Tuesday, March 17, 2015

No Leprechaun Zone

Ah, St. Patrick's Day. Yet another day when we convince our children there are imaginary creatures  running rampant in their homes and classrooms. Then we instruct the kids to build traps to catch them in, so the creatures can then tell us where the pot of gold is.Via torture? I'm not sure, exactly. I'm unclear on that part. Does the Geneva Convention apply to leprechauns?

While I'm all for the magic of the imagination, I kind of think some of it is getting out of hand. I guess in all actuality, leprechauns are pretty inoffensive. Maybe I'm just more annoyed with the "trap" that my daughter brought home from school. It's made from empty cracker boxes, yogurt cups, tape and a Gatorade bottle. I have a suspicion that it's all just ploy from the school to get the kids to help with their trash removal.

I'm not a fun mom; I didn't leave gold coins or green glitter, or leave tiny leprechaun footprints all over the floor for my kids to find.  Honestly, I have a hard time lying about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny (I know, I know. The magic of childhood.) I know there are a lot of cool parents that do that, and my kids will hear about it at school, and then come home depressed because the leprechauns skipped our house. Then I'll feel bad, and end up making shamrock-shaped pancakes for dinner. (While I'll be having a Guinness float. )

My kids should be used to feeling bad; we have a lot of imaginary creatures that skip our house, and the ones that do visit are kind of cheap. My daughter doesn't understand why her friend's tooth fairy leaves $20 and toys, while she just gets a dollar. My kids also don't understand why we don't have a birthday fairy, and the neighbor does. We don't have an Elf on the Shelf. The cupid doesn't fly by. It's a no leprechaun zone. (But I may or may not have told them I stepped on one this morning.)

It's a boring house. But I am planning on having the kids help me plant some imaginary trees for Arbor Day.

Trees, trees, as far as the eye can see

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Best Friend Bullies

We attended my son's middle school orientation several weeks ago...middle school. He's nervous about it, and I keep telling him how much fun he will have, and how great it will be. I'm totally lying. Because of course it's going to suck. It's the law, the way of the universe. But I didn't think that would be helpful.

Perhaps somewhere out there, there is someone who loved their middle school experience; Yay! Best time of my life! Woo hoo! But I've never met that person. Personally, I don't remember my middle school experiences. I can recall little bits and pieces, faces, and names, but mostly without content. What I do remember is the emotional response it left on me. Stress, anxiety, inferiority, alienation, loneliness...I was convinced that everyone hated me. How could they not? I was a preteen. Everyone hates preteens. They are awkward, and snotty, smelly, gangly, and pimply. And plus, I had a perm. And hairy arms. I didn't stand a chance. 

I worry about bullying, and the social aspect of my son's next few years. I don't think I was bullied, and I could swear that I was never the type of person who would pick on someone else. Then a few days ago, I came across one of my 7th or 8th grade journals. I read a page at random; I had written (in my round, bubbly middle school handwriting, the i's all dotted with hearts) about how my best friend and I convinced our other best friend that we were both moving together, to another city, another school and we'd be leaving her alone. We made her cry. Just because. Just because. We weren't going anywhere. We were just...being mean. And I realized that is what scares me. There is something about being that age that makes so many of us mean, and unsure, and apathetic. Even (or maybe especially) toward our friends, and the people who mean the most to us. While there is the possibility that my son will deal with the stereotypical bullying issues, there is a guarantee that he will deal with the type that comes from his own friends. Sometimes that's the hardest to deal with.

So, to get a head start on the stress I've decided to go ahead and start worrying about it now.

And to my friend from middle school...I'm sorry I was so horrible. I really, truly am. 

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?
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


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


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.


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