Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pros & Cons. AKA: Are These People Crazy?

Ok, so we're nutters for not leaping straight into the mix, right?  For not filling out the acceptance form rightthisverysecond and mailing it back to CPS HQ, right?

Probably.  (*shrug*)

But here are the beginnings of our conversations about Are You Good Enough For My Little Girl? Elementary:

AYGEFMLG?E is about a 30-minute drive.  One-way.  Every.single.flipping.freezing.morning.  It's a public school, so we'd score a school bus ride.  And maybe a school bus ride for her won't have the same nightmarish experiences that it does for so many because AYGEFMLG?E is a very small school with kids that come from all over creation corners of Chicago. But still.........

Or there's {Urban} Country Day Academy.  Very short commute.  All the way downstairs.  Or back upstairs for piano practice.  Or to the kitchen to look at our caterpillars.  Or outside to plant some seeds.  Or perhaps to the library.  On really adventurous days, it's a commute downtown to the Shedd Aquarium or Field Museum, what-have-you.

Score one for {U}CDA.

AYGEFMLG?E -- now we'd have two people in the house working around CPS's calendar.  And we'd have to do more of our adventures around town when the unwashed masses are also doing them.  Ew.

{U}CDA: Right now we have three busy school days at home, one lighter day due to an oddly scheduled art class, and a busy day of three activities jammed into one day -- so light on pencil/paper academics that day.  Cabin Fever?  Time to go on a field trip.  Tired of Everything? Time to go to do a few errands and find a playground on the way home.  Tired of Everyone?  Time for Grandma Camp, if she's available.

Score two for {U}CDA.

More soon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Testing... testing...

Yep, testing.  It seemed like a good idea at the time!

Ummmm, Val.... what are you talking about?

Here's what I'm talking about.

In general, Chicago Public Schools are -- what's the word I want here? -- lacking.  But there are pockets of good things happening.  If your kid is reasonably bright and your neighborhood school is goofy (like ours) or just plain a combat zone, there are a few options.

You can take your munchkin to be tested for the Gifted and Academic Enhancement Program schools (aka: GEAP).  The test is free, paid by our tax dollars, and administered at the Illinois Institute of Technology by people who make a living designing, administering and assessing these tests for national use.  All you have to do as a Chicago resident is fill out the application, list the schools you like (as many as six) and wait for your letter telling you your test times.  And did I mention that it's free?

I  took Urban Kid 1 last year to for the Kindergarten test.  Just for grins, I put down the #1 and #2 schools in Chicago, which also happen to be the #1 and #2 schools in Illinois.  She had a lovely one-on-one chat with a trained test-giver-chick, came back 20 minutes later, and we waited for our results.

She scored in the 99.7th percentile.  Nationally.  She also did not get into either school, but whatevsky.  Our eyeroll, their loss, and they weren't going to get her anyway.

FF to last winter.  For first grade, there are two tests, depending on what kind of school you want (gifted or classical).  So I applied her to both kinds of schools and waited for our test dates.  Did I mention that both schools were once again the #1 and #2 schools?  Plus I threw a seemingly-snazzy school near U-Dad's place of employment into the mix too.  What the hell, why not?  And I did it laughing at myself because after last year's scores and rejection, what the hell did I actually expect, right?  And we're happy with our set-up here -- this is just us using the resources provided to us by our tax dollars.

The results arrived on Friday.

On the Gifted Test --call it sort of an IQ-ish, right-brain-ish sort of test -- she scored in the 94th percentile.  Yowza!  Neat!

On the Classical Test -- focused on math and reading -- she scored in the 99th percentile on reading and the 97th percentile on math. 


Oh, and she was accepted into the #1 elementary school in the state of Illinois. 

I threw the Urban Kids into the car and drove straight to Great Big Urban High School, where we waited patiently for his 8th period class to end.  I then told U-Dad, "put on your glasses now; you need to see this."  He looked at the letter carefully and got quiet... "oh great, she did beautifully, that's excitingohwowthat's interesting..."

More in the next few posts of our decision-making process, but rest assured that I have pored over every single line of every single page of Are You Good Enough For My Little Girl? Elementary's website.  And that's just for starters.

Check back soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stick A Fork In It!

And................ DONE!

Planning to celebrate with a trip to the nail salon for Urban Kid 1.  Because that apple didn't fall far from the tree. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Lunchbox Lure Works! (today, anyway)

I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for listening last week to my emotional hurlage!

When I picked up Urban Kid 1 from art class -- all bundled up and waiting forlornly in the waiting area while the rest of her class asked, "where's she going?" -- she quietly got into the car.  In fact, she was pretty quiet the rest of the day.  I almost started to feel bad for her, especially when I told Urban Dad my solution.  His response was to do a quick suck of air through his front teeth and say, "wow, I mean, that's pretty harsh, isn't it?"  When I launched at him with demands for his ideas to the problem, he quickly backed off, however.

This past Tuesday, Alien Urban Kid 1 did not appear.  At the first sign of a possible visit from AUK1, all I had to say was, "am I packing you a lunch or not?"  and whooooosh, AUK1 flew away and disappeared, leaving behind my lovely angel daughter.  She was perfect the rest of the morning.  She even asked, "how can I help, Mom?" a few times.  I almost didn't wake up from my faint in time to get her to art class!

There's another hook I'm using too: a cute pink watering can from Target.  (i looked for a picture to post, but i guess it's too small of an item)  She begged and begged for it when we were there.  I finally relented, but with a condition: she has to be good for one whole week.  The coveted watering can is on top of the fridge, with the receipt plainly visible from its top opening.  So far, her week of being good has started over... twice.  But I think she'll get there.

Y'know how there are books about pregnancy?  And about toddlerhood?  I'm thinking that I may see if there's some sort of Special Forces publication about Pych-Ops.  I may need it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Keepin' It Real (as in Real Ticked Off)

Some people hate Mondays.  Not me.  Around here, it's Tuesdays.

Here's the backstory:  the owner of the place where Urban Kid 1 takes art class has a son who started 1/2-day Kindergarten this year.  Her son and U-Kid 1 know each other and have had a playdate or two.  And his 1/2-day of Kindergarted is in the afternoons.

Art Mom had a neat idea -- open an art class and offer it to the other families in her son's class.  The class is one hour and 20 minutes long -- a one-hour art class, then 20 minutes of eating together out of their lunchboxes before being picked up and shuttled over to school.

Art Mom kindly invited Urban Kid 1 to join the class.  U-Kid 1 LOVES this class.  She loves art, she loves carrying her Hello Kitty lunchbox, loves getting the best end of belonging to a class of kids. (i take advantage of the time to do a grocery run with only one urban kid)

She's also a raging beeyotch on Tuesday mornings.

Why?  I do not get it.  I try to do just a little school because after I pick her up, I can't get her back to school mode.  Oh, who am I kidding -- I can't get me back to school mode.

I tried pretending to "drop" her out of the class as punishment for a week.  Art Mom was right there with me on the "gotta fix this now because it's only harder to fix later" idea and worked with me (all the while saying that U-Kid 1 behaved like the perfect angel while in class).  Trouble is, the day that I was supposed to make my big show of her not getting to be in art class anymore was also the day that she was pretty much passed out on the living room floor recovering from the stomach flu.  She was weak and puny and miserable and pitiful -- and clearly would not have been in art class either way.

So we've blown that strategy.

Today, I'm trying something new to treat her Tuesday Morning Drama Queen Snot-itis.  She gets to go to art class -- we've paid for it through the end of the year, I'll be damned if I'm going to figure out any more make-ups for the class.  But she does not get to stay for the 20 minutes of lunch.  I'm not packing the Hello Kitty lunchbox.  I'm picking her up after exactly one hour.  She can put on her coat and go out to the car while her buddies sip on juiceboxes and munch on sandwiches.

I know that this is hard to believe after all of this, but she really is a sweet kid.  But for some reason, on Tuesday mornings, some alien being comes to visit.  Some whiny, disrespectful, dramatic little alien.

Thanks for listening.  Typing it out on the blog is much less painful that bashing my forehead into the wall over and over.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On-Ramp To Spring

Whew!  February was a weird one around here! Wuh. Eerd.  (yeah, i know, that kind of loses its effect with a one-syllable word, huh?)

Well, it was all a bit of a whirl.  Or maybe swirl is the better word, if you get my drift.

It involved both Urban Kids getting strep, then yours truly, thus leaving Urban Dad as The Last Man Standing for a few days.  Just when we thought we had that all cleared out, Urban Kid 1 scored the stomach flu for about 24 hours.  Nipping on the heels of that was my 40th birthday.  (I'm sorry, but that still feels strange to say)  Best Namma Ever! and Pink Power Ranger came up to see the kids celebrate with me.  We spent enjoyed a free day at the Art Institute, then they babysat for free spent some quality time with the U-Kids while U-Dad took me to Lawry's for dinner.

When we returned home from dinner, we learned that the U-Kids had pleaded to drive back to St. Louis with BNE! and PPR for a few days of Grandma Camp.  (gee, ya don't suppose a week and a half of being cooped up sick gave them cabin fever too??)  BNE! was open to the idea, plus the DealMaker -- meeting me in Bloomington-Normal (about 1/2-way between Chicago and St. Louis on I-55) in order to hand them back off the next Monday.

U-Dad and I spent the weekend drunk and nekkid doing errands, going out, sleeping in and generally relaxing.  The next Monday, I retrieved the U-Kids in B-Normal from BNE! and Her Husband.  I got the U-Kids home, did our usual evening mayhem and settled in to relax.  Our Off-Kilter February was winding down.  I was looking forward to getting back into our routine, getting back to our activities and studies.

Then, the phone rang.

It was PPR.  At 10:20p.  Her shift starts at 6a, so she's never awake at 10:20p, so I knew it was an "oh, sh*t" call.  Turns out that our not-quite-99yo paternal grandmother had passed away that evening.  (If you've been reading here for a while, you may recall Not The Best Namma Ever! from a previous post.)

I called BNE! to inform her of her former-MIL.  PPR and her fiance (I'm sorry, but after all that the last few months have thrown at PPR, I can no longer call him a weenie boyfriend.  He's turned out to be a stand-up guy) started their 45-minute drive to let our bio-dad know the news.

So one day to collect ourselves, and then we were right back on I-55 on Wednesday.  Upside: the U-Kids were psyched to go back to Grandma Camp.

I skipped taking the U-Kids to the visitation and funeral.  It was at least 30 minutes from BNE'!'s house, plus Not The BNE wanted to be buried next to her husband, who she lost in 1942, and who is buried two hours away from St. Louis. For those of you keeping track at home, that's two hours back.  For a twenty-minute service.  And visiting for a few hours with distant relatives that I have not seen since childhood, several of whom I simply do not remember.  (upside: always good to see the my brothers-from-another-mother and their broods)

Just too long of a day for the U-Kids, especially for someone that -- sorry, but -- they didn't know all that well.  Plus, U-Dad and I thought that we should both be there for their first funeral experience (he stayed in Chicago, and I was totally fine with it).

Can I just add that I came back to BNE!'s house to find that she had not only watched the U-Kids all day, but that she had also made my favorite dessert?  All she would do is shrug and say, "I dunno, I just felt like it."  BNE! rocks.

Then back to Chicago for the last day of February.

Care to guess how much school got done?

I'm ready for March.