Monthly Archives: October 2006

Two for one – a blogging roundup

[Yeah, I changed the theme of the site. Whaddya think?]

Yesterday I got in too late to blog again, but this time I have a note from my boss – a few of us volunteered to watch some kids while their parents went to an out of town meeting for Weeds and Seeds, and anti-drug/gang group, with our program director. We got actual hours for it, so it’s legit. On the upside, the kids basically watched movies and ate pizza (as did we grown-ups). On the downside, we were there until 9:30. Gah.

So, no bloggy yesterday. And very little bloggy tonight, because I am one tired puppy. I didn’t get much sleep last night, after all of that (woke up with a busy brain at something like 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep until about an hour of light in-and-out dozing around 5:30). Been basically shuffling through the day with a headache, a slouch and an unnatural craving for…BRAINS!…er, sleep. That, and the fact that I’d been without meds for my heart for the past few days due to chronic brainlessness, added up to a seriously impaired day.

Luckily, the kids didn’t have much in the way of homework today (it is Halloween, after all), so it was basically a play day, which means pretty much the statistically maximal happy-happy for the group, all things considered, which made it a light day in terms of crap I had to deal with under the influence of what is essentially an alcohol-free hangover. We also had a brief meeting with our new supervisor before the kids got there, and hammered out some details for streamlining our food ordering, getting some sort of volunteer acquisition plan in place and generally hashing out the random raw edges and fine details that go into running a homework club for a big group of grade-schoolers.

The biggest obstacle at the moment is that during babysitting we signed up a girl who, it turns out, has some serious issues with some of the girls who already attend our club. That in and of itself may keep her from attending, in which case I’m unhappy about losing a sign-up but relieved at not being put on 24/7 fire-stomping duty. OTOH, if she does come, we have some options for professional education-dept mediation folks to come in and try to iron it out with us, so that’s cool. So, we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, getting some volunteers on board will ease the strain on us a bit and give us some breathing room to let out some stress. Whew….

Also, met some new dogs on the beat (got big sloppy dog snorgle kisses out of the deal) and got to chat with the lady who was growing the big-ass morning glories and other botanical beauties that enlighten my walk.

In any case, that’s basically it for now. I’m tired. I’m fed. And I’m done for the night. Adios, amigos! Mañana.

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Making a Difference

Today, our Americorps group participated in Make A Difference Day by doing a trash pickup at two of the three housing development sites where we have homework clubs. After a brief stop at the community center at Deaverview for Belgian waffles, pancakes and bacon, we headed out be-gloved and bundled up to wreak havoc on the development’s litter population. Although the biting wind was chilling when we started out, and tended to whip the trash around faster than we could run it down, it turned out quite nice later in the afternoon.

To brag just a bit, at PVA some of our kids actually came out to help (they were supposed to at the other place, too, but none did). I was so proud of them – they did a lot of work and seemed to have fun doing it.

In any event, we finished up in good time and left the world a cleaner place.

And now I’m off to a Halloween party, dressed as White and Nerdy. After all, ya gotta go with what ya know.

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Fun Friday – Halloween party!

Yeah, I skipped yesterday’s post. That’s because I was out late watching the Old Crow Medicine Show kick some serious musical derrière last night and didn’t get in until after 11. I love ya’ll, really, but not enough to be blogging at near-nuff to midnight when I gotta get up for work the next day.

In any case, yesterday was pretty much a routine, boring, same-old-same-old day anyway, with except that I got to meet some of the neighborhood pit bulls up close and personal on the walk to the homework club, since they were out and about with their owner. It was a tad bit nervous-making at first, since I don’t know the dogs well. But I did my patented, dog-friendly turn-and-present-flank maneuver (facing a dog head-on is threatening, whereas turning slightly so they come up on your side is the dog equivalent to a handshake) combined with the non-aggressive not-making-eye-contact bit until they were at ease, and it turned into a happy, snuffly sniff-a-pa-looza. Besides, these guys know me anyway, since I always make it a habit to talk happy-friendly with all the dogs on my walk, just in case of times like this. They are sweet pups, really. And one house a few doors down got a new dog for me to make friends with – a gorgeous red-blonde husky. Pretty puppy. Other than that, nothing exceptional to report.

Oh, yeah. The concert totally. Frakking. Rocked. Abso-frakking-totally. Booyah! My throat is sore today from hootin’ an’ hollerin’.

Today was our Fun Friday Halloween Party. We had pumpkins to gut and carve (playing endlessly with the “gook” turned out to be a wildly popular, and unforeseen, attraction), fresh sugar cookies to decorate with orange and black icing, The Goonies movie to watch, popcorn and snack mix to scatter wildly about the premises (and, in small portions, actually eat) along with freshly baked pumpkin seeds and a fare-well candy treat.

To say it went well would be accurate, but somewhat less than descriptive of the true nature of the success of the event.

Yeah, we rocked.

(Not as much as OCMS rocked, but hey – we don’t have thousands of bucks a show to budget for these things. And no banjos, either, which does put a crimp in our overall rockable potential.)

And that’s all she wrote, folks. Literally. Dinner is waiting, I am hungry and that is a non-sustainable equilibrium if ever there was one. So, buh’ bye.

And Happy Halloween!

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A breather from discord – smothered in geek love, with an incentive program cherry on top

Today, nothing earthshattering occured. Which is, in and of itself, noteworthy. And relaxing. The fact is, I had a busy but good day today. The morning went by at a sparky little clip – rarely a moment of non-busy-ness, but no emergencies or serious problems. Just lots of tasks all falling into place like dominoes, one after another. I got it all wrapped up with a bow at noon on the button, and headed out the door for the homework club with a jaunty lift in my step.

Once there, after doing the obligatory battle with the front door lock (my key sticks and apparently there’s a secret handshake/god-of-locks placating ritual involved in removing it that I’m not capable of managing, except by dint of long minutes spent turning, tugging, pushing, twisting, praying and cursing until I hit the magic combo that allows my key to be grudgingly released back into my temporary custody), the afternoon was refreshinginly crisis free. Of course, the kids weren’t perfect little angels or anything silly like that. But every once in a while they just manage to behave well enough to give my nervous system a bit of calming downtime and today was one of those blissfully functional days.

On top of that, I finally got the brand spanking new printer hooked up to the new-to-us computer and did a little geeky dance of joy at having a good excuse to play around with techie toys for a while. It’s not only a printer, but a copier/scanner/fax thingy, too (although we don’t have a fax line). I got to fondle USB cables, install software and play clicky-clicky with the buttons trying out the various options. Shhhwweeeet!

Oh, and we decorated for the Halloween party, too. Fake spider web stuff draped cheaply but heavily over the main window? Check. Large crepe paper spider leering drunkenly over the main room? Check. Pumpkin printed bags for the dispersement of cavities-on-a-stick standing by? Check. Looks like we’re good to go for party launch. 2 days and counting!

This Saturday, we’re having a Make A Difference Day community clean up, kicking off with a pancake breakfast and clean up at Deaverview in the AM, and finishing up at Pisgah View from noon until two. The kids are supposed to participate, but it’ll be interesting to see how many we actually get.

On the volunteer recruitment side of things, I’m making up a quarter page “we verify community service hours” shill-slip for the development office to slip in with utility bills. Residents who aren’t working have to do X numbers of community service hours to keep their apts. Hopefully, that’ll get some response.

And speaking of kids and good behavior, that incentive program we rolled out is working! They’re actually competing with each other to read extra chapters, clean up the homework club or do math worksheets to earn extra credit points (one per day limit, unless you’re really behind) above and beyond their daily points (three if you were up to par in respectulness, doing homework without whining or stalling, and behaving safely) to out-do each other.

Holy. Freaking. Cow. We so rock! (And they do, too, of course. But hey – a little Snoopy Dance never hurt anyone.)

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Never a dull moment

Spent the morning at a volunteer conference with my supervisor and the assistant principal in lovely Lake Junaluska, learning about what all that educational alphabet soup (education-based acronyms) means and learning some strategies to help teach reading. There was also a nice breakfast and lunch served, and some singing and other music by local students. It was fun and educational, although for some reason I couldn’t quite engage with the event fully (too early, maybe). But sometimes it’s just great to get out of the office and stretch your brain a bit.

This afternoon, though, some longstanding and ongoing issues with a homework club member came to a head today. One student has some attention issues and other concerns which resulted in either myself or the other staff member having to be “on” them 24/7 in order for them to get anything done and prevent disruptive behavior, which has kept us from helping other students and created a lot of frustration for everyone – us, the kid, the other kids and the parents. But although it was very trying at the time, after talking to the parents we think we’ve come to a solution that will work for everyone – the parent is getting the student a 1-on-1 worker who, hopefully, will be able to do afterschool hours. The agreement is that the child can return as long as the 1-on-1 is with them.

Which is really great, since it’s a really great, smart, funny kid who just has a few behavioral issues that need to be dealt with and the need for someone to work with them solely, but that’s just something which neither I nor my colleague have the time, training or freedom to do. So *crossing fingers* maybe this arrangement will work out better for everyone in the end.

On a lighter note, the new kids we had sign up the other day are remarkably well-mannered and behaved. Almost as a soothing balm after the meltdown, I spent a half-hour or so reading together with one of the younger ones (putting some of my new-found knowlege to the test) and enjoying the heck out of it . Who knew? I just hope their behavior rubs off on the rowdier kids, rather than the other way around!

Friday is our Halloween party! Pumpkin carving, cookie decorating and (hopefully, but not assuredly) pizza. Let’s just hope no one goes all Saw 2 with the kid-safe pumpkin carving set! :-O

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Yep – it’s Monday. Cold, long, tiresome and (thankfully) over.

Late night, too tired, getting up early. So you get the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version:

Cold, windy, nasty weather. Started the day with blatant proof of my inability to think more than the next step ahead, only to find others helpfully doing my thinking for me so I don’t lose it all together (not sarcasm, btw). We have several more sign-ups at the homework center (yay!). We have several more kids to keep an eye on between just the two of us (gah!). Enlightening, but basically non-helpful, conversation with the workmans’ comp company – yes, it would be nice if a doctor actually looked at the injury to see if I was slowly destroying my arm by using it, but gee, it would mess up our nice, neat lineup of paperwork. So don’t, for now. We’ll be in touch. Probably within a week. Or so. But if it hurts bad enough that you want to go to the ER or something, call us. (Not a doc, mind you, but the paperworker at workmans’ comp.) *sigh* Site meeting at the homework center with the Director, the new Supervisor, an outside observer and an admin – while our friends (who were off today because the county schools were out) take care of all of the kids upstairs. Yeesh. Then, after a quick dip into the house to try to catch up on some paying work, most of which had to be put off until tonight, it was back out for a two-hour lecture on Eating Disorders, which has ironically resulted in me not having time for dinner before bed.

I am seriously tired, since I just finished the paying work at almost 10pm. Plus I have to get up early to attend a Volunteer Conference tomorrow. So, adios. I’m going pillow-diving. See ya!

Oh, hey, yeah. It snowed. All of two or three flakes. The kids reacted as if Brad Pitt had gone streaking through the homework club in slow motion throwing hundred-dollar bills behind him. Me, not so much.

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Tornado wrangling

Busy day. The morning was basically like being in one of those money booths where you try to grab dollar bills being swept around by a fan, but instead of cash (which would have been way more fun) it was 4 straight hours of low-flying tasks, requests, correspondences, activities and updates, all of which needed to be snagged out of the air as they flew past my head at a high rate of speed and wrestled into whatever niche of doneness was required. Rather like a task-based version of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” as played in a tornado.

And this afternoon I spent my time trying out some new “positive discipline” tactics – for example, offering defined choices under a defined deadline, without lectures, nagging or other power struggles, and then letting the kid make the choice. No allowances for “alternative” choices. You pick A or B, and you’ve got 5 minutes to do so or the result is C. And no, D is not one of the choices. But it’s your choice.

And I’ll be damned if it didn’t work, on our own little version of a high-speed tornado! Not easily or smoothly by any means, but it worked. The kid I was working with did their reading assignment with only minimal sulking and dragging, especially when it became clear that I wasn’t going to be dragged into an entertaining negotiation of compromises in order to get him to do it (the alternative was to go home and face the Wrath of Mom, my position being that since the point of homework club is to do your homework, if you’re not going to do homework, well, buh’bye. Not a fun choice but a choice none the less.) A or B. Period. No watching Soni’s head spin while you run circles around her trying to wheel and deal, no pleading, no warning, no punishing no nothing. Just A or B and what’s it gonna be?

Turns out it was A. Read for the allotted time. The book was read in a series of funny voices, accompanied by random physical synchopation and percussion combinations of floor, furniture, feet and hands. But it was read. All the way through.

So, on top of yesterday’s math win, I got in a reading win today! Special. I’m just tingly all over. Of course, that could be the Autumn chill, but I’ll take it.

On the downside, another student had fraction homework. Let’s just not go there. The best I could do was wish him luck and hope someone at home knows how to do it, because I never could manage anything beyond the simplest fraction math. Which sucks, because I’m supposed to be helping them. *sigh*

After homework club, I dropped in on the Women’s Expo event going on downtown. A few plastic tasting cups of wine and champagne later, I’ve got my shmooze groove working and I’m making friends and building contacts. Got the okay from a local free paper to send in an article on the homework clubs (we’re getting some more sign-up – we desperately need volunteers). Got a bag full of kid-friendly goodies from a local imprint novelty goods store to show around to my colleagues as examples of what this guy can get us cheaply. Practiced my “cold call” technique of walking up to perfect strangers and starting up conversations that actually go somewhere. I just love doing that. Each person is like a little fun-filled grab bag from the fair – you never know what’s inside, but it’s always guaranteed to be worth looking.

So, afterward the hubster and I walked around in the light rain for a bit to work off the lingering remains of the tastings before heading home, enjoying the window shopping, having one of our “deep” conversations and smelling the good smells of a vibrant downtown full of esoteric shops, fragrant visitors and gourmet eateries. *happysigh*

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