If you spend any time on the internet, you’ve heard of gamification. The way that apps and websites make doing everyday stuff more like a game – think checking in via FourSquare or even earning points on your virtual Starbucks card. Usually when I read about/hear about/see a new shiny object that’s been gamified, I kind of roll my eyes and go on with my day. (Except for earning those stars at Starbucks. Shiny, addictive little stars…)
Then I read not one, but two articles about this new app that makes learning a language into a game. The app is called Duolingo and it’s free (read this Slate article to see why).
(As an aside, that’s a business model I can get behind – free forever to allow people who NEED to learn English a way to do it without it costing them. And letting users “pay” for the app by translating real text, that the app developers get paid for. Brilliant!)
Since I have a trip to Paris coming up next week, I thought I’d give it a go.
What you should understand that I took 4 years of French in high school and a year of college-level intermediate French. My reading comprehension is still pretty damn high, all these years later, despite near-intentional disuse of the language. But when I try to speak French? I sound like a toddler with sentences all in the present tense and very noun-heavy. The exception is that I can say, very clearly, that “I need a cup of deaf coffee with milk and two sugars, please.” (I can also order wine and almost never get an entree that I’m not expecting.)
So it makes sense that I’m finding the early levels of Duolingo’s French program fairly easy to power through. I am remembering (sometimes painfully) which nouns are masculine and which are feminine and when to use a du/de la instead of un/une/le/la. And I’m having a blast! The little owl dude tells me I’m doing a good job, and I’m blowing up the XP charts! The lessons are short enough that you can get one done in a sitting, and I frequently feel like “Oh, I could do one more lesson.” In 48 hours, I’ve hit level 5.
If you are interested in learning a language (or re-learning what you’ve forgotten), I’d recommend Duolingo. And then you, when you sign up, you should find me on there and we can compare scores. But watch out, I’m competitive.(I was not asked to review this app, and Duolingo wouldn’t know me form a hole in the wall. I just like the app, is all.)
“She’s gluten free.”
“He’s a sensory kid.”
“We’re having her tested for the gifted and talented program.”
It seems like every kid these days has some kind of special need. Some something that sets them apart and makes it so that they don’t interact with the world the way “normal” kids do. (Of course, damned if I can find a “normal” kid to compare to, but more on that in a moment.)
For a long time, I thanked my lucky starts that Abby doesn’t have any special needs.
Of course, she has mild environmental allergies – but no indication that we need to cut out all dairy or skip the red dye #40. She’s got a lightning quick temper and some anxiety, but it’s not debilitating and she doesn’t need a quiet room or sensory brushes to calm down. She has her quirks and her meltdowns and her “things,” but they’re just part of who she is. My kid doesn’t have special needs.
But I watched Abby all weekend, playing with her friend who interacts with the world in a very different way than Abby does, and it hit me. She does. She does have very specific, very special needs. She needs to have decompression time, and she needs to do things on HER timetable. She needs to know there’s a starch she can eat at dinner and that she won’t be forced to choke down the protein if it’s just not how she’s feeling today. Abby needs to be hugged and kissed and tickled, even when she’s screaming “don’t talk to me!” at the top of her lungs.
These are things my child needs, and they are special and unique to her. My friends’ kids have their own special needs, whether they be dietary, educational, emotional, intellectual or some combination of all the above and more. Every kids has their own bag of quirks and tricks, and buttons to press. It is my job as Abby’s mom to decode those buttons, celebrate those quirks, trump those tricks, meet her needs, and help her learn to do all of that for herself.
(Let’s all just pretend that I’ve been updating this blog regularly so you know that baby boy is still with us, Daisy the cat is not and life continues along at an ever-busier, breakneck pace.)
Abby had a sleepover this weekend with her friend, Casey. On Saturday evening, Abby insisted that we all gather on my bed and talk about things in our days that made us sad or angry or happy. When it came to Casey’s turn, she said that she missed her mom. (There’s more to that story, but it’s not mine to tell.) Abby allowed as how she’s really been missing her birthmom lately and wishes she could see her. Casey all of a sudden realized what that term “birthmom” implied and said “Wait, you’re adopted? I’m adopted, too!” The girls then had a lovely, squealy moment discussing where they were adopted from and how old they were when they were adopted and all that great adopted-kid stuff.
This is adorable because, well, it just fucking is. Abby is SO our kid that her friends – even the adopted ones – don’t always realize that there’s no way on God’s green earth that she could be our biological child. It made my heart all melty, it did.
Thus concludes your moment of cute for the day.
This is funny, but not funny at the same time. While I spent the week managing the two kiddos and our crazy schedules by myself, while simultaneously worrying about a big court date for the baby that wasn’t such a big court date*, I noticed that the cat was having some…issues.
We had had a cat a long time ago who had a stroke. They weren’t sure that cat would make it, but she came home from the emergency vet and hopped out of her box like nothing had happened. She just leaned when she walked. Or stood still. Or sat. For the rest of her life. Her nickname became “Eileen” and if you get that pun, welcome to the family!
So I figured I knew what I was looking at when Daisy started walking that way – 14 year old cat, sudden lack of coordination, she’d had a stroke. I’ve had a stroke, too so I know what it feels like to be wobbly like that. Took the cat to the vet who confirmed that there’s nothing musculo-skeletal going on, no lingering nerve damage that he can find and no evidence of a metabolic issue. In short, she had some kind of neurological event and is ataxic. In English, her brain broke a bit and she’s wobbly.
Of course, now I’m concerned about the cat (who, let the record state, I don’t even particularly like anymore). Due to the wobbliness, she can’t really climb well and she’s been slowing down in recent years anyway.
It doesn’t help that she’s taken to disappearing for long stretches of time, convincing me that she’s crawled into some heat register and died.
Seriously, this cat not coming around a yowling for leftover fish is a sure sign she’s dead. Except when she’s not and comes to cuddle on the couch with you later.
Apparently, she’s not dead yet!
*Yay! Another whole month to stress about it!!
“Mommy, can we go to the diner?”
It’s all Brian’s fault. Apparently, every time I would go out of town, he would take Abby to the diner for breakfast at least once. Now that I’m the at-home parent, she expects to be taken out for waffles and will not take “no” for an answer.
So we got dressed, bundled up the baby and headed out to the diner. We went inside and I started feeding the baby his bottle. Abby started hanging off the bench in the booth.
“What are you doing, Abby?”
I asked why she didn’t bring in her book, and she told me it was because I was rushing her out of the car. Of course, it took her as long to consider getting out of the car as it took me to get out, unbuckle the baby, grab his diaper bag and close the door again. So, obviously rushing, yes.
I offered to help her be unbored, while wrestling a squirmy, 20-pound person who was way more interested in the trucks whizzing by outside than in the contents of his bottle.
“Find me something you see in the diner and spell it for me.”
Seriously? Are you actually serious, kid? You’re alive and awake, dressed in your private school uniform, sipping on hot chocolate and about to eat a waffle as big as your head and you’re having a fucking bad day at 7:32 in the morning because you forgot to bring in one of your eleventy-jillion books? What would it take to have a good day?
I asked her most of that, without quite as much cursing, but with a few sniffly tears when all of a sudden baby boy decided that formula was for sissies and puked. All over me and all over the booth. It looked like I peed my pants and was also lactating foul, regurgitated formula. My lap began to grow cold and my palms sweaty as I realized that i wasn’t going to have time to go home and change before driving Abby to school. So. Wet pants for the next hour. Great. Wet, smelly pants? Bring it on.
After I got the baby strapped into his booster seat and gave Abby some Cheerios to feed him, I went to the ladies’ room to collect myself. When I came back out, I looked my daughter right in the eye and said, “See, Abby? Someone always has it worse than you.”
Wine. Glorious wine. I ain’t talkin’ no Mad Dog or Boones here. I don’t need anything fancy either. Just a nice glass of Cabernet or Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc chilled just right and poured into a glass, ready for my enjoyment.
Last night’s dinner was popcorn, red wine and some Rolos Minis I bought in a moment of weakness at the grocery store. That should give you some clue as to how yesterday went. With an out-of-town husband, a teething baby and a first grader with the biggest attitude EVER (“Because I miss Daaaaaaaaddy!!”) I had earned that glass. (Or maybe it was two.)
Several people I spoke with on the phone yesterday evening asked me if I’d started drinking yet. Mom assumed I’d be into the scotch. I’m not sure what that says about me.
Today, I am thankful that we had a lovely bottle of CabSav in the fridge and I got to enjoy my dinner of champions before the baby woke up screaming. Which of course he did.
PS I think that I need to stock up on this before Brian’s next trip.
Because of the baby, Brian and I can’t both be out of town at the same time. This week, he’s off on a business trip, and this morning threw into stark relief how much I depend on this man.
Now, I’m a card-carrying feminist. I believe that a woman doesn’t NEED a man (or a woman, depending on who she prefers to sleep with). But I would certainly rather go through this life with Brian than without him. He’s a fabulous dad. He’s my direct opposite and perfect complement in so many ways. And he’s really huggable.
In under 30 minutes, I took care of 4 different tasks that Brian usually covers, as well as getting 2 kids up and dressed. And I wished I had a second adult to deal with the Great Breakfast Crisis or administer amoxicillin or double-check that lunch was made. Specifically, I wished that second adult was Brian.
So today, I’m thankful for my husband, Brian (even though I miss him) and looking forward to his swift return.
It’s almost 10:00 at night and I remembered to post today. And I’m thankful. Peace out.
I have had the privilege of growing up a stone’s throw from Manhattan for most of my life. Close enough to grab a train and arrive at grand Central in under an hour. (Under 40 minutes if all the tracks are open and you catch an express.)
Despite my white-girl, suburban upbringing, I can be quite at home in the city, from the canyons of Manhattan to the brownstones of Brooklyn, the duplexes ringing Citi Field in Queens and the giant housing complexes of the Bronx, I can make my way around. (No, thank you, Staten Island. It’s nothing personal, I just prefer my New Jersey to actually be in New Jersey.)
Maybe it’s because my dad grew up on Brooklyn Heights, and there’s some vestigial city-girl DNA in my blood. (The Brooklyn connection could also explain my occasional whim to pierce my nose and dye my hair pink.)
When I had the opportunity to head down to the Financial District this morning for a meeting, I must admit I got excited. Making my way by train and subway, wandering down Wall Street (and looking back up at Trinity Church), I just loved being there, in the middle of things, and in the middle of history. I know just enough to be dangerous – like that Water Street is so named because that’s where the water used to be (ditto Wall and Canal Streets). I know that much of the lowest part of Manhattan island is built on landfill, which is why it flooded so badly in Superstorm Sandy. I know that George Washington was sworn in at Federal Hall. I know that I like wandering down there, and that I wish I knew even more about the area.
When my meeting was over, I treated myself to the one-block walk down to the water, and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Spending just a moment by myself, looking at water and the bridge and South Street Seaport, I was reminded how much I just love being a New Yorker and how thankful I am to live so close.
I have a rockin’ pharmacist. Dave works at my local CVS, and he’s a bit… rough around the edges. But in many ways, he’s like a pharmacist out of a Norman Rockwell painting… he knows about 95% of his (very busy pharmacy’s) customers by name, ailment and family members. He knows when I’m picking up scripts for my mom that it will be under her last name, and he asks me how my daughter is doing every time I go in.
Today, I went in because the baby has a bilateral ear infection (ugh!) and I needed to fill a prescription for amoxicillin. Dave was short-handed (two pharmacy techs had called in sick), backed up (Monday is always a busy day) and just behind the eight-ball. So when I walked in with a brand-new patient, who needed all of his info entered into the computer, as well as a hand-mixed script that only the pharmacist could fill, Dave had every right to tell me to buzz off.
In fact, because the baby is on state health insurance, we weren’t even sure that we’d be able to fill his prescription, and had prayed in the car that Dave would be there. Because Dave always knows how to fix everything.
Long story short, Dave got Mr. C’s paperwork entered, his prescription filled and got us in and out as fast as he could. Something about sick, sniffly babies tugging at his heartstrings. Thank goodness for Dave and his superhuman patience (gruff though it often appears), and amazing ability to get his customers taken care of!