Lydster: Zoom school sucks!

The ever-educational They Might Be Giants

zoom schoolAs I must have mentioned, my daughter was all primed to go to school in person as late as August 24, 2020. Instead, she got Zoom school this fall, after suffering through it from mid-March 2020 and on. It’s not actually on Zoom, but whatever. And that’s not what they label it.

They call it “remote learning.” Remote: “having very little connection with or relationship to”; that’s about right. On the last Sunday of January, I had five Zoom meetings. Well, almost. The church was on Facebook and one of the meetings was on a Zoom-like platform called Wonder.

Except for church, though, it was people looking at other people located in little rectangles on my computer. Worse, some people STILL haven’t mastered the mute button.

So I feel my daughter’s pain. She has four or five of those every weekday. Some folks, in trying to encourage her… well, didn’t. I’ve occasionally sat in on some of those courses. Despite the best effort of some of her teachers – some of them are preternaturally cheerful! – it was still stultifying after a couple of classes.

Since my wife has also taught remotely off and on, including two weeks in January 2021, I know it is harder emotionally, technologically, and organizationally, especially when she switched back and forth. The one thing she liked about remote learning was the extra 30 minutes of sleep.

The homework helper

It was less true at the beginning of the school year but more true now. I am the homework helper. My assistance with statistics, which I took twice, in college and grad school, is spotty at best. Whereas I’m better with American history because I actually remember the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the 1857 Dred Scott case. (No, I’m NOT that old.)

Still, I occasionally learn things I either forgot or never knew. For instance, everything you need to know about the 11th President appears in James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants. Possibly the most successful one-term chief executive.

Sometimes, I just sit with her to help her keep on task, such as when she works on her Environmental Science. She almost never even asks for my help in her art classes since she knows that it’s not in my wheelhouse.

Too political

For one course, she was supposed to find and describe a poster that addresses social justice. The caveat is that the work is not to be political. If by political, they mean “vote for Bernie” or “X sucks”, then OK.

But it seems that social justice, by its very nature, is at least small-p political. Labor rights, hunger, fighting racism/sexism/homophobia, et al. These all often require political action, allocation of resources. Sure you can buy a meal for someone, but addressing systemic food deserts require a broader action. Or  José Andrés,, at least.

Lydster: Be Kind to Your Parents

Fanny

Florence Henderson 1954
Florence Henderson, 1954

There were several tunes I sang to my daughter when she was younger. One was Be Kind to Your Parents. It was a recording my sister Leslie and I owned on this red vinyl 45 when we were young. We even sang it, including fairly recently. I have no idea who the artist was.

As it turns out, the song is from a 1954 musical called FANNY. It ran on Broadway from Nov 04, 1954, to Dec 16, 1956, with 888 performances. The music and lyrics were by Harold Rome.

In the program, Be Kind to Your Parents sung primarily by Florence Henderson and Lloyd Resse. It was subsequently covered by Pete Seeger, Michael Cooney, and Michael Feinstein.

The lyrics as I remember them:

Here’s a piece of good advice. Think it over once or twice.

Be kind to your parents though they don’t deserve it
Remember the grown-up’s a difficult stage of life
They’re apt to be nervous and overexcited
Confused by the daily storm and strife.

Just keep in mind though it’s so hard I know
Most parents were once children long ago. Incredible!

So treat them with patience. And sweet understanding
In spite of the foolish things they do
Someday you may wake up and find out you’re a parent too.

This version from a kid’s show changes the line “though they don’t deserve it” to “you know, they deserve it.” Meh.

Now it’s time

When she was still a baby and toddler, I’d sing her Good Night, the song from the Beatles white album.

There was also a song I made up.

I love Lydia (X2)
‘Cause she is my daughter, oh yeah
She is my daughter

I knew I had copped the tune from somewhere. But it wasn’t until years later, I realized it was from I Eat Cannibals by Total Coelo. Of course, it was.

In the very first month of this blog, I noted how my daughter was named. I had a LOT of rules. And in spite of all of them, the first reference I hear to her name came from a Marx Brothers flick. One just cannot plan for every contingency.

Am I allergic to penicillin?

Over-diagnosed and Under-addressed

penicillinMy allergist’s office sent me, and I suspect, many other patients a letter this autumn. I was genuinely excited to receive it. The notice indicated as this FAQ suggests, that “the majority of patients (greater than 90%)” who believe they have an allergy to penicillin may not be. “Most people lose their penicillin allergy over time, even patients with a history of severe reaction such as anaphylaxis.”

Why did I think I was allergic? I was 16 to 18 years old, but it was definitely before I went to college. I had a cold or maybe the flu that lingered. My doctor gave me a shot of penicillin. In fairly short order, I itched like crazy, especially on my arms. For three days, calamine lotion became my best friend. It was so PINK.

On Veterans Day 2020, I received a penicillin skin test. I got poked four times on my forearm. The fourth one itched a bit; that was a marker to make sure I had not in fact taken an antihistamine such as Zyrtec in the past 72 hours, as instructed. I passed that hurdle. Then a couple more series of tests. The whole procedure took about three hours, including talking with my allergist afterward.

There is a good reason for me to know this information. If I were to have major surgery, such as for this situation, one doesn’t want to deal with the complicating factor of this patient having a bad reaction from the antibiotic.

Go to the link above for a couple of podcasts, including Penicillin Allergies: Over-diagnosed and Under-addressed.

The peanut

Since we’re on the broad topic, my daughter is for sure allergic to peanuts. I found this article on the nose. ” Things I Wish I’d Known About Raising A Child With A Peanut Allergy. My daughter’s diagnosis made me realize just how misunderstood life-threatening allergies are.” That is for CERTAIN, especially when she was younger.

The plan is for her to be in one of those trials that will, over time, to become acclimated to small bits of peanut. Unfortunately, because of COVID, that testing, to take place over several weeks, has been postponed. I do hope she gets the chance to participate in the next year.

Lydster: Midnight and Stormy

Aaron Copland

We have two cats. While they are both about seven years old, Midnight, the male black feline, is a few months older than Stormy, the female grayish one. And he is clearly the alpha beast.

This has created a problem of Midnight being overweight, and seeing them at mealtime explained why. Each of them receives a quarter can of wet food. Midnight devours this as though he had never been fed ever before. Left to his own devices, he’d bump Stormy out of the way and eat her food as well. Yes, one could stop him from stealing her food. But how do we slow him down?

Our daughter found this rolly-polly little feeder with a hole near the bottom. It sort of looks likes a tiny version of Arthur’s pet composting device, actually. Midnight’s job is to knock the device around and the kibble would come out of the hole. Meanwhile, someone would take Stormy’s half-eaten bowl of wet food and place it in a location where she could get it but he would not find it.

This is a twice-daily ritual at 7:30 Daylight Saving Time, 6:30 during Standard Time. I feed them in the morning because my wife is off to work. Our daughter feeds them at night, although she sometimes has to be reminded to leave the cave that is her bedroom.

Don’t mess with Midnightus

Midnight is quite hostile to most other human beings. He actually gets along with our contractor. He is civil enough to my daughter’s friend Kay that she can feed them while we’ve been away. But don’t take his tolerance of you as acceptance. My friend Uthaclena made the mistake of petting him, and Midnight’s claws came out. My MIL is terrified of him, as are others.

When we had inspectors visit our home for a loan, our daughter put them both in her room. Stormy wouldn’t hurt anyone, but she is terrified of strangers. One catsitter a few years back was afraid that she somehow escaped the house. Nah, she was just hiding, and she does it well.

Midnight can be quite affectionate to us. He’ll even let me put him up if I scratch under his chin before bolting. Stormy comes to people on her own terms, rubbing her body against my leg. She’ll sit on her laps if SHE feels like it.

We initially got the cats because our daughter wanted them. But my wife and I have grown rather attached to them, in spite of ourselves.

Here’s William Warfield, performing Aaron Copland’s song I Bought Me A Cat, with the composer conducting.

Lydster: Back to school regimen

my daughter is thriving

The new back to school regimen seems to be going well. My daughter’s high school eased into the new school year with online orientation with the principal and other school leaders on Day 1.

Further orientations for each grade and academy/school division followed. The parents were supposed to participate in this, though we had some technical difficulties.

On the third day, students attended their advisory period, got their regular schedules and the like. The following Monday, students began their schedule of virtual classes. For the next two weeks of class, they had a shortened school day, first in the afternoon, then in the morning.

That last week, students went to the high school to pick up materials and supplies. To keep everyone safe, students were assigned specific days and times to come to school based on their grades and last name. My daughter’s arms were sore for days with all the books plus two different calculators that she carried home.

Change of plans

The City School District of Albany had to change its plans for in-school learning for most of its ts older students. This was a function of “devastating anticipated reductions in state aid that could total as much as $23.2 million for the 2020-21 school year.”

Then the Board of Education confirmed a bunch of administrative changes for virtually every school in the district in early September. It was “part of district-wide staffing reductions.” Principals and assistant principals were either let go or reassigned, effective September 25, after the school year had begun. Imagine the disruption to the schools and to the people’s lives.

Ironically, the students from Myers middle school whose families have selected in-person attendance will attend classes on the first floor of Albany High’s new academic building. Apparently, there are mold and structural problems at my daughter’s former middle school.

With a little help from her friends

When school suddenly stopped in spring 2020, then restarted remotely, this was not a great time for my daughter. She largely tuned out after a few weeks, and only got through the school year because of the work she’d already done to that point. The death of her grandfather on April 22 did not help.

This semester, she had hoped to go back to in-school learning. Still, she knew what she would be facing by late August. The salvation is that a couple of her friends, Tee and Kay, have come over to our house and worked with her.

It is not without risk, I suppose, especially to me. I suppose I fall into that immuno-compromised group for COVID now, though the NYS infection rate is low. But my daughter is thriving when she had not been. THat’s critically important to me. I don’t want her flunking out of 11th grade.