Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It started out as a really good day. I got my work out in and then had a lot of time all to myself in the morning before I cleaned up house and body to see an old friend from high school. I'm still down on my childhood education, but there are a handful of people from my early years that I'm genuinely glad to have met, and she's one of them.

The boys loved her little girls and were fighting over who got to hold the baby. My friend was gracious about my home, but because there were Legos, babies and a wooden coffee table, I thought we should go outside. I might have changed my mind once it started raining, but my friend was fine. So we walked while one of the little ones jumped in puddles and the boys jostled for control of the stroller.

We chatted as best we could with four small children, then got some lunch. My friend left shortly afterward, and I hope she can stop by again. Adults like playdates too.

I was waiting for Sam to get home to watch the boys so I could take Jazmyn to Hebrew School when I got a text that she needed help at the train station because she had fallen down the stairs. We joke about her klutziness, but this kid has managed to negotiate a lot of stairs with her bass, so this was unusual. I wasn't sure how well she'd be able to watch the boys, so we skipped Hebrew School today. The principal was very nice about it and will get us the homework.

That wasn't so great, but I really liked having all of the kids home. Sam was impressed that Jazmyn has printed some sheet music and was trying to tap it out, as Jaz had. They both spontanously decided to practice their basses, and they sounded good. And the boys dumped out all of their Legos and made yet another brave new world.

At one point, I turned off the tv. Too much noise was interrupting my knitting. And then I decided that it was time to tackle the project I had been dreading: letter writing to my nieces. No TV or computer until they were written. Simon was game, but Jacob wasn't. Of course, because he was the one whose skills I was concerned about. In desperation, I told him that he couldn't make cookies with Sam until he had put in a written request for her. That worked. Oh cookies- thank you.

I drafted the note for him, but he was skittish. He said he didn't know how to make an "s" and his "m" was like three stilts. So I sat with him. He struggled through, then told me all of a sudden he could make the letters with his eyes closed. No, please don't... but then I relented. Huh. He did a much better job.

The child knows how to write and, when he wants to, read. But Michael got on my case last week about the deterioration of his handwriting because I haven't been pushing him. I want him to learn and practice in context. I thought letter writing to his beloved cousins would work, but he can smell a ploy before I can set it up. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that some of his resistance is based in his lack of confidence. Hopefully, knowing that he can do it with his eyes closed has instilled that in him.

Now what will I make that boy write for me tomorrow?

Deb in the City

Monday, September 27, 2010

You have got to be kidding me

If you were reading this blog last year, you might recall that we were thrown for a big, fat loop at right about this time when it was announced that my husband- plus a bunch of other people- were going to have a paycheck delayed. This was supposed to be paid back to them during the next fiscal year. That was bad enough- trust me, that was bad- but what made me nod my head when Michael said he wanted to quit was that he would have yet another paycheck withheld before the next fiscal year. Thanks for the memories!

Michael makes more money working for himself than he did working for them. Disapproving friends and family will still go on that it's not enough, but it's much, much better. But not so much that I, the primary money watcher, could forget about that paycheck he didn't receive. Ever since we entered the new fiscal year, I've been bugging him to find out when they'll send it.

Pay periods were screwed up this month- honestly, I think they had to work around the vacation schedule of someone in accounting- so I was very pleased when Michael finally got paid last week. Happily paid bills, then grumped that we had a miniscule amount to get by on until his next paycheck. You know what would be nice right now? That paycheck he never got. Michael agreed and promised to call.

I got a text message about an hour and a half later. Yep, they owed him money and they knew it. Unfortunately, the person in charge of such things had failed to budget for that. And not just for Michael. He is no longer with the company. Of course, people were very apologetic. Unfortunately, they're still not going to pay what they owe him until May of 2011.

I want to remind you: this is for time worked in September of 2009. That's over a year and a half. I asked about interest, but it was kind of a joke.

I'm not happy, but there's a silver lining. One of the things I've been worried about is taxes, and getting that paycheck right around tax time will be very helpful. It's nice to know I won't have to set aside as much as I had thought. But still!

In other news, I'm very ambivalent about Jazmyn's co-op. I feel like I'm not being heard, and like it's not what's in Jaz's best interests. And that it's more complicated than it should be. Jaz is busy without a schedule. But we'll see.

Deb in the City

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another week down

Or is it just getting started? That, people, is the problem I am running into. It just doesn't stop lately, and I want it to.

Technically, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are our free-ish days. Call me crazy, but maybe Hebrew School one day and a bass lesson the next is not so free, but perhaps that gives you an idea of the rest of the week. And this Tuesday Jaz went to a homeschooling event and I went to a meeting of another, less-frequent playgroup. And though we got to be nice and quiet for the first part of Wednesday, Jaz decided that she just had to go to this event with some of her friends. Michael took her when he picked up our CSA share.

Michael's week has been mightily disrupted. He likes to do his job, and I like it when he gets paid for doing his job (among other things). And because he's that way, he's going to do his job, no matter what day of the week he has to do it on. Even if it's a Saturday, as he has for the last two Saturdays in a row.

I am not one of those parents who feels like she is "watching" her own children, and I am pretty lackadaisical in my old age. Our weekend time doesn't have to be very different from our week time. But even with my more relaxed attitude, it gets to be a lot when it doesn't let up. Especially when I have the brilliant idea of filling that time with things like the Lego Kids Fest (what a waste of time and money) and a child's birthday party (that was lovely- I would have been happy if all we had had to do was just that). And then there was the prep work needed to get Jaz ready for her friend's party, getting Jaz to her party and then picking her up. Without a car. Not to mention coordinating a friend's visit to our house while I was out.

Which is all to say that I am on record as absolutely refusing to do anything whatsoever next Saturday, and it is my preference that my husband not work that day, if only so we can spend some time sleeping in together.

What about Sundays? That's Hebrew School and Bass day, and it's a day I dread more with every week. Carrying Jaz's bass around while I switch trains becomes more and more cumbersome, especially as I have to go back and forth between home and the westerly end of Boston in the middle of the day to do so. But... I do like that on Sunday I have something like two hours all to myself during which I can get some reading done. The week's little luxury.

I made a big huge mistake with Sam and put her into everything I could find that I could afford. And I made her stick with it, long past the point where she was showing signs of fatigue. I want to do better by her siblings, and I'm trying to respond when they tell me something is too much or that they don't want to do it. But... there is a reason they are going to Hebrew School, and a child who wants to have music in her life would do well to take advantage of a program offered by a renowned children's orchestra. Right?

So what about the rest of it? Jaz is showing signs of fatigue. The first week was the honeymoon, the second week was the second half of the first year of marriage. Obviously, we're not changing anything just yet, but nothing is set in stone. I want to be fair, but I also have to keep my family and my child's needs in mind.

Deep thoughts required, but I'm too tired to think them right now.

Deb in the City

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So, what have we learned?

Instead of blogging, I have been reading, reviewing, journaling (you know, I prefer something like "diarying"), unschooling and assessing for the last almost month. And now, as I wait for the first load of laundry to finish its wash cycle, I'm ready to strangle someone, anyone. (You see why I thought I should spare you some of this?)

-Jazmyn was in a lather this summer about participating in her cooperative. It's not something I need, but I get on with the mothers and think the girls are nice. However, I did try to back out twice. One mother was very understanding, and another mother coaxed me into giving it a try. Last week was our first full week, and Jaz was exhausted (it was also the first week of orchestra and Hebrew School). So her reaction when I said I was going to pull back on the schedule? "What?!?" Oh my God, she really likes it. Okay- these are the problems of success. We met this weekend- as we did last weekend- made some adjustments, and now it's something that should be less taxing for Jaz.

-Simon and Jacob's cooperative has been going really, really well. "Really, really" because there's something magical about kids that age when they get along with each other. I had the first day and, in keeping with the unschooling philosophy I've adopted 99% hog, I didn't have a plan or a curriculum. I was so proud of myself for putting out the big pieces of cardboard I saved, some dinoasur books, art supplies and origami paper. I pictured them grabbing a book or puzzle. That was a silly thing to picture. They ran into the boys' room and started playing with toys- all toys- and wrestling. And it was great! They did similar things on the other two days. We still have scheduling stuff to iron out, but it's not as stressful (for me, at least).

-Simon and Jacob's less frequent Jewish Learn and Play group is also very nice. Small, but the kids get along well and I really like the parents. It's nice to have a group of people (however small) that nod and say, "Shabbat as your Environmental Day? Yeah, we've been doing that for a while too." I was nervous about that group- people like to remind me how minimal my Jewish street creds are- but these guys are nice and one of them has a very similar story. I have some craziness to juggle this week on the day we're supposed to get together, but I'm going to shuffle everything else around if I have to so we can get together.

-And, oh yeah, Sam might be done with school in December, if not she's done by May. And now we're fighting about college- one of us thinks she should get some "life experience" first, the other thinks she should just go to college immediately. If you guessed that Sam's the one pulling for life experience... you guessed wrong.

-What's up with all of this? Unschooling. John Holt. New, never before experienced regrets about childhood. I've always sneered at adults who lie about their age or go on about how much better childhood was. And the "If Onlies" make me shake my head. I've always liked being an adult better than being a child, because I had no control over my life, and now I do. I wouldn't give that up for anything.

But... John Holt was an educator turned unschooling advocate in the 60s through 80s. The things he writes about school and socialization and the way we are taught and the things they teach... I can't breathe when I read it, because everything is so true. He was a very good writer- he explains big and small concepts easily. What he says about schools- and why we shouldn't be compelled to go to them- is so clear. And so true.

Why does this make me so crazy? Because he was writing when I could have used those words of wisdom. I would have loved for someone to have tapped me on the shoulder when I was 10 and let me know that I didn't have to go to school. I could keep reading about world mythology, ancient history and play with numbers to my heart's content. And that I would have been okay. And I would have loved for someone to have told me that, yep, I was right about high school and college, and I didn't have to go. And it would be okay. But no one did, and now I feel the weight of all of those years- half of my life- that I could have spent doing what I wanted, and not what someone else thought I should do. And now I'm filled with regret.

And, oh yeah, Mr. Holt was either in Cambridge or Boston when I was 10. My mind explodes when I think about that.

Hmm. More later, I assure you. In the meantime, I'm making up for lost time by reading about things I want to read about, and saying no to things I don't. Excuse me, time to go read the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, because I don't understand why I shouldn't know how to build an artificial pond in the middle of the city.

Deb in the City