Tuesday, April 09, 2002

What kids think I should be; ticks on the dog

Doug woke up at 7:35 or so this morning, usually that's the time he's walking out the door.

He was mad because he didn't set the alarm or someone turned it off. I pointed out to him that I heard him hit snooze twice, and then I didn't hear anything after that.

Suffice to say, he was very late.

Geoff was sitting on the couch. He'd been awake for a little while, long enough to get the TV turned on and go to the bathroom. The fact he didn't come in to wake us up made me sad. I'd gotten used to the 6:30am crawl that he'd do, up into the bed with the pig, smelling warm and sleepy... I think that phase of our relationship is either over or suspended.

Doug rushed to get ready, I got the kids ready and knew I'd be taking Geoff to school. He was amazingly cooperative when I asked him to dress, clean up his dishes from breakfast, get his shoes and socks, get his backpack.

Geoff and I went to his school and I sat down on the rug with him to tie his shoes and say a quick prayer with him to get his morning going on a positive note.

Within a split second I was surrounded by four or five preschoolers, about 4 years in age, all telling me that they are puppies or kittens or babies for the game of "house" they were playing right there in the reading nook. I expressed interest in finding out who was a puppy or a kitten.

Next thing I know I'm there for about 45 minutes with kids taking turns sitting on my lap, reading stories, talking about favorite colors, finding out how one girl's grampa died last month, who lost a pet, who lost an uncle. Kids this age usually volunteer this kind of information willingly, to anyone who makes eye contact with them. You get a life story, a complete "Did you know my dad likes to watch football?" kind of thing.

I'm that kind of an adult. Doug is too. For some reason, we are kid magnets, always have been. I remember going over our friend G&K's and their little boy I became attached to Doug like nobody's business. We were amazed.

Some little kids hang back a bit, but when they see four or five others, they creep closer and begin to spill their guts on whatever the topic is. First it was favorite colors, then death, then uncles and aunts who live far away (I told them how Geoff's Aunt moved to Florida and they all have been to Florida at least once), then who has gone to Disney World, who was in a wedding... it wasn't going to stop. The teachers seemed amused, the director kept popping her head in to see what I was doing, and was laughing that I had such an audience.

One little girl, cute as can be, was missing her bottom front tooth. I was surprised and asked her when it fell out. She was three and she tripped and hit her face on the side of the coffee table in her house, and the tooth fell out. It's been gone ever since.

"What are you doing today?"
"Are you staying here with us?"
"You should take your coat off."
"You have gum on the bottom of your boot."
"Why are you wearing winter boots?"
"What kind of job do you have?"
What kind of JOB do I have?"

Uh, well.

"I don't have a job right now. I'm looking for a new one... any suggestions?"

Well, of course. These four year olds are very opinionated.

"You should be a teacher here. You'd make a great teacher. You are very friendly and Geoff already goes here so you should be our teacher," said one girl followed by several nods of agreement and big, hungry smiles. Aaah, a victim to lure into our lair they seemed to say, with their tiny teeth showing and eyes glinting in the fluorescent lighting... vampires these kids are. Vampires!

"How do you know I'd be a good teacher?" I asked.

"You sit on the floor," said another girl, "and you look like a good teacher, and Geoff is really smart."

Hmmmm. Geoff is really smart. That's the most positive feedback I've heard on him from anyone in a few months, from a four year old at that... So I must be doing a good job teaching him, according to this little girl. Okay. Let's keep going.

"You can be a mommy teacher. A mommy who works here and is a teacher like this mommy and that mommy and her mommy..." they were still hung up on the idea that I should be a teacher. I finally got them to move on from teaching.

"I think you should be a fire fighter."

"Why do you think I should be a fire fighter? That's a really hard job."

"You look like you could drive a fire truck really fast and you look really strong so you can rescue people from burning buildings when they can't breathe and they fall down."

Not bad... nice suggestion. I look strong too. I like how kids these days don't see gender as an issue when picking jobs for someone. Keep going...

"You can be a farmer."

"A farmer? What would I do on the farm?"

"You can work on a barn (note, on a barn is what the kid said... not in a barn or on a farm. On a barn. How funny is it when kids are still acquiring language) and you can take care of the horses and they'll listen to you."

Great suggestions, but I'm not in shape enough to be a fire fighter and I bet mucking stables doesn't pay more than unemployment.

So I got some good suggestions from kids. I doubt I will follow any of the career paths suggested, but

Jessica has the MCAS test today, and didn't remind me, so I didn't get her up early enough for breakfast... I threw a granola bar to her on her way out of the door.

There goes her academic future... she'll fail miserably and her "young girl dreams of Vassar" will vanish (to steal from Lisa Simpson).

Kidding. She'll do wonderfully. Last week they spent a whole day doing a "practice" run for today, which I found appalling... that they would spend a whole fucking day practicing to take a test. It's a full day test with a break for lunch and a snack break during the morning and afternoon. It has caused a lot of grief here in the state of Massachusetts, parents and kids all up in arms about the test. Failure to pass the one that you take in high school prevents you from graduating.

The first phase of MCAS that she took last year she scored in the 98th percentile I do believe. I think that it was reading comprehension. I don't recall what it is (way to keep up on the parenting here, Chris...) The rest of her class was in the 96th for average. So the school here is doing an amazing job with the kids. The pass rate for MCAS in our district is very good. I had to take very similar tests in New York State when I was growing up, I distinctly remember them. I remember not answering the questions but just filling in circles in a pattern. I tried to make a flower out of all the dots without checking two circles in the same line, which would be bad. No lie.

I'm surprised as hell they didn't pull me in and say "what the hell is this? A 10th percentile?"

I'd have admitted it to them if they did ask. I was bored, the tests were stupid and boring. I wonder if I accidentally filled out every single right answer. Regardless, I made it out of the elementary school and in high school took the test correctly, and obviously did well, but have no idea what my scores were. In New York, the test was a general Regents test... and then there were Advanced Placement tests. A ton of my friends were in AP classes, I took AP English, which I was told I didn't belong in by some of the teachers, but I loved English. My grades weren't great, but I stuck with it. When I took the AP test, I got a four. Yup. Highest grade you could get was a five. Ha. Made you think for a second I got four out of 100. Proudest achievement of my academic career was the four on the AP English test.

I have no worries about her, with or without breakfast, she'll shine. She isn't worried or stressed, for her, it's just another day. Some kids freak out when presented with just the concept of a test. Not her... She loves tests.

When Doug was in graduate school, he would bring tests home for preschool and early elementary school aged children and practice administering them on Jessica. He had to get the flow down, how to turn the pages, how long to give a kid, how to score the tests... and he had a willing subject in her. She loved it.

One test that he gave her corresponds very closely to an IQ test... the score you get is limitless, and is supposed to pretty much equal what your IQ is. She got a 174 on the test. Doug thought maybe he did something wrong in grading it. So after a few weeks he gave it to her again. The second time she got a 170.

"I'm afraid," said Doug to me as he held the scoring sheet. "I'm terribly afraid."

Geoff wouldn't sit still for the pre-preschool tests, which Doug took as a bad sign right from the start. He still doesn't sit and test well.

I sent in the paperwork to have him screened by a behavioral neurologist at a local hospital to see if he has anything that can be diagnosed. I don't want to stick a label on the kid, like "Oh, he's O.D.D. [what a great acronym, eh? Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Like kids aren't screwed up enough and they find out they are odd...]

I want to find out what we can do to work with him, if he needs medication or not. If it is strictly behavioral... and find out now. Doug has kind of dragged his feet on this, but the past week has shown that we have to get a handle on what's going on in his little head. So I'll be sure to keep people posted.

We got a great book called "The Explosive Child," which was recommended to Doug by his school psychologist. Doug is reading it now and is almost done, and yesterday he did a few things which he read in the book to diffuse Geoff's temper when we asked him to do something and he fought back. It was almost like magic... Geoff stopped the arguing, and did exactly what we needed him to do. I couldn't believe it.

One thing that we're both applying to Geoff is something that Doug shared with me last night -- never try and out yell your child. Your child will always win, and will piss you off and frustrate you and you will then lose your temper. Never try to out yell... which I always try and do. What I've been doing instead of yelling is talking softer and setting up the consequences. By talking softer, Geoff has to stop yelling to hear me. Then he hears the message. Bingo - he gets it.


I never thought I could learn something new but there ya go.

We'll keep you posted on Geoff... pray for him if you pray. He can use all the mojo he can get.

It is tick season.

Last week I was sitting on the couch and noticed a lump right between Kinger's eyes. It was a tick. I pulled it out, dashed him with a swab of alcohol, and then sent him on his way. Doug later pulled one out from his cheek.

The next day I had him pinned down on the floor and was pulling and picking all over his big furry body... I got 20 frigging ticks off that dog. Twen-teee. Good gracious.

So now I am constantly checking his furry bod. He's got thick heavy fur, so you have to get your fingers in there tight and close to the skin and crawl around, which he absolutely loves. I brushed him twice this week, going against the grain, looking at the skin as the brush passed. He's never been so well groomed. I called the vet to get some tick medicine, which normally we don't put on him until May, but the incredibly mild winter has obviously benefited the tick population.

I think I'll take him swimming today because he can't go swimming for about 24 hours after the medicine is put on his back... and you know this dog loves to swim. So have a great day, stay on the look out for ticks, and enjoy the nice day (if you are in New England) before the rain comes tomorrow

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