Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hungry Heart

I've been needing to take a little more interest in nutrition lately.  One could chalk it up to accepting the reality of my own mortality.  Or at least to the desire to put off that reality for as long as possible.  Y'see, I'm spoiled.  Blessed, even.  I have a body that, for the most part, works the way I ask it to.  I've been a runner since I was about ten years old, grew up in a household headed by a woman who was ahead of her time as far as healthy cooking, ran cross-country and track (not terribly well, but consistently enough), and continued with good habits into adulthood (if you don't count the phase where I drank like it was an Olympic sport in which I was determined to medal).  I rode my bike to my corporate job, ran during lunch, rode my bike home, ordered steamed veggies and tofu, all that stuff. 

So here I am scheduling a HeartScan.  And learning a lot about what I didn't know along the way.

Here's the kicker:  my bad cholesterol is golden.  Not surprising, I suppose.  I don't like to cook (there! I admit it!), and when I do... well, let's just say that when Urban Dad and I go out, I make it a point to not order chicken.

But the good cholesterol?  The one that's supposed to be at least 50 in women?  Preferably higher?  Mine is 33.  And that's an improvement over the last few years.  My doctor is now filling me in on heart disease in women and imploring me to get a (not-likely-covered-by-insurance) HeartScan to make sure that my lack of protective cholesterol isn't leading to plaque in my ticker.

Best Namma Ever! was completely and immediately concerned.  "Schedule it!  Schedule it now!  I'll pay for the damn thing if you want!" 

The conversation with Urban Dad went a little differently:
Me:  "My doctor wants me to find the money to do a Heart Scan."
Him:  "Pffffft!  That's stupid!  You're nowhere near overweight, you don't eat heavily, you've exercised your whole life."
Me:  "That's not the point.  In fact, I should be exercising more."
Him:  "Pfffffft!  That's stupid!  You exercise plenty.  Hell, just chasing the kids is exercise, let alone when you go to the gym."
Me:  "My dad had bypass surgery and cholesterol problems run in my mom's side."
Him:  "Pffffft!  That's stupid!  How old was your dad when he had surgery?  And he's not exactly an exercise fiend, right?"
Me:  "My numbers are not improving.  My doctor is concerned and just wants to know.  Heart disease is a huge thing in women.  For example, my girlfriend Diane has been on Plavix since she was 32 because of plaque in her heart."
Him:  "Pfffffft!  That's stupid!  There's nothing wrong with you.  You're fine."
Him:  *****silence*****

Lest you think less of Urban Dad, understand that this is how he works.  He reacts all arrogantly sure of himself, but then the idea sinks in after a while.  You can tell as he asks questions over the next several days.  For example, a few days later, as we were dozing off, out of nowhere, it was, "So where do you go for a HeartScan?"  The next day it was, "How much is the test? It doesn't matter, of course, but I'm just curious."  The day after that it was, "Do you want to get one? Have you scheduled it yet?"  He turns it over in his mind and works his way to a paradigm shift.  And as this process happens, I do my bits of research so that I can drag him along cheerfully share what I've learned.  It's a process, but it happens.  Eventually.  In fact, when I let the scheduling slide down my To-Do List, Urban Dad actually badgered me to finally schedule it already.

(over Spring Break, thanks, so that he can take the Urban Kids -- babysitters are $15/hr, y'know!)

In the meantime, I went to a nutrition seminar in order to learn more about foods that will help raise that 33.  When I asked my specific question, I got a lot of "oh, don't get wrapped up in numbers" in the response from a couple of overly-groovy trainers.  Ummmm.... and your medical degree is from.......where, exactly?

God bless my doctor and the internet.  As I type, I have salmon marinating.  (yes! i'm going to try to cook something!)  I have fish oil capsules in the cabinet.  And, of course, a glass of red wine by the computer.  I can't get away to the gym more often than on Saturdays and Sundays, but that will hopefully change soon.  In the meantime, when I do an errand, I just try to walkthereasfastasIcan!

Here's to spending $395 and a morning at UIC to find out that everything is clear as a bell! (*clink*)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who Exactly Are You Testing Here, Urban Mom?

What can I tell you?  I'm in a weird place.  It's a dusty, tail-bone-bruised, grit-in-my-teeth kind of place that one lands after falling off of a high horse. 

And it's a worried place.  Am I doing this right?  Am I messing up this whole homeschooling thing?  I mean, one of the reasons that we're doing this is because we think that we can do it better than the system.  But here I am.... worrying....  I tell people that we'll do this for as long as it works, for as long as it's the best way to serve the Urban Kids. 

I've been given a statistical kick in the hiney this week.

The backstory:
Chicago Public Schools has a nearly impossible to navigate network of magnet or selective enrollment schools.  You have to apply to go to these extra-special places.  And you have to test in (ok, admission is based on the score plus additional census factors all combined into an algorithm that would confuse stephen hawking).  The type of test that your kid takes depends on the type of school you want her to attend.  When the results/acceptance letters go out from CPS, word spreads like wildfire amongst parents.  Mail carriers fear rabid parents waiting at their doors as they frantically grapple for these letters.

For the last three years, I've "applied" Urban Kid 1 to these schools.  We're in the luxurious position of getting a free test (our tax dollars at work, right?) without having to actually have any angst about this letter holding my child's future within its text.

Applying for Kindergarten:  (one test)  Urban Kid 1 scored in the 99.7th percentile.  Urban Dad's genetic influence was clearly manifesting itself.

Applying for First Grade:  (two tests)  On test #1, U-Kid 1 scored in the 99th percentile in reading and in the 97th percentile in math.  On test #2, she pulled a score of 123 out of maybe 130, landing her in the 94th percentile.  I figured that was pretty sweet, that our little arrangment here was working, and even ventured to pat myself on the back a bit.
I got the results this week for "applying" to Second Grade

Test #1:  96th percentile in reading and 77th percentile in math.
Test #2: 106 points

Which had me reacting like this:

I was crushed.  Not by the scores, mind you.  She's a happy, playful, friendly, socially adept and curious kid, and yes, those things are the most important things.  Please don't leave me grumpy comments about the scores themselves.  I'm massively concerned about the drop, about the sudden change.  I figured that when I was starting to get in over my head that the scores would sliiiiide down over a period of time.  So it was this potential evidence about whether I am utterly bombing as my daughters' teacher that had me sitting catatonically with the letter and with tears welling up in my eyes.

Urban Dad, who already spends the majority of his days running around tending to things and people, had to talk me down.

"She had a bad day; so what!"
"Give me a break, she knows math!"  (this from a former trader the the Mercantile Exchange)
"They screwed up the test, obviously."
"Even if the test is right, math is the easiest thing to fix -- it's just practice."
"Will you stop?  You're doing a great job!  She's getting a great education because of you.  Forget about this!"
"You remember Vimal?"  (i do... brilliant former student of u-dad's... several years later, he went into finance, and u-dad and i gave him money to invest; we also attended his wedding)  "Vimal failed the AP test for my class because he accidentally filled in the blanks on the computer form wrong.  Do you hear me?  Vimal got a failing score."  (i hadn't known this before)  "So STOP, you haven't done anything wrong!"

When Urban Kid 1 was in the room later -- no, we haven't shared this with her -- he casually asked her a few math questions, a la how homeschool kids are often drilled by strangers.  Without looking up, she popped off correct answers.  And she recalled the tests as easy (so perhaps she was too cavalier?)

Now if I want to play the My Baby Is Perfect It's You That's The Problem Game, I can do that as well as any other parent.  At the first test, there was a blizzard bad enough to make me opt for the El rather than driving.  By the time we trained down there, walked to the facility, took the test, and trained back, the test was an aaaaallllllll daaaayyyy event.  So yeah, there ya go.... it was the weather!  For the second test, we drove there, easily found our way to the facility, and walked in to find the facility's thermometer cranking.  While we were dressed for Chicago in December, it felt like

Urban Kid 1 and her fellow test-takers came out dragging and with bright pink cheeks.  I asked if the test administers didn't open a window... she replied, "they weren't allowed to."  (i left a snarky note on my parent survey)

ahem, no, I can't remember which test was given on which day.

My gut tells me that Urban Kid 1 is fine.  When we work together every day, she picks up the concepts and runs with them.  But I'm a numbers-wound kind of person in my head, and I need to lose this nagging doubt, so I called these folks for help settling my internal dispute.

I told them what I've shared with you here, they're quite familiar with Saxon Math, and they have a nice, thorough diagnostic that will let me vicariously crawl into Urban Kid 1's brain and have a look around.  (instrusive much, val?)  They didn't even give me the hard sell about their pricey programs.  U-Dad is ok with us spending the money because 1.) I promised that this would be the only test; that I won't go around looking for a test that tells me what I want to hear rather than what is true and 2.) he thinks it'll get him a reassured wife.  And as we all know...


Monday, March 14, 2011

Urban WHO????

Ok, ok, ok, it's been a while.  I mean, is there a time limit here?  Like after so many months, can you even really call yourself a blogger anymore?

Time to get back at it.

It's late... I'm staying up in order to register the Urban Kids for the next round of Piano classes.  Y'see, there are only five kids per class, and I NEED them to be back-to-back.  And I want a certain couple of teachers.  And a certain day.  So I stay up so that when registration starts on March 14th, I'm right-there-at-12:01am.

So a few CliffNotes:

Pink Power Ranger lost the pregnancy.  It was gruesome and painful and dramatic and awful and made Best Namma Ever cry (hatehatehatethat).  But they've given it another go, and are about eight weeks along again and due in October.  Frankly, PPR is hoping for 11/11/11 for a birthday.  Because of having to publicly go through all of the pain of the miscarriage, she's not telling any of her colleagues or superiors until she's at 12 weeks.  This is making her husband a bit crazy, as having a cop-wife is already worrisome for him.  Having a pregnant cop-wife who is still on the road may age him a few years.  For those of you who also know me on Facebook....shhhhhhhh.  Not public info yet.

Urban Kid 2 turned four.  This has been the preschooler version of turning 21.  She can do all sorts of things now... take Big Kid Piano class, go into the computer room at the gym, transfer up to a booster seat.  Yep, she proudly reminds us, "But I can help... I'm a Big Kid now!"  Right now, she's in Level I swimming, but all she talks about is getting to Junior Swim Team like her sister.  However, she needs to get through Levels II and III first.  But yep, that kid is out of the gate!

We had a bit of snowfall here in Chicago this winter.

Oh, and my in-laws are pretty much insane.  Certifiably so (not kidding on that!).  Well, two of them.  The rest are really quite nice.  And they don't talk to the crazy two.  Urban Dad is involved in a bit of a legal thang with Crazy and Crazier, but we hope to be resolved soon.  And then we'll change our telephone number.

Ok, the flipping website for registering for piano is not letting me in.  Getting the "only continuing students may register."  HELLO????  WHAT HAVE WE BEEN FOR THE LAST EIGHT MONTHS???  This happened last time too.  So much for, "We'll let our tech guys know."  *sigh*  Two seats already gone for U-Kid 1's class.

Such are my troubles.

More soon.  Thanks for letting me warm up a bit tonight!