September 5, 2013

It's getting serious, people

Aydin: I need underwear!
Me, tossing a pair from the everlasting pile on the couch: Here.
Aydin: Yes! Men's underwear!
Me: What?
Aydin: Serious men wear plain underwear.

This is how you know your boy is growing up.

August 31, 2013

NWACA

At two weeks in, this seems like a good time to talk about my kids' new school.

Back in February, I received a letter in the mail explaining that there would be another option available in Bentonville when it comes to educating our children.  It was going to be a charter school employing the classical method of teaching.  I knew a little about classical education through my research of homeschooling.  I knew it would be academically rigorous.  It was going to start as a K-8 school, adding a grade each subsequent year so that it will eventually be K-12.  Immediately, I was interested, not just because of what and how they would teach, but also because it would keep my 3 younger children in the same school again (in Bentonville Public Schools, 5th grade is the start of middle school so that's where Kieran would have been.)  It would also keep my children on the same calendar (Kieran would have been traditional, the boys would have been year round.)  While I adore the year round school calendar, my family is busy enough without having to take kids to multiple schools and juggle different schedules. 

I put in applications for Asher, Aydin, and Kieran.  A lottery drawing, if necessary, was supposed to be held in March.  It turned out to be so necessary that they held off until April to see if they could secure a new location and open up more spots for prospective students.  The original location was supposed to be out towards the airport (15 minute drive in no traffic from our house), but because they had so many applicants, they moved the school to a complex on Melissa Drive, right next to Kieran's dance studio (and a 5 minute drive from our house!)

On April 5th, a lottery was held at the local community college.  They had some fancy pants statistics guy from the University of Arkansas running the live lottery process.  They started with kindergarten, so I waited.  Then first grade...holding my breath...Asher didn't make the cut.  Second grade...breathing and waiting.  Third grade...holding my breath...Aydin didn't make the cut.  Then a mistake!  Had to redo third grade...holding my breath...Aydin didn't make the cut again.  Then another mistake!  Are you kidding me?  This would be it...third grade lottery again...holding my breath again...no such luck.  I was so disappointed.  (The boys were cheering.  They didn't want to leave ETE.)  I couldn't believe it.  Fourth grade lottery next, then fifth grade...holding my breath...and again, Kieran didn't make the cut!!!  I just couldn't believe my rotten luck!  Kieran was the one that wanted to go so bad, and she ended up being the lowest on the wait list.

We went about our lives and the more time that went on, the more disappointed I became, not just that my kids didn't get in, but really in Elm Tree Elementary school.  The Bentonville Public School District used to be school of choice prior to zoning and we chose to be at ETE.  People spent the night on the front steps of ETE in order to be first in line to enroll their children.  Not so much anymore.  That place is declining so fast I just knew I had to do something different for my kids.  I debated on whether I wanted to put in print on the internet why I believe it's heading downhill, and I've decided to do so.  The new principal, Mandy Thompson (I think now Byrd--she is recently married), has no idea what she is doing.  The morale of the teachers is down because of her as well.  I'm surprised she was hired to begin with, with such little experience.  I will say that there are still a lot of really amazing teachers at Elm Tree who really, really care about the school, love the school with their entire lives, and want it to turn back around to become the best again, and I really hope they stick around because those teachers are the only thing that school has left going for it. 

A couple of personal reasons why I became unhappy with ETE: teaching to the test.  Many schools do this, but wow, I've had kids in school for over 10 years and all of those years at Elm Tree itself and it has never been as bad as this previous year.  From February break to testing time in April, nothing is done except learning how to test.  From test time in April til the end of the school year in June, nothing was done, period.  Homework suddenly stopped becoming part of the routine.  Aydin's 2nd grade teacher admitted she stopped giving the kids their Monday morning math tests.  When Aydin's standardized test results came back, it said he should be placed in the 5th grade program, but because his teacher simply didn't give tests, he hadn't even finished the 2nd grade library.  I have always supplemented at home, but it came to the point where he was getting his primary education in a matter of a couple of hours a week and wasting his day at school. 

Bentonville High School was worse and getting worse.  It is so overcrowded that Alisa's English teacher had no idea who she was.  I mean, sitting face to face at a conference and asking if we (Alisa and I) were sure we were in the right place.  I had to point to my daughter's name on her roster to prove to her that she was, indeed, Alisa's teacher.  When the 2nd high school initiative failed, I knew I had to do something different.

Back to my original topic now.  In the beginning of June, I received a phone call from the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy that Aydin had a spot in the school if we wanted it.  Even though Aydin was the one who needed the biggest change of all, I hesitated because I really needed both of the boys in the same school.  If Asher and Kieran didn't get in, that meant on top of homeschooling Alisa, I'd have 3 other kids in 3 different schools to keep up with.  However, I took a leap of faith and accepted the spot.  (Although Aydin was upset when I applied at to the new school, he was at the point where he wanted more of a challenge so when I broke the news to him, he was really happy!)  By the end of June, Asher was in!  I called almost every week in July to find out where Kieran was on the wait list.  She went from 48 at the start of it, to 20-something, to #11 in July.  By August, she only #10.  However, I felt confident she would get in by at least the first month of school starting so I began ordering her uniforms (yes, they have uniforms!!!)  Sure enough, on August 8th I received the call that she had secured a spot. 

So Kieran, Aydin, and Asher began their 5th, 3rd, and 1st grade inaugural year at the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy.  It has only been two weeks but I am already so impressed with the school.  Homework has a purpose, math is leveled, and reading is required every night along with a written summary.  Communication is top notch.  We received text messages from all of our kids' teachers prior to school starting with introductions and the best way to reach them.  Parent involvement is huge; parents filled the entire upstairs cafeteria at the PTO meeting; this used to be what set ETE apart as well but it has declined so much lately.I am so excited to be part of this new venture and so glad that we have more choices in Bentonville. 

Baby growing up!

Alisa started her first job yesterday!!! She is a Tots coach at Aspire Gymnastics Academy (where she trained for most of her life), teaching gymnastics to 3-4 year old kids. She had a great first day and already latched on to some of them. She was also exhausted and slept the rest of the day and all night long. Kids will wear you out!

August 27, 2013

Fall Sports for the Zaman's

I triple booked myself tonight.  It's the first week of new fall classes at work and we are expected to be slammed all week long, so I offered to work.  Then, I received an email from Asher's baseball coach on Sunday that their first practice would be Tuesday at 5:30.  I begged a good friend and fellow dance mom to take Kieran to tap class (scheduled every Tuesday at 5:30) and then drop her off at Aspire afterwards for her acro class at 6:30 and left baseball up to Ashar, since I would be at work.  Then last night, Aydin's football coach called and scheduled their first practice for...yes, you guessed it...Tuesday at 5:30.  I ended up taking off from work so that I could take Asher to baseball and Ashar took Aydin to football. 

Our crazy fall schedule has officially begun!  We are so glad our kids have the opportunity to pursue the things they love! 

August 24, 2013

Jack-o-Lantern face

When Aydin was a baby, his teeth came in in an odd order. He looked like a Jack-o-Lantern. Asher just lost a baby tooth and now he's missing every other one on the top front. Too cute!

August 21, 2013

Sweet, Sweet 16

Do you hear me, people?!!  Alisa is 16 years old!!  Well forget about her...I can't believe I'm that old. 

We celebrated most of Alisa's birthday earlier this month.  Lena had a baby shower planned for the weekend of August 17th that just the girls and I planned to go to, but I lied (gasp!) to my lovely children and told them due to scheduling conflicts, it had to be moved up to the weekend prior.   Truth was, I discovered from Facebook that many of my friends had plans to see Bruno Mars in St. Louis and Kansas City on Thursday and Friday nights.  Ashar was out of town so I couldn't go with them, but when I looked up tour dates, I found out Bruno would be in OKC on Saturday night!  Perfect!

Well, not that perfect...Ashar wasn't due to fly in until Saturday morning.  Thankfully, the concert wasn't going to start until 8pm and it's less than a 4 hour drive, so....

My friend, Lori, gave me the great idea to write Alisa a letter explaining our plans using Bruno Mars song lyrics.

Lena gave me the idea to make dinner reservations at The Melting Pot in OKC, so I told the girls the baby shower would be held at the restaurant at 5pm.  I wanted to leave home at 10am, but would absolutely have to leave by noon.  I felt good about that two hour window, until....

Ashar was, yet again, delayed.  At first it wasn't a big deal because he still should make it home by noon.  Then, delayed some more.  Now he wouldn't be home until 4, an hour before "Lena's baby shower" at The Melting Pot.

I called on a good friend, Alicia, to help out.  She let my boys hang out with her boys that day until Ashar made it home, so the girls and I still got to leave by noon.

Once in downtown OKC, I scoped out the arena where Bruno would be later versus the location of the restaurant.  Remember, at this point, the concert was still a surprise for both girls.  We were driving around when Kieran suddenly exclaimed, "It's Bruno Mars's car!!!!"  We looked around and saw a "jungle" truck selling Bruno merchandise.
Seriously, did she think I'd let her dress like this for a baby shower?

Then Alisa noticed people walking around wearing Bruno shirts.  She said, "I bet there's a Bruno concert here!"  I acted shocked and excited and told her she needed to find out NOW!  She pulled out her phone and thus began the googling, and the realization that Bruno Mars was indeed in town!  I kept up the playful act.  I told the girls it was my mission to find him!  I decided it would be best to park at the arena and walk to the restaurant.  As I pulled in the parking garage to pay the attendant, he asked us if we were going to the concert.  I answered with an, "Uh...yes."  The girls began giggling.  They thought I was going to sneak in!  We parked and freshened up the best we could in the car, then I told the girls as exciting as it was to be just a few feet from Bruno, we had to go to Lena's party.

We walked to the restaurant where Lena, Trey, Layla, and Jenna met us at the door, then we were seated at a table decorated with balloons and a birthday card.  Alisa realized we were really there for her!  Layla & Jenna helped her open gifts, then I gave her the "Bruno" letter along with the tickets in an envelope.

The concert itself was a huge blast.  Ellie Goulding opening for Bruno and Bruno was perfection!

Random, but I celebrated my 20th birthday here while I was pregnant with Alisa
After the concert, we went down to Norman and crashed at Lena's place.  We headed home Sunday with plans to return the following weekend for the real baby shower (which never happened.)

The following Friday, my dad brought Alisa a birthday present...Pumpkin!


First time driving!
Today, her actual birthday, we didn't have much planned.  Joe, our trainer, made up a special birthday workout for her (a tradition we all will happily forgo in the future!) and Litterelly Delicious Cakery delivered a princess cake to our doorstep!


Busy Chick!

Kieran has a lot on her plate this year!  She is dancing more than ever, if that is even possible, plus she will be expected to have a lot of school work.  Today, she walked from school to her dance studio and believe or not, got started on homework while waiting for dance class!  Heather sent a picture to me for proof.  I am so proud of my girl for wanting to take on more responsibility, both with her choice of school and dance schedule!

August 19, 2013

Traditional First Day of School Pic

Kieran, Aydin, and Asher are attending the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy this year, where uniforms are required.  Kieran just got into the school a couple of weeks ago, so she doesn't have an official uniform yet; she is just wearing similar items in the same color for now.


In front of their new school

August 18, 2013

Surprise!

The girls and I were supposed to go to Norman this week to celebrate Lena and her (2nd set of) twins at her baby shower.  My dad brought Alisa's birthday present over (more on this later!) on Friday, so he was at my house when my sister called me and said, "I'm driving myself to the hospital because I think my water broke."  What?!?!!!  She was barely past 31 weeks pregnant so it wasn't the best news we could have received.  She was going to let us know what happened at the hospital; meanwhile I started flinging a few personals into a bag and told my dad we had to leave NOW!  It was about 8:30pm when she gave me the initial news...by the time she saw a doctor and confirmed what we all knew, my dad and I were nearly crossing into Oklahoma. 

We arrived shortly after midnight, but Sam & Ben had already beat us there!  They were born at 11:09 & 11:11 on Friday night, both clocking in at just over 4 lbs each.  They are both breathing on their own but will spend several weeks in the NICU. 

Lena & Trey will have a lot on their plates over the next several weeks, managing 3 year olds Layla & Jenna at home and visiting Sam & Ben at the hospital as much as possible.  I hated to leave them but I had to get back home to my own babies, who are starting at a new school in the morning!
pic taken by proud papa, Trey
Baby shower cake, no baby shower!


August 3, 2013

Color Vibe 5K

Alisa and I got to participate in the Color Run 5K back in April, but the Color Vibe came to Fayetteville and and a bunch of Swifters signed up to support Joe.  We took the kids for some fun!  The weather wasn't cooperating, but we're a tough bunch.  We loaded up and met our friends at Macadoodles (since according to Norma, everyone knows where Macadoodles is.)  We got rained on but luckily we weren't struck by lightning.  Everyone's fear in August is dying of heat stroke, but we were actually cold!
Pre-race, all pretty and clean

Ashar & our awesome trainer, Joe

I love this pic because he hates getting dirty!




V.I.B.E.
So much fun with our Swift Fit friends!
Sorry I missed out, Laurie & Leslee!
My favorite thing about the Color Vibe--they donated money to the Seven Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville.  We'll definitely choose this race over the Color Run in the future!

August 2, 2013

Finally!

Even though she's been legally allowed to get her learner's permit for almost two years, she waited until a few weeks before her 16th birthday!  It's about time...congrats, Alisa!  (Had she expected to pass, she would have fixed her hair, lol!)

July 31, 2013

Gag.

I thought I was being responsible by not waiting until the very last minute to clean out school backpacks.  As it turned out, I was utterly stupid for waiting as long as I did.  I found...orange slices?...apple slices?...in Aydin's backpack.  Totally my fault.

July 9, 2013

Rogers Aquatic Center

A new aquatic center opened up in our area.  It's pretty pricey but I took advantage of a half-price sale earlier in the summer.  It was okay; we definitely think White Water in Branson is more fun.  Asher wasn't tall enough to do anything but play in the kiddie pool and lounge in the lazy river.  Aydin was, but he didn't want to explore the park without his brother.  Alisa & Kieran tried everything out, hands down the worst (according to them; I just baked in the sun all day) was the "toilet bowl" ride. 

June 9, 2013

Infiniti Dance Recital 2013

It's that time of year, and like last year, it's been drama-filled...but we made it. :)  Kieran was in several dances this year; company production, mini jazz (she was an assistant--the cutest thing ever!), lyrical, tap, hip hop, jazz, and ballet.  Alisa danced in a hip hop/jazz number and lyrical--on her broken ankle!  They were both fabulous.
My exotic beauties
Back of recital t-shirt

Grandma

No reason behind this post other than to show off my beautiful, 72 year old mother! 

June 5, 2013

Oops, She Did it Again

Alisa decided to try out for the BHS XC team again.  This is a pretty big deal since she's been homeschooled for the past year (and will be this upcoming year), but a new law allows her to participate in public school sports.  She went to her first practice this morning and ran the trails at Crystal Bridges.  She kept up pretty well, considering she hadn't really run in several months.  She told me she fell on rocks once, but got up and finished her 3 mile run.  Once home, she took a shower and iced her ankle where she fell.  I was sitting on the couch next to her when I got a look at the egg-sized bump.  I immediately said, "Alisa, you broke your ankle."  Immediately, she burst into tears.  I knew what was on her mind...dance recital in 4 days!  We headed to Wellquest Medical Center for an x-ray and unfortunately, I was right.  An orthopaedist visit is on the schedule for next week!  (Yes, I still had Dr. Griffey on speed dial.)