the hyphens that define my life

Our Year in Review – A Series, Part 1 June 13, 2014

Approximately 355 days ago we moved from Placentia, North Orange County, California to Spokane Washington, 10 days shy of any entire year. We chose Spokane for no state income tax, lower cost of living and better quality of life.  Four seasons, smaller student to teacher ratios in classrooms, higher rated schools, where we could go in 4-6-and 8 hour concentric circles from our front door, and why the hell not all played into how we chose Spokane to be our new home. The past year has had more than a fair share of ups and downs.  This post is Part 1 in a series of my family’s experience of living in Spokane.

School’s out for summer. We survived our first year at Spokane Public Schools.  Coming from a Los Angeles Unified Public School alum, this is a false statement.  Spokane Public Schools have lived up to their reports, reviews and rating.  My kids didn’t survive, my kids flourished. My kids nervously began, seamlessly transitioned and finished strong.  Cheers and many thanks to Placentia-Yorba Linda School District for building a fantastic foundation from which they could build.

Our school year in review provided many comparisons, from my eyes, and my boys perspective, between the two districts:

Spokane:  Doors locked, campus accessible  Placentia-Yorba Linda:  Doors locked, campus locked

S:  Volunteer registration and badges  PYL:  No registration, badges

S:  Parent Teacher Group (PTG)  PYL:  Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

S:  Elementary School start 9 AM release 3 PM, late start Thursday 9:30 AM; Middle School start 8:45 AM release 3:15 PM, late start 9:10 AM   PYL:  Elementary School Start 7:50 AM, release 2:15;  early release Wednesday 1:15 PM

S:  Elementary Student: Teacher ratio  24:1  PYL:  Elementary Student:Teacher ratio  32-34:1

S: Good school lunch – per my 8 year old, a very critical foodie  PYL:  pack lunch most days

S: Music and Art Classes   PYL:  Band an available option for 5th & 6th graders only

S:  Few to no assemblies         PYL:  Countless assemblies and time out of the classroom

S:  Inconsistent field trips (4th grade went to Symphony; 3rd grade no field trip (WTH direct quote again from my 8 year old)         PYL:  Each class participated in 1-2 off campus field trips per year funded by the PTA

S: One big fundraiser   PYL:  One big fundraiser

S:  No Halloween celebration in classroom, Fall Harvest celebration on selected day; after school Monster Mash  PYL:  Halloween with full costume parade

S:  Book Fair is one week after school for parents and supervised children for books for children [gasp]  PYL:  Book Fair is one week each semester, books for teachers and school library

S:  Elementary school allows children to wear flip flops   PYL:  In Southern California, no flip flops for elementary students

S:  Snow day options (none this year!)   PYL:  Furlough days no matter what

S:  2 blocks away   PYL:  3 doors to schools’ back gate

S:  Common Core Practice School         PYL:  Common Core Practice School this year too

S:  Awesome teachers      PYL:  Awesome teachers

S:  Incredible volunteers     PYL:  Incredible volunteers

S:  My children thrived      PYL:  My children thrived

We moved to a new school district and did not experience anything different than what we knew.  The cafeteria is inside, not outside under an awning.  There is a gymnasium, not a black top playground.  From the list above, though flip flops made my eyebrows raise in surprise, the most important items on the list is that with the awesome teachers and incredible volunteers, my children thrived.  My children learned, grew, made friends, and made memories.  Moreover, mo better, they promoted to their respective grade level.  Whew.  Our research paid off and we chose great schools for our children.

Schools out for summer.  Party on.


All That’s Left December 17, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 5:38 pm
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Yesterday’s topic was murder, all that’s left to discuss today is:  sex.

Get your minds out of your porno mag, that’s not where I’m going with this blog post.  Today’s sex topic focuses on an innocent young boy who went to school one morning to return in the afternoon, eyes wide open.

While I was sick last week and my husband was out of town, the kids thankfully went to school. When our nine year old fourth grader came home from school that afternoon, his eyes were opened wide and he looked troubled.  Concerned, I asked if something bad happened at school today.  He responded, “I saw some very disturbing things.”  My first thought was that another kid barfed on their desk or something similar.  He told me that today they learned about Human Development.  Suddenly, the paperwork I signed and sent back flashed before my eyes – TODAY was SEX ED Day – and I forgot to warn him, or at least soften the blow.

Our son told me the fourth grade boys went into one room with a woman teacher, and the fourth grade boys went into another classroom with a male teacher to watch “gender appropriate” (he said this using quotation hand signals) videos on what horrors puberty will cast on their lives.  He explained that puberty starts when you’re around 11 and can last until you’re 20.  He told me that his older sister and brother are definitely in puberty.

I stifled my natural reaction to laugh at his stories, expressions, and recollections of his disturbing day.  The faces he was making were classic! What threw me over the edge was when he said that he could see the signs of puberty starting already.  I nearly spit out the tea I was drinking.  “What?!?”  My sweet boy is no where near puberty, I couldn’t wait to hear his response.

“Look at my arm and leg,” he said, “I’m getting hairier.”  “Oh, yes, furry arms and legs, that’s a sure sign,” I responded while biting my lip to not laugh at him.  “You were born looking like a fuzzy white peach though, I think you’re just naturally fuzzy,” I pointed out.  He wasn’t buying it and is convinced he’s getting gorilla man hair.  He added, “well, I am girl crazy and that is part of puberty too.”  “Agreed, but you have to wait until the dating years,” I said referring back to our conversation a month ago where he said that middle school is when you can start dating, randomly, and his older brother is lucky to be in the dating years.

We talked more and I gave the analogy of a butterfly metamorphosis as the process he’ll go through when in puberty.  Unfortunately, I used his dad as the butterfly example.  “You don’t look all manly like Dad, right?  But you will, like a butterfly starts as a caterpillar (you’re the caterpillar), then you’ll go through puberty and end up looking like Dad, a butterfly.”  He looked at me in disbelief.  “Dad is the butterfly in this story?” he asked.  “I’m just trying to explain that the processes is a big transformation, like when a caterpillar changes into butterfly.”  “Great,” he said while rolling his eyes.

At that moment, his older brother cruised into the room, just home from seventh grade.  The fourth grader asks the seventh grader if HE saw the human development videos. “Nope,” he said.  Oh yeah, California stopped sex education in elementary school.  Perfect, my fourth grader is more informed than my seventh grader.

I did the only thing I could do, I called my husband and told him he’d have to have “the talk” with our seventh grader.  I’m pretty certain I have to supervise this pending discussion.  I’ve seen that butterfly in action.


October 31 October 18, 2013

Halloween.  October 31st.

Trick or Treating is still scheduled for the 31st, but Spokane schools have decided this is the year to not celebrate Halloween.


I just read the newsletter that came home Wednesday while I was out-of-town.  In response to pressure from many “groups,” Halloween is not celebrated in the classrooms on Halloween.

The Parent-Teacher Group at our school decided to host a Monster Mash on October 25 from 6-8 PM.  The designated “fall holiday” will be celebrated by classrooms on November 8.

My kids are shell-shocked, not fully grasping that they won’t get to wear their costumes in class. I’ve sold them this bill of goods as three fun events instead of one.  They will get to dress up and participate in the Monster Mash, a dance, pumpkin bowling and other great stuff.  Then they will trick or treat in the neighborhood.  The grand finale will be the Harvest Party  in November.

What really grates me is the Monster Mash requires costumes by October 25!  A full week in advance of Halloween.  Apparently the PTG isn’t a group of seamstresses.  Instead of having two weeks to sew, I know have 7 days.  So much for an R & R weekend for me.

Of course, to further complicate matters, my boys haven’t decided what they want to be this year.  They too thought they had more time.

To get us in the mood and inspire us all, tonight the boys carried up from the basement the boxes of Halloween decor and costumes from year’s past. The house is decorated and costumes are strung from one end of the house to the other as the boys sifted and sorted through and tried on costumes trying to decide what to wear, what to “be.”

Lots of ideas, but no firm commitment from any of them on what to be.  I’ve given the hard deadline of 8 AM tomorrow morning to commit to a costume, so I can start my day at the fabric store.

We have awesome costumes in the boxes.  Curses to me for encouraging creativity and originality.  The cactus, the outlaw cactus variation, the vampire, the evil jester, the skeleton, and the super cool Club Penguin Fire Sensei costume have been cast aside as “maybe” (read: if I have to. most likely no way).  Don’t even suggest wearing dad’s letterman jacket circa 1985.

The boys impulsive choices all deal with evil this, death that or some variation that involves weapons. Halloween is barely allowed and you think these costume choices will be permitted?  Think again my friends.

I suggested they go as fox and sing the catchy What Does The Fox Say?  They said no way.  I suggested unicorns and rainbows but that resulted in a fight over who would be the horse’s ass, not what I had envisioned.  Why do “unicorns and rainbows” always incite a riot?

We’ll have to see what they chose in the morning.

Maybe boycotting Halloween this year isn’t a bad idea after all.


Open House September 17, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 8:55 pm
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School has been in session all of 12 days, time to have Open House at the elementary school.

We were excited to sit in the classrooms and learn about Spokane Public Schools.

Our 3rd grader has struck a chord with his teacher, and she loves him already.  Thankfully she has a soft spot for squirrelly boys and appreciates his charm and energy.  His class consists of 23 kids, a fourth fewer students than his 2nd grade class.  This can only be good.

Our 4th grader is in a 3rd/4th combination class.  When I first learned that he, our most diligent student, was in a combo, I nearly lost my mind.  I marched to the school office and said, “No way, no how.”  That weekend, at a block party the weekend before school started, I met two moms with 4th graders in the same class.  They told me the teacher was a dynamo and rest-assured that she will challenge my son and there will be nothing lost on his 4th grade experience.  “Uh-huh, ok, let’s see.”  The first day of school, I poured out my heart to this lovely teacher explaining that school is the one place my middle child gets to be himself and shine.  I didn’t want my 4th grader to share a 3rd grade experience.  She listened and appreciated my concern, told me “he will do just fine” and sent me on my way.

Sigh.  I was concerned.  Then, as time passed, information came home, and then sitting through the class presentation tonight, I am on board with the combo class and this incredible teacher.  My kids have been in combo classes before and I don’t mind them typically, since I’ve known the teachers.  Coming in blind, I was neurotic.

The 3/4 combo has 25 kids, again, a fourth fewer than his prior class.  What an amazing difference in what a teacher can accomplish with 8 less kids!

The biggest noticeable differences from California to Washington schools are that music and art are separate classes.  Fine arts lives in the northwest!!  My 3rd grader proclaimed he was a singer and sings, out loud, every day.  He does manage to carry a tune fairly well too!

The boys were first shocked that the cafeteria was indoors – and in the basement – not outside, not realizing that serious weather is on the way.  One thing both boys love about their new school is the gymnasium complete with a rock climbing wall. Their all-time favorite difference between their old and new schools is the school hours.  In California, the kids went to school from 7:45 AM – 2:15 PM with early release at 1:15 on Wednesdays.  In Spokane, school hours are 9:00 AM – 3 PM with late start at 9:30 on Thursdays.  I love the school hours too!  No more early morning battles to get out of bed.  They are hoping for snow days in addition to what is built into the calendar, little do they know that they make up those days in the summer.

We are thrilled with the boys school, teachers and classrooms.  Hurray!

Next week we have middle school open house.  From what I’ve seen already, and our 7th graders reports, our school research prior to our move has really paid off well.  WHEW!