Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The mess.

I've been trying to get rid of stuff. That's part of my 2010 goals. I want to be more organized and as soon as I started trying to organize our stuff, I realized that we have way too much of it. Part of that is natural. We have four kids. Each comes with their own set of interests, likes, and dislikes. So they each have different books, toys, etc. But I'm realizing that a big part of it is my own desire to indulge them. I don't keep a lot of stuff for myself. I regularly purge my own junk. And if I didn't have the ambition to take back up a few crafts (crochet, sewing, painting) when Quinn gets back in school, I wouldn't have any junk at all. But when it comes to everyone else's stuff, I have a much harder time letting it go.

I look at an old toy and I remember how much fun Zaven had with it... and I keep it. I SAY it's for Quinn, but honestly he has no interest in it at all. It's just that I want him to have interest. And the same thing goes for books, clothes, etc. I even find myself doing it with Scott's stuff. I want him to be happy, to have hobbies, to do fun stuff. So I don't make him get rid of the stuff that has been sitting around, unused, for years.

But I've decided that what my family needs is more space and less clutter. So I'm on a big purge. And even though it's going to take a while, I already feel better. Each area that I clear makes me feel a bit more excited and happy. I don't miss the stuff at all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I never thought I would say this

...but I've become addicted to a car show. Yes, a car show. Meaning a show where the hosts test drive new cars and tell you how they perform.

I know. You think I've gone insane. But it's a really, really, REALLY good show. It's a british show called Top Gear and Scott started watching it a few months ago. Now we're all hooked and can't stop watching all the old episodes. Yes, I know. That's even crazier. It's bad enough to watch a show where they test drive new cars. Now I'm watching them test drive old cars?

But you should watch this show. It's SO not what you would think. They test the cars in the funniest ways. Like when they tested the Ford Fiesta and asked, "What if I go to a shopping centre and get chased by baddies in a corvette?" or when they tested The Lotus Exige against the missile locking capabilities of an Apache helicopter.

They've had buses jumping motor cycles (instead of the other way around), crossed the English Channel in cars that they (sort of) made amphibious, and added rockets to a car and sent it down an olympic ski jump ramp. They also race cars against things like trains, bobsledders, french skiers, boats, and once they raced a dog sled team to the north pole.

It's crazy and funny and usually has everyone in the house laughing until our ribs hurt. Even Zoe likes it, although I'm half afraid for her to watch. She's only 5 but she has big ambitions when it comes to driving. So there it is. I like a car show. Who'd have thunk it?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The elusive Dr. Lisc

I write lists. I could tell you that I developed the habit to help combat the confusion of having four kids around. But in all honesty my mom says I've done it since I learned how to write. It's a good thing, though. I have an awful memory for the mundane details of life like getting milk at the store or remembering to change the sheets regularly. Writing lists of what I need to do, need to buy, need to remember... that keeps me on track. And it keeps me from being an incessant nag. I just write down what I need the kids to do and they're in charge of getting it done. But there is one thing that has been on the list for about 7 months. Dr. Lisc.

Last summer, Zaven turned 16. So I added an item to our family to-do list. Get him a driver's license. Only I always misspell license. I spell it liscense. And when I wrote it down on the list I abbreviated it Dr. Lisc. Caly promptly asked, "Who's Doctor Lisc and why do we need to see him?" And so began the search for the elusive Dr. Lisc.

During the summer months, Zaven was away at Upward Bound. No opportunity to even study for his permit.

Once he was home we kept forgetting to stop in at the courthouse to pick up a manual. But after several weeks we remembered. Only guess what? They don't print driver's manuals any more. You have to download them from the internet. And it turns out that they're a bit thicker than I remembered. The document is about 130 pages long. Printing out 130 pages is out of my budget. So Zaven would need to read it online. The job off capturing Dr. Lisc just got a lot more complicated. We have one computer in our home, several people who want to use it, and only a small window of time that Zaven has free in a typical week. He's on a swim team, in an art club, takes music lessons, etc. Add to that the fact that when you put a teenaged boy in front of a computer, studying for a test, even a driving test, isn't what he has in mind. So the simple job of reading and studying a short manual ended up taking about 3 months. And we began to refer to Dr. Lisc as 'The Elusive Dr. Lisc.'

But eventually Zaven did study the manual and was finally ready to take the written test. Only Dr. Lisc had other plans in mind. First we found out that the courthouse in never open when he's out of school and not in an afterschool activity. In fact, the courthouse in our town doesn't administer the test, so he'd be going to the next town over. So even if he left school and went directly to the courthouse he wouldn't get there before they closed. And going to get your permit is not an excused school excuse. So we waited for a day when he had a dental appointment so he would already be out of school with an excused absence. Then we went to the courthouse... only to find that you can only take the permit test from 8-10:30 AM on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Dr. Lisc slips out of our grasp yet again. He's wily, that Dr. Lisc.

The dentist told Zaven he'd chipped a filling and would need to come back in to have it repaired. He also needed to get an appointment with an oral surgeon to see about taking out his wisdom teeth. I set the filling repair up for the next Friday so that he could also take his permit test while he was out of school. We double checked to make sure he had his social security card, birth certificate, letter from the school, etc. Then we headed to the courthouse. He made it as far as the eye exam. Due to his poor vision in one eye (from a cataract when he was 5), he would need to have a form filled out by an eye doctor before he could take the permit test. They assured us that his vision was good enough for him to get a license as long as he had all the mirrors on his car. But he had to have that form filled out first. I was beginning to hate Dr. Lisc.

Our usual eye doctor didn't have any openings for a month. I called around and found one who could see him in a week, also on a Friday, but in the afternoon. The hunt was back on. Dr. Lisc could evade us for only so long. Realizing that it would be too late in the day to make it to the courthouse before 10:30 after the eye appointment, I called the oral surgeon and set up Zaven's initial consultation for the following Monday morning. If all went according to plan, Zaven would get his eye doctor forms filled out Friday, and still have an excused absence Monday morning that we could use as a cover to stop by the courthouse and finally capture Dr. Lisc.

The eye appointment went well. And it turns out that Zaven's prescription has changed. He will be able to pick up his new glasses Monday after school. Oh, and by the way, he would need to have those new glasses with him when he took his permit test. It says so in the small print on the form they wanted his eye doctor to fill out. So even though he'll have an excused absence on Monday morning, he won't be able to take the test until Wednesday morning (not open Tuesday, remember?) and he won't have an excuse to miss school then. And the school office staff is beginning to realize that Zaven is out of school a lot. They're giving me suspicious looks these days. And I've run out of legitimate excuses to check him out. He's already been to the dentist twice, the oral surgeon, and the eye doctor.

The elusive Dr. Lisc has escaped yet again, and I'm not sure how we'll manage to capture him. But I'm now muttering lines from Moby Dick about stabbing at him from Hell's Heart, so giving up is not an option. Currently I'm thinking we'll fake a case of Meningitis or Malaria or something and try it again on Wednesday. But one way or another, Dr. Lisc is going down.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking ahead

Next fall, Quinn will start pre-school. So what am I thinking about? Picking colleges. Not for Quinn of course, but for Zaven. He's a junior this year. When I was in high school, you didn't really spend much time thinking about college until you were a senior, but the competition for scholarships is a bigger deal now, and we WILL be needing those scholarships. So the hunt for the perfect school, the perfect scholarship, and the perfect major all begin earlier.

So far, Zaven has been doing most everything right. He gets good grades for the most part. He takes difficult classes. He's involved in sports (via swimming), extra-curricular activities, music lessons, and he volunteers. So what is there to think about? Tons, apparently.

First off, he needs to at least have an idea of what he wants to major in so that he can pick a school which is strong in that program. He's thinking about paleontology, which has been a love of his since he was Quinn's age. Neither of us know anything about which schools offer good paleo programs, so we need to do research. And to make things just that more complicated, paleo isn't really an undergraduate major. It's a master's or doctoral program. I have no idea what the preferred undergrad degree is in.

Once you've picked your potential schools, you request an application. Yes, in your junior year. Why? So you can spend the next YEAR working on getting the perfect application, essay, and recommendations.

I swear I'm not making this up.

Who does that? Who spends a year on an essay? Apparently, a lot of people. Probably, a lot of parents. But the fact is that enough people do this that not doing it puts you at a real disadvantage both in getting accepted to the school and in getting financial assistance from them.

Then there are all the scholarships to research. That was becoming a big field when I was in high school. Rich parents paid for someone to go through all the potential scholarships their kids could apply for, find those most suitable to their kids, and do most of the work in filling them out. They didn't write your essays, but they filled in all the forms and organized all the materials you'd need. This was pre-autofill. Filling the things out took forever.

Apparently, that service quickly devolved into an array of potential scams. Some of the companies wrote the essays for the students, others didn't research the scholarships which resulted in kids and parents wasting time applying for scholarships that they couldn't possibly get, and most companies simply sent the family huge lists of thousands of scholarships with no guidance into which ones to apply for or how to apply... which is where I'm at. Sure it sounds great that there are all those scholarships that Zaven could get. But have you ever googled the word 'scholarship'? 44 million results. How on earth does one narrow that down? Even the reliable sites that our school recommends has thousands and thousands of scholarships that one can apply for. And since everyone wants those which have a big payout, there's a lot of competition for those. Schools now recommend that instead of trying to get one major scholarship, students try to get several dozen smaller scholarships. Thirty $500 scholarships means $15,000. That's nothing to sneeze at.

So here we sit, looking at spending the next year and a half trying to sort through all those potential gold mines for just the right gold mines.

How come I'm doing this while I still have a kid in diapers? And (heaven forbid) will this even be harder when Quinn is in high school?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

and a Happy New Year!

Wow! I can't believe it's been so long since I posted anything. Well, I won't waste your time filling you in on the last few weeks. Christmas was fun and surprisingly relaxing despite having a cold, but other than that, it's pretty much been life as normal here.

But there is one nice thing I've been meaning to post about, and I think it will be a nice first post for a new year and a new decade.

Just before Christmas, our school had their annual middle school Snowflake Dance. Caly always goes to the dances and she was super excited to go to this one in particular. She'd had someone ask her to the dance, but knowing that he had stronger feelings for her than she had for him, she declined and decided to go with her friends. She wore a full length dress, brand new high heeled boots, and looked fantastic. After the dance when I picked her up, she was giddy with excitement. But she wasn't excited about a boy liking her or asking her to dance. Instead, she was excited about something very different. You see, every year at the dance, the eighth grade elects a king and queen of the dance. Traditionally, no one campaigns or asks for votes for themselves or anyone else. They just vote for their friends. But this year all the kids were passing word to each other to vote for one particular person. So when the time came for the vote, almost every student there had heard about the plan and they all voted for the same person.

No, it wasn't for Caly. It was for one of her friends, someone she's known since they were in diapers together. He's not a close friend though, because despite being in the same grade at the same school, they have hardly ever had classes together. You see, he's a special ed student who is only mainstreamed in some of his classes. Yes, you read that right. The king of the dance is a special needs student. And in case you were wondering, no, it wasn't a prank, a joke, or even pity. He's just a really nice kid, and the other students wanted to make him happy. They like him.

Caly said, "He was so happy! At first I thought he was gonna yell, and then I thought he was gonna jump, and then I thought his face was going to break from smiling so big." As soon as I heard, I called Scott, because Scott is friends with this boy's grandfather and I knew that Scott would be excited. So I called Scott and then Scott called his grandfather to make sure that he'd heard what happened. And apparently his grandfather had arrived at the dance to pick him up early and was there in the back of the room to see it happen. I'm not sure I can really appreciate what that must have felt like.

But what a wonderful way to end one year and bring in the next.