Transitioning Schools

Moving from one suburban town to another with two kids has been more of an upheaval than the moving of boxes from one place to another. Yes, the actual move was tough, and I'm serioiusly homesick right now. I'm missing the rough edges and the solidity of an old house. I'm not quite at home in this mid-century box. It will take some time to make it my own, I think. Still, the biggest transition is the school shift. 

Jonah is in a new middle school. I admit that I had huge amounts of momma-guilt about moving a kid in seventh grade. Huge. Like wake up in the middle of the night guilt. After one day, the guilt was gone, because Jonah slid effortlessly into a new school. He knew one boy in his grade from his traveling soccer team, so he had a table to sit at in the cafeteria. When you're in seventh grade, where you sit in the cafeteria is the biggest worry and I knew that. Jonah is an easy-going kid, who makes friends easily and already has found his place in the new town. Momma-guilt gone. 

His old school and new school are miles apart in how they interact with parents, use of technology, and general perky attitude. I'm not quite sure how to deal with these happy teachers who regularly inform me about upcoming tests and homework grades. There might be such a thing as too much parental involvement. I'm too shocked to make any objective assessment of this new school culture. 

Ian is still attending the same public school program. This town has a program for high functioning kids like Ian, which also is a part-inclusion system. The special education administrator and I decided to keep him in his old program for the time being, until we could determine which program was better suited to Ian.  The wheels of the special education bureaucracy move slowly, and with so many people involved, mistakes happen. All of his paperwork was lost, and I had to spend three days recopying everything from birth certificates to immunization records. 

The biggest problem so far has been the transportation. The district put him on a bus with a kid with emotional problems. After Ian was injured for the third time last Friday, I decided that it was best if I drove him back and forth to school every day. That means 2-1/2 hours in a car for me. 

I keep thinking that things are returning to normal, but then it doesn't happen. I'm not sure what normal is anymore. 

Skedi is Here!

A good friend has just launched an new app for the iPhone. Skedi synches up a family's calendars — very handy for super busy families. With this app, Steve can plug in the Boy Scout calendar and the soccer schedule on his phone. I can plug in the school meetings. We both can put in our work schedules, so I know when he has to work late. I'm downloading this app. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the programmer showed up at my house with two bottles of nice wine from Seattle. 

Child Welfare Bureaucracy Hell

Welfare110919_1_560 Whenever the local news covers the latest horrific story of child abuse, my first reaction is always to rant about the incompetent social workers. After reading this story in New York Magazine, my next rant won't be about the case workers. It will be about the incompetent system.

New York Magazine profiles child-welfare supervisor Chereece Bell who was fired after the latest horrific death. She also faces a four year prison sentence. She describes 12 hour work days and long case loads – an impossible job for anybody. 

The workload was so deep that case workers would take vacation weeks in order to catch up on the paperwork:

To try to keep the computer files on his cases up-to-date, Adams would sneak into the office on Sundays to work. But even that did not seem to be enough. So he did the only thing he could to carve out more time: put in for vacation. If you took a one-week vacation, your supervisor wouldn’t assign you any new cases in the two and a half days before you left, which meant you’d have that time to enter your old notes into the computer. Adams even went one step further and came into the office during his week off. “At the time, I didn’t realize that was why he was taking vacation,” Bell says. “It wasn’t until after all this happened that I realized that was only for him to catch up.”



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Slow Transitions

Yesterday, when Jonah ran off the school bus and bounded into the house, I woke abruptly from a sound sleep on the sofa. I must have fallen asleep while checking e-mail. My brain was all fuzzy and it took awhile to remember where I was and what was going on. 

We've been working 14 hour days for a few weeks now, and it's catching up with me. Even after the horror of moving all the crap from one town to another was over, there was still more work to do. 

While things seemed to be in top notch condition on the house on the last walk through of the house, there were some problems. The previous owners of this house were 85, so they let things slide for the past decade or so. The toilet in the mid-century pink bathroom leaks. The kitchen cabinets were caked in two years of grease and dust. Everything needed to be scrubbed before I unpacked the dishes. I can't find the oven mitts. Then there's all the paperwork with starting in a new school district. 

I spent four hours pulling together the calendar for the kids and figuring out the new computer system for Jonah's school. There's the learning curve for finding things in the new supermarket and the new bus stops. Everything takes a little longer and requires a little more thought, since we can't go on automatic pilot yet.

We'll get there. 

Is Sarah Interesting?

6a00d83451c45669e2014e8b6904bc970d-550wi In the New York Times, Anand Giridharadas scares Andew Sullivan to death. He praises Sarah Palin's recent speeches, which have largely gone unnoticed by the "lamestream" media. He said that her critiques of DC are dead-on. 

She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

Flood Pictures, Part Two

This was what we saw as we drove to our new house. We were a little stressed out what we were going to find waiting for us. 



After we determined that our own house wasn't under six feet of water, we walked to the end of our block. Here's what we saw:




That car is at the end of someone's driveway, which is about five feet above the street. 


The Big Shark Publishers in Shallow Waters

This morning, I made a todo list. It was a very long, cumbersome list, but this marks a major advance in my life. For the past couple of weeks, I've been only dealing with whatever emergency was right in front of my face. It was impossible to think beyond that immediate moment. 

One of the many crises that happened yesterday was dealing my father's textbook publisher.

My dad is the editor of a popular political science textbook. It's in its 20th edition or something. He and his co-editor pull together pro and con articles on hot button political topics, such as gay marriage or gun control. They edit the articles down to a manageable length, and then write introductions to the topics to guide classroom conversation. 

He started off with a small fish publisher in the 1980s, which was bought out by a medium fish publisher, and then the medium fish publisher was bought out by a shark fish later in the 1990s. Well, it appears that this Big Shark Publisher is flapping around in shallow waters now. 

His editor sent him a long e-mail with requests for technical work. She wanted him to scan these articles with his $50 copier/scanner, merge the files into one document, and then convert it from a .jpeg file to a .pdf file. My dad is 75 and never really mastered the concept of copying a file to a disk. 

So, I drove over there and worked with him for a couple of hours. Then I got huffy and decided that this was a bad use of my his time. I told him to tell his editor to do it herself. That's why God invented underpaid editorial assistants. But my dad told me that the Big Shark Publisher has fired all of its editorial assistants and so they are making the authors do all the work. In fact, it had already moved its operations out of New York City and to Iowa, where costs are cheaper. Pierson, another textbook publisher around here, is moving to North Carolina for the cheaper costs, too. 

Why are textbook publishers having such a hard time? My guess is that most students aren't paying full price for textbooks anymore and are instead buying used books through Amazon and other online sites. They were too greedy, so that spawned a huge used book market. Also, the quality of these textbooks have declined so greatly that professors are using their own course packs. 

After we kindly told his editor to go stuff it, I went home to meet the next crisis. At some point, I would love to sit quietly and read a book. But until then, I have to locate the box with the aspirin. 

Flood Pictures, Part One

The morning after we moved, we checked into a local hotel, because we were having our floor sanded in the new house. I stuffed the car trunk with randomly packed bags for ourselves. I had massively over packed, because I knew that nothing could be found in the mess of boxes in the new house, and I didn't know how long we would be gone. 

At first, we had a great time, as my boys always do, in a hotel – even a hotel that is eight minutes from their house. There's the indoors pool and the vending machines and the glasses with the plastic around them. My children are very easily amused. 

Everything was dandy, until the rain started at around 4. A grim faced bride emerged from the elevator and was ushered into her limo. A Bar Mitzvah party from Brooklyn made last minute reservations for the night; driving home was going to be too difficult. 

I paced around nervously thinking about the towering boxes of crap in the new basement. Would we come home to find a soggy mess? High school yearbooks floating down stream? 

I called family. My sister's gang was all sleeping on the first floor in case a tree fell on the house. My parents had the sump pump ready. The Weather Channel reporters braced themselves on windy beaches in North Carolina and showed graphics of downtown Manhattan under water. 

The next morning, the lights went out in the hotel. The generators kept the lobby lights on, but the rooms were dark and stuffy. No TV for compulsive news watching. We checked out as soon as the rain let up. 



Then we drove to the new house. The route from the hotel to the house takes us through one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. I knew there was going to be trouble when I saw 5 million dollar homes surrounded by water. Then came the yellow tape. Roads were blocked off and we made our way through unfamiliar back roads to the house. 

There's a small stream that runs on the neighbor's yard, which is about 30 yards from our house. Most days, it shouldn't be called a stream. It should be called a pile of damp rocks. That day, it was white water rapids that burst the edges of the stream and took over half the side yard. 


We opened the door and raced down to the basement. There was a small trickle of water in a far corner of the room. Considering the mess at the  end of the street and in the basements of others, we were very grateful to see just a trickle.

(more later)            

Un-Boxing Day

It's Tuesday, I think.
Last night, I told Steve that it was time to return for things to normal. With us in fully assembled beds and clean clothes somewhat neatly stacked, we could get our bearings. I found a pad of paper and made a list of activities for today. One of the activities was a return to blogging. Yes, blogging has become a default activity for me. Something that makes me feel normal.
The last two weeks have been a blur with 15 hour stretches of packing, 3 hours of sleep, and periodic bouts of hyperventilation. Then we moved. Then we had a hurricane that devastated this area of Northern New Jersey. We didn't have power for days, so I'm not sure if the media really showed how bad things were around here. It was bad.
The good news is that we didn't get much water in the basement. Just a puddle in the corner. With stacks of moldy carpeting lining the streets of our town awaiting garbage pickup, I know that we were very lucky indeed.
Ugh. I'm typing on Steve's computer right now and Typepad isn't liking it. My Mac is under the weather, so I'm going to the Apple Store to buy a new one.
I do believe that I have PTS syndrome right now.