23 June 2014

Big Day at the War College

Today was exciting here in the world of RI DoD nonsense. In short John Schindler, professor at the Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, RI was put on leaver after he, allegedly, sent a classic "dick pick." Because apparently no matter how smart you purport to be, the temptation to send unflattering pictures of your genitals to people is a tough urge to overcome. I first caught wind of it from Chris who kind of mentioned that some guy at the NWC had imploded himself on Twitter. Cool! I love a good fiery demise by social media! I kind of watched it all unfold in real time and by this afternoon, he was on suspension from the NWC and it is big news. I have so many things to say about this, none of them necessarily connected, but here they are in no particular order.
  • Good on the NWC for moving ahead with an an investigation ASAP. They are at least giving the impression that this guy will not just get the classic "well, you know, we are all old white dudes so whatevs" pass.
  • It is sad that I consider that victory. As if the bar for response to what could, and should, be considered a form of sexual assault has been set so low that even a passing acknowledgement that it should be investigated is cause for celebration.
  • I am curious as to why he has not been investigated, or possibly, dismissed in the past. Schindler seems to have a long history of unprofessional behavior on his blog and on Twitter. While his behavior in those venues may not represent how he acts as a professor, and his private life should be just that, private, he is throwing around a lot of NWC clout. He presents himself as a subject matter expert (which he may very well be, no argument there) and constantly acts as an ambassador of the NWC in high profile discussions in his area of study. I am just surprised that he was able to walk around acting like a jackass while wearing a huge NWC insignia and no one has smacked that bad attitude down.
  • This is especially true since he has made transphobic and/or homophobic remarks about key players in the currently ongoing NSA investigations. I have a hard time accepting the professional credibility of a person, and by extension the institution that employs said person, when that kind of behavior is exhibited and subsequently tolerated. Looks like we have a long way to go when one of the DoD's leading educational research institutions is willing to tacitly endorse that kind of rhetoric.
  • The e-mails, just oh my goddess, the e-mails. They are sexist, misogynistic, elitist, uber-conservative gold. Seriously check them out (Warning: the following link is definitively NSFW and may contain un-pixelated images of the penis in question. The article makes it clear when the unedited material will appear, but a back up warning in case that is not your bag or it might be in any way triggery is always a good idea.) The emails.
  • His whole demeanor, the entire "I am saying this is true and you will believe it and not question it because I am an expert and that is all you need to know" attitude is so archetypically perfect I can't even stand it! Spend five minutes involved with DoD operations and this will feel oh so familiar. Not really a shock that the herd of professors they hire to train military members to be, well, good little service(wo)men unerringly embrace this attitude.
  • The simpering explanation that he has received negative blowback, not only directed at him personally, but his family and co-workers, is just too exemplary for words. While I don't enjoy seeing a person's life ruined, the total disbelief that he is in any way culpable for this outcome is amazing. That is white-cis-het-conservative-male privilege at its very best.
  • Additionally, this is probably still only a fraction of the abuse that women receive, daily, just because they dare to speak out on topics such as, just for example, trans* issues, homophobia, sexism, misogyny and sexual assault. I am having a hard time feeling sorry for a man who actively engaged in a breathtaking intersection of all those terrible things getting some blowback.
I am very curious to see how all this plays out. I have my doubts as to whether the college will actually do anything about this, or if they will keep up the standard DoD SOP of just making it look like they care. I am also waiting, with popcorn at the ready, for when this guy makes his inevitable return to social media so we can all hear about how he was the tragically wronged party in all of this. (Granted, that may still turn out to be true, the validity of all these claims has yet to stand up to investigation level scrutiny, but I am always going to assume claims of this kind of assault to be true because we owe that to victims who are brave enough to come forward.)

20 June 2014

That Time My Neighbors Were Rape-Culture Activists

My neighbor is currently running the local soccer league and finds himself with a conundrum.  The broad strokes are that a boy with a history of behavioral issues threatened a girl that if she didn't have sex with his friend, said boy would kill her.  Understandably, the parents of his girl do not think the boy should be allowed on the team, yet no one seems to agree with that idea.

"But he deserves another chance." Nope. White men of privilege are always given another chance.  This teaches them that there are no repercussions for this kind of behavior.  By constantly offering these "second chances" (and third chances and fourth chances and so on) the behavior is tacitly endorsed and  indirectly rewarded.  If you are wondering how we produce the Elliot Rodgers of the world, this is exactly how that happens.

"But the team should have all the best players." Nope, your desire for trophies doesn't trump this girl's fundamental human right to not be harassed and endangered.  All the kids deserve to be on the best team possible while maintaining an environment that is not hostile to agency.  Protecting the interest of a sports ball team does not make it acceptable to ignore misogynistic and dangerous behaviors.  If you are wondering how we produce boys like The Steubenville Rapists, this is exactly how it happens.

"But she can play on the girls team." Nope. She should not have to chose to play on her second choice team so as to accommodate the unacceptable behavior of this young man.  The perpetrator of the assault threat, and that is exactly what this is, a direct threat of assault if a girl doesn't subject to the sexual will of a boy, needs to be the one who loses out on this opportunity.

This neighbor is raising two boys of his own. He is a lawyer who should understand the full repercussions of such threats. The other parents have children of their own who will participate within this sphere of influence and not one of them is concerned that this kid would be on the team.  This kind of misogyny is so normalized that it literally concerns no one.

I can already see how this will go.  The kid will get a spot on the team, because trophies. The parents of the girl will petition for his removal. She will get pushed out of the soccer system because white men who help sport teams get medals will always be held in higher regard than the people around them who demand personal safety, because trophies.  This lovely white privileged community will carry on with its entrenched sexism and support of rape culture.  Everyone will wonder why girls don't seem to want to play soccer, as if it is a complete mystery that they don't feel welcome or safe in that space.

Suburban sports-culture is rape culture. Plain and simple.

19 June 2014

Chores are a Real...Chore?

My kids now have assigned chores as part of my "turn these horrid little tyrants into humans" plan.  Basically, they are just responsible for the kinds of things that keep a household going.  Make your bed, get your clothes in the hamper, put away clean clothes, help load dishes after meals, ensure the bunny has food/water/lettuce/papaya and some bigger weekly tasks like helping gather up trash and recycling.  We are slowly but surely building a little home-culture of everyone just pitching in and keeping the place running.

BUT...and isn't there always a "but" with kids...this has not actually made my life easier.  The thing about assigning your kids chores is that is actually makes getting those tasks done, and done completely/correctly, soooooo much more time consuming.  It takes me five minutes to make three beds, but it can take 15 minutes of arguing, tantrum throwing and fit pitching to get Liz to pull her comforter up and toss the stuffed animals back on the bed.  Sure dishes get put in dishwasher, but with no end of fighting, clattering of silverware and milk splashed over every square inch of the counter-top.  Feeding the bunny leaves a trail of hay and food that requires me to sweep the floor an extra time. All in all, this is not a particularly rewarding parenting task on a day-to-day, chore-to-chore basis.  I easily spend way more time reminding them to do these tasks, and dealing with the fall-out than it would ever take for me to to all this work myself.  Of course, doing it all myself  is how you get 32-year-olds who can't figure out where the measuring cups go (and the spouses who silently seethe)...so you know, we shall carry on.

Overall, they have been doing very well with their chore lists and it seems to have helped the general "flow" of the household.  Since doing household stuff has become routine, they also fight me less when we have to do other chores like the weekly overhaul of the playroom, sorting out summer clothes or getting the garage put to rights.  While day-to-day the chores provide way more work than they mitigate, I do actually feel like I am doing something that will help my kids be functioning adults one day.

This may only be worth it in the big-picture sense, but that is good enough for me.

18 June 2014

Sleep Deprived

Officially on my third night of only 3-4 hours of sleep. I am drinking way to much coffee and staggering through my day. It is not pretty. Kudos to my kids though. They managed to stagger their all night crises (illness, nightmares, thunder and plain loving to see me hustle) such that I was never in my bed for more than 45 minutes at a clip and got all my sleep in maybe 20 minute bursts. I am so tired I could weep.

Since cognitive thought is so not on the agenda for today, check out the socks I knit over at Full of Knit.

I will see you when the sleep-deprivation related fog has cleared....say 2027 or so.

 

17 June 2014

Plague House

I was going to write more about the Common Core Hysteria, but Liz is sick and this week is Spirit Week at school so I have a metric ton of tutus to make...so, let's whine about sick kids for a few minutes instead.

Liz has a random fever.  This makes her not sleep. This makes me deliver quite the lecture when she had ripped me from REM sleep for the fourth time on Sunday night.  Having finally snapped and told her that "I am a human being not your all-night concierge, I deserve to sleep and you are going to let me do that now,'' I go in for a kiss and discover that she has a fever of like 103F.  Best. Mom. Ever!

Of course, that is her only symptom.  Just a fever and some fatigue, maybe from illness, maybe from just plain not sleeping well.  Naturally I am convinced that she is having a Lyme relapse/reinfection.  While I did not find any lice on her last week, I did find, and inadvertently kill with prophylactic lice treatments, two ticks.  Add this to another two she picked up on a hike a few weeks ago and I am like 10000000000% convinced she has active Lyme again. No rash anywhere, but her last rash was only around for, no joke, less than a day, so if it is in her hair, I may have missed it (if she even had one at all).  If the fever doesn't break by tomorrow, we will be heading in for a titre. Oh joy.

Of course, we are already heading to see a physician tomorrow.  It is time for an ENT follow-up on the ear that no longer has a tube and probably an audiology exam.  I have a deep-seated suspicion that we will be getting new tubes real soon.  While I hate to do a third round of surgery (as noninvasive as it may be) I also don't want to risk her starting preschool with  diminished hearing due to chronic fluid in the ear.  Additionally, she will be getting sick quite a bit in her first year of school, that is what kids do. I really don't want to start her school career with a ton of absences for ear-infections and/or a week off for surgery later down the line. On the upside, we can probably just add a Lyme titre to the pre-op blood-work so that is good news...I guess.

My standards for good news have really dropped in the past few years, I tell you what.

It is just non-stop medical thrills and chills around here.  Survived lice so we can do possible-Lyme and/or PE tubes.  I am going to mainline some caffeine, dose both of us with some Tylenol and binge-watch Pretty Little Liars while producing tu-tus.  I don't see any other acceptable plan really.


16 June 2014

The Common-Complaints Standards

Boy do we all love to hate the Common Core Standards.  They are too hard and ask too much of our kids They are also too easy and won't prepare our kids for life.  They are socialist indoctrination. Even though we all hated math and most of us can't balance a checkbook, this new way is bad news and we are all "fine."

So, in the interest of full-disclosure, I love the Common-Core, or at least I love the way our district has been implementing the standards.  Charlie is thriving under these metrics and I am continually amazed by the kind of conceptual mastery she gets at such a young age.  I mean, the kid can multiply and do basic algebra (though that terminology is not strictly used) as a first grader.  Hell, I didn't really "get" math beyond rote memorization (that was so not my bag, so yeah, failed so much math!) until I took physics as a high school junior, yet Charlie can explain the actual inner working of mathematical processes.  At 7 years old.  Add in that I am child of educators and public school administrators, so maybe I have already been a victim of "socialist indoctrination," and I am in love with the new standards.

I have a lot to say about this, but for today let's just delve into a few points that seem to be the most popular causes of histrionics:

  • New Math- Lots of parents are in a panic because this is not how we learned math.  Since it is new, different, and sometime hard for us to understand it must be wrong and will make our kids stupid. This is a pretty common refrain in education.  A wave of new math arose in the 1960s that had parents in a froth that it was idiotic, too conceptualized and too hard.  That was the math curriculum that we (as GenXers to Millenials) learned.  So did we all turn out too math challenged  for college? Well, no.  So basically the first issue with Common Core hysteria is that people don't like change.  So let's all take a deep breath and remember that women getting the vote, landing on the moon and discovering antibiotics were all parts of panic-inducing change. Change can be OK.  Our way worked OK, this way may work better, no way was "wrong."  Why wouldn't we want to try and makes thing better for our kids than the math we endured? 
  • The Socialist Regime- I think we need to put it out there that a lot of anti-Common Core rhetoric is due purely to the initiative being viewed as an Obama program.  There is a sizable chunk of the population who genuinely believe that everything Obama does it some kind of underhanded maneuver to turn us all into unmanly Communists. It should come as no surprise that the Anti-Common Core political platform is a campaign tool of those on the far-right. I am not saying that we can therefore disregard anything negative anyone has to say about the Common Core, I just think we need to question the motives of the fervor first.  If your views on education are formed by Fox News and The Washington Free Beacon instead of PTO meetings and actually reading the Common Core/Race to The Top standards...well, educate yourself before you tirade about how we educate kids. 
  • Our Way Was Fine- Was it really though?  Ask around, how many people liked math?  How many people found math easy? How many have lingering anxiety thanks to timed multiplication tests? Frankly, when the current population of parents can't figure out our kids' elementary school math homework, it is not a great testament to how well our math educations have served us.  Many of us were able to get through math via memorization, and that will get you through a good deal of math. However, once faced with algebra and the scientific applications thereof (I'm looking at you chemistry and physics) the memorization technique starts to break down.  You can't make the jump to real-deal calculus, statistics or even algebra on memorization alone.  Physics and chemistry are near-on impossible if you don't understand, on a conceptual level, how algebra and dimensional analysis work. Now think back on  how many kids stopped taking math and science as soon as they could.  How many otherwise straight-A students couldn't hack chemistry or physics?  Granted, these areas of study are not for everyone. Not everyone has to be a STEM genius, but the more kids who have the chance to not be stymied by the math, the more likely we are to keep them interested in those growing fields. 
  • We Can't Do Our Kids HW- Well that is OK.  It is OK for you and your kids to have to work at it a bit.  It is OK to have to Google that method and figure it out together. It is OK to have a whack at it then ask the teacher for additional help. It is even OK to try and figure it out, get it wrong and start again. Really it is. Which would you rather have: a kid who gets their work done by your memorization or a kid who knows how to use all the available resources to work it out?  Basically, if you have to say "I don't know how to do that, lets look it up/please ask your teacher for help tomorrow" it will not cause the earth to crash into the sun.  Your kid might even learn a research skill! 
  • We Hate Seeing Kids Struggle- Additionally, it is OK for kids to struggle a bit.  As parents we love to toss around the idea of "challenging" all our "gifted" students, but then when actually faced with material that requires some effort, we all lose our collective minds.  There are going to be lots of times in life when we are confronted with things we don't know. So, lets practice our problem solving skills on harmless math worksheets now so when faced with real deal issues, we have some tools.  At the end of the day we need to teach our kids to learn more than we need to teach them memorized subtraction facts. 
  • We Can't Make Gifted Students- As a corollary to the above points, I think we are going to see fall-out of kids not being able to fake academic excellence via memorization and parental "assistance." I think on some level, not being able to "help" our kids ace HW (by doing it for them) makes us worry that we won't be able to "help" our kids into straight-A's, honor rolls and top colleges.  Since manufacturing gifted kids is big business, a curriculum change that requires conceptualization instead of sheer gritted effort may be cause for upset.  While it may be tough going for a while, kids who learn how to understand material on their own via many techniques, will do better in college and the "real world."  
Granted, there is a lot more going on with the Common Core Standards and why "everyone" hates them.  I believe there are definitely some points against the Common Core that should be addressed. However, many of the  issues are less about the standards as whole, and more about how individual states/districts have implemented the standards. I also suspect that many are conflating a dislike for standardized testing with a dislike for the Common Core, two issues that are not synonymous at all (though they may be related depending on how your state handles the Race To The Top criteria). 

For now, anyone else have school aged kids with good/bad experiences with how your district has implemented the new standards? 

14 June 2014

Crafty Times

The next couple of posts are over at Full of Knit. If you want to see what I have been knitting lately, head on over. If not, no worries, I will be back on Monday with some non-crafty posts.

 

13 June 2014

The Tiniest T-K Kid Goes to School

We had Liz's preschool orientation today.  It was really very nice, the school is lovely and her teacher seems great.  We even met her again at lunch (out of the school context) and Liz seemed very responsive to her. I have a very good feeling about this match.

One of my major concerns in looking into preschools was Liz's age.  Her November birthday means she misses the cut-off for Kindergarten by two months and therefore, won't be starting full-time public school until she is nearly six.  Not to be "that mom" with the uber-gifted-snowflake, but I was worried about this.  As a second child, as a kid who is physically much larger than her peers and as a girl*, she is already on top of most preschool goals and even starting to get into some Kindergarten level work.  While I don't expect the school district to cater to my special desire to ensure she is "challenged" or not bored, I was apprehensive that her rowdier nature might put her in a less than desirable behavior mode if she wasn't engaged.

Having looked into the options such as private schools (holy cash BATMAN! That was the sticker price on my undergrad education and then I at least got food, a bed and a gym.), homeschooling and petitioning for an exemption, we decided to just keep her on the school prescribed track and see what happens.  Once we got into the district-run preschool I felt even better about the situation.  Knowing that she will be tracked through her home district and placed in Kindergarten based on a years worth of guided instruction eases my worries so much.  If she winds up being a bit ahead, or maybe winds up needing some interventions, she will be all set within the parameters of the district.  She can enter full-time school with a dossier, if you will, of where she is at and where she should be headed.

The final soul-soothing factor came today in our orientation.  While it is an integrated preschool aimed at mixing kids who needed interventions with kids who will serve as model students, at least 50% of the kids in Liz's class are in a similar birthday situation.  It is clear that when they build the classrooms in addition to balancing out IEPs and desired sessions, they seem to sort by age cohort within the class cohort. Basically, kids who are definitively Pre-K (vs. 3-4 year-olds with two years to Kindergarten) seem to be grouped together. I like how that will help the entire class get what they need. Personally, I really like that Liz will be with a group of kids who are all reaching roughly the same milestones so no one feels left out, left behind or bored.

So my last baby will start school at the end of August. I will have two hours, four days a week kid-free. Looks like I need to start thinking about what I might like to do when both of them are in full-time school. Yikes!

*Obviously girls are not smarter than boys of a similar age, but as explored in this post, how we socialize boys and girls for school seems to be very different.  This does create a phenomenon where girls seem more prepared for the "rigors" of school than their boy peers. 

12 June 2014

Bugging Out

Well, it finally happened. Charlie got the dreaded head-lice. It was exactly as traumatic as you imagine. Granted, when you have kids in a school setting it is really a matter of when not if, so I guess it was our turn.
Of course, knowing far too much about parasitic diseases and transmission thereof did not make the, no joke, 20 loads of laundry and full house cleaning extravaganza any less irritating.  While it was handy that I have experience with the full-home-decontamination procedure, when you have that in your skill set, you do kind of start to question your life choices.

Really?

Should the average layperson be this familiar with how to kill it with fire?

Looking back we have done scabies, impetigo, head-lice, Lyme disease, ENT stuff to the max and oh so much wound care.  I can de-gravel road rash, remove ticks and handle all manner of exercise related injuries. Stress fractures, sprained ankles, shin splints and ganglion cysts don't stand a chance under my diligent care.  I am very familiar with per kilo dosing of roughly seven thousand medication from OTC Tylenol to schedule III narcotics.  You name an item and I know how to sterilize it.

All this and yet I am not a doctor, field medic or even relatively well skilled under-cover secret agent.  Nope, this is just average life when you have kids.  Or maybe just accident prone adults...a not insignificant amount of that craziness is from Chris and me.

What I am trying to say here is "use condoms people."  

Kids inevitably lead to the need for decontamination and that, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.

11 June 2014

More Musings on Screen-Time

The more I think about this whole 'screen-time" thing, the more convoluted (and oh so ridiculous) it gets.  I think that like all parenting issues, culturally we want this to black and white when it is anything but.  Sure my kids don't need to be watching 12 hours of TV a day, but there are many considerations that go into what makes screen-time bad or good for kids. As with all parenting choices, you have to do what works for you and your comfort zones (no judgement!), but some points to consider on the topic follow:

  • Not all screen time is bad.  As illustrated in a great book I read a few years ago, it is not always the quantity of screen-time, but the quality.  For example, Charlie now knows how to multiply thanks to playing Minecraft.  If she wants to build 4 walls of 9 blocks, she now knows she need 36 blocks on hand. So yeah, that probably wasn't the worst use of her time.  (I nearly peed myself when she was like "oh yeah 7 sets of 6 is 42, multiplication is just counting by sets like building in Minecraft."  Umm yeahh...it really is that easy!) Also not all screen-time is mindless sedentary activity.  What if my kids play Just Dance, WiiFit or do a yoga DVD?  Sure it is hours logged on a screen, but when the winters are dark (and full of terrors) what else do ya do?  Basically, assuming you are paying some attention to the media they are consuming, screen-time is not inherently the great evil of childhood learning that everyone makes it out to be.
  • The trope of "parent who plugs kid into TV all day so zie can watch soaps and paint nails" needs to die.  Not only is that patently untrue for 99.999% of parents, I would love to meet the kids who can be pacified with TV all day.  My kids won't do this.  Even when given unlimited game time, they punctuate it with using art supplies to make plan/maps for what they will be building in Minecraft, designing costumes and putting on plays about their game-related adventures, writing stories about their characters and well, just plain taking breaks because they also like bike riding, swing-setting and riding my ass about ice cream.  Most kids are not going to settle for a goggle-box babysitter, so let's just take that stereotype off the table.
  • Even when parents do rely on TV/videogames/computer to amuse kids, it is not just because they are lazy.  As I mentioned yesterday even those of us who do regulate screen-time tend to use it in the most mutually productive way possible.  The realities of parenting sometimes require screen-time, especially when the choices are half an hour of Spongebob or the third straight day without a shower, clean dishes or laundered knickers.  Having done several years of solo-parenting, with bad nappers and early risers, TV can be a necessity to survival. 
  • Screen-time is a necessity of modern life.  Computer literacy is an assumed skill now and many schools (including our local district) are phasing into computer based learning modules with increased focus on often-computer-based STEM skills.  You can't say that kids shouldn't have screen-time, but then be surprised when middle-schoolers have trouble using computers effectively.  You can't say teens should only have 4 hours a day of screen time, then run 7 hours of classes plus homework via computer based models.  I personally feel that exposure to screen-work, be it games, TV, typing or reading is good for kids since that will be reality of much of their educational experiences.  When fourth graders are expected to produce and present Power-Point presentations, we need to be realistic about the "recommended" screen-time guidelines. 
Granted, I am glad that modulating my kids' usage of all our fabulous technology is my biggest concern right now.  In the big scheme of parenting issues, we should all be so lucky to have playing PokemonX be our major challenge. Though that is really it, isn't it?  This whole angsting about screen-time (and all the parenting shaming and momier-than-thou-ing that goes with it) really is just the result of comfortable middle-class parents with not much else to do.  For made-up parenting problems in lieu of insurmountable real-life challenges, oh goddess, we give thanks. 
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