Friday, November 30, 2012


From Thing 1's Gratitude Journal


I am grateful for:
 *  Pets that bring me joy
 *  Smarts that help me find the way
 *  A loving family to give me a home
 *  A roof above my head
 *  A warm fire to comfort me
 *  Feet to walk the earth
 *  Eyes to witness the beauty
 *  Hands to hold friends in a hug
 *  A wonderful society
 *  Free agency to choose
 *  A sky filled with wonderful stars

This is the view from our front window the other evening..

 And from the back yard a few minutes later.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Hubby left today for three weeks in Australia.  
I hate it when he goes this long.  And the fact that we're marching toward Christmas doesn't help.  There are several Christmas choir concerts for the kids that he's going to miss, and the church Christmas party.  And two full weekends, and two other half weekends.  He was here today, Saturday, but spent most of the day in somewhat frantic preparation to get on the plane this evening.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving.  My mother actually maintained her calm very well, right up until the end, when first she spilled the gravy thickening. "Did Grandma just swear?" Thing 1 whispered, then quietly disappeared from the kitchen, just missing what happened next. My mother was moving toward the stove with a large pot full of turkey drippings, and somehow knocked the pot on the edge of the range top, sending the drippings into an inexplicable fountain that arched up out of the pot like a gravy tsunami before it came crashing down all over the cooktop and sloshed straight out onto everyone standing in front of the stove.  It mostly splattered on my mother, standing shocked with the now half empty pot, and my husband and brother who were poised to help take the turkey out of the oven, and the rest oozing down all over the front of the stove and onto the floor.  My sister in law was on her knees wiping up the floor and stove front with the dishcloth that always hangs there before I could even close my mouth. I recovered and started throwing hand and dish towels from the drawer next to me across the room at anyone near the stove and they started mopping things up - dishtowels and gravy drippings sizzling on the glass cooktop.  My brother had the sense to turn down the stove top which was glowing volcano red at having all the pots suddenly removed from the surface.  Within just a few minutes everything was mopped up enough to continue, and preparations proceeded and dinner hit the table just about on schedule.
The food was fabulous.  Even the gravy, though four more cans of chicken broth were brought up from the storage room to try and make up for what was lost.

My brother and his family had to leave Thursday night, because my sister in law was hosting 40 some odd people of her side of the family on Friday for their Thanksgiving.  Just as they were leaving my favorite uncle and his family showed up - they ping pong back and forth every year between my mom's house and my aunt's house. This year was my aunt's house, but no matter where they go for Thanksgiving, my uncle's family always come to my mom's for the Black Friday shopping and Thanksgiving part Deux, which is basically a leftover repeat of Thanksgiving part one.  Even Kelso got more Thanksgiving than usual, and he gave the already cleaned stove front and floor a thorough licking before I attacked it one more time with glass cleaner because obviously it hadn't been cleaned thoroughly enough if it attracted the dog.

We went to "the Rise of The Guardians" in what is becoming a traditional Black Friday Kid's Movie Matinee trip, including all the interested adults.  In past years the uninterested adults continued shopping, but this year they got to stay home and take care of my cousin's babies.
We usually stay through until Saturday or Sunday, but because Hubby had so much to do before leaving for Australia, we bundled up and headed home on Friday night.
Today I started putting out Christmas.  I don't have the tree out, but got the girls help to put away Thanksgiving stuff and carry boxes of Christmas stuff upstairs.  Because we were still completely disorganized with moving/remodeling the basement last year, and the year before I was in my refusal to crawl through the eves to get out any more Christmas decorations than were absolutely necessary, some of this stuff hasn't seen the light of day for nearly three years.  And thanks to ebay, I have a mantel on the fireplace now where there was no mantel before, installed last week by my favorite carpenter.  The nutcrackers have a place to sit, and the stockings have a place to hang.

Now all we need is snow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When The Dust Settles (revised)

Bullying - continued...

I left the girls with a nice neighbor who has a daughter Thing 1's age, and went to the bullying forum that I heard about from the flyer.  (See previous post.)
I sat there listening to the counselors from our school and a couple other schools in the district talking about bullying and all they training they've had on it and all they've learned about it... the programs they've installed and how they keep it from happening in our schools.  I figured that since mostly what I was saying was "No you Di'ent!" that maybe I better keep my mouth shut.  But I sat there thinking they have no idea what's going on at their own playground, and getting more and more frustrated. I wanted to (and probably should have) stood up and asked how many other parents were there (maybe 20 of us) because their kids were treated badly and they didn't feel it was handled appropriately.  Based on some of the comments I heard I figure I wasn't the only one.  I thought the counselors should have been listening more than talking.
Finally when it was over, I went up and talked to our counselors.  I said "I understand you want to empower the kids by encouraging them to handle a bully on their own (they'd talked about how important this is) but what I'm hearing at home is that the playground is a battleground because the kids think they won't get any support from the adults if they report any bullying behavior, they think they're expected to handle it on their own."  Protestations.  I said "Well, Thing 2 hasn't felt support from the times she's been attacked..."
Blank stares.  Crickets.
They had NO IDEA what I was talking about.
I said "Didn't you get the email I sent you?  Or the reply that I got from the principal?  Last week? ??   ???   I thought the teacher had come and talked to you and you'd said it was odd behavior and let it slide?"
Protestations.  No one had told them.  Yes I did, I sent them emails.  They're sorry, they say.  They have been so busy with all the problems created by the new French Immersion first grade (I've heard about that, the French teacher won't speak English to the parents - they send her emails to address problems their kids are having, and she replies in French.  Yes, Really.)
I ended up getting frustrated all over again, I briefly went through the whole thing, my voice cracked then choked off... One of the counselors had seen the email to me that the boy had been talked to, but she had only seen the first part, hadn't read the whole thing, thought it was about ANOTHER incident with this boy...
I went home, very upset, and Thing 2 heard me talking to Hubby on the phone.  She got upset.  She wrote a very sweet letter outlining a lot of things, some that I hadn't even heard before, which I sent to the counselors, along with a brief letter from me and the original forwarded email I had sent.
They replied back and apologized again, saying Thing 2's letter was wonderful and had a big impact.

Since then they called several times, caught up on the email and apologized that my emails were sitting in the inbox but hadn't been read.  They have contacted me letting me know how they are watching Thing 2 and Danger Boy on the playground (and she has reported this is true) and made a lot of noise about how they're watching and the two kids seem to be playing well together.

I don't know if this kid is going to attack Thing 2 again or not.  He hasn't attacked her since he was spoken to, but he hasn't really left her alone, either.  He is really lonely, I think, so he gravitates toward Thing 2 and these other girls who have been nice to him, despite his behavior toward them.   Thing 2 can't hold a grudge, though he still does stupid things to them; taunts them with outrageous statements and if they don't call him a liar (because it's rude to call someone a liar) then he mocks them for believing the outrageous lie he told.  Whatever.  If it was me I'd tell him to shove off, but she's more flexible and sympathetic, I suppose.

I just want it to be over.  I am not used to being the one with problems like this. We are not boat rockers.  If the boat is rocking we find another boat.  But this time we're kind of stuck.

I am finally ready for winter.  We bought nine trees last month, and stakes to support them.  I question whether we really needed the stakes, but we paid for them and they were delivered with the trees, so it seems silly not to use them.  Hubby helped me plant the trees, but we ran out of time and didn't get them staked.  I got six of them staked a couple weeks ago.  The trees are about as big around as... maybe three of my fingers... if that makes sense.  The stakes are as big around as my forearm.  They're HUGE!  And they're seven feet tall!  I had to dig a hole for each one, then get on a ladder to pound it in with a sledge hammer.  I also planted the three evergreen bushes we bought, and the five Russian Sage plants that the nursery sold me for $3.00 each because they're trying to get rid of everything.  I coiled the hoses, and stripped the trampoline of everything but the support pipes.  Hubby put all the patio furniture underneath the deck a couple weeks ago.  I'm embarrassed to say we are lazy enough to have bought a new little snowblower for the back deck, so I don't have to drag the big Honda up the hill we created by dropping the driveway and around to the back fence and over to the back deck.  I'm also too lazy to shovel the back deck, which is nearly as much square acreage as the front driveway.  Turns out the little new snowblower is about a thousand times better than the big tough Honda that we use on the front driveway.  Last snowstorm Hubby blew the back deck, then dragged the blower around to the front of the house and used it on the front.  The big Honda needs a tune up.

I am just waiting for life to go on.
Waiting for it to snow.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Thing 2 has told me that this school is not as on top of the whole bullying situation as our last school.  At the last school, no one messes with anyone or you get sent straight to the principal.  Period.  And you are dealt with accordingly.  I've heard tell of group meetings at that school between the parents and bullied child, and the parents and bullying child, moderated by the principal.

At the new school if someone gets punched in the stomach and Thing 2 says "Why don't you go tell a teacher?  Or the principal?" She is told "No, I don't want to be a crybaby."  If she tells a playground monitor that two kids are going at each other, she is told "They'll work it out." It is just not dealt with.  She is told not to make a big deal about it.
Fine, as long as it's not my kid being bullied.

Before school started she had worried quite a bit about it, saying she didn't want to go back to school.  I started advising her to stand up to anyone who bullies her and yell, "STOP IT!"  I said that will draw attention to you by the adults near by, and make it completely clear who is hassling whom.  And it very well might scare off any bullies.  I got quite passionate about this, and made her practice yelling STOP IT at random times without laughing, which is kind of hard for her, and I'd demonstrate it and yell STOP IT at her and upset the dog, and then we'd both laugh.  And so far so good, she's not had any problems.

About two weeks ago a little boy who used to go to this school but moved away for a year, moved back.  And the teacher sat him next to Thing 2.  We'll call him Danger Boy.   Now Thing 2 feels from experience like this school is tough on new kids.  So she goes out of her way to make Danger Boy feel welcome.  She shows him what to do, where things are, and gives him a cool eraser she had.  She is the self appointed one girl Welcome Wagon.  Imagine her surprise when he sharpens his pencil and then pokes her with it.  "What was that?"  
"Get used to it," she is told.  "I'm going to sit by you all year and you're going to get that a lot."

There was a lot of little stuff, hair pulling, hard pinching, and threats, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare..."  On the playground he doesn't play with the boys, he kind of haunts the girls who play on the equipment, particularly Thing 2 and her friends, one of whom he seems to like, sort of.  We'll call her Cutie Pie.  She and Thing 2 have been getting along really well lately.  Anyway, Thing 2 told me one of the things Danger Boy does on the playground is to spin around, and whomever his gaze fell on last he would launch himself at and knock them down.  One day it was Thing 2, and he knocked her down and rubbed snow in her face.  
That's about the time I finally started hearing about it.
I went in and talked to the teacher.  She was surprised, she hadn't seen any bad behavior in class.  She'd talk to him.  She had already scheduled a meeting with his parents over something else, she'd bring it up then.  I expected he'd be talked to sometime in the next couple of days.

Thing 2's teacher went to talk to the school counselor, who we found out later told her that sounds weird and maybe he's just frustrated from the move.  She encouraged Thing 2's teacher to talk to the teacher who had him the last time he was at school here.  That teacher said it sounded unlike him... so the incident was put off until the conference with the parents, which didn't happen because they had to change schedules.  So ultimately nothing happened.  I found out later that Cutie Pie's mom went and talked to the teacher too, but got the same results we got.
Friday, the day after the conference was supposed to have happened but didn't, Danger Boy came out for recess with a sucker.  "Oh," he told Thing 2 and the girls she plays with, "I'm going to have a sugar rush!" Thing 2's friends see that she was the last one upon whom his gaze fell, and therefore his intended victim.  "Run!"  they tell her.
But she said two things went through her head.  1) surely he's been spoken to about this, and he wouldn't dare attack her after he's just been yelled at for it.  2) I shouldn't back down from bullies, he's being mean and I should stand up to him.   So she did.  He came at her, knocked her down on her back in the wood chips around the playground equipment, then proceeded to shove handfuls of wood chips into her face.  She got them in her ears, and mouth, and hair.  She seemed unclear as to if he held her hands down, or if she fought back so ineffectually but eventually some 5th graders yelled at him and might have approached him but I don't think they had to drag him off of her.  He stopped and stood up.  Thing 2 stood up, shedding wood chips, and stepped into his face and said softly but very seriously "STOP. IT."  then turned and walked away.
She and Cutie Pie waited until recess was about over, then went in and talked to the teacher.  Thing 2 was unable to talk because she was going to cry, but Cutie Pie told their teacher what had happened.  Then the two girls went out to the pick up area, where I was waiting for her.  Thing 2 was very quiet and said she just wanted to go to the car, where she suddenly broke down sobbing and told me what happened.  I got her out of the car and marched back to where the principal was doing crossing guard duty, and told him.  He said he'd just heard about it, but that Thing 2 would "not be placed in that situation again."  I wished later that I'd had the presence of mind to ask how in the world he'd just heard about it...

Later that afternoon I had worked myself into a snit.  I called my sister,  who works as a counselor at an 8th grade center to ask what course I should take.  Do I demand he's suspended?  Expelled?  She said I could demand that he be moved to another class... I asked about taking a restraining order out on him, and she said there are a couple of kids with those in her school, but it's so hard to keep them apart.  Feeling like I had a reasonable demand, I wrote to the principal, the teacher, and on my sister's suggestion, the counselor.  I almost immediately got a reply back from the principal, reminding me he just learned about this...

I emailed Cutie Pie's mom and sent her the letter to keep her up to date.  She said Cutie Pie was really upset and told her all about it.  Then she said she is social with the family of Danger Boy, and she said they'd be horrified to learn what their son had been up to.  We exchanged several emails back and forth, she said Danger Boy had pushed down another friend of the girls in this group, and had kicked her.  It would appear she never told anyone but Cutie Pie's mother.

By the time Monday rolled around I had spent most of my free time fretting over this whole incident.  I had decided to go talk to the teacher, to make sure that Thing 2 was safe at school.  Hubby was in town and went with me.
Now it would certainly seem that the boy and his parents should have been involved long before he was, and I'm surprised the principal wasn't involved sooner as well.  But I really like this teacher, and she explained how she had talked to the counselor and the previous teacher, and was going to talk to the parents but it didn't happen.  Also her email had been down all weekend and she wasn't able to reply to me.  But she said she and the principal were meeting with Danger Boy shortly, and his parents were coming in after school.  Thing 2 and he were now seated at opposite ends of the classroom, and for the next week he would be having indoor recess, and he'd be eating his lunch in the office.  The words "Zero Tolerance" have been bantered about, which I am fine with.

On Tuesday I got a phone call from Danger Boy's father.  He was apologetic, and polite, and embarrassed.  He mostly talked about when Thing 2 had been poked with a pencil, and the wood chip incident.  I didn't feel like it would be appropriate to list every little hurt she'd suffered at the hands of his son, but did indicate she wasn't the only one, and that the mother of the other little girl might be able to tell him what some of the other kids had experienced.  He did indicate that he had told Danger Boy that he could go the whole day without actually touching, let alone hurting, another kid in the class.  I thought that sounded good.
Wednesday I got another email from Cutie Pie's mother indicating that Danger Boy's mother had called her to find out what was going on.  I wish I knew when they had talked, whether it was before or after I'd talked to the father.  Because I think he might have been more apologetic if he knew the extent of it.  Apparently Danger Boy's mom said he'd told her he "bumped into Thing 2 and that she might have gotten some wood chips in her hair."  In other words they were being polite about it, but they seemed to be under the impression that a few little random behaviors were getting totally blown out of proportion.  Thankfully, Cutie Pie's mother said she corrected her pretty strongly, and told her how her daughter was traumatized by watching Danger Boy shove Thing 2 into the wood chips and ram them into her face, and how she'd choked and swallowed a couple.  She reported Danger Boy's mother had been shocked and very upset.  Good for her.

Today coming home from school Thing 2 told me that Danger Boy gave Cutie Pie a necklace, that had an owl on it.  You don't need to have anything more to do with him, I told her.  You don't need to be rude, but you can be nearly rude.  You can avoid him all you want.  
"I know," she told me.
I know it's not in her nature to hold a grudge.  If this little boy wants to play with them, I suspect the little girls will let him.  But I have told her to be on her guard with him, if he threatens her or attacks her at all again, to shout it loudly to the principal, her teacher, or me.  I don't know what they'd do, but they'd better do something.  And with how outrageous his behavior was since the moment he got here, I suspect he won't be able to turn it around overnight.  We'll see.

There was a flyer that came home sometime this week.  The counselors from the elementary school are meeting at the high school for a parent's forum about bullying.  I don't normally have time for evening meetings, but I think I may have to make a special effort to be to this one.