don't whine to my boss and expect her to do all of my work and solve the problem.  Likewise with the kids, I go to other parents or even the internet for advice, but I don't just dump the problem on Gene and expect him to deal with it.  (Unless the problem is new baseball cleats for Logan- he can deal with that.)

School drives me completely nuts because I feel like I'm in completely over my head.  How can I possibly address issues that are driven by the federal and state government???  How can I complain when I feel like I can't do anything?  How can I possibly make time to do anything when I'm already too involved in too many other things?  I know I would be a terrible homeschooler.  I don't have a lot of choices in private schools and really have equal issues with them.  I feel stuck and like I'm being a bad parent- but really, how bad can I be if pretty much everyone else is doing the same thing?  I can't be the only parent in Peoria who feels this way, but what can be done?

Certainly not what I have been doing!  Or I suppose I should say what I have NOT been doing.  This year by the second semester I became so frustrated I pretty much stopped caring.  I literally never looked at Logan's homework folder and never once saw any paper that Kaylin brought home.  I warned both kids that if they had something like a permission slip or needed money for something they BETTER let me know or they were going to miss the field trip or fun and I'd never know about it.  I completely forgot about lunch money, was never sent any notices and the kids were never pestered at school.  They used to only get cheese sandwiches if they owed more than $10.  Well, I went online the night before the last full day of school and each kid owed over $100.  Uhhhh.....  Yeah, I have no excuse for that!  Whoopsies.  Fortunately, both kids are good students and good learners.  I don't need to look at every worksheet and as long as I know they understand everything, I don't care about letter grades.  I mean, Kaylin's straight As in gym do not reflect ANYTHING in reality!  Let's just say that she is most likely not going to grow up and be an athlete.  I am not proud of her accomplishment, though I am proud that she apparently participates enough and is good enough in class to avoid being noticed.  A for Acceptable :)

Right now, I'm just glad the year is over.  I'm glad Logan is done with primary school.  I will start the new school year in the fall with a much better attitude.  I always do.  But...  How do I keep a good attitude when second semester starts and all fun ends and the drilling and drilling for tests begins?  Do I fall into silent acceptance?  Do I start a revolution?  Do I block it out to the point I forget to pay lunch money for a really (REALLY) long time?  I don't know.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Post #500

According to the count on the entry page to my blog, this is my 500th post!

Last Saturday, Logan and I took Gage on a long birding adventure.  We left a little after 6am and didn't get home until 3pm.  We did a lot of driving and a lot of walking.  Gage did very well with both.  He spent his driving time either on Logan's lap or curled up sleeping in the back seat.  He's really good on leash and spent his walking time snooping into everything he could find and picking up as many ticks as possible.  (I had to remove one from between his toes.  Yuck!)  Gage was excited about the whole trip and happy to be along for the ride.  I never heard him whine or cry even once.  Gage is a bit more laid-back and a lot less exuberant than Duncan was, but that is probably a good thing.  We had a great time and Gage proved himself to be the buddy dog we were hoping for!

Including today, the kids have 2 1/2 days of school left.  Both are VERY excited and can't wait for Camp Zone to start the first week of June.  I can't believe that my babies will be in 8th and 5th grades!  It will be fantastic to have them at the same school, but dang, I feel old!  Logan really didn't like his teacher this year.  She was one of those who assumes all boys are wild and poorly behaved.  She often punished the boys as a group and Logan was very offended.  Kaylin also had this teacher and she really didn't bother to get to know the kids individually.  This was her last year before retirement, so I think she was counting down the days until she was done teaching and cared even less than in previous years.  In the fall Logan will be in middle school and will get to change teachers several times a day.  I think he will greatly prefer that to being stuck in one room.  Kaylin certainly does.

Gene and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday.  Well, we didn't really "celebrate" because we worked and then Logan had baseball practice from 5:30-7:30.  We hope to go to dinner and a movie this weekend and then have a trip to New Orleans planned the first week of June.  It will be the first time both of us will be away from the kids for more than one night.  That's hard to believe, but I guess with our limited time off work and school we want to take the kids along and spend the time with them.  I am looking forward to spending some time alone with Gene, though!

Last night we were talking about the many, MANY things we've learned in 20 years of marriage.  I think one of the biggest things both of us had to figure out was that Gene wants to "fix" everything and while I sometimes need to complain about something to him (anything from a headache to an annoying coworker) I don't EVER expect him to find a solution to my personal problems.  Well, not only did he spend years driving himself nuts trying to find solutions to my minor issues, it never once occurred to me that he would even dream of doing such a thing.  It literally took us years to figure out that if I came home from work and said "Ugh, I have a headache." the response I wanted and the ONLY thing I needed from him was "Oh, poor Susy."  What I would sometimes get was a very frustrated "Well, I'm not a doctor, what do you want ME to do about it?"  Um, nothing?  I'm a big girl and I took some aspirin.  I want you to do the same thing as I do when you whine about a headache.  Say "that stinks" and move on with your evening.  It took a looooooong time for both of us to figure this out about the other person!

 I will never forget many years ago running into a former Pizza Hut coworker at the mall.  This girl had annoyed me to no end when I was her manager.  She missed a lot of work and had millions of excuses.  I apparently complained about her to Gene a LOT.  Anyway, this was several years later and I was thrilled to see her.  I walked away from her happy and nostalgic, but Gene was silent and furious.  It turned out that he couldn't stand this girl for all she put me through and had never been able to come up with a solution to fix that problem for me.  I was beyond shocked because yeah, she had been annoying, but it was only for a short time and I hadn't given her a thought since.  I certainly never expected Gene to solve that problem- but he wanted to!  A few months ago, I had an upsetting meeting and my (single) boss was trying to be positive and told me to go home and complain to Gene and that things would look better in the morning.  My boss did cheer me up, however unintentionally, because I spent the rest of the day thinking about how Gene would be the LAST person I would complain about this minor work-related slight to because he'd probably think I wanted him to execute the director of the park district or something.  Nope, that's not at all what I wanted :)

Friday, May 17, 2013


We got a new dog!  Gage is a five-year-old Jack Russell terrier.  We picked him up from the shelter on Monday and so far he's doing well.  He's a total sweetie who absolutely loves the kids.  The cats were initially scared, but Gage and the cats now pretty much ignore each other.  Scout the dachshund has his ups and downs.  Shortly after Gage came home, Scout attacked him over a toy.  Gage is bigger and has a much more muscular build, but he more or less stood and took the attack which left him with several scrapes on his face and leg.  We moved all of the toys out of the dogs' reach and there have been no further incidents. 

Our dog Duncan was hit by a car a little over a year ago.  Duncan loved playing with the kids and slept in bed with Logan.  Duncan also loved riding in the car and going on adventures.  We got Scout as Duncan's "replacement" and while we all love him, he is a completely different dog and not at all a replacement for what we lost.  Scout is fine with the kids, but he definitely prefers adults.  He hates car rides and adventures.  He isn't AT ALL fun to take places because he literally whines and cries the entire time we're gone.  Gene has a special relationship with Scout that he didn't have with Duncan and Kaylin prefers the cats, so neither of them felt the gaping loss that Logan and I couldn't seem to shake.  We wanted our buddy dog back!

We'd been half-heartedly looking for another dog for months.  We stopped at the Peoria and Pekin shelters when we had the chance and I looked at the Petfinder website regularly.  We were just sort of waiting for the right dog to fall into our laps.  Saturday, Logan and I stopped by PAWS in Peoria just after they opened for the day.  We walked into the dog room and the first kennel contained a sweet, cute little Jack Russell who seemed thrilled to see us.  We gave him some attention and checked out the rest of the giant, barking menaces before going back to Gage.  Hmmm, was this dog really special, or did he merely stand out because he wasn't a cookie cutter of the usual?  We watched him for a bit.  A shelter volunteer came around and tossed Gage a Kong toy.  Gage gleefully played with the toy, tossing and catching it until it dropped into his water pail.  We continued to watch as he figured out how to remove the toy from the large pail.  That sealed the deal.  We pulled his card and asked to meet him.

When the shelter employee brought Gage to the room, he immediately ran to Logan.  Point.  He then checked me out and submissively rolled over to have his belly rubbed.  Oooh, another point!  I filled out the paperwork to put him on a 24 hour hold and immediately called Gene, hoping he'd be able to come right down to meet Gage.  Gene brought Kaylin, Kira and Scout.  I kept Scout outside while Gene and the kids met Gage.  He was great with everyone and beyond thrilled with the kids.  After meeting the kids, a shelter worker brought Gage outside to meet Scout.  I knew this wasn't exactly a true test as it was in a neutral place, but I honestly had no idea how Mr. Jealous Scout would act around a dog we were all fawning over.  Both dogs seemed very interested in each other, with not a hint of aggression.  Point and Game. 

The shelter always makes adopters wait 24 hours before taking an animal home- this gives people time to think and weeds out many of the impulse buyers.  Since it was Saturday and the shelter is closed on Sunday, we had to wait until Monday afternoon.  We were fortunate that Gage was already neutered or we would have had to wait until at least Tuesday.  Gene had conveniently taken Monday off work long before any thought of dog adoption, so he was able to pick up Gage before the kids came home from school. 

Other than the little fight the first day home, things have been going very well.  Gage sleeps with Logan (though early this morning he was in Kaylin's bed) and loves playing with all the neighbor kids.  I've been trying to keep sort of in the background and let Gage develop a strong relationship with the kids, but I couldn't help myself Wednesday morning and took him in the car to get coffee.  He loved the ride and wasn't at all stressed or whiny!  Hooray!  Hopefully, Gage will fill the void left by the loss of Duncan.  I know that's not his job or responsibility and we will love him no matter what, but I think we got lucky and found our dog that will love kids and adventures!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Another May

So, yeah. I guess I continue my 2013 trend as a major blog slacker.  I'm guessing there's exactly one person who cares.  Sorry, Mom. 

May is by far my least favorite month of the year. With all kinds of major projects at work and all kinds of school projects and events it is a crazy time of constant obligations.  However, it's also a great month thanks to the amazing weather and the even more amazing birds.  I've still been working out an hour every morning and it stinks how much that cuts into my writing and reading the newspaper time.  I've been getting the daily paper since I moved out on my own and this is the first time I can remember that I've regularly gone days without even glancing at the headlines.  I'm considering canceling my subscription.  Gasp!  Okay, enough of this boring crap.

Since sometime last semester, I've been in an unofficial daily "race" to school with Kaylin's friend Kira's mom, Lisa.  The girls need to be at school at 7:23am, so we leave at about the same time every day.  At first, we just sort of noticed that we usually saw each other.  Then we realized that Kira's mom almost always passed my putzy little Toyota.  One day Lisa tried to pass me (probably not personal, just trying to get to school) and got stuck behind a slow car.  I joked that we "won" and Kaylin bragged to Kira.  Kira's very competitive and the daily commute turned into a race, with Kira begging her mom to pass me and win.  Well, I don't know much about cars, but I know my little Yaris isn't going to beat out a luxury car with dual exhaust pipes.  I won't pretend to know or care what dual exhaust pipes do, but I'm guessing they somehow go along with a big, fast engine.

I've spent months and months giggling every day as Kira's mom zips past us.  Once in a great while we win and celebrate and rub it in to Kira.  Lisa and I gesture to each other (like holding up the number one finger or waving victoriously, never anything vulgar :)  When we talk, she almost always apologizes for the competition because aside from the whole thing being incredibly juvenile, she knows she has the major advantage.  I don't feel bad at all about losing this impossible competition and our rare wins make it fun. Kaylin also enjoys the occasional win and isn't at all bothered by the regular losses.  Logan, on the other hand...  He couldn't comprehend why I was "letting" Lisa win every day.  I kept telling him her car was better, but I guess with two parents who don't care a hoot about cars, he just didn't understand.  He kept telling me I just needed to floor it.

Today the stars aligned and we got our opportunity to really race.  We zipped past Kira's house as Kira and Lisa were getting into their car and then hit the long red light at Knoxville.  We then hit the light at Pioneer Parkway just as it turned red.  Lisa and I were side by side, first in line at the light.  We opened our windows to talk and I told her about Logan wanting me to floor it and win for once, but I knew that wouldn't work.  We laughed and chatted and I noticed the light turned green a split second before Lisa.  I floored it.  We sorta slowly took off and I got to see Lisa's shocked expression in my mirror.  She jumped into action and easily passed me within seconds and of course beat us to school.  Logan finally understood the difference between our cars.  "Yeah, Mom, your car is crap."  True, but I bet I get a lot better gas mileage.  Lesson for the day: Gas mileage is not impressive to 10-year-old boys- speed is.  Beepy (that's my car's name) is lame!

I've been doing lots of birding.  Meghan and I did the Peoria County Audubon spring bird count last Saturday.  I was a little freaked out because the other teams were a bunch of old pros.  Our territory was the entire city of Peoria along with Bartonville.  We started ~7am and birded until 7pm.  I also watched my feeders for about an hour before and after.  We concentrated on the major parks and nature areas (rather than randomly driving up and down streets in town) and ended up with 73 species and over 1200 individual birds.  I found 19 year birds, several of which were lifers.  I still need to go back and look at what I recorded last year to get an exact number.  We saw 13 different warbler species, scarlet tanagers, orioles and a variety of other beautiful birds.  We picked up Logan to try to call owls at Detweiller Park, but it was a bit early in the evening and they didn't answer.  At Detweiller Golf Course, nearly every tree had at least 5 yellow-rumped warblers.  It was a fun, amazing day and I want to do it again!