Thursday, July 17, 2014

Word Crimes

Weird Al is suddenly back in the spotlight, and he is exactly as ridiculous as I remember him being as a child. I think I know the lyrics from his Micheal Jackson parodies better than I know the originals, and there have been times when "Eat It" has gone through my head, while begging the kids to eat dinner. Just open up your mouth and FEED it. I will admit that I actually have one of Weird Al's cassettes lying around here somewhere. I'm still working out whether or not I should be embarrassed by that.

And I will admit that after this song, I will never be able to look at tin foil the same again:




Then there is this one:

 

I think I've seen it on my Facebook timeline at least 15 times in the past 24 hours, and it starts out pretty clever and actually kind of helpful...and here is where I start to get petty. I know it's just a parody, and I know right now it's a big trend on social media to make fun of everyone's grammar. And that's great. We all like to feel superior to everyone else now and then, and I will admit I've seen some pretty scary examples of these "word crimes." (And really...is it that hard to use spell check?? That's what the squiggly red line is, everyone knows that, right?)  But the English language is pretty effed up, and not all of us were in Advanced Placement English as kids. Some of us preferred gym, or art, or science, or math. 

Or getting high in the parking lot during lunch. 

Some of us have reading disabilities that make remembering the proper usage of  "to", "too" or "two" not only difficult, but nearly impossible. Some of us just don't fucking care. It doesn't make us "dum mouth breathers", "morans", or "stupid". My grammer ain't perfect, but I like too think I know the basics. I still get confused sometimes, or forget the proper usage. But I try not to judge my self-worth on my bad grammer usage. I have plenty of other flaws that I can base that on. I'm not gonna  judge others on there use either. I except that we are all different. My son, who is "dyslexic", would be crushed 2 be called stoopid or have it applied that he should go back too preschool. And even if he never learns the difference between "there", "their" and "they're" I will always b very "glad" that he's in the jean pool.

I have lots of freinds an famly who may have flunked grammer, but I couldn't care less. I'd take them out for an expresso anytime.

(And ya'll know that being called a "Grammar Nazi" ain't a compliment, right? Maybe it's time to freshen up on our history, and lie off the rest of us for a bit.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Worst Neighbor Ever

Why I Want to Move, Reason #542

Last night I opened the bedroom windows before bed...it was quiet and peaceful, just the occasional chirp of a cricket. At 2 am, I am rudely awakened by the sound of our neighbor vomiting outside (which I can only hope was on his side of the fence). He coughs, and gags and splatters for the next half hour, and if he were a nice person, I would be sympathetic; Oh, poor guy! The stomach flu? Food poisoning? Why don't you use your toilet like everyone else?
Because no one wants to hear that.
But he's not a nice person. He is the opposite of a nice person. And the fact that he once bragged about his ability to down a gallon of vodka in one sitting and still be able to stand, makes me less sympathetic. The fact that the previous day he repeatedly yelled obscenities at my kids over our fence (Because they were making too much noise. In the middle of the day. In their own yard), making my daughter cry and scaring the other kids, makes me even less sympathetic...in fact, it makes me hope it was alcohol poisoning, or a 50 foot tape worm.

When we first moved in, I heard stories about him...but I'm naive. So what if he changed his name to that of a character in Greek mythology. Maybe he just needs a friend! I thought. I'm sure he's not that bad. And I was right...he DID need a friend. Because, according to him, his best friend was shot. Then his other friend was crushed in a combine*. Then his other friend (Jo Dee Messina) was burned at the stake.Then he warned me that he was cursed.
*For those of you who desire a better visual.
But still...I was nice. Even after I witnessed him chasing kids down the sidewalk on Halloween, screaming and pelting them with tiny chocolate bars, I was nice. Even when he told me he had temporary blindness, I doubted him, but instead of pushing him into the street, I walked him back home. I've called 911 for him several times...heart problems, severed fingers (It was a knife fight! No! I was cooking! No! I did it to myself!). But when his dog bit my son, I decided I was done humoring him and I called the police.They quarantined the dog, and fined him. (And then he slammed my kids on Facebook, and then blocked me for being unreasonable.) But they brought the dog back, and it has since chewed through our fence three times. It's to the point where I check the backyard for Cujo before I let the kids out. But I don't think the dog has ill intentions...I think it's just trying to get as far away from his owner as possible, by whatever means necessary. The man has been arrested several times in the years we've been here, but they always bring him back. I don't think they know what to do with him either. Although they could just ask me. I have several suggestions.

I think I would probably win "The-Most-Awful-Horrible-Terrible-Neighbor-Ever" contest, but I take solace knowing that one day soon, we will move and I just pray that he is inside his house when any prospective buyers stop by. Until then, I am slowly getting my revenge. Just yesterday, I weeded the garden and threw my weeds into his yard. I'm contemplating following the same technique the next time I scoop the dog poop.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Standardized Testing, TCAP, Common Core and Why it All Sucks.

The TCAP standardized tests (aka the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) have finally wrapped up for the school year.

Have you seen the clip from the Stephen Colbert's Report yet? (You can find it here.) Kind of sums up how I feel about Common Core and the testing procedures. He just doesn't swear as much as I do when I talk about them. Because they are completely &#$*%@* ridiculous.

Essentially, students have to stop learning in about March or earlier, so the teachers can start teaching the test. Curriculum and routines are disrupted so they can concentrate on test preparation. According to the Coalition for a Better Education website, " Roughly one-third of our instructional time is habitually swallowed up by District testing, surveys, and mandates." (http://www.thecbe.org/issues.html) While that may not be an accurate estimate for all schools, it's still a healthy chunk of time each year. Which in itself is concerning; let's stop what we're doing, you know, that whole teaching crap, so we can administer these tests to see where our students compare to everyone else. Because as we all know, kids are exactly the same.
I don't know who to credit for this cartoon, but it sums things up nicely.

It seems pretty obvious. Why is it so difficult? And then there's the cost...various sources estimate that it costs about $55-70 just to administer the test, per kid (not including preparation time/costs). According to the Colorado Department of Education there were 854,265 kids in our public schools in 2012. Factor in the average 10,000 new students enrolled each year and you have nearly 875,000 students. Think about that for a minute; while I would have failed miserably at the TCAP math tests, even I can figure out how much that equals. On the low end, that comes to nearly $50 million. Imagine all the pencils that would buy.

I have yet to talk to a teacher who is a proponent of these tests. One jokingly mentioned that she has to stumble around when she passes them out, with her eyes closed because the teachers aren't allowed to look at them. And I had to laugh when I saw this:
That's my handsome 4th grader, balancing his pencil during his TCAP test. See that white area? That's where the test was physically cut out of the picture, and then pasted to a plain white piece of paper before it was sent home. So, why? To prevent me from getting out the magnifying glass and selling the information? Maybe that's not such a bad idea...there seems to be a lot of money to be made in this whole testing process.
Wait, officer, please! I swear I wasn't selling the TCAP...it was just cocaine! And guns!
If we put aside the fact that the test is based on the ridiculous assumption that all children learn and test the same, and ignore the amount of money that it takes to administer these tests, there's still the aspect that I take the most issue with; the child's emotional health.Yes, I get it. Tests are supposed to be stressful. Especially for seniors taking the ACTs, or college finals or blood tests or pregnancy tests. You know, for the things that can actually affect your life. Not every kid is academically gifted, nor do all kids test well. The schools hype up the test for so long, telling the kids how important they are, over and over, until even the calmest kid is going to be affected. And how about the kids that already struggle, and/or have anxiety issues? My son came home twice during the first week of testing because he ended up in the nurse's office with severe anxiety attacks. And one day I couldn't have forced him to school, even if I had tried. Which I didn't, because a 10 year old boy should not be crying and throwing up over a test. In fourth grade.

To make it worse, they set up a "carnival" for the students that achieved so many points on their testing. So not only did he have to worry about the test itself, he had to worry that he'd miss the carnival if he didn't earn enough points.  

It's a law that the child has to take the test. A law. We are now free to put marijuana in our cookies, but we are not allowed to make the decision as whether or not our child will take part in these tests? And what happens when we do opt out? This and this, and there are more and more cases being reported where truancy officers have been dispatched to the homes of the children who have opted out.

From the Colorado Department of Education, if a child is out sick or misses a session:
"...they are not allowed to have recess or lunch with their classmates until they have made up the missed sessions."
And  this: 
" Schools may treat parent refusals as unexcused absences and schools are not obligated to provide alternate activities for students whose parents refuse the state assessment."

Because obviously that is the best way to instill confidence and make sure our children are getting the education they need. So, what can we do?

photo credit http://www.newedpath.com




854,265
854,265

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Teacher's Lounge

Over the years I have put in several hours of volunteer work at the elementary school. I've ridden nausea-inducing school buses for field trips, and spent a lot of time in classrooms helping kids with various class projects. I've logged countless hours in the teacher's lounge, copying papers, coloring, cutting, pasting, and wishing that I had more coffee but too afraid the principal will yell at me if I get caught drinking the teacher stuff. I've discovered a few things in that time. Parent volunteers seem to become invisible when they are in the teacher's lounge; I must develop chameleon-like skills as soon as I walk through the door and sit down.
The parent volunteer remains invisible amidst the lush foliage of the teacher's lounge.
(Just to clarify, the majority of teachers will go out of their way to say hi, but there are many who ignore you. Or maybe they only ignore me. Hmm.) Either way, this is where I have learned...things. I have overheard things said about students, and I've heard things said about assorted parents. I have heard things about people I know. Normally, when I gossip and spread rumors, I like to make sure that the people present are not friends of the people I am making fun of. It's all about class, people. Come on. It's not called backstabbing for nothing.
"Ha, ha! Kids are so stupid. And parents. Parents are stupid, too."
But I get it; we all hate our jobs sometimes, and we all have to vent. And I can't think of anyone who needs to vent more than someone who is with 25 obnoxious kids all day, every day. And not just kids...kids you can't slap. I understand. However, I feel like I have insider information on the secret society of teachers. Over the years, I've watched and listened, and I've developed a pretty solid opinion of some of them. I know which ones are good at their jobs, and I know without a doubt which ones I do not ever want my kids to have. Ever. I look at them and wonder if they went to school hoping to be that teacher that no one likes, or if it was a secret talent that developed later. We're all good at something.
For example, I am good at sleeping.
The point here being that yesterday my kids got to meet the teacher they will have for next year. And we are all very happy with the outcome; they got a few of the good ones. The bribery obviously worked. So far, every year we have ended up with teachers that the kids adore. And a few have gone over and above the job, and managed to leave a lasting, positive impact on my kids. They're the ones that my kids will remember long after school is done. And that's no small feat...every teacher shows up for work, and puts in the time and the long after hours, planning curriculum and projects, grading papers, etc. But then there are the ones that do all that, AND manage to talk to the kids, not just at them. These are the teachers that make a child want to go to school; to want to learn and try harder and be better, because their teacher believes that they can. They instill self esteem where there wasn't any, they understand and listen, and they honestly care about their students. They listen when the parent has concerns, and takes them seriously; they don't whine and moan about said parent in the lounge. They understand that parents are the child's only advocate, and that we will fight for our kids and do whatever it takes to help them. They realize that for a child's experience to be positive, it takes everyone; teacher, student and parent. A teacher can make or break school for a child; and so far, every homeroom teacher (and one very, very special reading teacher) we have had has gone far above and beyond. And next year is looking pretty good, too.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Distraction

I think many bloggers are wannabe novelists. Or at least I am. I have a couple of novels in the works...both of which I've been working on for so long I can't even remember what the hell is going on. I like to think of myself as a writer, but I tend to lose interest too quickly, and then when I'm working on something, I'm always ashamed to be caught "writing". There's always so many other things I should be doing. Laundry, dinner, cleaning, work, homework, parenting, Facebook...

I feel guilty when I'm caught.
"Whatcha working on?"
I slam the computer shut.
"Nothing! I swear. I was just...looking at porn!"

If I'm getting paid, of course, it's different. (The guilt part anyway.) I've had several paying freelance jobs over the years where people actually gave me real money to write things for them. But even then I jump from one thing to the next. My steadiest job was writing copy about towns I had never seen for real estate brochures...but after a few years I was fired. Because I'm not really good with that whole "deadline" thing. I've written how-to articles on breastfeeding, ("You put that baby to your boob, and you feed the damn thing"), on the shelf life of spices (I've had spices in my cabinet for 15 years, so I'm probably not the best person for that), Polynesian culture (I was in Tahiti once, so I am an expert there), etc. Basically I produced articles that prove that information obtained through the internet cannot be trusted.
I'll be selling this antique on Ebay.
At one time, I wrote reviews for a local dinner theater and got paid in food. I was once a "haunted place expert" and contacted by a radio station to talk about ghosts for a Halloween show they were doing. I had to admit that I was a fraud, and convinced them that they didn't want me. But my crowning moment came when I won $200 in a Cracked.com photoplasty contest. Which didn't actually involve writing at all, but still my most impressive feat.

But my own stuff...I have a hard time justifying the time I should be dedicating to it. I manage to trudge through short stories now and then, but I've received enough rejection slips to wallpaper a room. Except they're usually through email, so I'd have to print them first, but then I could wallpaper a room. It's like being fired over and over again for a job you can't get in the first place. It's kind of depressing. I'm awesome at starting projects, but I don't seem to have the discipline to follow through. I took a test on my attention level once, and I scored 17 out of 100. I think that was lower than the squirrel! dog on the movie Up. I've heard that drinking water is supposed to improve your attention span, and wiggling your toes is also supposed to combat distraction. Seriously. I read that on the internet. So it's true. (And now you're wiggling your toes aren't you? Admit it.) Prioritizing and list making are supposed to be helpful, and maybe it would be if I didn't constantly lose the lists. Exercise, sleep...all supposed to help, but maybe I'm doing it wrong because it has yet to work. Any tricks to remain focused? Because I'm open to suggestion.

Just talk fast, before I lose interest.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oh my GOD! Why did I just write that??

Sometimes I read a post I've written and think "Oh my GOD! Why did I just write that??" Does anyone really want to know about my pubic hair? Apparently, yes. It's my most popular post, by a long shot. A long, long shot. Much like the hair. My second most read post is the one on Lexapro and Wellbutrin, and my insanity. Two of my most revealing posts are actually the most popular, so I guess people like crazy, hairy people. Or at least making fun of them. So, in the theme of raw, ugly honesty I have another brutal post to present. I reread the aforementioned post about the medication and realized how much had changed in the 5 years since I wrote it. Aside from the sex change.

I've been holding onto this post for quite awhile, not sure if I should hit the publish button. Then I got a message (that made me cry) from someone who said she was going through similar things and my blog was actually a help to her. So, even if one person finds something of value in my posts, even if one person finds it helpful enough to write to me and let me know...that means this whole blog is worthwhile.

When you've been on countless antidepressants for over 15 years and you're still suicidal and cutting the hell out of your arms with a box cutter, you begin to doubt a lot of things. Your sanity. Your worth as a person. The fucking point of anything. You lose faith in doctors and psychiatrists and all the homeopathic remedies you've tried. You begin to realize that there is no hope... that there is nothing left. Your family, your kids...they'd all be better off without you. You honestly believe that; it's not just a cliche. They wouldn't have to worry about your tantrums, your freak outs, your silence. There are plenty of articles that tell you how great you'll feel after you start antidepressants; I have yet to read any that tell you what to do when every one of them has failed.

An accurate portrayal of my existence and the state of my house. Photo credit.
I spent nearly 3 months on the sofa, face towards the wall. I built myself a cave, wrapping a heavy, ugly blanket around me, no matter the temperature, with only my eyes visible. I let my children fend for themselves entirely to often; a thought that now makes me cringe with guilt. I was angry and violent; I destroyed cabinets, doors, clothes (one of which was a  pair of pajamas that I mourn to this day), the linoleum on the kitchen floor. I drank. A lot. And lied about it. A lot. I made a lot of really, really stupid decisions. I charged stuff I didn't need and didn't even really want, on credit cards. I blacked out, in non-drinking related incidences, for hours at a time. I'd suddenly come back, not being able to remember what I'd been doing. I came to once, sitting on the kitchen floor in a panic. (Apparently, I called my best friend and she was there shortly after, helping me and putting the kids to bed. She just sat there with me. No judgement, no advice. Just company.) I got mad at my husband one morning for breaking the bathroom door; turns out I did it, and just couldn't remember.  I was taking a walk one night, to clear my head, and sitting on the sidewalk in front of me was a woman who looked just like the girl from The Ring. I took off running, as fast as I could. I had never seen anything so terrifying in my life.

Like this, but not dressed as nice. Photo credit
When I got home (and double and triple checked the locks on all the doors) I realized how implausible it really was. But either way, it was real to me and that was enough. I found myself sitting in a new doctor's office. I ended up going through several doctors and psychiatrists, one of which had me on 8 different drugs at one time and I took them, because so what. I wanted to die anyway. I was finally referred to a depression/bipolar specialist. He sat behind his desk, a small man with red hair, pale skin and a gap between his teeth. He made me think of St. Patrick's Day. We talked, and after about an hour, the little leprechaun diagnosed me as having bipolar. I laughed, because what the hell would a tiny, mythical creature know about mental illness? But then I realized that if anyone was an expert on mental illness, it would be a tiny, mythical creature.
Only it's filled with lithium. Photo credit.
So, I humored him and took his prescriptions and the name of a therapist and went on my merry way. I started the prescriptions... Lamictal and Lithium, and set up an appointment with the therapist. During the first session, the therapist charged me $5 for her personal CD of affirmations ("I am worthy, I am beautiful, I am amazing, I am blah, blah, blah."). And then I gained a lot of weight and found out I had lithium induced hypothyroidism.   I was put on a medication for that. Then I decided it was a bunch of crap and stopped taking everything.

Of course, that didn't work out well for me and I ended up back in his office. This time he tried Nuvigil, which is approved for sleeping disorders, with an off-label use for bipolar. And it's a stimulant. And holy hell, did it stimulate. It made my heart palpitate, and gave me headaches, but I was awake. I was always awake. I may have still been miserable, but damn it, I was going to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while wallowing in my misery. And the most interesting part was the side effects: "Mental (psychiatric) symptoms, including: depression, feeling anxious, sensing things that are not really there, extreme increase in activity (mania), thoughts of suicide, aggression, or other mental problems" (www.nuvigil.com) Maybe the leprechaun thought the new symptoms would cancel out my existing symptoms... Either way, it didn't last because when I went to pick up my refill, the total came to $453. For a month. Instead, I opted to buy food for my children.

To make a long story, well, not as long, I ended up on Lamictal again. Aside from a few annoying side effects, so far so good. I'm supposed to go back in and start Risperdal, but I may or I may not. Time will tell. But I'm sure I'll tell you all about it.

I've done things I wish I hadn't done, I have scars I wish I didn't have, I've said things I wish I hadn't said, I take medications I wish I didn't have to take...but here I am. And I'm thankful for a forgiving husband who bought a book on bipolar, to learn more about the disorder, to try and understand. I'm thankful for my children, whom I love more than anything in the world; they are my biggest motivation. I'm thankful for a supportive family, and non-judgmental friends. And I'm thankful for the people who read this blog...it's always nice to know you're not alone.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Food Quirks

We all have our eating quirks, right?  Some of us don't like to eat in public. Some people don't like their food to touch. Some people don't like to eat at the Y. We all have our thing.

As a child I'd have to count how many times I chewed, because I just knew that I was going to choke and die and then I'd be forever known as the girl who choked and died on her chicken noodle soup/tacos/ice cubes/toothpaste/whatever.
Because we all know what they say about Mama Cass...

It would take me so long to eat that after several weeks of this, the rest of the family stopped waiting for me. They'd leave the table and shut the light out. I'd sit there in the dark, counting, and crushing every tiny potential choking hazard to mush. And looky there...I didn't choke. Doesn't sound so ridiculous now, does it?

But my youngest son...oh, he takes quirky eating to a new level. I think he has a lot of the typical 5 year old eating issues...his sandwich has to be cut right, his waffle has to have the exact right amount of syrup, his crackers cannot be broken, etc. etc. The breaking of these unofficial food rules will result in hysteria and tears. But I think that's pretty normal. Because kids are manipulative bastards.

But then we have his other issues, which appear and disappear, and are completely unpredictable. An innocent word can be said at the dinner table, maybe something like "feet", and he suddenly collapses onto the floor screaming about how he can't eat now. His brother and sister are the cultured variety of hellion, and they apparently like dinner and a show. So they start listing all the gross things they can think of.  "Toenails!" "Armpit!" "POOP!"  "Fart!" "Nick's face!" "Delaney's...um...socks!" "I hate you!" "Shut up!" "MOM!" But by then, the initial damage has been done, and he usually will refuse to eat.
Admittedly, her socks could be used in chemical warfare. Photo credit

Once he saw a dead bird, and wouldn't eat ground meat for a week.We had soup the other night and god forbid, I put pepper in it.
"Mom! There's a bug in here," he yells.
"No, it's just pepper."
"But it looks like a bug!"
"But it's pepper."
"But it looks like a bug. I CAN'T EAT NOW!"

Cue hysteria and tears.

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