Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Good-bye, Elementary School!

Tomorrow afternoon is the sixth grade promotion ceremony. Though this day marks the end of Elizabeth's seven-year elementary school career, she and I are both feeling good about it. She's excited for a fresh start, and I'm optimistic she'll feel more comfortable in an environment better suited to her learning style and personality. She's reading books about going to middle school, and I'm reading her new school's handbook. We'll buy uniforms and supplies over the summer, and on July 20th she starts her new chapter. She's excelled as a student so far, and I have no reason to believe her streak won't continue.

It's been a busy few weeks, so I haven't had much time to be sad about her moving on. Really, there's nothing to be sad about. Kids grow up. It's what they do. She'll gain some independence and add responsibility next year. It's a good thing, and isn't that what we've been training her for? She's mature and ready.

That's honestly how I feel, but I heard this song on the radio today, and I quickly turned into a puddle of tears. Awww. In my heart she'll always stay forever young.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Summertime Blues

THAT'S what I'm out to avoid. It pains me to admit that Matthew and I don't get along very well. When he and I argued and fought and screamed at each other today, I realized what we could be in for over the next two months and I thought to myself, No way. This can't happen daily. We need a plan.

What we argue about is screen time. He likes Minecraft and watching other people play Minecraft on YouTube. I don't like video games at all. I may be closed-minded about it, but I don't feel they serve any good, useful, or productive purpose and I can't wrap my head around why anyone would want to play them all day long. If I let Matthew do that, he certainly would, but I'm a decent mother so his time is limited. What doesn't help is how addicted kids can become to these things, and before long Mom is the enemy who keeps the kids from what they want. Meanwhile, all Mom is trying to do is raise responsible, successful, positive, and productive members of society.

Ironically, I spent a lot of time online this afternoon researching screen time reward methods and charts before coming up with a system that I hope will work for our family. The kids will get screen time, but they need to earn it first. During summer vacation, they will not be allowed to go straight to the laptop. No, indeed. Before anything may be powered up, four things must happen:

1) Beds must be made. 2) Breakfast must be eaten and dishes must be cleared from the table. 3) Kids have to get dressed and brush their teeth, and 4) pajamas must be neatly folded and tucked into drawers. Once those four duties are done, they will have earned fifteen minutes on the computer, old cellphone, or TV.

There are also daily activities that the kids are required to do for fifteen more minutes. Matthew must read for twenty minutes and practice multiplication facts for ten minutes. Elizabeth must read for thirty minutes and practice piano for thirty minutes. When they do their required daily activities, they'll earn their minutes. So if they do what they need to do each day, they'll automatically have thirty minutes of screen time.

I do realize that's only a fourth of the two-hour daily maximum pediatricians recommend for screen time, but I'm completely okay with setting the rewards low at the start. If we need to adjust, it will be easier to go in that direction! To further inspire them to be hard workers, though, I suggested some extra tasks they can do around here in exchange for media time. They can dust, vacuum, tidy up their rooms, clean bathrooms, set the table, take out the garbage, and more. Depending on the task, they get five to fifteen minutes. If they read or practice longer, then they'll be rewarded with minutes for that, too. I'm just trying to get them to realize that using electronics is a privilege, not a right, and being helpful and productive should come before having fun.

So after I drew up the plans, I printed the charts and made my proposals to Elizabeth and Matthew.

Elizabeth's Chart
Matthew's Chart
The negotiations had begun! We had very meaningful discussions on why we're instituting this, and I have to hand it to them that they agreed it was reasonable. They had more questions than I had anticipated such as, "Can we save minutes for the next day?" and "Can my reading minutes count for the library contest, too, or do I have to read double?" We made a few adjustments, I printed new charts, they decorated them, and we go live this Thursday, which is the first day of summer vacation. Elizabeth and Matthew each have a jars on the kitchen counter, and they'll receive a bead for every five minutes of screen time they earn. They can redeem their beads for computer time throughout the day or save up. It's up to them. I suppose I'll be starting and stopping timers all day, keeping track of who's cleaning what, and I'll likely run into obstacles as we go, but I'm confident we have a good plan in place to start.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Central Park

My pal Aimee is headed to New York City this fall, and she's mentioned several times how much she's looking forward to visiting and running through Central Park. Even though that's the ultimate urban park experience and we're nowhere near NYC, the kids and I craved a city park adventure this morning so we head to Phoenix's version of Central Park.

Oh man. What a disappointment. It did not look anything like this:

Not that we expected it to. It's just that we were expecting something a little more like this:

It was more like a dusty old path with a few paved roads, ramadas, and rocks sprinkled around. But, it was a nice morning outside in beautiful weather with my favorite kids. I'll take it.

The first order of business was finding Hole-in-the-Rock and making our way there.

There are some pretty views from the top.

Next, we visited Governor Hunt's Tomb. Cool but creepy.

Then we walked around the park for a bit and saw some strange lizards, rodents, and bunnies. It was starting to get overly hot in the sun though, and this park is out in the middle of Phoenix so there is no shade except at Hole-in-the-Rock.

So we can cross Papago Park off our list of things to see. Been there; done that.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Guitar George

Since Tuesday's concert, I've been picking up my guitar more. Naturally, I'm inspired. Unfortunately, I'm reminded how unnaturally guitar playing comes to me.

I really have to work at it. I don't know if my hand-eye coordination is bad, if I should have started playing earlier in life, or if it's a combination of both, but anything other than strumming open chords is a real challenge for me.

After YouTubing so much Bryan Adams this week, the site is recommending videos for me. One video was a tutorial on how to play the "Run to You" riff. I watched it. It didn't seem so hard, so I tried it. I'm terribly slow, but it's fun to play. More accurately, it's fun to be able to play, but my fingers aren't cut out for riffs or solos. I think I better stick to strumming the chords to "Heaven." 

Friday, May 22, 2015

One Night Love Affair

The Bryan Adams concert was fabulous. He's a true artist and personable and funny guy. He's entertaining and really knows how to rock up there even if he is 55 years old. Man, he has good energy. Aimee also thought it remarkable that he sounds as good live as he does in his recordings. If you been to any concert in your life, you know that's not always the case. He really impresses.

Before the show, we had an awesome dinner at a Thai place downtown. Then we headed to the theater and got our photos taken with an awfully disproportionate Bryan Adams cut out. Meh. Better than nothing, and I think we make a cute couple, don't you?

We found our seats and I was getting more and more excited the closer and closer we got to the stage. We were in row eighteen, a little to the right, and I was very, very pleased.

Don't I look pleased? :)

Aimee and I didn't plan to wear matching outfits, by the way. That stuff just happens!

Though the crowd was big, it wasn't as large as his Civic Arena show I went to in the 90s, and it was only a little larger than the Bare Bones venue at which I saw him play two years ago. I had to remind myself that I'm one of his younger fans, so it was sometimes difficult to sit still and listen instead of stand up and dance. I was grateful for the hits the crowd stood for, though. 

It was a fun show, but I think I prefer the Bare Bones tour better. Maybe I'm getting old, too, but I enjoy more pure guitar playing and singing. He has a great voice, has written tons of perfect songs, and that was really something to hear them in their simplest sound. Also, his band, though loyal, were sometimes a little annoying. Keith Scott is a very talented guitar player, but sometimes his antics were a bit much. No sixty-year-old man should be shredding it, lying on the ground, and kicking his feet in the air. I don't know about anyone else, but I wasn't there to see that. Plus, his solos went on too long, and all the distortion sounded more like noise to me than music. I'm hoping for another Bare Bones tour because that was really the best!

In any case, Bryan was the life of the party, and I'll go see him any chance I get.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's Over.

Matthew danced well with his class. Elizabeth was a cute and energetic emcee and looked good dancing with her friends, too. Still, I'm so glad the school talent show is over. I've been angry about it for far too long, and I'm hoping now I can more easily forget about it, as long as people stop asking Elizabeth why she didn't play the piano this year.

No one played the piano in this show. Come to think of it, not one musical instrument was played other than drumming on five gallon buckets. Hmmm. Peculiar.

It doesn't matter. I'm not proud of my anger and all the storylines that keep replaying in my mind. I really want it to all go away. I need to move on so bad!

I promise to share the kids' videos as soon as Brian puts them on the computer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

That's a Wrap

I believe I may have worked my last day this school year today. The year is winding down; there are a mere four days of school left. The only openings now will be last-minute sick days, and unless it's at my kids' school tomorrow and Friday, I won't take any jobs. There's a talent show tomorrow afternoon and a kickball game on Friday morning that I don't want to miss, so I don't want to work at other schools. Yes, I think the school year is over for me.

It's remarkable that becoming a substitute teacher turned out to be so good for me. I gained quite a bit of confidence and bravery. I finally grew up and got over some anxiety and fears of failure. I lived more in the moment and put myself in uncomfortable situation after uncomfortable situation until it felt like I could handle anything. I mean, I said yes to filling in for junior high language arts classes and conducting orchestras! I can't possibly be the same person, can I? Quite simply, I stopped taking myself so seriously. It's not that I have an I-don't-care attitude, but I do have a more realistic outlook and am better able to handle situations rather than control them. Change really can be a good thing.

What began on a whim of trying out a job for only two days turned into working nearly full time. I've worked at 19 of the 29 elementary schools in our district and logged 94 days in the classroom. Who would have thought?

Mrs. Nakai has arrived. I'm even taking the summer off like a teacher!