Friday, January 29, 2010

Lindsey's Report Card

Okay, I have to boast a little, 'cuz I'm just so damn proud of my kids.

We got Lindsey's report card this past week. In 1st grade they don't get As, Bs, Cs, but instead a numbering system: 4=above standard, 3=at standard, 2=approaching standard, 1=get thee to a tutor.

She got all 3's and in reading got 4's across the board. I was a little surprised by this, because at her parent/teacher conference at the beginning of the year she was at the lowest level of reading for 1st grade. You kind of expect that at the beginning of the year; after all, she was just entering 1st grade, but I fully expected that she would perhaps reach the expected standard reading level by the end of the year, not be above the standards mid-year.

And as if that wasn't good enough, Lindsey started in the Accelerated Reading program starting in January. She had to take a little reading test to see if she qualified, and she did. Now every Tuesday morning she goes to the library for a while with other kids in the AR program and does special reading activities. There's some kind of program on the PCs that they use, and then they get to check out 3 or 4 books.

I am especially thrilled at this, because reading is the key to all learning. You can't get good at science if you spend half your time decifering the science project instructions, rather than actually doing the project. You can't understand math if you struggle to understand the problem, and so on and so forth.

I am so proud of her!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Teaching Philanthropy

The Haitian earthquake and the outpouring of relief in its aftermath have had an impact on Lindsey's perception of the world.

First, I made the mistake of allowing her to browse my new iTouch. She went straight to the video app which defaults to showing all of the top viewed videos...which were all of the Haiti relief. Videos of mountains of rubble, of injured people being pulled from the remains of buildings, of food and water being distributed. She only watched these videos for maybe 5 or 10 minutes while I cooked dinner, but it definitely made an impact.

Suddenly she came running up to me to show me one of the videos. It was the one of Michelle Obama, asking people to text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to Haitian relief. Lindsey's response was, "We can help those people! Let's do this so we can help them!"

Sure, absolutely.

I showed Lindsey as I texted this on my cell phone. I immediately got a response asking me to confirm that I am donating $10 to the American Red Cross. I texted "yes," and got a thank you text in response.

"There," I said, "We just donated some money to help them."

Lindsey felt really good, and I felt really good about teaching her philanthropy. Or so I thought.

A couple of days later Lindsey asked me when our dollars were going to make a difference. Hmmm...what do you mean?

Well, she still heard about the disaster, and there were still people trapped under the rubble, and people without food or water, and babies dying, and when was the ten dollars that we donated going to help make all of this go away?

I wish it were that simple. What a great lesson for me in learning the instantaneous gratification that she desires in life: she wants a toy, she gets it. She wants to have a playdate, she has one. She wants to make a difference, she wants to make a difference today.

It is frustrating to think that those millions that were donated could not immediately make the Port au Prince airport go from 30 incoming flights to 130 flights daily, that it will take time, possibly years, for Haiti to recover from this.

I think that it's time that we do some volunteering together. Then she can feel that instant gratification of helping people...right now.

The Impact of Haitian Donations

The whole phenomenon of the fundraising that occurred via texting in response to the Haiti earthquake was amazing. And what a telethon -- $57MM raised from the telethon alone at last count, with millions of that coming via texted donations.

People may not remember this but the 9/11 event was the first time that there was an outpouring of donations via online giving. The American Red Cross website actually shut down for a day after 9/11 because they couldn't handle the amount of traffic of people trying to make online donations to them. It cost them many millions in lost donations when that happened, and opened up the whole new way to give: online.

Prior to 9/11, online donations were possible but not likely. Nonprofits often didn't have a way to accept online donations and the security of the credit card transactions was inconsistent based on the technology. After 9/11, nonprofits tried everything they could to get people to migrate to the web -- it's much less costly to get people to donate online than to create a direct mail piece, print it, stamp it, send it out, then process the paper donations upon their return. What a way to open up to a whole new generation of donors, people for whom the internet is an integral part of their lives, including shopping, purchasing, entertaining, ultimately living.

After 9/11, nonprofits finally made in-roads in their attempts to drive people to the web. Trust in online giving increased and a breakthrough was made.

The millions that were texted to the American Red Cross in response to Haiti is yet another break through in giving.

A way of transacting that was previously known to a small subset of the population has gone mainstream. People like myself, who have never texted any kind of financial transaction, and have hardly texted at all, gave via texting for the first time. The intrastructure which allows for this kind of donating was already in place -- no systems went down, no donations were rejected, all went smoothly.

A new channel for giving has been opened up.

Now the question is, what will nonprofits be able to do with the new channel? Will they once again go through the process of trying to drive people to give via texting, only to find that generating content and reasons to migrate to the nonprofit will be immensely more powerful than pushing people there? Only time will tell. I'm excited to be a part of this new world in philanthropy, to be able to test things out and see what works.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Power of Persuasion

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Yes Lindsey..."

"Come see what's on TV! Oh, you missed it. Well, they have these pillows, but they are also animals, and you release a flap and it turns into a pillow from an animal. And they have a dolphin one that I want. You can go to, it's only $19.99 plus shipping and handling. Can I get one...pleeeeeeeease?????"

"You remembered all that from a 30 second commercial?"


"Let me think about But good try, kid."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lyrics by Marissa

Marissa is our little singer. She sings a lot, various songs that she's heard either from school or from us.

Recently she's been heard singing "Joy to the World," which she heard frequently over the holiday season. The words go something like this:

Joy to the World, the lore has come.
Let earth.....see....her King!
Let everyone....
And hebbin and she sure sing, and hebbin and she sure sing,
and hebbin and hebbin and she sure sing.

She hasn't quite learned the second verse yet, but she asks me to sing it to her on the ride home at night, so maybe she'll learn that one soon, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Marissa-ism

Tonight I made chicken enchiladas for dinner.  It's a meal only for Wayne and I actually, the girls usually won't touch it. So I put out a tray of raw carrots and red peppers with dill dip for the girls, along with a salad which Lindsey also chowed down on.

Marissa immediately came running to the table when she saw me set down the fresh veggies. Seriously, I don't know how we got our kids so turned on to fresh fruits and vegetables, but I'll take it as long as I can. Shortly after, I pulled the enchiladas out of the oven and set them on the table. Here they were, little tortillas of chicken and cheese, covered with a red enchilada sauce and bubbling cheddar cheese. For most people (or most Americans, I should say), the sight would bring on some tummy rumblings, salivation, or other such effects.

Marissa takes one look, waves her hand at it, turns her head away and says, "Ugh! Bisgusting." Wayne and I both had to laugh, despite our attempts to hide it.

Our little Einstein

On Saturday I took Marissa to get screened for kindergarten. While it may seem early to some, we're actually quite late in doing this -- they recommend screening as early as 3 so that if there are developmental issues they can be addressed early before even getting to school age.

But we weren't worried with Marissa, she seemed pretty smart to us so we waited until now, when we also have to pick her school, get her school choice card in, turn in her immunization records, etc.

The test consists of various exercises: building a block tower the same size as the one shown, asking if an object is over/under/behind, etc, knowing what your elbow is, writing your name, etc. Children need to score a 30 out of 64 to be able to get into kindergarten without needing additional screening.

Marissa scored a 63 out of the possible 64. When the tester was giving me her results, she asked me if I thought she seemed challenged in her pre-school program, and said that boredom may be an issue for her.

Wow. I had no idea.

We also talked a little bit about her acting out in school, in not being able to share with other children or getting along. The issues have nothing to do with taking direction or listening -- when it comes to the teachers and the curriculum, she's fully engaged. But she gets into trouble during free play time, because she gets into altercations with other children.

The screener had some great advice for me, first was that I should NOT tell Lake Harriet school about these issues. She said that we wouldn't want her to be labeled as a troublemaker right from the onset. And second, she said to remember that since she's 97th percentile for height and 84th for weight, she may not be pushing or hitting any more than other kids, but she's so much bigger than all the other kids that she gets caught more often, because there's more of a reaction. I thought that was pretty good advice, I'll be keeping that in mind.

In the meantime, I am so proud of our little girl for being such a smarty pants!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It Finally Happened

Dax bit Lindsey on the nose today.

I didn't see him actually do it. I just know that last I looked, Lindsey was using Dax as a pillow, and he seemed to be tolerating it amazingly well. I went upstairs and next thing I know I hear his snarl that means "you've gone too far this time, girl," and Marissa immediately comes upstairs. Before she's even in front of me to tell me what happened I hear Lindsey crying downstairs.

I suppose because she'd been so close to his face in such close quarters it was inevitable that his snarl would catch her.

And maybe this is just what she needed to have happen to finally FINALLY leave the damn dog alone. A few weeks ago she wrenched on him in such a tight hug that his neck hurt so that he couldn't eat that night. We had to hold his dish up to his face because he couldn't bend down to eat. Thankfully that injury seemed to heal itself in a single day, but she continues to pester and pester him.

It was obvious that Dax felt really bad about it. He came up with her and while I was applying first aid, he kept trying to get near her, which, of course, she would have none of. Finally, after she'd settled down and things were better, he came over to her and licked every inch of her hands. (Licking people is his way of saying "I'm sorry.") Then he licked her face too, which I immediately put a stop to due to the scratches on her face.

Lindsey did stay away from him for a while, but by this evening all were back to their normal selves -- the girls were arguing over who gets to sit next to Dax, while he was content curling up next to me, his protector from little girls.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random Photos from Christmas Break

Here's one of many scoring sheets Lindsey kept during our Uno playing marathon. Unfortunately I was winning this one, but she was thrilled to be doing two-digit math.

In the interim, Marissa was entertaining us with music in the next room. She had the pink piano playing a rhythm piece, while she accompanied herself on the drum and cymbal. Note the tongue sticking out of her mouth. I imagine when I see this photo that she is saying in her head: "ANIMAL! ANIMAL!"

Last photo: Breakfast? Note the disheveled hair, the nightgown, the bowl of cereal with accompanying bowl of fruit. However, it's dark outside, is it breakfast? No, no my friends, this is what dinner looks like some evenings during Christmas break. Who felt like getting dressed that day? No one. Who felt like leaving the house? No one. Who felt like cooking dinner? No one. Breakfast for dinner? Absolutely!

Back when I was pregnant...

I realized this story is nowhere on my blog, and it still deserves telling.

Back when I was pregnant with Marissa, my sister came to visit a month or two before my due date. She and I made a trip to the liquor store to get some beer for the household (meaning she and Wayne). We happened to take Lindsey along with us.

While we were in line to check out, there was a lady standing behind us who was clearly looking at me and the toddler running around, thinking that as a pregnant woman I shouldn't be buying beer. BUYING beer, people, not drinking beer. Both Kristi and I noticed her judgmental expression, at which point Kristi turns and says to me, "Jenny, are you sure your doctor said it's okay for you to drink while you're pregnant?"

To which I replied, "Why not? After all, SHE turned out all right" (Pointing to Lindsey).

At that point the two of us cracked up hysterically as the woman behind us looked at us in disgust.

It was awesome.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Winter Driving or why my commute takes twice as long

Dear City of Minneapolis,

I know, budget cuts SUCK.

So take this grumbling in light of the fact that I know you've cut down on plowing to save a buck or two.

And that over Christmas, when we were getting dumped on day after day, you really didn't want to pay drivers triple time to plow the roads over the holidays. I get that. But the problem is...I still have to live here.

You see, there is a 3 foot tall hump of ice to turn right onto 47th St from France Ave now, and unless I take it at 2 mph it likes to grate against the bottom of my poor little Civic, and that's not very nice. And the dumbasses behind me with their big SUVs and four-wheel drives honk loudly when they see me come to what seems to be a complete stop in order to turn onto my street.

Since I-94 is a parking lot in the evenings as I attempt to come home from work, I leave the comfort of stop-and-go traffic to take my chances on city streets. Usually I'd rather sit at a stoplight with opportunities of actual movement between stoplights than sit on a highway that's supposed to be 55 mph but is actually 10. Except now I also have to account for which streets may or may not be clear of ice and snow as I attempt to pick my route through the city streets.

On the remainder of the city streets, the non-emergency routes which did NOT get plowed for 4 days over Christmas, my poor suspension squeaks and pops if I go more than 10 mph and God help me if I leave the two wheel groove that goes in the middle of the road, or I am in even-bumpier-ville.

But sometimes I need to leave those two-lane grooves, because there is this thing called ON-COMING TRAFFIC, see, you know, cars coming toward me on a street that's supposed to be two-way? And I understand that you couldn't get ALL the snow off the street, and that people have the right to park on both sides of the street even still, but when they do that only allows one car to pass at a time. Which means I either have to leave the grooves and pull over to the side, or wait within the grooves for the other car to pass and then hope to God I can get traction to get started again within the ice grooves that our roads have turned into.

My saving salvation, Portland Ave S, which I take for approximately 5 miles south, used to be a nicely moving 3-lane one-way street. But now it's a 2 and three-quarters one-way street, with the poor people who have to park their cars on that street wondering which is worse: parking their car into the snowbank or taking a chance that someone might sideswipe their car if they park it just a little, itty bit into the driving lane. So now it's a game of bob-and-weave between drivers attempting to use the farthest right-hand lane and the middle lane, wondering if the car moving next to you is going to have to drive in your driving lane in order to avoid a parked car.

Just in case you think I'm alone in thinking that the roads are worse than they've ever been this winter, I am obviously not alone:

Don't Like MN weather? Too bad! (Star Tribune)
Anybody Seen Our Roads? (St Paul Pioneer Press)

And now that it's been below zero and in the single digits, there isn't a damn thing we can do about it until it warms up enough to allow the salt and chemicals to do their job. But even after it turns into slop and slush, I suspect that it will just continue to sit there on our roads, creating deep, icy ruts when it finally re-freezes, unless you once again fire up the snowplows and get the damn stuff off the roads while it's still movable.

So please, find something else to cut -- got some extra legislative aids who are not earning their keep working 60 hrs a week for $10/hr? Cut those slackers and plow our roads.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Scribbly" hair and other such stories

Yesterday marked the first day back to our schedules after a long holiday break. The girls were excited to see their friends again after a long hiatus, though Lindsey was a bit sad in the morning about not being able to stay in her jammers all day and just stay home. I was too -- after all, it was 9 below zero when we left the house yesterday morning, makes for a difficult re-entry into our regular schedules.

But all sadness of the holidays being over seemed to dissipate when we got home in the evening and heard about the girls' days. First Lindsey gave us a practical blow-by-blow description of playing Uno, her new favorite game, with her friends at Mpls KIDS. Her friend Emma got Uno for Christmas, so she was super excited that her best friend knew how to play too!

Then we heard from Marissa about how her friend Kira got a haircut. I'm not sure which child this is, but Wayne knew her and mentioned how much curlier the girl's hair looks now that it's a bit shorter.

"Yeah," Marissa agreed, "Now it's all scribbly." And she made a gesture like she was scribbling on a piece of paper. I like that adjective, that's a new one -- instead of frizzy hair, it's scribbly hair.

And Marissa was so tired that during their "resting" time right after lunch she actually fell asleep and napped. That's a new one!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Visit to my Workplace

This past week, while Wayne was off with the girls all week, he brought the girls to my new workplace for a visit.

This was a kind of a big deal, both to me and to them, because my kids have some wonderful memories and experiences at my former employer. PM always put on an incredible "Bring Your Child to Work Day" program, which both of my kids took part in from very early on. I've brought them in occasionally on weekends to pick up some work or do some printing, and they've always loved the long pretty halls, the white boards begging to be written on and all the little chatchkas in my office that they can play with.

I figured that the earlier they learned that my workplace has changed the better. Even though they both know I have a different job, until they see the new place, I am sure that PM would continue to be in their minds as to where I go to everyday.

December 31st is a good day for a kid visit, since it's usually a bit slower, not many people in the office, etc. They could see where I worked, meet my new co-workers and have lunch with me in the cafeteria at the hospital.

I met them in the lobby and brought them up to the 3rd floor. Our outside wall is lined with offices and Marissa asked to see my "new room." Well, that's one big change, no more office for mommy. So then they had to ask what a "cube" was, which they understood when they saw it.

First thing Lindsey saw was a draft of the latest newsletter sitting on my desk with a photo of a little boy in ICU, along with a photo of him today. We talked a while about what happened to him, that he was hit by a car when he was 7 years old and was in the hospital for many, many weeks before regaining consciousness and mobility. I told her how his family allowed us to tell his story in order to raise money so they can continue to help children like him...and there was another good lesson in looking both ways before crossing the street.

Then we put on our coats to walk over to the hospital for lunch. There were lots of questions about if that boy was at the hospital now, and Lindsey also wanted to know if Noah was there. Noah? Oh yeah, Noah is the little boy with cerebral palsy who is featured on the billboards around town, including one in our neighborhood. I think she wanted to meet Noah.

As I suspected, the cafeteria was a big hit, with lots of choices to be had, so lunch was a good time. They then came back to my office to meet my co-workers, who had all been at lunch when they arrived earlier. They got some Gillette branded slinkies from one person, some chocolate from another, and had lots of fun making artwork in my cube to decorate it, because the walls were clearly lacking in their minds. Lindsey made me a sign that said, "I love Gillette Hospital, it is so so so so so much fun."

Then it was time to go, and we said our good-byes.

When I got home that evening, Lindsey told me that she wanted to cry a little when she left, because she had been so excited about coming to see me at work and now the visit was over. She has the reaction to events that she considers to be big visits-- she's sad when we come home from Tracy, from Wisconsin, etc. I was surprised that a visit to my workplace counted among the visits worthy of being sad when they are done. But actually, I felt that way a little bit, too. I'm so proud of my kids and was looking forward to showing them off to my new co-workers, who are all so nice and appreciative of kids. (Caring for kids is kind of ingrained in everybody at Gillette, as you may expect.)

There will be many opportunities for my kids to come and visit. And maybe someday Lindsey can meet Noah.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Another Benefit to Uno

After playing a few hands of Uno with Lindsey today, I told her that if we were playing "for real" (meaning keeping score), that she probably would have won. So she wanted to play "for real," and SHE wanted to be the one who kept score.

Hmmm...okay, we can give this a shot.

The first few were easy -- the person who lost only had 7 points, or 9 points, etc, but eventually we got to adding together 26+19 or 38+17, which calls for carrying numbers to get to the correct total.

So I taught her how to carry numbers.

She understood it, she got it, and she had lots of practice doing it this afternoon.

We decided to only play to 100 just to keep it easier, but we played several games like that, and she kept score every time. What a smart little mathematician!

Playing Uno

Just yesterday Lindsey discovered our Uno game that we've had for some time but that she's never played with us. So she and I sat down and began playing -- she's pretty good!

She's not very good, though, at having a poker face. When I would deal the cards, she'd get all wide-eyed and gasp when she would get a wild card, or a draw two or something. So while I was dealing one time I told her that you really didn't want the other person to know when you had good cards, so it was best to pretend and not get excited when you got good cards.

The next time I dealt, after a couple of cards she got all wide-eyed again, then she looked at me and then tried to put on a straight face, looked back at her cards and said, "Nothing interesting here!"

I cracked up laughing.